Ukraine

Last Updated September 18, 2016

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The Independent

Ukraine ceasefire: European leaders gather for talks, but locals in Kramatorsk are sceptical they can achieve peace

September 15, 2016

A flurry of diplomatic activity is under way following the latest upsurge in violence in Ukraine, with the French and German foreign ministers arriving in Kiev, followed by Boris Johnson, to hold urgent talks in an attempt to halt a slide back into a major conflict. The separatist leader of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, has announced a ceasefire. Appearing on Russian television in a suit instead of his usual combat camouflage, he declared that the Minsk agreement of two years ago, which brought a ceasefire, was the “only solution”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, announced that Vladimir Putin is backing the ceasefire, which would initially last for a week. Jean-Marc Ayrault, of France, hoped the development would “see an opportunity for a new dynamic in the conflict”, including withdrawal of troops from the areas where the worst clashes had taken place.

But in Kramatorsk in the Donbas, the region which had experienced the worst of the fighting in the country’s civil war, there was scepticism that peace was about to break out. The belief, instead, was that that there would be more strife before a settlement of sorts is reached. Kramatorsk and neighbouring Slovyansk were the flashpoints when the rebels took over a string of cities and towns two years ago, and then the scene of fierce combat when the forces of the Kiev government mounted an offensive to take them back. Kramatorsk and Slovyansk are now under the control of the Kiev government and the situation, outwardly at least, is calm. In July this year “liberation” celebrations were held in both cities and there is strong civil and military Ukrainian presence.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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The Nation Pakistan

IMF approves $1b in Ukraine aid

September 15, 2016

WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday resumed its bailout of war-torn Ukraine, approving disbursement of $1 billion from an aid package that had been held up in part on corruption concerns. Kiev had been waiting for the resumption of lending since August of last year in a $17. 5 billion program intended to help stabilize the country after the 2014 ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. A message posted to the official Twitter account of Ukraine’s current president, Petro Poroshenko, welcomed the news.

“The decision by the IMF suggests that the world recognizes – in Ukraine there are reforms and that qualitative changes occur, that the country is moving in the right direction,” it said. Ukraine has suffered deep economic decline after two years of war, with GDP contracting 9. 9 percent in 2015. Wednesday’s decision by the IMF Executive Board brings the total amount disbursed to about $7. 62 billion, the Fund said in a statement. The Fund’s Executive Board said it approved the disbursement despite Ukraine’s failure to meet several program targets, including on limiting debt, boosting reserves and easing foreign exchange restrictions.

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SOURCE = The Nation

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Reuters

EU court upholds sanctions on Ukraine’s Yanukovich

September 15, 2016

The EU’s second-highest court on Thursday upheld financial sanctions imposed on Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, who fled the country in 2014 after a popular uprising. Yanukovich, who fled to Russia, challenged the European Union’s sanctions, imposed in response to allegations of embezzlement and financial wrongdoing, in the General Court. The court’s action, which took effect in March 2014, meant he and his son lost access to funds they hold in European banks.

The court said it confirmed the freezing of funds from March 2015 to March 2016. But Yanukovich won his challenge against sanctions from March 2014 to March 2015 because EU governments did not provide enough proof of wrongdoing, basing the measures only on a letter from Ukraine’s prosecutor, the court said. The European Union has extended the sanctions until March 2017. Yanukovich’s lawyer said the former president would also appeal against the extension, which the court is also expected to rule on.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Al Arabiya News

Ukraine reports death of three troops as EU pushes for peaceUkraine reports death of three troops as EU pushes for peace

September 13, 2016

Ukraine said Tuesday that pro-Russian insurgents had killed three of its soldiers in violation of a truce the foreign ministers of Germany and France will try to revive in Kiev this week. The toll brings to four the number of government soldiers killed in combat since the latest ceasefire along the volatile frontline went into effect on September 1. The rebels have also reported a number of casualties as the 29-month war in the European Union’s back yard drags on at the cost of nearly 9,600 lives. The deaths come on the eve of a visit by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault for talks with Ukrainian officials on ending one of Europe’s bloodiest crises since the 1990s Balkans Wars.

The leaders of the two nations helped negotiate a broad February 2015 peace agreement that was supposed to end fighting and decide the rebel-run regions’ status by the end of last year. But that agreement and the subsequent series of temporary ceasefires have done little to halt a war that has driven about two million people from their homes and destroyed much of the former Soviet republic’s industrial heartland.

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SOURCE = Al Arabiya

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ABC News

Ukrainian Rebel Leader Announces Unilateral Cease-Fire

September 13, 2016

Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday announced a unilateral cease-fire starting at midnight Wednesday, which could be a major step in solving the conflict that has raged for more than two years. The conflict between Russian-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian government troops has killed more than 9,500 people since it began in April 2014. Representatives of Ukraine, the separatists and Russia signed a February 2015 Minsk peace deal brokered by France and Germany, but frequent clashes have continued to claim lives and political provisions of the agreement have never been implemented. Alexander Zakharchenko, rebel leader in Donetsk, made the cease-fire announcement in a recorded statement aired on Russian television on Tuesday, berating Kiev for a “lack of willingness to solve the problem in a peaceful manner.”

Zakharchenko said he has ordered rebel troops to cease fire at midnight Wednesday and urged Ukraine to do the same. Wearing a suit instead of his normal camouflage for the televised statement, the separatist leader said the rebels are “fully committed to the Minsk agreements” and see them as “the only solution.” Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-proclaimed part of the Luhansk region, also announced a cease-fire on Tuesday. It’s the first time that that the separatists, who are widely believed to be controlled by Moscow, have come with an idea of a unilateral cease-fire.

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SOURCE = ABC News

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ABC News

New Ukraine Doctrine Declares Russia Military Opponent

September 2, 2015

Ukraine’s national security council on Wednesday approved a new military doctrine that declares Russia to be a military opponent and calls for the country to pursue NATO membership. There was no immediate official reaction from Russia, which hotly denies claims that it has sent troops and equipment to separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east and which opposes Ukraine joining NATO.

The move came amid strong political tensions over President Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to get approval of a constitutional change that would devolve some powers to the regions, including the eastern regions held by the rebels. Opponents say the change would effectively be capitulation to Russia. It was unclear if the military doctrine’s stance against Russia could dilute opposition to the decentralization. The doctrine now goes to Poroshenko for his signature.

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SOURCE = ABC News

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Russia Herald

Russia Expels Ukrainian Diplomat

September 2, 2015

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Moscow has expelled a Ukrainian diplomat in retaliation for Kyiv’s expulsion of a Russian diplomat. Few other details were immediately available from the Russian news reports on September 1. Ties between Moscow and Kyiv hit rock bottom after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in March 2014. Unrest then started in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Kyiv and the West accuse Moscow of driving a separatist rebellion there. Moscow denies that. Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, and Reuters

© 2015: Russia Herald

 

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the-economist-logo

The war in Ukraine’s east has come back to Kiev

September 1, 2015

IGOR DEBRIN, a 24-year-old conscript in Ukraine’s national guard, had a seemingly safe posting in Kiev, far from the country’s embattled eastern regions. On Monday, he was sent to keep watch outside Ukraine’s parliament, where a controversial vote to change the country’s constitution brought raucous protestors to the streets (pictured). By day’s end, parliament had passed the changes, but Mr Debrin lay dead, the victim of a grenade thrown by a nationalist demonstrator. More than 100 other soldiers and policemen were wounded. Another two national guardsmen died on Tuesday, succumbing to injuries sustained in the blast. They were the first killed in protests in Kiev since Ukraine’s Maidan revolution last year.

The trigger for the violence was a bill that would grant greater autonomy to separatist-held areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, has lobbied hard for the measures, which he says are a crucial step to fulfilling the peace deal signed in Minsk earlier this year. Ukraine’s western allies have pushed Kiev to unilaterally move forward with its end of the agreement. “We must show the world that Ukraine is a reliable partner,” says Hanna Hopko, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, and a supporter of the bill.

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SOURCE = The Economist

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guardian logo

Ukrainian guardsman killed in protests against vote on rebel autonomy

August 31, 2015

Demonstrators have brawled and lobbed grenades outside Ukraine’s parliament, killing one officer from the interior ministry’s National Guard and injuring up to 100. The violence was in protest against a parliamentary vote to grant concessions to territories held by Russian-backed rebels. The interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said one officer died from shrapnel wounds and around 10 more were seriously injured. Most of the protesters appeared to come from Svoboda, a far-right political party that was part of the Maidan movement which overthrew the president Viktor Yanukovych last year but did badly at the polls and only has a handful of MPs.

Kiev’s mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, called the unrest “a bloody provocation” and said those responsible should be brought to justice. It was the worst street violence in Kiev since the fatal crushing of the Maidan protests last year, which resulted in more than 100 deaths and the ousting of Yanukovych. After the subsequent war in east Ukraine led to at least 7,000 deaths, Ukraine promised “special status” to the areas of the eastern Donbass region, which are under rebel control, as part of the Minsk ceasefire agreement. But the concessions are controversial at a time when many in Ukraine believe Moscow is doing little to hold up its side of the bargain.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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The Independent

Ukraine policeman killed and at least 100 injured in Kiev as rebels throw petrol bombs and grenades at parliament building

August 31, 2015

One policeman has been killed and 100 injured after rebels threw petrol bombs and a grenade at Ukraine’s parliament. Groups gathered outside the government building in Kiev to protest following the successful parliamentary vote for further autonomy in the Pro-Russian, rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The blast killed one person and seriously injured 10 policemen who were guarding the building, according to the Interior Ministry. It is not yet known which object caused the blast, but security forces say live grenades were thrown by the crowd. Petrol bombs and fire crackers were also used, while police used tear gas on the crowds.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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euReporter

Outcome of bilateral EU-Ukraine gas meeting in Vienna

August 31, 2015

On 27 August, European Commission Vice President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič (pictured) chaired talks on energy security with Ukraine in Vienna. Ukraine was represented by the Minister for Energy and Coal Industries Vladimir Demchyshyn as well as the CEO from Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolyev.

The meeting was conducted in a constructive atmosphere and focused on the necessary actions to ensure stable gas supplies to Ukraine and via Ukraine to the EU during winter. The meeting was organised at the initiative of the European Commission and served as an intermediate step in view of preparing for the next round of trilateral gas negotiations between the European Commission, Russia and Ukraine. Yesterday’s meeting will be followed by a bilateral meeting with the Russian energy minister on 11 September in Vienna. The European Commission acts as a mediator in the latest round of trilateral talks that started in March 2015.

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SOURCE = EU Reporter

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BBC News

Ukraine crisis: Deadly anti-autonomy protest outside parliament

August 31, 2015

One national guard member has been killed and over 100 injured in violent protests outside Ukraine’s parliament, the interior ministry said. Clashes between nationalists and riot police erupted after MPs gave initial backing to reforms for more autonomy in the rebel-held east. Some in the crowd lobbed what police said were live grenades at officers protecting parliament. The reforms are part of a peace plan to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, said the violence was “a stab in the back”.

Protesters led by the populist Radical Party and the ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party – who oppose any concession to the Russian-backed separatists – gathered outside parliament early on Monday. After a rowdy debate, 265 MPs out of 450 backed the first reading of the decentralisation bill, granting more powers to areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Initially, there were only minor clashes but a BBC correspondent then heard small explosions followed by a much larger one – apparently from a grenade.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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The Moscow Times

Ukrainian Police Hurt in Violent Protest During Controversial Vote

August 31, 2015

Ukraine’s parliament voted on Monday for constitutional changes to give separatist-minded eastern regions a special status — but divisions in the pro-Western camp and violent street protests suggested the changes would face a rougher ride to become law. At least four police and National Guard were badly hurt when a grenade was lobbed from a crowd of nationalists demonstrating outside parliament against the “decentralization” draft law that President Petro Poroshenko and his government are pushing as part of a blueprint to end separatist rebellion in the east. Ukraine’s National Guard said about 50 of its members were hurt, including four with serious wounds, by the blast.

An adviser for Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook that one Ukrainian national guardsman had died from gunshot wounds after being shot outside parliament. “A soldier from the National Guard has died of a gunshot wound in the heart,” the adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, said. “Apart from using grenades, the provocateurs were using firearms, fired secretly,” he said. At a boisterous session, with many deputies shouting “shame” and rhythmically beating parliamentary benches, a total of 265 deputies voted in favor of the first reading of the bill, 39 more than that required to pass.

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SOURCE = The Moscow Times

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BBC News

When Moscow banned Fairy liquid, and other Western cleaning products

August 26, 2015

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As Russian authorities took steps to remove foreign washing-up liquid and washing powder from shelves, Russians online reacted with both concern – and plenty of jokes. The Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said it would take action against number of foreign washing products on Tuesday, including ones produced by Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and other multinational companies. In a statement, the watchdog said tests had uncovered toxic ingredients. But the move was interpreted by many Russians not a defence of public health but rather the latest salvo in the heated trade war with the West that was touched off by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Earlier this month, Russia banned a variety of other Western goods including cheese and other foods. The country has itself been subjected to sanctions put in place by the EU and US.

“Police finds two grams of Persil detergent on a man in Ivanovo,” the comedians of @Lie_News tweeted. “In court, the defendant tried unsuccessfully to prove that the washing powder was merely cocaine.”

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SOURCE = BBC News

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ABC News

Ukraine Claims Russian Officer Detained

July 26, 2015

Ukraine’s border guards service says it has detained a Russian officer who was driving a truck packed with weapons including rocket-propelled grenades. There was no immediate comment from the Russian military, but the self-styled defense ministry of the rebel forces in Donetsk said Sunday that the claim “provokes irony.” Ukraine and Western countries contend Russia is providing troops and weaponry to eastern Ukraine’s rebels, who have been fighting Ukrainian forces since April 2014 in a war that has killed at least 6,400 people. Russia consistently denies the allegation. The border guard service said the truck and its two occupants were intercepted late Saturday at a checkpoint about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Donetsk, the main rebel-held city. It said one of the men acknowledged he was a Russian major.

© 2015: ABC News

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RT

US expands training mission in Ukraine as part of long-term military partnership

July 25, 2015

US military instructors are expanding their mission in Ukraine beyond the National Guard and will boost the army’s “defense capabilities” as part of a security partnership which has been going on for the “last 20 years,” the US State Department said. “The United States intends to continue training Ukrainian security forces this fall in western Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner has announced. He labeled the training part of a long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine. The US instructors are to focus on small unit training aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s “internal defense capabilities” as conflict in the Donbass region continues for over a year. The new program would increase Washington’s military assistance provided to Ukraine by more than $244 million. “This is going be small unit training conducted by US Army Europe for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense personnel,” Toner told reporters Friday. “It’s similar quite frankly to our ongoing training of the National Guard which we announced last March.”

Some 300 US troops are already training the country’s National Guard, which is a semi-official Ukrainian military force hastily created in 2014 to legalize groups of volunteers, patriots and activists following the coup and protests on Maidan. Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said that US was considering the expansion of its military training to Ukrainian army soldiers.

“We have been providing this kind of assistance training program to Ukraine, over the last 20 years,” Toner stated, adding the new program is not unique and is in line with the US’ “ongoing partnership” with Ukraine.

Meanwhile Washington has stepped up military exercises in Eastern Europe to “reassure” NATO allies in the face of a perceived “Russian threat.” NATO’s Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015 military drills have been seeing almost 2,000 soldiers from 18 different countries displaying their military might this week near the city of Lvov in western Ukraine, inching further towards the Russian border. The US-led drills are fueling “revanchist moods among the ‘party of war’ in Kiev, which jeopardizes the outlined progress in the peaceful settlement of a deep internal crisis in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign ministry said in a statement, earlier this week.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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BBC News

Why would Russia deploy bombers in Crimea?

July 24, 2015

Russian defence ministry sources say a squadron of Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bombers will be based in Crimea – but experts question the strategic value of such a move for Russia. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported the plan, quoting an unnamed ministry source, though it has not been officially confirmed. Other Russian media also reported it. Russia has previously pledged to beef up its military forces in Crimea, which has been internationally isolated since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in March 2014. Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation and tightened them over Russian support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian commentators see the Tu-22M3 bomber move as a response to US plans to deploy surface-to-air missile interceptors in Romania. Work at Romania’s Deveselu airbase began in October 2013.

It is part of a Nato missile shield plan to defend Europe from a possible “rogue state” missile attack. The US missiles are a ground-based version of Aegis, a system used by the US navy since 2004. The Russian bombers could be used against large surface ships, including aircraft carriers. However, military expert Viktor Murakhovsky argues that sending them to Crimea will only make them an obvious target in the event of an armed conflict, and they will do little to improve Russia’s combat capability there. Russia also opposes the positioning of US missile interceptors in Poland. It threatened to put Iskander short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad region in response. However, despite reports of temporary deployments, Iskanders have not been moved there permanently.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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BBC News

Right Sector militia: Symptom of Ukraine’s unfinished revolution

July 22, 2015

Thousands of supporters of a right-wing, nationalist group in Ukraine have taken part in an anti-government rally in the capital, Kiev. The organisation, known as Right Sector, is demanding a referendum on whether to impeach the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko. The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse was at the rally

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Source = BBC News

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The Independent

Ukraine crisis: Mikheil Saakashvili – Odessa’s new governor pledges to make his city a beacon for the war-ravaged country

July 21, 2015

At a ceremony to mark the opening of a new port-side sunflower oil factory, bulky ex-bodybuilders in tight-fitting Italian suits circle around the buffet stands, with high-heeled, glossy-haired companions. Local bureaucrats and businessmen deliver forgettable speeches to polite applause, and red ribbon is cut. Then Mikheil Saakashvili arrives. In his staccato and heavily accented Russian, Odessa’s recently appointed governor captures the attention of the crowd with ambitious plans to overhaul the region. He was ready to take on the region’s corrupt mafia, oligarchs and vested interests, he said – to create a beacon of progress to be exported to the rest of Ukraine.

Odessa’s problems could be solved, but first it needed infrastructure and economic growth, he added. It had some of the worst roads in Europe. This was entrenching the kind of poverty that made a far wider area once governed by the Soviet Union vulnerable to new Russian ambitions. Odessa’s bureaucrats had forgotten public service and had instead become glorified racketeers, he continued. This is why he would be sacking half of them, and establishing a one-stop-shop to issue government licences. “We are cutting criminals out of the process,” he insisted.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine, rebels reach preliminary deal to broaden weapons withdrawal

July 21, 2015

MINSK, July 21 (Reuters) – Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have reached a preliminary agreement to extend a pull-back of weapons in east Ukraine to include tanks and smaller weapons systems, the chairman of the OSCE security watchdog, Ivica Dacic, said on Tuesday. Under a ceasefire agreement brokered in Minsk, Belarus, in February, weapons of over 100 mm calibre are meant to have already been withdrawn, but both sides accuse the other of continuing to use heavy artillery and casualties are reported almost daily. The latest agreement on lighter weapons was reached at a meeting of the so-called “contact group” involving Ukraine, Russia and the separatists under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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The Independent

Ukraine crisis: ‘Putin is obsessed with the idea of testing Nato’ – and the Baltics will be next, says Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili

July 21, 2015

At first sight it seemed an improbable appointment: a man who had served twice as president of neighbouring Georgia, parachuted in as governor of a single region of Ukraine. But for the government in Kiev, beset in the east by pro-Russian rebels, and facing entrenched corruption and an array of powerful oligarchs elsewhere, it was an obvious choice. Two months later, Mikheil Saakashvili, exiled from the country he once ran, is settling into his new role as governor of Odessa – not just the Black Sea port city with its population of one million, but the wider and strategically crucial region around it.

He has embarked on a string of dramatic reforms on whose success, he believes, the future of the region, with its large Russian speaking and perhaps Moscow leaning minority, depends. And he will be reminding anyone who will listen that among the greatest threats, not just to Ukraine but to a wide swathe of eastern Europe, is the Russian president, Vladmir Putin. While the two presidents were initially on good terms when Saakashvili emerged victor of the Rose revolution of 2003, things turned sour quickly.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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ABC News

Russian Ex-PM’s Daughter Under Fire for Leaving for Ukraine

July 20, 2015

The daughter of a former Russian prime minister has accepted the job of deputy governor in a Ukrainian region, a decision that has sparked criticism in both Russia and Ukraine. Maria Gaidar’s appointment Friday as deputy governor of Odessa, now led by former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, has been painted as a betrayal in Russia. In Ukraine, she has been criticized for being hesitant to denounce Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Introducing Harvard-educated Gaidar in Odessa on Friday, Saakashvili described her as “one of the most brilliant political leaders fighting Putin’s regime.” Saakashvili was Georgia’s president during his country’s brief war with Russia in 2008.

Gaidar, 32, is the only daughter of the 1990s reformist prime minister Yegor Gaidar and is an opposition activist in her own right. She served as deputy governor in Russia’s Kirov region in 2009-2011 and advised Moscow’s deputy mayor in 2012-2013. Gaidar’s appointment caused bitterness in Russia and criticism from Ukrainian nationalists who resent another foreigner appointed to a top job. Some feel she has not been radical enough in denouncing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Gaidar told reporters in Kiev on Monday that she supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

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SOURCE = ABC News

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BBC News

Ukraine crisis: Kiev and rebels trade blame over Donetsk shelling

July 19, 2015

Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian separatists have accused each other of shelling central areas of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk. The rebels claimed that one civilian died in the overnight attacks. Ukraine said the separatists themselves opened fire on the city. International observers on the ground voiced concern over “a serious increase in tension” in Donetsk. These were the first such attacks on central Donetsk since a February truce.

The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and Nato all say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions with heavy weapons and soldiers. Independent experts echo that accusation. Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are volunteers. More than 6,400 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine that began in April 2014 when rebels seized large parts of the two eastern regions. This followed Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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ABC News

Ukraine Rebels Say Their Small Weapons Pullback Is Beginning

July 19, 2015

Ukraine’s separatist rebels say they have begun pulling back military vehicles with small-caliber weapons from most of the front line in their war with Ukrainian forces. The claims Sunday by the Russia-backed rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions could not immediately be confirmed. The rebels said tanks and armored vehicles with weapons under 100mm would be pulled back three kilometers (two miles) from most of front line in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Gen.-Maj. Andrei Taran dismissed the rebel claims as a deceptive. A February agreement called for a cease-fire and for both sides to pull back heavy weaponry. Although fighting diminished, deadly clashes still continue, with three more civilians reported killed Saturday. More than 6,400 people have been killed since the war started in April 2014, the UN says.

© 2015: ABC News

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New York Times

Video Purports to Show Ukraine Rebels After Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

July 17, 2015

A year to the day after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, an Australian news organization released a video purporting to show pro-Russian separatists walking amid the wreckage, expressing increasing dismay as item after item indicates that the aircraft was a passenger jet. The video, whose authenticity has not been independently verified, was released on Friday by News Corp Australia, which did not say how it had obtained it. Thirty-eight Australian citizens and permanent residents were among the 298 people killed on the flight, and the video emerged on the day a memorial to them was dedicated in Canberra, the capital.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she could not confirm that the video was authentic, but she told the Nine Network that the footage was “sickening to watch” and called it “deeply concerning” that it emerged only a year after the crash. American and NATO officials say Russian-backed rebels shot down the Boeing 777, which was traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Amsterdam, with a Russian surface-to-air missile as it flew over eastern Ukraine. The insurgents have denied responsibility.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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Ukraine ceasefire: ‘There is shooting all the time’

June 30, 2015

“This doesn’t smell like peace to me,” said the Monk, sighing heavily in his makeshift control centre, a former chandelier shop in the basement of a block of flats, near the remains of what not long ago was Donetsk international airport. “There is shooting all the time,” he said. A 47-year-old former police officer from Donetsk whose real name is Oleg Gorlenko, he was given his nom de guerre, he said, because he never cheated on his wife. He has been fighting the Ukrainian army for more than a year and does not believe in the current ceasefire. “Often it’s hard to tell who is shooting at whom. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing. But it definitely isn’t a ceasefire.”

A drive around the utter devastation of the airport and surrounding area with one of the Monk’s men was quickly curtailed after shooting started, apparently from one of the other rebel battalions stationed in the vicinity. Last week, Ukrainians hit a rebel tank in one of the side roads leading to the airport; in places, the two sides’ positions are little more than a mile apart. Large-scale fighting has not broken out but these skirmishes occur almost daily, and conversations with Russian, Ukrainian and western officials in recent weeks give little cause for hope that a quick, peaceful resolution to the conflict is possible.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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The Daily Beast

Drones Find Russian Base Inside Ukraine

June 30, 2015

Aerial footage finds smoking-gun evidence of Russian army involvement in the conflict. More war is inevitable. Dnipro-1, one of Ukraine’s many pro-government volunteer regiments, today released a video compiling drone footage of a Russian military camp just south of the village of Sontsevo in the Donetsk region. Two drone flights were made over the same area, two weeks apart. Over that time, the camp grew from a small collection of tents and engineering vehicles into a fully-fledged forward operating base (FOB), complete with tanks, communications equipment, personnel quarters and even new roads.
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What makes this already impressive discovery even more startling is the location—less than 12 kilometers from the Ukrainian front-line settlements of Granitnoye and Novolaspa. This area, to the east of Volnovakha and the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, has seen a slow but steady intensification of violence over recent months, as well as a buildup of Russian troops and armor in separatist-held territory behind the front lines.

What’s significant about where this Russian FOB is located is that it’s sandwiched between (Ukrainian-held Volnovakha) and (separatist-held) Telmanovo, and would therefore play a lead role in any forthcoming Russian offensive on Mariupol, the port city on the Sea of Azov which also happens to the economic powerhouse in the Donetsk region. The separatists have nothing comparable to Mariupol in their possession and they want it, as Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, has stated repeatedly to journalists. Reinforcements from this FOB would allow separatists to mount a pincer maneuver to cut Ukrainian forces in Mariupol off from support from the north. I outlined such a plan at the beginning of this year and the evidence is now mounting that the Russians are indeed preparing for such a move.

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SOURCE = The Daily Beast

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BBC News

Ukraine suspends Russian gas purchases

June 30, 2015

Russian gas purchases have been suspended by Ukraine after a breakdown in talks aimed at keeping supplies running for three to six months. The Ukrainian state energy company, Naftogaz, said it would continue transporting Russian gas supplies to other European customers. It will be the second time in less than a year that Russian fuel supplies have stopped running to Ukraine. Russian energy minister Alexander Novak called the decision “unfortunate”. Moscow hiked prices after Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February 2014. It cut off gas supplies in June 2014 as the conflict between the government in Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in the east escalated.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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New York Times

Russia: Diplomat Rejects U.N. Tribunal on Malaysian Jet Shot Down in Ukraine

June 26, 2015

A senior Russian official rejected calls Friday for the establishment of a United Nations tribunal to try those responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine last year. “We are against it; we think it is not timely and counterproductive,” said the deputy foreign minister, Gennadiy Gatilov, according to Russian news agencies. The Netherlands, Malaysia and three other countries want a tribunal to investigate the crash in July 2014 that killed all 298 passengers and crew members. The passenger jet was flying between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down during some of the worst fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Suspicions immediately fell on the separatists, who may have used a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to shoot down the plane. Moscow flatly denied that it was involved and pointed a finger instead at Ukraine’s military.

© 2015: The New York Times Company

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ITV

Obama tells Putin: Remove all Russian troops from Ukraine

June 26, 2015

US President Barack Obama has told his Russian counterpart that he needs to remove all “troops and equipment” from Ukrainian territory. In a statement, the White House revealed Vladimir Putin phoned Obama for their first call since February, to discuss the Iran nuclear talks, the “increasingly dangerous situation in Syria”, tackling Islamic State extremists and the situation in Ukraine. Obama reportedly told Putin that Russia must live up to the terms of a ceasefire deal with the neighbouring country, “including the removal of all Russian troops and equipment from Ukrainian territory”, the statement added.

Copyright 2015: ITV News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Putin out to seize control of Ukraine, says Kiev defence chief

 

June 26, 2015

KIEV, June 26 (Reuters) – The West should not drop its guard over Ukraine, the country’s defence minister said on Friday, saying a build-up of Russian forces in support of separatists showed President Vladimir Putin was bent on seizing control of the country. Stepan Poltorak spoke alongside visiting Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney as Kiev military chiefs reported intensified attacks by separatists in the east, despite a ceasefire, with another Ukrainian soldier killed. “There is a threat still because the military groups of the (separatists)… and Russian troops continue to build up their forces, bringing additional equipment and ammunition and of course their plans are not peaceful,” Poltorak said.

“One should not be naive and think that Putin has given up his plans to seize Ukraine, to destabilise the situation in Ukraine. He’s just changing his tactics and strategies, but his goal remains the same: to seize Ukraine.” Putin denies accusations by Kiev and the West that Russia has provided pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine with soldiers and weapons.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

 

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Reuters

Exclusive – Mother urges Russia not to abandon son captured in Ukraine

June 25, 2015

The mother of a Russian soldier captured in Ukraine says her son never told her he was quitting the army, raising doubt about Kremlin assertions that the soldier was no longer serving when he crossed the frontier. Zinaida Alexandrova, 58, says she has avoided watching Russian TV since she learnt from a news broadcast that her son was wounded fighting in east Ukraine and taken prisoner. Russia denies sending troops to help separatist fighters in east Ukraine and says Alexander Alexandrov and his commander, Captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev, had quit their special forces unit to go there on their own.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said they were both ordinary Russian civilians held captive. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the government has not abandoned the two men. Alexandrov told Reuters in an interview from his bed in a Kiev hospital late last month that he was on active duty with the Russian special forces when he was sent to Ukraine.

“I wrote no resignation request,” he said. “I was carrying out my orders.”

The case, and others like it, have helped cast doubt on President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Russian troops and weapons are being sent to Ukraine. Russia has suggested the men, who are heavily guarded in hospital, may be under pressure from Kiev over what they say.

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SOURCE = Reuters

 

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Reuters

Russian former leader of Ukraine rebels warns of “big war”

June 24, 2015

A ceasefire is likely to collapse in east Ukraine and Russia could be drawn into a “big war” to cleanse the “sore on its borders”, the former leader of the region’s pro-Russian separatists said. Violence has eased but not halted in east Ukraine under what are known as the Minsk 2 agreements, reached in the Belarussian capital on Feb. 12 after an earlier ceasefire collapsed. Alexander Borodai, a Russian citizen and former journalist for nationalist newspapers who emerged last year as prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), said he expects the Ukrainian army to launch a new offensive. “To be honest, I expect that the Minsk 2 agreements will not be observed, in the same manner as the Minsk 1 agreements were not,” Borodai said in an interview this week in a Moscow restaurant surrounded by former rebel commanders.

“And at the end of the day the Ukrainian army will launch an offensive. This is a very probable development … I am not sure that it will end without a big war, as Russia cannot tolerate this sore on its borders forever.” Borodai stepped aside in favour of a local man as the rebel leader last August but is widely believed to have strong political links in Moscow and an open channel to the Donbass region where the war has unfolded in the last 15 months. His leadership of the rebels in the early stages of their rebellion ensured he was often seen on Russian television, and passersby stop him to talk and pat him on the back when they see him on the streets of the Russian capital. He also came to worldwide attention as leader of the rebel movement in the area when Malaysian flight MH-17 was shot down by what Western countries believe was a Russian missile fired from rebel territory.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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guardian logo

Ukraine says six soldiers killed by rebels and 14 wounded in last 24 hours

June 13, 2015

The Ukrainian military says six of its soldiers have been killed and 14 wounded in the past 24 hours in the separatist east of the country despite the current ceasefire. The situation is particularly tense around the airport near the city of Donetsk, which is controlled by the rebels, the military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said. “The enemy threw tanks, armoured personnel carriers and heavy artillery into battle. We emphasise that rebels are also firing at residential areas,” he said. The casualties were the result of landmine explosions and shelling by the pro-Russia separatists, he added.

The truce brokered by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France is in its fourth month and has stemmed large-scale fighting, but skirmishes claim lives on both sides on an almost daily basis, and international monitors have warned of the threat of a bigger flare-up. Separatist officials accused Ukrainian forces of firing at the village of Oktyabrsky, near Donetsk, wounding two civilians, and shelling three districts of the city over the last day, according to the rebel DAN press service. At least seven people, including five civilians, were reported killed on Thursday, and more than 35 died last week in exchanges of mortar and rocket fire across the buffer zone established by the February truce.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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RT

US considers storing heavy weapons in Baltic and Eastern Europe – report

June 13, 2015

The Pentagon is reportedly poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy equipment for up to 5,000 US troops in Eastern European and the Baltic countries. It says the move is to reassure its NATO allies. According to the New York Times citing American and allied officials, the equipment would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary. The move, if it is approved, would be the most serious deployment of military hardware in Europe since the end of the Cold War; although the plan falls short of a permanent presence of boots on the ground. After NATO initially expanded into the Baltic States in 2004, the permanent stationing of equipment and troops in these countries was avoided so as to consider Russia’s interests.

However, as a result of the Ukraine crisis, NATO and the US have decided to bolster forces in the region, which they say is to send a clear message to the Russian government that NATO will defend its alliance members. “This is a very meaningful shift in policy. It provides a reasonable level of reassurance to jittery allies, although nothing is as good as troops stationed full-time on the ground, of course,” James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told The New York Times. The stocks of heavy weapons would be enough to equip a brigade of about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers and is about the same as the Pentagon kept in Kuwait after the 1990 invasion of Iraq.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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The Independent

Ukraine prepares for ‘full-scale Russian invasion along border’ as violence flares

June 4, 2015

Ukraine says it is preparing for a “full-scale invasion” by Russia in the wake of renewed fighting between separatists and government forces. Speaking to his country’s parliament, the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko raised the prospect of “invasion” by Vladimir Putin and warned of a “colossal threat” posed by the escalation of violence. Russia supports the cause of the rebels in the Donbass region of Ukraine but denies any of its government forces are involved in the fighting. But Mr Poroshenko said 9,000 Russian troops had been deployed, and said that more could follow after the worst day of fighting in the conflict since February’s agreement in Minsk. Wednesday saw a 12-hour battle involving the use of artillery on both sides, with at least 26 people killed. Ukraine’s military officials said it had also suffered 39 wounded, while rebels said that five of their 21 dead were civilians.

In total, the UN says that more than 6,400 people have died in the conflict, but a truce agreed between the two sides with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France had largely held for the past four months. Referring to the flare-up of violence in which rebels reportedly tried to seize the government-held town of Maryinka, Poroshenko said: “There is a colossal threat of a renewal of large-scale military operations.” He ordered his military to be ready “as much for a renewal of an offensive by the enemy in the Donbass as they are for a full-scale invasion along the whole length of the border with Russia”. “We must be truly ready for this,” he said. Speaking in Oslo after Mr Poroshenko’s comments, Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of delivering sophisticated weaponry to rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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BBC News

Saakashvili Ukraine’s new governor in Odessa splits opinion

June 2, 2015

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president, is a politician who inspires few neutral emotions. Discussions over his legacy often descend into two separate camps of those who love “Misha” (as he is commonly referred to) and those who harbour a less-than-generous opinion of him. The shock announcement on Saturday, that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had appointed him as governor of the southern region of Odessa, elicited a similarly varied response.  Mr Poroshenko’s choice of such a divisive, head-strong character was interpreted as a sign of weakness, or a demonstration of strength. A stroke of genius – or a blunder of gargantuan proportions.

Those in the “for” camp tout his numerous and Western-style reforms in the years following Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution that brought him to power, transforming a country on the verge of complete collapse. In the “against” camp, many point to his impulsiveness – which may have provided the spark to Georgia’s disastrous war with Russia in 2008 – and his heavy-handed methods in dealing with political dissent. Odessa is one of Ukraine’s most critical and sensitive regions, one that has been convulsed by extreme political violence in the last year, and which appears to be coming under increasing pressure from pro-Russian separatists. And the former Georgian leader is also a well-known adversary, to put it lightly, of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Reuters

U.N. finds growing signs of Russian involvement in Ukraine war

June 1, 2015

A separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine is revealing increasing evidence, but not yet conclusive legal proof, of Russian state involvement, senior United Nations human rights officials said on Monday. “We are speaking about increasing inflow of (unofficial) fighters and increasing evidence that there are also some (Russian) servicemen involved in fighting,” Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told a news conference in Geneva. Russia denies Western accusations that it is backing pro-Russian rebels with arms and troops. On May 21, U.N. officials interviewed two Russians captured in eastern Ukraine.

The two men believe they should be treated as captured servicemen, but Russia says they are former soldiers who had left the military. The pair were charged with terrorism by Ukrainian authorities, putting them “between a rock and a hard place”, Simonovic said. “It is very difficult to prove whether they are servicemen or not. That is why mostly we are speaking about ‘fighters’ of the Russian federation,” said Armen Harutyunyan, head of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. If Moscow is proven to be a party to the war, it would drag Russia into allegations of war crimes and potentially trials at the International Criminal Court, which Ukraine’s foreign minister has said Kiev wants to join.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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BBC News

Georgian ex-President Saakashvili named Ukraine regional governor

May 31, 2015

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been appointed governor of Ukraine’s southern Odessa region. Announcing the surprise move in the Black Sea port of Odessa, President Petro Poroshenko said Mr Saakashvili had been granted Ukrainian citizenship. Mr Saakashvili is widely credited with carrying out radical reforms in Georgia during his terms in office in 2004-13. However, current Georgian authorities accuse him of abuse of power and have demanded his extradition. Mr Saakashvili left Georgia after his term as president ended in 2013. He denies the charges against him, which he says are politically motivated.

The complete surprise of Mikheil Saakashvili’s appointment as Odessa governor has left a large number of political observers at a loss for an explanation. President Petro Poroshenko’s reasons will be come clearer with time, but at the moment, many are struggling to see the strategy behind naming a former leader of another country to run a provincial government. Saakashvili is a political outsider, with few ties to the Odessa region, and comes with a reputation for divisiveness and a high level of self-involvement. But he is also pro-Western, pro-reform and apparently very loyal to Mr Poroshenko – which will come in handy if he takes on local corruption and vested interests, as Mr Poroshenko apparently wants. The move could be a stroke of genius on Mr Poroshenko’s part – or a blunder of breathtaking magnitude. At the very least, it points to his lack of choices among home-grown candidates.

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BBC News

Ukraine’s stubborn frontline civilians defy bombardment

May 26, 2015

Somebody had placed a garland of fresh flowers on the rusting wreckage of a tank. Men died here and were remembered. Although the fields were empty it was possible to imagine them filled with workers harvesting the sunflower crop. This was the lull, the space between bombardments when the land reminded us of its true purpose: not a battlefield but a place of abundance. I remarked to a colleague that the calm was our greatest enemy here. It lulled us into a false sense of ease. And then it started. I heard shouts of “Go, go, go” in English and Ukrainian. There were loud cracks and flashes in the fields nearby, then the surge of adrenalin; the fear – impossible to convey – of being caught in the open by artillery.

_83226431_pisky_donetsk_624mapAnother small moment in the life of a war we have reported on for the past year. Much of that time has been spent in the villages around Donetsk airport, like Pisky. Of a pre-war population of 3,000, there are now only around 40 people left. We had come back to Pisky to spend a night in the company of a couple who refused to leave one of the most embattled places on the Ukrainian front. Anatoliy and Svetlana Kosse, both aged 68, were among the few residents still here. All around them were the ruins of houses struck by shellfire. Their days and nights are punctuated by the noise of artillery, rockets, mortars and gunfire. But alongside this murderous back and forth there was a more hopeful soundtrack.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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USA Today

Donetsk has become eastern Ukraine’s lawless city

DONETSK, Ukraine — This once-booming industrial city of 1 million is now largely a lawless and lifeless center of eastern Ukraine’s separatist movement, where residents live under constant threat from marauding militias. Although pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian armed forces agreed to a cease-fire last February, the sounds of artillery fire and shelling have never ceased to echo through the war-torn city. The fighting has slowed, but not stopped. For the past year, Russian-backed separatists have controlled the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). Most stores have shut down, and only a few restaurants remain open, filled mainly with young separatist militia fighters in dark green fatigues who rampage through the city as if it were their own playground, civilian residents say.

Olexandra Matviichuk, who heads the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, said confrontations among varied militias are common at the expense of law and order. “No functioning legal mechanisms (exist) in these territories,” Matviichuk said. As a result, “any person can become a victim of looting, torture, hostage-taking and execution.” Off a main street in the city center as dusk starts to fall, two DNR policemen, Bogdan Kvetka and Ruslan Ivanov, agreed to sit down with USA TODAY in a small closed cafe to describe the lawlessness that has gripped their city. Because of their fear of retribution from fellow separatists, the café owner — a trusted friend of the men — locked the doors as the pair, still in military fatigues, nervously recounted what life is now like here. Militia fighters, they explained, are able to carry out criminal acts with impunity. Fighters ignore the law, knowing they have the support of their own paramilitary group that can stir up trouble if one of its members is confronted. Both Kvetka and Ivanov said they are unable to enforce order.

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SOURCE = USA Today

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BBC News

Ukraine’s Poroshenko talks of ‘real war’ with Russia

May 20, 2015

Ukraine’s president has told the BBC his country is now in a “real war” with Russia – and that Ukrainians should prepare for a Russian offensive. Petro Poroshenko told the BBC’s Fergal Keane he did not trust his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, but had no option but to negotiate with him. The Kremlin said it did not trust Mr Poroshenko either and accused Ukraine of “broken commitments”. Meanwhile Ukraine has charged two men it accuses of being Russian soldiers. Russia denies Western accusations that it has sent regular troops and armour to help rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The United Nations says at least 6,000 people have been killed since fighting started in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. Mr Poroshenko said he believed Russia was preparing for “an offensive” in the summer. “I think we should be ready and I think that we do not give them any tiny chance for provocation. That will totally be their responsibility,” he said. He said it was possible parts of eastern Ukraine could not be taken away from rebels by military means alone – meaning diplomacy was the only answer. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov responded by saying there was a “serious lack of trust” between the two countries, which stemmed from “specific broken commitments and… failure to implement the provisions of signed documents”.

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 The Scotsman

Russia on attack over US soldiers’ Ukraine arrival

April 18, 2015

RUSSIA has condemned the arrival of hundreds of US troops in Ukraine, saying it could “seriously destabilise” the volatile country which is at war with pro-Moscow rebels in the east. This week 300 troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade travelled to western Ukraine to spend six months training three battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard in an effort to improve the fighting capabilities of an army that has suffered at the hands of its opponents on the battle field. The presence of US troops on Ukrainian soil angered Russia, which has always maintained that Western attempts to bring Ukraine closer to the West triggered the violent crisis that has now gripped the former Soviet republic for more than a year.

It has opposed the deployment of foreign troops on Ukrainian territory although both Kiev and Western governments accuse Moscow of sending its army across the border to wage war on Ukraine. “The participation of instructors and experts from third countries on Ukrainian territory… of course, do not help to resolve the conflict,” a spokesman for president Vladimir Putin said yesterday. “On the contrary, it can seriously destabilise the situation.” The US military contingent follows in the footsteps of British and Polish troops in training Ukraine’s armed forces, and Canadian troops are also expected to travel to Ukraine.

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SOURCE = The Scotsman

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Reuters

Ukraine says it aims to prevent Russian attacks at WW II commemorations

April 21, 2015

(Reuters) – Ukraine is planning an operation involving tens of thousands of police to guard against any attack by separatists or Russian agents during World War Two commemorations next month, security chiefs said on Tuesday. Tension is mounting in the capital and other cities amid an increase in rebel attacks in the east. Kiev said one Ukrainian serviceman had been killed in the past 24 hours, in an attack near the airport in Donetsk. The airport fell to the rebels earlier this year. The killings in Kiev of two pro-Russian activists, a journalist, by what appeared to be professional hitmen, have further driven up tension in the run-up to May 8-9 celebrations of victory in 1945, which traditionally bring thousands of people on to the streets.

Ukraine, along with most European Union members and the United States, is boycotting festivities in Moscow marking 70 years since the allied victory over Nazi Germany, because of Moscow’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine in which more than 6,100 people have been killed. But it will hold victory celebrations of its own in Kiev and other cities. “We cannot trust the word of Russia and their terrorists at all. We must be ready to give a clear, appropriate and strong reply to protect people on the streets, provide warnings of terrorist attacks and bring those guilty of crimes to justice,” Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told security chiefs.

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Washington post

EU gives Ukraine $267 million in low interest loans

April 21, 2015

BRUSSELS — The European Union has given Ukraine 250 million euros ($267 million) in low interest loans as part of a package to help revive the country’s lackluster economy. Top EU economy official Pierre Moscovici said Tuesday that the loans are meant for vital reforms “to stabilize the Ukrainian economy and create the conditions for sustainable growth.” Ukraine’s economy was battered by almost a year of fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government troops.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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The Independent

Russia warns of escalation of conflict after US paratroopers arrive in Ukraine

April 18, 2015

US Army paratroopers have landed in Ukraine to help the national guard units train in exercises over the next six months. The move has been criticized by Moscow and the Ukrainian separatist rebels in the eastern part of the country, who say that the move could destabilise the current situation in Ukraine. US troops are training 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen, a unit formed of volunteers, some of which are currently being integrated with the Ukrainian regular army.

The volunteer guardsmen have been an important part of Ukraine’s defence of the parts of the country under siege from Russian-backed separatist rebels. Currently, two national guard units working on week-long rotations have managed to hold the town of Shyrokyne, a town near the port city of Mariupol, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting and shelling in recent weeks.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine wants global court to investigate crimes in Crimea and east

April 17, 2015

THE HAGUE, April 17 (Reuters) – Ukraine wants the International Criminal Court to investigate all alleged war crimes in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in an interview, broadening an existing probe. Ukraine has already given the global court the authority to investigate crimes on its territory from Nov. 21, 2013, to Feb. 22, 2014, the period leading up to the fall of Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovich, a Moscow ally.

Russia annexed Crimea soon after, and later in 2014 fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russian separatists. Kiev accuses Russia of driving the rebellion with its arms and troops, which Moscow denies. The investigation so far excludes any crimes that might have been committed by Russian-backed troops. A wider probe, including the annexation of Crimea to the present, could for the first time consider allegations of direct Russian involvement. “We are quite optimistic about more, definitely more, engagement of the ICC,” Pavlo Klimkin told Reuters before meeting the court’s president and prosecutor on Friday.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Russia cannot divide Europe over Ukraine, says German minister

April 16, 2015

VILNIUS, April 16 (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday Russia could not succeed in breaking European Union unity on sanctions over Ukraine by using strategies such as offering to remove trade embargoes against individual EU member states. “It might be that there are some attempts like this and there will be in future. There were such attempts and they were not successful,” he said in Lithuania, where concern about neighbouring Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is especially acute.

Steinmeier said EU member states had debated the issue and it had proved controversial but unity had prevailed: “Our decision was taken, so I think the attempt to split Europe will fail.” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s visit to Moscow this month caused unease in the European Union, where he was warned not to break ranks over economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

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BBC News

Germany to bring 100 mothballed tanks back into service

April 10, 2015

Germany plans to bring 100 mothballed tanks back into service in what is widely seen as a response to rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine. The tanks were sold to industry as part of defence cuts after the Cold War. The German defence ministry said it would spend €22m (£16m;$24m) on bringing its total of tanks to 328. Nato officials agreed in February to create a quick-reaction force to meet the challenges posed by the Ukraine crisis and by Islamic extremists.

Nato defence ministers have also agreed to more than double the size of the alliance’s Response Force. The moves were seen as a signal that Nato regards Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its military forays into eastern Ukraine as much more than a temporary crisis. German defence ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed a report by Der Spiegel (in German), saying 100 Leopard 2 battle tanks will be bought back from the defence industry, which has kept them in storage. The spokesman said Germany has to ensure that it can deploy troops with the correct equipment to the right place in a short period of time, given the new goals of flexibility and swift reaction times.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Washington post

Mother of Ukraine pilot jailed in Russia seeks global help

March 26, 2015

UNITED NATIONS — The mother of a Ukrainian helicopter pilot imprisoned in Russia is on a global campaign seeking support from world leaders to pressure President Vladimir Putin to free her daughter. Maria Savchenko said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that her daughter is a political prisoner and Russian prosecutors have provided “no evidence” that she provided guidance for a mortar attack that killed two Russian state TV journalists at a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine, as Moscow claims.

Nadezhda Savchenko was captured by a pro-Russian militia and has been in Russian custody since June 2014 on charges that she was involved in the attack that killed the two Russian journalists who were covering the war between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. At the time of the attack, the 33-year-old pilot was serving with the Aidar volunteer battalion that was fighting alongside government forces near the eastern city of Luhansk. Russia’s U.N. Mission, asked to comment on Mrs. Shavchenko’s claims and criticism, said: “She is accused of a serious crime as an accomplice in the killing of two Russian journalists.”

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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BBC News

Ukraine crisis: British trainers assist Ukrainian military

March 19, 2015

British military personnel have started training members of the Ukrainian army fighting pro-Russian rebels, the BBC has learned. The 35 trainers are working in the southern city of Mykolaiv and will spend about two months in the country. They will train forces in eastern Ukraine in medicine and defensive tactics and give non-lethal equipment.

The Ukrainian PM said he “truly appreciated” the support, while the deployment was criticised by Russia. The deal was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last month. It is the first time a Western nation has conducted a long-term military training programme in Ukraine since its war against pro-Russian rebels began last year. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon has delayed a training programme for Ukrainian soldiers because it fears it could give Russia a reason to end the the current peace deal.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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BBC News

Putin reveals secrets of Russia’s Crimea takeover plot

March 9, 2015

Vladimir Putin has admitted for the first time that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the referendum on self-determination. Crimea was formally absorbed into Russia on 18 March, to international condemnation, after unidentified gunmen took over the peninsula. Mr Putin said on TV he had ordered work on “returning Crimea” to begin at an all-night meeting on 22 February. The meeting was called after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted. Speaking last year, Mr Putin had said only that he took his final decision about Crimea after secret, undated opinion polls showed 80% of Crimeans favoured joining Russia.

The findings of these polls were borne out by the outcome of the referendum on 16 March, he told Russian state TV last April. Speaking in a forthcoming Russian TV documentary, Mr Putin said a meeting with officials had been held on 22-23 February to plan the rescue of Ukraine’s deposed president. “I invited the leaders of our special services and the defence ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, who would simply have been liquidated,” he said. “We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, ‘We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia’.”

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Newsday

EU chief speaks out against arms supplies for Kiev

March 6, 2015

RIGA, Latvia – (AP) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Friday came out against a bipartisan call in the United States to provide lethal, defensive weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.

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SOURCE = Newsday

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Nince O Clock

Ion IIescu: Russia’s action in eastern Ukraine, a but adventurous, but Russians have certain historic debt

March 6, 2015

Former President Ion Iliescu has characterized, on Thursday, Russia’s action in the eastern Ukraine as being “a bit adventurous”, declaring that he was surprised by Moscow’s action, but showed that Russians have a “certain historic debt” as the current territory of Ukraine hosted the first Russian state and this, probably, sparks “certain sensibilities”. “Russians have a certain historic debt. The first Russian state was Kievskaya Rus. In a way there is this nostalgia, the fact that Kievskaya Rus with Ukraine parted from Greater Russia, probably as mentality. There was, on the other hand, a certain obligation to respect the fraternity bonds between these two peoples. This action to encourage separatism in eastern Ukraine was a bit adventurous,” said Iliescu quoted by Agerpres.

Of Russian President Vladimir Putin the former head of state stated that he is “a man of action and ambition” and showed surprise that Moscow “ventured into such a conflict”. “Ukraine was the first area of development for the Russian state. The first form of Russian state was the Kievskaya Rus [e.n. Kievan Rus], meaning the Russian state with its capital in Kiev, which Ivan the Terrible then moved to Moscow and Peter the Great moved to Petrograd [e.n. – St. Petersburg]. So Ukraine is a part of the Russian history. Probably this is what sparks many sensibilities, that Ukraine declared its independence, but it would’ve been natural, given this common history, to have relations of understanding, of cooperation. (…) So there is something abnormal in their approach and reaction,” Ion Iliescu explained. Asked to comment on the statements of the Allied Land Command of NATO, General Ben Hodges, who said that Russia is trying to gain control of the mouths of the Danube, Iliescu claimed that the interest for the Black Sea is “understandable for an adjacent country and a great power”.

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SOURCE = Nine O Clock

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The Shuttle

Further non-lethal help for Ukraine

March 6, 2015

The UK is to supply a further package of non-lethal military equipment worth £850,000 as a gift to the government of Ukraine, it has been announced. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the package will include first aid kits, night vision goggles, helmets, GPS (global positioning system) units and “ruggedised” laptops. The announcement comes a day after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond flew to the eastern European country’s capital Kiev for talks with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. In a written statement to the House of Commons, Mr Fallon said that the UK’s gift came in response to a request from Kiev for help with basic equipment, supplies of which have been depleted by months of instability caused by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

Mr Fallon said: “This Government is committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. As a result of their prolonged engagement in this conflict, the Ukrainians face a serious shortage of basic equipment, and have requested help. “Our proposed gift of non-lethal equipment is designed to prevent further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties and to help improve situational awareness on the ground.” And he added: ” Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilising activities in eastern Ukraine, including direct military support to the separatists, have demonstrated its disregard for international law.

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SOURCE = The Shuttle

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

BERLIN, March 6 (Reuters) – The second-highest ranking U.S. diplomat warned on Friday that pressure to arm Ukraine would increase if aggression from pro-Russian separatists persisted, even though Moscow would easily be able to send more weapons into the country than the West. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told German radio (DLF) the United States was already working on supplying Kiev with non-lethal equipment, including $130 million worth of protective vests, night-vision goggles and other equipment. “But if the aggression continues, I think there will be more and more pressure to give them other means to protect themselves,” he said in the interview with DLF.

With both the government in Kiev and the rebels in eastern Ukraine accusing each other of violating a fragile ceasefire agreed last month, U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders are weighing their next steps to try to halt a conflict that has killed about 6,000 people since last April.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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BBC News

Ukraine crisis: ‘Military threat from east to remain’ despite truce

February 27, 2015

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has said a “military threat from the east” will remain even if a ceasefire holds between government troops and pro-Russian rebels in the east. Mr Poroshenko’s warning is widely seen as an indirect reference to Russia. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of helping the rebels with weapons and soldiers – a claim denied by Moscow. Ukraine’s military said on Friday that three soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours despite the truce.

Another seven soldiers were wounded, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a news briefing. That followed 48 hours during which the Ukrainian military said it had suffered no deaths, boosting hopes that the ceasefire might hold. Both Ukraine and the rebels say they are now withdrawing their heavy weapons from the front line under the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk, Belarus. The process is yet to be officially confirmed by international monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The ceasefire came into effect on 15 February but the rebels seized the key town of Debaltseve just days later.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Russia Herald

War with Ukraine will be ‘apocalyptic’, says Putin

February 25, 2015

MOSCOW, Russia – President Vladimir Putin has said a war with Ukraine was “unlikely” and if a military conflict between the two neighbours breaks out it would be “apocalyptic”. “I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen,” Putin said in an interview with Russian state television broadcast Monday. The Russian president also stressed that the recent ceasefire deal signed in the Belarusian capital was the best way to stabilise eastern Ukraine where rebels, allegedly backed by the Russian army, have taken control of key areas after chasing away Ukraine troops.

He said that if the Minsk agreement signed Feb 12 was implemented, eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilise”. “Europe is just as interested in that as Russia. No-one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict,” he said. He said that the deal was backed by the United Nations Security Council and that matters to Moscow. He also expressed view that if Ukraine devolves more power to eastern parts of the country, currently controlled by Russian-backed rebels, thing would return to normal. He reiterated his denial that Russia was invading Ukraine and that Russian army was fighting alongside the rebels. He said Kiev was claiming that to hide its humiliation at being defeated by former miners and tractor drivers.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Russia is lying when it denies its troops are in Ukraine -Kerry

February 24, 2015

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday Russia was lying when it said there are no Russian troops or equipment in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting government troops. Fighting has abated in eastern Ukraine in recent days, raising hope that a ceasefire that was due to start on Feb. 15 can finally take effect after the rebels initially ignored it to storm the government-held town of Debaltseve last week.

Western countries have not given up on the ceasefire deal to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people, although they remain suspicious of the rebels and their presumed patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked during U.S. congressional testimony if Russia was lying when it says it has no troops or equipment in Ukraine, Kerry replied: “Yes.”

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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nytlogo152x23

Russia Heightens Dispute With Ukraine Over Natural Gas

February 24, 2015

MOSCOW — As Russia warned Ukraine on Tuesday that it could run out of natural gas within two days because of a dispute over payments, Britain said it was sending military trainers to aid Ukrainian forces while European diplomats labored to patch up a flagging peace agreement in eastern Ukraine. The warning by Aleksei B. Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian energy behemoth, illustrated how the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine are hardly limited to the battlefields in eastern Ukraine, where a cease-fire agreed to nearly two weeks ago has still not fully taken hold.

Russia has long used its muscle as the region’s major energy supplier to wield political and economic influence, particularly in disputes with Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. A bitter feud over gas payments has been a subplot of the wider political dispute between Moscow and Kiev over the past year. As part of that dispute, Russia last year cut off supplies and ended a longstanding practice of selling gas to Ukraine on credit, and instead demanded prepayment.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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UK military training in Ukraine: symbolic move that risks Russian ire

February 24, 2015

Britain’s decision to dip its toe into the Ukraine crisis is hardly likely to have a decisive impact on the outgunned and struggling Ukrainian army, but it serves the symbolic purpose of taking a stake in the country’s defence. The 75 British trainers bound for Ukraine in the coming days will provide instruction in command procedures, tactical intelligence, battlefield first aid and logistics, and assess the national army’s infantry training needs. The overall aim, said UK defence sources, was to “improve the survivability” of Ukrainian troops who have been pummelled by heavy artillery, reportedly from weapons such as self-propelled howitzers supplied by Russia in support of the separatists, some of which appear to have been being fired from Russian soil.

The British trainers will be deployed well away from the frontlines, in western Ukraine, to eliminate the risk of British and Russian soldiers inflicting casualties on each other. But it is likely the move will be seized on in Moscow as proof of President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the Russian-backed separatists are fighting a Nato ‘foreign legion’. American advisers will be arriving in spring to train four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard at the Yavoriv training area near the Polish border. The British effort appears to be coordinated with that mission, and by getting its soldiers on the ground first, David Cameron’s coalition government will seek to counter recent criticism that it has been marginalised in the international diplomacy aimed at stopping the war.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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USA Today

Ukraine signs defense deal with United Arab Emirates

February 24, 2015

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a deal for unspecified military and technical cooperation with the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, and said negotiations are ongoing with the United States and unspecified European nations. The deal is a sign that Ukraine is not only seeking, but finding defense industry partners outside the region as it wages an uphill fight against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko told reporters at the International Defense Exhibition show here that he hoped talks with the U.S. would yield an agreement to help Ukraine defend itself. Poroshenko had reportedly planned to meet with chief Pentagon weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, at the show.

“We are in a very practical dialogue, and we hope in the very near future, we have a decision to help us attain defensive weapons,” he said of talks with the United States. “I want to stress that the defensive capabilities for the Ukrainian Army are only to defend our territory, to keep our independence, to keep our sovereignty. We do not have any plans to attack anybody.” Ukraine Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak has said the country will dedicate $3 billion to fund the fight against pro-Russian rebels, including $110 million for buying weapons abroad. At the show, Poroshenko was said to have met for an hour with the United Arab Emirates’ crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and walked the show floor, which was lined with armored vehicles, missiles and automatic weapons from all over the world.

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SOURCE = USA Today

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BBC News

Ukraine army to be trained by UK troops – Cameron

February 24, 2015

British military personnel are to be sent to Ukraine in the next few weeks to provide advice and training, says Prime Minister David Cameron. As he spoke, pro-Russian rebels said they were pulling back heavy weapons from the front line in eastern Ukraine as part of a ceasefire. However, the government in Kiev has disputed the rebel claims. Mr Cameron said he would push for more sanctions on Russia if the separatists failed to observe the truce.

The prime minister told a House of Commons committee that up to 75 British soldiers divided into four teams would go to an area well away from the conflict zone to provide medical, logistics, intelligence and infantry skills. Over the past year small numbers of British troops have already taken part in Nato exercises in Ukraine, but this is the first explicit training mission there. The US is to start its own training mission in a few weeks time and where the US and Britain are leading, other Nato countries are likely to follow. The point of all this is to send a clear signal to Moscow of the West’s determination to stand by the Kiev government.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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RT

Britain should consider arming Ukraine – former Chief of Defence Staff

February 23, 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron should contemplate sending arms to Ukraine as a show of NATO strength against Russia and keep his promise to restore defense-spending levels, a former Chief of Defence Staff has warned. Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup echoed sentiments of other senior politicians and officials, who claim if defense spending is cut the West will look increasingly weak. After Russian bombers were detected over international waters near Britain’s south coast last week, Stirrup said Russia was “testing” Britain and its NATO allies. “NATO over the years, in the eyes of Putin at least, has become weak. Putin views the West as weak all round and that is a very, very dangerous position for us to be in,” he told Sky News’s Murnaghan program.

My concern is that NATO is not spending enough resource on defense. If NATO is weak or is perceived to be weak by Putin then the risk of miscalculation is much greater and our security is much lowered as a result.” He added that the “swingeing cuts” to defense spending had left the armed forces “right on the limit.” “The 2010 defense review was predicated on defense expenditure increasing in real terms every year after 2015. The prime minister acknowledged that when he announced the outcome of the review in the House of Commons,” he said. “We now have to make sure that those undertakings are kept. It was important in 2010. It is much more important now.” Stirrup claimed the flights by Russian planes off the coast of Cornwall were intended to scout UK defenses, calling their behavior “very dangerous.”

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Deadly bomb blast hits rally in Kharkiv

February 22, 2015

A bomb has killed at least two people, including a police officer, and injured at least 10 more people at a rally in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv. The rally was one of several being held to mark a year since the Kiev uprising that led to the fall of pro-Russia leader Viktor Yanukovych. Security forces have detained four suspects in the attack, officials say. Kharkiv lies outside the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, where a ceasefire appears finally to be taking hold. The government has agreed to start pulling back heavy weapons from Sunday, and the rebels said they would start the process on Tuesday. The pullback will not be completed until at least 8 March, five days later than the deadline set at peace talks in Minsk this month. Another key element of the Minsk deal moved forward on Saturday when the Ukrainian government and the rebels exchanged 191 prisoners.

The BBC’s Paul Adams in Donetsk says these two factors provide a glimmer of hope for the deal, but with so much suspicion and bad faith between the two sides, no-one should assume immediate results. The ceasefire continues to be breached, notably in Debaltseve, a key transport hub captured by the rebels in recent days, an OSCE official said. Alexander Hug added that the humanitarian situation there was “relatively catastrophic”. “The local population reported to us that there is no water, no food, no gas, no heating, no electricity, no medication. And all the buildings that our monitors have seen (…) have been affected by the fighting,” he said.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Voice of Russia

Reports of Clashes Between Kiev and DPR Forces Close to Mariupol

Clashes between government forces and the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic [DPR] are continuing on Sunday in the village of Shyrokyno close to Mariupol, representatives of the DPR have told RIA Novosti. According to information from medics, two separatist fighters have been wounded in the fighting. The village of Shyrokyno is located on the coast of the Sea of Azov in the Donetsk region, between the towns of Mariupol, which is controlled the government forces, and Novoazovsk, which is under the control of the self- proclaimed DPR. In autumn, the town was under DPR control, but then became neutral territory before the Ukrainian government’s Azov battalion took control in February.On Sunday a DPR representative released a statement reporting the death of one DPR fighter, and two more wounded after an attack from Kiev government forces, while the Ukrainian National Guard reported two fatalities in the course of fighting on Sunday. “In the morning of February 23 the battle for Shyrokyno resumed. Both sides are using mortars and rifles. Government forces are firing at our positions in the villages of Zaichenko, Leninskoe and Dzerzhinskoe from tanks,” a representative of the DPR told RIA Novosti. The sounds of artillery fire were heard on Monday coming from the direction of Shyrokyno, reported residents of Novoazovsk, while officials at Novoazovsk central hospital told RIA Novosti that during the course of Monday seven DPR fighters had been brought in with shrapnel and bullet wounds. “According to our information, there have been no fatalities,” said the source.Visit the Source for more on this storySOURCE = Sputnik News (Formally Voice of Russia)

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: US warns Russia as UN backs ceasefire deal

February 18, 2015

The US has accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreement on Ukraine, as the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve the ceasefire deal. Vice-President Joe Biden said “the costs to Russia will rise” if it continued to violate the accord. Fighting is continuing around the strategic town of Debaltseve, with pro-Russian rebels saying they now control most areas. Media reports say some Ukrainian troops are withdrawing from the town. It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine’s troops there to surrender. Although the Security Council unanimously approved a Russian-drafted resolution to endorse the Minsk ceasefire deal agreed in Belarus last week, angry words were exchanged among ambassadors.

US Ambassador Samantha Power welcomed the agreement but said that Russia had to prove its commitment to peace. She said: “Stop arming the separatists. Stop sending hundreds of heavy weapons across the border in addition to your troops. Stop pretending you are not doing what you are doing.” She added: “Russia signs agreements then does everything within its power to undermine them. Russia champions the sovereignty of nations and then acts as if a neighbour’s borders do not exist.” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called her comments “offensive”. “Since the very start of the crisis, Russia has actively called for a peaceful settlement through inclusive, transparent dialogue between all sides in the internal Ukrainian conflict,” he said.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Battle rages for Debaltseve despite truce

February 17, 2015

Fierce fighting is reported inside the key Ukrainian town of Debaltseve despite a ceasefire agreed last week. Rebels say they have taken most of Debaltseve, a transport hub, but the government says it is still holding its positions. International observers tasked with monitoring the ceasefire have been unable to enter the town. Ukraine’s president described rebel attempts to take the town as a “cynical attack” on the ceasefire. “Today the world must stop the aggressor,” Petro Poroshenko said in a statement posted on his website. “I call on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to prevent further violation of fundamental principles and rules of the UN and the unleashing of a full-scale war in the very centre of Europe.”

Speaking on a visit to Hungary, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped the ceasefire agreements would be observed by both sides. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “fundamental” parts of the ceasefire were not being respected, referring to the Debaltseve fighting and withdrawal of heavy weapons. Earlier, both sides failed to begin the withdrawal, despite a Monday deadline agreed in the truce. The two sides were given until two days after the latest ceasefire came into effect to start the pullout.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Aljazeera

Both sides say Ukraine truce largely in force

February 16, 2015

Ukraine’s government and pro-Russia rebels have said that a ceasefire that began at midnight local time (22:00 GMT) is holding but that there have been some violations. The ceasefire is seen as a first step in a peace plan aimed at ending 10 months of conflict in eastern Ukraine. Within two hours into the ceasefire, which came into effect on Saturday at midnight local time, Kiev reported attacks by separatists in the Luhansk area. “Pro-Russian militants used artillery, mortars and grenade launchers to attack the Ukrainian positions … near Zolote, Sanzharivka, Popasna, Chornukhine by 2am,” said tweets by the Ukrainian army early on Sunday. A pro-Kiev official said that two civilians were killed by rockets fired by rebels shortly after the start of the ceasefire, but most of the frontline had fallen silent.

An elderly man and woman died after Grad missile fire hit the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region about 20 minutes after the truce came into force, local governor Gennadiy Moskal said. The firing reportedly came from an area that Kiev says is under the command of a renegade group of Cossack fighters who insist they will not obey the ceasefire.  Meanwhile, rebels accused the Ukrainians of deploying artillery shortly after midnight, the Associated Press reported. Anxiety remains high that unrest could be sparked anew by rival claims to Debaltseve, a strategic railway hub now controlled by the government. On Saturday, intense fighting persisted around Debaltseve, in the eastern part of Ukraine, which has been besieged by separatist forces.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Donetsk, said at least seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 23 others wounded in Saturday’s violence. Our correspondent said Sunday was a much quieter day.  “There has been a lot more confidence among the people in the street with a lot more people trying to conduct their everyday lives. “We went down to the separatist-controlled town of Uglegorsk, which was quite close to Debeltseve, and indeed we did hear both incoming and outgoing shelling. “There has been sporadic shelling in an around Debaltseve all day,” said Stratford.

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SOURCE = Aljazeera News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine says rebels firing repeatedly, despite truce

 

February 16, 2015

SOFIA, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Ukrainian government forces have been fired on 112 times by separatists in the past 24 hours, despite a ceasefire agreement, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on Monday. “We and the Ukrainian military forces are fully observing the ceasefire regime, but unfortunately in the past 24 hours there have been 112 attacks from the terrorists from Donetsk and Luhansk,” Klimkin said through an interpreter on a visit to the Bulgarian capital. “These are artillery attacks, mortar attacks and attacks with Grad (rocket systems),” Klimkin said. The Moscow-backed separatists reject Kiev’s designation of them as terrorists. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Marcin Goclowski and Janet Lawrence)

Copyright 2014 ©: Thomson Reuters Foundation

 

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Reuters

Heavy shelling hits Ukraine town where rebels reject ceasefire

February 16, 2015

(Reuters) – A government-held town in east Ukraine sandwiched between two rebel-controlled areas came under heavy shelling on Monday, a day after the start of a ceasefire that Russian-backed separatists say does not apply there. A Kiev military source said four Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 21 wounded since the internationally negotiated ceasefire came into force on Sunday. A Reuters correspondent at Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km (6 miles) to the west of Debaltseve, a government-held railway junction town that has been the focus of most of the fighting in recent weeks, heard heavy shelling, with blasts around every 10 seconds.

The ceasefire was negotiated at a summit of leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Belarus last week in an attempt to end 10 months of conflict in eastern Ukraine in which more than 5,000 people have been killed. Although fighting generally ceased in the first minutes of Sunday after the ceasefire came into force, military spokesman Anatoly Stelmakh told reporters it had continued, or even escalated, around Debaltseve. “The illegal armed groups are not supporting the ceasefire,” he said, adding the rebels were using Grad rockets and tanks to attack government forces holding the town. “The number of attacks on Debaltseve has even increased in comparison to previous days and they are using all types of weapons,” Stelmakh said. “The terrorists have been given the order to take Debaltseve at all cost.”

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SOURCE = Reuters

 

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ABC News

Battle Persists for Ukraine Railway Hub, Despite Peace Deal

February 16, 2015

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RT

‘Observed in general’: France, Germany, Kiev & rebels agree truce holding

February 15, 2015

A ceasefire that came into force midnight in eastern Ukraine is being observed in general, France and Germany declared in a joint statement. Donetsk officials say they will withdraw heavy weapons in accord with the timeline set by the Minsk deal. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was being generally observed despite local incidents, which were quickly resolved, said France and Germany’s joint statement, issued by the Elysees Palace on Sunday. The statement was published after President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel held a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin and President Petro Poroshenko. The Normandy Four leaders are also set to continue talks Monday, according to Ukraine’s presidential website.

Earlier in the day, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Euro, who observes the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, confirmed that it had been substantially implemented in the last 12 hours, with the exception of certain areas in Debaltsevo and Lugansk. Ukraine mission head Ertuğrul Apakan added that the OSCE monitors failed to enter Debaltsevo, and called on both sides of the conflict to enable access to all territories in eastern Ukraine. The number of OSCE monitors will be increased to 350, according to the OSCE spokesman for the monitoring mission in Ukraine, Michael Botsurkiv. He added that the mission will also use drones and satellite images to monitor the holding of the ceasefire.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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RT

Pentagon deploys A-10 attack jets, 300 pilots to Germany amid Ukraine turmoil

February 11, 2015

The US Air Force dispatched a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets and about 300 airmen to Germany as part of a military exercise, which is expected to involve NATO allies in Eastern Europe amid simmering tensions over Ukraine. The Cold War-era aircraft, nicknamed the Warthog, on Monday departed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, said the aircraft would “forward-deploy” to sites in Eastern European NATO states, where the units will participate in training with allied forces to “strengthen interoperability and…demonstrate US commitment to the security and stability of Europe,” he told military.com. The highly reliable A-10 carries a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to destroy tanks and other armored combat vehicles. The deployment comes as the US House of Representatives introduced legislation authorizing $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine through 2017. If authorized, the package would allow the Pentagon to provide to the Ukraine military “training equipment, lethal weapons of a defensive nature, logistics support, supplies and services.”

The provisions of the bill, according to its authors, are designed to protect Ukraine’s“sovereign territory against foreign aggressors,” and defend Ukrainians from attacks by “Russian-backed separatists.” Russia said Tuesday that Washington’s plans to supply Kiev with weapons would further destabilize the situation in Ukraine. Western governments, without finding it necessary to substantiate their claims with physical evidence, continue to accuse Russia of supporting rebels in Eastern Ukraine blaming the crisis on Russia. Moscow has vehemently rejected the claims. At the same time, Moscow is regularly on the receiving end of criticism from Washington even when it holds military exercises on its own territory. In February of last year, as Ukraine was engulfed in chaos not far from Russia’s border, the White House expressed concern that the Russian military held drills. “[W]e are closely watching Russia’s military exercises along the Ukrainian border,” White House spokesman Jay Carney stated.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

German foreign minister says situation in Ukraine “serious”

November 10, 2014

ASTANA, Nov 10 (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday the situation in Ukraine’s rebel-held eastern regions had again become serious and all sides must respect a ceasefire agreement. His comments during a visit to Kazakhstan underlined growing concern about an increase in fighting between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in the past week despite a ceasefire agreed in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, on Sept. 5. “Unfortunately, the situation is again serious. I now think that we must call upon all those involved in this conflict, as well as the Russian side, to return again to the terms of the Minsk protocol,” Steinmeier told a news conference.

East Ukraine’s rebel stronghold Donetsk was pummelled on Sunday by the heaviest shelling in a month, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it had spotted an armoured column of troops without insignia in rebel territory that Kiev said proved Moscow had sent reinforcements. Each side accuses the other of violating the terms of the peace plan. Russia denies being a party to the conflict and says it has not sent troops or weapons to east Ukraine. Steinmeier said that on his return to Berlin on Monday evening he would discuss the situation in Ukraine with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. (Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov, editing by Timothy Heritage)

Copyright 2014 ©: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Russia Herald

US Alarmed Over Reports of Russian Buildup in E. Ukraine

November 10, 2014

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The White House voiced “grave concern” Sunday over reports of military reinforcements pouring into eastern Ukraine from neighboring Russia, including the cross-border transfer of heavy weapons and tanks. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also warned that any move by pro-Russian rebels to seize more territory in Ukraine’s embattled east would be seen as a “blatant violation” of a cease-fire deal with the Kyiv government. The latest U.S. warning comes as European monitors reported convoys of heavy weapons and armor moving into the east. Meehan urged both sides to fully honor their commitments to a September 5 truce, particularly Moscow’s promise to stop the cross-border flow of troops, weapons and supplies. NATO sources say the tanks moving into Ukraine’s east appeared to be unmanned, and said they did not display any identifying markings. But a spokesperson said they “represent a potential for significant reinforcements” to rebel forces.

The Kyiv government on Friday accused Moscow of sending more than 30 tanks and truckloads of troops in support of the pro-Russian rebellion. Moscow has repeatedly denied any official military involvement in Ukraine, and has described Russian troops fighting alongside rebels as volunteers doing so on their own time. Heavy shelling around the rebel-held Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday increased the strain on the two-month-old cease-fire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Smoke rises above an old terminal, left, and an administrative building of the airport after the recent shelling during fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 9, 2014. x Smoke rises above an old terminal, left, and an administrative building of the airport after the recent shelling during fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 9, 2014.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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New York Times

In Ukraine, Shelling and Convoys of Armed Trucks Threaten Cease-Fire

November 9, 2014

MOSCOW — A shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine looked ever more tenuous on Sunday as European monitors confirmed reports of unmarked military vehicles driving through rebel-held territory while Donetsk, the region’s biggest city, endured a nightlong artillery battle. The monitoring group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that long columns of unmarked military vehicles, some towing howitzers, were spotted over the weekend.

The monitors did not speculate as to the origins of the trucks or the people inside them, but Ukrainian officials said the statements bolstered their claims that Russia was again arming and training separatists. The O.S.C.E. reported that its observers had driven on Saturday past a column of more than 40 trucks on a highway outside Donetsk. The trucks were covered with tarpaulins and “without markings or number plates — each towing a 122 mm howitzer and containing personnel in dark green uniforms without insignia,” the O.S.C.E. statement said.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: ‘Rebel reinforcements’ raise fears

November 9, 2014

The US and the European Union have expressed concern at reports of a build-up of separatist reinforcements in eastern Ukraine. Shelling around the city of Donetsk on Sunday followed an intense overnight artillery bombardment, shaking an already fragile ceasefire. Monitors and journalists reported unmarked convoys of heavy weapons, tanks and fighters close to the city. Russia denies claims that it is supplying the separatist rebels. The EU’s head of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, said the latest reports were “worrying”. “The most recent reports by the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe] Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine about convoys in separatist held areas with substantial amounts of heavy weapons, tanks and troops without insignia moving westwards represent a very worrying development,” she said.

The White House warned that any efforts by pro-Russian rebels to seize more territory would be a “blatant violation” of the ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk in September. “We are very concerned by intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine, as well as numerous reports… that Russian backed and supplied separatists are moving large convoys of heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict,” said US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

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SOURCE = BBC NEWS

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Mikhail Gorbachev: world on brink of new cold war over Ukraine

November 8, 2014

Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine have put the world on the brink of a new cold war. The former leader of the Soviet Union said: “We must make sure that we get the tensions that have arisen recently under control.” The call comes amid a warning from the Dutch foreign minister that the last victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine might never be recovered. Gorbachev was speaking on Saturday at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, close to the Brandenburg Gate. His perestroika and glasnost reforms helped spell the end of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He kept Soviet troops stationed in East Germany in their barracks the night of 9 November 1989, as the border was opened.

The 83-year-old former leader has accused the west – particularly the US – of “triumphalism” after the collapse of the communist bloc. Gorbachev called for new trust to be built through dialogue with Moscow and suggested the west should lift sanctions imposed against senior Russian officials over its actions in eastern Ukraine. Before arriving in Berlin, he gave pointed backing to Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying the Ukraine crisis offered an “excuse” for the US to victimise Russia: “I am absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia’s interests better than anyone else.”

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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SKY NEWS

Ukraine: Russia Waging War By Any Other Name

November 7 2014

Over the last few days Russia has sent, according to the Ukrainian government but also to Nato, some 32 tanks, 16 track-mounted Howitzers, and 30 trucks laden with men and ammunition into Ukraine. Along the border another 400 tanks are being off-loaded, NATO sources said, as a “massive show of force” by Russia. Thousands of Russian troops have been involved in fighting inside Ukraine over the last few months. Russian missile launchers, Russian tanks, Russian artillery pieces all need Russian troops to fire them – whether, as they occasionally claim, they are “on holiday” or not.

So the latest “invasion” could also be seen as an “incursion” or even part of a process to relieve forces already on the ground. These moves, along with the use of local proxy forces (often under the command of Russian officers), are now being called hybrid war. It’s really just an insurgency backed from outside. The armoured movement comes amid reports that the ceasefire agreed in Minsk between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists is falling apart.

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SOURCE = Sky News

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Snap elections for parliament

October 26, 2014

Ukrainian voters are going to the polls in snap elections for a new parliament. President Petro Poroshenko called the poll as he aims to cement a new direction for the country after the ousting of pro-Russian leaders earlier this year. He also made a surprise visit to the restive Donbass region, the site of a continuing pro-Russian insurgency. About 3m people in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Donbass will not take part in the vote. The separatists in eastern Ukraine plan to hold their own polls next month. Another 1.8 million people in Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, will also not take part.

The vote also comes amid an energy crisis, with Russia cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine in June in a dispute over unpaid bills. Ukraine’s economy is collapsing, with GDP forecast to fall between 7 and 10% this year. On Sunday, Mr Poroshenko’s official Twitter account said that he had arrived in the Donbass region, without specifying where. International observers have expressed “serious concerns” over the effect the violence in the east of the country is having on the election. The head of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission, Swedish MP Kent Harstedt, said this was the most challenging of all the elections he had observed. He feared it would difficult to reach out to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in eastern Ukraine, but also said he hoped the poll could be a turning point.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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NBC News

War-Weary Ukraine Votes for New Parliament

October 26, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine – Voters in Ukraine headed to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament, overhauling a legislature tainted by its association with ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. The election is set to usher in a contingent of largely pro-Western lawmakers. President Petro Poroshenko’s party has campaigned on an ambitious reform agenda and is expected to get the largest share of the vote, but there is a strong likelihood it will need to rule in a coalition. While around 36 million people have been registered to vote, the election will not be held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in the eastern regions where unrest is still rumbling and armed pro-Russia separatist rebels have taken firm hold.

Tamara Shupa, a 62-year old retiree, said she hoped incoming lawmakers would put an end to the war. “We are very tired of the war,” Shupa said. “To bring about change, we need peace.” The election marks a closing chapter in the reset of Yanukovych’s legacy. The former leader was deposed in February after months of sometimes violent protests sparked by his snap decision to put ties with the European Union on hold in favor of deepening trade relations with Russia.

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SOURCE = NBC News

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The Daily Beast

Ukraine’s Elections: The Battle of the Billionaires

October 25, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine—The Opposition Bloc has emerged as a serious challenge to the government of billionaire President Petro Poroshenko in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, and it is led by Sergei Lyovochkin—also a billionaire. In a country where “oligarch” is a dirty word, people who seem to have many oligarchic characteristics—one might say billions of them—still dominate the political scene.  Lyovochkin, 42, was famous locally even before this campaign began. He was the chief of staff of ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. But he says now that he despised his boss, at least from the time a year ago that the Maidan revolution began, with its demands for an end to old patterns of corruption and a deepening of ties to Europe. Lyovochkin resigned and left for the United States once Yanukovych adopted laws cracking down on protesters without consulting him.

In an exclusive interview with the The Daily Beast, the tall, intellectually nimble Lyovochkin laid out several reasons he said he wanted to enter the electoral fray now, rather than sunning somewhere on a tropical beach. As things stand, his Opposition Bloc is the only party firmly against President Poroshenko in Ukraine’s electoral (as opposed to insurrectional) universe. He has promised to end the country’s civil war by getting rid of today’s corrupt politicians, by replacing private—as he described them, “semi-criminal”—militias with a professional army, and by defending the interests of the pro-Russian eastern regions that have tried to establish their own breakaway republics.

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SOURCE = The Daily Beast

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RT

Lavrov: Russia never questioned Ukraine’s right for partnership with EU

October 25, 2014

Moscow never put Kiev’s right to develop closer ties with the EU into doubt, it only wanted to escape risks that Ukraine’s economic integration into the European Union might have brought about, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “I stress this: we never questioned Ukraine’s right to develop partnership with the EU,” Lavrov told the Verdens Gang (VG) Norwegian newspaper, when he was asked about what he thought of Ukraine’s leadership seeking an agreement with the EU. “We only want to make sure that it does not inflict damage on Russia, its Customs Union partners or any members of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) free trade zone, including Ukraine,” the minister added.

Lavrov explained the economic agreement between the EU and Ukraine might result in duty-free imports of European goods into Russia and that had to be prevented. He said at the moment the most important thing for Ukraine was overcoming “the most acute crisis.” “It’s now necessary to support fledgling ties between Kiev and People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk and then to start a comprehensive political dialogue with the purpose of finding ways for reaching national accord and conducting constitutional reform with the participation of all regions and political forces,” Lavrov said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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telegraph

Ukraine war hero fights election from Russian psychiatric ward

October 25, 2014

A Russian psychiatric ward is an unlikely base for a career in Ukrainian politics. Yet a female army helicopter pilot is contesting Sunday’s parliamentary election in Ukraine from a secure unit over the border in Russia. Despite her enforced absence from her country, Nadia Savchenko dominates the election billboards of the Fatherland party.Once, these posters would have displayed the golden braids of Yulia Tymoshenko, the party’s leader and one of Ukraine’s most recognisable figures. The fact that Miss Savchenko now appears in her stead demonstrates the change wrought on Ukrainian politics by a tumultuous year of war and revolution. Established figures from the old order are being challenged by a new generation emerging from the turmoil of 2014.

Miss Savchenko, 33, was captured in June while fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east. She was taken to Russia and imprisoned on what she says are fabricated charges of war crimes, before being transferred to a psychiatric unit. The case has made her a national hero in Ukraine, with President Petro Poroshenko joining the calls for her release. It has also made Miss Savchenko a sought after candidate in Sunday’s election. “We received a lot of offers from a lot of parties,” said her sister, Vera, who lives in Kiev and is also running for parliament. “So, via the lawyers, we spoke to her and agreed we would go with the one she trusted most. She chose Tymoshenko because she likes her, she used to vote for her.” If Miss Savchenko is elected, supporters hope that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, will be more likely to release her.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

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International Business Times

Nato Summit 2014: Hints at Future Ukraine Membership

September 3, 2014

The issue of Ukraine becoming a member of Nato is on the horizon but it’s unlikely to be finalised at the Nato Summit in Newport, which kicks off on Thursday 4 September. At a press briefing at the Celtic Manor, a senior Nato official told reporters that because of Ukraine’s non-bloc status, which means it cannot constitutionally become a member of Nato, the ascension will be difficult to proceed towards immediately. When pushed as to whether Ukrainian membership would happen, the spokesperson said: “Maybe.” The Ukrainian government is in the process of entering a bill to parliament to cancel its non-bloc status, which Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said would resume “Ukraine’s course for Nato membership”. For its part, Nato pledged in 2008’s Bucharest Summit that both Ukraine and Georgia would become members in the future. Today, the alliance was more equivocal in its view that Georgia would be inaugurated soon.

One of the outcomes officials said we could expect from the summit is a tangible path for Georgian membership, which will see Nato and Georgia become more aligned militaristically and strategically. “We will see more Nato in Georgia and more Georgia in Nato,” the official said, adding Nato will seek to cooperate with the Georgian ministries on defence planning and development, to “beef up” Georgia’s capabilities. There will be periodic Nato exercises in Georgia, with Nato being permitted to use Georgian facilities and training Georgian forces, which will play a “sustained part in Nato operations”. Nato has denied it will arm Ukrainian forces, saying it does not have the capacity to do so. However, the spokesperson said the individual member states are free to negotiate any armament programmes they wish on an independent basis.

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SOURCE = International Business Times

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The Mail UK

War games: U.S. to send 200 combat troops to join military exercises in western Ukraine in a warning to Putin

September 3, 2014

The United States is preparing to send 200 combat troops to join 1,100 fighters in a large joint military exercise this month in western Ukraine, as as fighting between the army and Russian-backed rebels rages in the eastern part of that country. The decision to go ahead with the Sept. 16-26 ‘Rapid Trident’ exercise is seen as a sign of the commitment of NATO states to support Ukraine – which is not a NATO member – while stopping short of military intervention in the conflict. The annual exercise, to take place in the Yavoriv training center near Ukraine’s border with Poland, was initially scheduled for July, but was pushed back because early planning was disrupted when Russian-backed separatists began a significant military invasion from the east. ‘At the moment, we are still planning for (the exercise) to go ahead,’ U.S. Navy Captain Gregory Hicks, spokesman for the United States European Command (EUCOM), told Reuters on Tuesday.

NATO stepped up military activity in its eastern member states after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, and is expected to agree at a summit in Wales this week to create a new rapid reaction force of several thousand troops. In addition to staging air force exercises, the U.S. is moving tanks and 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for additional joint maneuvers in October, replacing a more lightly armed force of paratroopers.
But Rapid Trident will entail the first significant deployment of U.S. and other personnel to Ukraine since the crisis erupted. resident Barack Obama was in Estonia on Wednesday to reassure the former Soviet Baltic states of that American support hasn’t wavered; Estonia’s prime minister called on Tuesday for a more visible NATO presence in eastern Europe. Washington has promised Ukraine $52 million in ‘nonlethal’ security aid, and has already provided combat rations, body armor, radios and other equipment.

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SOURCE = The Daily Mail

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Boston Herald

Obama calls Ukraine ‘a moment of testing’ for West

September 3, 2014

TALLINN, Estonia — President Barack Obama on Wednesday harshly condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine as a threat to peace in Europe and pledged that NATO will protect allies who fear they will be Moscow’s next target. Standing on Russia’s doorstep, Obama declared “this is a moment of testing” for the Western alliance to stand up to the Kremlin. At the same time, the Pentagon announced that 200 U.S. soldiers would participate in an exercise in western Ukraine starting next week. Though largely a symbolic move, distant from the conflict with Russian-backed separatists, it would mark the first presence of American ground troops in Ukraine since the crisis began. Obama’s tough words set the stage for a pivotal summit of the 28-nation NATO alliance beginning Thursday in Wales. For years, Moscow seethed as NATO expanded its membership and pushed its reach to Russia’s borders, encompassing former republics of the Soviet Union. The backlash from Moscow was a long time coming, but now Vladimir Putin seems determined to assert Russia’s role as a great power.

Obama offered no new prescriptions for solving the central conflict that has put Eastern Europe on edge: Russia’s months-long incursion in Ukraine. Multiple rounds of U.S. and European economic sanctions have done little to shift Putin’s tactics, and Obama remains staunchly opposed to U.S. military intervention. Unlike the Baltics and other Eastern European nations, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, meaning the U.S. and other allies have no treaty obligation to come to its defense. Following Obama’s remarks in Estonia, Putin spelled out a seven-point plan for ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine. The Russian leader said the rebels should halt their offensive and the Ukrainian government forces should pull back to a distance that would make it impossible for them to use artillery and rockets against residential areas. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said he was indeed working with Putin on a cease-fire. But Western leaders were skeptical, noting it wasn’t the first attempt to halt the deadly conflict.

Poroshenko is to meet with Obama and European leaders on Thursday on the sidelines of the NATO summit. The West’s inability so far to stem the crisis has compounded fears in Eastern Europe that Putin could feel emboldened to make moves in other former Soviet territories. White House officials said Obama’s visit to Tallinn was meant to both reassure Baltic leaders that the U.S. would defend their sovereignty if that happened and to warn Putin that he would be risking a confrontation with the American military should he move in that direction. “We will defend our NATO allies — every ally,” Obama said in a speech to young people as well as political and civil leaders. “In this alliance, there are no old members or new members, no senior partners or junior partners – there are just allies, pure and simple. And we will defend the territorial integrity of every single one. ” In response to the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. will contribute troops and equipment to a rapid response force in Eastern Europe that would be able to deploy within 48 hours.

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SOURCE = The Boston Herald

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SKY NEWS

Sky Films Troops ‘In Russian Gear’ In Ukraine

September 3, 2014

Sky News has filmed well-armed, well-equipped troops, who appear to be wearing recent issue Russian combat gear, operating alongside rebel forces in south-eastern Ukraine. The men were travelling in a small convoy, which included an armoured personnel carrier and two machine gunners mounted on pick-up trucks. The vehicles were marked with the white painted circles that signal allegiance to the separatists, but all other insignia and number plates had been removed. We saw them being waved through a rebel-controlled checkpoint outside the town of Novoazovsk as one of the guards said: “These are ours.” Russian military expert Mark Galeotti examined the Sky News images and noted the white ribbons on the lead jeep and white armbands, which he said Russian security forces often use to distinguish their men.

He said the most significant aspect was the men’s uniform. Mr Galeotti said: “They are definitely wearing modern Russian kit – the camouflage, helmets and body armour are distinctive, as well as the white armbands I mentioned above.” The kit is subtly different from the Crimean ‘little green men’ but again that’s what I’d expect, as in Crimea they were Naval Infantry (marines) whereas here I’d expect them to come from the ground forces or paratroops.” He also noted that the rifle carried by one of the men, though difficult to identify conclusively, had extra fittings similar to those he had seen used by Russian Spetsnaz special forces.

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SOURCE = Sky News

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Express

France halts delivery of warship to Russia over ‘grave’ Ukraine crisis

September 3, 2014

Francois Hollande halted the first shipment of two helicopter carriers after months of pressure from his country’s allies to waive the sale. The French President issued a statement after he met with his top defence advisers which called the fighting in Ukraine “grave”. The 60-year-old also said the actions of Vladimir Putin’s country had harmed the “foundations of security in Europe.” ussia’s Defence Ministry said the decision to suspend delivery of the helicopter carrier would add “certain tensions” between the two countries.

But Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov said the halting of the shipment would not hurt its military modernisation and reform plans. Speaking to the Itar-Tass news agency, Mr Borisov said: “Although of course it is unpleasant and adds to certain tensions in relations with our French partners, the cancelling of this contracts will not be a tragedy for our modernisation [of the army].” The Vladivostok, the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers ordered by Russia, was to be delivered next month.

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SOURCE = The Express

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New York Times

Russian Seizes Authority Over Ukraine Rebels

July 10, 2014

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Late one afternoon last month, as separatist militia fighters and Ukrainian forces exchanged fire, a small-time thief by the name of Aleksei B. Pichko left his home on the southern edge of Slovyansk and headed for an abandoned residence at 17 Sadovaya Street. He had been drinking, and wanted to “see what could be stolen from there,” according to documents recovered at the rebel headquarters after their retreat over the weekend. Mr. Pichko, 30, never returned. An order signed and stamped by the rebels’ powerful commander, Igor Strelkov, detailed Mr. Pichko’s fate: death by firing squad for pilfering a pair of pants and two shirts. “They told me they took him to the S.B.U.,” said his mother, Maria Pichko, referring to the headquarters in this former separatist stronghold. “I don’t know anything more.”

The death sentence makes reference to a Stalin-era Soviet law, and in it Mr. Strelkov warns ominously that crimes “committed in the zone of military activity will continue to be punished ruthlessly and decisively.” Mr. Strelkov, a native Muscovite whose real name is Igor Girkin, is a figure as mysterious as he is fearsome. On Thursday, he made his first public appearance after months of fighting, attending a news conference in the provincial capital of Donetsk alongside Alexander Borodai, another Russian citizen leading the uprising here.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine’s Poroshenko tells Biden that ceasefire offers rebuffed

July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that Russia and Ukrainian separatists had refused multiple proposals by Kiev for venues to negotiate a ceasefire, the White House said on Thursday.

The two discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine in a phone call.

“The Vice President told President Poroshenko that the United States was discussing with its partners in the international community the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued support for the separatists,” the White House said.

SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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RT

Kiev official: Military op death toll is 478 civilians, outnumbers army losses

July 10, 2014

Four hundred and seventy-eight civilians, including seven children, have been killed in Kiev’s military crackdown on the eastern regions of Ukraine, the country’s deputy health minister said on Thursday. “The amount on civilian casualties is, unfortunately, greater than the military ones,” Vasily Lazoryshynets, deputy health minister, said as cited by ITAR-TASS.

“In the area of the operation in eastern Ukraine, 478 civilians have died, including 30 women and seven children,” he said. According to Lazoryshynets , a further 1,392 people were injured in the fighting, with 104 women and 14 children among them. “Two hundred and seventy-nine currently remain in hospital,” he added. Earlier in July, Ukraine’s National Security Council said that 200 soldiers and law enforcement officers had been killed and over 600 injured during the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.”

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine rebel commander says will not pull out of Donetsk

July 10, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine, July 10 (Reuters) – An enigmatic Russian leading separatist rebels in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk made a rare appearance in public on Thursday to say he would not abandon the city though he defended his decision to pull out of the stronghold of Slaviansk. Igor Girkin, a Muscovite who has the nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov, has been criticised by some other rebel commanders for withdrawing from Slaviansk last weekend and allowing government forces to savour a major victory. Hundreds of his men headed south to Donetsk, the region’s main industrial centre, after the rout and are digging in now in the city of more than 900,000 people as government forces appear to be preparing a blockade to break their resistance.

Asked by a journalist if he would make a similar tactical withdrawal from Donetsk to save people’s lives, the reason he gave for quitting Slaviansk, the 43-year-old Strelkov said simply: “No”. Alexander Borodai, the “prime minister” of the self-proclaimed “people’s republic” seated alongside him, added: “Where would we go ? We will defend the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.” Strelkov, who disclosed on Thursday he had been a colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service – the successor agency to the KGB – has been on Ukraine’s ‘most-wanted’ list since he began marshalling rebel forces against the Kiev government in April. While he commanded forces in Slaviansk, the town became a citadel of fierce resistance and at least two government military helicopters were brought down in the area by rebel fire.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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bbc

Ukraine forces clash with separatists at Donetsk airport

July 10, 2014

Ukrainian troops have clashed with pro-Russian separatists who were trying to capture Donetsk airport in the east. The army has been gaining ground in its efforts to blockade the city, after rebel forces retreated there. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been urged by his French and German counterparts to help bring the separatists to the negotiating table. Ukraine’s military has made significant gains in recent days, recapturing the rebel stronghold of Sloviansk. Since then, the rebels have been forced out of a string of eastern towns. The army said on Thursday it had also recaptured the town of Siversk.

Separatists declared independence in the two eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk after Russia annexed Crimea, another Ukrainian region, in March. Rebels seized the airport to the north-west of Donetsk in May but Ukrainian forces recaptured it after a battle in which dozens of people died. A military spokesman said the insurgents had fired mortar rounds at the airport on Thursday but the attack had failed.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Russia Herald

Ukraine blames Russia, separatists for rejecting ceasefire efforts

July 10, 2014

Amid growing calls for a fresh ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the country’s president told US Vice President Joseph Biden Thursday that both Russia and the separatists were rejecting his efforts in this regard. During a phone conversation with Biden, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he had suggested a number of venues, including in Ukraine and Russia, for negotiating a ceasefire with the separatists still fighting the government forces despite heavy losses in recent days, Xinhua reported. “All of these offers were refused either by Russia or the separatists,” the White House quoted Poroshenko as telling Biden.

Poroshenko told German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone earlier in the day that Kiev was ready for a bilateral ceasefire. Biden welcomed Ukraine’s “continued efforts to negotiate a ceasefire as well as a roadmap” for implementing Poroshenko’s peace plan in an effort to put Ukraine on a “long-term path to stability,” the White House said. It said the pair agreed on the need to quickly put in place an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe border monitoring mission in Ukraine that could be expanded to monitor a future truce. Biden told Poroshenko that Washington was discussing with its partners “the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued support for the separatists”, including its provision of heavy weapons and equipment across the border.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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74cc8-guardian_logo

Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels square up for showdown

July 10, 2014

The Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian rebels are squaring up for a final showdown in the east of the country, as Kiev aims to win back control of the key regional centres of Donetsk and Luhansk. Rebel groups have gathered in the big cities after abandoning a number of smaller strongholds, now taken back by the Ukrainian army. Without Russian help they face almost certain defeat, but with civilian casualties inevitable if Ukrainian forces attempt to fight their way into the city centres, the Kremlin and some European leaders are calling for a resumption of a ceasefire in the troubled region. On Wednesday evening, a convoy of more than 100 armoured personnel carriers, tanks and multiple rocket launchers was seen advancing towards the region’s administrative capital, Donetsk. Coming off the highway and ploughing through sunflower fields and village back roads, the upbeat troops – who declined to say which battalion of pro-Kiev forces they belonged to – said they were advancing toward rebel positions and were ready to battle with the pro-Russian fighters holding the nearby city until the very end.

By nightfall the Ukrainian forces were just 10 miles south of the city, bringing the two sides within artillery range of each other. The move came just two days after Ukraine‘s President, Petro Poroshenko, approved a special plan to “liberate” Donetsk and Luhansk from the grip of armed pro-Russian rebels who launched their effort to seize power in Ukraine’s east in early April. They have been given logistical help informally from inside Russia, but the Kremlin denies that the fighters have Russian backing. President Vladimir Putin ended their hopes of a full Russian incursion into east Ukraine last month, when he asked parliament to rescind an order from earlier this year that allowed him to use the army on Ukrainian soil.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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bbc

Ukraine unrest: Dozens die as Donetsk airport retaken

May 27, 2014

Ukraine’s interior ministry says the military is now in full control of the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk after a day of bloody clashes. More than 30 pro-Russia separatists were reported killed after an attempt to seize the airport early on Monday. New President Petro Poroshenko vowed to tackle the eastern uprising in hours, not months. Russia has called for an immediate end to military action. Meanwhile, the OSCE says it has lost contact with a monitoring team. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said four of its monitors were on a routine mission east of Donetsk when they were stopped at a checkpoint at about 18:00 (16:00 GMT) on Monday.

A spokesman told the BBC the monitors, all male, were Turkish, Swiss, Estonian and Danish. Danish trade minister Mogens Jensen said it was believed they were being held by armed separatists. In April, seven international military observers linked to the OSCE were held captive in eastern Ukraine for a week. US President Barack Obama had telephoned Mr Poroschenko on Tuesday to congratulate him on his victory in Sunday’s elections and offer him “the full support of the United States”, said the White House. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the airport was “under our full control” but operations were continuing. Sporadic gun and artillery fire could be heard into the afternoon.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

OSCE says lost contact with monitors in eastern Ukraine

May 27, 2014

VIENNA, May 27 (Reuters) – European security watchdog OSCE said on Tuesday it had lost contact with one of its teams of monitors near the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants are fighting Kiev government forces. Denmark – which has one of its nationals among the four missing civilian observers – said it believed they were being held by armed separatists. An OSCE spokeswoman said the body did not yet know whether they had been detained. The Ukrainian foreign ministry also said circumstances pointed to the team having been detained by pro-Russian separatists and it called on Russia to use its influence to obtain their immediate release. The team of monitors – also comprising an Estonian, a Swiss, and a Turk – encountered a road checkpoint on Monday at around 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) and did not re-establish contact, a Kiev-based spokesman for the OSCE mission said.

In Copenhagen, Minister of Trade and Development Mogens Jensen said: “I can confirm that a Danish person deployed as a part of OSCE’s (monitoring mission) according to our knowledge was detained by the armed separatists in Ukraine along with three other observers yesterday.” The 57-nation Vienna-based OSCE, or Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the observers – part of a mission sent to try to ease tension and to gather information in Ukraine – had been on a routine patrol east of Donetsk. “We are continuing with our efforts and utilising our contacts on the ground. The Ukrainian government as well as regional authorities have been informed of the situation,” it said in a statement. A Western envoy accredited to the OSCE said: “It is a very scary situation.”

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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RT

‘Poroshenko can only pretend that he controls the situation in Ukraine’

May 27, 2014

Pyotr Poroshenko is a kind of a puppet president and it is total chaos when it comes to the control system and the governmental system in Ukraine, Mateusz Piskorski, political scientist from the European Center of Geopolitical Analysis, told RT.

RT: Just a week ago, Poroshenko was calling for dialogue with the East. Why this sudden u-turn?

Mateusz Piskorski: Just a week ago, he tried to gain as much support as it is possible before the elections. Of course, he also counted on those voters who are living in eastern and southern parts of the country. Although, as we know, the elections in Lugansk and Donetsk regions did not take place, in several other regions like Odessa, Poroshenko tried to get the support of those voters who support dialogue.

On the other hand, we know that it is not Poroshenko who is in control of the situation and the military forces now in Ukraine. So he can do nothing, he is a kind of a puppet president at the moment. He does not control the SBU, the secret service of Ukraine, which is controlled by Mr. Valentin Nalivaychenko. Mr. Nalivaychenko is a direct collaborator with the CIA and American services. As well, Mr. Poroshenko does not control the Ministry of Internal Affairs and its Minister Avakov who is closely connected to Miss Tymoshenko, the harshest competitor during the electoral campaign of Mr. Poroshenko.

So we can say that it is a total chaos when it comes to the control system and the governmental system in Ukraine, and Poroshenko can do nothing but he can pretend he controls the situation. That is why I think he claims that he will continue the anti-terrorist operation, which is in fact not controlled and not driven by him but by some other people who are his political opponents, his political competitors.

We can expect that in the future there will be also clashes between various pro-governmental forces, units. We have witnessed already such clashes. Ukraine is a territory in total chaos, it is no more a state governed by central government. It is a territory of chaos, of different criminal gangs, different criminal groups who are pretending to be governmental structures.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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ITV

Obama offers Ukraine president-elect ‘full US support’

May 27, 2014

President Obama congratulated Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko on his victory and offered the support of the US as he attempts to “unify his country”. A White House statement said Obama congratulated Poroshenko and offered “the full support of the United States as he seeks to unify and move his country forward.” The leaders will talk again next week, the White House said.

SOURCE = ITV News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

ANALYSIS-Ferocity of Ukraine clashes increases risks for Putin

May 27, 2014

MOSCOW, May 27 (Reuters) – An army assault on pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine will not have taken Vladimir Putin by surprise, but the ferocity of the clashes may have – and could be a game-changer if they spin out of control. In the last two weeks, with Western sanctions starting to bite, the Russian president has softened his tone against the pro-European leadership in Kiev and promised to pull troops back from the frontier with Ukraine. The likelihood of Russian forces pouring into east Ukraine to capture mainly Russian-speaking areas has receded, and Putin appears to have settled for the gains he has made so far in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

But Putin’s careful planning could quickly unravel under one circumstance – if a large number of civilians are killed in a single incident, putting public pressure on him to send in the army to protect Russian speakers. The deaths of more than 50 pro-Russian separatists in a Ukrainian army assault may not be that moment, but it underlines the dangers inherent in Putin’s strategy. “Sticking by the sidelines and doing nothing will risk a public backlash at home, of leaving ethnic Russians in Ukraine to the mercy of the administration in Kiev,” Ukraine analyst Tim Ash said. But, he said, “formal intervention by Russia will now risk new, more sanctions from the West on Russia.”

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

 

 

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Russia Herald

Ukraine forces retake Donetsk airport, 40 killed

May 27, 2014

KIEV – Ukraine said that dozens of pro-Russian separatists had been killed in fierce fighting around Donetsk International Airport that continued for a second day on Tuesday. CNN claimed 40 people were killed in what is the deadliest outbreak of violence yet in the flashpoint city. On Monday, pro-Russian rebel fighters had taken over Donetsk airport, prompting the Ukraine government to deploy military helicopters, fighter jets and paratroopers to regain control of the main terminal. “The airport is under our full control,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday. “The enemy suffered serious losses and we have lost none.” The fighting broke out just hours after newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would like to negotiate a way out of the crisis. After Ukrainian forces moved in against the militants Monday, the deadly assault continued overnight.

The unprecedented offensive throws a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he reserves the right to defend Russian speakers. Reuters’ journalists counted 20 bodies in combat fatigues in one room of a city morgue in Donetsk. Some of the bodies were missing limbs, a sign that the government had brought to bear heavy firepower against the rebels for the first time. “From our side, there are more than 50 (dead),” the prime minister of the rebels’ self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, told Reuters at the hospital. The government said it suffered no losses in the assault, which began with air strikes hours after Ukrainians overwhelmingly voted to elect 48-year-old confectionery magnate Poroshenko as their new president.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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NBC News

Pro-Russian Militants Deploy Rap Recruitment Video

May 27, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine – What better way to recruit men to your militant cause then through a rap song? That’s what Andrei Donstkoi, a member of the Russian Orthodox Army figured. As violence escalates in the conflict between the Ukrainian military and the armed forces of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the militants released a rap song on YouTube two days ago that has already garnered over 100,000 views. The clip shows a group of armed men, some with their faces disguised, sitting at a table in one of the Ukrainian Security Services buildings they have seized in Donestsk rapping their song “No One But Us.” “Come on get up brother, get dressed …There is a hail storm against the machine gun,” the lyrics go. “We won’t give up on our own – say the Russian Orthodox [Army].

For each fighter, there will be a battle till the last glory. On the field of battle – the Russian Orthodox [Army]…” the chorus goes. Ukrainian aircraft and paratroopers killed more than 50 pro-Russian rebels in an assault that went into a second day on Tuesday after the newly elected president vowed to crush the revolt in the east for good.

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SOURCE = NBC News

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Reuters

More than 50 rebels killed as new Ukraine leader unleashes assault

 May 27, 2014

May 27 (Reuters) – Ukrainian aircraft and paratroopers killed more than 50 pro-Russian rebels in an assault that raged into a second day on Tuesday after a newly elected president vowed to crush the revolt in the east once and for all. The unprecedented offensive throws a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he reserves the right to defend Russian speakers under threat, but whose past assertions that Kiev is led by an illegitimate “junta” were undermined by the landslide election victory of billionaire Petro Poroshenko. Reuters journalists counted 20 bodies in combat fatigues in one room of a city morgue in Donetsk. Some of the bodies were missing limbs, a sign that the government had brought to bear heavy firepower against the rebels for the first time. “From our side, there are more than 50 (dead),” the prime minister of the rebels’ self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, told Reuters at the hospital.

The government said it suffered no losses in the assault, which began with air strikes hours after Ukrainians overwhelmingly voted to elect 48-year-old confectionery magnate Poroshenko as their new president. Putin demanded an immediate halt to the offensive. Moscow said a visit by Poroshenko was not under consideration, though it has said it is prepared to work with him. Until now, Ukrainian forces have largely avoided direct assaults on the separatists, partly because they fear tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border could invade. But Poroshenko and his government appear to have interpreted his victory as a clear mandate for decisive action. He won more than 54 percent of the vote in a field of 21 candidates, against 13 percent for his closest challenger. Poroshenko and other leaders in Kiev may have calculated that the election, by bestowing legitimacy on the authorities, makes it harder for Putin to justify intervention. Putin said in recent weeks he would withdraw troops from the border. A NATO military officer said most of them were still there, although some showed signs of packing to leave.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

Russian authorities deny reports about vehicles with armed men crossing Ukrainian border

May 27, 2014

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Border Department for the Rostov region has formally denied the allegations by Ukrainian border officials that cars carrying weapons and armed men crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine. “The Russian FSB Border Department for the Rostov region does not confirm the instance of illegal crossings of the Russian-Ukrainian border, the Department said in a statement obtained by Interfax-AVN on Tuesday. “Several Ukrainian and Russian media outlets, citing an official report from the Ukrainian State Border Service, disseminated information about illegal crossings of the national border from Russia into Ukraine by several vehicles allegedly carrying weapons and armed men, the statement said.

This morning Ukrainian television channels reported, citing the Ukrainian State Border Service, that one man had been killed and yet another severely injured during attempted illegal crossings of the national border in the Luhansk region in the early hours of Tuesday morning. “At around 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, border guards spotted a convoy of several trucks, cars and minibuses that were moving from the direction of Russia toward the state border of Ukraine. At 3:40 a.m., the convoy crossed the state border, where it encountered armed resistance on the part of the border guard unit. A gun battle ensued. Some of the trespassers, having left a covering group behind, still managed to cross into Ukraine in the direction of Antratsyt, the Ukrainian border guard press service said.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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Washington post

Ukraine’s military retakes airport seized by rebels in Donetsk

May 27, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military pounded rebels on Tuesday who had seized the nation’s second-largest airport and threatened to use precision-guided weaponry to dislodge them from their headquarters, as leaders vowed to deal a decisive blow to the separatists in the eastern part of the country. A day after candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko was declared the overwhelming winner of a presidential election, Ukrainian leaders were newly resolute in their efforts to squash a rebellion in the nation’s industrial heartland. Poroshenko said he intended to call on the United States for military supplies and training. Top Ukrainian officials welcomed calls from Russia for talks but said their powerful neighbor was playing a double game by sending militants over the border, an assertion Russia denies. Poroshenko, meanwhile, spoke Tuesday to President Obama and was scheduled to meet with him in Europe next week.

By day’s end, the Ukrainian government had retaken Donetsk’s Sergei Prokofiev International Airport, using Soviet-era fighter jets and attack helicopters, and the rebels were left to count their dead. The fighting that started Monday killed about 50 rebels, Denis Pushilin, a leader of the separatists’ self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. About 50 civilians also were killed, he said. Neither number was immediately confirmed, although Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Tuesday that “dozens” of rebels had died. Pushilin, the separatist leader, said Ukrainian forces were now threatening to end the rebels’ occupation of the Donetsk regional administration building with precision-guided weaponry if they did not lay down their arms. “At the moment the situation is very tense, with a lot of threats from Kiev,” he said.

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SOURCE = Washington Post

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IWPR

Russian Fake Shows Ukraine Election Body Claiming Far-Right Win – First Channel TV reports resounding win for Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh when he scored less than one per cent.

May 26, 2014

Ukraine’s presidential election brought good news for the country, both in the outright win for one candidate and in the negligible support given to far-right candidates. Both were a blow to the Kremlin – one so devastating that Russia’s First TV channel obligingly sought to soften it. Or just claim deceit. The votes have yet to be counted, yet two authoritative exit polls give Petro Poroshenko a decisive win without the need for a second round. They also give Moscow’s bogeyman No. 1 – Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the far right nationalist party Right Sector only 0.9 per cent of the vote. The leader of the far right VO Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok, with 1.3 per cent of the vote, also leaves the Kremlin’s claims about a right-wing fascist junta in Kiev short on credibility. During the “Sunday Time” news programme on the First Channel, the presenter, Irada Zeinalova points to a screen showing what she calls “a strange picture”. She claims that this screen “appeared on the Central Election Commission central server several minutes ago”. According to this screen Dmytro Yarosh is clearly in the lead with 37.13 per cent of the votes, with Poroshenko far behind with 29.63 per cent.

“What this means is for the moment unclear since it radically diverges from the results of exit polls by four public opinion monitors”, she adds. She then gives information from exit polls which correctly gives Poroshenko a 55 per cent win, Yulia Tymoshenko 12.9 per cent, and Yarosh 0.9 per cent. The Central Election Commission (CEC) had no screen for such election results, and of course it could not have had one until the count was completed. If this is not a clever fake to discredit a Kremlin-subservient TV channel (which it does), its aim was presumably to suggest a discrepancy between the CEC’s records and the exit polls. The most likely explanation for this would be that the CEC was hoping to slip in a far-right candidate regardless of who the voters chose. The story is unclear, but the viewer is undoubtedly left feeling that the authorities in Kiev are not to be trusted and their election results cannot be believed.

Ukrinform gives another suggestion, citing a source in the SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) who wanted to remain anonymous. The claim is that the SBU discovered a an illicit programme aimed at inserting a virus which would have produced the 37 per cent win for Yarosh. The virus was supposedly neutralised 40 minutes before the First Channel news broadcast, but the channel had not yet learned of this. If there remains some confusion over the reasons for the above-mentioned lies, other tactics are, unfortunately, standard and predictable. The evening news broadcast an hour before polling stations were due to close suggested a low turnout (untrue), a huge number of irregularities (exaggerated); and that the lack of Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States observers was because they were not invited, although the head of the OSCE mission said that it was Russia that showed no interest.

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SOURCE = Institute For War And Peace Reporting

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bbc

Russia’s Vladimir Putin ‘to respect’ Ukraine vote

May 23, 2014

Speaking in St Petersburg, he said Russia was prepared to work with whoever was elected Ukraine’s president in Sunday’s vote. It is the first time Mr Putin has explicitly indicated that he will accept Ukraine’s election result. Violence in the east, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk, has seriously disrupted preparations for the polls. Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko, who is lagging behind frontrunner Petro Poroshenko in opinion polls, has called for a referendum to be held next month on Ukraine joining Nato, describing membership as a “strategic solution on how to bring peace back to Ukraine”.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in February, before the insurgency in eastern Ukraine erupted, that membership was still a possibility provided that Ukraine fulfilled the “necessary criteria”. But with the absence of territorial disputes a key condition, Ukraine’s friction with Russia over its annexation of Crimea are likely to overshadow any bid. Some pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have warned people against voting, while election officials and voter lists have been seized at gunpoint. At least 14 government soldiers were killed in clashes with pro-Russia separatists in the Volnovakha area south of the city of Donetsk on Thursday.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Donetsk sees deadliest attack on troops

May 22, 2014

A dawn attack on a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine has left at least 14 soldiers dead, in the worst loss of life for government forces to date. Heavily armed militants attacked the checkpoint in the Volnovakha area, in one of four attacks reported overnight in eastern Ukraine. It is unclear who attacked the checkpoint, with one Ukrainian officer telling the BBC it was not separatists. The attacks come just three days before Ukraine’s presidential election. Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, saying he has evidence of Russian involvement in the violence.

Russia appears to be withdrawing troops from its border with Ukraine, easing fears of a military intervention like in Crimea in March. Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a tweet that Russian troop activity near the Ukraine border might suggest that some Russian forces were preparing to pull back. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops near the border to withdraw to their bases earlier this week. Correspondents say removing the troops – estimated to number 40,000 – could help de-escalate the Ukraine crisis.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Briton Graham Phillips released from Ukraine detention

May 21, 2014

A British national detained in Ukraine has said he is “free and fine”. Graham Phillips, a journalist working for TV station Russia Today, tweeted his followers to say he had been released and was not being charged or deported. The 35-year-old had been detained in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. Mr Phillips, who said he had been treated fairly, thanked the British Embassy and everyone else who had supported him. Russia Today reported that Mr Phillips had been released to the British Embassy in Kiev. The Ukrainian Defence Ministry told the Russian station that Mr Phillips had been detained for “filming facilities which are forbidden from being filmed”. Mr Phillips, who grew up in Nottingham before moving to Perth in Scotland, works as a freelance journalist and is a stringer for Russia Today.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Mr Phillips said: “I’ve just recently been released after being detained by Ukrainian authorities at #Mariupol  yesterday. “Was then transferred to Zaporozhye where I stayed the night, under armed guard. Removed by armed guard today, questioned thoroughly on my work for @RT_com (Russia Today). “All my work in order, no charges, no deportation, no one laid a hand on me in anger, Ukrainian authorities treated me fairly. All ok.” He said he did not have his phone or possessions but hoped to get them back on Thursday. The journalist wrote: “As for comments I was ‘holding a firearm’. “Was holding my Canon camera, filming, just like I always do. Tomorrow will see if files still there.”

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SOURCE = BBC News

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 Russia Beyond the Headlines

Potential ban on hi-tech imports hangs over Russian oil industry

May 16, 2014

The U.S. and its European allies are discussing at the highest levels the possibility of banning the supply of modern technologies and equipment to the Russian oil and gas sector, according to a report by the Financial Times. The move may entail the United States imposing additional licensing requirements for the export of equipment. The sanctions have been prepared by the West in response to fears that Moscow will attempt to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine. If these fears become justified, the sanctions may be activated. Projects already in operation will not fall under the new sanctions, with the ban likely to affect new programs, such as the development of the complex fields of the Bazhenov formation in Western Siberia or deposits on the Kara Sea shelf.

A Kommersant source close to Rosneft noted that such sanctions could become a serious obstacle to the implementation of many projects, especially the ones on the shelf. “These types of resources, both the reserves of the Bazhenov formation and the Arctic shelf, do require significant scientific and technological development and high-tech equipment. The share of Western equipment in such projects is at a maximum, as Russia is just beginning to work on such projects,” Alexander Kornilov, an analyst for oil and gas at Alfa Bank, told Gazeta.ru. However, in this case, Western sanctions will have an impact not only on Russian companies. The reason for this is that the majority of Russian companies are working on difficult oil projects in collaboration with foreign investors.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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The Mail UK

US release satellite images of Russian forces near Ukraine border in recent days while Putin insists troops have withdrawn

May 14, 2014

article-2628194-1DD66DC500000578-346_634x475

The US government has released new satellite pictures which it said showed Russian forces were still near the Ukrainian border in recent days, contradicting Russian assertions they had been withdrawn. President Vladimir Putin announced last Wednesday that the troops had moved, but NATO and the US both said they had seen no sign of a Russian withdrawal from the frontier. NATO officials have previously estimated Russia has around 40,000 soldiers close to Ukraine’s border, exacerbating the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

The commercial satellite photos, published by the US State Department and on the US Mission to NATO’s Twitter account, showed what appeared to be about 20 Russian helicopters at Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, on May 9. Alongside it, the US government published another image of the same area on March 26, also showing helicopters. An earlier photograph, from March 22, showed no helicopters in the area. A second satellite photograph, taken in the Rostov area on May 12, within 75 km (50 miles) of the Ukraine border, showed what the U.S. government said was a group of Russian armoured vehicles. The vehicles were also there in an earlier picture of the same area, dated March 23.

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SOURCE = The Daily Mail

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RT

UN-marked strike helicopter ‘used by Kiev against militia’ sparks scandal

May 14, 2014

The UN has voiced concerns over the apparent use of UN-marked helicopters by Kiev troops in their military operation against Donetsk regional militia. A video of a white-painted Mil Mi-24 strike helicopter with UN logo has emerged. When inquired about the United Nations’ stance on the use of peacekeeper-marked military hardware in non-peacekeeper operations, the office for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said such use would violate UN rules. “It is the responsibility of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) that provide Contingent Owned Equipment to peacekeeping missions to remove all logos and signage bearing the UN’s name once such equipment has been repatriated to the home country or is no longer being used for official UN purposes,” the office told RT.

It added that UN-marked aircraft can be used for missions tasked by the UN and that UN’s Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support is in contact with the Ukrainian authorities to clarify the issue. A video of a UN-marked Mil Mi-24 strike helicopter was published on Tuesday by LifeNews television. It said its correspondents covering Kiev’s military operation in the Donetsk Region took the video near Kramatorsk. LifeNews said at least three combat Mi-24 and one transport Mi-8 helicopters carrying UN colors were spotted in the area. Russia said it “certainly” is interested in finding out more on the situation. “We certainly want to understand how it happened that the UN logo – a UN-painted helicopter – was used against protesters in the east and the south. The United Nations has already expressed it very deep concern,” Russia’s Foreign Minister said in an interview with Bloomberg.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Express

Russia puts International Space Station future in doubt in response to Ukraine sanctions

May 14, 2014

Moscow said they would reject a request from Washington to prolong the use of the satellite beyond 2020 as tensions rise over the situation in Kiev. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin added that Vladimir Putin’s regime also would bar the US from using Russian rocket engines to launch their military satellites. It comes in response to plans from the White House to deny export licences for high-technology items that could help the Russian military. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Rogozin said: “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything.”

The ISS is a showcase of post-cold war co-operation which symbolises the end of the almost two decade long Space Race. The US want to keep the 15 nation £59.6billion space station in use until at least 2024, four years beyond the previous target. However, Russia’s refusal to continue the project undermines how relations between the ex-Cold War rivals have deteriorated. Moscow also suggested that without America’s support the ISS satellite could continue to operate. Mr Rogozin added: “The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one. The US one cannot.”

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SOURCE = The Express

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RT

Dragging Ukraine into NATO negative for European security – Lavrov

May 14, 2014

The seeds of the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine were sown back in April 2008, when NATO suggested that Ukraine and Georgia should move closer to the alliance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “The seeds for the current crisis were sown in 2008 in April during the NATO summit in Bucharest, when NATO leaders stated in a declaration that Georgia and Ukraine would be in NATO,” the senior Russian diplomat told Bloomberg in an interview. He said that the Georgian president at the time, Mikhail Saakasvhili, thought the statement gave him a license to resolve the problem of Georgia’s breakaway region, South Ossetia, by force and he launched an invasion.

“He was certainly motivated by this NATO promise,” Lavrov stressed.

Georgia or Ukraine becoming part of NATO would be a critical threat to Russia’s national security, Lavrov explained, and something that Russia would simply not accept. “The attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO would be negative for the entire system of European security and we would be categorically against it,” he said. While Russia would not object to Ukraine joining the EU, provided that Ukrainians comprehend and accept fully the economic repercussions this would bring, changing Ukraine’s neutral military status is out of the question for Moscow. This is especially true considering NATO’s record of breaking its promises not to advance its military assets towards Russian borders, Lavrov said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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The Independent

Ukraine crisis: Country is close to civil war, warns Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

May 14, 2014

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly warned on Wednesday that Ukraine is “as close to a civil war as you can get”, as heightened tensions in the region show little sign of easing. Mr Lavrov told Bloomberg that Russia has ties with Ukraine that exceed geography. “Kiev is the mother of the Russian cities,” he said, adding: “Russian language, Russian religion, orthodox Christianity, was born in the territory of Ukraine as it stands now.” “We do not consider ourselves foreigners,” he told reporters.

His comments come after Ukraine’s government commenced talks aimed at decentralising power, but not which did not involve the pro-Russia rebels who declared independence from Kiev in two eastern regions this week. To start Wednesday’s meeting, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told attendees that authorities were “ready for a dialogue”, but not one involving armed pro-Russia militants who have seized buildings and fought government troops across eastern Ukraine.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

Moscow acknowledges Donetsk and Lugansk votes but urges Kiev to begin talks

May 13, 2014

The referendums on self-rule held in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions on Sunday, May 11, in which the local population voted overwhelmingly in favor of sovereignty, have met with a measured response from the Kremlin, which, while recognizing the implications of the vote, made a renewed call for dialogue between the regions and the caretaker government in Kiev. Moscow “respects the will of the populations of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,”according to a public statement released by the press service of the President of Russia on Monday. The statement went on to explain that the Kremlin’s reaction was “based on the fact that the practical implementation of the results of the referendum will take place in a civilized manner, without any recurrence of violence. This will take place through dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.”

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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bbc

East Ukraine separatists seek union with Russia

May 12, 2014

Self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic leader Denis Pushilin urged Moscow to listen to the “will of the people”. In neighbouring Luhansk, where a vote was also held, rebels declared independence. Ukraine, the EU and US have declared the referendums illegal but Russia says the results should be “implemented”. Moscow has so far not commented on the call for Donetsk to become part of Russia but has appealed for dialogue between the militants and Kiev, with the participation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern autonomous republic of Crimea after a disputed referendum in March and Kiev now fears its intentions in Donetsk, Luhansk and parts of southern Ukraine. Nato believes some 40,000 Russian troops are deployed near Ukraine’s border, although Moscow says they have been pulled back.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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RT

Referendum results in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions show landslide support for self-rule

May 11, 2014

Almost 90 percent of voters in Donetsk Region have endorsed political independence from Kiev, the head of the Central Election Commission of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’, Roman Lyagin, announced. “Counting the ballots proved to be surprisingly easy – the number of people who said ‘no’ was relatively small and there appeared to be only a tiny proportion of spoiled ballots, so we managed to carry out counting quite fast. The figures are as follows: 89.07 percent voted ‘for’, 10.19 percent voted ‘against’ and 0.74 percent of ballots were rendered ineligible,” Lyagin told journalists. In Lugansk Region 96.2 percent of voters supported the region’s self-rule, according to the final figures announced by the local election commission.

Despite fears that amid Kiev’s intensified military crackdown – which killed at least two civilians on referendum day – the turnout will be low, in both of the region it was unexpectedly high. In Donetsk it reached 74.87%, while in Lugansk the central election commission says 75% of eligible voters came to the polling stations. With such a huge turnout, the referendums have been recognized as valid by both election commissions. The acting president of Ukraine, Aleksandr Turchinov, has condemned as a “farce” referendums in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. “This propaganda farce won’t have any legal consequences, except for criminal charges for its organizers,” Turchinov said, Interfax reported. Following the referendum, officials of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have not ruled out that in case the situation in the region deteriorates, they may have to request peacekeeping forces to be deployed.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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bbc

Ukraine rebels hold referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk

May 11, 2014

“Self-rule” referendums have been held in Ukraine’s easternmost areas, with pro-Russian separatists claiming nearly 90% voted in favour in Donetsk region. BBC reporters at polling stations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions spoke of chaotic scenes, no voting booths in places and no electoral register. At least one person is reported to have been killed by armed men loyal to Ukraine’s government. Ukraine called the vote a “criminal farce” organised by Russia. Western countries have also condemned the vote. Separatist leaders ignored a call by the Russian president to delay it. The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic election commission Roman Lyagin told journalists that 89% voted in favour of self-rule, with 10% against, on a turnout of nearly 75%. There are no results from the Luhansk area so far.

A Donetsk separatist leader, Denis Pushilin, told one Russian news agency that once the results are announced, all Ukrainian military troops in the region would be considered “occupying forces”. The shooting incident, in which separatist officials said at least one person had been killed, took place in Krasnoarmiisk, west of Donetsk city, after armed men supporting the Kiev government closed down a polling station. A photographer with AP news agency reported seeing two people lying motionless on the ground. A few hours before polling was due to close, separatist officials claimed turnout in Donetsk region had been close to 70% – but there was no independent confirmation. In other developments:

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SOURCE = BBC News

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LBC

Ukraine Observers Freed Amid New Offensive

May 2, 2014

The seven observers and their five assistants, from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, were seized in Slavyansk on April 25. The separatists had previously accused the observers of being “Nato spies” and said they were to be used as human shields. Colonel Axel Schneider, the head of the observers, said the group had shown “strength” and that the captivity was “unforgettable for us”. The last two nights had been “really tough”, he said. Mark Etherington, deputy chief monitor of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, said: “The hostages, we think, were treated adequately. There were some exceptions there.”

He added: “The important question now is how the detainees who remain in Slovyansk and elsewhere are treated.” Mr Etherington said dozens more hostages could still be held. His comments were echoed by Foreign Secretary William Hague who called for the release of all hostages held by illegal armed groups. The release of the observers comes as Ukraine launched a dawn military operation against separatists in the east of the country. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said troops had seized control of a television tower in Kramatorsk, near the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk.

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SOURCE = LBC News

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UN fails to act over Ukraine crisis

May 2, 2014

The UN Security Council tonight again failed to take action on the growing crisis in Ukraine. Western powers scoffed at Russia’s apparent show of indignation as its ambassador Vitaly Churkin demanded a “swift halt of all violence”. Council members accused Russia of equipping and funding the pro-Russia forces that have seized government buildings in 10 eastern cities. In response Ukraine today launched its first major offensive against the insurgency. “Russia … has released bands of thugs on Ukraine … and is suddenly discovering this mixture might escape its control,” said French ambassador Gerard Araud. Russia called the latest council meeting, the second in a week. Mr Churkin called on Kiev and its Western “enablers … to not commit a fatal error” and stop the offensive, which he described as “criminal misadventures”. He again called Ukraine’s interim government illegitimate.

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SOURCE = Belfast Telegraph

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RT

Ukrainian troops begin special operation in Slavyansk

May 2, 2014

The Ukrainian army has begun a special operation against pro-autonomy activists in the eastern town of Slavyansk. The city is now blockaded by the Ukrainian military, with 20 helicopters reportedly deployed to crack down on self-defense forces. Two helicopters have been shot down by self-defense forces, according to reports. Earlier, two helicopters were allegedly downed, with two pilots dead and another one captured, RIA Novosti news agency reported. This information was confirmed by Ukraine’s coup-appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

The total death toll in Slavyansk currently stands at three: besides the two troops, there is also one fatality among the defense forces. Both sides report injuries. Also, a journalist’s car has reportedly been fired on, according to RT’s Paula Slier who is trying to reach the scene, but the Ukrainian army seems to be blocking all entrances to the city – and even Kramatorsk. Following the loss of the aircraft, Kiev halted their operation.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Boston Herald

US, Germany warn Putin not to disrupt Ukraine vote

May 2, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tough sanctions Friday on broad swaths of Russia’s economy if Moscow disrupts Ukraine’s May 25 presidential elections, putting President Vladimir Putin on notice for harsher penalties even if he stops short of a full invasion. Standing side by side in the White House Rose Garden, Obama and Merkel sought to bat down the notion of any discord between the U.S and European approaches to dissuading Putin from interfering in Ukraine. Obama said the U.S. and Europe have shown “remarkable unity” in their response so far, though he acknowledged that some European countries are vulnerable to Russian retaliation for sanctions and said those concerns must be taken into account. “The next step is going to be a broader-based sectoral sanctions regime,” Obama declared, referring to entire segments of Russia’s economy, such as energy or arms.

“If in fact we see the disruptions and the destabilization continuing so severely that it impedes elections on May 25, we will not have a choice but to move forward with additional, more severe sanctions,” the president said. As Merkel arrived at the White House, Ukraine’s interim government launched its first major offensive against a pro-Russian insurgency that has seized government buildings across the eastern part of the country. The insurgents shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday, though Ukrainian officials said many insurgents had been killed or wounded. The Kremlin said the Ukrainian government’s actions had destroyed all chances for a 2-week-old diplomatic deal to de-escalate the crisis. While Obama and Merkel projected unity on Ukraine, there were clear differences between the two leaders over U.S. spying — a touchy issue that has exasperated much of the German public after revelations that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on Merkel’s phone calls.

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SOURCE = Boston Herald

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Reuters

Dozens die in Odessa, rebels down Ukraine helicopters

May 2, 2014

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, May 2 (Reuters) – Dozens of people were killed in a fire and others were shot dead when fighting between pro- and anti-Russian groups broke out on the streets of Odessa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast on Friday, opening a new front in a conflict that has split the country. In the east, pro-Russian separatists brought down two Ukrainian military helicopters involved in a pre-dawn operation to try to dislodge the militants from their strongholds in the town of Slaviansk. The separatists said three of their number had been killed, and two civilians, while the defence ministry said two crew from the downed helicopters died and two other servicemen were killed when separatists attacked them on Friday evening. “Heavy fighting is continuing,” the Ukrainian Defence Ministry said. Russian media also said fighting had broken out overnight near the town of Kramatorsk, just south of Slaviansk, but Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.

Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has been the focus of concern in Western capitals since pro-Russian gunmen overran the region after Moscow annexed mainly Russian Crimea from Ukraine in March. Clashes had also occurred in largely Russian-speaking Odessa, not far from Crimea, but no one had died there before. Police said three people were shot dead and dozens of others wounded in running battles between people backing Kiev and pro-Russian activists in the port city. Another man died later and a further 31 people were killed when a trade union building was set on fire as fighting continued into the evening, police said. The total death toll in Odessa later reached 43, Interfax-Ukraine reported. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Ukrainian forces had fired on civilians from the air in Slaviansk in a “punitive operation” that destroyed an international peace plan. Moscow has tens of thousands of troops massed on the border and claims the right to invade if needed to protect Russian speakers.

The Western-backed government in Kiev said the use of missiles to bring down its helicopters showed Russian forces were already in the town and also that Russian “armed saboteurs” had tried to enter the country overnight, but were pushed back by Ukrainian border troops. Moscow denies involvement with the rebels and its Security Service said the incursion report was untrue. Kiev said it was forced to act in eastern Ukraine because Moscow was backing groups there who were “putting civilians in danger, seizing hostages and creating an atmosphere of terror and violence”.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Russia Herald

Ukraine launches full-scale operation in eastern town

May 2, 2014

The Ukrainian government Friday launched a full-scale operation in the eastern town of Sloviansk, using aircraft and landing troops against pro-Russian activists even as Russia slammed the move. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said gunmen shot down at least two army helicopters in Sloviansk, killing one pilot and capturing the other. “The terrorists opened fire with heavy weapons against Ukrainian special units. A real battle with professional mercenaries is going on,” BBC quoted Avakov as saying. Nine rebel checkpoints have also been seized, Avokhov added. Ukraine’s acting President Alexander Turchynov launched the operation as pro-Russian activists Thursday seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. They forced their way into the building, stripped weapons and shields from police officers and raised the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

The city of Sloviansk has been completely sealed off. Russia slammed Ukraine for its military assault, saying it would wipe out all hope for the viability of the Geneva agreements. “During a visit to Minsk, President Vladimir Putin called such a possible operation criminal. Regrettably, the ongoing events have fully confirmed this assessment,” Xinhua quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. Noting that Ukraine had “crossed out” the Geneva agreements reached April 17, Peskov said it is “hardly possible to say today that some may expect at least parts of these agreements to be implemented”. Peskov also said that Moscow was “extremely concerned” over the safety of Russia’s presidential special envoy Vladimir Lukin and journalists who were visiting the conflict zone. Russia’s foreign ministry repeated in a statement that “using the army against its own people is a crime and will lead Ukraine to a catastrophe”.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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Express

Dozens killed by smoke as Ukraine moves closer to civil war

May 2, 2014

Separatists holed up in a trade union building were forced to jump from windows after it was set on fire by pro-Ukrainians. There were “many bodies lying on the ground covered with Ukraine flags”, reported URIAN news agency which cited emergency sources saying “not less than 30 people are dead”. Another account claimed 38 were killed, many by smoke fumes but others suffered bullet wounds. At least 50 were wounded, including at least ten police, many from from gunshot wounds, in a night of chaos.The horrific scenes came as President Barack Obama threatened Moscow with new tough sanctions if it refused to stop stirring the Ukrainian troubles. Gunmen on the roof shot at demonstrators below who were pelting the building with stones. Medical workers treated bullet-scarred victims writhing in agony in a makeshift pavement hospital.Visit the Source for more on this storySOURCE = The Express

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bbc

Ukraine reinstates conscription as crisis deepens

May 2, 2014

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country. The move, announced in a decree, came as pro-Russia militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. Ukraine blames Russia for organising the seizures of a number of offices in the east, a claim Moscow denies. Some 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near the Ukrainian border. Mr Turchynov admitted on Wednesday that his forces were “helpless” to quell the unrest in some parts of the east, saying the goal was now to prevent it from spreading.

He also said Ukraine was on “full combat alert”, amid fears that Russian troops could invade. On Thursday, his office said in a statement that conscription was being introduced “given the deteriorating situation in the east and the south… the rising force of armed pro-Russian units and the taking of public administration buildings… which threaten territorial integrity”. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Kiev’s decision is, in the short-term at least, a symbolic step as the Ukrainian military has been starved of cash for years and is no match for what Russia has on its borders. The real battle for control of Ukrainian territory is already under way and Kiev is losing ground, he adds.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Voice of Russia

Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine stormed by pro-Kiev forces

May 3, 2014

Ukrainian armed units had begun storming positions of the self-defence force in the city of Kramatorsk, the Donetsk region, a Russia 24 television correspondent reported. He said volunteers had told him about the assault and wounded people taken to hospitals. The volunteers had arrived at Kramatorsk hospitals to care for wounded people. The number was not known. Local residents helped render first aid to the wounded, the reporter said in a live broadcast. The special operation also resumed in Slavyansk a few hours ago.

Copyright 2014 ©: The Voice Of Russia

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Ukraine clashes: dozens dead after Odessa building fire

May 2, 2014

A pro-Russian activist aims a pistol at supporters of the Kiev government during clashes in Odessa

A pro-Russian activist aims a pistol at supporters of the Kiev government during clashes in Odessa

More than 30 people were killed in violent and chaotic clashes in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on Friday as pro-Ukraine activists stormed a building defended by protesters opposed to the current government in Kiev and in favour of closer ties with Russia. Odessa’s large Soviet-era trade union building was set alight as the pro-Ukraine activists mounted an assault as dusk fell. Police said at least 31 people choked to death on smoke or were killed when jumping out of windows after the trade union building was set on fire. Bodies lay in pools of blood outside the main entrance as explosions from improvised grenades and molotov cocktails filled the air. Black smoke from the building and a burning pro-Russia protest camp wreathed the nearby square. Pro-Russia fighters mounted a last-ditch defence of the burning building, throwing masonry and petrol bombs from the roof on to the crowd below.

Medics at the scene said the pro-Russia fighters were also shooting from the roof. At least five bodies with bullet wounds lay on the ground covered by Ukraine flags as fire engines and ambulances arrived at the scene. Some people fell from the burning building as they hung on to windowsills in an attempt to avoid the fire that had taken hold inside. Pro-Ukraine protesters made desperate efforts to reach people with ropes and improvised scaffolding. “At first we broke through the side, and then we came through the main entrance,” said one pro-Ukrainian fighter, 20, who said he was a member of the extreme nationalist group Right Sector. “They had guns and they were shooting … Some people jumped from the roof, they died obviously,” he said.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

Ukrainian security forces control only some streets in Slovyansk suburbs – self-defense forces

May 2, 2014

The so-called self-defense forces in Slovyansk, the Donetsk region of Ukraine, are keeping almost the entire city under control except several streets in the suburbs, a source from the self-defense headquarters told Interfax. “The security forces controlled by Kyiv have failed to take the city but have taken only a couple of streets in the suburbs. The city itself is still fully controlled by the self-defense forces,” he said. Shooting is still heard in the city, but no large-scale combat activities are under way now, he said.

“Shots are heard here and there. A helicopter was circling above the city about 20 minutes ago. True, this was more of a reconnaissance flight, and no fire was opened from the helicopter. It looks like the enemy wants to wear us down,” the source said. He claimed that all city residents are determined to oppose an assault. “Barricades have been set up in the city. Our people are ready both morally and physically to oppose an offensive,” he said. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) had reported earlier that the security forces had fully taken Slovyansk under control.

Copyright 2014 ©: Russia Beyond The Headlines

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Washington post

Ukraine offensive sparks deadly clashes in Odessa

May 2, 2014

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Ukraine’s offensive to recapture an eastern city controlled by pro-Russia forces sharply escalated the crisis in the country’s east and set off a clash Friday in the southern port of Odessa that police say killed 31 people. The Kremlin said the move by Kiev’s interim government effectively killed the Geneva pact aimed at cooling the unrest, but pledged to continue efforts to try to calm the tensions. By nightfall, Ukrainian troops and armored personnel carriers had blocked all major roads into the eastern city of Slovyansk, the center of the pro-Russia insurgency. In the city, most shops were closed and the few that were open were crowded with customers trying to stockpile food and supplies.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov claimed that “many” insurgents were killed or wounded Friday, but the offensive also underlined the military’s vulnerability. Both sides said two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down by the insurgents, killing two crew members. The Ukrainian Security Service said one was downed with a surface-to-air missile, adding that the sophisticated weapon undercut Russia’s claims the city of 125,000 people was simply under the control of armed locals. “Ukrainian security forces so far are not ready for large-scale military actions; moreover, such actions could provoke Russia’s invasion,” said Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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LBC

Ukraine On Full Combat Alert Over ‘Invasion’

April 30, 2014

Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov told a ministerial meeting: “Our armed forces are on full combat alert. The threat of Russia starting a war against mainland Ukraine is real.” Ukraine’s government later announced the country’s armed forces would hold military exercises in central Kiev on Wednesday night. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by demanding Ukraine halt such “militaristic statements”. “We insist that Kiev immediately ceases the bellicose rhetoric, which is aimed at intimidating its own population,” the ministry said. The increasing tension came as Downing Street confirmed that David Cameron had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. A statement from the Kremlin said the two leaders agreed that the crisis could only be solved through “peaceful means”.

Russia has denied it has any plans to invade eastern Ukraine after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March. Kiev, however, has accused Moscow of orchestrating an armed uprising in the industrial east by Russian-speaking separatists, who have seized government buildings in a number of towns and cities. Ukraine’s army and police appear to be making little progress in a high-profile operation to prevent the rebels expanding their grip over towns in the east. It came as the International Monetary Fund said Russia was already in recession, while citing the effect of the ongoing crisis on investment in the country. IMF economist Antonio Spilimbergo was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying: “If we define recession as negative growth in two quarters in a row, then Russia from that point of view is experiencing recession.”

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SOURCE = LBC News

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Russia alarmed over US-Nato military moves

April 29, 2014

Moscow has voiced concern over an “unprecedented” increase in US and Nato military activity near Russian borders, amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine. Russia’s defence minister condemned “provocative” US and Nato comments. Pro-Russia activists have seized buildings in more than a dozen towns in east Ukraine and hold seven European military observers in Sloviansk. The EU has stepped up its sanctions, naming 15 new targets on Tuesday, a day after the US ordered similar measures. The US sanctions targeted seven Russian individuals and 17 companies which Washington says are linked to President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle”.

The European Union’s list includes Gen Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Lt Gen Igor Sergun, identified as the head of the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU. It also includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and pro-Russian separatist leaders in Crimea and in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. The BBC’s Matthew Price in Brussels says this list does not appear to follow the US line in targeting President Putin’s associates, but rather those involved in events on the ground in Ukraine.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: US and EU to intensify Russia sanctions

April 28, 2014

The US and EU are preparing to impose fresh sanctions against Russian individuals and companies. The move comes amid continuing action by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Western nations accuse Moscow of supporting separatist gunmen who are occupying official buildings in cities across eastern Ukraine. The separatists continue to hold seven Western military observers who were seized last week in the region. Meanwhile, officials say the mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Hennadiy Kernes, is in a serious condition after being shot in the back.

Monday also saw pro-Russian separatists seize a local government building in Kostyantynivka, the latest move in a campaign of defiance against the government in Kiev that has encompassed a dozen other cities in eastern Ukraine. Gunmen wearing uniforms with no insignias moved into the building and raised the flag of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk Republic”. They were also reported to be in control of the police station in the town, which is located between the town of Slavyansk and the city of Donetsk, both also controlled by separatists.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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EuroNews

Ukraine: Pro-Russian rebels parade latest captives for the press

April 27, 2014

Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have been showing their latest captives to reporters. Separatists holding the trio in Slovyansk say the men are officers from the state security service in Kyiv, sent on a spying mission to the east. Russian TV images showed the men blindfolded, gagged, handcuffed and tied to chairs. Like European military observers seized earlier, a prisoner exchange with detained pro-Russian activists is being demanded for their release.

Pro-Russian rebel commander Igor Strelkov said it would involve an “exchange for our colleagues who have been secretly kidnapped by similar groups to this one. These people were planning to kidnap our people but they got captured.” The European military observers, who had been travelling with an OSCE mission, are now in their third day of captivity. The OSCE has sent negotiators to Slovyansk for talks to try to secure the release of the eight-strong group of monitors, branded NATO spies by the separatists.

Copyright 2014 ©: Euronews

 

 

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Military observer freed in Sloviansk

April 27, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have released one of a team of eight European monitors seized in the flashpoint city of Sloviansk. The officer, a Swede, was freed on medical grounds, it has been confirmed. The monitors were shown to the media on Sunday – a move described as “revolting” by Germany, the native country of four of the team. The remaining seven are still being held and diplomacy continues to try to secure their freedom. There is no word about a number of Ukrainian military officers who were seized along with the group. In eastern Ukraine, gunmen continue to occupy official buildings in a dozen cities, defying the government in Kiev.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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RT

US failing to push economic sanctions against Russia through EU allies

April 27, 2014

The new round of sanctions against Russia, which the EU and the US plan to unveil Monday, will not target the Russian economy. Washington said it won’t use economic sanctions without the EU also signing up to them. G7 members agreed Friday to roll out a third round of anti-Russian sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis. But those would be an extension of the previous two rounds of sanctions, which targeted 33 individuals in Russia and Ukraine and a Russian bank, which the Western government deemed responsible for the crisis in Ukraine or close enough to President Vladimir Putin to have leverage on him. “What we will hear about in the coming days, what we will agree … is an expansion of existing sanctions, measures against individuals or entities in Russia,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News on Sunday.

The new round will slap travel bans and asset freezes on 15 more people, according to numerous insider reports. But it’s unlikely that they would have any greater effect on Russian policies than the sanctions already in effect. If anything, so far sanctions against the officials have only resulted in mocking calls from Russian MPs, politicians and ordinary citizens to add their names on the blacklists. Imposing sanctions on some sectors of the Russian economy, which could actually hurt the country, remains an elusive goal for Washington. At the same time America, whose economic ties with Russia are mediocre at best compared to Europe’s, is unwilling to act alone. Otherwise, it would appear that there is conflict between Russia and the US, not Russia and the world, a narrative that Washington is struggling to promote. “We’re going to be in a stronger position to deter Mr. Putin when he sees that the world is unified and the United States and Europe is unified rather than this is just a US-Russian conflict,” US President Barack Obama told reporters on Sunday.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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telegraph

William Hague: Britain willing to ‘pay price’ for further sanctions on Russia

 April 27, 2014

William Hague has said that Britain was prepared to “pay the price” of further sanctions against Russia, as he revealed details of new measures due to be imposed on Monday. The Foreign Secretary said that a fresh round of sanctions against Moscow over its meddling in Ukraine would probably involve adding names to an existing list of Kremlin figures already facing asset freezes and travel bans. But “more far reaching measures” are also being lined up in the event that Russia begins a formal annexation of eastern Ukraine, as it did with Crimea last month. Such sanctions would most likely involve hitting sections of the Russian economy such as energy and banking, and might impact the ability of Russian business to invest in the City of London.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

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‘Nato spies’ detained in Ukraine

April 26, 2014

A pro-Russian insurgency leader in eastern Ukraine said on Saturday that foreign military observers detained as suspected Nato spies could be released in exchange for jailed pro-Russian activists. Outside Slovyansk, a city some 90 miles west of Russia, Ukraine government forces continued operations to form a security cordon as it attempts to quell unrest threatening to derail planned elections on May 25. Vyacheslav Ponomarev, self-proclaimed people’s mayor of Slovyansk, described the detained observers as “captives” and said that they were officers from Nato member states. “As we found maps on them containing information about the location of our checkpoints, we get the impression that they are officers carrying out a certain spying mission,” Mr Ponomarev said.

The German-led, eight-member team was travelling under the auspices of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when they were detained. Germany’s Defence Ministry said it had had lost contact with the team, which it said also included five Ukrainians. Tim Guldimann, the OSCE’s special envoy for Ukraine, told German public radio WDR on Saturday that “efforts are being made to solve this issue.” He declined to elaborate. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov late ON Friday to press for the release of the observers.

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SOURCE = The Belfast Telegraph

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Pentagon says Russian jets violated airspace

April 26, 2014

The US says Russian military aircraft have entered Ukrainian airspace on several occasions, amid rising tension in the east of the country. A Pentagon spokesman called on Russia to “de-escalate the situation”. The statement came as the G7 group of industrialised countries agreed on Saturday to “swiftly” impose fresh sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. Meanwhile, talks are under way to secure the release of international observers seized by separatists. Russia has tens of thousands of troops deployed along its side of the border with Ukraine as pro-Moscow separatists continue to occupy official buildings in a dozen eastern towns, defying the government in Kiev.

Russia has accused the West of wanting to “seize” Ukraine. In a statement on Friday, Pentagon spokesman Col Steven Warren said Russian aircraft had entered Ukrainian airspace several times in the past 24 hours. He gave no further details, but called on Moscow to take “immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier described Russian activity along the Ukrainian border as “dangerously destabilising” and “very provocative”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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telegraph

Ukraine crisis: G7 agree new sanctions on Russia

April 26, 2014

The Group of Seven has agreed to impose new sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, with a senior US official saying some could come as early as Monday. The move marks a further ramping up of pressure on the Kremlin by the grouping, which has turned on its fellow G8 member since Russia annexed Crimea in March. “We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” a joint statement said. “Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.” The tough-talking comes after American President Barack Obama, who is in Seoul, spoke by telephone with senior European leaders late on Friday in what the US State Department said was an example of the allies working in “lockstep”.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

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Washington post

Ukraine official says he fears Russian invasion

April 25, 2014

UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said Friday he fears an imminent Russian invasion. “We have the information we are in danger,” Danylo Lubkivsky told reporters at the United Nations. He spoke as an official in Ukraine confirmed that pro-Russian forces had detained a team of military observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The official said the team would be released after further investigation. Lubkivsky said 20 members had been taken and called it shocking and unprecedented. “We demand to release hostages,” he said.

Tensions have spiked as Russia increases military exercises along the Ukraine border. Lubkivsky called it a “very dangerous development” and demanded that Russia withdraw its troops. “We are going to protect our motherland against any invasion,” Lubkivsky said. “We call on the Russians to stop this madness.” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters earlier Friday that Ban Ki-moon had been reaching out to both countries.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

Putin warns Kyiv of ‘consequences’ after Ukrainian attack on Slovyansk

April 24, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the actions of Ukrainian security forces in Slovyansk, which have already killed at least five local militiamen, would not remain without consequences. Earlier, the Russian leader said that Moscow could not abstain from intervening, if Ukraine continues to “violate the rights” of Russians. On April 22, following the discovery of two bodies near Slovyansk, including that of missing Horlivka city council deputy Vladimir Rybak, acting Ukrainian President Alexander Turchynov ordered the resumption of military operations against militias that had taken control of administrative buildings in the Donetsk Region. Two days later, on April 24, the Ukrainian army attempted to retake the city. After several clashes, five militiamen were killed and one police officer was wounded, before the attack was suspended.

President Putin learned about the events in Slovyansk from the media and labeled the action by the Kyiv authorities as criminal, reports RIA Novosti. “If, indeed, the current regime in Kyiv starts using the army against the population in the country, this is, without doubt, a very serious crime against their own people,” said Putin, speaking at a media forum in St. Petersburg today‏. According to him, this will have grave implications for those who made such a decision. “If this is the case, these events will entail consequences for bilateral relations between Moscow and Kyiv,” said Putin. “This is a junta,” the Russian leader said, reported ITAR-TASS. According to him, events taking place in Donetsk do not represent an acute phase of the conflict. “This is a punitive operation, which will have consequences for those people who make such decisions, including bilateral relations,” Putin noted.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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bbc

Russia orders exercises after Ukraine moves on separatists

April 24, 2014

Russia has ordered new military exercises on its border with Ukraine in response to an operation by Kiev against pro-Russian separatists. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had been “forced to react” after Ukrainian commandos moved on the separatist stronghold of Sloviansk. President Vladimir Putin had earlier warned Ukraine of “consequences”. Pro-Russian separatists are occupying key buildings in a dozen eastern towns, defying the central government. Mr Shoigu was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying: “If this military machine is not stopped, it will lead to greater numbers of dead and wounded. “We are forced to react to such a development of the situation.”

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SOURCE = BBC News

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ITV

Sweden calls for release of OSCE group in Ukraine

April 25, 2014

A group of OSCE observers being held in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk includes three German soldiers, a German translator, and military observers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, a spokesman for the ministry in Berlin said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote:

“Extremely concerned with OSCE inspectors being abducted in Eastern Ukraine. Including one Swede. They must be released immediately.”

Copyright 2014 ©: ITV News

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Ukraine Threatens ‘Blockade’ of Pro-Russian Militants

April 25, 2014

The interim Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened to “blockade” pro-Rusian militants in the eastern town of Slovyansk on Friday, the New York Times reports, despite Moscow’s calls against engagement. Slovyansk is one of three major eastern Ukrainian cities—the others are Donetsk and Mariupol— that have seen pro-Russian militant protests. Serhiy Pashynskyi, the acting head of the presidential administration of Ukraine, announced the blockade to prevent the militants supply chain, according to the Times. He also warned of new military movements overnight and that if Russia crosses the border, Ukraine will “eliminate the invaders.” The announcement comes a little more than a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in Geneva to quell the crisis, and a day after he warned the Kremlin of possible additional economic sanctions against Russia.

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SOURCE = Time Magazine

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Merkel warns Putin to do more to end Ukraine crisis

April 25, 2014

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Friday that she told Vladimir Putin that Russia had not done enough to implement the Geneva accord and EU foreign ministers would meet as soon as possible to contemplate further sanctions against Russia. At a news conference in Berlin with Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, Merkel said Russia had the means to convince the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to take a peaceful route but showed no sign of doing so. “I spoke to the Russian president this morning and made clear again that on the one hand Ukraine has taken a whole series of steps to implement the Geneva accord but on the other side I see no Russian backing for the accord which would of course have an effect on the separatists in Ukraine,” she said.

“We will therefore have to react. This will be a joint European action and an action by the G7 … because of the lack of progress we will have to contemplate further sanctions within the second stage of sanctions.” Merkel spoke after Barack Obama told reporters in Seoul he would call European leaders during the course of the day to discuss action following the failure of the Geneva agreement, a possible prelude to new sanctions.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

RT

Self-defense forces detain OSCE group in eastern Ukraine

April 25, 2014

Anti-government activists have detained the OSCE observer mission near Slavyansk, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry has said. A protest leader in Slavyansk says they detained a vehicle carrying Ukrainian military, foreign citizens and bullet shells. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) military mission working in eastern Ukraine has been detained by a group of “terrorists,” Kiev authorities said Friday. “On April 25, 2014, unidentified men stopped a bus with 13 passengers entering Slavyansk from the direction of Kramatorsk. Among them were seven representatives of the OSCE, five representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a driver of the vehicle,” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement.

According to the ministry, the bus has been driven to the occupied Security Service building in Slavyansk and the passengers are currently being held there. Meanwhile, the “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said that a vehicle containing OSCE representatives has been stopped because it contained officers of the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces and munitions. “It is true that we have detained the bus, as there we immediately found forbidden bullet shells and other munitions. We are currently sorting out who are these people driving inside it,” Ponomaryov told Interfax by telephone. The anti-government leader later confirmed to RIA Novosti there are indeed members of the OSCE mission among the detained group.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

NBC News

American Reporter Detained in Ukraine Feels Fortunate to be Free

April 25, 2014

The American journalist released by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine after four nights of captivity said he felt fortunate to be free. “I had it pretty easy, because I was let go,” Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter and producer for Vice News, said in a statement describing his detainment Friday. Ostrovsky wrote that at least a dozen other nameless detainees “were ferried in and out of the cellar of the Ukraine state security (SBU) building by the pro-Russia militants who had taken it over.” From journalists to Ukrainian activists, Ostrovsky speculated that most would be stuck there longer than him and were being used as “bargaining chips” by the pro-Russian forces in Sloviansk.

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SOURCE = NBC News

Voice of Russia

Russian, US armed forces chiefs of staff discuss Ukraine

April 25, 2014

Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked on the phone on April 24, the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax on Friday. “During the conversation, Gerasimov expressed his concerns about the situation taking shape in southeastern Ukraine. He noted that the new Ukrainian leadership started an active phase of a counterterrorist operation on April 22, which led to fatalities,” it said. “The chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces called it to his counterpart’s attention that motorized maneuverable groups of border forces trained for subversive activities were acting and a significant number of troops were concentrated on the Ukrainian side of the border with Russia,” it said.

Copyright 2014 ©: Voice Of Russia

New York Times

International Prosecutor Weighs Case in Ukraine Killings

April 25, 2014

PARIS — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced Friday that she would consider whether grounds exist to open a formal criminal investigation into the killings of civilians during antigovernment protests in Ukraine in the last months of President Viktor F. Yanukovych. The announcement by the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, posted on the website of the court, based in The Hague, was a response to a recent request by Ukraine’s interim government to investigate the killings of more than 100 civilians, which it has described as crimes against humanity. For this purpose, Ukraine, which is not a court member, this month granted the court jurisdiction over the period from Nov. 21, 2013, to Feb. 22, before and during the fall of Mr. Yanukovych. It also followed a declaration from the Ukrainian Parliament, urging the court to prosecute Mr. Yanukovych and several of his subordinates.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

RT

Ukraine’s political prisoner #1 stages hunger strike over Kiev’s assault on eastern regions

April 25, 2014

The arrested “people’s governor” of Donetsk, Pavel Gubarev, has gone on a hunger strike against Kiev’s crackdown on protesters in Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine, while Russia and the Red Cross demand access to the “political prisoner” who might be ill. “His lawyer told us that Pavel [Gubarev] announced the hunger strike in solidarity with guys who are on barricades now, defending our land and people,” Gubarev’s wife Ekaterina told RT. “He would really want to be with them, but he is a hostage of Kiev junta.” Gubarev’s lawyer, Aleksandr Groshinsky, added that the move follows the “shooting of civilians” in eastern Ukraine. “This way, he wants to demonstrate that he is with those who are fighting for their civil rights and civil position,” the lawyer told Russian News Service.

Last week, Kiev launched what it called an “anti-terrorist” operation against protesters demanding Ukraine’s federalization in the town of Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region. According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, up to five so-called “terrorists” were “eliminated” Thursday during clashes between the troops and local self-defense squads, while three protesters’ checkpoints were destroyed. On Friday, the operation entered its second stage, which the goal to “completely isolate” the anti-government stronghold, Slavyansk. On Sunday, three anti-government protesters were reportedly killed in a gunfight with attackers believed to be Right Sector paramilitary. “When Pavel learned that on Easter the Right Sector shot our militia men at the checkpoint, he voiced his discontent,” Gubarev’s wife said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

telegraph

West announces ‘extension’ of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

April 25, 2014

The West announced fresh sanctions on Russia on Friday for its continued meddling in Ukraine. The need for further action was agreed in a conference call between the leaders of Britain, America, Germany, France and Italy, although the new measures are expected to fall short of ones that would inflict real pain on Moscow. A Downing Street spokesman said: “While they continued to hold open the door to a diplomatic resolution of this crisis … the five leaders agreed that in the light of Russia’s refusal to support the process, an extension of the current targeted sanctions would need to be implemented.”

However, speaking earlier today, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that any extra measures would fall within the scope of “second stage” sanctions, which are much less punitive than the “third stage” sanctions that would target key sectors of the Russian economy. In effect, the new EU measures could simply mean adding further names of Russian officials to an existing list who face visa and asset bans. Details of the new sanctions could be announced as early as next week. Washington is pressuring Europe to impose a tougher line on Moscow, despite fears that it could casue severe damage to many European economies.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

Russia Beyond the Headlines

View from Crimea: Residents speak out on the switch from Ukraine to Russia

April 25, 2014

Izzed, taxi driver

Izzed, a 41-year-old stocky Crimean Tatar who lives in the town of Bakhchysarai, opposed the decision to make Crimea a part of Russia. He believes that Russia’s actions should be considered a forcible takeover. Izzed moved from Uzbekistan to Crimea, his mother’s homeland, in 1999. He has been working as a taxi driver for the past eight years, shuttling people around Bakhchysarai’s old town and new town. Izzed says that he hasn’t noticed any improvements since Crimea joined Russia. On the contrary, he has seen a threefold increase in prices, which is especially noticeable when it comes to food and fuel costs. His small taxi bus plays oriental music as he repeats the same route every half hour: New Town – bus stop – Old Town, and back. “I’m not leaving here and I will die here. If I have to fight, I will fight. I don’t believe in (Putin’s) rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, and I’m not afraid of anyone but Allah.”

Ilona, student

Ilona, 19, is from Poltava (central Ukraine). She moved to Crimea to study psychology. Ilona was against Crimea joining Russia, but her point of view isn’t shared by everyone. “People have said a lot of different things to me. Somehow, they think that being from central Ukraine makes me a ‘banderovka,’ a radical.” After Crimea became a Russian territory, Ilona ran into problems in terms of staying in Sevastopol. Recently, she went to the immigration office, where she was told that she must choose between keeping her Ukrainian passport and becoming a Russian citizen. If she keeps her Ukrainian passport, she will have to obtain an immigration card and be registered as an immigrant in Crimea. If she wants to become a Russian citizen, she won’t have to get an immigration card, but she might have trouble visiting her family in Ukraine or moving back home. Ilona has a lot of questions that nobody has been able to answer. “If they give me citizenship, I’ll become a Russian,” the student says. “I still have a year and a half left at my university, and I’ll probably leave afterwards. I don’t know where, but I’m not staying here. There is nothing to do here. It’s a small town, and there are no jobs.”

Alexander, boat captain

Alexander, 28, is the captain of a small boat and has been conducting boat tours around Sevastopol for the past ten years. He has lived in Sevastopol his whole life and his parents live here too. He and his family were in favour of Crimea joining Russia. A month after his wish came true, he realises that life is not changing for the better as quickly as he would like. “Our city is a military and tourist centre. Millions of people come to visit us, but you can see for yourself what condition the city is in. Even this pier is scary to walk on. I have not seen any support from Kiev for as long as I’ve lived here. Russia is our only hope. I haven’t felt like a Ukrainian for the past 20 years, and I’m happy about Sevastopol’s new government. I’m alarmed about the events in Ukraine and we’re worried about the people who live there.”

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

Reuters

Separatist leader in Ukraine city says Kiev “spy” is in detained OSCE group

April 25, 2014

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 25 (Reuters) – The main separatist leader in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk said on Friday that a military “spy” for the Kiev government was in a group of international military observers who have been held by the rebels. “It was reported to me that among them (the detained group) was an employee of the Kiev secret military staff,” said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, de facto mayor of the city which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists opposed to the central government.

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SOURCE = Reuters

logoTimeSpecials

Kerry Warns Russia Over Ukraine

April 25, 2014

With tensions smoldering in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. gave Russia a new warning Thursday. Saying Russia was using “the barrel of a gun and the force of the mob,” Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian intelligence and special ops of actively working to destabilize eastern Ukraine.

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SOURCE = Time Magazine

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Putin warns Kyiv of ‘consequences’ after Ukrainian attack on Slovyansk

April 24, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the actions of Ukrainian security forces in Slovyansk, which have already killed at least five local militiamen, would not remain without consequences. Earlier, the Russian leader said that Moscow could not abstain from intervening, if Ukraine continues to “violate the rights” of Russians. On April 22, following the discovery of two bodies near Slovyansk, including that of missing Horlivka city council deputy Vladimir Rybak, acting Ukrainian President Alexander Turchynov ordered the resumption of military operations against militias that had taken control of administrative buildings in the Donetsk Region. Two days later, on April 24, the Ukrainian army attempted to retake the city. After several clashes, five militiamen were killed and one police officer was wounded, before the attack was suspended.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

Voice of Russia

UN chief says use of military force in Ukraine a mistake

April 25, 2014

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated his call for the implementation of the Geneva agreements on Ukraine and expects all the conflicting parties to cease futile actions and resume diplomatic efforts. Ban warned that any attempt to seek a military solution to the political crisis in Ukraine would be a grave mistake, Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Friday. Military actions must be avoided at all costs, Ban said, otherwise the situation might spin out of control. The secretary general is concerned that ‘situation could spin out of control with grave and unpredictable consequences.’ The spokesman said that the UN chief reiterates his call to all sides to abide by agreements reached in Geneva. “He expects all sides to understand that the time is of the essence and therefore seize all unhelpful actions and instead reengage diplomatically to ensure full implementation now,” Dujarric said.

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

Russia Herald

KIEV – In a sharp escalation of tensions, Russia accused the US of “running the show” in Ukraine and warned it will respond if its interests are attacked even as a contingent of U.S. Army paratroopers arrived in nearby Poland on Wednesday in a show of force.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond if its interests, or the interests of Russian citizens, were attacked.

“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” he said according to excerpts of an interview with the Russia Today news channel.

“There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show,” he said referring to developments in Kiev.

Lavrov’s ministry, in a separate statement, accused the United States and the interim government in Kiev of a “distorted interpretation” of an international accord, signed in Geneva last week, under which illegal armed groups in Ukraine are to disarm and give up buildings they have occupied.

He said the condition applies to the pro-Russian separatists in the east as well as pro-West groups in the Ukrainian capital.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/221370539/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Russia-warns-it-will-respond-if-its-interests-attacked-as-US-lands-troops-in-Poland#sthash.vFGksIUL.dpuf

 

 

Russia warns it will respond if its interests attacked as US lands troops in Poland

April 23, 2014

KIEV – In a sharp escalation of tensions, Russia accused the US of “running the show” in Ukraine and warned it will respond if its interests are attacked even as a contingent of U.S. Army paratroopers arrived in nearby Poland on Wednesday in a show of force. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond if its interests, or the interests of Russian citizens, were attacked. “Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” he said according to excerpts of an interview with the Russia Today news channel. “There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show,” he said referring to developments in Kiev. Lavrov’s ministry, in a separate statement, accused the United States and the interim government in Kiev of a “distorted interpretation” of an international accord, signed in Geneva last week, under which illegal armed groups in Ukraine are to disarm and give up buildings they have occupied. He said the condition applies to the pro-Russian separatists in the east as well as pro-West groups in the Ukrainian capital.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

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US journalist Simon Ostrovsky held by pro-Russian militia in Ukraine

April 23, 2014

Pro-Russian gunmen in Ukraine confirmed on Wednesday that they had taken hostage an American journalist, whom they were holding according to “war rules”, they said, in the town of Slavyansk. Simon Ostrovsky, a correspondent for Vice News, had not been seen since early Tuesday. He had been covering the crisis in Ukraine for several weeks, first in Crimea and then in the east of the country. He had been following the activities of masked gunmen as they seized government buildings. Ostrovsky had visited Slavyansk several times. The town has been under the control of a heavily armed pro-Russian militia since 6 April.

The rebels have seized the nearby police and security station, as well as the city hall, turning it into a sandbagged garrison, complete with sniper positions. Men suspected to be Russian soldiers have also been spotted in Slavyansk, together with irregular “Cossacks” from southern Russia. Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russian insurgents, said on Wednesday that Ostrovsky was being held at the local branch of the rebel-occupied Ukrainian security service. Separatists have blockaded access to the building with a large wall of tyres and debris. Outsiders are not admitted. “He’s with us. He’s fine,” Khorosheva told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Asked why Ostrovsky was being held hostage, she said he was “suspected of bad activities”. She did not elaborate but said the insurgents were now conducting their own investigation.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Russia ‘to respond if its interests’ attacked

April 23, 2014

Russia will respond if its interests in Ukraine are attacked, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, drawing a parallel with the 2008 Georgian war. Speaking to Russian state TV channel RT, Mr Lavrov also accused the US of “running the show” in Ukraine – a claim Washington dismissed as “ludicrous”. Russia’s foreign ministry also repeated its call for Kiev to withdraw military units from the east of Ukraine. Ukraine’s government faces an armed revolt there by pro-Russia separatists. Kiev and the West say Moscow commands gunmen in eastern Ukraine – something Russia denies. In recent weeks, pro-Russian militants have seized administrative buildings in at least a dozen towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

They have installed their own officials, in similar tactics to those used to take over the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier this year. The US has called on Moscow to ask pro-Russian gunmen to lay down their weapons and leave public buildings. It has also urged Russia to tone down its aggressive rhetoric or face further sanctions. The Kiev authorities responded to the occupation of official buildings and roadblocks by carrying out an “anti-terror” operation in eastern Ukraine. The military operation became bogged down and was suspended over the Easter period before resuming on Tuesday.

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

Lavrov to RT: Americans are ‘running the show’ in Ukraine

April 23, 2014

As the standoff in the eastern Ukraine deteriorates into violence it’s up to world powers to step in and calm things down. Despite tough talk from Washington, the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine have managed to reach a framework to peace in Geneva. But will it be enough to avert a civil war? Sophie asks the Russian Foreign minister himself – Sergey Lavrov is on Sophie&Co today.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

New York Times

Russia Warns Ukraine of Potential Military Response

April 23, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there. “If we are attacked, we would certainly respond,” Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said in an interview with the Kremlin’s satellite news network, Russia Today, or RT. The network’s website published a short excerpt from the interview, which was scheduled to be broadcast later Wednesday. Mr. Lavrov also made one of the first high-profile statements comparing the events in Ukraine to the circumstances that led to the war in Georgia in 2008 and to the breaking away of two republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law,” Mr. Lavrov said. An accord reached in Geneva last week, when all sides seemed to agree on the need to defuse the confrontation over cities seized by armed, pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, is continuing to crumble. Each side has demanded that the other make the first move, and the agreement did not include an enforcement measure. On Tuesday, Ukraine had announced that it was resurrecting an effort to use its armed forces to retake buildings, although a previous attempt sputtered out without changing the balance of forces.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

Reuters

Monitors head into Ukraine’s badlands – armed with a sheet of paper

April 23, 2014

KIEV, April 23 (Reuters) – A small army of international monitors has gone to the gritty lands of eastern Ukraine to persuade separatist militias to lay down their weapons – but for now at least the most they may be able to hope for is to stop a bad situation getting worse. Armed only with copies of a diplomatic communique drafted in a Geneva hotel, about 100 monitors have been posted in 10 trouble-spots in Ukraine with the task of de-escalating the crisis that pits pro-Russian separatists against Kiev’s leaders. On the ground, that means trying to persuade armed groups who have seized police and state security installations in towns near the border with Russia to end their occupation. The monitors do not carry weapons. But with isolated shootings, abductions and killings in the east now unnerving the Kiev central government and pushing it towards a security crackdown, time might not be on the side of the monitors to pull off a breakthrough that could boost confidence in the April 17 Geneva agreement.

Without a quick success in the badlands of eastern Ukraine, the United States and Europe could go ahead with further sanctions against Russia – a move likely to complicate the monitoring task further. The special mission, run by the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is just a few days old. Only modest gains have been recorded with some unspecified buildings “unilaterally” vacated, according to OSCE officials. Nothing more should be expected at this stage, most OSCE officials say, given the level of distrust between many parts of the east – economically depressed and especially vulnerable to the Russian script on events in Ukraine – and the Kiev government. Patience, impartiality and painstaking work aimed at building trust is what the game is all about, they say.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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