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Two Ukrainian troops killed in battles with insurgents

Intense clashes between Ukrainian military forces and pro-Russia insurgents raged in the eastern region of Donetsk on June 3, killing at least two Ukrainian troops and injuring dozens a day after heavy fighting and an explosion in neighboring Luhansk Oblast claimed at least 12 lives.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the military actions at the edge of insurgent-held Sloviansk and in the nearby village of Semenivka are an “active offensive phase” of the government’s anti-terrorism operation, which began in April.

“A very intense exchange of fire is underway. Our armored personnel carriers have been hit by the terrorists’ grenade launcher several times near Semenivka. But they have withstood the attack. Well done, [APR] designers!” Avakov wrote on Facebook.

But Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s anti-terrorism operation, said that two servicemen were killed and 42 wounded, some critically, amid the fierce fighting. “The active phase of the counterterrorism operation is continuing near Krasny Lyman and in Semenivka,” he told reporters on June 3.

Head of the Ukrainian Center for Military and Political Studies and Information Resistance group coordinator Dmytro Tymchuk reported earlier on June 3 that one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and another 13 were wounded when their convoy was attacked by the insurgents while moving south toward Sloviansk from Izyum.

“An armored personnel carrier of the Ukrainian security forces was damaged in the attack,” he added.

Insurgent leaders confirmed that Ukrainian forces were advancing toward Sloviansk, telling Russia’s RIA Novosti they were “shelling” the city and “shooting from an APC [armored personnel carrier] and automatic weapons.”

Avakov said that Ukrainian forces destroyed the insurgents’ roadblocks and engineer installations near the village of Semenivka, about 20 miles south of Sloviansk, around 7:45 a.m. as they pushed onward.

The interior minister urged the civilian population of Sloviansk, as well as those in neighboring Kramatorsk and Krasny Lyman, where fighting had also broken out, to stay indoors and “refrain from approaching the terrorists’ positions in order to avoid risks to their life.”

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted the self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, as saying that insurgents there downed a Ukrainian fighter jet and a helicopter.

“About half an hour ago we managed to bring down the Ukrainian army’s Su-25. One helicopter, several tanks and one armored personnel carrier of the Ukrainian army were destroyed as well,” Ponomarev told the news agency.

In this video, purportedly filmed in Sloviansk on June 3 and published to YouTube, Ukrainian military helicopters buzz over the city and release flares to ward off surface-to-air missiles.

But Seleznev told Interfax that the report wasn’t true. “Information that Ukrainian planes and helicopters have been shot down are not true. Yesterday one of the helicopters received holes from small arms fire,” he said, adding that the separatist fighters in Sloviansk “are being blocked.”

“If they refuse to lay down their arms they will be destroyed,” he said. “Our job is to establish peace in the region and this we will do.”

As part of the anti-terrorism operation on June 3, Ukrainian forces terminated an “insurgents’ camp” outside Severodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, according to acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.

“This morning a large number of terrorists were eliminated in the camp, which they secretly set up in the industrial area near Severodonetsk. Units involved in the ‘anti-terrorist operation’ are now taking active measures to liberate Severodonetsk,” Turchynov said at a parliamentary session on Tuesday.

Ukrainian air forces carried out airstrikes on insurgent roadblocks there and attacked their units in the Luhansk region, Turchynov added.

“It means that the attempt to seize the border guard unit on the outskirts of Luhansk has been unblocked,” he said.

The restart of the “active phase” of Ukraine’s counterterrorism operation comes a day after some 500 heavily armed pro-Russia insurgents attacked a border guard headquarters in Mirny, Luhansk Oblast, wounding 10 servicemen, at least four critically. Five insurgents were killed and at least seven others suffered injuries in the fighting.

Also on June 2, a blast at an administrative building in Luhansk held by separatists claimed several lives. A health official for the Luhansk region told Russia’s Interfax news agency that at least seven people had been confirmed dead in the blast. The self-proclaimed health minister of the Luhansk People’s Republic was among those killed.

Firemen climb to the Regional State building seized by the separatists after an explosion in Ukrainian city of Luhansk on June 2, 2014.Firemen climb to the Regional State building seized by the separatists after an explosion in Ukrainian city of Luhansk on June 2, 2014.

Separatist leaders from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic claimed that Ukrainian fighter jets sent in to support the border guards in their fight had responded by dropping cluster bombs on separatist-occupied administrative buildings in central Luhansk.

But Ukrainian authorities denied carrying out an air strike on the buildings, saying the blast was likely caused by a misdirected surface-to-air rocket fired by the insurgent side.

However, a report released on June 3 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission (SMM) to Ukraine said that the explosion was likely caused by air strikes.

“On 2 June, shortly after 15:00 [hours], rockets hit the occupied regional administration building. Based on the SMM’s limited observation these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft. The number of casualties is unknown,” reads the OSCE report.

Closed-circuit camera footage posted on YouTube shows the moment of the blast at the Luhansk regional state government building.

Another video shows the gruesome aftermath in which the mangled bodies of several people caught in the explosion are strewn about the scorched earth outside the government building.

181 killed at hands of Kremlin-backed insurgents

Ukraine’s acting Prosecutor General Oleg Makhnitsky said at a press conference in Kyiv on June 3 that a total of 181 people, including 59 servicemen, have been killed in clashes with Kremlin-backed insurgents in Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts since the beginning of the conflict in April.

Another 239 suffered injuries, he said.

Meanwhile, Selezniov, the anti-terrorist operation spokesperson, said that Ukrainian security forces law in the Donetsk region alone have neutralized over 300 militants.

“The militants’ ranks are thinning. According to early reports, over 300 militants have been eliminated,” Selezniov told reporters on June 3.

Kyiv Post

NATO chief wants Crimea to be given back

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance still considered Crimea a territory of Ukraine and urged Russia to give the territory back.NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance still considered Crimea a territory of Ukraine and urged Russia to give the territory back.

Brussels – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance still considered Crimea a territory of Ukraine and urged Russia to give the territory back.

Kyiv Post

NATO struggles with defense stance as US raises pressure

NATO is preparing a Sept. 4-5 summit in Wales as it grapples with differences on how to reassure its eastern members.NATO is preparing a Sept. 4-5 summit in Wales as it grapples with differences on how to reassure its eastern members.

NATO defense ministers struggled to find a response to Russia’s Ukraine incursion, hemmed in by financial constraints, U.S. demands that Europe raise defense spending and a desire not to provoke the Kremlin.

“I am troubled that many nations appear content for their defense spending to continue declining,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told his counterparts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 28 member states in Brussels today, according to an e-mailed text of his comments.

NATO is preparing a Sept. 4-5 summit in Wales as it grapples with differences on how to reassure its eastern members and prepares to draw down its Afghanistan mission by the end of this year.

The alliance is divided with Poland and the three Baltic states, all of which share borders with Russia, seeking a bigger NATO military presence on their territory. Germany and France are leading opposition to any swift moves to create permanent bases in former Soviet satellites. NATO has beefed up Baltic air policing, yet much military assistance to the alliance’s eastern flank has been bilateral.

The U.S. in April deployed 600 paratroopers for that it termed “training rotations” in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It also sent F-16 warplanes and crews to Poland to “provide a persistent presence” in the country and training for Poland’s air force, a U.S. government statement said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters today that Russia’s “illegal aggression against Ukraine” shows the alliance faces a growing array of unpredictable security threats.

U.S. Spending

President Barack Obama, visiting Warsaw today at the start of a European tour, said the U.S. will bolster its military presence in Europe through a $1 billion program in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and stoking unrest in Ukraine.  (more…)

Fog of war falls heavy after violence in eastern Ukraine region

A pro-Russia militant shoots from a loft of a residential building at borderguards defending the Federal Border Headquarters building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on June 2, 2014.A pro-Russia militant shoots from a loft of aresidential building at border guards defending the Federal Border Headquarters building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on June 2, 2014. 

LUHANSK Ukraine (Reuters) – Stepping over shrapnel strewn across a leafy park in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, pro-Russian rebel leader Vasily Nikitin gives his version of what happened in the few seconds of violence that killed eight people in broad daylight.

He says the sharp, twisted pieces of metal he and others collected from the grass, off the street, from behind the tires of a blood-smeared white Nissan Maxima is proof the Ukrainian army shot unguided S-8KO cluster bombs into the park and a nearby rebel headquarters, causing an explosion.

In the worst violence yet in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province, which included a shootout between rebels and border guards, Kiev said rebels caused the blast when they launched a heat-seeking rocket at a Ukrainian plane that instead zeroed in on the occupied regional administration building.

In the remoter parts of eastern Ukraine and under the fog of war, truth often takes collateral damage.

The violence has caused Moscow to step up its rhetoric against Kiev only days ahead of a planned meeting between Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko and U.S. President Barack Obama and other western leaders this week.

Stepping over the nearly 20 pock marks in the park grounds, sidewalk and nearby street, Nikitin, who carries the title of prime minister of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, points down at the debris-strewn ground.

“The shooting started here in the center of the park and continued the whole way to the administration building. The shrapnel simply cut through everything and everyone here,” he said, wearing a black bullet-proof vest.

Since the beginning of the armed conflict, Luhansk has remained in the shadow of its richer neighbor Donetsk, the birthplace of the country’s richest son Rinat Akhmetov and of former president Viktor Yanukovich, whose leanings towards Russia prompted street protests that toppled him and laid bare Ukraine’s East-West divide.

Luhansk, a much poorer region that represents the most porous area of Ukraine’s nearly 2,000-kilometre-long border with Russia, is important for its very remoteness, which leaves it vulnerable to misinformation from either side.  (more…)

UK summer flash floods to become more frequent, study shows

Met Office and Newcastle University study is first to draw direct link between climate change and rise in summer downpours.

Flood damage in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004.Flood damage in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

Flash flooding in summer is likely to become much more frequent across the UK as a result of climate change, with potentially devastating results in vulnerable areas, according to new research.

The study, published in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change, is the first to draw a direct link between climate change and an increase in summer downpours.

The research, a result of a collaboration between the Met Office and Newcastle University, used climate change computer models and standard weather prediction models of the type used for short-term weather forecasts. It found that summers would be drier overall, but punctuated by more extreme downpours.

These can have a much worse effect than the steady rainfall typical of winter, because the dry land is less capable of absorbing water, and when too much falls in a short period it runs off, causing flash floods of the type that struck Boscastle in 2004, one of the worst examples of sudden localised flooding in recent years.

Whether any given area is subject to flash flooding will depend heavily on its topography, such as the proximity of uplands and rivers, but vulnerable areas are likely to experience far more incidents than they did in the past.

It is not possible to say exactly how many more floods are likely, but the researchers said instances of particularly heavy summer rainfall – defined as more than 28mm in an hour – would be about five times more probable.

Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office, the lead author of the study, said that the research was groundbreaking in using a high-resolution weather forecasting model to translate the likely effects of climate change into a detailed prediction of future UK summer weather.

“Until now, we haven’t been able to do it in this way,” she said. “This should help people to understand what is likely to happen in the summer in future. It’s very important that we’ve detected this signal for heavier downpours in the UK. It’s now for policymakers to decide what to do about it.”

Some of the worst results could still be a few decades away, but the effects are already being felt and are likely to grow more severe, according to the models. But Kendon said more accurate predictions would depend on more scientific research being undertaken.

Summer rainfall is different to that typical of winter, when long-lasting steady bouts of heavy rain are common. These can cause their own flooding problems, as seen early this year when heavy rain caused widespread devastation in the UK with thousands of people forced to flee their homes.

Climate models suggest heavier winter rainfall for the UK. Summer downpours, such as those seen in 2012 when heavy rainfall followed a long period of drought, with disastrous results, are harder to predict but can take a greater toll as they are more sudden, and crops are ruined and tourism disrupted.

Kendon said: “It’s the hourly rainfall rates that you look at in summer.” The rain tends to fall in shorter but more intense bursts, caused by convective storms, but this has been difficult for climate models to simulate, because they lack the ability to home in on such brief events. It took the Met Office supercomputer, one of the most powerful in the world, nine months to run the necessary simulations.

The Guardian

Editors Note: This will either push insurance premiums through the roof or else make it impossible to get any kind of insurance cover for your property.


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