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#Minsk talks at impasse as separatists demand concessions while Russian army strikes #RussiainvadedUkraine

by Ian BatesonKatya Gorchinskaya.
Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei warns that Ukraine needs to change its strategy in response to Russia's open military aggression. © ATO press centerDefense Minister Valeriy Heletei warns that Ukraine needs to change its strategy in response to Russia’s open military aggression. © ATO press center.

The Sept. 1 trilateral talks in Minsk have so far failed to yield results. Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – a party participating in negotiations and only international player – said the situation is currently all but impossible to resolve.

“We can truly imagine some very dark scenarios now,” OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter told a Swiss TV station, adding “the risks of escalation are very, very numerous.”

Ukraine, representatives of the self-proclaimed republics in the country’s east and the OSCE have agreed to meet again on Sept. 5 for the next round of talks. They are set to discuss a potential ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, according to Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

But that is about the only agreement this diplomatic effort achieved.

Prior to the meeting of the Contact Group, Russian-supported separatists demanded extensive concessions in exchange for keeping the territory they control nominally within the Ukrainian state.

Separatists announced terms under which they would stay within Ukraine, but with extensive autonomy, Interfax reported.

The representatives of the separatist republics demanded special autonomous status for their republics, for the Russian language and special economic status that would allow them to join the Russian led Customs Union.

Separatists leaders have also demanded amnesty for their fighters, special status for their military units, and the right to appoint judges and prosecutors. Ukraine would be responsible for rebuilding, but have little say in how things would be run.

The terms are highly unappealing to the Ukrainians government, but come at a time when Ukraine is hard pressed to find a diplomatic solution as Ukrainian forces lose ground following pro-Russian forces entering the previously peaceful southern Donetsk Region from Russia and push towards the port city of Mariupol.

“This is an initial stage. It can hardly end with something drastically big,” said Purgin.

In the contact group Ukraine is represented by former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia by its ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, and the OSCE by its chairperson-in-office on Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini. The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic has its chairman of the Supreme Council Valery Karyakin in Minsk to participate in consultations.

The Minsk talks come as Ukraine accuses Russia of a full-scale invasion. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei said that Russia has lost the so-called “hybrid war” with Ukraine, and has opted for a full-scale invasion. He said Ukraine needs to change its military strategy in response to Russia’s move.

“The operation to liberate the east of Ukraine from terrorists is over. We need to urgently build defense from Russia, which is trying to not only strengthen its position on the territories that had been previously occupied by the terrorists, but advance onto new territories,” Heletei wrote on his Facebook page.

Another government official, who spoke to the Kyiv Post on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Russia has brought between 10,000 to 20,000 troops into Ukraine in the past week.

“The forces that were stationed across the border, they’re now attacking,” he said.  According to him it took Ukraine time to realize exactly how many troops Russia had brought in because Ukraine has no satellite intelligence capabilities.

President Petro Poroshenko spent much of the day in meetings about the situation, including with Defense Minister Heletei. His statements about the need for new tactics was issued in conjunction with the National Expert Council on Defense, an advisory body made up of military experts.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia's war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Their statement explained how the government’s strategy has to change in response to new challenges, warning that in the short term the situation is bound to get worse. The council said Ukraine needs to create a brand new system of national governance suitable for war time, which would include the Cabinet of Ministers functioning 24/7.

The council said military command has to be concentrated in the hands of army professionals, rather than shared with the State Security Service, as is now the case.

The country should also brace itself for full-scale Russian aggression, and prepare to defend itself, according to the council. That includes the use of military aviation and bombing of military and civil objects across the whole country, not just the east.

“Special attention needs to be paid to prepare for military action, including fighting intelligence and subversive groups of the enemy,” the council said. It also recommended moving back snap parliamentary election.

The council concludes the only way to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression would be to “strike the aggressor so as to cause high human casualties within his armed forces.”

Kyiv Post.

‘If I Want, I Will Take Kiev in Two Weeks’, Putin Warns EU’s Barroso #Russia #Putin #Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin has issued a threat to outgoing European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he wanted, 1 Italian media reports have said. 

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Russian leader made the belligerent statement in a phone call with the outgoing EU leader, who is set to be replaced by Luxembourg’s former prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

Despite the escalating tensions between all parties involved, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told negotiators in the Belarusian capital of Minsk that an “immediate ceasefire” is Russia’s priority.

However, both Ukraine and European Union member states accuse Russia of supporting the rebels fighting Kiev’s forces with military supplies and personnel in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of “direct and open aggression” in the eastern rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian forces have now withdrawn from Luhansk airport in the restive eastern region after firefights with pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine’s security council confirmed that the troops had withdrawn “in an organised manner”.

The reported exchange between Putin and Barroso comes as fears grow in Kazakhstan over Moscow’s rhetoric towards the country, following Putin’s claim that “Kazakhs never had any statehood” and the country was simply “created”.

In response, Nazarbayev warned that Kazakhstan may leave the Russian-led Customs Union, an economic coalition which includes Belarus, if it feels that its independence is threatened in any way by Moscow.

“Kazakhstan will not be part of organisations that pose a threat to our independence,” he told the Kazakh television station Khabar.

The massing of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and reports of Russian incursions into Ukraine have put a spotlight on Moscow’s intentions in the post-Soviet states bordering the member nations of the Nato military alliance.

UN agencies estimate that more than 2,600 people have been killed in the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military since April.

Yahoo News UK.

  1. What Putin is really saying is ‘he can do whatever he damn well pleases because the west are too cowardly to stand up to him’ 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation #Russia #RussiainvadedUkraine

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian FederationComment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the conclusions of the European Council regarding Ukraine.

1 September 2014

The analysis of a new series of “conclusions” adopted by the European Council on 30 August has shown yet again that EU member-states are still persistently and unconditionally backing the Kiev authorities.

The hysteria whipped up in the run-up to European Council’s meeting around the mythical “Russian aggression in Ukraine” has yielded fruit. Building on absolutely groundless allegations regarding the presence of Russian military forces on the Ukrainian territory and unreasonably laying the blame on Moscow for the developments on the ground, Brussels refuses to acknowledge the true causes behind the dramatic developments in southeastern Ukraine instead of promoting an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and comprehensive national dialogue between the conflicting parties.

At the same time, it is striking that the assessment of the humanitarian situation in this Ukrainian region, where the actions of the Kiev authorities resulted in a full-fledged humanitarian disaster, the number of civilian casualties is growing and the number of refugees arriving in Russia is approaching one million, is practically absent from the European Council’s conclusions.

It is regrettable that the European Council, in spite of the interests of its member-states, takes its lead from the countries seeking to implement geopolitical schemes aimed at making confrontation with Russia increasingly acute. Russia still hopes that the EU will be able to gain an independent perspective on the situation free from 20th century stereotypes and engage in constructive efforts to facilitate a settlement of Ukraine’s internal conflict.

If new anti-Russian sanctions are adopted, Russia reserves the right to take retaliatory measures in order to protect its legitimate interests.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Official site.

Azov Battalion fighters pledge to defend Mariupol to the end #Ukraine #Russia #RussiainvadedUkraine

 Oksana Grytsenko.“Fighting with a Kalashnikov in this war is like (fighting) with a fly swatter,“Fighting with a Kalashnikov in this war is like (fighting) with a fly swatter,” said “the Trojan,” a deputy commander of the Azov Battalion. © Kostyantyn Chernichkin

URZUF, Ukraine -Since Russian tanks appeared in Novoazovsk on Aug. 27, residents of Mariupol, a major port city in the southern Donetsk Oblast, have been bracing for an assault.

Activists have been digging trenches while workers from the local metallurgical plant have been welding anti-tank obstacles.  Meanwhile, fighters in the local volunteer Azov Battalion have been preparing for battle.

“We have the strength, skill and fighting spirit to resist Russia,” said Oleg Odnorozhenko, 39, the battalion’s deputy commander whose nom-de-guerre, “the doctor,” comes from his doctoral degree in history.

The battalion is primarily made up of far-right activists from eastern Ukraine, who have kept order in the city of 500,000 since pushing out Russian-backed separatists on June 18.

The battalion’s headquarters is located at the summer residence of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s elder son in Urzuf, a town near Mariupol.

The walls of the mansion have been painted with a traditional floral motif, and armed Ukrainian cossacks have been painted on the gates with a Ukrainian nationalist symbol between them.

On Aug. 31, the Kyiv Post was escorted in an armored vehicle to their training facility that also functions as a hospital.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia's war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Fighters were walking the grounds that had previously been an evergreen park on the Azov seashore before being repurposed as a military base.

There is a large brightly lit room with the black-and-yellow Azov battalion flag on the wall the Kyiv Post met with Vadim, 34, the battalion’s deputy commander who goes by the nom-de-guerre “the Trojan” and does not identify himself for security reasons. He said several lines of fortifications were currently being constructed around Mariupol.

Vadim, however, says they are desperate for the heavy arms they have been demanding from the government for months.

“Fighting with a Kalashnikov in this war is like (fighting) with a fly swatter. Accuracy, speed and caliber decide everything,” he said. “This is a war of artillery and tanks,” he added.

The Azov battalion includes some 400 fighters,and they say they pay more attention to military training than other pro-Ukrainian paramilitary groups. Here they receive 1-2 months of training rather than several weeks.

Many of the fighters are also members of the far-right Patriots of Ukraine and Ukrainian Social-Nationalist Assembly, and say they learned how to use guns at training sessions held in forests years ago.

“We realized the danger posed by Russia and understood that sooner or later we would have to fight,” Odnorozhenko said.

They first emerged as a small partisan pro-Ukrainian force in Donbas known as the “little black men” back in April, taking control of small towns and villages in the southern Donetsk Oblast.

They saw fierce fighting in Marianka and Ilovaisk and say dozens of their members were killed. For strategic reasons, however, they decline to name the exact number of fighters they have lost or the scope of their armaments.

“the Trojan,” a deputy commander of the Azov Battalion. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

They are happy, however, to share evidence they say proves they have been fighting regular Russian troops in recent days.

Vadim says they captured an armored vehicle from the Russian army as well as two Russian soldiers last week.

Though they say they are facing Russian soldiers, Azov fighters say they are against the Kremlin, not the Russian people.

“We are not enemies with Russians, these are all lies,” Vadim said, adding that it will be a bitter victory for whoever wins the war.

Russian troops managed to advance to the south over the weekend, taking the town of Komsomotske according to the Agence France-Presse.

Azov’s commander Andriy Biletsky said their next target will be Volnovakha, another town to the north of Mariupol, in an interview with the Inter television channel on Aug. 31.

“They (the Russians) will attack not from Novoazovsk but from the north, where the situation is more complicated. They want to split (Ukrainian) groups by attacking Volnovakha,” he said.

Now members of the Azov Battalion brace to fight back an assault on Mariupol, saying that the loss of this large and strategically important metallurgical city located on the coast of Azov Sea could lead to the loss of the entire Donbas.

Vadim, born in Kharkiv, who worked as a business crisis manager in Kyiv, said the loss of Mariupol would be the same as “the loss of motherland” for him and he is ready to fight to the end for this city.

“Many people love their motherland, but few are willing to die for it,” he said.

Kyiv Post.

Boris Nemtsov: Why does Putin wage war with Ukraine? #Putin #RussiainvadedUkraine

Boris Nemtsov.Putin's Soviet RussiaPutin’s Soviet Russia. ©

At first glance, and from the point of view of a sane person, the war between Russia and Ukraine is some sort of a nightmare, a madness that only brings grief, conflicts and problems to all.

Half a year ago this scenario seemed unreal. It seems that it would take an enemy of both Russia and Ukraine to make enemies out of two peoples with centuries of common history.

However, current events indicate that the most nightmarish, the most bloody scenario of fratricidal war is already developing. This is not our war, this is not your war, this is not the war of 20-year old paratroopers sent out there. This is Vladimir Putin’s war.

Why does he need it? Well, he has openly answered this question himself. “We need to start negotiations about politically organizing a society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine.”

He made this statement only now, but the sending of saboteurs-separatists, weapons, and a persistent desire of Putin to force Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to sit at the negotiation table with pro-Putin militants, many of whom are Russian citizens – all of this betrayed his intentions long before the public confession.

The words of Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, which followed those of Putin, that Putin was misunderstood about the statehood of the east of Ukraine, should not be taken seriously. He talks nonsense all the time. Things like “Putin is married to Russia.” So, once again, Putin himself said: “We need to start negotiations about a political organization of the society and statehood in south-east of Ukraine.” End of quote.

Until lately the goal of Ukraine’s dissection has not been set publicly, but instead replaced with the idea of so-called federalization. Kremlin’s hypocrisy lies in its attempt to impose on Ukraine and its people something that actual Russian citizens are deprived of because Russia itself has not had any sort of federal state for a long time, since 2004.

Feeble attempts to advocate for the interests of the regions – primarily for the financial ones – are suppressed in a cruel way.

So, Putin is trying to dissect Ukraine and create in the east of the country a puppet state, Novorossiya, that is full economically and politically controlled by the Kremlin.

It’s crucial for his clan to control metallurgy in the east of Ukraine, as well as its military-industrial complex. Moreover, southeastern Ukraine is rich in shale gas which would create real competition for the business of Putin’s Gazprom.

A disastrous tourism season in Crimea, with a sharp decline in the number of tourists, unheard of price hikes for goods and services, a shortage of drinking water, is pushing Putin’s regime towards the annexation of southeastern Ukraine to create a ground corridor to the peninsula.

To achieve these goals, Putin brought in his troops, including paratroopers and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s men. This is why he supplies weapons and heavy artillery to the east, and this is why he doomed Russia to isolation and sanctions.

These are the paranoid goals for which Russians and Ukrainians are dying while Russia itself is sinking into lies, violence, obscurantism and imperial hysteria.

It’s easy to brush it off by saying that he is insane. Many people occasionally think so, including this author. But there is also another explanation.

Through his bloody actions though he his fomenting a fratricidal war; one can see his main goal – preservation of personal power and money at any cost. Before the war his popularity rating was crawling down slowly but surely.

Despite censorship, little by little the society started to understand that those in power are greedy and amoral people whose main goal is personal enrichment.

The Party of Thieves (Editor’s note: This is a common derogatory reference to Yedinaya Rossia, the ruling party of Russia) was losing its position and needed a large-scale shakeup, which would reverse the trend and restore popularity and trust.

Ukraine became an example of an anti-criminal revolution, which overthrew a thieving president. Oh so you dared to get out onto the street and throw off a president? Ukraine needs to be punished for it to make sure that no Russian would gets these thoughts.

Moreover, Ukraine chose the European way, which implies the rule of law, democracy and change of power. Ukraine’s success on this way is a direct threat to Putin’s power because he chose the opposite course – a lifetime in power, filled with arbitrariness and corruption.

Now, to make sure he does not end up behind bars for violating the constitution of the Russian Federation because sending troops to a foreign state without the approval of the Federation Council of Russia, as well as the violation of Russia’s international obligations on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Putin does not leave himself any maneuvers except to stay in power until his death.

So his behavior looks like madness, but in fact it’s a cold strategy for life-long despotism.

Often supporters of the idea of Russian World (Editor’s note: This idea implies the existence of a trans-national community united by its love of Russia, its culture and language) explain Putin’s aggression in Ukraine by saying that post-Soviet republics, including Ukraine, is the zone of vital interests for Russia.

Instead of showing the world an example of rule of law, security, development and high quality of life, implanted into the minds of people is the concept of raw force and threats. However, he achieves the opposite result.

Ukraine is already heading for NATO, even though before the war it had a non-aligned status. The actual North Atlantic Treaty has grown stronger, the bond between America and Europe has become more durable than before. Moreover, Putin’s aggression consolidated the Ukrainian people, and the fight for independence and territorial integrity became the national idea.

In other words, none of Putin’s goals have been achieved. The opposite is happening.

(Boris Nemtsov is a top opposition figure in Russia, and leader of Solidarnost, a liberal political force).

Kyiv Post.