A Ukrainian soldier reloads his weapon in front of an armored personnel carrier in Donetsk Oblast on Nov. 24. © Anastasia Vlasova.
DZERZHINSK, Ukraine – Spoil tips rise as high as mountains above the horizon where, not far across the field, pro-Kremlin insurgents are amassing troops with more heavy weaponry and fighters coming from Russia.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 57th brigade at checkpoints around Dzerzhinsk, a small city near insurgent-held Horlivka in Donetsk Oblast, say a separatist offensive is imminent but they have little at their disposal to withstand it. They feel abandoned by the state, which they say has left them in the middle of nowhere in an open field without any means of survival.
Olexiy Dmytrashkovsky, a spokesman for the Ukrainian government’s anti-terrorist operation’s headquarters, dismissed these reports as false. He said by phone that the soldiers in Dzerzhinsk were sufficiently supplied with food and clothing by the army. Dmytrashkovsky said, however, that inspectors would be sent to Dzerzhinsk to check the situation.
Several soldiers said that they were unhappy with both political and military leadership, but did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“The whole General Staff should be fired,” one of them said. “And (President Petro) Poroshenko is the biggest disappointment in the whole post-Maidan period.”
He described Poroshenko’s Sept. 5 Minsk cease-fire deal as a disaster that allowed insurgents to build huge fortifications and to prepare for an offensive. A second soldier agreed, saying that they were not allowed to shoot back when they were shelled by separatists despite the cease-fire.
“(Russians) have brought so much equipment that sooner or later it has to be used,” the first soldier said. Apart from supplying weapons, Russia is moving in more and more fighters.
Given their professionalism, those on the front-line are likely to be Russian regular troops, as opposed to mercenaries, the first soldier said. He added that he had seen signs of infighting between local insurgents and Russian troops, which had been apparently shooting at each other.
The second soldier said that his unit had killed a Russian fighter with an Omsk paratroopers shoulder patch, a Chechen fighter and a man with Berkut riot police insignia when they approached a Ukrainian checkpoint.
But Ukrainian forces have few weapons to resist an assault by Russian and insurgent troops and badly need heavy military equipment and an infrared camera, the first soldier said. “We are like blind kittens at night without a camera,” he said.
The first soldier also said that the Defense Ministry had supplied almost no food and no clothing, and most of what they had had been given to them by volunteers. He added that his unit resembled a gang of 20th century anarchist leader Nestor Makhno because they wore ragtag clothing, as opposed to regular military uniforms.
Holes in summer pants, dilapidated boots and no socks used to be a common sight at Ukrainian checkpoints surrounding Dzerzhinsk, say volunteers who supply the army. They also say that soldiers did not have enough underwear and lacked binoculars before volunteers supplied them.
The first soldier said the situation contrasted sharply with the Interior Ministry’s National Guard, which is supplied relatively well. “Compared with the National Guard, we’re like a stepchild or ugly duckling,” he said.
The Mistral-class assault warship Sevastopol (L), the second of two mammoth Mistral helicopter carriers, is docked on Nov. 21, 2014 near the Russian training ship, Smolny (R), in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire after being taken overnight from its dry dock. © AFP
France suspended indefinitely on Tuesday delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier warships to Russia, citing conflict in eastern Ukraine where the West accuses Moscow of fomenting separatism.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told RIA news agency Russia would not for now pursue claims against France over non-delivery, but expected the contract to be fulfilled.
“We are satisfied with everything, it’s the French who are not satisfied. We will wait patiently,” Borisov was quoted as saying. “Everything is laid down in the contract, we will act in accordance with the letter of the contract as all civilized people do.”
France has been under pressure for months from its Western allies to scrap the 1.2 billion euro ($1.58 billion) contract, but faces potential compensation claims if it breaches terms. Suspension of contracts is a sensitive issue at a time when France is finalizing other military deals.
“The President of the Republic considers that the situation in the east of Ukraine still does not permit the delivery of the first BPC (helicopter carrying and command vessel),” said a statement from President Francois Hollande’s office.
“He has therefore decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, examination of the request for the necessary authorization to export the first BCP to the Russian Federation.”
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/STEPHANE MAHE
The United Nations says over 4,300 people have been killed in a pro-Russian separatist insurrection in eastern Ukraine which the West says Moscow has promoted. Russia for its part denies any involvement but accuses the Ukrainian military of using indiscriminate violence against civilians.
The proposed is meant to silence or force into exile anyone advocating violent jihad in the UK or waging it outside..
British Home Secretary, Theresa May
Nico Hines, The Daily Beast.
LONDON — Britain has had enough: the government will announce radical plans to end centuries of free speech on Wednesday in an unprecedented terror crackdown that would force Internet companies to monitor users; restrict the movement of suspects and ban extremist speakers from public forums.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said the security services had foiled 40 plots to kill thousands of people in the last ten years, including the attempted assassination of an ambassador, plans to blow up the stock exchange, plots to bring down several flights and gun attacks that might have resembled the assault on a Nairobi shopping mall last year.
After years of bitter feuding within the government, the Prime Minister’s patience finally has snapped. The voice of a British ISIS terrorist calling on “brothers” in Western countries to commit domestic atrocities has helped to convince senior officials that concerns about civil liberties and freedom of speech can no longer be allowed to interfere with security operations.
If the measures are passed by Parliament, a raft of institutions will be forced to attempt to prevent radicalization actively for the first time. Universities, prisons, schools and local councils will be legally required to monitor those in their care and try to interdict extremist speakers and would-be terror recruiters.
Throughout its 800-year history, Cambridge University has guarded jealously its absolute right to free speech. After an investigation into extremists on British university campuses last year, a spokeswoman defiantly told me: ”There’s complete freedom for students to invite who they want.”
That freedom would be ended by Conservative government proposals, which will require speakers to be vetted by the university. Government ministers would have the power to overrule the university and obtain court orders to stop speakers addressing students if they felt there was a risk of radicalization.
Human rights groups said the measures were “draconian” and counter-productive. “Politicians resort to high talk and rushed legislation in an attempt to look tough in the face of terrorism,” said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty. “Another chilling recipe for injustice and resentment by closing down the open society you seek to promote.”
A former government security advisor told The Daily Beast that senior Conservative Party figures had been split over the level of intervention and severity of the curbs on freedom of speech. Ultimately, as this source put it, those who wish to “drain the swamp” defeated those who would wait for the “crocodiles to reach the boat.”
May, the tough Home Secretary who is favorite to succeed David Cameron as party leader, said there was now no alternative but to tackle potential terrorists before they acted. ”This legislation is important, the substance is right, the time is right and the way in which it has been developed is right,” she said. ”It is not a knee-jerk response to a sudden perceived threat. It is a properly considered, thought-through set of proposals that will help to keep us safe at a time of very significant danger.”
”We are engaged in a struggle that is fought on many fronts and in many forms,” said May. “It is a struggle that will go on for many years. And the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been—we must have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”
As well as restricting freedom of speech, the sweeping new powers would also curtail the free movement of suspected terrorists, who could be stopped from leaving the country, or from returning to the country or even forced to live in in a sort of internal exile away from their associates.
Police and Border Force officers will be granted new powers to seize passports and tickets from British citizens at ports and airports if they believe they are traveling to engage in terror-related activities. British citizens would also be barred from returning to the country if the authorities suspect they have been involved in terrorism abroad, effectively leaving them stateless.
Suspected jihadis who have been allowed to return to Britain are likely to be the subject of toughened monitoring measures, which can force them to move to another part of the country, live at a specified address, and even ban them from using the Internet.