Tag Archives: Crimea

John F. Hall Jr.: What next? #RussiainvadedUkraine #Putin #Russia #Ukraine

John F. Hall Jr.Ukrainian servicemen rest near their military equipment inside a military camp in the Donetsk region, on August 29, 2014.Ukrainian servicemen rest near their military equipment inside a military camp in the Donetsk region, on August 29, 2014. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia on August 29 to halt its “illegal” military actions in Ukraine, accusing it of a “dangerous” attempt to destabilise its western neighbour. The conflict raging in eastern Ukraine has killed nearly 2,600 people, the United Nations said on August 29, voicing concern about atrocities committed by armed groups and the increasing involvement of foreign fighters. AFP PHOTO / OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK © AFP

Russia has invaded Ukraine. Again. This time, it’s clear to everyone. The creative and patently absurd denials which we all have heard from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russia’s United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, regarding Russia’s support for the separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas, Russia’s complicity in the wholesale massacre of innocent civilians in the downing of MH-17, and now Russia’s undeniable invasion of Ukraine proper, all reside in the dustbin of credible international discourse. They are liars. They lie with impunity. The intrinsic deception of Russia’s leadership is both pathological and inalienable to them. They know no other way. But we believe that others know a different way.

We remain hopeful that other nations and their leaders still know how to lead with integrity. At least, we hope so. They just seem unwilling to lead now, when it matters most. Russia is not solely to blame for the awful, deepening crisis in Ukraine, of course. So are the United States, the European Union, Japan, NATO, and Ukraine, itself. Their collective response to Putin’s aggression has been too timid, too measured, and — obviously — too badly ineffective.

Today, only because of our collective ineptitudes, Putin’s army, his mercenaries, and his stooges in Ukraine advance, persist, and wreak havoc against any just and peaceful conclusion to his original, ill-considered gambit in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin threatened the security of Europe long ago, when he invaded Georgia six years ago, and then again when he stole Ukraine’s Crimea earlier this year, but the West sat on its hands in both instances and waited weeks before deciding upon even the most rudimentary, incremental, and limited sanctions, which have proven unsurprisingly ineffective. Putin has only solidified his Crimean and Georgian land-grabs during his reign.

What, after all, was the West’s response to Putin’s most recent conduct of a Duma session in Ukraine’s Crimea on Aug. 14? It was nothing. Not a peep.

Despite the increasingly-muted bleatings of the United States and others, the West has clearly now ceded Crimea and Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions to Russia, regardless of Georgia’s and Ukraine’s legal borders and their sovereignty. Just as there were no meaningful penalties imposed upon Russia for the annexation of Crimea, the July 17 downing of Malaysian flight MH 17, and the August invasion of Russian “humanitarian” convoys in Ukraine — which we all knew to be a diversionary tactic and a joke, there appears to be no true penalty in the offing for Russia’s most recent, boldfaced invasion of Ukraine . . . except for the penalty of death and deprivation suffered by those innocents in the path of Putin’s war-machine.

Putin’s troops have now opened a third front in Ukraine, with all of the trauma that reality implies.

For avoidance of doubt, it means that innocent Ukrainians and over-taxed Ukrainian soldiers are now fighting — face-to-face — a pure Russian enemy with advanced Russian weaponry to the rear, while concomitantly fighting Russian-sponsored terrorists with advanced Russian weaponry at the front.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Europe, Japan, Australia, and the United States — who always congratulate themselves as the guardians of peace and justice on the planet — do nothing. Not a damned thing. Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine is now being met with nothing more than condemnation and regret. What it should be met with is concerted action. Now.

Here is what the world’s pretenders to peace and justice need to do — and do now, if they hope to avoid the global conflict that is soon coming at Putin’s hand:

  1. Call-out lies as lies. Name wrong as wrong. Do not yield to the sophisticated Russian propaganda machinery that equates Russia’s invasion of its peaceful, non-threatening neighbors with the West’s proportional responses to the brutal acts of leaders and warlords in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan, which have serially threatened and exterminated their own populace, their neighbors, and innocents. Ukraine has never threatened either its own people or its neighbors. Russia, in contrast, invaded a peaceful neighbor that presented no threat to itself nor to anyone else. There’s a difference. Russia’s propagandistic comparisons would be laughable, except for the fact that so many more Ukrainian innocents are now dying at Putin’s hand. Call a lie a lie.
  2. Implement truly-meaningful, painful sanctions against Russia that also hurt the Allies’ own industries and financial institutions. The “painless” targeted sanctions by the United States, the EU, and Japan haven’t worked. Recognize that discomfiting fact, and move-on. Lead your nations in enduring truly-meaningful sanctions that DO work, including in the arms and financial sectors. Show true leadership, even when it hurts at home. That’s why you are leaders.
  3. Reduce Russia’s economy and its ability to wage war against its peaceful neighbors to ruin. Freeze Russia’s assets globally. Put Russia on the same international financial footing as North Korea. See how Putin and his oligarchs can deal with that, for once. This will be especially hard for the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and others, but it’s far better than what the future portends if Putin is successful in his current expansionist effort. If we believe that if we all just give Putin what he wants in Ukraine, he’ll be satiated, then we’re both mistaken and unaware of history. Tyrants are never satisfied. Tyrants must be disarmed and exposed. Do it.
  4. Russia’s out of the G-20. The Group of 20 is a collective of peaceful industrialized nations. Russia cannot now be counted among them. This is a no-brainier.
  5. Provide sufficient arms and training to the Ukrainian forces fighting an overwhelming Russian regular military. Do it now. This crucial aid was needed yesterday, but tomorrow will do. The Ukrainian army needs the very best equipment and training that the Free World can provide to it. That’s a lot to ask, but it’s overdue.
  6. Provide the vital financial support and guarantees to Ukraine that it needs, so that it can pay its bills while it gets its house in-order and fights an uneven war on two fronts. That’s also a lot to ask, but $5 billion in financial aid is cheaper than millions of lives sacrificed on the altar of freedom for a second time in a single generation.
  7. Publicize Putin’s corruption and the corruption of his oligarchs. As stated previously, tyrants must be exposed. Let the world know, through all media, of the rape of Russia’s economy by its leaders. Vladimir Putin’s fundamental need for holding-on to power is premised upon the uncomfortable truth that he and his cronies have amassed millions on the backs of Russia’s people, its industries, and its enterprises. It’s time that this fact was known, worldwide.

If Western leaders won’t do these things, and do them now, then they will face a much greater challenge in the future, one which will require the lives of tens of millions of their citizens to defeat. There is a choice now to be made among the leaders of the West and those who profess to champion democracy and freedom in the world:

Either suck it up now, name truths as truths and lies as lies, provide Ukraine with the arms that it requires to defend itself, and suffer the impacts of truly-meaningful sanctions that will undoubtedly reach home and require your strong leadership to weather, or . . . fight a devastating war with Russia that will claim at least 20 million of your constituents’ lives once Putin’s appetite for conquest to sustain his position reaches Europe and Asia proper, wrecking your economies and the lives of your constituents beyond your worst imagining, with the added risk of global catastrophe. Our leaders have the ability to shut-down this insanity — this still-stoppable grave injustice — now.

The choice is now with our leaders. What will they do? What will WE do?

(John F. Hall, Jr., is an international lawyer in Washington, D.C.).

Kyiv Post.

Russia’s slow motion invasion of mainland Ukraine ‪#‎RussiainvadedUkraine

 Mark Rachkevych.A soldier in unmarked military fatigues mans a checkpoint on a bridge leading into the town of Slovyansk in Donetsk Oblast on April 12, the day Russian proxies took over the city. © Konstantyn ChernichkinA soldier in unmarked military fatigues mans a checkpoint on a bridge leading into the town of Slovyansk in Donetsk Oblast on April 12, the day Russian proxies took over the city. © Konstantyn Chernichkin.

The main picture accompanying this op-ed of the “little green man” wasn’t taken in Crimea during Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and wasn’t shot this week when they again invaded Ukraine with columns of tanks and other hardware. 

It was shot when I and a photographer on April 12 were in Slovyansk on a bridge leading into town at a checkpoint manned by armed, masked soldiers wearing matching military fatigues – the same day that Russian proxies took over the town, including its main municipal building, police station and State Security headquarters. The same kind of troops stood guard that day at the SBU, while a video surfaced of a well-organized unit of fighters taking over the local police station that morning. And this was before the government’s military operation had officially launched against the Russian invaders.

These weren’t locals who spontaneously decided to rise up against Kyiv. They came from Russia-occupied Crimea, the SBU had alleged, where they received training and arms for the purpose of militarily expressing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s contempt for Ukraine as a unified people and sovereign nation.

Then led by Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin (a.k.a. Strelkov), a group of Russians (see picture below) the following day on April 13 ambushed an SBU counterterrorism team near Sloviansk while it was “conducting redeployment” in preparation for the government’s anti-terrorist operation, according to SBU counterintelligence chief Vitaliy Naida. SBU Capt. Hennadiy Bilichenko was killed, and two SBU colonels and an interior ministry officer were wounded.

Armed Kremlin-backed guerillas prepare for battle with a Ukrainian Security Service team on the outskirts the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk on April 13, 2014. (AFP/Anatoliy Stepanov)Armed Kremlin-backed guerrillas prepare for battle with a Ukrainian Security Service team on the outskirts the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk on April 13, 2014. (AFP/Anatoliy Stepanov).

They were one of the first casualties in Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine.

Also on the same day in Kramatorsk, about 15 kilometers south of Slovyansk, another well-organized unit of over 20 men in matching military fatigues seized the police headquarters after a shootout, Reuters reported.

By April 16 when Oleksandr Turchynov, then acting president of Ukraine, officially launched the counterterrorism campaign against the invading Russian irregulars, Kyiv lost control of nine cities in Donetsk Oblast: Mariupol, Donetsk, Makyivka, Yeanikiyeve, Druzhkivka, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and Horlivka.

Then the disciplined Russian green men disappeared, leaving behind a mixture of Russian mercenaries and locals fighting beside them.

SBU Capt. Hennadiy Bilichenko of Poltava was one of the first casualties of Russia's war against Ukraine. He was killed in an ambush on April 13 outside Slovyansk in Donetsk Oblast. (Courtesy)SBU Capt. Hennadiy Bilichenko of Poltava was one of the first casualties of Russia’s war against Ukraine. He was killed in an ambush on April 13 outside Slovyansk in Donetsk Oblast. (Courtesy)

In April, most of the Russian fighters didn’t have anti-armor weapons. In an SBU video recording (1:32) of Russian military intelligence officer Girkin speaking to his handler in Moscow after the successful ambush, he says: “We repelled the first attack, they ran into our rearguard. They took heavy casualties. We don’t know who we killed, but it was somebody very serious. We can hold on (only) for a few days of fighting, let them (fighters coming via Luhansk) bring more anti-tank weapons. If we had them (anti-armor weapons), we would have driven them all beyond Mozhaisk (a town in Moscow Oblast located on the historic road leading to Smolensk and then to Poland.)”

In the same conversation, the handler tells Girkin he wants his “deputy commander” with a Ukrainian accent to speak to Russia’s Life News to demand the federalization of Ukraine, the election of oblast governors by April 25, and for Ukraine to need at least two-thirds approval from the regions to borrow externally.

Over time, Kyiv’s control of the border area in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts with Russia deteriorated. To secure the regular supply of weapons, armor and troops, Russian elements attacked key crossing areas from both sides of the border. Escalation ensued on July 11, according to National Security and Defense Council spokesperson Col. Andriy Lysenko, when Russia started daily cross-border artillery barrages on Ukrainian positions. They persist to this day.

Kyiv has been reluctant to fire back on Russia for fear of provoking a full-scale invasion where an estimated 20,000 combat-ready soldiers presumably await orders for such an incident.

And when Ukraine started to exercise air superiority, Russia gave its boys on the ground sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons, including radar-guided surface-to-air missile systems known as Buk. Special training is needed to operate these deadly weaponry, one of which was most likely used by Russians to shoot down the Malaysian airliner on July 17, killing all 298 people on board, including 80 children.

According to the latest count, 18 Ukrainian military aircraft have been lost costing the Defense Ministry at least $250 million in losses, according to a calculation by UNIAN.

The arrival of mercenary groups in late May, like the predominantly Chechen Vostok Battalion that replaced the ragtag group of Kremlin-backed separatists in Donetsk, marked another escalation in Russia’s invasion. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called their presence, including kozak groups – also Russian – “undisguised aggression.”

This summer, Kyiv recovered much lost territory and it looked like all that was left was to take over the provincial capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk, the sizable city of Horlivka, and secure the border area and smaller settlements along the way.

Not wishing to relinquish control and seeing its pipedream of forming breakaway republics in the region crumble, Russia struck back. The Russian green men resurfaced, this time, brazenly en masse accompanied by columns of heavy armor, artillery, and howitzers, among other serious weaponry. Authorities now estimate over 20,000 fighting on the side of Russia in the region.

Fighting has been intense. After all, Ukraine’s forces are dealing with Europe’s largest army that has spent billions over the last decade to modernize its military, with Germany partially assisting. Ukraine since April has lost at least 722 servicemen and 2,625 were wounded, according to the National Security and Defense Council.

I hope that number stops growing soon, but honestly, Ukraine can’t stop Putin on its own without making huge sacrifices and seeing scores more killed in the field of battle. It needs help in all forms. Putin won’t stop until somebody stops him. The time to act is now, and decisively.

(Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at rachkevych@kyivpost.com).

Kyiv Post.

Victoria Petrenko: It’s time to call Russians Russian #RussiaUkraine #WordGame

 Victoria Petrenko.Bystanders watch a fire consuming a school in downtown Donetsk on August 27, 2014, after being hit by a shelling. Several civilians died when their car was completely burned after being hit by shell fragments in central Donetsk, the rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG© AFPBystanders watch a fire consuming a school in downtown Donetsk on August 27, 2014, after being hit by a shelling. Several civilians died when their car was completely burned after being hit by shell fragments in central Donetsk, the rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG © AFP

It’s time to stop the game in words and call a spade a spade, Russian Russian. We all know that the Russian Federation started this war against Ukraine when unidentified “green men” invaded Crimea. Or maybe earlier? Maybe on Feb, 20 when snipers shot at protesters in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti?

Or maybe even much earlier, when a “friendly” neighbor-state published anti-Ukrainian books (like Mikhail Kalashnikov’s “Independent Ukraine: Breakup of a Project”), produced movies in which Ukrainians are shown as traitors and cowards or when Russian President Vladimir Putin shouted at the NATO Bucharest summit in April 2008: “…Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.” We all know that the Russian government started this war against Ukraine not today and not yesterday, but didn’t say this aloud.

When Russian servicemen invaded Crimea we called them “green men” or “Crimean Cossacks,” When a Moscow citizen planted the Russian flag atop the Kharkiv State Administration we called it an “anti-government protest.” When Russians occupied key posts in the so-called, self-proclaimed ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk, we called them “Ukrainian rebels.” And even after the Russian army shelled Ukrainian territory, Russian helicopters killed border guards, after tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia the border of sovereign Ukraine, we still call it “fighting between governmental forces and pro-Russian militants.”

In spite of all the proof we have, all evidence we know, the world continues to use the phrase “pro-Russian rebels” instead of “Russian forces.”

Of course the most convenient term in this diplomatic game is to use the word “terrorists” – no one wants to have war with Russia, but every country is ready to help fight the terrorist.

It also gives Putin a chance to retreat and take a role of “peacemaker,” since officially Russia has no attitude to “civil” war inside Ukraine.

Until recently Ukraine did everything to prevent the open intervention and used all diplomatic means to stop the aggression, but now, when regular armies of two states are facing off in a third front in a fierce battle outside the southeastern city of Novoazovsk, isn’t it the time to announce openly at the international level that we have not a civil conflict, but Russian-Ukrainian war?

And those countries that cooperate with it support the aggressor? Isn’t it the time to recognize massacres in eastern Ukraine as war crimes? Isn’t it the time finally to call Russian not a green man, rebel or separatist, but Russian?

(Victoria Petrenko is a Kyiv Post website editor).

Kyiv Post.

#ElectionCommission Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk to vote in parliamentary elections

By Oleg Naumenko.Head of Ukraine's Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFPHead of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFP

Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, says it’s important to provide an opportunity to vote for Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea, as well as in war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, during the Oct. 26 parliamentary election. These troubled regions are home to 20 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million people.

“These elections are the first of its kind in our history,” Okhendovsky said during an Aug. 26 news briefing. “Previous early elections happened in 2007 under a proportional system, whereas currently we have a mixed system whereby 225 lawmakers will be elected according to the party lists and another 213 MPs – from their constituencies. Once the president signs a decree that officially dissolves the parliament, there will be 60 days for the election campaign.”

Ukraine used to have 225 deputies from the constituencies, but since Crimea and Sevastopol had as many as 12, the figure has been changed. However, this year’s elections will not happen there due to the peculiar status of the region outlined in the law “on the temporarily occupied territories” that came into effect on May 14.

“Residents of Crimea will be able to vote in a different region of Ukraine, just as 117,000 of the Crimeans did during the presidential elections in May,” Okhendovsky explained.

He promised to put all the election commission’s efforts in organizing the elections in Donbas. “But we also need to ensure safety of the voters and all the members of local commissions and observers,” Okhendovsky added.

Although parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are controlled by the Russia-backed insurgents, andmore than 2,000 people have been killed since mid-April in the war, the results of elections will be legitimate as long as at least one polling station will work in every constituency.

Price of elections

This year’s state budget has not allocated money for the election, which is why Hr 986 million will come from a reserve fund.

“However, David Zhvania, a non-affiliated MP, proposed a bill that can save up to Hr 140 million by cutting on expenditures on media, agitation and other electoral documentation. If the parliament passes this bill, we can significantly reduce the costs of elections,” emphasized Okhendovsky.

When being asked whether the separatists and rebel may participate in the elections as candidates, Okhendovsky said: “We do not give any comments on personalized issues. But if Ukrainian courts criminally prosecute such individuals, they will not take part in the elections according to the Ukrainian legislation.”

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Naumenko can be reached at legasy@me.com).

Kyiv Post.

Angry Russian tourists forced to wait days for Russia-Crimea ferry #Crimea

By Ukraine Today
Russian tourists forced to wait days for Russia-Crimea ferry. The occupation of Crimea closed air and rail roads usually used by Russian tourists. Moscow has pledged to build the bridge linking Russia and Crimea – a project which will take at least four years to built and will cost about $10 billion.

Russia may have seized Crimea but for Russian tourists, the occupied Ukrainian peninsula has never been more inaccessible. Thousands of Russian travellers have been forced to wait up to several days for the Kerch ferry connecting Russia to Crimea.

Kyiv Post.