Tag Archives: eastern Ukraine

#Abducted Ukrainian pilot #Nadiya #Savchenko resists pressure in #Russian jail as third month of #captivity starts


By Denys KrasnikovUkrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, 33, has not seen a Russian judge after more than 60 days in captivity, following her capture in Luhansk Oblast while fighting with the Aidar Battalion during her leave from military service. She is being prosecuted extra-judiciously by Russian authorities and is accused of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists. © CourtesyUkrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, 33, has not seen a Russian judge after more than 60 days in captivity, following her capture in Luhansk Oblast while fighting with the Aidar Battalion during her leave from military service. She is being prosecuted extra-judiciously by Russian authorities and is accused of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists. © Courtesy

After more than 60 days in captivity, Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian Air Force pilot who was captured by Kremlin-backed guerrillas on June 17 as part of the volunteer Aidar Battalion while on military leave, has yet to face a Russian trial judge.

Her younger sister, Vera Savchenko, told journalists on Aug. 19 at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, that Kyiv authorities aren’t doing enough to set her free, a part of which reportedly involves a prison swap for Russian Federal Security Service officers being held in Ukraine.

Being charged extra-judiciously in Russia, authorities there accuse Nadiya Savchenko, 33, of complicity in killing two Russian TV journalists in the war zone in eastern Ukraine. Taken prisoner in Luhansk Oblast, she was subsequently transferred to Donetsk, after which Radio Free Liberty reported that as of June 23 she was being held in a prison cell in Voronezh, Russia near Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.

Kyiv accuses Russia of abducting her and levying trumped up charges and has demanded her release.

In a video released on June 19 of Nadiya Savchenko being questioned by her alleged Russian captors, she appears fatigued yet dignifiedly justifies her choice to join the Ukrainian multi-task force operation to rid eastern Ukraine of Russian-backed elements. In a separate video she explains her decision to join a volunteer battalion while on military leave subordinated to the Interior Ministry because the military wasn’t doing more to engage in the government’s “counterterrorism operation.”

“The army should be used (more) because there’s a foreign enemy involved, instead mostly interior forces are being used, which gives the impression that this is a civil war, and that is obviously not the case,” she says in the video.

Now Savchenko is in the international media spotlight, and has become a symbol of heroism in Ukraine. According to Interfax-Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had a phone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Aug. 14 during which he asked him to facilitate her release.

Communication with her, however, has been slow through lawyers. Her sister Vera Savchenko said it took 15 days before Nadiya Savchenko could receive her letter. Moreover, Russian authorities allegedly do not allow her to receive Ukrainian-language literature, according to Vera Savchenko. They have only one explanation — they cannot be checked for apparent coded messages.

According to Petro Okhotin, a member of the non-profit Open Dialogue foundation that helps political prisoners, there are four lawyers working on Savchenko’s case in Russia and only one of them is a Ukrainian. “Moreover, in their work, Ukrainian and Russian lawyers are beholden to different systems. So how can we reach a compromise (in Nadiya Savchenko’s case)?” said Okhotin at the Aug. 19 news conference with her younger sister.

According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Nadiya Savchenko is one of Ukraine’s first female jet and helicopter pilots. A native of Kyiv, Nadiya Savchenko graduated of the Kharkiv Air Force University after serving in Iraq in 2004-2005. Her current rank in the army is senior lieutenant.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Denys Krasnikov can be reached at denys.krasnikov@gmail.com).


Kyiv Post.

An #American #Donbas #Battalion member dies in fierce fighting near #Donetsk


By Mark Rachkevych.An American-Ukrainian known only as An American-Ukrainian known only as “Franko” died on Aug. 19 while fighting with the Donbas Battalion in an attempt to free the city of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast from Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed guerrillas. © Maks Levin

An American has reportedly become the first foreign casualty on the Ukrainian side of the military conflict against Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. 

Identified only under his nom de guerre of “Franko“, he reportedly died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion, Liviy Bereg photographer Maks Levin stated on Facebook, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian service units.

According to the photographer, the Donbas Battalion, had come under heavy fire by various barrages of GRAD, Fagot and other types of artillery, in addition to tank and sniper fire.

“There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin. He added that two other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.

News reports on Aug. 19 earlier stated that one Donbass Battalion member died and four were wounded in heavy fighting to free the Donetsk Oblast city. Battalion leader Semyon Semenchenko was one of the four wounded.

In a Vice News report in which he featured prominently, Franko said he was a private in a six-man squad within the battalion, while claiming to have “professional military experience.” His code name apparently was inspired by the famed Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. In the video, he speaks with what sounds like an east coast American accent and appears to be aged in his 60s. He emphasized in the interview that he had taken on Ukrainian citizenship before joining the fight in the east. According to photographer Levin, Franko owned property in Ukraine and may have lived in the country.

Max Dondiuk told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)Max Dondiuk told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)

He was a “cheerful diaspora (member)…who beautifully cursed in Ukrainian,” remarked Levin. He added that Franko wished to “enter Donetsk (as a liberator) and to return to Kyiv, sell his apartment in Lviv and settle somewhere in the calm Carpathian Mountains.”

The Donbas Battalion was formed early in June. At least 80 percent of its members are from eastern Ukraine. According to the Interior Ministry to which the irregular volunteer battalions are subordinated, 25 battalions are currently engaged in the war zone in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

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


Kyiv Post.

German Chancellor Angela #Merkel to visit #Ukraine on Saturday


German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds files as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds files as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Kiev on Saturday and meet with top officials, making her first visit to Ukraine since the crisis there erupted.

Merkel is making the visit at Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s invitation and also will meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Tuesday. He said their talks will focus on Ukraine’s relationship with Russia and ways to help Ukraine as it battles a pro-Russian insurgency in the east.

Germany has played a leading role in diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine. Merkel has spoken frequently with Poroshenko and with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted a meeting about the crisis with his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and France. There was little sign of progress at those talks. Germany aims to reconvene them, but it’s not yet clear whether and when that might happen.

However, the Kremlin announced Tuesday that Putin would meet with Poroshenko on Aug. 26 in Belarus, their first meeting since early June.

Steinmeier told ZDF television he believes “the conflict in eastern Ukraine is still solvable.”

“My impression, even after the difficult talks we had, is that there is a change in the position of both partners in the conflict,” he said. “I have the impression that both are searching at the moment for possibilities to find a way to a cease-fire.”


Associated Press.

#Poroshenko confirms #Russia sent 1,200 fighters, #military hardware to insurgents in #Ukraine


By Christopher J. Miller.taken and released by Presidential press-service on August 18, 2014 shows Ukrainian Presient Petro Poroshenko (2L) speaking during a cabinet meeting in Kiev. Ukraine accused on August 18, 2014 pro-Russian rebels of shelling a convoy of civilians fleeing the war-torn east, leaving Photo taken and released by Presidential press-service on August 18, 2014 shows Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2nd left) speaking during a cabinet meeting in Kiev. Ukraine accused on August 18, 2014 pro-Russian rebels of shelling a convoy of civilians fleeing the war-torn east, leaving “many” dead, as crisis talks to halt months of bloodshed failed to make a breakthrough. AFP PHOTO/ PRESIDENTIAL PRESS-SERVICE/ MYKHAYLO MARKIV © AFP

DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, after a meeting with heads of security forces, said that the government has confirmed that Russia recently sent to Ukraine military reinforcements for the insurgents, including 1,200 trained militants and additional armoured vehicles.

“Today, we must consider a new content of military operation under new conditions,” Poroshenko said. “Part of these vehicles have been destroyed. Now, measures are being taken to destroy the rest of them. Today, we must regroup our forces. It will ensure the protection of our territory and the continuation of offensive actions of our army.”

Poroshenko’s announcement confirms a boast made on Aug. 15 by the new rebel leader in Donetsk, who said a column of military hardware and reinforcements were on their way to eastern Ukraine from Russia.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the newly appointed prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said during a meeting with separatist leaders that a column of military vehicles with weapons and personnel was advancing toward the Ukrainian frontier from Russia.

“I’d like to give you some good news,” Zakharchenko told his comrades in an address on Aug. 15 that was published on YouTube. “At present, moving towards the corridor [from Russia to Ukraine that is controlled by the rebels] are… 150 items of military hardware, 30 of which are tanks and the rest are infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.”

Joining the military column are 1,200 personnel who had received four months’ training in Russia, he added.

However, speaking to journalists in Donetsk on Aug. 18, Zakharchenko backpedaled, denying any fighters or weapons were en route to eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv Post editor Christopher J. Miller can be reached at miller@kyivpost.com and on Twitter at @ChristopherJM.


Note: This article has been produced with support from http://www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development.


Kyiv Post.

#Klimkin: #Russia still wants to make #war, not peace in #Ukraine


French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Ukraine's Foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting on the situation in Ukraine on August 17, 2014 at Villa Borsig in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday he hoped a French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Ukraine’s Foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting on the situation in Ukraine on August 17, 2014 at Villa Borsig in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday he hoped a “roadmap” for a sustainable ceasefire in Ukraine will emerge from talks in Berlin with his counterparts from Moscow, Kiev and Paris. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ © AFP

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin acknowledged on Aug. 18 that Russia is not meeting conditions needed for an internationally monitored peace and ceasefire in Ukraine’s east. Kremlin-backed insurgents have waged war on the nation since mid-April, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where violence has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

“The Russian side today is not ready to take all the commitments…” Klimkin said, including controlling the Russian-Ukraine border to stop the flow of mercenaries and military equipment to the Kremlin-backed insurgents in Ukraine. Klimkin said Russia is also not willing to “recognize the facts” that Ukrainian forces are being shelled and fired upon from Russia in border areas.

Without such commitments, Klimkin said, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cannot work.

Klimkin’s press conference comes a day after he met in Berlin with three other foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, Germany’s Frank Walter-Steinmeier and France’s Laurent Fabius.

Klimkin also said that Western allies have not agreed on a military assistance package for Ukraine, but said they have not refused to offer one either.

He also confirmed the Aug. 23 visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Kyiv, a day before Ukraine celebrates its national independence.


Kyiv Post.