Tag Archives: eastern Ukraine

At least 10 people killed in shelling on and near school in #Ukraine’s #Donetsk


A woman injured at a bus station during a shelling cries after being taken to Donetsk hospital on October 1, 2014.A woman injured at a bus station during a shelling cries after being taken to Donetsk hospital on October 1, 2014. © AFP PHOTO JOHN MACDOUGALL

Reuters

At least 10 people were killed on Wednesday when shells hit a school playground and a minivan in a nearby street in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, city authorities and Reuters witnesses said.

There were no children among those killed in the shelling at School No. 57 on the first day of the new school year, though witnesses said the dead included a biology teacher and the parent of a child at the school.

Reuters correspondents saw the bodies of three adults at the school and an additional six bodies in a burnt-out minivan and on streets nearby. The regional administration said a total of 10 people had been killed in the shelling of the city, a stronghold of rebels waging a separatist rebellion.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Richard Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage).


Reuters.

#Merkel Evokes Cold War in Warning of Long #Ukraine Crisis


German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.

Arne Delfs and Brian Parkin reporting,

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union and the U.S. may be facing a long confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, citing the 40 years it took East Germany to escape communist control.

Merkel, who grew up in former East Germany, signaled determination to uphold EU sanctions on Russia in comments in Berlin yesterday that underscored the fraught relationship with President Vladimir Putin, whose actions in the Ukrainian crisis she says are rooted in a Cold War mentality.

“I don’t see any change at the moment regarding Russia’s position,” Merkel said. “We needed 40 years to overcome East Germany. Sometimes in history one has to be prepared for the long haul, and not ask after four months if it still makes sense to keep up our demands.”

Merkel’s warning added to her comments to German industry leaders last week that an end to the ‘‘deep-rooted conflict’’ with Russia is far off as a cease-fire fails to halt fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

“Merkel lost faith in Putin a long time ago, but there’s now a realization in Germany and Europe that the Ukraine conflict is turning from hot-phase crisis management into a long game,” Jan Techau, head of the Carnegie Endowment’s office in Brussels, said by phone today.

Ukraine’s conflict, which the United Nations says has left more than 3,500 people dead, is forcing Merkel to take a stand as the country’s government seeks closer EU ties and accuses Putin of fomenting the pro-Russian rebellion in the east. Russia denies involvement in the conflict.

Permanent Confrontation

Nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the worst casualties since a Sept. 5 truce, the government said yesterday. President Petro Poroshenko said last week that the worst of the war is over as Ukraine focuses on elections next month, securing gas supplies and preparing a bid for EU membership.

“As long as the EU tries to prop up the Kiev government, there will be permanent confrontation with Moscow,” Techau said.

Merkel, 60, grew up as the daughter a Lutheran pastor in East Germany, the state founded in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany in 1949 after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II. Communist rule collapsed after the Berlin Wall was breached following mass protests in 1989, and East Germany ceased to exist with reunification on Oct. 3, 1990.

Finland Concern

“Nobody had anticipated that Putin would take such a momentous decision” to “take us back to a Europe before 1989,” Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S., said at a Bloomberg Government lunch in Washington yesterday.

“A lot of trust was destroyed by Putin’s policy” in Ukraine, Wittig said. “And I think it’s a challenge to regain that trust.”

Merkel made her comments at a news conference after talks with Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, whose government has put fighter jets on alert after Russian planes repeatedly violated the northernmost euro-area country’s airspace.

Finland has the EU’s longest border with Russia and Stubb agreed that the Ukraine conflict isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. “We are looking at a long-term situation,” he said.

(To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net Tony Czuczka, Chad Thomas).


Bloomberg.

Renewed Fighting Around Donetsk Airport Tests Ukraine #CeaseFire #Luhansk #Donetsk


Ukrainian soldiers patrolled near Debaltseve, Ukraine, on Monday.Ukrainian soldiers patrolled near Debaltseve, Ukraine, on Monday. Anatolii Boiko/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Andrew Roth reporting,

DONETSK, Ukraine — Deadly fighting has broken out again between the government and rebels around the strategically important airport outside Donetsk, a continuing source of friction that is testing the resilience of a recent cease-fire agreement.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers and three civilians were killed during heavy shelling on Sunday, government officials announced. Andriy Lysenko, an army spokesman, said seven soldiers died when a tank shell hit their troop transport. It was the deadliest attack since the cease-fire was announced on Sept. 5.

President Petro O. Poroshenko has called the cease-fire the keystone to his peace plan for the country, and in a nationally televised news conference on Thursday said he had “no doubt that the biggest, most dangerous part of the war is already behind us.”

But at important positions held by Ukrainian forces, like the airport and the city of Debaltseve, a crucial junction between the largest rebel cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, shelling has only intensified in recent days.

The upsurge in violence comes at a particularly critical moment, as Russian, Ukrainian and rebel military officials are meeting to work out the boundaries of a buffer zone of 30 kilometers, about 19 miles, that, when finalized, could mark a neutral area in a new, frozen conflict.

“The line drawn on paper does not correspond to the current positions,” said Andrei Purgin, the deputy prime minister of the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, who participated in the talks in Minsk, Belarus, that led to the cease-fire.

In an interview, Mr. Purgin said that fighting was taking place at contested points on the proposed demarcation line, which he said amounted to 30 percent of the border between the rebel republics and Ukraine.

He also claimed that the Ukrainian Army was pouring in troops to defend the airport, which he likened to “a fetish.”

According to the cease-fire agreement, “the airport should be ours,” he said. “But they are not leaving it.”

A Russian Army delegation led by Aleksandr Lentsov, the deputy commander of Russia’s ground forces, has been in Ukraine since last week, and first met with Ukrainian and rebel military representatives on Friday, according to an official involved in the talks.

Russia has sought to minimize its public role in mediating the conflict, and on Friday the Russian Foreign Ministry denied it was a party to the talks.

On Saturday, however, Russian state television broadcast an interview with Mr. Lentsov in the rebel-held city of Horlivka, Ukraine.

“There are questions where we have found common ground, and some questions are problematic,” Mr. Lentsov said without elaborating in televised comments. “Our main task is a cease-fire. Both sides should understand that.”

Perhaps no question is more problematic than the Donetsk airport, which was renovated for the Euro 2012 soccer championship held in Ukraine and, if repaired, could be a vital supply line for either the fledgling rebel state or the Ukrainian military.

Speaking with several journalists on Saturday, Ihor Kolomoysky, the billionaire governor of the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region, said that Ukraine had agreed to abandon the airport in exchange for a wide stretch of territory south of Donetsk, a quid pro quo that had previously been unreported.

Mr. Kolomoysky, who was appointed governor by Mr. Poroshenko, has played an important part in the Ukrainian war effort, bankrolling several pro-Ukrainian paramilitary battalions.

With Ukraine still reeling from a rebel counter-offensive in August, he said, the front lines will most likely remain static until spring.

Mr. Lysenko, the military spokesman, denied during a briefing on Monday that the army was planning to abandon its positions at the airport, saying it “was, is and will be under the control of the Ukrainian military.”

Nonetheless, he said, the decision belongs to his superiors.

“We have a high military command, and it decides where the Ukrainian Army moves,” he said.

While fighting raged in the east, thousands of pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Kharkiv late Sunday evening toppled a 40-foot statue of Lenin, an anti-Russian gesture that raised the possibility of violence in what is the country’s second-largest city. Some of the protesters etched a wolfsangel, a symbol once used by the Nazis and now by Ukrainian ultranationalists, into the statue’s pedestal.

Kharkiv saw brutal street fights in March between supporters and opponents of the new Kiev government, but has quieted in recent months.

The city police made no effort to disperse the crowds. But they did announce an investigation into the episode at the same time that a protester was sawing through the leg of the statue with a chain saw.

Gennady A. Kernes, the city’s divisive and powerful mayor, promised Monday to restore the statue in an attempt to prevent a pro-Russian backlash in the city.

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister and a rival of Mr. Kernes’s, barely hid his glee.

“Lenin? Let him fall,” Mr. Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.


The New York Times.

At least 12 people have died in a day, worst fighting in a week | #Ukraine #Donetsk #Russia


A car dealership on the road leading to the airport shows signs of damage in Donetsk on Sept. 29, as a result of shelling on Sept. 28 that killed nine Ukrainian soldiers, including seven defending the Donetsk airport.A car dealership on the road leading to the airport shows signs of damage in Donetsk on Sept. 29, as a result of shelling on Sept. 28 that killed nine Ukrainian soldiers, including seven defending the Donetsk airport. © AFP

Anastasia Forina reporting,

The cease-fire looked ever more tenuous on Sept. 29, as Kremlin-backed insurgents tried to take over Donetsk airport on the night of Sept. 28. Seven Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the attack.

Overall, the Ukrainian army lost nine soldiers in the last 24 hours, according to government spokesman Andriy Lysenko, while 27 soldiers have been wounded.

Nine of the injured came when the separatists attacked a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier, according to Yuri Biriukov, one of President Petro Poroshenko’s advisers. Meanwhile, at least three civilians were killed in Donetsk overnight, bringing the death toll to at least 12 in the last day.

Despite the casualties, the ruined and closed Donetsk airport remains under control of the Ukrainian army, who repelled the attack and destroyed three tanks and killed 50 insurgents, Lysenko, the spokesman for National Defence and Security Council said.

After Ukraine’s military forces blew up the runway of Luhansk airport and left it in September, making its use impossible, they have been defending the Donetsk airport, which is located just 9.4 kilometers from the city center.

Unlike the airport in Luhansk, the Ukrainian army is better positioned to retain control over Donetsk — the provincial capital with a pre-war population of more than 1 million people — because it controls many nearby neighborhoods, Vyacheslav Tseluiko, an expert of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies told the Kyiv Post.

Smoke from a burning fuel dump at the Donetsk airport can be seen from a pro-Russia separatists checkpoint on Sept. 23, 2014.Smoke from a burning fuel dump at the Donetsk airport can be seen from a pro-Russia separatists checkpoint on Sept. 23, 2014. © JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast governor, thinks that the Ukrainian army might give up the airport soon and settle for territory south of Donetsk in return. According to his Sept. 28 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kolomoisky said: “The airport is more important to them than it is to us,” he said.

But if the Ukrainian army pulls back and leaves the airport, it remains unusable, Tseluiko said. “It will take a lot of time and resources to rebuild the airport. But the main thing is that there is no point of restoring the airport, which is located on the front line. It will be under fire anyway, so using it for its intended purpose will be problematic,” Tseluiko said.

The once-new and fancy airport cost $750 million, most of which came from the state budget as part of the preparations for the Euro 2012 football tournament. It was severely damaged on May 26, when it was seized by illegal armed insurgents. Ukrainian authorities regained control, but it has remained under the constant threat of takeover. There were several attempts to attack Ukrainian soldiers and retake the airport in July, August and September, but Ukrainian servicemen fended off the attacks.

Overall, Ukraine is seeking more than $100 billion from Russia in various international courts for compensation to losses suffered in the Kremlin-backed war in eastern Ukraine and the theft of the Crimean peninsula.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at forina@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post.

Ukraine’s border to Russia wide open in rebel-held zone | #AFP #Ukraine #Russia


by Agence France-Presse.
Passengers on a bus from Donetsk to Rostov in Russia, wait while their belongings are searched by border guards at the Uspenka border post separating Ukraine and Russia Sept. 26, 2014.Passengers on a bus from Donetsk to Rostov in Russia, wait while their belongings are searched by border guards at the Uspenka border post separating Ukraine and Russia Sept. 26, 2014. © AFP see video from AFP News Agency

USPENKA, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president may have ordered the closure of his nation’s border with Russia but, when asked about it, the rebel commander of this crossing point just smiles and points to the snaking queue of cars traversing the international line.

“As you can see, it is very much open,” the border post commander at Uspenka who identifies himself by his nickname “Arshi” says.

Uspenka is just a speck on the map in eastern Ukraine, but hundreds of vehicles had motored there Friday to travel along a country road from the rebel-held Donetsk region to Russia, and in the other direction.

In the view of all those interviewed there by AFP, that border post — and even the border itself — were bound to disappear soon.

“Oh, the border is supposed to be closed, is it? I wasn’t aware,” Archi comments archly.

“What Kiev says or decides is of no interest to me. This is no longer Ukraine here. Soon, when we are united with Russia, we won’t even have this outpost here, or it’ll be hardly anything at all, just a little checkpoint.”

People queue up to cross from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, held by pro-Russian separatists, on September 26, 2014.People queue up to cross from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, held by pro-Russian separatists, on September 26, 2014. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the temporary closure of the 2,000-kilometre (1,200-mile) border Thursday in a bid to halt the flow of weapons from Ukraine’s former Soviet master to pro-Russian separatists.

But by the time of the signing of the ceasefire for eastern Ukraine, on September 20, the rebels already controlled a 260-kilometre stretch of the border.

Uspenka fell under their control on August 24. “They lasted less than 24 hours,” Archi says, referring to Kiev’s troops. “Then most of them surrendered, gave up their weapons, their tanks, everything.”

He points to the detritus of Uspenska’s short-lived battle — shattered signs, a bombed-out hanger roof, cratered walls.

Since then, it is the rebels — epaulettes adorned with the orange-and-black-striped ribbons of the Russian military’s Order of St. George — who check the passports and raise the barriers.

A man pushing goods in a baby carriage crosses the border from Russia to Ukraine at the Uspenka border post, on September 26, 2014.A man pushing goods in a baby carriage crosses the border from Russia to Ukraine at the Uspenka border post, on September 26, 2014. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

The black, red and blue of the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic flies atop a radio antenna. A sign once bedecked in the yellow of the Ukrainian national flag has been repainted blue.

And the vehicle search is thorough. Under the hood, in the boot, beneath the cushions, and inside bags — the rebel border guards are looking to keep order.

“We’re hunting for weapons, drugs or contraband — just like in any other country,” the officer says. “Only, we don’t have the official stamp — yet.”

Daria Penska awaits her turn to cross, passport in hand.

“We spent the past three months in Sochi (in Russia), but university classes start again next week in Donetsk,” the 18-year-old redhead says.

A pro-Russian separatist border guard searches a car on September 26, 2014 on its way from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, held by separatists from the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk.A pro-Russian separatist border guard searches a car on September 26, 2014 on its way from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, held by separatists from the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

“I think things have calmed down enough for us to be able to go home. I know there is still shooting in Donetsk close to the airport, but we don’t live in that neighbourhood, so it should be okay.”

Like Daria, many of those crossing into Ukraine had fled the fighting and were now attempting a return home.

To go in the other direction, a “valid Ukrainian passport” will suffice. “Most of them are going to see family or do shopping. They can only bring back 10 litres of petrol, which is much cheaper than on the other side of the border,” says Archi.

“The border, closed? Of course not!” Valentin Khokhlov, 62, says from the wheel of his white Chinese-made minivan.

He is not put off by a two-hour wait to cross into Russia, where he is headed to the closest city, Taganrog, to buy petrol, medicines for his wife and other goods.

Pro-Russian separatist border guards let a bus crossing from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, on September 26, 2014.Pro-Russian separatist border guards let a bus crossing from Ukraine to Russia at the Uspenka border post, on September 26, 2014. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

“It’s not closer than Donetsk, but it’s safer. We hope this border control post will disappear soon!” he says. People in the car behind his nod in agreement.

Buses in both directions get to skip the queue, but their passengers receive the same scrutiny from the guards, lining up as their bags are laid out for inspection.

“The Russians on the other side help us a lot,” Archi says. “They already check the cars and stamp passports, so it’s simpler for us.”

“My men here are almost all Don Cossacks,” he says, referring to Cossacks from southern Russia known for their history of military service.

“And the Cossacks — for them, this border never even existed at all.”


Agence France-Presse.