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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen answers the questions of journalists after the extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, 29 August 2014. © NATO
Editor’s Note: The NATO military alliance issued on Aug. 29 NATO Secretary General statement and video after the extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
“We have just held an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, following the serious escalation of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. The meeting was held at Ukraine’s request.
Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine. This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign nation.
Russian forces are engaged in direct military operations inside Ukraine. Russia continues to supply the separatists with tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and rocket launchers. Russia has fired on Ukraine from both Russian territory and within Ukraine itself. Moreover, Russia continues to maintain thousands of combat-ready troops close to Ukraine’s borders. This is a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It defies all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution.
Today, we expressed strong solidarity with Ukraine. At the Wales Summit next week, we will meet President Poroshenko to make clear NATO’s unwavering support for Ukraine.
We condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s continued disregard of its international obligations. We urge Russia to cease its illegal military actions, stop its support to armed separatists, and take immediate and verifiable steps towards de-escalation of this grave crisis.”
NATO Secretary General statement after the extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, 29 August 2014.
A Ukrainian sniper wearing camouflage waits on the frontline not far from the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve, Donetsk oblast on Aug. 25, 2014
KRASNODON, Ukraine – AP reporters say for several evenings this month, convoys of military weaponry passed with clockwork-like regularity through Krasnodon, a rebel-held town in eastern Ukraine near the porous border with Russia.
The convoys were seen three times last week by Associated Press reporters, with one carrying about 30 units of weaponry and supplies. All were coming from the direction of Russia and heading west to where pro-Moscow separatists were fighting Ukrainian troops.
One rebel fighter described how easy it was to cross into Ukraine through a Russian-controlled frontier post in a convoy that included a tank, adding that the border officer appeared unfazed at the deadly cargo.
NATO and Ukraine have accused Moscow of covertly shuttling heavy artillery and other weapons to the separatists — allegations that Russia routinely denies. NATO says since mid-August, those weapons have been fired from both inside Ukraine and from Russian territory.
A pro-Russian rebel holds a Russian national flag near to damaged heavy hardware from the Ukrainian army during an exhibition in the central square in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. Ukraine has retaken control of much of its eastern territory bordering Russia in the last few weeks, but fierce fighting for the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk persists. (AP Photo/Antoine E.R. Delaunay)
EDITORS NOTE — Associated Press journalist Mstyslav Chernov was among AP reporters who spent a week in rebel-held territory along the Ukraine-Russian border waiting for a Russian aid convoy to enter Ukraine. Here is his account:
A safe distance from the shelling that has scarred other areas of the separatist Luhansk region, Krasnodon acts as a hub to supply the rebels with weapons and for getting much-needed humanitarian supplies to residents.
The town of 40,000 people is only 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the border. Residents venture out in the morning to buy groceries, but the streets are empty by evening. Only rebels sit and drink at the few bars still open.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the largest rebel-controlled city, Donetsk, said earlier this month that his forces were being bolstered by 1,200 fighters who underwent training in Russia. He said the fighters have 150 armored vehicles, including 30 tanks, and have gathered near a “corridor” along the Russian border.
When asked about the military hardware, Zakharchenko insisted it was all taken from Ukrainian forces in battle — a notion scoffed at by the Ukrainian government.
On three evenings between Aug. 19 and Aug. 23, AP reporters saw large convoys of military hardware pass through Krasnodon from areas near the Russian border and head north and west, toward the fighting. They were later seen returning empty of their cargo. On other days during that period, the reporters only heard the convoys.
Supplies heading west, toward the conflict zones, are frequently seen both during the day and night near Krasnodon.
It was not the first time that AP journalists had seen heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.
On July 17, AP reporters in the town of Snizhne saw a tracked launcher with four SA-11 surface-to-air missiles parked on a street. The bulky missile system is also known as a Buk M-1. Three hours later, people six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne heard loud noises and then saw the wreckage and bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 fall from the sky. All 298 people aboard were killed when the plane was shot down.
Rebel fighters in Krasnodon freely boast about their military equipment, although they have refused to give their full names, fearing repercussions if their identities were disclosed.
One told the AP on Aug. 18 that he had seen a major new arrival of equipment traveling toward the rebel-held city of Luhansk, which is virtually surrounded by government troops and has come under weeks of sustained shelling that has cut off water, power and phone service, and led to daily bread lines.
“We thought, at last! There were tanks and Buks (missile launchers) — three battalions in all. My arm started to hurt from all the waving,” he said, identifying himself with only his nom de guerre of “Vityaz.”
Some of the hardware in the separatists’ hands is indeed well-worn and very old. Other items are clearly new, such as the four Tigr SUVs — a Russian version of the Hummer — that was seen by AP journalists Aug. 19 on a country road away from the main highway near Krasnodon.
A column of five trucks carrying fuel and ammunition was seen Wednesday morning by the AP. Although covered with tarps, some of the boxes of ammunition were visible in the open back of one of the trucks. The trucks were later seen returning, empty.
In the Ukrainian villages along the snaking Seversky Donets River that forms part of the border with Russia, rebels had an array of heavy armaments, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers.
Every day, usually in the evening, the sound of artillery barrages can be heard from the direction of Molodohvardiisk, 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of Krasnodon.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu has said that since mid-August, NATO has seen multiple reports that Russia is transferring tanks and other heavy weapons to the separatists in Ukraine.
“Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she said in a statement Friday.
Previously, the West had accused Russia of cross-border shelling only. Ukrainian security services have also produced what they say is satellite evidence showing equipment and fighters crossing from Russia along country routes.
With more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) of the border in rebel hands, however, fighters brag that making the trip from Russia to Ukraine is simple.
One official crossing under rebel control is near the Ukrainian town of Izvaryne, 9 miles (15 kilometers) east of Krasnodon. That frontier post was used Friday by Russia to send hundreds of trucks into rebel-held territory as part of an aid convoy — a move that Ukraine denounced as an invasion.
About a month ago, Ukrainian forces were shelling the Izvaryne crossing regularly, but the way has been wide open for days.
Rebel fighters from a mobile combat group led by a commander who gave his nom de guerre as “Sniper” exchanged tales of their exploits last week as they waited for a delivery of emergency food to be unloaded at an orphanage for disabled children in Krasnodon. The men spoke openly in the presence of an AP reporter.
One fighter described the ease in crossing the Russian-controlled border with weapons visible.
“We go through the border in full uniform, totally decked out, with weapons sticking out of the window, five people in the car,” he said. “A border guard comes up to us. He looks at us for a long time. Looks at the weapons, then back at us. And then he says: ‘Open the trunk?'”
Everyone in the group laughed at the story.
Another fighter from Sniper’s group joined in.
“So, I am going through the border and a guard jumps out of the bushes and shouts: ‘Stop! Who goes there? Do you have any weapons?'” the man said.
When told yes, the guard then asked to see them — not because he wanted to confiscate them but because he was curious as to what kind of weapons they were, the man recounted.
“Turns out that they don’t get service weapons!” he told his colleagues, to more laughter.
A third fighter described how his column was crossing the border where a guard was looking through binoculars. “We almost ran him over with the tank! He wasn’t expecting that,” he said.
The men in the group all spoke Russian with accents from many different parts of Russia. Separatist leaders initially tried to cast their fighting force as a purely local effort, but it has become evident that many Russians, including an unknown number from Chechnya, are serving in the rebel ranks.
The Russian fighters generally have better uniforms, powerful automatic rifles and bulletproof vests.
Those fighters staying in Krasnodon’s main hotel freely admit they don’t take orders from local Ukrainian rebel commanders. They describe themselves as “volunteers” from Russia, only to later deny it with a wink. They do not say specifically who commands them.
A militiaman from the city of Angarsk in Russia’s Far East who went by the name of “Angara” said their fighting spirit remains strong.
“All our food and supplies come from Russia. Everything gets through,” he said.
Angara added that civilians help by cooking them meals like borscht and bringing them water, while the fighters share their medicine with them.
“There are no hungry fighters here, thank God,” he said.
FILE – This September 2012 file photo posted on the website freejamesfoley.org shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria.In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP Photo/freejamesfoley.org, Manu Brabo, File) NO SALES
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists and the White House revealed that the U.S. had launched a secret rescue mission inside Syria earlier this summer that failed to rescue Foley and other Americans still being held hostage.
In brief but forceful remarks, Obama said the U.S. would “do what we must to protect our people,” but he stopped short of promising to follow the Islamic State in its safe haven within Syria, where officials said Foley had been killed. Later, though, the administration revealed that several dozen special operations troops had been on the ground in Syria briefly in an effort to rescue the hostages, but did not find them.
And looking forward, the State Department refused to rule out future U.S. military operations in Syria, where Obama has long resisted intervening in a three-year civil war.
Western nations agreed to speed help to combat the militants — most notably Germany, which bucked public opposition by announcing it would arm Iraqi Kurdish fighters to battle the Islamic State. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was outraged by the beheading, deeming it evidence of a “caliphate of barbarism.” Italy’s defense minister said the country hopes to contribute machine guns, ammunition and anti-tank rockets.
The Islamic State called Foley’s death a revenge killing for U.S. airstrikes against militants in Iraq, and said other hostages would be slain if the attacks continued. Undeterred, the U.S. conducted 14 additional strikes after a video of the beheading surfaced, bringing to 84 the number of airstrikes since they began on Aug. 8.
Two U.S. officials said additional American troops — probably less than 300 — could be headed to Iraq to provide extra security around Baghdad, where the U.S. Embassy is located. That would bring the total number of American forces in Iraq to well over 1,000, although officials said no final decision had been made. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.
Foley’s mother said she is praying for other hostages being held by the Sunni-dominated terror group, and described her son’s slaying as “just evil.”
“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day,” the president said. The Islamic State militants have promised to eliminate all people they consider heretics in their quest to create an extremist state across much of Iraq and Syria.
“We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” Obama said, urging unity among Mideast governments in order to eviscerate the extremist group’s growing power. He spoke from Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where his family is vacationing.
In capitals across the Middle East, news of Foley’s death was met largely with silence, even in Syria and Iraq — the two countries where the Islamic State is strongest. On social media, people in the region condemned Foley’s killing, but stressed that the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years.
For much of the past year, and until this summer, the Obama administration was deeply divided on how much of a threat the Islamic State posed to Americans or even other nations beyond Iraq and Syria. But since the militants’ march across northern Iraq in June, and as its ranks swelled almost threefold to an estimated 15,000 fighters, Obama has acknowledged that the Islamic State could become a direct threat to Americans.
The secret mission to rescue the U.S. hostages involved several dozen special operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria. The hostages weren’t found, but special forces engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing, according to administration officials. Several militants were killed, and one American sustained minor injuries.
“The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”
Foley’s death proved to the West what many people in Syria and Iraq already knew: The Islamic State “has declared war on the civilized world,” said Dr. Najib Ghadibian, the Syrian National Coalition’s special representative to the U.S. The group’s sweep also has served as a wake-up call to other Mideast governments, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.
“The Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Emiratis, and even the Qataris, are getting the message now,” Gerges said. “I think in the last few weeks we have seen a kind of new awareness on the part of regional powers that the Islamic State does present a threat to the very social fabric and the foundation of the state system.”
He said Foley’s death could help intensify efforts on the part of Washington’s regional allies to make a more concerted effort to address the threat.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom share a border with Iraq, have dispatched troops to the frontier in a bid to prevent any attempt by the extremists to attack. Iran, an ally of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, has sent military advisers to help organize Shiite militias in Iraq and defend holy sites.
Authorities from the Gulf to Egypt, as well as their peoples, have looked on with growing concern as the Islamic State group has brutally expanded the territory under its control, punctuating its rise by declaring a caliphate in lands straddling the Syria-Iraq border.
Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, was no stranger to war zone reporting. He went missing in northern Syria in November 2012 while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based news organization GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.
He was one of at least four Americans still being held in Syria — three of whom officials said were kidnapped by the Islamic State. The fourth, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.
The Islamic State video of Foley’s beheading also showed another of the missing American journalists, Steven Sotloff, and warned he would be the next killed if U.S. airstrikes continued. U.S. officials believe the video was made days before its Tuesday release, perhaps last weekend, and have grown increasingly worried about Sotloff’s fate.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says that more than 80 journalists have been abducted in Syria, and estimates that around 20 are currently missing there. It has not released their nationalities. In its annual report in November, the committee described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help in the captives’ release.
Obama avoided specific mention of the other American hostages in Syria, and was vague on whether the U.S. would significantly ramp up its assault on the Islamic State beyond the airstrikes and small potential increase in troops in Iraq. A third senior U.S. official said the administration was well aware of the risks to the hostages once the strikes began, and would now consider as aggressive a policy as possible to obliterate the militants.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf did not rule out military operations in Syria to bring those responsible to justice, saying the U.S. “reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans.”
U.S. lawmakers, however, said they doubted the White House would expand its attacks to strike within Syria — something the Obama administration has long resisted.
“The mission already crept a bit,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee member. “The administration would be wise to not get sucked in. That’s going to be very hard.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lamented that Obama has been “unwilling to do what is necessary to confront” the Islamic State.
(Lucas reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Bradley Klapper, and Josh Lederman in Washington, Jim Kuhnhenn in Massachusetts, Rik Stevens in Rochester, New Hampshire, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report).
Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP
Editors Note: If you were unlucky enough to see the video you would know it wasn’t a straightforward beheading, what that bastard did was inhumane and if his identity is ever found out he deserves the same treatment and nothing less, whether he is ‘british’ or not! it was barbaric!!!
By Reuters.Russian mechanics work on an Arctic Trucks all-terrain vehicle, based on the Lexus LX570 car, at an assembly shop of the Arctic Trucks Russia plant in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.
Russia may tighten retaliatory sanctions against Western nations to include a ban on imports of cars, among other things, if the U.S. and the EU impose additional sanctions on Moscow, business daily Vedomosti said Monday.
Following Russia’s standoff over Ukraine, Western nations imposed sanctions on Moscow including on its financial and energy sectors, and put dozens of Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on a sanctions list.
Imported vehicles accounted for 27 percent of sales of passenger cars in the first half of 2014, for trucks imports accounted for 46 percent, and 13 percent for buses, according to Vedomosti.
Russia, which denies allegations it is arming separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, may fully or partly ban imports of cars, Vedomosti reported, citing sources.
The new ban would not apply to foreign automakers’ production inside Russia, the paper said. Ford, Volkswagen, Ford Renault, Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co all have production facilities inside Russia.
The paper added that proposals for new measures had already been sent to Putin for consideration but that no decision had been taken to prepare any new sanctions yet.
New trade restrictions are possible in the event Western nations impose additional sanctions on Moscow, the paper added.
Russia has imposed a ban on certain agricultural imports from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.
It has also said the government could introduce protective measures in aircraft, shipbuilding and automotive industries
Editors Note: Is it just me or do you also think that Putin is digging his own grave? Russia’s sanctions on the west may cause a little sting to the wests economies but it is the russian people who will suffer the most, empty supermarket shelves, food shortages and now automobiles. The west on the otherhand are targeting Putin’s cronies where it hurts them most, in their wallets.
Self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the pro-Russian separatist ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Igor Strelkov has been badly wounded, agency says.
KIEV, August 13. /ITAR-TASS/. Defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Igor Strelkov has been badly wounded and is in serious condition, the Donetsk-based news agency Novorossiya said on Wednesday.
“Igor Strelkov is badly wounded. We were told so by a source in the Novorossiya [common reference to the Donetsk and Luhansk self-proclaimed republics] leadership. He is in grave condition,” the agency said.
DNR Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Purgin could not confirm or deny this information. He told ITAR-TASS that Strelkov had been in the area of intensive fighting lately.
“I have no precise information, but this is likely to be true. As far as I know, he was not in Donetsk but in the area of Shakhtersk, Torez and Snezhnoye where intensive fighting is going on,” Purgin told ITAR-TASS by telephone.
Editors Note: However as he is still breathing it is not considered too serious!