Tag Archives: European Union

Russian-backed rebels aim to push west along coast #RussiainvadedUkraine


PETER LEONARD and JUERGEN BAETZ
A local resident passes by camouflaged pro-Russian tank in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)A local resident passes by camouflaged pro-Russian tank in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits).

NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine (AP) — Their tanks bearing the flag of their would-be state, Russian-backed separatists held control Friday over this coastal town on the new front in the Ukraine conflict and announced their intention to keep pushing west toward a major port city.

None of the half-dozen tanks seen by Associated Press reporters in the town of about 12,000 people bore Russian markings, but the packaging on their field rations said they were issued by the Russian army.

The Ukrainian government the day before accused Russia of sending tanks, artillery and troops across the border, and NATO estimated at least 1,000 Russian troops were in Ukraine.

As tensions rose, European Union foreign ministers called for heavier sanctions against Moscow ahead of Saturday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was invited to address the summit.

Captured Ukrainian border guards sit in a garage at the Novoazovsk border crossing point, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. At Novoazovsk, rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)Captured Ukrainian border guards sit in a garage at the Novoazovsk border crossing point, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. At Novoazovsk, rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

The rebels denied they are getting Russian military vehicles.

“We are fighting with the machinery the (Ukrainian forces) abandon. They just dump it and flee,” said a rebel commander who identified himself by the nom de guerre Frantsuz, or the Frenchman.

Although such claims of using only confiscated Ukrainian equipment are common, top rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko himself has said Russia was supplying equipment and fighters — something Moscow has steadfastly denied doing.

“Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday. “This is a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It defies all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution.”

A spokesman for the rebels in Novoazovsk, who identified himself only as Alexander, said their plan was to push westward to the major port city of Mariupol, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) away.

A pro-Russian rebel listens to the news on a transistor radio in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)A pro-Russian rebel listens to the news on a transistor radio in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

There was no sign of imminent movement on Friday, but Alexander’s statement underlined fears that the rebels’ eventual aim is to establish a land bridge between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia earlier this year.

Speaking at a Kremlin-organized youth camp on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the Ukrainian government’s efforts to put down the separatist uprising to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in 1941-44.

The Leningrad comparison is a powerful one for Russians and clearly aimed at portraying the Ukraine conflict in stark, good-versus-evil terms. The 872-day siege, in which at least 670,000 civilians died, is seen by many Russians as one of the most heroic chapters in the country’s history.

To stop the bloodshed, the Kiev government should open talks with the rebels, Putin said.

The death toll in the fighting reached nearly 2,600 as of Wednesday, said Ivan Simonovic, U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights. He described the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine as “alarming,” with people unable to leave cities caught up in the fighting.

The U.N. human rights office on Friday accused both sides of deliberately targeting civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with participants in the youth educational forum at the Seliger youth camp near Lake Seliger, some 450 kilometres (281 miles) northwest of Moscow, in Tver region, Russia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by the rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with participants in the youth educational forum at the Seliger youth camp near Lake Seliger, some 450 kilometres (281 miles) northwest of Moscow, in Tver region, Russia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by the rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

The separatists have carried out murders, torture and abductions along with other serious human rights abuses, while Ukraine’s military is guilty of such acts as arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture, the organization said in a report.

At a meeting in Milan, several EU foreign ministers accused Russia of invading eastern Ukraine and said Moscow should be punished with additional sanctions. The diplomats were expected to draw up measures that could put before the EU heads of state on Saturday.

The head of the EU’s executive Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, warned Putin that further destabilization of Ukraine “will carry high costs.”

Putin called on the separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by the rebels in eastern Ukraine. He appeared to be referring to soldiers trapped outside the town of Ilovaysk, east of Donetsk, for nearly a week.

A camouflaged pro-Russian tank seen in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)A camouflaged pro-Russian tank seen in the town of Novoazovsk, in eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. In Novoazovsk, pro Russian rebel fighters looked to be in firm control, well-equipped and relaxed. At least half a dozen tanks were seen on roads around the town, although the total number at the rebels’ disposal is believed to be much greater. Novoazovsk fell swiftly to the rebels Wednesday after being pounded by shelling.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Zakharchenko, the rebel leader, said the Ukrainian troops would have to lay down their arms before they would be allowed to go “so that this weaponry and ammunition will not be used against us in future.”

A spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council, Col. Andriy Lysenko, rejected the demand: “Ukraine is not ready to surrender arms and kneel in front of the aggressor.”

Ukraine, meanwhile, got a boost from the International Monetary Fund, which said Friday it had approved payment of a $1.39 billion aid installment as part of a financial support package. The sum brings the total that has been paid out to $4.51 billion, out of $16.67 billion due over two years.

For the second day, Russian markets reacted nervously to the escalation of the conflict, with the Russian ruble sliding to the all-time low of 37.10 rubles against the dollar in early morning trading. It recovered later to 36.90 rubles.

(Juergen Baetz reported from Milan. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Jim Heintz in Kiev, and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed reporting).


Associated Press.

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says #RussiainvadedUkraine #NuclearRussia


BY ALEXEI ANISHCHUKPutin's Nuclear Threat

LAKE SELIGER, Russia – President Vladimir Putin said on Aug. 29 Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge.

“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts,” he said at the camp on the banks of Lake Seliger. “We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.

“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us,” said Putin, dressed casually in a grey sweater and light blue jeans.

“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Putin spoke easily with the students, many of whom looked to be asking scripted questions about demography and history. Other times he accepted gifts or, smilingly, played down their praise.

When a student said that she had not heard a single negative comment about Putin’s presidency from camp speakers, he responded with a grin that “objectivity” was important.

His tone darkened when speaking on Ukraine, blaming the United States and the European Union for the “unconstitutional” removal of Kiev’s former Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich and replacement with a pro-European government.

He said eastern Ukraine did not agree with Yanukovich’s removal and was now subjected to “crude military force” from government planes, tanks and artillery.

“If those are contemporary European values, then I’m simply disappointed in the highest degree,” he said, comparing Ukraine’s military operations in the east of the country with the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War Two.

“Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure… It sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist… occupiers surrounded our cities.”

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Thomas Grove; editing by Ralph Boulton).


Reuters.

President urged his colleagues at the #Minsk meeting to support the strategy of peaceful future of Ukraine


President Petro PoroshenkoPresident of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko urged all the participants of the meeting Ukraine-EU-“Eurasian trio” to support peaceful settlement of the situation in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

“I am confident that today, the only possible instrument of terminating bloodshed and ensuring post-conflict reconstruction of the Donbas is peaceful settlement. I call on all the participants of the meeting to consider and take this as a basis for the settlement of the situation,” the Head of State said at the meeting.

The President noted that he was ready to discuss different options that would ensure the strategy of peaceful future for Ukraine and the entire Europe.

The first and foremost precondition for stabilization of the situation in the East of Ukraine, according to Petro Poroshenko, is the establishment of efficient control over the Ukrainian-Russian border. “It is necessary to do everything to stop the supply of armored vehicles and arms to the militants. Such control is possible only with the involvement of the OSCE mission into the monitoring and verification of the border,” he said.

The President also called for immediate liberation of all hostages. Including Ukrainian citizens who are now abroad. “These steps will open the way to peaceful settlement and beginning of the restoration of the Donbas,” he noted.

Petro Poroshenko stressed that the government had already been considering options of restoring the region and its development after the settlement of the situation and the achievement of peace. “The international community also supports such intentions and efforts. Our foreign partners are ready to provide concrete proposals in the course of the donor conference on Ukraine planned for autumn,” the President said inviting the participants of the meeting to take part in it.

At the same time, Petro Poroshenko emphasized that the implementation of those initiatives would become possible only after making decisive steps on de-escalation of the conflict in the Donbas.

Official website of President of Ukraine.

Secret US-Russia talks on Ukraine held in Finland #USRussia


Obama & Putin
HELSINKI (AP) — The Finnish Foreign Ministry says that the United States and Russia held secret talks over Ukraine in Finland in June.

Ministry spokesman Vesa Hakkinen told the AP that the ministry helped organize the meeting on the island of Boisto off the southern Finnish coast but declined to give more information.

Earlier this month, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto met President Vladimir Putin and traveled to Ukraine for talks with President Petro Poroshenko, leading to speculation that he was acting on behalf of the European Union.

Niinisto’s office said Tuesday that he was not involved in the secret June talks between the U.S. and Russia.

Associated Press.

Russia to send second aid convoy to eastern Ukraine #aidconvoy


Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov tells Kiev Moscow is preparing to repeat deliveries to rebel-held areas in next few days.

By Associated Press in Moscow. Trucks marked as being from a Russian aid convoy return to Russia at the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, last week. Photograph: Sergei Grits/APTrucks marked as being from a Russian aid convoy return to Russia at the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, last week. Photograph: Sergei Grits/AP

Russia has announced plans to send a second aid convoy to rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where months of fighting have left many buildings in ruins.

Russia unilaterally sent about 200 tractor-trailers across the border on Friday, a move characterised by the Kiev government as an invasion.

Even though the white-tarpaulined vehicles returned to Russia on Saturday without incident, the announcement of another convoy was likely to raise fresh suspicions that Russia is supplying the rebels.

Russia’s unilateral dispatch of over 200 trucks into Ukraine on Friday was denounced by the Ukrainian government as an invasion and condemned by the US, the European Union and Nato.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said on Monday that Russia had notified the Ukrainian government that it was preparing to send a second convoy along the same route in the coming days.

Lavrov also said the food, water and other goods delivered to the hard-hit rebel city of Luhansk by the first convoy were being distributed on Monday with the participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

There was no immediate confirmation by the Red Cross.

In sending in the first convoy, Russia said it had lost patience with what it called Ukraine’s stalling tactics. It claimed that soon “there will no longer be anyone left to help” in Luhansk, where weeks of heavy shelling have cut off power, water and communications and made food scarce.

The Ukrainian government in the past few weeks has been making strong gains, taking back territory from the rebels. It believed the aid convoy was a ploy by Russia to get supplies to the rebels and slow down the government advances.

On Sunday, as Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its 1991 independence from Moscow, President Peter Poroshenko announced the government would be increasing its military spending in a bid to defeat the rebels.

In rebel-held Donetsk, captured Ukrainian soldiers were paraded on Sunday in the streets, jeered by the crowd and pelted with eggs and tomatoes.


The Guardian.