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A Ukrainian serviceman jumps off a tank after a ceremony with the Ukrainian president for the delivery of more than 100 pieces military equipment, including armoured vehicles, to the Ukrainian armed forces, near north-eastern Ukrainian city of Chuguiv, Kharkiv region, on December 6, 2014. Photographer: Sergey Bobok/AFP Photos/Getty Images
Aliaksandr Kudrytski, BloombergBusinessweek.
Ukraine accused separatists of stepping up their attacks in the eastern part of the country, while the two sides neared an agreement to resume peace talks as soon as this week.
Pro-Russia rebels shelled Ukrainian positions 15 times today, the Defense Ministry said on its Facebook page, while government troops returned fire 10 times. Earlier the ministry said the number of insurgent attacks had almost doubled in the previous 24 hours.
“The rebels are regularly receiving supplies of ammunition,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev today, saying that the separatists have been using multiple rocket systems more actively. “Our troops return fire effectively, using artillery to suppress the enemy’s firing positions.”
The months-long unrest has prompted the worst standoff between Russia and the U.S. and the European Union since the Cold War. Ukraine’s allies blame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government for instigating the crisis by giving rebels weapons, cash and fighters. Putin, who denies any involvement, met with French President Francois Hollande in Moscow yesterday and said a cease-fire will hopefully be reached soon.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight wounded in the last 24 hours, Lysenko said, while shelling continues near the southern city of Mariupol along the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said there is a “preliminary” agreement to resume peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, on Dec. 9. This is also planned as a day of artillery silence in a deal reached Dec. 5 with representatives from Russia, rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Denis Pushilin, permanent representative for truce talks from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russia’s Interfax news service: “We insist on holding talks no earlier than Dec. 12.” He said a “multitude of questions” still needs to be worked out before negotiations can start, according to IFX.
Three civilians were killed and 10 wounded by shelling last night, the separatist-controlled Donetsk city administration said on its website. Two civilians were killed by rebel shelling of the village Kryakivka in Luhansk region, Luhansk regional Governor Hennadiy Moskal said on his website.
Monitors from the OSCE reported seeing more than 100 unmarked green military vehicles traveling westward toward Donetsk. The OSCE said on its website the report was based on information received as of the evening of Dec. 5. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported yesterday that about 120 military vehicles had crossed from Russia into rebel-held territories of Ukriane.
More than 4,300 people have died in the Ukraine conflict, according to a “conservative” United Nations estimate.
The new Ukrainian government of Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk needs to adopt a 2015 budget and tax laws complying with International Monetary Fund requirements to qualify for the next $2.8 billion disbursement of its bailout package. Ukraine needs the cash, part of a $17 billion loan program, to repay debt, buy heating fuel for winter and stem the hryvnia’s slump of about 46 percent this year. An IMF mission will visit Ukraine Dec. 9-18 to discuss economic reforms.
Ukraine’s bonds have lost the most this quarter after Venezuela among 58 nations in the Bloomberg USD Emerging Market Sovereign Bond Index. (BEMS) The benchmark note due July 2017 fell yesterday, sending the yield to an all-time high. The hryvnia depreciated 0.7 percent against the dollar.
Ukraine’s foreign reserves shrank to $10 billion, the central bank said this week after it dipped into its cash to pay off Russian energy debt. Inflation in November quickened to 21.8 percent from a year earlier, the fastest since January 2009, compared with 19.8 percent in October.
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To contact the reporter on this story: Aliaksandr Kudrytski in Minsk, Belarus at firstname.lastname@example.org
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James Hughes (L) and Jamie Read (R) have joined a band of foreigners in the fight against ISIS. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News.
Two former British soldiers currently fighting against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have revealed that the killing of UK aid worker Alan Henning was “the final straw” that compelled them to join the battle in Syria, The Sun reported on Friday.
“Killing the aid worker was the final straw,” one of the soldiers, Jamie Read, told the tabloid.
Henning, a British former taxi driver who traveled to Syria to aid refugees, was executed by a masked ISIS militant – known by media outlets as “Jihadi John” – in a video released online in October, following a similar series released by the group.
“There is no justification for their executions – for putting innocent guys on their knees and doing that,” Read said.
“My family were nervous and obviously worried about my well-being – we have gone into an unknown world. But I’m a firm believer that if you want to do something you have to do it and not just talk about it,” he added.
Read, 24, along with and James Hughes, 26, are currently fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces to defend the beleaguered Syrian border town of Kobane from ISIS.
“I wanted to help. The situation in England is getting bad in terms of the support ISIS get,” Hughes, who reportedly served in Afghanistan three times, said.
“The world needs to open its eyes to the threat they pose.”
The duo made international headlines last month when it was first revealed they had traveled to war-ton Syria to join a band of foreign fighters assisting in the battle against ISIS, which now holds about a third of Syria and a third of Iraq.
The pair are just two among an estimated 500 British citizens who have joined the Syrian frontline, forming a band of foreign fighters known as the “Lions of Rojava.”
Rojava, also known as the Syrian Kurdistan, is de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.
The Lions of Rojava’s Facebook page calls on foreigners to join the fight against the militants.
Islam Yaken – who according to friends had lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle back home in Egypt – bewildered many when he joined the extremist militants. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)
Ashraf Abdel Hamid, Al Arabiya News, Cairo.
Islam Yaken, a wealthy young Egyptian who left his homeland to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the summer, has been killed in a suicide mission in the Syrian conflict town of Kobane, Egyptian media reported on Monday.
Yaken – who according to friends had lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle back home in Egypt – bewildered many when he joined the extremist militants. A photo of him published on social media networks in August showed him brandishing a sword while mounted on a horse in Syria.
Before taking his life in a Kobane suicide operation, he had published a final letter on Twitter on Nov. 21.
“I ask almighty God not to be one of those meant in the verse ‘And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed’ or be one of ‘those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work,’” Yaken addressed his comrades in the letter.
Photos that surfaced on social media showed Yaken fighting for ISIS. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)
Yaken also voiced hope that God accepts his “deeds as good ones carried out for his sake.”
“Oh brothers of unification across the world…fight the enemies of Allah, the infidels, the worshippers of the cross, the Jews and the tyrannical apostates and their armies. Slay their heads with your swords, kill them with your bullets and blow yourselves up (among them). Don’t forget [the use of ] explosive devices as they are the best of deeds to gain the merciful (Allah’s) consent,” he added.
Born into a wealthy family, Yaken went to high school at the French Lycée la Liberté in Héliopolis and graduated in 2009.
As a multilingual student, he then went to Ain Shams University for a Law degree, which he completed in 2013.
An investigation by Al Arabiya News Channel revealed that as a schoolboy, he was considered normal and non-violent, yet was not very successful academically.
When Yaken graduated from school, he started to become interesting in bodybuilding, and regularly practiced sports.
“He was aged 17 when he first came to the gym,” the director of the gym where Yaken had trained told Al Arabiya News Channel, who added that despite being respectable, polite and honest, he believed the youth was looking for fame.
With his hard, consistent work in the gym, the beefed-up Yaken would take photographs of himself at the gym and immediately upload them on Facebook, the gym director added.
Islam Yaken showing off his muscles. (Photo courtesy Facebook)
“He liked to show off a lot and I once criticized him for that,” the gym director said.
Yaken began to show interest in becoming a personal trainer, and started uploading videos of him exercising on Youtube.
During the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests in August 2013, where hundreds of protestors were massacred by security forces, Yaken did not seem to have a stance on either side, he added.
One of Yaken’s former friends, who did not wish to be identified, told Al Arabiya News in August that he had once referred to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as “infidels.”
Yet his privileged life of gym sessions, girlfriends and trips to the resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh would soon come to a halt.
“After a period of time, his friend who lived next to him in the same district got a motorcycle accident and died,” one of Yaken’s friends from university said.
After the tragedy, Yaken seemed to begin to fear death. He started to pray regularly, grew a beard, and began to wear the traditional jellabiya – a long cloak deemed unfashionable by many urban Egyptians. He had also began to turn off the TV in the gym.
As a second step, Yaken then started attending sessions at a religious school in Cairo, known for its observance to hardline Salafist theology.
While attending the sessions, Yaken would workout with other people there, ostensibly because “a strong believer is better than a weak believer.”
Soon after, despite the attempts of a local imam to try to dissuade him, Yaken travelled to Syria, where pictures fighting for ISIS appeared on social media – some showing him brandishing a sword, others showing him posing next to bloodied corpses.
While there, he called his mother and tried to persuade her to join him in his apartment by the Euphrates river. There, he boasted, he was doing well, and was also making a steady paycheck from the group.
“I spoke with my mother and told her to come and stay in this flat on the Euphrates,” he wrote on a social media account. “She can eat and drink and study, with the family and everything. She replied, ‘My son, what would happen if the owners of the flat came back? What will you do then?’ I told her not to worry — they are dead and gone.”
In the letter he penned shortly before his death, Yaken asked his family and friends to live for the unification of God’s kingdom.
“Death comes to all, rather unannounced even to Muslims and the infidel alike,” he wrote.
Gil Rosenberg. Photo Ch. 2.
Dave Bender, Algemeiner.com.
Jihadist websites on Sunday reported that Gila Rosenberg, the Canadian who served in the IDF and volunteered to help Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS in Syria, was abducted by ISIS militants, Israel’s Ch. 2 News reported. There has been no official confirmation of the report.
“I decided to do my part in the Kurdish national effort,” Rosenberg, 31, and a former IDF soldier, said in a telephone interview with Israel Radio earlier this month.
“I’m on the Iraq-Syria border, and we’re currently about 3,000 meters from ISIS,” she told a radio interviewer during the call. “I was given an RPG by the Kurdish army.”
Rosenberg joined up with the Kurds via the internet, similar to hundreds of foreign fighters who opted to join ISIS’ ranks in recent months, including Israeli Arabs, some of whom are facing jail terms.
“I found them via Facebook, and told them I wanted to volunteer, and went to Iraq,” she said.
Rosenberg left Tel Aviv about a month ago, and made her way to Erbil, in northern Iraq. From there, she traveled to the Syrian border, where she began the training process prior to taking up arms in the battle.
She told Israel Radio that she decided to aid the Kurds because “they are our brothers, and are a good, life-affirming people – like us,” she said, and added that she felt she could contribute from her military experience in the Israeli army.
Rosenberg told well wishers on her Facebook page last month to “Remember, life is beautiful,” in what may have been the last sign of life from her.
She added that “In the [Israeli] army we say ‘Acharai – after me’ – let’s show ISIS what it means.”
Rosenberg, who in her previous life in Canada was a civil aviation pilot, emigrated to Israel in 2006.
In 2009, in an FBI sting operation with Israeli police, US authorities charged her with taking part in a $25 million international phone scam to bilk elderly Americans out of pension savings. She was extradited to the US, stood trial, was convicted and served four years, according to reports. She was later deported, and returned to Israel.