Tag Archives: Kiev

#Ukraine’s Prime Minister says country still in “state of war”

Russian trucks with Russian flags, intended to carry humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine are stationed ready for another possible trip near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo)Russian trucks with Russian flags, intended to carry humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine are stationed ready for another possible trip near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is “still in a state of war” with neighboring Russia despite a cease-fire between Kiev’s forces and Moscow-backed rebels in the east, the country’s prime minister said Saturday shortly after a second convoy of Russian trucks rolled into Ukraine.

Speaking at a conference with politicians and business leaders in Kiev, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “goal is to take the entire Ukraine.”

“He cannot cope with the idea that Ukraine would be a part of a big EU family. He wants to restore the Soviet Union,” Yatsenyuk said.

He didn’t mention the second convoy of Russian trucks that entered rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine earlier Saturday, reportedly filled with almost 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

The last truck crossed onto Ukrainian soil early Saturday from the Russian border town Donetsk, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) miles east of the Ukrainian city with the same name, Rayan Farukshin, a spokesman for Russia’s customs agency, told the Associated Press by phone. He could not confirm the number of trucks, but news agency ITAR TASS reported that about 250 trucks were heading toward the city Luhansk.

The Russian emergency ministry, which coordinated previous humanitarian aid deliveries to Ukraine, could not be reached for comment about the convoy.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, told journalists Saturday that the convoy had crossed “illegally” onto Ukrainian territory.

“Ukraine border guards and customs were not allowed to examine the cargo and vehicles,” he said. “Representatives of the Red Cross don’t accompany the cargo, nobody knows what’s inside.”

Lysenko’s relatively mild comments on the second convoy and the silence of more senior Ukrainian officials shows how dramatically the mood has shifted in the Kiev government since August. President Petro Poroshenko has been at pains to prove that last week’s cease-fire deal has yielded improvements on the ground in east Ukraine. On Friday, he lauded the deal, which has been riddled by violations since it was imposed last week, as a “fragile but efficient peace process.”

In August, Ukrainian officials said that a first convoy of humanitarian aid from Russia would be seen as an invasion of the country, and loudly protested any attempts by Russia to unilaterally bring in the aid. Eventually Russia sent its trucks across the border and into rebel-held territory without the oversight of the International Red Cross, contrary to an agreement signed between Ukraine and Russia.

A representative of the ICRC’s Moscow office said they had not been informed about the current convoy, either.

“We were not officially notified of an agreement between Moscow and Kiev to ship the cargo,” Galina Balzamova said Saturday.

A Ukrainian army helicopter flies over their positions in Debaltsevo, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The cease-fire between the separatists and the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)A Ukrainian army helicopter flies over their positions in Debaltsevo, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The cease-fire between the separatists and the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Lysenko said that six Ukrainian servicemen had died since the truce. He also confirmed that 12 rebel fighters had been killed by Ukrainian forces near Sea of Azov city of Mariupol, where he said they were doing reconnaissance work — the first such admission that they have inflicted casualties on the rebel side since the cease-fire began.

In a statement posted online early Saturday, the Donetsk city council said that there had been fighting near the airport throughout the night. Two shells had hit residential buildings in the area but no casualties were reported.

Continuous rocket fire could be heard overnight in downtown Donetsk, and a column of three GRAD rocket launchers — all its rockets still in place — was seen moving freely through the rebel-held city on Saturday morning.

(Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Ukraine contributed reporting).

Associated Press.

#Putin wants to destroy #Ukraine and restore Soviet Union, says #Yatseniuk #SovietUnion

Ukrainian PM tells a conference of European politicians that his country is in a ‘state of war’ and Russia is the aggressor.

A Ukrainian soldier stands next to a tank near the eastern Ukrainian town of Pervomaysk on Friday. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/ReutersA Ukrainian soldier stands next to a tank near the eastern Ukrainian town of Pervomaysk on Friday. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wants to destroy Ukraine as an independent country and to restore the Soviet Union, Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Saturday.

Speaking at a conference in Kiev attended by European and Ukrainian politicians and business leaders, Yatseniuk also praised a new wave of economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the United States and said they posed a major threat to the Russian economy.

“We are still in a stage of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation … Putin wants another frozen conflict (in eastern Ukraine),” Yatseniuk said.

“His aim is not just to take Donetsk and Lugansk,” Yatsenyuk said. “His goal is to take the entire Ukraine … Russia is a threat to the global order and to the security of Europe.”

He described the truce signed on 5 September in Minsk between Kiev, pro-Russian rebels and Moscow and the European security body the OSCE after five months of conflict in eastern Ukraine as just a “first step” to “stop a massacre”.

He said that having a bilateral accord with Russia was “not the best” idea and called on the United States and the European Union to play a direct role in peace talks and to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

“They (the Russians) will outplay us,” he said. “Putin wants to get his hands on our belly fat.”

The Guardian.

The British brain surgeon who joined the fight against #corruption in #Ukraine #HenryMarsh

Doctor and acclaimed author Henry Marsh had worked in Kiev for more than 20 years – then found himself in the middle of a revolution.

Henry Marsh stands in front of the Maidan protest in Kiev. Photograph: PRHenry Marsh stands in front of the Maidan protest in Kiev. Photograph: PR

I went to Kiev in December last year. The hospital where I work is in the centre of Kiev and only a few hundred yards away from Independence Square where Maidan – the demonstration against Yanukovych and his government – was in full swing. I helped operate on a young woman with a large brain tumour and saw the usual long queue of patients with awful problems in the dark and windowless corridor outside my colleague’s cramped little office.

While in Ukraine I made many visits to Maidan. To get to it you had to push your way through the lines of thuggish berkut – the special riot police. They were in visored black helmets, carried truncheons and shields and guns, and wore smart grey and blue camouflage uniforms. But once you were through the police lines you entered an extraordinary place. The central square in Kiev was packed with people, many draped in the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag. The air was full of the smell of wood smoke from the hundreds of oil drum braziers and field kitchens handing out free food. Flags and banners were flying everywhere. There were hundreds of tents, each with the name of the village or town from where the demonstrators had come. There were street musicians and bands playing all along Kreschatyk, the central street in Kiev. The atmosphere – despite the sinister police – was cheerful, yet you could feel a very real sense of determination. “We’re here to stay” everybody said while chanting “Bandu het!” ( Out with the gang).

I work as a senior consultant brain surgeon at St George’s Hospital in London. I had first gone to Ukraine in 1992 to give some lectures. The conditions I found in the hospitals I visited were terrible – the Soviet Union had been good at making guns and rockets but not much else. Healthcare – apart from for those in power – had been a low priority and, to make matters worse, the Ukrainian economy was in a dire state in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. I met a young neurosurgeon, Igor Kurilets, working in the State Emergency Hospital, who was burning with a fierce determination to improve things that most of his senior colleagues seemed to lack. It seemed a simple matter to help him and I took to driving to Ukraine with car loads of secondhand medical equipment – microscopes, operating tables, thousands of instruments –enough to equip an entire neurosurgical theatre. I soon learned, however, that the newly independent Ukraine had not lost its old Soviet habits; innovation and initiative and contact with the west, if not sanctioned by those in charge, were met with implacable opposition. Igor’s attempts, with my help, to do better for his patients, quickly ran into difficulties. There were endless enquiries and denunciations, and on several occasions members of Igor’s staff were sacked. At one time, following telephoned death threats, he even felt obliged to sleep in a different room each night. While his problems became ever greater, I felt I could not very well abandon him and I have continued to work with him, pro bono, in my spare time, ever since.

Igor eventually left the state system to set up his own private clinic, where he paid all his taxes, and bribes from patients were no longer required. Money and medicine are never far apart, and his transparent honesty and tremendous success (since patients flocked to see him) were seen by many as a threat.

At last, after more than 20 years, Igor’s position is reasonably secure. Since I first went there, healthcare in Ukraine has improved considerably, although by European standards the country remains very poor. But when I saw what was unfolding last winter, it seemed to me that the protesters against the Ukrainian government, and its closeness to Russia, were fighting the same fight Igor had been engaged in for so many years – a fight against corruption and arbitrary rule. Although Yanukovych had been democratically elected, the police and judicial system were so corrupt that this had little meaning. With his family and cronies he had quickly started to amass a personal fortune by embezzlement and intimidation, and this corruption had spread into every corner of Ukrainian life. Igor, for instance, had had to start paying regular bribes to the police and pharmacological authorities or face criminal prosecution for trivial infringements of unrealistic regulations. I visited Yanokovych’s notorious private pleasure palace at Mezhyhirya in March, when it was left empty and open to the public. Behind the 20ft high walls mounted with security cameras, there is a shooting gallery, a huge sauna surrounded by water gardens, a vast garage with its own petrol station and a six-litre Mercedes coupe parked outside ( the other cars had all been looted), as well as an enclosure with ostriches waiting to be eaten. And, of course, there is the palace and an airport. The way Yanukovych looted Ukraine is a perfect example of the “extractive” institutions (described by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson in their brilliant book Why Nations Fail) that lead eventually to the collapse of states and empires. Another country, which has similarly extractive institutions is Putin’s Russia.

‘Healthcare in Ukraine has improved since I first went there’… Henry Marsh. Photograph: PR‘Healthcare in Ukraine has improved since I first went there’… Henry Marsh. Photograph: PR

I returned to London on a wintry Sunday evening with deep reluctance, but I had a long list of operations for Monday. Then, on Tuesday of that week, Maidan turned violent when the government tried to evict the demonstrators. We have all seen the extraordinary scenes on television of the berkut locked in battle with the demonstrators, in temperatures down to -13C; scenes that looked like medieval battles. I rang Igor the following morning.

“They are heroes,” he said of the demonstrators, his voice breaking with emotion “Heroes. Henry, you must come back!” I felt a surge of patriotism within me for the country that has almost become my second home, even though I do not speak Russian or Ukrainian.

“Yes!” I shouted in reply because I had suddenly remembered that my outpatient clinic for the next day had been cancelled and I was supposed to be attending a rather dull meeting where nobody would notice my absence. I was able to get the last ticket out on the morning flight to Kiev the next day, 12 December, and so was back with my friends in Maidan by lunchtime.

The atmosphere now was very different. High barricades of bags packed with snow had been built round all the entrances to the square, so that the place looked like a fortress. Demonstrators wearing hard-hats or army helmets stood guard at the entrances, carrying shields and staves. Ruslana, the famous Ukrainian singer, was haranguing the crowd from the stage. “Bez krovni,” she said over and over again and they chanted it back: “Bez krovni” – “without blood”. I spent much of the next few days wandering around Maidan, since my visit was unplanned and there was little operating to be done. I was exhilarated (and worried) by what I saw but, once again, I had to return to London, deeply reluctant though I was to leave Kiev.

I next returned in early March. Yanukovych had fled the country, leaving a blackened and scarred Maidan behind him. Over 100 people had been killed there, shot down by snipers on the roofs of the buildings just next to the hospital in Institutska Street. One of the steel lamp-posts behind which the demonstrators had taken shelter was drilled with bullet holes – on the side facing away from the camp. So much for the Russian claims that the demonstrators had been shot in the back by their own side. Maidan was now a sad and sombre place with candles and plastic flowers and photographs of the dead on every corner, surrounded by smoke-darkened buildings.

Before Ukraine became headline news, when I told people at home of my enthusiasm for that country, they usually expressed some surprise.

“It’s in Russia, isn’t it?” was the usual response. I would explain how Ukraine was roughly divided into east and west, the west looking towards Europe and the east towards Russia, but would add that nobody expected that Ukraine would go the way of Yugoslavia. Ukraine was different. I would also say that it was a very important country but I doubt if anybody believed me.

All this has changed. Russia has invaded eastern Ukraine and the problem now is about Russia’s place in the modern world. Putin has replaced the dubious altruism of communism with the mystical pan-Slavism that has been the traditional response of some Russians to the existential threat they felt Russia faced from the west (which now takes the form of Nato). In this perspective, Ukraine is seen as part of Russia’s ancient heritage, while Ukraine’s move towards the west is a betrayal of this heritage and needs to be punished. The Russian equivalent of English jokes about the stupid Irish are told about Ukrainians. I suspect the closest analogy with many Russians’ view of Ukraine is with the patronising, colonial attitudes many people in England had toward Ireland in the past. The Soviet Union was, after all, the last of the great Empires and Putin has said that its demise was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Putin wants Russia to be a Great Power once again.

Equally important – perhaps more important – is the fact that Putin runs Russia on the same extractive, corrupt principles as Yanukovych ran Ukraine, and the success of Maidan at his back door has been a real threat to his own system of rule. It seems that Ukraine will pay a terrible price – it already has in terms of lives lost or ruined – for Russia’s failure to escape its past. I will be back in Kiev in December. I do not know what I will find, apart from a list of patients with difficult brain tumours and other neurosurgical problems waiting patiently outside Igor’s office.

(To buy Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh for £13.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on (+44) 0330 333 6846 or go to guardianbookshop.co.uk).

The Guardian.

#Russia threatens #Ukraine with import tariffs from November

A Russian woman shops for yogurt in Saint Petersburg on August 7, 2014.A Russian woman shops for yogurt in Saint Petersburg on August 7, 2014. © AFP

(Reuters) – Russia will introduce import tariffs on Ukrainian goods as of Nov. 1 if Kiev proceeds with a trade pact with the European Union, local news agencies cited Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev as saying on Sept. 12.

Ukraine is set to ratify a wide-ranging free trade pact with the 28-nation EU that Russia fears will be harmful to its economy.

“If our partners do not listen to us, and consider our arguments unconvincing, then we will take adequate protective measures,” RIA news agency cited Ulyukayev as saying in Brussels.

In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Russian economy could suffer a loss of some 100 billion roubles (£1.6 billion) if European goods reach the Russian market via Ukraine as a result of the Kiev-EU deal.

Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank, said it was possible steps would be taken to prevent Moscow taking punitive trade action.

“There is still talk of some form of transitional measures which would limit potential opportunity for Russian ‘retaliation’ and cut the Ukrainians as much slack as possible,” he said in a note.

A tug of war between the EU and Russia over Ukraine has contributed to a crisis in the former Soviet republic, which has been battling a pro-Russia separatist insurgency since mid-April.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Lidia Kelly).


#Poroshenko says #separatist areas could get greater #autonomy, but #rebels demand more!

by Michael Birnbaum and Daniela Deane.
A Pro-Russian fighter gestures in Troitsko-Khartsyzk, 30 Km east of Donetsk, on August 28, 2014A Pro-Russian fighter gestures in Troitsko-Khartsyzk, 30 Km east of Donetsk, on August 28, 2014. © AFP

MOSCOW – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Sept. 10 that rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine could be granted greater autonomy, but vowed they will always remain part of the country, pro-Russian separatists however repeated demands that they be given full independence.

In remarks to his cabinet in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, Poroshenko stressed that the rebels must consider political compromises as the next step after a tenuous cease-fire that took effect Friday.

The “fate of peace” depends on it, Poroshenko said. He said he will introduce legislation next week on the status of the rebel-held regions to give them more local power, although he offered few details.

The prospect of handing over any amount of control to the rebels is deeply unpopular among many of Poroshenko’s pro-European allies even though it appears to be the main condition of the cease-fire deal.

He asked the cabinet to help preserve the peace in eastern Ukraine.

Perhaps we will not be happy with the composition of local deputies elected by residents of Luhansk and Donetsk in early elections to municipal and district councils. But isn’t it better to administer policy through ballots instead of automatic gunfire and Grad volleys?” he said, referring to the truck-mounted multiple-rocket systems that both sides have used to inflict devastation.

The cease-fire, meanwhile, appeared largely to hold despite sporadic clashes. Poroshenko said Russia had pulled back about 70 percent of the troops who Ukraine and Western allies said had crossed the border. It was not possible to confirm his claim. Russia has denied sending troops into Ukraine.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged European Union partners to quickly impose new sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis. The potential economic measures have been on hold as the European Union assesses the cease-fire. The bloc appears poised to go forward with sanctions as soon as Thursday.

Separatists on Wednesday repeated their demands for full independence, and both sides appeared to doubt the endurance of the truce.

We fully and absolutely insist on our republic’s independence within the boundaries of the Donetsk region,” Andrei Purgin, a top rebel leader, told the Interfax news service.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said in Moscow that Russia will defend itself against threats, including NATO’s bolstered presence near the country’s borders.

The Kremlin will “take adequate response measures to ensure our security,” he said at a meeting of his security advisers.

(Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter. Daniela Deane reported from Rome).

The Washington Post.