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(L to R) France’s President Francois Hollande, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sit during a meeting on the sidelines of a Europe-Asia summit (ASEM) in Milan, Oct. 17, 2014.
Talks between Russia, Ukraine and European governments on Friday were “full of misunderstandings and disagreements,” the Kremlin said, undercutting more upbeat messages from leaders hoping for a breakthrough in the Ukraine crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the start of a meeting with European leaders aimed at patching up a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and resolving a dispute over gas supplies.
The various leaders emerged an hour later telling reporters some progress had been made and promising further talks.
“It was good, it was positive,” a smiling Putin told reporters after the meeting, held on the margins of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Milan.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later poured cold water on hopes of any breakthrough, saying “certain participants” had taken an “absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic” approach to Ukraine.
“The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress,” he said.
A similar message emerged overnight after Putin met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a formerly cordial relationship that has come under heavy strain from Moscow’s support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The meeting was reported by both sides to have made little progress, with the Kremlin saying “serious differences” remained in their analysis of the crisis.
Putin, Poroshenko, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were due meet later in the day, their aides said.
The West has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea and its support for east Ukraine’s separatists.
The European leaders urged Russia to do more to end constant, deadly violations of a cease-fire that was agreed by Putin and Poroshenko last month in Minsk, saying Russia needed to fulfil its commitments.
Officials said local elections and the issue of using unmanned drone aircraft for surveillance of the borders between Russia and Ukraine were particular sticky points in the discussions, with Russia pushing to have its drones taking part alongside those offered by France and Germany.
The crisis in relations with Kiev has led Russia to cut gas supplies to Ukraine because of unpaid bills. The European Union fears this could threaten disruptions in the gas flow to the rest of the continent this winter, and is working hard to broker a deal.
Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier, accounting for around a third of demand, and the European Union gets about half of the Russian gas it uses via Ukraine.
The stand-off over pricing is the third in a decade between Moscow and Kiev, though this time tensions are higher because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters that Russia, Ukraine and EU officials would meet in Brussels to try to resolve the gas row.
Taking the lead in the diplomacy, Merkel saw Poroshenko on Thursday evening and then met Putin until well after midnight — an encounter that was significantly delayed because the Russian president arrived in Milan much later than expected.
Speaking off the record, a German source said Putin had not been in a “too constructive mood.”
Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would reduce gas supplies to Europe if Ukraine took gas from the transit pipeline to cover its own needs, although he added that he was “hopeful” it would not come to that.
More than 3,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in mid-April when armed separatists declared they were setting up their own state.
Although Putin announced this week that Russian troops near the border with Ukraine would be pulled back, Western officials want to see clear evidence that Moscow is acting on this.
“Vladimir Putin said very clearly he doesn’t want a frozen conflict and doesn’t want a divided Ukraine. But if that’s the case, then Russia now needs to take the actions to put in place all that has been agreed,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“If those things don’t happen, then clearly the European Union, Britain included, must keep in place the sanctions and the pressure so we don’t have this sort of conflict in our continent.”
Conscripts of the National Guard, which is a part of police troops, demand demobilization during an Oct. 13 protest by the president’s office. Taras Berezovets says the rally was a rehearsal of a coup instigated by Russia. © Pavlo Podufalov
After realizing that it’s impossible to create Novorossiya, the Kremlin will move to a new tactic for destabilization of Ukraine. It will bribe the military officers, special services and police with the aim of organizing a military coup to remove the legally elected government in Ukraine.
Simultaneous protests of servicemen of the National Guard (the special police unit) on Oct. 13 and at the same time in two different capitals, the capital of independent Ukraine Kyiv and the Soviet-era capital, Kharkiv, and another attempt at a protest in Chernihiv is a rehearsal by the Russian special forces before organizing a military coup in Ukraine.
The rehearsal of an attack on the Verkhovna Rada on Oct. 14 that followed, belongs to the same category. All political forces that took part in that day’s celebrations (of creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA), denied any involvement in the attack.
Chief commander of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko shares this view. He said that the meeting of draftees from the National Guard outside of the presidential administration was a provocation of foreign special services.
“It was a pity to watch adult men who fell for a provocation of the foreign special services and took part in this not-so-numerous action and attempt to discredit the Ukrainian army,” Poroshenko was quoted by lb.ua as saying in Zaporizhya.
He is spot on in this case. The Kremlin suffered a serious military fiasco in its war in Donbas. Creation of a Novorossiya in the form that Vladimir Putin envisaged, is impossible. And this fact cannot be covered by any amount of brainwashing in Russia by the Kremlin propaganda.
If you think that Ukraine has lost everything and sincerely believe that the West has betrayed us, here is what an authoritative Russian expert says about it.
The best representatives of the special services of the airborne troops and special forces of the army, were “ground outside of the Donetsk airport,” according to independent Russian journalist Stepan Demura.
He also says that NATO will soon be in Kharkiv as a result of a poorly planned military operation in Donbas.
There is also a difficult winter looming, which for the Kremlin can become very problematic in terms of trade of its main commodities that make much of the Russian gross domestic product, oil and gas. Even the primary school children (in Ukraine) know that oil price has been sliding.
Moreover, there is a really complex problem to solve of providing for 2.5 million Crimean residents in the winter, and the occupying military force on the peninsula. As a Crimean native, I will have to disappoint those who believe that the Kerch ferries will suffice for that.
In reality, during the half year of occupation, Russia has not made even a half-hearted attempt to make physical improvements at the crossing, even by buying several large ferries. The Greek ferry Dorius, which arrived in July, only fits 600 people and has been under repairs more than it has been carrying passengers. Moreover, the Black Sea storms that rage around the crossing, have always paralyzed the work of ferries in the winter. So, you can forget about the stable work of the crossing.
In these circumstances there are few options left for Putin. One is to start a full-scale attack with the aim of creating a corridor to Crimea through Donetsk, Zaporizhya and Kherson regions. Two is to start humiliating negotiations with Poroshenko to either allow Russian caravans through Ukraine’s territory, or ask Ukraine to renew supplies of its goods to Crimea.
But what about food sanctions, you might ask. It seems that the whole of Russia, choking on its gag reflex, will live on a diet of Ryazan swedes and Voronezh turnips, washing it down with powdered milk, while Crimea will be eating good quality Ukrainian food.
But what else has Kremlin got to do if the Potemkin-style bridge over the Kerch straigh has remained a public relations stint, while the hunger is real?
This is why the Kremlin has taken up the tried-and-tested Soviet technology of organizing a military coup. It has worked in Afghanistan and other republics, and is described well in the Wikipedia article about the removal of President Hafizullah Amin in Afghanistan.
In the hard times of trials the impact of a person with a gun is bigger than ever. If you top that with the network of agents developed under President Viktor Yanukovych, and then offer material interest for the uniformed people, you can achieve your goal.
This is why I am convinced that the Oct. 13 events in Kyiv and Kharkiv that featured representatives of the National Guard were a test of Kyiv’s reaction to a potential military coup in the conditions of war. If there are no criminal cases started in the next few days for leaving the place of permanent deployment, disobeying orders and participation in illegal protests, this would mean that the military prosecutors are not worth their pay.
Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.
Soldiers are the people who have given an oath. They cannot, like simple mortals, just come out and strike. They simply don’t have this right, especially in the times of war. How could they have simply locked the officers in the store rooms and go to Kyiv, like they say they did? Are there people who actually believe this farce?
Moreover, unlike the privates who do not carry weapons all the time, officers are always armed. How could one possibly disarm a trained officer?
In any case, suppressing an embryo of a coup is always easier than dealing with its aftermaths, which the Kremlin will continue attempting to organize as the protest sentiments grow in Ukraine.
According to the publicly available information, the protest actions of the National Guard in Kyiv and Kharkiv were coordinated by the same administrator in Kherson through the Russian social network Vkontakte.
This is enough entry data for a clever person. The case should now be taken over by the professionals from the special services. And the patriots, in the meantime, should make sure the government does not forget the crimes against national security that we have seen in the past few days.
(Taras Berezovets is a political consultant and owner of Berta consultancy).
The Kremlin is considering unplugging Russia from the global Internet. 1 Russian authorities say the extreme measure would only be taken in the event of military conflict or during “foreign-sponsored protests.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has in the past called the internet a special CIA project, has called a meeting of his security council for Monday to discuss the proposal.
- Basically isolating russian citizens from the outside world and news networks. ↩
Ukrainian refugees inside Russia are resisting attempts to be exiled to Siberia and Yakutia. The Kremlin proposed sending the refugees thousands of kilometres away into the harsh terrain of Russia’s far east, but many have refused.
The refugees crossed the border from the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to escape the war with Russia. Thousands ended up in the nearby Rostov oblast, which sits on the Black Sea. Some Ukrainians also fled into Russian-occupied Crimea, with many then put on a one-way flight to Magadan some 7,000 kilometres away.
By Anna Dolgov.
Kado Cornet walked barefoot down St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect. Vyacheslav Vereshchagin / Grani.ru / YouTube.
A peace activist has staged an emotive protest against the Kremlin’s policies on Ukraine by wandering blindfolded through St. Petersburg with her hands stained blood-red.
The activist, who goes by pseudonym Kado Cornet, was captured in a YouTube video walking barefoot down St. Petersburg’s central Nevsky Prospect, clad in a red skirt, blue shirt and a white headscarf — the colors of the Russian flag.
Cornet also wore on her wrists the orange-and-black ribbons of St. George — a Russian symbol of military valor — and a blindfold over her eyes, while walking with her outstretched hands stained in red.
“This is my Motherland. Blinded, insane, screaming in agony,” the activist said Saturday on her Facebook page. “It does not know where it is going, but it is sure that everyone should be afraid of its hands, which are stained in blood — others’ and its own.“
Passersby stopped in their tracks to watch the young woman as she staggered forward, emitting screams, witnesses said.
“This action made a most powerful impression on me,” Vadim Lurye from St. Petersburg said on his Facebook page. “Kado walked and screamed, and her scream could not be ignored. People received this action much more readily than any protest sign.“
The action titled “Russia’s Scream” ended after Cornet collapsed near the renowned Yeliseyevsky food store, lying motionlessly on the pavement, according to social media accounts.
While some passersby expressed concerns that the young woman may have fallen ill, nobody appeared willing to approach her except a homeless man, the protester and witnesses reported.
“When Russia falls, it will turn out that nobody except a homeless drunk is able to come to its aid,” Cornet said via Facebook.
A police officer summoned to the scene called an ambulance, Lurye said, though the protester appeared to be in good health, saying later on her Facebook page that she planned to travel around the country and eastern Europe in the coming days.
The artistic action was received positively by a number of Facebook users.
One woman praised the “fragile young woman, who is stronger than a million healthy men who are quietly watching from the side or yapping support for the authorities.”
“Brave girl, well done,” wrote another Facebook user.
The West has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of supplying arms to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, leading to a conflict with government forces that has left thousands dead and many more displaced. The Kremlin has denied the charges.
But Cornet in her Facebook message was keen to underline that her protest was not just directed at those in power: “No one who has tried to turn a deaf ear to this scream will be able to wash off the blood,” she wrote.