Tag Archives: Kyiv Post

Ian Bateson: Can #Ukraine win the #war in the east?


by Ian Bateson.
Ukrainian forces take their position not far from Luhansk on Aug. 20, 2014.Ukrainian forces take their position not far from Luhansk on Aug. 20, 2014. © AFP

When tanks and artillery entered the southern Donetsk Oblast from Russia on Aug. 27 it caught Ukrainian forces off guard, sending shockwaves through Ukraine’s leadership.  Resistance quickly crumbled as the advancing forces took Novoazovsk and surrounding villages.

With reports that Russian regulars led the offensive not Russian-supported Ukrainian separatists or volunteers, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk appeared in front of television cameras visibly shaken.  “Russian terrorists we can handle, but not the Russian army,” he said before trailing off.

With the new offensive the optimism that existed in July, when Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey said Ukraine would hold a victory march in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, has evaporated. Doubt is growing among both the Ukrainian officials and military experts as to whether Ukraine could win this war.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced intentions to reshuffle the military leadership, but any reshuffle will add to an already confusing situation where civilian and military bodies attempt to coordinate a war effort still referred to as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (ATO).

For now an uneasy ceasefire is in place, giving both sides an opportunity to regroup. But if and when massive fire restarts, whoever ends up heading the military effort after the reshuffle will not only have to deal with a situation where Ukrainian forces are on the defensive, but will be under pressure to retake lost territory, and demonstrate a clear strategy that has previously been absent from Ukrainian military operations.

The situation now

“I don’t see any tactics from the Ukrainian side.  No tactics to fight the Russian invasion,” said Archil Tsintsadze, a retired Georgian colonel who fought in Abkhazia and former military advisor to the Georgian embassy in Kyiv.

As the armed conflict in Ukraine’s east has continued, Ukraine has come under increasing criticism for not having a clear strategy, and instead simply reacting to events as they happen.

After ending a unilateral ceasefire this summer, Ukrainian forces made rapid advances, taking territory back from Russian-supported separatists, but failed to deliver a coup de grace that could have defeated the separatists.  Instead Ukrainian advances pushed separatists into the  heavily populated regional centers of Donetsk and Luhansk, complicating fighting that has already seen a high number of civilian casualties.

Before the latest escalation of events on Aug. 27, Ukrainian authorities claimed several times to have successfully encircled separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, only for it later to become clear that men and equipment were still freely able to get in and out of those areas. But the effort to contain separatists came to an end when a new front was opened in the southern Donetsk Oblast.

“Now it is more or less clear that after the maneuver by separatists or Russians near Mariupol the Ukrainian army doesn’t have the forces to encircle Donetsk and Luhansk anymore,” said independent Russian military expert Alexander Golts.

A map released by the Ukrainian Security Council on Sep. 11 seemed to confirm the new status quo, showing Luhansk, Donetsk, and Novoazovsk, along with a large chunk of surrounding territories, to be solidly connected by territory controlled by Russian-backed forces.

This change means that supply routes to both Donetsk and Luhansk remain open, allowing the separatists to continue receiving reinforcements in manpower and heavy weaponry.

This shift has put Ukraine on the defensive as it not only struggles to hold Mariupol, the second largest city in the southern Donetsk Region, but prepares for further escalations instigated by Russia that could bring fighting to other previously unaffected parts of Ukraine.

“We need to prepare Ukraine’s territory militarily just like Mariupol, creating fortifications and new units.  That should be the norm not just for Mariupol, but also for other important cities either bordering Russia or near Crimea Kherson or Donbas.  That includes Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk,” said Ukrainian military expert Viacheslav Tseluikov.

Experts, however, point out that if it comes to a full on clash between Russian and Ukrainian forces, despite the superior size of Russia’s army if prepared Ukraine would still have certain advantages.

“Russia is a big country.  Their problems don’t stop with Ukraine.  They can’t take soldiers away from the Caucasus or the far east.  Ukraine can use all of its forces against Russia and Russia can’t use all of its forces against Ukraine,” said Tseluikov.

So far, however, Ukrainian leaders have fallen short of describing hostilities in its east as an outright war and taking the precautions preparing for a war would normally entail.

The organization of the military campaign in the east also shows a failure to make that shift. Military operations in the east are currently coordinated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ukraine’s successor to the KGB, rather than the Ministry of Defense.

“When fighting involves Russia regulars that isn’t an anti-terrorist operation but a war, and a war should be led by Ministry of Defense,” said Tseluikov.

It is a sentiment echoed by many in Ukraine’s military circles with a statement released in early September by former military officials and experts calling for a transfer of leadership from the SBU to the Ukrainian armed forces.

What it would take to reclaim Donetsk and Luhansk

If full hostilities resume Ukraine would predominantly be focused on holding the ground, but long term it would be a priority to retake the separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Reasserting control over those cities would not only mean a moral boost for Ukrainian fighters and a boost in the polls for Ukraine’s leaders, but give Ukraine a stronger hand at the negotiating table.

“During negotiations the government can point to that and say despite your rhetoric and propaganda we remained in control of these areas,” said John Gordan a counter-insurgency expert at the US Rand Corporation adding that “allows them to deal from a position of strength.”

When it comes to taking the two cities, however, sufficient and qualified manpower is required if the Ukrainian military do not want to bombard them first. They have previously pledged not to.

“They need to have enough forces to cow the insurgents and intimidate them, but at the same time they don’t want to shoot up an urban area or cause a lot of civilian casualties. And part of that is to have enough force available that the separatists are so awed by that they aren’t going to want to take the risk of taking that on,” said Gordan.

Such tactics spare civilian lives, but are more costly for soldiers and that is a commitment Gordan says officials have to be ready for. Previously when Ukrainian forces were in a stronger position outside of Donetsk and Luhansk there was no evidence to a commitment to that kind of an engagement.

Making peace

In the end experts generally agree that for any lasting solution Ukraine will have to reach an agreement with Russia. The current ceasefire is a potential basis for a wider peace, but with reported violations of the ceasefire from both sides it is on very shaky footing.

The attack on Novoazovsk made it clear that if Ukraine comes anywhere close to a decisive victory against the separatists, Russia will increase the flow of people and equipment, including opening new fronts, to rebalance the scales.

The most recent change in military balance put pressure on President Poroshenko to conclude a ceasefire, and showed that any negotiations will be on Russia’s terms and guided by Russia – but only unofficially. It is the separatists, not the Kremlin, who will put their signatures on any paper.

But a likelier development for Donbas at the moment is becoming another frozen post-Soviet conflict.

The Kremlin’s goal is to freeze the conflict and have Donetsk and Luhansk as unrecognized or self-declared territories like Transnistria, South Ossetia, or Abkhazia,” said Golts.


Kyiv Post.

#Poroshenko downplays military options in #Russia’s war against #Ukraine


by Brian Bonner.
This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian presidential press-service on Sept. 11shows Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) welcoming his Estonian counterpart Toomas Hendrik Ilves prior to their meeting in Kiev.This handout picture taken and released by Ukrainian presidential press-service on Sept. 11, shows Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) welcoming his Estonian counterpart Toomas Hendrik Ilves prior to their meeting in Kiev. © AFP

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Sept. 12 that the nation will win Crimea back from Russia not through military force, but by building a better society than Russia.

“We will win a democratic, economic, liberal competition for the minds of the Crimea people,” Poroshenko told the Yalta European Strategy conference, the 11th annual event sponsored by billionaire Victor Pinchuk. The three-day even is being held in Kyiv this year because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including Yalta’s Livadia Palace, the traditional venue.

Later, during a question-and-answer session, Poroshenko echoed European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s view that there is “no military solution,” even though it is just such a solution that Russia has been trying to impose on Ukraine since its Feb. 27 invasion of Crimea and subsequent backing of separatists in Ukraine’s eastern regions during the last six months.

Poroshenko called this “one of the most challenging and dangerous periods in the history of Ukraine,” but said that he would try to find a peaceful solution that does not involve “compromise on the territorial integrity” of the nation.

Poroshenko said the same non-military approach – winning the hearts and minds of two million Crimeans – will also work in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, where Russia is backing a separatist war that has killed more than 3,000 people, including soldiers and civilians.

The president said Ukraine will build an effective, democratic and “not corrupt” state, Poroshenko said. “We will be democratic and we will be free. The standard of freedom in Ukraine outside of the administrative border of Crimea will be much better; this is the only way we can win in the fight for the minds of Crimea.”

Poroshenko praised the European Union decision to impose new economic sanctions today against Russia. “They demonstrate that Ukraine is now their top priority.”

He also said next week is a pivotal one for Ukraine, with a Sept. 16 synchronized approval of the EU-Ukraine association agreement in the European Parliament in Brussels and the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv. The voting will be broadcast by video link in both capitals, with voting taking place at the same moment.

Poroshenko also signaled he would push for an invitation from the EU for full membership, suggesting it would be “unpolite” for the 28-nation bloc to not make such an offer considering all that Ukraine has been through. Later, he said the EU would not be whole without Ukraine and that, with Ukraine as an EU member, Europea will be “stronger from a security point of view.”

Two days later, on Sept. 18, Poroshenko will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress and meet with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Poroshenko also said that he hopes that NATO grants Ukraine the status as major non-member ally.

“It’s of crucial importance for us,” Poroshenko said. “Our European and trans-Atlantic partners that Ukrainians are not fighting for the territorial independence of Ukraine. It is fighting for global security. We need to introduce a new security structure in this very dangerous world.’

At the same time, Poroshenko said Ukraine will embark on a reform program to end corruption simultaneously to seeking peace with Russia.

“The fight against corruption is absolutely the same importance as the fight for peace. This is like a cancer that has paralyzed Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.

When challenged during a question-and-answer by Dragon Capital head Tomas Fiala on the slow pace of the anti-corruption fight, Poroshenko said that – despite the EuroMaidan Revolution – Ukraine is saddled with the old rules and old parliament. That is why he called for new parliamentary elections on Oct. 26, the president said.

“Investors will come when they feel safe in the country,” Poroshenko said. “The investors are not going to a country that is in a state of war.”

In particular, Poroshenko called for reform of Ukraine’s secretive and corrupt court system to make investment safe.

In his speech, Poroshenko said that Ukrainians are united as never before.  “We have no military solution to this crisis,” he said.

“What we have now is absolutely new Ukrainian army, security forces and heroes who demonstrated that even in this difficult times we can effectively defend our values. We are defending our values; and that is why we are stronger than anybody else,” he said.

Poroshenko addressed skeptics about the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Sept. 5. He said the deal can work.

“Only a few of you can believe that we can establish a fragile peace,” he said. “From day to day, more people believe we will be successful in this important way. Even now, not everybody understands the positive thing to have possibility not to receive every night the news about death of Ukrainian solders and civilians, when dozens of Ukrainan heroes are giving their lives. That’s why this is very important for us Ukrainians to be together. We can win only when we will be united.”

The president said that “Ukraine is as united as never before. You can absolutely understand and see that. This is another reason I am proud to be Ukrainian and I am proud to be the president of this beautiful country.”

(Kyiv Post chief editor Brian Bonner can be reached at bribonner@gmail.com).


Kyiv Post.

Brian Bonner: #Vakarchuk steals show on first night of #Pinchuk’s forum


by Brian Bonner.
Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the star of Okean Elzy rock band, scores points with the crowd on Sept. 11 for his pointed criticism of Ukraine's elites. He was part of an opening panel discussion at billionaire Victor Pinchuk's annual Yalta European Strategy conference, held in Kyiv this year after Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea peninsual.Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the star of Okean Elzy rock band, scores points with the crowd on Sept. 11 for his pointed criticism of Ukraine’s elites. He was part of an opening panel discussion at billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s annual Yalta European Strategy conference, held in Kyiv this year after Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsual. © Anastasia Vlasova

Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s crowd, assembled every year for the Yalta European Strategy, tried to get into the groove at this year’s opening reception on Sept. 11. But everything was off-kilter since, instead of Russian-annexed Crimea, the guests were assembled in Kyiv’s Mystetskyi Arsenal.

Sure, the wine flowed freely and the food was abundant, as usual.

Many guests, including journalists, were eating up and drinking up as Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian member of parliament, author and former journalist, interviewed a panel that included Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, Okean Elzy rock star Syvatoslav “Slava” Vakarchuk and billionaire Sergiy Taruta.

The talk was fairly predictable until Vakarchuk — who is used to charging up audiences with his music — triggered applause by directing pointed criticism at some of the people in the audience for not building a strong Ukrainian state during 23 years of independence.

No, he did not mention any of the elite by name or single out anyone among the hundreds in the crowd.

But, in the audience, ex-President Viktor Yushchenko, host Pinchuk, his wife Elena Pinchuk, Taruta and representatives of various billionaire oligarchs in the crowd — Dmytro Firtash’s man, Boris Krasnyansky, and Rinat Akhmetov’s guy, Jock Mendoza Wilson — might have reason to think he was talking about them.

Speaking to the “rich and influential” people gathered, Vakarchuk asked, in reference to the Kremlin-backed separatist war in the eastern Donbas: “What have you done in these 23 years to prevent the situation we have today?”

People applauded.

He went on to answer his own question by blaming the political elite of the nation for “23 years of doing nothing” for people — not treating them with courtesy, sympathy or dignity, not helping them build prosperous and hopeful lives.

“You are just using these people, using these people, using these people!” he exclaimed.

More applause.

During the same discussion, Vakarchuk said Ukraine needs to do a better job of countering Kremlin propaganda and he called on the world to impose tough sanctions against Russia. “If you really want to help Ukraine, you need to feel a little pain in order not to feel a big pain later,” he said.

Afterwards, Vakarchuk told me that he is glad to have delivered the scathing criticism and that he planned the remarks.

He still wouldn’t name names, but said he assigns blame for Ukraine’s crisis proportionate to power and influence. “All presidents, all prime ministers, rich people” bear “bigger responsibility” than others for the fate of the nation, he said.

“I don’t have any posts or positions, so I say what I want,” Vakarchuk said. “Right or wrong, at least it’s honest.”

We’ll see how much more honesty will be forthcoming this weekend at Pinchuk’s 11th annual Yalta European Strategy — in Kyiv.

(Kyiv Post chief editor Brian Bonner can be reached at bribonner@gmail.com).


Kyiv Post.

#OSCE releases the 12-point protocol agreements reached between #Ukraine, #Russia and #separatists in #Minsk


by OSCE.
(From left to right) representatives of self proclaimed (From left to right) representatives of self proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk”, Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko (L), Donetsk rebel leader Andrei Purgin (2nd L) and “People Republic of Luhansk” Igor Plotnitsky (2nd R) attend talks in Minsk. © AFP

Editor’s note: This is the Kyiv Post’s unofficial translation of the Protocol on ceasefire and other agreements reached by the Trilateral negotiation group in Minsk on Sept. 5. The original in Russian can be found here.

 Protocol

Based on the results of consultations of the Trilateral contact group regarding joint steps towards implementation of the Peace Plan of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and initiatives of President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

As a result of consideration and discussion of the proposals from members of consultations in Minsk on Sept. 1. 2014, the Trilateral contact group composed of representatives from Ukraine, Russian Federation and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an understanding was reached regarding the need to take the following steps:

  1. Provide for immediate and two-sided ceasefire.
  2. Provide monitoring and verification from the side of OSCE of the ceasefire.
  3. Conduct decentralization of power, including through approval of the Law of Ukraine “On temporary order of local self-government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” (Law on special status)
  4. Provide permanent monitoring at the Ukrainian-Russian state border, and verification by OSCE, with creation of a safety zone in the areas adjacent to the border in Ukraine and Russian Federation.
  5. Immediately free all hostages and illegally held persons.
  6. Approve a law to prevent persecution and punishment of persons in relation to events that took place in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
  7. Continue an inclusive national dialogue.
  8. Take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbas.
  9. Conduct early local elections in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On temporary order of local self-government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” (Law on special status).
  10. Remove illegal military formations, military equipment and militants and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine.
  11. Approve a program for economic development of Donbas and renew the vital functions of the region.
  12. Give guarantees of personal security for participants of consultations.

Members of the Trilateral contact group:

Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini (Signed)

Second President of Ukraine L.D. Kuchma (Signed)

Ambassador of Russian Federation to Ukraine M.Yu.Zurabov (Signed)

A.V. Zakharchenko (Signed)

I.V. Plotnitskiy (Signed)


Kyiv Post.

Kyiv Post: Will They Stop #Putin? #RussiaInvadesUkraine


by Kyiv Post.French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine at the Celtic Manor Resort during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on Sept. 4. French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine at the Celtic Manor Resort during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on Sept. 4. © AFP

Ukraine was high on the agenda when the NATO summit started in Wales on Sept. 4, with leaders of the 28-nation alliance looking for ways to bolster Ukraine and punish Russia for its aggression.

“The leaders reiterated their condemnation of Russia’s continued flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and agreed on the need for Russia to face increased costs for its actions,” U.S.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said. “The leaders also expressed their strong support for President (Petro) Poroshenko’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

However, as Poroshenko welcomed the news that France was suspending the delivery of the first of two naval assault Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia, the strategic Azov Sea port city of Mariupol faced artillery barrages by Kremlin-led forces.

Stopping short of promising to send weapons that Ukraine wants, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted that individual nations can make their own decisions about arming Kyiv.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) talks with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko during a working session on Ukraine on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on Sept. 4. The NATO summit, billed as the most important since the Cold War, got under way with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists.Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) talks with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko during a working session on Ukraine on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on Sept. 4. The NATO summit, billed as the most important since the Cold War, got under way with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and others promised to ramp up sanctions on Russia if it continues to escalate the situation. NATO says there are more than 3,000 Russian troops as well as military hardware as part of the Kremlin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine.

A meeting of European Union ambassadors is expected on Sept. 5 to punish Russia’s energy, finance and defense sectors.

“What counts is what is actually happening on the ground,” Rasmussen said on Sept. 4. “And we are still witnessing, unfortunately, Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine. So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, stop the support for armed militants in Ukraine and engage in a constructive political process.”

Russia continues denying its military is involved in the conflict that has killed nearly 3,000 people, wounded another 3,044 wounded and sent 1 million residents fleeing their homes since mid-April, according to official data.

Still, hopes for peace were also on the table, with Poroshenko saying he expects a document to be signed in Minsk on Sept. 5 outlining a stage-by-stage peace plan for Ukraine. He indicated that he will order a ceasefire the same morning if that meeting is confirmed.

Speaking in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia was ready to take practical steps to de-escalate the crisis. The Kremlin’s plan includes the “end of active offensive positions” on both sides, in reference to Ukraine’s military and the forces President Vladimir Putin denies are of Russian origin.

Poroshenko, in turn, called for the withdrawal of foreign troops and for a buffer zone to be established on the border. Ukraine has lost control of huge swaths of its eastern border with Russia because of heavy cross-border shelling and attacks by Kremlin forces inside Ukrainian territory.

Both sides have also expressed readiness for international monitoring and a prisoners’ exchange, AP reported.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk took a different tone on Sept. 3, stating that “peace we must attain through battle,” suggesting his opposition to an agreement that would create a frozen conflict in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts akin to Trasnistria, South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

“What Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing constitutes an invasion,” said U.S. Senator John McCain on Sept. 4 in Kyiv at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Loss of human life

The mothers of Russian soldiers and mercenaries are beginning to learn that more of their sons are fighting and dying in Ukraine.

On Aug. 20, Elena Tumanova in Russia’s Mari El Republic, received a sealed coffin with the body of her 20-year-old son Anton. The death certificate, issued in Rostov-on-Don on Aug. 13, stated that his death occurred at “the place of temporary deployment of the military unit 27777.” The cause of death is “concomitant injury. Multiple shrapnel wounds of the lower extremities with damage to major blood vessels. Acute massive blood loss.”

“His legs were torn off, obviously. The guys (from his unit) told me. But I sensed it anyway that it wasn’t all of him in that coffin,” Tumanova told Russia’s Novaya Gazeta.

She said her son, a trained soldier, could get no job in his hometown and decided to go to the army as a contractor instead to earn just over $800, brushing off the possibility that he would be sent to war in Ukraine.

During his first mission to Ukraine, his unit was disguised as insurgents, he told his mother. On the night of Aug. 12, he was sent in the second time, as a part of a column of 1,200 soldiers to Snizhne, a town 15 kilometers from the border. Later on that day, the column was shelled by rockets from Grad launching systems. “The boys told me that 120 men out of 1,200 died, and 450 were wounded. My Anton was at the front. No trenches or any protection. They panicked and tried to get out,” Tumanova says.

The woman told the Russian Novaya Gazeta that she craves to know who gave the order for her son’s unit to go to Ukraine. She thinks it could only have been given from Moscow.

“If I saw Putin standing next to me, I would ask him: ‘Did you give that order? Answer honestly.’ I thought there were no Russian soldiers there. And the boys say it’s not going to be over any time soon. Why does anyone have to go there? Let them work it out on their own.”

An official from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has estimated that some 2,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives on Ukraine’s territory.

The ministry created anonymous hotlines for the mothers of Russian soldiers who may be looking for their sons if they suspect they are serving in Ukraine. Their numbers are +380800501482 and +380968878094.

The Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said on Sept. 4 that wounded Russian servicemen are now being flown to the military hospital in St. Petersburg “because military hospitals in Rostov-on-Don and other cities in the south of Russia are overfilled.”

Russia made substantial gains over the week, taking control over much of southeastern Luhansk Oblast, breaking the encriclement of Donetsk, and advancing upon the coastal city of Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Azov Sea whose takeover may enable Russia to create a land corridor to Crimea, the peninsula that it annexed in MarchRussia made substantial gains over the week, taking control over much of southeastern Luhansk Oblast, breaking the encriclement of Donetsk, and advancing upon the coastal city of Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Azov Sea whose takeover may enable Russia to create a land corridor to Crimea, the peninsula that it annexed in March.

Elena Vasilieva, coordinator of Inter-Regional Coordination Center “Forgotten Regiment,” a non-governmental organization created by and for former service men and women, said that on Sept.2 alone 14 or 15 Kamaz trucks filled with dead soldiers crossed the border from Ukraine to Russia.

Russian authorities continue to insist that there are no Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s territory. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said on Sept. 3 that “Russia is not a party of the conflict in Ukraine.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman even ridiculed the NATO satellite images that proved the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. “The phrase ‘NATO published satellite shots of Russian troops’ presence in Ukraine’ has become as common in recent months as the famous ‘British scientists have discovered’,’ Russian news agencies quoted spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Despite the denial, the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine is causing anxiety among the population. Soldiers’ parents are planning a demonstration on the Red Square on Sept. 12, Vasilieva said.

EU sanctions

Meanwhile, European Union ambassadors on Sept. 4 debated scaling up existing sanctions on Russia. Some of the proposals, obtained by the Kyiv Post, stem from an Aug. 30 emergency session of the European Council, and includes the possibility of suspending the 2018 World Cup in Russia and states the objective of also “strengthening the ban on investment in Crimea.”

It favors deepening existing measures that were adopted in late July for the sake of expediency and impact in lieu of expanding their scope to new sectors.

“It reinforces the point that EU sanctions are directed at promoting a change of course in Russia’s action in Ukraine and are not a tit-for-tat against Russia’s restrictive measures against the EU,” the document argues.

Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister appointed to become the next EU foreign affairs chief, earlier this week told the EU parliament that the sanctions would be adopted by Sept. 5.

In particular, the most significant sanctions ban European banks to grant syndicated loans to their Russian counterparts. Currently, only new stock and bond issuances are prohibited for Russia’s large state-owned banks, including Sberbank and Gazprombank. Debt financing furthermore will be banned for defense companies and to “companies whose main activity is the exploration, production and transportation of oil and oil products and in which the Russian state is the majority shareholder or holds a controlling stake.” Bond maturities are also reduced from 90 to 30 days for Russian banks on European markets.

The EU capital markets restrictions effectively catch up with what the U.S. has done when it included Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, on its sanctions list.

In defense, a retroactive clause would be presumably included related to the import and export of arms to Russia. Current measures only apply to new defense contracts. “This inconsistency could be remedied in the revision of the texts,” the proposals state.

France already went ahead on Sept. 3 to halt delivery of the first of two $1.6 billion helicopter carriers that Russia had ordered, one of which is to be stationed in occupied Crimea.

Also in defense, any Russian buyer would now be banned from purchasing certain dual-use goods – products that have both civilian and military purposes. At present, the restrictions ban EU exports “for military use of for a military end-user.” New categories include: “special materials, quantum key distribution systems, some machine tools, and high-performance computers and electronics.”

Sensitive technologies, especially on cutting-edge oil exploration projects would be prohibited. Earlier sanctions require “prior authorization for the sale, supply, transfer or export to entities established in Russia” for deep-water oil exploration and production, Arctic oil exploration and production or shale oil projects in Russia.

The proposals also recommend coordinating efforts with G7 nations to suspend Russia’s “high-profile international, cultural, economic or sports events (Formula 1 races, UEFA football competitions, 2018 World Cup, etc.)”

It concludes by leaving the option open on widening the scope of and deepening existing sanctions “in the event of major escalation”.


Kyiv Post.