Tag Archives: Luhansk

#ElectionCommission Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk to vote in parliamentary elections


By Oleg Naumenko.Head of Ukraine's Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFPHead of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFP

Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, says it’s important to provide an opportunity to vote for Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea, as well as in war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, during the Oct. 26 parliamentary election. These troubled regions are home to 20 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million people.

“These elections are the first of its kind in our history,” Okhendovsky said during an Aug. 26 news briefing. “Previous early elections happened in 2007 under a proportional system, whereas currently we have a mixed system whereby 225 lawmakers will be elected according to the party lists and another 213 MPs – from their constituencies. Once the president signs a decree that officially dissolves the parliament, there will be 60 days for the election campaign.”

Ukraine used to have 225 deputies from the constituencies, but since Crimea and Sevastopol had as many as 12, the figure has been changed. However, this year’s elections will not happen there due to the peculiar status of the region outlined in the law “on the temporarily occupied territories” that came into effect on May 14.

“Residents of Crimea will be able to vote in a different region of Ukraine, just as 117,000 of the Crimeans did during the presidential elections in May,” Okhendovsky explained.

He promised to put all the election commission’s efforts in organizing the elections in Donbas. “But we also need to ensure safety of the voters and all the members of local commissions and observers,” Okhendovsky added.

Although parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are controlled by the Russia-backed insurgents, andmore than 2,000 people have been killed since mid-April in the war, the results of elections will be legitimate as long as at least one polling station will work in every constituency.

Price of elections

This year’s state budget has not allocated money for the election, which is why Hr 986 million will come from a reserve fund.

“However, David Zhvania, a non-affiliated MP, proposed a bill that can save up to Hr 140 million by cutting on expenditures on media, agitation and other electoral documentation. If the parliament passes this bill, we can significantly reduce the costs of elections,” emphasized Okhendovsky.

When being asked whether the separatists and rebel may participate in the elections as candidates, Okhendovsky said: “We do not give any comments on personalized issues. But if Ukrainian courts criminally prosecute such individuals, they will not take part in the elections according to the Ukrainian legislation.”

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Naumenko can be reached at legasy@me.com).


Kyiv Post.

Trucks from aid convoy to #Ukraine start crossing back into #Russia


BY DMITRY MADORSKYTrucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, drive in the direction of the Ukrainian border near the town of Donetsk, in Russia's Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUKTrucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, drive in the direction of the Ukrainian border near the town of Donetsk, in Russia’s Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK

(Reuters) – Trucks from a Russian aid convoy started crossing back into Russia on Saturday after unleashing a storm of anger in Western capitals a day earlier by driving into Ukraine without the permission of the government in Kiev.

The return of the trucks may help ease the tension to some extent in time for talks in Ukraine’s capital on Saturday between visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders over how to end the crisis in the ex-Soviet republic.

Western leaders had joined Kiev in calling the Russian convoy — about 220 white-painted trucks loaded with tinned food and bottle water — an illegal incursion onto Ukraine’s soil, and demanded that they be withdrawn as soon as possible.

A Reuters journalist at the Donetsk-Izvaryne border crossing, where the convoy rolled into Ukraine on Friday, said over 100 trucks had passed back into Russia and more could be seen in the distance arriving at the crossing.

Russian state television had earlier broadcast footage of some of the trucks being unloaded at a distribution depot in the city of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry said the aid reached its intended destination.

A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near Donetsk, Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUKA Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near Donetsk, Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK

The city is held by separatist rebels who are encircled by Ukrainian government forces, and has been cut off from power and water supplies for weeks. International aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis.

NATO said it had reports that Russian troops had been firing artillery at Kiev’s forces inside Ukraine – fuelling Western allegations that the Kremlin is behind the conflict in an effort undermine the Western-leaning leadership in Kiev.

“Since mid-August we have multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, including airborne, air defence and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

“Russian artillery support – both cross border and from within Ukraine – is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she said.

Russia denies giving any material help to the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, a mainly Russian-speaking region. It accuses Kiev, with the backing of the West, of waging a war against innocent civilians.

The conflict in Ukraine has dragged Russian-Western relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and sparked a round of trade sanctions that are hurting already-fragile economies in European and Russia.

The German leader landed in Kiev and was scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.

Diplomats say she will show support for Kiev, but also urge Poroshenko to be open to peace proposals when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks next week.

HOMES DESTROYED

In the rebels biggest stronghold, the city of Donetsk, there was unusually intense shelling on Saturday. That may be part of a drive by government forces to achieve a breakthrough in time for Ukrainian Independence Day, which falls on Sunday.

The crisis over Ukraine started when mass protests in Kiev ousted a president who was close to Moscow, and instead installed leaders viewed with suspicion by the Kremlin.

Soon after that, Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and a separatist rebellion broke out in eastern Ukraine. In the past weeks, the momentum has shifted towards Ukraine’s forces, who have been pushing back the rebels.

The separatist are now encircled in their two strongholds, Luhansk and Donetsk.

Reuters reporters in the city of Donetsk said that most of the shelling was taking place in the outskirts, but explosions were also audible in the centre of the city.

In Donetsk’s Leninsky district, a man who gave his name as Grigory, said he was in the toilet on Saturday morning when he heard the whistling sound of incoming artillery. “Then it hit. I came out and half the building was gone.”

The roof of the building had collapsed into a heap of debris. Grigory said his 27-year-old daughter was taken to hospital with injuries to her head. He picked up a picture of a baby from the rubble. “This is my grandson,” he said.

In another residential area, about 5 km north of the city centre, a shop and several houses had been hit. Residents said two men, civilians, were killed.

Praskoviya Grigoreva, 84, pointed to two puddles of blood on the pavement near a bus stop that was destroyed in the same attack. “He’s dead. Death took him on this spot,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Tom Grove in Donetsk, Ukraine, Adrian Croft in Brussels, Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets in Kiev and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Ralph Boulton).


Reuters.

#Kremlin-backed #militants #murder #Lithuanian honorary consul


Mykola Zelenets - Murdered

Mykola Zelenets, Honorary Lithuanian Consul in Luhansk has been murdered after being abducted by militants. The information came from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius on Twitter who expressed deep sorrow that Mykola Zelenets had been “kidnapped and brutally killed by terrorists there”.  The information has been confirmed by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Informator.lg.ua reports that  Mykola Zelenets was a Ukrainian businessman from Luhansk who specialized in producing fire-fighting equipment.  He represented Lithuanian in the Luhansk oblast.

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

#West condemns #Russia over convoy to #Ukraine


The first trucks of the convoy roll on the main road to Luhansk near the village of Uralo-Kavkaz, after it passed the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev's approval, after more than a week's delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)The first trucks of the convoy roll on the main road to Luhansk near the village of Uralo-Kavkaz, after it passed the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev’s approval, after more than a week’s delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

LUHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated sharply on Friday as Moscow sent more than 130 trucks rolling across the border in what it said was a mission to deliver ‘humanitarian aid’. Ukraine called it a “direct invasion,” and the U.S. and NATO condemned it as well.

In another ominous turn in the crisis, NATO said it has mounting evidence that Russian forces are operating inside Ukraine and launching artillery attacks from Ukrainian soil.

The trucks, part of a convoy of 260 vehicles, entered Ukraine without government permission after being held up at the border for a week amid fears that the mission was a Kremlin ploy to help the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

By late afternoon, trucks had reached the city of Luhansk, whose war-reduced population of a quarter-million people has suffered under intense fighting over the past several weeks between Ukrainian forces and the separatists.

Russia said the white-tarped vehicles were carrying food, water, generators and sleeping bags.

Some of the trucks were opened to reporters a few days ago, and at least some of those items could be seen. But Associated Press journalists following the convoy across rough country roads heard the trucks’ contents rattling and sliding around Friday, suggesting many vehicles were only partially loaded.

The arrival of the trucks instantly raised the stakes in the crisis: An attack on the convoy could give Russia a pretext to intervene more deeply in the fighting. And the convoy’s mere presence could block further battlefield advances by Ukrainian forces, which have reported substantial inroads against the rebels over the past week.

In sending in the convoy, Russia said it had lost patience with Ukraine’s stalling tactics and 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 phone service and made food scarce.

At the United Nations in New York, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin hotly denied any Russian troops were inside Ukraine. Russia has also steadfastly denied supporting and arming the rebels, as the West has charged.

Moscow’s decision to move unilaterally, without Red Cross involvement, raised questions about its intentions.

Suspicions were running high that the humanitarian operation may instead be aimed at halting Kiev’s momentum on the battlefield.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared that the trucks were half-empty and were not going to deliver aid but would instead be used to create a provocation. He said Russia would somehow attack the convoy itself, creating an international incident.

A Russian border guard opens a gate into the Ukraine for the first trucks heading into the country from the Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev's approval, after more than a week's delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)A Russian border guard opens a gate into the Ukraine for the first trucks heading into the country from the Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev’s approval, after more than a week’s delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Ukrainian security services chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko called the convoy a “direct invasion” and said the half-empty trucks would be used to transport weapons to rebels and spirit away the bodies of Russian fighters killed in eastern Ukraine. He said the men operating the trucks were Russian military personnel trained to drive combat vehicles, tanks and artillery.

Nalyvaichenko insisted, however, that Ukraine would not shell the convoy.

NATO’s secretary-general condemned Russia for sending in a “so-called humanitarian convoy” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia committed “a blatant breach” of its international commitments and “a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

The Pentagon demanded Russia withdraw the convoy immediately, warning: “Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation.”

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that, since mid-August, the military alliance has seen multiple reports of direct involvement of Russian forces in Ukraine, along with transfers of tanks and other heavy weapons to the separatists, and “an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.”

“Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she said. Previously, the West accused Russia of cross-border shelling.

The Red Cross, which had planned to escort the convoy to assuage fears that it was a cover for a Russian invasion, said it had not received enough security guarantees to do so, as shelling had continued overnight. Four troops were killed and 23 wounded in a 24-hour period in eastern Ukraine, the government reported Friday.

The government said it had authorized the entry of only 35 trucks. But the number of Russian vehicles seen passing through was clearly way beyond that. International monitors said that as of midday, 134 trucks, 12 support vehicles and one ambulance had crossed into Ukraine.

In announcing its decision to act, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: “There is increasingly a sense that the Ukrainian leaders are deliberately dragging out the delivery of the humanitarian load until there is a situation in which there will no longer be anyone left to help.”

Ukrainian people greet the first truck as it passes the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev's approval, after more than a week's delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)Ukrainian people greet the first truck as it passes the border post at Izvaryne, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The first trucks in a Russian aid convoy crossed into eastern Ukraine on Friday, seemingly without Kiev’s approval, after more than a week’s delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

It added: “We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission.”

Rebel forces took advantage of Ukraine’s promise not to shell the convoy to drive on the same country road as the trucks. Some 20 green military supply vehicles — flatbed trucks and fuel tankers — were seen traveling in the opposite direction, along with smaller rebel vehicles.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine began in mid-April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It has killed over 2,000 people and forced 340,000 to flee, according to the United Nations.

On Friday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said the country’s honorary consul in Luhansk had been abducted and killed by “terrorists.” There were no further details.

(Laura Mills in Moscow, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, Ukraine, Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Ukraine, and Alexander Roslyakov in Donetsk, Russia, contributed to this report).


Associated Press.

Russian convoy crosses border into Ukraine without permission


At least 70 trucks from controversial convoy make way toward embattled city of Luhansk without Red Cross observers.

 in Moscow.A Russian aid convoy truck crosses the Ukrainian border at Izvarino checkpoint. Photograph: Rogulin Dmitry/ Rogulin Dmitry/ITAR-TASS Photo/CorbisA Russian aid convoy truck crosses the Ukrainian border at Izvarino checkpoint. Photograph: Rogulin Dmitry/ Rogulin Dmitry/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

At least 70 trucks from a controversial Russian aid convoy have entered Ukraine against Kiev’s wishes and begun making their way toward the embattled city of Luhansk, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

After a statement by Russia’s foreign ministry saying it could “not wait any longer” on the convoy of about 260 trucks, which has been stuck at the border for more than a week, the vehicles passed through a Ukrainian border post controlled by pro-Russian fighters. Rebels in cars escorted the convoy, which moved ahead without observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The head of Ukraine’s security service, Valentin Nalyvaichenko, described the crossing of the boarder as a “direct invasion” but ruled out Ukrainian troops using force against the convoy. Nalyvaichenko argued that the convoy’s drivers were Russian military forces trained to drive combat vehicles and said the half-empty trucks would be used to move weapons and bring the bodies of Russian fighters out of Ukraine. The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has previously said he would consider it an act of aggression if the trucks entered without being inspected.

Western leaders fear the convoy could serve as a pretext for direct Russian intervention in the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels, which has been raging for the past four months in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, suspicions Moscow has dismissed.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said on Friday that another 30 trucks had driven up to the border crossing at Donetsk-Izvarino to be checked by customs, while Ukraine’s military said 90 trucks that had not been checked by either side were moving toward the border. Ukraine’s border service later said 145 trucks had crossed the border.

The Russian customs service said it was prepared to inspect all the trucks in the convoy by the end of Friday.

In a combative statement, Russia’s foreign ministry accused Kiev of “deliberately dragging out the delivery of the humanitarian aid” so it could complete a “military cleansing of Luhansk and Donetsk” by independence day celebrations on Sunday and before Poroshenko and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, meet in Minsk on Tuesday.

“It’s impossible to suffer such an outrage, open lies and inability to negotiate any longer … Our column with humanitarian aid is starting to move toward Luhansk,” the statement said.

“We warn against any attempts to disrupt this strictly humanitarian mission, which was prepared some time ago amid complete transparency and cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the ICRC,” the statement added. “The responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian convoy lie entirely on those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives for their own ambitions and geopolitical plans, rudely trampling the norms and principles of international humanitarian law.”

Ukraine’s national security council said it had proposed negotiations between Ukraine and Russia’s general staffs, but that the Russian side had turned the offer down. National security council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the “responsibility for the safe movement of the column through territory in the Donbass not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities lies on Russia.”

Street fighting and shelling in Luhansk has left tens of thousands of civilians without water, electricity or communications for more than two weeks. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who Kiev and Moscow have agreed would oversee the aid delivery to the city, were not accompanying the convoy on Friday. The convoy had reportedly been held up because the ICRC was waiting for safety guarantees from both sides in the conflict.

ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk told the Guardian that 34 trucks had been checked by Russian and Ukrainian officials on Thursday but ICRC representatives did not accompany the convoy on Friday.

“Because of the volatile security situation, with heavy shelling continuing through the night in Luhansk, we do not believe we have received sufficient security guarantees from the fighting parties to allow us to escort the convoy at this time,” Isyuk said: “The convoy of Russian aid is now moving. However, we are not part of that convoy in any way.”

But the Russian Red Cross was “ready to take part in escorting the convoy” and was waiting for a response from the ICRC, its director Raisa Lukuttsova told Interfax news agency.

The Ukrainian border service said in a statement its group of customs and border patrol officials had been “barricaded in the Russian border crossing at Donetsk.” Lysenko told reporters that Kiev was waiting for information from the foreign ministry and Red Cross before deciding whether to stop the convoy from moving further.

Dmitry Tymchuk, a defence analyst with close links to the Kiev government, said Moscow was “openly continuing its provocation under the guise of humanitarian aid for the residents of Donbass,” referring to the historical name for Donetsk and Luhansk.

Government forces have claimed tactical victories in fighting around these two rebel strongholds in recent weeks but have yet to capture them. Rebels shot down a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter in Luhansk region on Wednesday but Kiev did not immediately release this information so as not to disrupt the search for it, Lysenko said on Friday.


The Guardian.