Tag Archives: Moscow

#Ukraine: #Trapped in #Luhansk


A Ukrainian soldier gestures as he talks with children on Aug. 18 in the small eastern city of Popasna in Lugansk Oblast, a city recently freed by Ukrainian army forces from Russian-backed militants. © AFPA Ukrainian soldier gestures as he talks with children on Aug. 18 in the small eastern city of Popasna in Lugansk Oblast, a city recently freed by Ukrainian army forces from Russian-backed militants. © AFP

For an estimated 200,000 desperate people who are still living in Luhansk, it’s a tough choice: to continue living amid war or attempt to flee through a designated “safe” corridor that is downright dangerous.

In both cases, the risks are huge.

At least 17 people were killed when shells struck their convoy – burning some alive inside – on Aug. 18 when they tried to escape from Novosvetlovka, some 20 kilometers from Luhansk. Several eyewitnesses interviewed by Ukraine’s Army TV said that Russian-backed insurgents were behind the attack on fleeing refugees, whose truck flew white flags. The rebels, however, accused Ukrainian troops of killing the civilians.

The following day, only 100 people had the courage to use the humanitarian corridor to leave Luhansk, which is five to seven times fewer than usual, says Iryna Veryhina, executive governor of Luhansk Oblast.

“Maybe they were afraid of events in Novosvetlovka, or maybe people just hope that Luhansk will be freed in the coming days,” she told the Kyiv Post by phone.Kyiv Post+ logoKyiv Post+ is a special project covering Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Residents of Luhansk have anticipated the arrival of Ukrainian troops since early April, when the separatists first seized control of government offices. But few imagined the current scenario of violence and stalemate that played out.

As violence increased and the Ukrainian army moved to encircle the city, its population shrank by half, with scores dying from shelling from both sides. Up to 1,500 people were killed in Luhansk Oblast as of Aug. 7, Veryhina said. The United Nations estimated losses in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts at more than 2,000 people since the conflict started.

“Many who have the means have already fled, but others, especially the frail and the elderly, are left in an increasingly desperate situation,” Human Rights Watch said in its dispatch on Aug 15.

Those who left have little or no money to buy anything, as banks have shuttered and salaries and pensions halted. As a result of weeks of shelling, power, telecommunications and running water have been cut. Moreover, many shops are closed and food and water are in short supply.

The shops that are still open are selling off the last of their stock and there are no new shipments of food, fuel and medications, the city council says. Residents hope convoys of humanitarian aid from Kyiv and Moscow will arrive soon to relieve their suffering.

Residents spend hours each day queuing for what’s left, mostly bread produced by a local bakery with a power generator to keep its machines working, according to a Luhansk city council report. The city hospitals are still open and tend to the wounded as best they can.

Veryhina, the governor, said some people refuse to leave relatives to their fate. “There are also some, who don’t want to leave the city out of principle, or don’t want to leave their houses fearing looting,” she said. Verygina herself stays in Svatovo, a city north of Luhansk Oblast that has always been under government control.

Verygina says that as of two weeks ago there had been at least Hr 2 billion worth of damage inflicted. She did not have more recent estimates but said “new buildings are being destroyed every day.”

With fierce fighting ongoing in every district of the regional capital, it’s next to impossible to enter the city. Andrea Cellino, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission team leader, told the Kyiv Post that her observers saw massive damage on the roads leading to the city.

“Train service is disrupted, major links are not functioning,” she says.

A woman cooks over a campfire due to natural gas cuts in her building on Aug. 3 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna, Luhansk Oblast, freed by Ukrainian forces from Russian-backed militants.A woman cooks over a campfire due to natural gas cuts in her building on Aug. 3 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna, Luhansk Oblast, freed by Ukrainian forces from Russian-backed militants.

Luhansk refugees are trying to share news from the city through social networks.

“They (rebel fighters) don’t allow us to make calls; they shoot up the places where there is any network left. Our phones are being charged in the fire station. It’s possible to make a call from old phones, but the new smart phones don’t connect,” Slavik Morgunov, a Luhansk resident who fled recently, wrote on Vkontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook, on Aug. 20. His post was based on a conversation with a friend still in the city.

“The water is delivered when there is no shooting. They started to shoot less. They are running a lot with guns around the districts,” he added.

Even local media are forced to report stories about their own city based on information from social networks, publishing whatever news and photos they can find, alongside contacts of taxi drivers and volunteers who are able to transport people from the city.

People also share reports about the Ukrainian army reaching the outskirts of Luhansk, as well as news about Russian tanks and armored vehicles entering the city from the east.

“There is no (Ukrainian) army in the city center,” wrote Valentina Mikhailova, another Vkontakte user, adding a sad smile. “There are many terrorists in the city administration building instead, because they have their main headquarters there.”

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at grytsenko@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post+.

#Russia: #Ukrainian #flag raised above #Moscow #skyscraper


The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20.The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20. © Sergey Shahidzhanyan / DYVYS

Early in the morning on August 20, unknown activists hoisted a Ukrainian flag at the top of a Stalin-era building on Kotelnicheskaya embankment. They also attempted to repaint the soviet star above the skyscraper in the Ukrainian yellow and blue.

According to Interfax, the police have already removed the flag. Several young men with mountaineering equipment, who may be behind this incident, have been detained, law enforcement agencies state, as they announced opening a criminal case on vandalism. At the moment police officers are questioning a guard who was keeping watch over night.

The stealthy operation, which took place 176-metres above the Russian capital, has been widely reported on television and has caused a stir in Moscow, where public opinion has turned strongly against Ukraine over the conflict in the country’s east.

The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20.The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20. 
The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20.The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20. © Sergey Shahidzhanyan / DYVYS
The star on the top of the spire of a Stalinist-era building, painted in yellow and blue (colours of the national flag of Ukraine) in Moscow, Russia, August 20.
Text by Francesca Ebel

Photo’s by Sergey Shahidzhanyan / DYVYS

Kyiv Post.

Dmitry #Tymchuk’s military blog: Key parts of #Luhansk under control of #Ukraine forces


Dmitry Tymchuk's military blog

Brothers and sisters!

Here’s the Summary for August 20, 2014

The bad news:

[1]. “Humanitarian aid” from Russia is nonetheless entering into Ukraine – the last report was that the first group of trucks have entered into the transit zone of the Russian checkpoint of “Donetsk.” The National Security and Defense Council [NSDC] reported that Ukrainian customs and border control guards will start inspection and clearance of cargo “not earlier than Thursday.”

What abomination to expect from this special operation of the Kremlin’s – is anyone’s guess. Moscow still failed to explain any “water-salt” contents of the cargo and the method of withdrawal of its transport back to Russia. Nor have we heard any clear commentary on this “aid” from the Red Cross. A lot of questions and bad forebodings.

[2]. The Adviser to the Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said that the Ministry of Defense delays the issuing of heavy weapons for the Specialized Battalions of the Ministry of the Interior, whereas the latter “take the fight to the terrorists armed with Grads, canons, armored vehicles, [thus] assisting our Armed Forces.”

We clarified this situation for ourselves back in June. The Defense Ministry explained to us that for arms transfers to another agency, there is a statutory procedure, and such issues are not resolved in only two days. In what kind of time period is it possible to resolve this issue – we were unable to find out.

At the same time, the General Staff, in informal conversations, are of the opinion that the Specialized Battalions of the Ministry for the Interior should not operate as assault units by definition, because that’s what the army is for. And the Interior Ministry units must comply with the relevant tasks–to carry out the clearing of settlements and restore law and order in the liberated territories.

This may well be so, but it is necessary to ensure an ideal interaction between the divisions and the units of the Interior Ministry and the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] so that every man does only his job–in particular, so that the army can promptly destroy any heavy equipment in the path of these same Specialized Battalions. Which, unfortunately, we do not see. So, there is one of two things remaining–either solve the problem with interaction or arm the Specialized Battalions with heavy weapons.

[3]. The territories controlled by the insurgents in Donbas finally plunged into an abyss of lawlessness – from terrorists thriving by looting.

According to our data, in cities occupied by terrorists, residents are trying to sell movable property for a pittance, which the fighters for Putin’s idea did not have time to “squeeze out” from them. A decent car can be bought from the owner for 1-2,000 Hryvnias [USD $75.50–151]. However, for a “squeezed” auto, terrorists can give a couple of cartons of cigarettes. What a sad picture of the “Russian world” …

The good news:

[1]. A significant part of Luhansk is under the control of our forces, the freeing of Donetsk is underway as well.

I distinguish these two red dots on the ATO [anti-terrorist operation] map for one reason: the liberation of these two towns has a huge, so to speak, military and political meaning in the context of the conflict in Donbas. Since their liberation will be a major blow to Putin’s project of “Novorossiya” [New Russia], it’s two nails with one blow in the lid of a double coffin for the DNR and LNR [Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics]. I have no doubt about the fact that this will soon happen.

[2]. In Moscow, the good people repainted in yellow and blue, the star on the steeple of the high-rises built under Stalin on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment and hung a Ukrainian flag on its steeple.

Russian Polizei immediately began raking the ground. Putin’s bodyguards seized four suspects. A criminal case has been initiated against them.

This is what I think … when the current mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, is replaced by the commander of the Donbas Battalion, Muscovites will still grieve in lines for Ukrainian flags in an attempt to please the new authorities. For the sale of blue and yellow paint, by the way, coupons will also have to be introduced in Russian cities.

And for now–thank you for your support, courageous local guys. We will not stay indebted to you, [we] will free you from the dictatorship, just give us time.

[3]. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev today shortened the list of products that are prohibited for import into Russia from the West. It turned out to be not so easy to hit the West with the vaunted “retaliatory sanctions.”

Here, everything is clear: Vovka’s [slang for Vladimir] bravado has failed. People want to eat, very much so.

[4]. The National Agency of Ukraine on Civil Service has failed to establish the facts of inaction and sabotage by the First Deputy Minister of Defense Bohdan Butsa, accused of disrupting the procurement of the army. According to our data, the Prosecutor’s office previously reached the same conclusion.

Here, it is necessary to clarify some facts. B. Butsa came to the post of Deputy Minister of Defense after Maidan (he held this position during the “Orange Revolution” government), essentially ending up in a “hostile” environment. This spring, Butsa proposed not to put the money, allocated towards the ATO, into circulation towards the tenders for the purchase of fuel for the army from commercial enterprises (since it amounted to hundreds of millions of Hryvnias), and instead take the fuel from the state reserve, and only transfer the money to restock these reserves. The fact that the defense department officials in this instance were left without the “kickbacks” from the tenders, immediately made Butsa their enemy number one.

Butsa also blocked attempts by some officials to commit fraud with the sale of movable property of the Armed Forces. Which made him more enemies on the level up. After which, he got blamed for all the sins in the supplying of the army.

Honestly, I don’t know how crystally honest this bureaucrat is. However, the recent prosecution against Bohdan Butsa was clearly ordered–it is an obvious fact. Also, I’m confident that the acquittal of the Deputy Defense Minister should be an occasion for more thorough investigations in the abuse of the army supply and the search for true culprits. Moreover, I think that Butsa himself, after all this persecution, could suggest to the law enforcement where they should be “digging.”

#Russia May Ban Car Imports If West Imposes New #Sanctions, Sources Say


By Reuters.Ilya Naymushin / ReutersRussian mechanics work on an Arctic Trucks all-terrain vehicle, based on the Lexus LX570 car, at an assembly shop of the Arctic Trucks Russia plant in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

Russia may tighten retaliatory sanctions against Western nations to include a ban on imports of cars, among other things, if the U.S. and the EU impose additional sanctions on Moscow, business daily Vedomosti said Monday.

Following Russia’s standoff over Ukraine, Western nations imposed sanctions on Moscow including on its financial and energy sectors, and put dozens of Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on a sanctions list.

Imported vehicles accounted for 27 percent of sales of passenger cars in the first half of 2014, for trucks imports accounted for 46 percent, and 13 percent for buses, according to Vedomosti.

Russia, which denies allegations it is arming separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, may fully or partly ban imports of cars, Vedomosti reported, citing sources.

The new ban would not apply to foreign automakers’ production inside Russia, the paper said. Ford, Volkswagen, Ford Renault, Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co all have production facilities inside Russia.

The paper added that proposals for new measures had already been sent to Putin for consideration but that no decision had been taken to prepare any new sanctions yet.

New trade restrictions are possible in the event Western nations impose additional sanctions on Moscow, the paper added.

Russia has imposed a ban on certain agricultural imports from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

It has also said the government could introduce protective measures in aircraft, shipbuilding and automotive industries

The Moscow Times.


Editors Note: Is it just me or do you also think that Putin is digging his own grave? Russia’s sanctions on the west may cause a little sting to the wests economies but it is the russian people who will suffer the most, empty supermarket shelves, food shortages and now automobiles. The west on the otherhand are targeting Putin’s cronies where it hurts them most, in their wallets.

From #Siberia to #Kaliningrad: the fledgling #independence movements gaining traction in #Russia


Moscow appears to have blocked efforts hold a march in favour of Siberian independence this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t spreading, writes Paul Goble.

By Paul Goble for Window on Eurasia, part of the New East network.A woman sells towels in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. Photograph: Oleg Nikishin/Getty ImagesA woman sells towels in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. Photograph: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Moscow appears to have successfully blocked efforts hold a march in favour of Siberian independence in Novosibirsk, the country’s third most populous city, this Sunday.

The Novosibirsk mayor’s office reportedly denied permission for the march in favour of Siberian Federalisation “in order to ensure the inviolability of the constitutional order, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation”.

But Russian authorities have failed to prevent the ideas behind it from spreading not only to other Siberian cities like Yekaterinburg, but also – and more seriously – to Kaliningrad and Kuban.

Feliks Rivkin, an activist in Yekaterinburg, says he will be leading a demonstration in his home city at the weekend to force Moscow to live up to the Russian constitution and give Russian regions  their federal rights. Even if the authorities refuse, he adds, his group plans to go ahead anyway.

Meanwhile, in the semi-autonomous Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, local activists are picking up on the same ideas. One Moscow commentator, Vladimir Titov, argues that Kaliningraders don’t have all the bases for launching an independence movement, but he suggests that “the single place in Russia where at present regionalism as a political direction has real prospects”  is precisely there.

Kaliningrad’s non-contiguous location, its proximity to European Union countries, and the fact that 25% of its residents have Schengen visas and 60% have foreign passports, all have the effect of making ever more Kaliningraders look towards Europe rather than toward Russia proper.

Kaliningrad - map location

Well-off Kaliningraders are buying property in the EU, they are sending their children to study in Lithuania, Poland and Germany, and “young Kaliningraders already find it difficult to name the main Russian cities, including in such lists Klaipeda, Riga, Poznan, Rostok and Lubeck,” says Titov.

“This isn’t surprising,” he adds. “Warsaw and Yurmala for these young people are closer and more familiar than Kaluga or Khabarovsk.” And their elders also reflect this sense of place: they speak about conditions “among them, in Russia” in much the same way they would talk about any other foreign country.

Increasingly too, he continues, Kaliningraders refer to their land not as Kaliningrad oblast but as the ‘amber country’ (after the area’s best known natural resource) and to their capital as Koenigsberg, or more familiarly, Koenig. That doesn’t please the authorities or “professional patriots” but it is the way things are. None of this means they want independence, but they seek real federalisation and see this as their time.

Making concessions to Kaliningrad’s special situation seems entirely reasonable, Titov says, but “then a question arises: “If Kaliningrad can, why can’t Siberia? And just who is to say that it can’t?”

But interest in federalisation is not limited to Siberia and Kaliningrad. There are regionalist movements in Karelia, Ingermanland, Novgorod and elsewhere, and they have now been joined by a new one: in Kuban. Activists there have announced plans to hold a march for the federalisation of Kuban on 17 August to demand a separate republic be established for them.

Regional officials in Krasnodar have already refused to give them permission, but organisers say that they will go ahead anyway, citing their constitutional right to freedom of assembly in order to demand their constitutional rights for federalism.

Though these movements are small and fledgling, from Moscow’s perspective, this will still be disturbing. Not only does it suggest that the centre may be losing its grip over at least some regions, but it raises the spectre of regional separatism of the kind that spread through the Russian Federation in the early 1990s and that Russian president Vladimir Putin has worked hard to suppress.

Though these movements are small and fledgling, from Moscow’s perspective, this will still be disturbing.

Moreover, it raises questions about the dangers Moscow has brought on itself by its promotion of “federalism for export” in the case of Ukraine, especially since what Moscow has been seeking there was not devolution of powers from Kiev but in fact separatism and a change of state borders.

In a commentary on Politcom.ru, Konstantin Yemelyanov notes that the organisers of these actions “undoubtedly are trying to use the Kremlin’s weapon against it: not long ago, for example, the theme of the federalisation of Ukraine was the public basis of Russian policy toward a neighbouring country, and the Russian foreign ministry highlighted all the benefits” of such arrangements.

“A political provocation which formally does not contradict Russian law but hits the weak places of Russian public policy is becoming one of the types of political participation and self-expression for the opposition,” Yemelyanov says. For those now in power who remember 1991, that is a truly frightening spectre.

Paul Goble is an American analyst and former US foreign policy adviser


The Guardian.