Tag Archives: NATO

NATO Sees Pullback of Russian Troops From Ukraine Border #NATO #Russia #Ukraine


Reuters.
Russian soldiers march during rehearsals for the Victory Day military parade in Dvortsovaya Square in St. Petersburg.Russian soldiers march during rehearsals for the Victory Day military parade in Dvortsovaya Square in St. Petersburg. Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

NATO has observed a significant withdrawal of Russian forces from inside Ukraine, but many Russian troops remain stationed nearby, an alliance military spokesman said on Wednesday.

“There has been a significant pullback of Russian conventional forces from inside Ukraine, but many thousands are still deployed in the vicinity of the border,” Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Janzen said in an e-mail.

“Some Russian troops remain inside Ukraine. It is difficult to determine the number, as pro-Russian separatists control several border crossings and troops are routinely moving back and forth across the border. Further, Russian special forces are operating in Ukraine, and they are difficult to detect,” he said.

On Sept. 4, a NATO military officer said Russia had several thousand combat troops and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles inside Ukraine and around 20,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border.

As recently as a week ago, NATO said it believed Russia still had around 1,000 soldiers inside Ukraine despite some cuts in troop numbers since a cease-fire began on Sept. 5.

Janzen said there appeared to be a reduction in incidents, including artillery fire, between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“NATO welcomes these positive signs, and encourages all parties to continue to work towards a peaceful solution to this crisis,” he said, while still expressing NATO’s concern about the large numbers of Russian forces deployed close to the eastern Ukraine border.


The Moscow Times.

NATO Chief: Ukraine Has Cease-Fire ‘in Name Only’ #Ukraine #Ceasefire #Russia


U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove has little faith in the 2-week-old cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian militants fighting in Ukrainian east. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove has little faith in the 2-week-old cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian militants fighting in Ukrainian east. © AFP

VILNIUS, Lithuania — NATO’s top general said Saturday the two-week-old truce between Ukraine and pro-Russian militants fighting in the country’s east is a “cease-fire in name only,” and he said that by enabling a free flow of weapons and fighters  across the border Russia has made it nearly impossible for outsiders to determine how many of its troops are operating inside Ukraine.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a news conference after meeting with NATO military chiefs that he is hopeful about Saturday’s announced agreement for creation of a buffer zone between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces.

The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe marks an effort to add substance to the Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement that has been frequently broken by clashes.

Breedlove has put the main blame on Russia for the continuing conflict.

“So the situation in Ukraine is not good right now,” he said. “Basically we have a cease-fire in name only.”

Breedlove said violence levels in Ukraine, including the number of artillery rounds fired in the past few days, are as high as prior to the cease-fire.

“So the cease-fire is still there in name, but what is happening on the ground is quite a different story,” he said.

Breedlove said Russian forces are still operating inside Ukraine but numbers cannot be pinpointed.

“Right now the border is being maintained open by Russian forces and Russian-backed forces, and the fluidity of movement of Russian forces and Russian-backed forces back and forth across that border makes it almost impossible to understand the numbers,” he said.

He said it is clear that the number of Russian troops in Ukraine has declined significantly over the past week or so, with some returning to the Russian side of the border — “which is good, except that they haven’t returned home and are still available to bring their military force to bear on Ukraine, should it be desired” by Russian government leaders.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of NATO, but both share borders with NATO-member countries. Recent Russian military behavior, including its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula of southern Ukraine earlier this year, is a major worry inside the U.S.-led alliance.


The New York Times.

Russian soldiers reveal the truth behind Putin’s secret war #Ukraine #PutinsSecretWar #Russia


by Newsweek.
A Pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at a checkpoint on Sept. 10, 2014 on a road of the Donetsk airport. © AFPA Pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at a checkpoint on Sept. 10, 2014 on a road of the Donetsk airport. © AFP

Lyudmila Malinina’s voice trembled as she described the secret funeral she witnessed on a recent night in her small town of Sudislavsky in the Kostroma region of central Russia. At about 8 p.m., a truck parked at the cemetery a few yards away from her wooden house. The truck’s headlights stayed on to illuminate the ground for several men to hurriedly dig the grave, “as if they were thieves hiding something“, Luydmila says.

More neighbours popped out of their windows and doors to watch and discuss the strange scene, wondering why anybody would bury a relative at this hour. Besides, that part of the graveyard was reserved for the deceased in war, as somebody pointed out.

While Nato sat down for a summit to decide what to do about the war in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin negotiated a ceasefire deal with Kiev, Russian society recoiled from reports about secret funerals of soldiers killed in Ukraine: missing sons, calls from husbands begging their wives to save them from ­battle, bodies with missing limbs arriving in coffins to Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Pskov, Murmansk, Dagestan and other regions of Russia. The death toll for Russian soldiers jumped to more than 200 soldiers in a few days, between August 12th and September 2nd, in a war that was, officially, not happening.

Russian army wives have a special term for dead soldiers returning home from the front lines in zinc coffins: they are called “cargo 200” – a phrase that has echoed like a curse to a Russian ear since the days that a tide of zinc packages came in from Afghanistan during the Soviet war of 1980s. The secrecy around their husbands’ deployments “was like a trap created by a schizophrenic”, one of the Kostroma paratroopers’ wives says.

An alleged Russian soldierAn alleged Russian soldier stands in front of the besieged Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near Simferopol, Crimea.. Daniel Van Moll/Nur/Photoshot

One of the soldier contractors, who served in Ukraine, described “the longest August” of his life on the front, in a phone interview with Newsweek. What was the worst part? Wounded friends dying in Rostov hospitals; the men in zinc, the “200s” being sent home, and a high risk of becoming one. “When we were on the train to Rostov last month, I had no idea we were to go to Ukraine; we all believed they brought us to a base for the usual routine exercises. If I knew it was for war, I’d have quit back in Kostroma, as I have two little children at home,” the paratrooper of the 331st regiment of Russia’s 98th Guards Airborne Division, says.

What mattered to the paratrooper most were the men on his left and right, his children and wife waiting for him in his hometown of Kostroma, 320km north of Moscow. Among his fellow men, he says, there was little understanding of Putin’s idea to establish Novorossiya, or New Russia, as a separatist state in eastern Ukraine.

Who was Russia’s main enemy? That answer seemed instantly ready: “America.” In a few days on the front lines under constant fire, the Kostroma paratrooper “dried up down to the bones”, not from the lack of food but from the constant fear of death, he said, that he had never experienced before.

Earlier that day, his regiment was brought back to the base in Rostov region, to wash in the banya, or Russian steam bath, and have one night of solid sleep. The soldiers had their first chance for a break from battle, for a quick chat with families since they crossed the Ukrainian border on August 18th. So as not to be identified as Russian regular forces, commanders ordered the paratroopers to change into the Western military surplus desert camouflage their wives had to buy for them, with their own money.

Russian paratroopers captured in UkraineRussian paratroopers captured in Ukraine at a press conference in Kiev last month.. Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Nobody asked the servicemen to sign any additional papers, though current contracts did not stipulate deployment to a foreign state. “I never volunteered for this; but any attempts to quit would be useless – they are sending us back to the meat grinder tomorrow; if somebody told me earlier about the truth, none of us would have signed up for $1,000 a month to get fried alive in Ukraine,” says the officer in his thirties, who requested his identity be concealed.

The use of misleading uniforms to sneak into foreign territory for a secret operation does not surprise Russian military experts. One Moscow-based army analyst recalled the earlier “masquerades” or false flag operations under Soviet military doctrine, sending Soviet and Russian commandos dressed as locals in Afghanistan and in Chechnya: “Our forces conducted secret operations in the Middle East and in Africa this way. Putin’s strategy is not unique,” says the analyst who declined to be named.

While the Russian leaders stuck to their denials, mobile phone chats and social media forums fill up with images of ­the country’s artillery and “Grad rocket” launchers rolling across Ukrainian border. Russian internet users across the country watched videos of army mothers and wives covering their wet-with-tears faces with both hands, begging Putin to free their loved ones “in God’s name”, as well as video interviews with soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces.

Early each morning, paratroopers’ wives crowded on Nikitskaya Street outside the Airborne Division, waiting to hear more official explanations about their husbands “participating in military drills in Rostov”.

The women spoke to their husbands on the phone and knew the truth. “My boy asked me to go to church and light candles for his survival, as they were herded back to Ukraine,” one of the terrified wives, Veronika Tsiruyeva, says.

The invasion of Ukraine has been happening in slow motion since spring. On the afternoon of April 16th, professional-looking militia in green uniforms surrounded the perimeter of the administration building on the Square of October Revolution in Slaviansk, a city in eastern Ukraine.

"Cargo 200" is a special term in Russia for dead soldiers returning home“Cargo 200″ is a special term in Russia for dead soldiers returning home. This photograph shows a crudely marked truck carrying the bodies of Russian ‘volunteers’ killed fighting in Ukraine en route to Russia.. Maria Turchenkova/Echo Photo Agency

“We are ‘polite green men’, born in the USSR, just the same as in Crimea,” one of them told me. A few days later, rebels occupied one more Ukrainian town, Horlivka. Their commander Anatoly Starostin described what “a great relief” it was to have support from Russian special forces. “They are about 60 top-class professionals, unspeakably well-trained,” Starostin said of the “polite green men”. Russian special forces took over television transmitters, so locals would watch only Russian state channels covering the Kremlin’s official line.

It wasn’t long before the first truck with a large, crookedly written “200” on its side rolled into Russia on June 2nd, bringing back 31 bodies of Russian “volunteer” soldiers, mostly in their late 30s to early 40s. Afterwards, members of the press in the courtyard of Kirovsky Hospital’s morgue in Donetsk, watched doctors and rebels whispering over the wooden coffins: “Let them receive them on the other side and figure out where to send the refrigerator,” they muttered, clueless about the final destination.

No Russian state channels mentioned the 31 red coffins making their way home across the sunflower fields; it took days for families of “the volunteers” to break through the wall of secrecy and find the frozen bodies of their men.

A 'Cargo 200' truck, carrying the bodies of Russian 'volunteers' killed fighting in Ukraine, crosses the border into RussiaA ‘Cargo 200′ truck, carrying the bodies of Russian ‘volunteers’ killed fighting in Ukraine, crosses the border into Russia. Maria Turchenkova/Echo Photo Agency

This month, Russian commanders planned to demonstrate unprecedented nuclear forces exercises involving Supersonic MiG-31 fighter-interceptors and Su-24MR reconnaissance aircrafts. The Kremlin warned the west against welcoming Ukraine to join Nato, as the alliance began their drills on Ukraine’s western border. As the sides of the conflict sat down for talks, Putin’s security advisers changed the military doctrine, lowering Russia’s threshold for using nuclear weapons. As mainstream television channels pumped the anti-Americanism muscle on a daily basis, commanders drilled soldiers to fight the war against America and Nato.

Meantime, back in Sudislavskoye village, news about the secret burial travelled fast, from door to door until the entire neighbourhood spoke the truth: “The deceased man in the grave was Dmitry Kustov, a drafted soldier, serving in the army since last year,” Lyudmila says. For some reason wholly unknown to his family, Dima ended up fighting a war in a foreign country, Ukraine, in late July. “He hadn’t lived long enough,” locals say of the 20-year-old soldier quietly buried in the twilight.


Newsweek.

#NATO says arms supply to #Ukraine up to individual #allies


French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Barack Obama during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on Sept. 4, 2014. © AFPFrench President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Barack Obama during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on Sept. 4, 2014. © AFP

(Reuters) NEWPORT, Wales, Sept 4 (Reuters) – It is up to individual NATO members to decide whether to supply arms to Ukraine, which is battling an armed revolt by pro-Russian separatists, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

“NATO as an alliance is not involved in delivery of equipment because we do not possess military capabilities,” Rasmussen told a news conference at a NATO summit.

“These are possessed by individual allies, so such decisions are national decisions and we are not going to interfere with that,” Rasmussen said when asked if NATO would supply arms to Ukraine.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Paul Taylor).


Reuters.

France says can not deliver first helicopter carrier to Russia #France #Russia


A young boy holds a sign during a demonstration in front of the French Embassy in Kyiv on July 22, 2014, to protest against the sale of Mistral-class warships to Russia. © AFP PHOTO SERGEI SUPINSKY

A young boy holds a sign during a demonstration in front of the French Embassy in Kyiv on July 22, 2014, to protest against the sale of Mistral-class warships to Russia. © AFP PHOTO SERGEI SUPINSKY.

PARIS, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The French government cannot go ahead with the planned delivery of a first of two helicopter carriers to Russia, the president’s office said on Wednesday, citing Moscow’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine.

France has faced fierce pressure from Washington and other allies to halt the delivery of the Mistral-class warships, with the first slated for delivery in October.

Warning of more sanctions, President Francois Hollande’s said last week it would be “intolerable and unacceptable” if it were proven that Russian forces had entered Ukrainian territory.

“Russia’s recent actions run against the foundations of security in Europe,” Hollande’s office said in a statement after a meeting between the president and his top military advisors.

“The president of the Republic has concluded that despite the prospect of ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place,” it added.

The announcement is likely to take the heat off of France when NATO leaders meet later this week in Wales for a summit largely focused on the conflict in Ukraine and growing tensions with Russia.

France has until now resisted allies’ pressure to halt the delivery of the warships, saying that doing so would hurt Paris more than Moscow.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus)


Thomson Reuters Foundation.