Tag Archives: Petro Poroshenko

#MH17: Belarus to host Ukraine crisis talks

Belarus is to host talks between Ukraine, Russia and OSCE representatives on the crisis in eastern Ukraine, President Alexander Lukashenko’s office has said.

It did not say when the meetings would take place but the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, asked Lukashenko to host the talks on Thursday, and to focus on securing access to the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down in east Ukraine this month.

Fierce fighting has prevented officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reaching the crash site for several days.

There was no indication pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine’s army would attend the talks, although Lukashenko’s office said “all interested sides” were invited.

The talks were expected to involve Russia’s ambassador to Kiev, Mikhail Zurabov, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who have met several times since the crisis began but have failed to secure a breakthrough.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine prevented OSCE representatives from reaching the crash site on Tuesday for the third successive day.

“Decisions are being made on a political level on ensuring safety on the site,” Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE in Ukraine said on Wednesday. “Today, as far as we know, we won’t be going there.”

An OSCE convoy had earlier on Wednesday been stopped by rebels about six miles outside the city of Donetsk because of fighting further along the route, but OSCE officials later denied the team had been trying to reach the crash site.

Poroshenko wants the talks in Minsk to also discuss the release of hostages Kiev claims are being held by the rebels in east Ukraine, the Ukrainian president said in a statement on Facebook.

He appears to have turned to Belarus for help because the former Soviet republic is a Moscow ally but also has a solid relationship with Ukraine.

The regional authorities in Donetsk, one of the regions worst hit by the fighting, said on Wednesday morning that 19 people had been killed in the past 24 hours.

Kiev’s military offensive has forced the rebels out of some areas they held, apart from their strongholds in and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and fighting has intensified since the airliner was brought down on 17 July killing all 298 people on board.

The west believes the separatists probably shot the plane down by mistake and has accused Russia of arming them. Moscow denies this.

The Guardian.

Russia: 1 killed near Ukraine border by shell fire

A local citizen speaks to a Ukrainian government soldier guarding a checkpoint outside the city of Siversk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents last week retreated from the strategic city of Slovyansk and holed up in Donetsk, a city of one million, and potentially the final frontier for the rebels.A local citizen speaks to a Ukrainian government soldier guarding a checkpoint outside the city of Siversk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents last week retreated from the strategic city of Slovyansk and holed up in Donetsk, a city of one million, and potentially the final frontier for the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s foreign ministry said Sunday that a Ukrainian shell hit a Russian border town, killing one person and seriously injuring two others. Ukraine denied firing a shell into Russian territory.

President Vladimir Putin expressed “grave concern” over the incident, Russian news agencies quoted his spokesman as saying. A statement from Russia’s foreign ministry labeled the event a “provocation,” and warned of the possibility of “irreversible consequences, the responsibility for which lies on the Ukrainian side.”

Russia said the shell hit the courtyard of a residential building in the Russian town of Donetsk — near the Ukrainian city of the same name that has become a rebel stronghold — early on Sunday. Ukraine’s restless east has been mired in a pro-Russian separatist insurgency against the Kiev government.

Ukrainian officials denied that any Ukrainian shells had fallen on Russian territory. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, was quoted by Interfax Ukraine as saying that Ukrainian forces “do not fire on the territory of a neighboring country. They do not fire on residential areas.” He placed blame for the attack on the rebels themselves.

Russia has made repeated claims that settlements along its porous border with Ukraine — which the West and Kiev say is a key supply route for the rebels — have been hit by Ukrainian fire, but no deaths have been previously reported.

The claims come as Putin, whose nation will host the 2018 World Cup, is attending Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro to take part in a handover ceremony with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Brazilian officials said Saturday that both Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, would attend the match. But Poroshenko announced Sunday that he wouldn’t be going. Talks between Russia and Ukraine over a cease-fire between the rebels and Kiev’s troops have stalled in recent weeks, as Ukrainian troops have succeeded in pushing insurgents out of key towns in the east.

Putin met Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also in Rio for the World Cup final, to discuss eastern Ukraine. Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement that the two leaders “agreed that as soon as possible direct talks should take place between the Ukrainian government and separatists in form of a video conference.” Selecting a location for talks has been a key sticking point for both sides.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Putin and Merkel believed the situation in east Ukraine was “deteriorating.”

“Putin expressed grave concern with the ongoing attacks from the Ukrainian armed forces, and emphasized that it is unacceptable when such attacks result in the shelling of Russian territory,” Peskov said.

Ukraine’s Donetsk, where rebels have gathered to regroup after a major Ukrainian offensive last week, was quiet on Sunday. But some 150 people from the settlement of Marynka, on the outskirts of the city, were moving into dormitories at a local university on Sunday, after their homes were bombarded during the night.

“We were brought here this morning,” said Svetlana Panteleyeva, who was with her grandson. “We were bombed so terribly…. They blew up our houses.”

Artillery fire in Marynka late on Friday left at least four people dead, but the number of casualties in the latest bombing was unclear.

Ukrainian defense officials said Sunday that the air force had performed 16 sorties and carried out five airstrikes on rebel positions over the previous day.

Interfax-Ukraine cited Lysenko on Sunday as saying that several dozen rebels had been killed and rocket launchers and armored vehicles destroyed in the attacks. He also said that 7 servicemen had been killed and 30 wounded in the past day.

Following the loss of at least 19 soldiers in a rocket attack Friday morning by the pro-Russian militia, Ukrainian officials have claimed to have killed large numbers of rebel combatants, although there has been no independent verification. Late on Friday, Defense Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznev said on his Facebook account that 1,000 rebels had been killed in two separate airstrikes.

Poroshenko vowed last week to respond with firmness to attacks by the pro-Russian insurgency.

“For every life of our soldiers, the militants will pay with tens and hundreds of their own,” Poroshenko warned Friday. “Not one terrorist will evade responsibility. Everybody will get what is coming to them.”

Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine and Balint Szlanko in Donetsk, Ukraine contributed reporting.

Associated Press

Ukraine, EU take big step towards each other

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels.European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels. © President Petro Poroshenko’s press office

By signing an economic part of the association agreement with the European Union on June 27, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko finally ​completed a deal that triggered a revolution ​toppling his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, for backing out of the same agreement.

Poroshenko used the same pen to ink the document in Brussels ​that Yanukvoych was supposed to use during the Nov. 29 summit in Vilnius​, but resisted despite hours of persuasion from European officials that night.

This time​,​ E​uropean Union  leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy did not have to persuade​ or cajole anybody​. Poroshenko eagerly signed with leaders of bloc’s 28 countries. ​The political part of the association agreement was signed ​earlier, ​on March 21, ​during the post-revolutionary interim presidency of Oleksandr Turchynov.​The​ economic part is focused on establishing free trade regime between Ukraine and the EU, country’s biggest trading partner with $51.4 billion in ​trade ​2013. ​By comparison, trad​e ​with Russia reached $45 billion last year, while Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom’s gas and providing gas transportation system for the needs of Russian gas monopolist inflate the figure.  Continue reading

Poroshenko unveils peace plan during visit to Ukraine’s restive east

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. © AFP

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko officially unveiled on June 20 his 15-point peace plan for de-escalation of the conflict in the country’s east, amid intensified clashes between pro-Russian rebels and government forces. It comes during an unpublicized visit by the president to the Donetsk region where he announced a cease-fire beginning June 20 and lasting until June 27 to give insurgents time to disarm.

Meanwhile, NATO reported a renewed buildup of Russian military forces on its border with Ukraine.

The plan calls for the release of all illegally held government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk regions and pledges the restoration of buildings damaged during the course of the conflict. It also promises to exonerate all rebels who lay down their arms and are not guilty of serious crimes.

On the political front, the peace proposal calls for decentralization of power, granting regional authorities more autonomy, as well as the protection of the Russian language and early local and parliamentary elections.

Point four of the proposal is the creation of a 10km buffer zone on the Russian-Ukrainian border to prevent the influx of Russian arms and fighters, an element that deputy head of the presidential administration Valeriy Chaly said was crucial for the plan to succeed.

“It is impossible to implement a cease fire without having control of the dangerous sections of the border. There is no alternative,” he said, speaking at a press conference earlier in the day.

The day of the announcement was punctuated by mounting evidence of arms and military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russia, including a post on Facebook by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov alleging concrete proof of Kremlin involvement.

A claim by parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov that government forces had successfully sealed the border with Russia was subsequently denied by National Security and Defense Council spokesman Volodymyr Chepovy.

‘The border is not completely controlled by our law enforcers,” Chepovy told Interfax.

Turchynov’s claim also elicited a strong response from representatives of separatist forces.

“It can, of course, be said that there is a garden blooming on the moon, but we all understand that it’s not so… There is a war going on here and they have not taken anything under their control here, nor have they erected any walls or barbed wire,” said Andriy Purhin, first deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, according to Interfax.

The announcement of the peace plan follows a period of active diplomacy by Poroshenko, which culminated in a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin on June 19, during which the two leaders discussed the plan’s key points. Putin once again insisted on an immediate end to Kyiv’s military operation in the east, according to the Kremlin’s press service.

“The President of Russia expressed hope that in implementing this plan, priority attention will be given to resolving key problems that have caused strong protests by the people living in these regions,” reads the statement on the Kremlin’s website.

It is unclear whether the peace plan will bear fruit. Most notably it includes no offer of negotiation with those who have seized power in Donetsk and Lugansk.

“There can be no talks with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Negotiations are possible only with those who share the peaceful plan of the president,” Iryna Gerashchenko, the president’s envoy for peace in Donetsk and Lugansk, said on Thursday.

A ceasefire was also flatly rejected by representatives of separatist forces when the president’s plans for a ceasefire first surfaced on June 18.

“This proposal by Poroshenko to lay down our arms is simply a tactical ploy. If people fall for it, there will be a new mopping-up operation. We will not put our weapons away,” said a spokesman for self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Myroslav Rudenko, in comments carried by Interfax.

Kyiv Post

Editors Note: “Putin once again insisted on an immediate end to Kyiv’s military operation in the eastPutin is only pushing this because he does not want any conflict when his troops, who are again massing close to the border, advance into eastern Ukraine in another attempt of annexation.

Bordering on Lunacy: Putin’s Frog-in-a-Pot War

A chalk board reads A chalk board reads “Long Live DNR!” at the headquarters of separatist militias of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”(DNR) in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on June 13, 2014, after it was stormed by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian forces said they had hoisted the national flag over the strategic rebel-held port of Mariupol on June 13 in their biggest advance since Petro Poroshenko’s election as the insurgency-wrecked country’s pro-Western president. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU © AFP

There’s an anecdote about a frog in a pot of water that goes like this: If you put a frog in a pot of hot or boiling water, it will immediately jump out (or die). But if you put it in a pot of cold water, and then gradually heat it, the frog won’t notice the change in temperature until it’s cooked.

I’m not sure if that’s actually true or not, but it’s a useful metaphor for the type of warfare Russian President Vladimir Putin has now unleashed on Ukraine. The idea is that people tend not to notice very gradual change, and if the process is carefully managed, people can be taken from one state of affairs to another, quite different one, without them even noticing exactly how or when they got there.

Ukraine is now at war. Part of its territory has already been annexed. Its soldiers are being killed by foreign fighters, armed and equipped from abroad, and sent to the country to seize key administrative buildings, military facilities, and even entire, strategically placed towns. Ukraine has lost control of its eastern border, and foreign tanks and troops are roaming one of its eastern provinces. All this has happened in the last four months.

But so gradual has this change in the state of affairs in Ukraine, that there are some who would not even recognize that Ukraine is, in fact, at war with Russia. It’s even difficult to say when this war broke out: was it with the annexation of Crimea, or with the appearance of the “little green men” in the peninsula? Was it, as some believe, when Russian special forces were allegedly sent to steady the Yanukovych regime as it was rocked by public protests, and activists began to be abducted, tortured and killed by men speaking “chistiy” (or Russian-accented) Russian?

What we can say is that things have definitely been going badly for Ukraine since late February, and things are still going from bad to worse. Few would have thought, in those dreadful days after the ouster of Yanukovych, that Ukraine would soon lose Crimea to Russia – but it did. Then there were the anxious last two weeks of March, when it seemed that mainland Ukraine might be invaded. Then in mid April the “little green men” turned up in the Donbas, and buildings started to be seized, and the hitherto unremarkable town of Sloviansk became the center of a pro-Russian rebellion, and a humiliating thorn in the side of the weak and disorganized Ukrainian armed forces. Abductions and killings, of journalists and activists, became commonplace. We learned the names of some of the Russian mercenaries behind the seizure of parts of the Donbas. Then a battalion of Chechen fighters appeared, and tried to take over Donetsk airport. The bodies of Russian mercenaries began to be sent back to Russia openly. And now tanks, stolen from Ukrainian bases in occupied Crimea, are being openly driven around towns in the east.

This evolution of circumstances, this gradual turning up of the heat, did not happen naturally – every major event, from the theft of Crimea to the deployment of Chechen fighters and tanks in the Donbas, has been carefully, artificially crafted and managed by Russia. Putin, an old KGB colonel, is conducting this war with lies, propaganda and subterfuge, and is very carefully and gradually raising the temperature for Ukraine. Little by little he adds new outrages, or mixes in a new ingredient (“little green men”, Chechens, tanks), to the pot of war in which he is stewing his neighbor. Sometimes he turns one burner down at little – perhaps a small redeployment of troops from the border – while tweaking up another slightly – say by threatening to cut off gas supplies. He calls for peace talks and for Kyiv to stop its anti-terrorist operation in the east, while at the same time letting more and more armed men cross the Russian border into Ukraine. But at all times he is gradually raising the temperature of the conflict.

Putin has proved difficult to predict, but perhaps, given what we have seen of his tactics in the last few months, we can now make a cautious prediction: he will continue to conduct this new type of war, his Frog-in-a-Pot war, until he achieves his aims, or until he is stopped.

Putin has himself alluded to what these aims might be: the dismemberment of Ukraine and the establishment of a new, Kremlin vassal state on the territory of Ukraine’s south and east, which he refers to as Novorossiya. He thinks in terms of maps, and it irks him to see Transdnistria (Moscow’s vassal state in Moldova) and his newly conquered Crimea cut off from Mother Russia. The solution to him is to take a swathe of Ukraine’s south and east, linking all his isolated possessions (and that goes for Kaliningrad as well: Latvia, Belarus, beware!).

So there probably won’t be an all-out attack and invasion of Ukraine by Russia – a swift, decisive sweep into enemy territory of the type we have seen in conflicts past. Instead, the situation in Ukraine will slowly deteriorate, until one day Kyiv will wake up to the realization that it has lost control of half of its territory, perhaps without even a single major battle being fought.

However, that’s assuming everything goes Putin’s way, and the frog doesn’t manage to escape being cooked.

Putin’s plans can be foiled if Ukraine can get his hands off the burners. That means, first of all, securing the border. Although some progress is reported to have been made, Ukraine has yet to prove that it has the strength to establish firm control over its frontier with Russia. But the border must be closed, and kept closed, to stop weapons and men from Russia getting into Ukraine to cause more and worse havoc. The anti-terrorist operation must not be stopped, no matter how Moscow protests. If there is any halt, Russia will simply use the opportunity to consolidate its position in the Donbas before starting to make mischief anew.

Next, Ukraine must continue to press for tough sanctions from the West against Russia – sanctions that don’t just have teeth, but sanctions with six-inch razor-edged fangs that can slice and rip into Russia’s exposed and vulnerable financial system, and its flabby industry, doing them some serious, painful injury. Wars cost money to prosecute, and the less of it available to Russia the better.

At the same time, Ukraine must work to reduce its dependency on Russian gas, and make sure it pays a fair price for the reduced amount it will still have to buy in the near term. For that, it will need firmer backing from the countries that consume 50% of Russia’s gas exports to the EU (50% of which is delivered through Ukrainian transit pipelines) – Italy and Germany.

Russia’s unfair actions in its undeclared trade war with Ukraine, which has already been going on for nearly a year, must be referred to the WTO, and trade sanctions applied and enforced by that organization.

On the diplomatic front, Ukraine must do everything it can to highlight Russia’s international isolation from the civilized world and its disgraceful position as the leader of a motley pack of rogue states. Russia must pay a diplomatic price in the United Nations for its aggression. Little has been achieved on this front since the General Assembly vote condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and that was in March.

The black propaganda campaign waged by Russia against Ukraine must be more strenuously opposed. All too often, ridiculous and outrageous lies spewed by the Kremlin-controlled Russian media end up being parroted by “useful idiot” leftist commentators in the Western media, distorting Western perceptions of what is actually happening in Ukraine. Moscow has an army of Internet trolls dedicated to bending Western public opinion in the direction it wants. Ukraine has to counter this with its own army of troll slayers. Public initiatives such as http://www.stopfake.org are doing great work, but more needs to be done at the government level in Ukraine to counter the falsehoods emanating from the Russian media.

All of the above, and more, have to be done to douse Russia’s smoldering aggression, and stop the frog getting cooked. In future, for the frog to escape the pot once and for all (meaning ensuring Russia can never again threaten Ukraine’s very existence as a state), a whole set of other measures will need to be taken, such as rebuilding and reequipping Ukraine’s army, integrating the country’s economy with that of the European Union, and healing the raw wounds Putin has torn in Ukrainian society by artificially fostering divisions and mistrust between east and west.

But before all that, Ukraine first has to recognize that it is indeed a frog in a pot, and that the heat is rising.

Euan MacDonald