Tag Archives: Russian President Vladimir Putin

#Ukraine to Wall Out #Putin, Literally


by Alexander J. Motyl.

Structure of the Berlin Wall24 years after the Berlin wall fell, Ukraine decides to build another along the Ukrainian border to keep the Russians out.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on September 10th that he intends to build an extensive set of fortifications along Ukraine’s frontier with Russia and the Russian-occupied enclave of the Donbas. Called “The Wall,” the defensive line would consist of a ditch, a “no-man’s land,” an actual wall, and watch towers.

Although the name brings to mind the Berlin Wall, Poroshenko actually compared Ukraine’s planned fortifications to the Mannerheim Line, the Finnish defense against the Soviet Union, clearly suggesting that he sees today’s Ukraine as interwar Finland and Putin’s Russia as Stalin’s USSR. That reference alone underscores just how profoundly Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has changed Ukrainian attitudes to Russia. The formerly big and intrusive strategic partner has become a mortal enemy akin to the Soviet empire under its genocidal dictator, Stalin.

More important than the symbolism is the fact that The Wall is an excellent idea with significant implications. It’s high time for Ukraine to do the only sensible thing it can do vis-à-vis its far stronger, imperialist neighbor: switch from offense to defense and build up a defensive capacity that would deter Putin even in his wildest dreams from embarking on a further aggression. It’s important to realize that Ukraine will never be stronger than Russia militarily. Calls for wars of liberation of the Crimea, or the Donbas enclave occupied by Putin and his proxies, are just demagogy.

Mannerheim lineMannerheim Line.

That being the case, a Ukrainian withdrawal to strategically defensible positions is in order. Thereafter, those positions must be made sufficiently strong to prevent any Russian leader from expanding westward into Ukraine. “Sufficiently strong” means that the costs in terms of Russian soldiers’ lives would be high enough for Putin or his successor to think twice about an invasion. Were Putin determined to throw the entire Russian army against Ukraine and send tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to their deaths, no Mannerheim Line could stop him. The underlying logic behind any defensive line is thus that all leaders, even those that seem irrational, have some sense of the costs of Pyrrhic victories.

A ditch, a no-man’s-land, a wall, and watch towers may keep out small numbers of aggressors, but deterring a massive land attack by tanks, aircraft, and infantry will obviously require that Ukraine supplement the line with the requisite armaments. It’s clear that, among other things, armaments will need to include anti-tank missiles and limited-range surface-to-air missiles. Neither weapon could be construed by Russia as being offensive; both would inflict enormous damage on attacking Russian tanks and planes. Poroshenko would be well advised to collect a group of Western defense experts to advise Ukraine on just which armaments it does and does not need in order to fortify The Wall. And the sooner, the better.

The Wall has important political implications. By cutting itself off from Russia and the Donbas enclave controlled by Putin and his proxies, Ukraine will effectively be freezing the conflict and declaring that the enclave is Russia’s responsibility. Naturally, the Kyiv government will insist otherwise. But don’t be fooled by declarations of implacable determination to win back lost territory. A wall will keep the Russians out of Ukraine, but it will also keep Ukraine out of the Donbas enclave.

A frozen conflict will actually be to Ukraine’s benefit. The enclave, which is where much of the region’s population and industry were concentrated, is in ruins. Hundreds of thousands of middle-class professionals have fled and will not return. Industry is shrinking. Infrastructure has collapsed. All these negative tendencies will accelerate, as Putin’s terrorist proxies, remnants of the (formerly ruling) Party of Regions and the Communist Party, the Kremlin, the Donbas oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and the Russian Orthodox Church duke it out over influence. In a word, the Donbas enclave is finished, and, as deindustrialization continues, depopulation will proceed apace. Whoever inherits the mess caused by Putin and his proxies will have a ball and chain on his leg. Fortunately for Ukraine, it doesn’t—and in all likelihood will not anytime soon—control the enclave. Rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly, legally or illegally, the burden of control, and the burden of governance, will fall on Putin. Bully for him. The day is not far off when the economic disaster that is the Crimea and the Donbas will burden Putin, and he will be hard-pressed to claim that his imperialism has served Russia well.

So, sure, let Kyiv proclaim that it will never ever give up its sovereign territories. But then let Kyiv build The Wall, beef up its defenses, and get down to the business of fixing the country. Kyiv has time on its side. As I’ve frequently suggested, Putin’s fascist regime is doomed. Let it choke on the Donbas and the Crimea. Let it degenerate into an exclusively repressive regime. Let its economy decay thanks to Western sanctions. And let it remain isolated from the rest of the world and Ukraine. And then, when Russians re-establish a democracy, as one day they surely will, The Wall can come down.


World Affairs Journal.

Western weapons on way to Ukraine #CeaseFire #Russia #Ukraine


by Voice of America.
A pro-Russian rebel walks by a burnt-out plane at the destroyed airport in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2014.A pro-Russian rebel walks by a burnt-out plane at the destroyed airport in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2014.

KYIV – Ukraine’s Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said Sunday weapons are on their way to Ukraine from Western countries – which he would not name – to help the country in its fight against Russian-backed rebels. 

The claim came as sporadic fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, despite of a nine-day-old cease-fire.

Heletey said the shipments were agreed to in secret at the NATO summit 10 days ago. He said the new weapons will help Ukraine defend itself against potential Russian missile attacks from across the border.

The minister indicated the shipments include a missile-defense system capable of stopping any rockets launched toward Ukraine in what he called “a matter of seconds.”

Ukraine has accused Russia of launching artillery shells across the border, and of sending troops to support the rebels. Russia denies the charges.

Sporadic fighting

The Ukrainian defense minister’s comment came amid reports of some continuing fighting Sunday in the east, after an intense exchange of fire on Saturday at the airport outside the key rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Ukrainian government forces control the airport.

Each side has accused the other of numerous violations of the cease-fire, which is supposed to pave the way for negotiations.

Ukraine, Russia and rebel representatives signed the accord on September 5, including a 12-point peace plan. But there are huge differences on what the outcome of the talks should be.

Ukraine wants its sovereignty restored and promises more regional autonomy in the east. Russia and the rebels want the area to be independent, or at least fully autonomous and able to establish strong links with Moscow.

Analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be able to destabilize Ukraine any time he decides it is becoming too politically close to Western Europe.

But both sides have reasons to go to the negotiating table.

Negotiations

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he wants to stop the bloodshed, and analysts say he has realized Putin will not allow the separatists to lose on the battlefield.

Russian exile and military expert Igor Sutyagin, now at London’s Royal United Services Institute, said Putin wants to avoid further Western economic sanctions, which are already hurting the Russian economy.

“It was necessary to fix the situation, to force, and Putin openly said that, to force Kyiv to sit at the table and negotiate with the separatists,” he said.

In spite of the violations, the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine has significantly reduced the violence and casualties, and could provide a chance for the leaders to find a way out of the crisis.


Voice of America.

#Ukraine’s Prime Minister says country still in “state of war”


by LAURA MILLS.
Russian trucks with Russian flags, intended to carry humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine are stationed ready for another possible trip near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo)Russian trucks with Russian flags, intended to carry humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine are stationed ready for another possible trip near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is “still in a state of war” with neighboring Russia despite a cease-fire between Kiev’s forces and Moscow-backed rebels in the east, the country’s prime minister said Saturday shortly after a second convoy of Russian trucks rolled into Ukraine.

Speaking at a conference with politicians and business leaders in Kiev, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “goal is to take the entire Ukraine.”

“He cannot cope with the idea that Ukraine would be a part of a big EU family. He wants to restore the Soviet Union,” Yatsenyuk said.

He didn’t mention the second convoy of Russian trucks that entered rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine earlier Saturday, reportedly filled with almost 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

The last truck crossed onto Ukrainian soil early Saturday from the Russian border town Donetsk, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) miles east of the Ukrainian city with the same name, Rayan Farukshin, a spokesman for Russia’s customs agency, told the Associated Press by phone. He could not confirm the number of trucks, but news agency ITAR TASS reported that about 250 trucks were heading toward the city Luhansk.

The Russian emergency ministry, which coordinated previous humanitarian aid deliveries to Ukraine, could not be reached for comment about the convoy.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, told journalists Saturday that the convoy had crossed “illegally” onto Ukrainian territory.

“Ukraine border guards and customs were not allowed to examine the cargo and vehicles,” he said. “Representatives of the Red Cross don’t accompany the cargo, nobody knows what’s inside.”

Lysenko’s relatively mild comments on the second convoy and the silence of more senior Ukrainian officials shows how dramatically the mood has shifted in the Kiev government since August. President Petro Poroshenko has been at pains to prove that last week’s cease-fire deal has yielded improvements on the ground in east Ukraine. On Friday, he lauded the deal, which has been riddled by violations since it was imposed last week, as a “fragile but efficient peace process.”

In August, Ukrainian officials said that a first convoy of humanitarian aid from Russia would be seen as an invasion of the country, and loudly protested any attempts by Russia to unilaterally bring in the aid. Eventually Russia sent its trucks across the border and into rebel-held territory without the oversight of the International Red Cross, contrary to an agreement signed between Ukraine and Russia.

A representative of the ICRC’s Moscow office said they had not been informed about the current convoy, either.

“We were not officially notified of an agreement between Moscow and Kiev to ship the cargo,” Galina Balzamova said Saturday.

A Ukrainian army helicopter flies over their positions in Debaltsevo, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The cease-fire between the separatists and the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)A Ukrainian army helicopter flies over their positions in Debaltsevo, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The cease-fire between the separatists and the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Lysenko said that six Ukrainian servicemen had died since the truce. He also confirmed that 12 rebel fighters had been killed by Ukrainian forces near Sea of Azov city of Mariupol, where he said they were doing reconnaissance work — the first such admission that they have inflicted casualties on the rebel side since the cease-fire began.

In a statement posted online early Saturday, the Donetsk city council said that there had been fighting near the airport throughout the night. Two shells had hit residential buildings in the area but no casualties were reported.

Continuous rocket fire could be heard overnight in downtown Donetsk, and a column of three GRAD rocket launchers — all its rockets still in place — was seen moving freely through the rebel-held city on Saturday morning.

(Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Ukraine contributed reporting).


Associated Press.

#Putin wants to destroy #Ukraine and restore Soviet Union, says #Yatseniuk #SovietUnion


Ukrainian PM tells a conference of European politicians that his country is in a ‘state of war’ and Russia is the aggressor.

A Ukrainian soldier stands next to a tank near the eastern Ukrainian town of Pervomaysk on Friday. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/ReutersA Ukrainian soldier stands next to a tank near the eastern Ukrainian town of Pervomaysk on Friday. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wants to destroy Ukraine as an independent country and to restore the Soviet Union, Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Saturday.

Speaking at a conference in Kiev attended by European and Ukrainian politicians and business leaders, Yatseniuk also praised a new wave of economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the United States and said they posed a major threat to the Russian economy.

“We are still in a stage of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation … Putin wants another frozen conflict (in eastern Ukraine),” Yatseniuk said.

“His aim is not just to take Donetsk and Lugansk,” Yatsenyuk said. “His goal is to take the entire Ukraine … Russia is a threat to the global order and to the security of Europe.”

He described the truce signed on 5 September in Minsk between Kiev, pro-Russian rebels and Moscow and the European security body the OSCE after five months of conflict in eastern Ukraine as just a “first step” to “stop a massacre”.

He said that having a bilateral accord with Russia was “not the best” idea and called on the United States and the European Union to play a direct role in peace talks and to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

“They (the Russians) will outplay us,” he said. “Putin wants to get his hands on our belly fat.”


The Guardian.

#Russia threatens #Ukraine with import tariffs from November


A Russian woman shops for yogurt in Saint Petersburg on August 7, 2014.A Russian woman shops for yogurt in Saint Petersburg on August 7, 2014. © AFP

(Reuters) – Russia will introduce import tariffs on Ukrainian goods as of Nov. 1 if Kiev proceeds with a trade pact with the European Union, local news agencies cited Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev as saying on Sept. 12.

Ukraine is set to ratify a wide-ranging free trade pact with the 28-nation EU that Russia fears will be harmful to its economy.

“If our partners do not listen to us, and consider our arguments unconvincing, then we will take adequate protective measures,” RIA news agency cited Ulyukayev as saying in Brussels.

In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Russian economy could suffer a loss of some 100 billion roubles (£1.6 billion) if European goods reach the Russian market via Ukraine as a result of the Kiev-EU deal.

Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank, said it was possible steps would be taken to prevent Moscow taking punitive trade action.

“There is still talk of some form of transitional measures which would limit potential opportunity for Russian ‘retaliation’ and cut the Ukrainians as much slack as possible,” he said in a note.

A tug of war between the EU and Russia over Ukraine has contributed to a crisis in the former Soviet republic, which has been battling a pro-Russia separatist insurgency since mid-April.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Lidia Kelly).


Reuters.