Tag Archives: the Guardian

#Russia Denies #Kiev Attacked #Russian #Army Column, Says No Troops Crossed #Border

An armoured personnel carrier drives on a road near the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region, some 30 km from the Russian-Ukrainian border, on August 15, 2014.An armoured personnel carrier drives on a road near the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region, some 30 km from the Russian-Ukrainian border, on August 15, 2014. © AFP

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defence Ministry on Friday denied that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a Russian military column overnight on its territory, saying no such military force had crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, Russian state news agency RIA reported.

“There was no Russian military column that crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border either at night or during the day,” the defense ministry was cited as saying in a statement, dismissing the Ukrainian report as “some kind of fantasy.” 1

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Christian Lowe).

The New York Times.

  1. A ‘fantasy’ that was witnessed by reporters from the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph as well as russian journalists! 

#Russia denies #military #vehicles entered #Ukraine

A fleet of lorries that Russia says is carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near the border. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/APA fleet of lorries that Russia says is carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near the border. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

Russia has denied that its troops entered Ukrainian territory, saying that a column of armoured vehicles spotted on the border was a unit of border guards patrolling the frontier.

A day after the Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported seeing 23 Russian armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other military logistics vehicles, crossing into Ukrainian territory, the FSB said there was a detachment in the area of border guards set up to assure safety and “prevent the infiltration of armed people on the territory of the Russian federation”.

But the security service stressed that the unit operated exclusively on Russian territory. “In this regard, information on a group of Russian soldiers crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border is not true,” RIA Novosti quoted an official as saying.

The Guardian and Telegraph reported  reported witnessing the convoy crossing into Ukrainian territory on Thursday night through what appeared to be a gap in a wire fence that demarcates the border, close to the village of Severny, on the Ukrainian side. The ultimate destination of the convoy was impossible to verify.

The reports drew swift international reaction. The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, on Friday said that any incursion could have very serious consequences.

“I’m very alarmed by reports that Russian military vehicles may have crossed the border this morning. If there are any Russian military personnel or vehicles in eastern Ukraine, they need to be withdrawn immediately.”

On Thursday, the Guardian again travelled to the site to look at the area in daylight. The fence, which demarcates the border and runs along the outside suburbs of the Russian border town of Donetsk, is permeated by informal crossings and dirt tracks. Around the area where the Guardian saw the crossing the day before, a truck was parked with Russian military plates, on the Russian side. It was not possible to linger as the area is a restricted border zone, but military vehicles with no plates were seen coming from the direction of Ukraine.

Also during the day, there was further large-scale movement of military hardware along the road between the border Kremensk-Shakhtinsky, where a caravan of more than 200 white aid trucks is camped, awaiting onward shipment to eastern Ukraine where it is to deliver a consignment of humanitarian aid. The Guardian saw at least 50 APCs and dozens of trucks and troop carrying vehicles, many emblazoned with “peacekeeping forces” and some flying the Russian flag, on the road.

The aid convoy set off from a Russian military base on Tuesday. Russia insists the convoy includes badly needed aid for residents trapped in Luhansk for almost two weeks without water and electricity.

Some have turned out to be nearly empty. According to the FT’s Courtney Weaver, Russia’s emergency services say they want reserve trucks in case some break down:

She concludes: “Seems more like the trucks were hastily packed/not enough time for all to be filled completely”

According to the BBC’s Daniel Sandford, meanwhile, the Red Cross says the large Russian escort travelling with the convoy won’t be allowed into Ukraine:

The Guardian.

Timothy Ash: #West may be telling #Ukraine to stand on its own against #Russia

By Timothy AshPeople load their furniture in a vehicle as they leave after a shelling in Donetsk, on August 14, 2014. Heavy shelling smashed into the centre of Donetsk, once a bustling city of one million. Fierce clashes between government forces and rebel fighters have killed 74 civilians over the last three days in east Ukraine's war-torn Donetsk region, local authorities said on August 14. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFFPeople load their furniture in a vehicle as they leave after a shelling in Donetsk, on August 14, 2014. Heavy shelling smashed into the centre of Donetsk, once a bustling city of one million. Fierce clashes between government forces and rebel fighters have killed 74 civilians over the last three days in east Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk region, local authorities said on August 14. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF © AFP.

The most interesting thing over the past 24 hours was the Russian military convoy passing through the border into Ukraine, witnessed and photographed by Western and even Russian media outlets.

And, more remarkably, has been the muted reaction from the West and indeed from the Western media.

Some 4-5 weeks ago, the White House PR machine would have been going into overdrive, and warning of new sanctions iterations in the pipeline unless Russia “de-escalated.” Thus far nothing, we have seen next to nothing of note.

Officially the Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the convoy exists/crossed – but the evidence is as conclusive as it could be from the tweets/snaps by the Guardian/London Telegraph/Novy Vremya. I sense this denial was tongue in cheek. But what is more important, I think the Russians wanted everyone to see this convoy crossing the border. Journalists were guided to the border crossing by the convoy of Russian white humanitarian trucks – and then the military convoy just appeared, turned right and crossed the border in front of the journalists. Russia wanted everyone to see that it has the capacity to cross the border into Ukraine at will – even with full Russian military regalia.

It would seem as though Russia is goading/testing the West – to see the Western sanctions response.

The fact that the European Union and the US have failed to respond to the Russian action yesterday in any meaningful way suggests that they really don’t want to know now – they have had their sanctions fill, and Vladimir Putin has played them into sanctions stalemate.

This much was probably evident from comments from the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, this morning, suggestive that Western sanctions have been counter-productive, and these were echoed by similar comments by his Slovak counterpart – I tend to disagree in terms of their impact (they stalled Russian action, and bought time for the Ukrainian military to find its feet). They also come as Europe suffered pretty weak macro data releases this week, suggestive that the crisis in Ukraine and with Russia is weakening sentiment across the European continent.

For Ukraine, that probably means that its fate is now in its own hands – don’t wait for its EU brothers to ride to the rescue, or the US for that matter which is currently focused elsewhere. The EU is divided anyway, and ineffective, and has been subject to “divide and rule” from Russia which has been using its own business leverage, “patronage,” and contacts to full effect over recent months.

Already Ukraine is taking things into its own hands – with the Verkovna Rada passing its own sanctions legislation against Russia this week. The Ukrainian military have also found their feet, in terms of their military capacity on the ground. Could they beat the Russian military in a full frontal invasion – probably not – but they would likely do a lot of damage, and make the Russians think twice. This is now probably the main factor holding Russia back further, albeit perhaps not from a more direct and targeted intervention in Donbas, in some form of peacekeeping capacity. This would in effect halt the assault of the Ukrainian military, freeze the front lines, and create a frozen conflict where both sides have to negotiate.

The above now seems the most likely scenario – albeit while this might deliver a ceasefire on the ground, it is more difficult to see a lasting long term solution, as the two sides positions are just too far apart – the Maydan was never really about EU membership, but about European values, which Russia and Putin fear in terms of their application to Ukraine, because they might just be transferable across the border.

And also how can any Ukrainian negotiate a settlement which would involve Crimea – as Russia will want acceptance of its annexation as part of any long-term deal. This is simply undoable for any Ukrainian politician, and especially after so many deaths, and with parliamentary elections looming. In such a scenario, Putin would appear to win, securing Crimea, a frozen conflict in Donbas, which he will assume will cripple the Ukrainian economy and the prospects of a Maidan administration ever succeeding.

Can this be the basis for any peace for a Ukrainian politician?

At first glance perhaps not. But while Ukraine may have lost Crimea, and may struggle to get a large slice of Donbas back under its control for an extended period of time, and while Europe has yet again disappointed, the big “win” for Ukraine is that the nation has been born.

Finally, after 23 years, Ukrainians do feel a sense of identity and affinity with the state of Ukraine. They have been willing to lie down their lives for the state, and will likely be willing to struggle to ensure its survival and success, irrespective of Russia having lopped off bits of its territory.

This is the big chance for Ukraine, to live to European values, and modernise the economy – because it has to, rather as Georgia did in 2008. Russia may have outmaneuvered the West and Kyiv to a stalemate, even a short term tactical victory over Crimea and Donbas.

But importantly, over the longer term Russia has failed in allowing a new nation to be forged – 2014, could be the defining moment for Ukraine, equivalent to 1848 or 1861 in Europe, 1776 in the US, et al.

Russia may hence have gained Crimea, and possibly bits of Donbas, but may have lost Ukraine permanently. Perhaps Ukrainian politicians have to be content with that, and focusing on ensuring that what is left of Ukraine, is successful – and I would guess that it will hope therein to have sufficient support from the West.

(Timothy Ash is a senior analyst of emerging markets for Standard Bank in London).

Kyiv Post.

#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.

#MH17: Dutch and Australian teams get greater access to crash site

Dutch-led group of 49 investigators that will attempt to recover bodies and examine site in eastern Ukraine will be unarmed.

Paul Farrell in Canberra
A woman takes a photograph of wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/ReutersA Woman takes a photograph of wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Dutch and Australian investigators will get greater access to the site of the MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine under the terms of a new deal, the Australian prime minister has said.

The unarmed Dutch-led group would have 49 personnel on site on Sunday, 11 of which would be Australian, Tony Abbott said. The team would be allowed to enter the site during the day to recover remains and examine the site, but would not be permitted to stay overnight. Abbott anticipated the numbers would grow substantially in the coming days.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Sunday, Abbott said the agreement followed discussions in Donetsk overnight led by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Abbott said: “Today I announce that the Australian federal police will be deployed to the site as part of an unarmed, Dutch-led international humanitarian mission.

“Our objective is principally to recover the bodies. That is what the Australian people expect of us, that is what grieving families around the world deserve. Our intention, under the auspices of local people, is to take over the site to ensure that the recovery of remains can go ahead as swiftly and effectively as possible.”

The decision to send in only unarmed officers has removed a substantial hurdle for Dutch and Australian authorities, as it will no longer need ratification from the Ukrainian parliament, according to Abbott.

The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, had earlier negotiated with the Ukrainian government to allow unarmed Australian officers to access the site. But the proposal for them to be accompanied by armed officers threatened to keep them off the site for days while they waited for Ukrainian parliamentary approval.

Abbott said the objective of the mission was “to get in, to get cracking, to get out”, and stressed it was a humanitarian, police-led operation. Some Australian defence force personnel have also been sent to Europe to back up the police, but would not be sent to the site.

“This is a risky mission … but all the professional advice that I have is that the safest way to conduct it is unarmed, as part of a police-led humanitarian mission,” he said.

“What needs to happen on the site is plainly that a professional team needs to be deployed to recover remains, assisting where possible with investigation and as far as possible to remove wreckage.”

There are 170 Australian police officers standing by in Ukraine, with 20 more in the Netherlands.

The Australian federal police commissioner, Tony Negus, said the mission would allow Dutch and Australian forces to undertake forensic tests at the site.

“The first priority is to locate the remains of any victims still on the site. We will also conduct a forensic examination of the site, and as you well know and as has been well publicised, the site has been contaminated and raked over many times – so we are realistic about what the forensic utility of actually doing that would be,” he said.

Australian and Dutch officials have been negotiating for days to allow officers from both countries to gain access to the site of the crash in Ukraine.

The Guardian.