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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) helps put a blanket on Peng Liyuan (2nd R), wife of China’s President Xi Jinping (2nd L), as Xi talks to U.S. President Barack Obama (L) during a lights and fireworks show to celebrate Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting, at National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, in Beijing, November 10, 2014.
With the world distracted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “flirtatious” moves on China’s first lady, Russia has been slowly but surely escalating the crisis in Ukraine and stretching the limits of a proverbial ceasefire — to the point where the crisis could, in the words of one pro-Kremlin political analyst, “explode“.
The US and others have charged Russia over the past few days with violating certain elements of a ceasefire agreement reached in September.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday that Russia had transferred additional heavy weapons to pro-Russian separatists in the country’s eastern region, while there has been increased shelling of Ukrainian government positions over the past few days.
Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Tuesday that Russia has “doubled” the supplies of weaponry to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region and has amassed a “big number” of troops close to the border.
“I think UN should be informed ASAP that Russia is planning full-scaled invasion into Ukraine,” he said. “Latest facts prove it and leave no doubts.”
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe said another large, unmarked convoy moved into eastern Ukraine. The convoy, the OSCE said, was made up of 43 green military trucks, including five with the artillery pieces known as howitzers and five with multiple rocket-launch systems.
With DNR & jounalists on the road from Donetsk to #MH17 we observe appr. 25 army vehicles with artillery, GRAD launchers heading west.—
Jeroen Akkermans (@JeroenAkkermans) November 11, 2014
Fighting in the country’s eastern regions has intensified in recent days. Reuters reports heavy shelling near the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Tuesday, while pro-Ukrainian news reports also indicated Ukrainian forces came under fire near Zamozhne, which is close to the strategic city of Mariupol. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council says there was also heavy activity near Donetsk, Debaltseve, Luhansk, and Berezove.
The situation in eastern Ukraine as of Nov. 11.
The escalation takes place amid the backdrop of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, where Putin is meeting with other top world leaders, including President Barack Obama. The two leaders met three times informally over the past day, and the White House said they spoke about Ukraine, along with the crisis in Syria and the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Relations between the two countries has deteriorated as the ceasefire has frayed, amid further accusations from the US that Russia is supplying the pro-Russian separatists with arms and the country’s backing of separatist-fueled “elections” that the US called a “sham.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a plenary session during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, November 11, 2014.
Biden, in a phone conversation with Poroshenko on Monday, said the US was prepared to escalate “costs” on Russia if it continues to escalate the situation. The White House also warned Russia on Monday of the consequences of further escalation.
“We are very concerned by intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine, as well as numerous reports, including from the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), that Russian backed and supplied separatists are moving large convoys of heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.
“We continue to call on all sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire. Any attempt by separatist forces to seize additional territory in eastern Ukraine would be a blatant violation of the Minsk agreements.”
“How could we check it?” a Russian “expert” said when confronted with glaring mistakes in the image. “It came to us from the internet.” UPDATE — The original source for the image told BuzzFeed News that he found it online and never expected to see it on Russian TV. “Those guys are either desperate or totally unprofessional.”
The front page of the local newspaper calls on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to apologise as relations between Australia hit an all time low after the downing of Flight MH17 in Ukraine, at the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane on Nov. 14, 2014. © AFP.
KIEV, Ukraine — The man whose email was used as ‘proof’ that Ukraine shot down MH17 told BuzzFeed News that he had found the image on a forum and was upset that it had been used so widely on Russian TV.
George Bilt—who said he is an MIT graduate and aviation expert with 26 years experience, but would not provide further biographical details—said that he had come across an earlier report by the Russian Union of Engineers (RUE) blaming a Ukrainian fighter jet for the crash, and thought that it concurred with his own amateur findings. When he saw the picture online, Bilt wrote to Andreyevsky, the “expert” from the broadcast, with a link to the forum where the image was posted, clearly stating that he had found it there.
“I had no knowledge or means of proving and researching if this was an authentic satellite photo or not (it was clearly available online since mid October – not really such a new discovery too),” Bilt said. “RUE seemed to possess such research means and resources. I do not know if this was my mistake in evaluation.”
Bilt said that he was shocked to see his email, which he thought that he had written to Andreyevsky in confidence, used on Russian TV as proof of the Kremlin’s claims, citing him as a source. “I am quite unhappy that my bona fide informal attempt possibly became a source of yet another battle in a media war,” he said. “This was definitely not my intention. I am also not looking for a cheap fame. This tragedy is simply too awful to gain from it.
“I am sorry for all those people I might have indirectly and unintentionally misled or disappointed by this unexpected mess in anyway,” Bilt added. “Personally and professionally, I will not continue with this amateurish investigation effort due to the rather insane highly confrontational situation prone to escalation and with the elements of media war.
“Those folks are either desperate or totally unprofessional,” he said.
On Friday, Russia’s Channel 1 published what it said were satellite photos proving that a Ukrainian government fighter jet shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July.
Host Mikhail Leontiev, who is also a vice-president at state oil giant Rosneft, said that the pictures were sent to the Russian Union of Engineers by an MIT graduate named George Bilt.
Leontiev quoted an email from Bilt in which he said that the plane “was shot down in a classic jet fighter attack from the rear semi-sphere.”
The Kremlin has suggested a Ukrainian Su-25 could have shot down the plane — despite a wealth of evidence rebels shot it down with a Russian-supplied Buk missile system, most likely by mistake.
There are numerous inconsistencies with the Russian official versions of the downing of the MH17, even without taking into account the evidence to the contrary.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed simultaneously that the Boeing could also have been shot down by a Ukrainian Buk, even though Kiev denies having any active systems within range.
A list of 10, mostly rhetorical questions the ministry prepared for Ukraine included references to tweets by a Spanish air traffic controller in Kiev who quickly turned out not to exist.
Russian bloggers, however, quickly took the claim to pieces. Photographer Rustem Adagamov found that part of the image came from the Google Images cache dating back to August 2012.
Journalist Sergei Parkhomenko found several other pictures taken from Yandex.Maps, a Russian site.
Another Russian photographer, Ilya Varlamov, pointed out that the fighter in the picture appeared to be a MiG-29 — and not an Su-27.
On top of all this, the Su-27 can only fly to 23,000 feet — far below the altitude of 33,000 feet MH17 was cruising at when it was shot down. zyalt.livejournal.com
The Boeing in the picture turned out to bear a suspicious resemblance to the first Russian-language Google Images result for “Boeing view from above.”
Интересно, изображение Боинга они прямо загуглили тоже? Или совпадение? Первая картинка в выдаче «Боинг вид сверху» http://t.co/e5MyH07UWQ—
Максим Кац (@max_katz) November 14, 2014
It had the Malaysia Airlines logo in the wrong place.
In fact, it just looked like an ordinary Boeing 777 with the company’s own logo.
I may be wrong but proportions suggest the satellite 777 MH17 has the old Boeing house livery without the "777" title http://t.co/x57KNlxVAb—
Ross Hallam (@MrRossHallam) November 14, 2014
And it was shown at a distance of 31 miles from MH17 — not 250 miles, as Bilt claimed in his email.
The image also said that the Boeing was shot down at 1:19 a.m. London time — a full 12 hours before the disaster actually happened.
In fact, the photo dates back to at least October, when it appeared on a conspiracy theory forum attributed to “enthusiasts of Rusian [sic] Wikileaks.”
It also shows the plane being shot down over the rebel capital of Donetsk — and not the city of Snezhnoe, 50 miles to the east, where it was actually hit. obkon.ucoz.com
The Russian Union of Engineers turned out not to add up either. Ivan Andreyevsky, the “expert” quoted in the show, does not appear to have an engineering education. A quick analysis of his PhD turned up obvious signs of plagiarism.
After seeing the debunking, reporters from the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid asked the union’s head, Vladimir Saulyanov, whether they had checked the image for authenticity. “How could we check it?” Saulyanov said. “It came to us from the internet.” 1tv.ru
Mockery soon ensued. Several users posted photos of a Ukrainian Nazi flying saucer shooting down the plane.
РБ головного мозга (@belamova) November 14, 2014
This picture shows the fighter being flown by Ukrainian World War II nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, reviled in Russian state media for his influence on the Ukrainian far right.
Наш фотограф крупным планом запечатлел момент, когда украинский истребитель сбивал малайзийский Боинг http://t.co/5BLglmWMmR—
Lie News (@Lie_News) November 14, 2014
This one shows the plane painted in the style of traditional Ukrainian vyshivanka embroidery.
ПРАВДЫ НЕ СКРЫТЬ! На снимке видно, что крылья истребителя, сбившего Боинг, раскрашены в цвета украинской вышиванки! http://t.co/VfttMMu72i—
Дядюшка Шу (@Shulz) November 14, 2014
The scandal comes at an awkward time for Vladimir Putin, who is still making bold-faced denials of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
RuNet Echo (@runetecho) November 15, 2014
The G20 summit in Australia this weekend has fast dissolved into a debate on what to do about a resurgent Russia.
British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the prospect of further European Union sanctions for the recent military columns seen in rebel-held east Ukraine, which NATO says came from Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Putin for the collapse of the ceasefire deal he helped broker in early September.
Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper greeted Putin by saying, “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you, you need to get out of Ukraine.” according to the Globe and Mail newspaper. Handout / Reuters
Putin’s public comments have been unrepentant. But he’ll have to do more to convince the rest of the world that he didn’t shoot down MH17. (This caption says “Channel 1 published the real group photo from the G20 summit.”)
Первый канал опубликовал подлинное групповое фото с саммита G20. http://t.co/zEvdi6O0MF—
Владимир Терехов (@Geschichter) November 15, 2014
Visit BuzzFeed for more great articles.
#Russian #Actor Slammed on #Twitter for Firing Weapon in #Ukraine potentially making every #journalist a target
Every person who uses weapons while hiding behind press identification assumes responsibility for the future deaths of journalists.
Russian Actor Mikhail Porechenkov. Potentially making every journalist a target.
Anna Dolgov, The Moscow Times.
A Russian actor wearing a helmet marked “Press” has been caught on video firing a machine gun from a battle site in eastern Ukraine, in a stunt that provoked outrage on Russian and Ukrainian social networks.
After the video of Mikhail Porechenkov discharging his machine gun from Donetsk Airport was posted Thursday on the YouTube account of separatist “Novorossia TV,” Russian-language hashtags “#PorechenkovKiller” and “#PorechenkovTerrorist” went viral on Twitter, with some journalists saying the actor had brought additional dangers to reporters in war zones.
“Every [individual] who uses weapons while hiding behind press identification assumes responsibility for the future deaths of journalists,” Russian journalist Alexander Vishnevsky said via Twitter in a message that was retweeted hundreds of times within a few hours. Instead of “individual,” he used an expletive that can be loosely translated as “sh!thead.”
At least eight journalists and their assistants have been killed in Ukraine since the start of this year. They are Russia’s VGTRK television correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin; Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian fixer Andrei Mironov; Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy, who was shot in February during protests in Kiev; Sergei Dolgov, the editor-in-chief of a pro-Russian newspaper in eastern Ukraine; Russia’s Channel One cameraman Anatoly Klyan; and Rossia Segodnya photographer Andrei Stenin.
Porechenkov said after his stunt that he had visited rebel-controlled Donetsk to see how a cease-fire between separatists and government forces was holding up.
“In the airport I could already clearly see that there isn’t and hadn’t been any cease-fire,” Porechenkov was quoted as saying by Gazeta.ru, without elaborating on which signs of continued fire he had witnessed. The video of Porechenkov mingling with rebels at what Novorossia TV described as a “battle position” featured no signs or sounds of a battle until the actor and a separatist next to him began firing their weapons.
The shooting appeared to be mostly a symbolic demonstration of valor in front of a video camera, and there was no indication that any of the shots hit Ukrainian forces’ positions or civilians.
Separatists accompanying Porechenkov at the rebel stronghold were clad in military fatigues and camouflage helmets. But the actor wore a blue bulletproof vest and helmet marked with the word “Press” on its back. The letters are partially visible in the video posted by Novorossia TV and can easily be read in photos of the incident that have been circulated online.
Porechenkov said the goals of his visit included delivering “medications for hospitals” in separatist eastern Ukraine. The Russian government has also pledged to deliver “humanitarian aid” to rebel-controlled areas, though Kiev and Western nations accuse it of primarily supplying weapons and fighters — a charge Moscow denies.
A leader of Russia’s democratic political opposition, Ilya Yashin, gave an account of Porechenkov’s machine-gun firing in a Twitter message, concluding: “A dove of peace.”
Porechenkov is perhaps best known for his leading role in recent film “Poddubny,” a biographical movie about famed Russian and Soviet wrestler Ivan Poddubny, who was born in what is now Ukraine.
The actor told Gazeta.ru that Russian filmmakers planned to show the film in eastern Ukraine, although the “Ukrainian authorities have banned it for some reason.”
The Ukrainian Culture Ministry announced earlier this year that it was banning the distribution of “Poddubny,” citing the same flaws for which the movie had been criticized by some Russian reviewers — distorting historical facts to promote Russia’s greatness.