Tag Archives: Ukraine crisis

‘If I Want, I Will Take Kiev in Two Weeks’, Putin Warns EU’s Barroso #Russia #Putin #Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin has issued a threat to outgoing European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he wanted, 1 Italian media reports have said. 

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Russian leader made the belligerent statement in a phone call with the outgoing EU leader, who is set to be replaced by Luxembourg’s former prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

Despite the escalating tensions between all parties involved, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told negotiators in the Belarusian capital of Minsk that an “immediate ceasefire” is Russia’s priority.

However, both Ukraine and European Union member states accuse Russia of supporting the rebels fighting Kiev’s forces with military supplies and personnel in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of “direct and open aggression” in the eastern rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian forces have now withdrawn from Luhansk airport in the restive eastern region after firefights with pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine’s security council confirmed that the troops had withdrawn “in an organised manner”.

The reported exchange between Putin and Barroso comes as fears grow in Kazakhstan over Moscow’s rhetoric towards the country, following Putin’s claim that “Kazakhs never had any statehood” and the country was simply “created”.

In response, Nazarbayev warned that Kazakhstan may leave the Russian-led Customs Union, an economic coalition which includes Belarus, if it feels that its independence is threatened in any way by Moscow.

“Kazakhstan will not be part of organisations that pose a threat to our independence,” he told the Kazakh television station Khabar.

The massing of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and reports of Russian incursions into Ukraine have put a spotlight on Moscow’s intentions in the post-Soviet states bordering the member nations of the Nato military alliance.

UN agencies estimate that more than 2,600 people have been killed in the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military since April.

Yahoo News UK.

  1. What Putin is really saying is ‘he can do whatever he damn well pleases because the west are too cowardly to stand up to him’ 

We need to tell the truth about what Russia is doing in Ukraine #Putin #RussiainvadedUkraine

Nato must face up to the realities of Putin’s war of aggression in eastern Europe – and take material steps to support Ukraine. 

.Putin's Soviet RussiaPutin’s Soviet Russia © shoutout2day.com

As the Ukraine crisis has intensified over the past six months, Russia has been developing a new form of warfare – inserting special forces, provoking, and slowly, deliberately escalating the conflict. Russian actions flout international law and the agreements that have assured stability in the post-cold war world. But warnings and sanctions have thus far failed. The Nato summit in Wales this week offers the best, and perhaps last, opportunity to halt aggression in Europe without major commitments of Nato forces. But to do so requires a deeper understanding of the situation and much more resolute allied action.

First, Vladimir Putin’s actions against Ukraine haven’t been “provoked”. They are part of a long-term plan to recreate a greater Russia by regaining control of Ukraine and other states in the “near abroad”. Russia is not going to admit that it has invaded because to do so might invite a stronger Nato response. But until Nato governments unambiguously label Russian actions “aggression” and “invasion”, they will have difficulty mustering support for the stronger actions that needs to be taken.

Putin is not likely to be dissuaded by stronger sanctions; while they may disrupt some elements of the Russian economy, and he would of course prefer not to face them, he also uses sanctions himself to strengthen his leverage over those sectors most engaged with the west, and to gain sympathy from his own “electorate”.

Nato must act decisively to strengthen member states that feel threatened by Putin’s actions. Its forces should be permanently stationed in the Baltics, Poland and eastern Balkans. Its rapid reaction forces should be bolstered. Additionally, more demanding military exercises should be held. Nato’s nuclear deterrent must be re-emphasised. Long overdue modernisation should be undertaken. All this requires greater resources, including budget and manpower.

But these are the relatively easy steps. Even if undertaken – and they will take months and years to be implemented – they are unlikely to halt the growing threat, nor will they prevent the demoralisation of our friends in eastern Europe. As we like to say in America, “this is not their first rodeo”. They understand that aggressors are strengthened by their successes. And they know that today Ukraine is fighting on Nato’s periphery for the very same values of freedom, self-government and democracy that Nato espouses. They are asking themselves how courageous Nato will be, confronting a renewed Russian threat, if Nato nations today fear to provide information, military advice and assistance to an independent European state of 45 million fighting a defensive battle merely to regain control its own territory. And, yes, it is open warfare in eastern Ukraine now.

The success of this Nato summit will be measured not simply by its declarations of intent to strengthen alliance members in eastern Europe but, perhaps more importantly, by its willingness to provide Ukraine with the diplomatic, economic and, most immediately, military assistance necessary.

True, there is no “military” solution to Ukraine. The only solution is diplomatic: Putin must be persuaded to cease and desist. But, as we are learning, that persuasion requires not only diplomacy and sanctions, but also assisting Ukraine in creating the military means to defeat Russia’s new war strategy.

Information, training, military advice and hardware provided now will likely save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in the future. This is the time to speak the truth about Russian aggression and to act resolutely in aiding Ukraine to halt it.

The Guardian.

Ukraine President Says Europe’s Security Depends on Stopping Russia #RussiainvadedUkraine #WarInEurope

When a state sends more than a thousand troops with mobile artillery and heavy equipment into a neighboring state and takes control of territory, that’s an invasion, right? – Serge Schmemann

Ukrainian militiamen secured an area on the outskirts of Mariupol, where a Russian-backed assault was expected.Ukrainian militiamen secured an area on the outskirts of Mariupol, where a Russian-backed assault was expected. Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Accusing Russia of waging a campaign of “military aggression and terror” against his country, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine told European leaders here on Saturday that their own countries’ security depended on stopping Russian troops from stoking a conflict in eastern Ukraine that he said could escalate into a wider war.

His warnings won no pledges of military assistance from the European Union, but helped set the stage for a new round of sanctions against Russia. Leaders ducked an immediate decision on what new measures to take, despite agreeing that Moscow had escalated the conflict sharply in recent days. They instead asked the European Commission, the union’s executive arm, to prepare proposals for expanding existing sanctions, and said these must be ready “for consideration within a week,” according to a statement issued early Sunday.

Saying that Russia was pushing the conflict in Ukraine toward “the point of no return,” the president of commission, José Manuel Barroso, said European leaders who gathered Saturday in Brussels would endorse new, tougher measures in an effort to make Moscow “come to reason.”

Some European leaders, particularly those from former Communist nations in Eastern Europe, called for direct military assistance to Ukraine’s badly stretched armed forces, which are battling pro-Russian rebels on three fronts in eastern Ukraine. But officials said a decision on military aid would be left to individual countries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, speaking early Sunday after the meeting broke up, said that Germany “will certainly not deliver weapons, as this would give the impression that this is a conflict that can be solved militarily.” But she said further sanctions were needed, as “the situation has deteriorated considerably in the last few days,” and would be imposed “if this situation continues.”

She said it was unclear whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine constituted an invasion under international law, but added that “the sum of all the evidence we have seen so far is that Russian arms and Russian forces are operating on Ukrainian territory.” Despite her numerous phone conversations with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, she said she could not make “a final judgment” on his intentions and whether he might still try to take “further parts of the country under his control.”

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that Russian tanks had entered and flattened a small town between the rebel-held city of Luhansk and the Russian border.

Mr. Poroshenko, alongside Mr. Barroso in Brussels, said that Ukraine still hoped for a political settlement with the rebels, but that a flow of Russian troops and armored vehicles into Ukraine in recent days to support them were setting off a broader conflict.

“We are too close to a border where there will be no return to the peace plan,” Mr. Poroshenko said, asserting that since Wednesday, “thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine, with a very high risk not only for the peace and stability of Ukraine but for the peace and stability of the whole of Europe.”

He added that this made Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine “crucially important for all of us.”

Russia has dismayed European leaders by repeatedly denying that it has sent troops or military hardware into Ukraine. After the Ukrainian authorities released videos on Tuesday of captured Russian troops, Moscow conceded that some of its soldiers had crossed into Ukraine but said they had done so “by accident.”

Rebel leaders say Russian servicemen are fighting in Ukraine during their holiday leave. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, a separatist leader in Donetsk, said earlier this week that these soldiers “would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom.”

Russia’s evasions and denials in response to mounting evidence of its direct involvement in supporting pro-Russian separatists has left even Europe’s more cautious leaders, notably Ms. Merkel, ready to endorse further sanctions. Ms. Merkel, the dominant figure in European policy-making, said early Sunday that Germany still favored a negotiated settlement and that Europe needed to keep the pressure on Russia with additional sanctions. “We need to do something to clearly demonstrate what are the values we defend,” she said.

She said that Russia’s opaque political system made it difficult to assess whether sanctions already in place were affecting Russian decision-making but added: “I would say they are.”

Ms. Merkel has spoken regularly with Mr. Putin, by telephone during the crisis but has had no success in curbing Russia’s support for the rebels, who had been losing ground in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. Now, reinvigorated by new arms and fighters from Russia, the rebels are expanding territory under their control.

Mr. Barroso said that he, too, had spoken by phone with Mr. Putin and “urged him to change course” during a “long and frank” conversation on Friday.

While not directly accusing Russia of sending soldiers into Ukraine, as Mr. Poroshenko and NATO have done, Mr. Barroso said Russian moves to feed fighting in eastern Ukraine were “simply not the way responsible, proud nations should behave in the 21st century.” Further sanctions, Mr. Barroso said, would “show to Russia’s leadership that the current situation is not acceptable and we urge them to come to reason.”

European leaders, he added, had long stated that any further escalation of the conflict would set off additional sanctions, and they would “be ready to take some more measures” at the meeting in Brussels.

President François Hollande of France also backed new measures against Russia, telling journalists in Brussels that “what is happening in Ukraine is so serious” that European leaders were obliged to increase sanctions.

But France is expected to block calls by some leaders to extend an existing ban on future military sales to Russia to include already signed contracts. France has resisted pressure from Washington and some European capitals to cancel a contract for the sale of two naval assault ships to Russia, a deal worth 1.2 billion euros, or about $1.6 billion.

Arriving Saturday for the summit, Dalia Grybauskaite, the president of Lithuania, demanded that existing and future military contracts with Russia be prohibited. Europe, she said, could not “listen to the lies that we are receiving from Putin” and should offer military support to Ukraine. Russia, she added, was “in a state of war against Ukraine and that means that it is in a state of war against countries that want to be closer to the European Union and that means practically that Russia is in a state of war against Europe. That means we have to help Ukraine battle back, to defend its territory and its people, to help militarily.”

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has been going on for months, mostly around rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk. But the conflict expanded last week after the rebels — backed by Russian forces, according to NATO — opened a front along a coastal road leading to the industrial port city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian military units and the civilian population were preparing on Saturday to defend the city against any assault by the Russian-backed militias, Ukraine’s military spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

“We are very grateful to the Mariupol residents, who have also helped in the fortification of the city against the armored vehicles of the enemy,” Colonel Lysenko said. The city fell briefly under the control of pro-Russian fighters earlier this year, but after they were driven out it had been firmly in the hands of Ukraine. The governor of the Donetsk region, forced from his headquarters in the city of Donetsk, decamped there to maintain a formal, if largely impotent, government presence.

Colonel Lysenko said that local residents were volunteering to join the armed forces, but that the military had enough men there “to repel the Russian military and its mercenaries.”

He repeated accusations that the Russians were sending arms and men across the border to support rebel fighters, who have declared independent states in Donetsk and Luhansk. He asserted that Russian tanks had entered Novosvitlivka, a small town on the road from the Russian border to Luhansk, and flattened “virtually every house.” He did not give details on when the reported attack took place.

Ukraine also accused Russia on Saturday of helping to shoot down one of its combat aircraft in eastern Ukraine.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, speaking early Sunday in Brussels, described the situation in Ukraine as “deeply serious” and said, “We have to show real resolve, real resilience in demonstrating to Russia that if she carries on in this way the relationship between Europe and Russia, Britain and Russia, America and Russia will be radically different in future.”

Andrew Higgins reported from Brussels, and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow. James Kanter contributed reporting from Brussels, and Rick Lyman from Warsaw.

The New York Times.

Residents of Komsomolske pray for peace under crossfire #Russia #Ukraine

 Oksana Grytsenko.Officials remove a corpse in a street of Donetsk after a shelling, on Aug. 28, 2014. Shelling kills 15 civilians in east Ukraine's Donetsk on Aug. 28. Residents who live in a nearby town of Komsomolsk don't know how many civilians died in their town since the start of the war. © AFPOfficials remove a corpse in a street of Donetsk after a shelling, on Aug. 28, 2014. Shelling kills 15 civilians in east Ukraine’s Donetsk on Aug. 28. Residents who live in a nearby town of Komsomolsk don’t know how many civilians died in their town since the start of the war. © AFP

KOMSOMOLSKE, Ukraine — Natalia Semeniuk, 14, had to flee her summer camp for orphans in the Donetsk Oblast town of Komsomolske along with other children on Aug. 28, when the shelling shattered all windows in the classroom.

“It was so scary,” said the teenager, who looks much smaller than children of her age. When she was evacuated by emergency workers, Semeniuk noticed that army soldiers started digging trenches around the school.

For the past three days the girl has lived in a bomb shelter that was constructed in Soviet times in the basement of the town’s culture house in case of nuclear attack.

There are bright stuffed toys scattered on top of old mattresses, marking the place where a group of children sleep in a stinky, dirty and narrow shelter along with dozens of other, grown-up, people.

Heavy fighting that started near Komsomolske this week forced some 12,000 residents into shelters or basements to hide from shelling, a nasty side effect of fights between the Ukrainian troops and Russian-back rebels and the Russian army.

Shooting sounded really close to town on the night of Aug. 30, making people uneasy about stepping too far away from their shelter and ready to rush back in at any moment.

Most of the soldiers of the National Guard crouched in their positions in town yards and cradling guns looked gloomy and tired. Some of their fellow servicemen were killed by enemy snipers earlier that day, they said.

A handful of residents were not scared by the shooting, walking along streets with bags or small carriages filled with food, mostly stolen from local shops.

Mass looting at the big ATB grocery store and several smaller Olymp supermarkets started earlier in the day. The National Guardsmen, who are part of the police forces, initially made feeble attempts to stop the crowd from looting, but then gave up and looked on as people robbed the stores.

Food has been getting hard to get in Komsomolske because it’s dangerous to bring in new supplies to town. As of late, shops have been open for just a few hours a day, selling off mostly their old stock. Banks and ATMs have not worked for days. The biggest local company that mines for limestone closed more than a week ago because it became too dangerous for its workers to operate.

The town has been cut off from electricity and running water since Aug. 24.

Several locals have been killed by shelling, including a 35-year-old man who was carrying water to the nearby villages when shrapnel hit him. But the residents have no idea how many people died because of the fights. The nearest hospital is located in Starobeshevo, a neighboring town, currently an epicenter of fighting.Kyiv Post+ provides special coverage of Russia's war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.Kyiv Post+ provides special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

People are getting desperate living in these tough conditions. “We don’t know where to buy bread for children,” said Natalia, a young woman, who works as a nurse at a children’s sanatorium and now cares for the orphans, many of whom came to Komsomolske from Donetsk and Luhansk, the biggest militant bases.

Another nurse started to bug Natalia Semeniuk, the teenager, to call her adoptive mother in Donetsk who has not shown any interest in her child for four months. The girl started crying, setting the persistent nurse off sobbing as well. She pulled out two small chocolate bars, and said that was all she had left to share between nine children in her care.

The authorities in Komsomolske have been changed several times over the last months. In May the pro-Russian rebels held a pseudo-referendum in this town and then proclaimed it part of Donetsk People’s Republic. Then the Ukrainian troops pushed the militants in early June. But when the Russian army started opened hostilities in the region this week, residents started to anticipate a new power change.

Most of them participated in the pro-Russian referendum, but since then they have developed good relations with Ukrainian soldiers. They often feed or shelter Ukrainian servicemen who are retreating from the battlefields.

Earlier on Saturday the locals saw dozens of dirty, exhausted and often wounded soldiers who broke out of an encirclement in Ilovaisk.

Residents also thanked the Ukrainian soldiers who brought buck-wheat, milk and sausages to help the orphans on Aug. 30.

But at the same time, locals feel angry at the central government, blaming it – along with Ukrainian oligarchs – for their problems. They don’t blame the Kremlin, and don’t care much who will be in power. All they want is for the horrors to end.

“Why can’t (Ukraine’s President Petro) Poroshenko reach a deal with anyone?” lamented Svitlana, a 48-year-old housewife, sitting in the bomb shelter. “Our town is forgotten by all.”

Kyiv Post.

EU leaders try to defuse Ukraine crisis as fears over war grow #Russia #Ukraine #WarInEurope

Warnings that Putin decision to send troops and armour risks spiralling into all-out conflict. 

 in Brussels.Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who was made new president of the European council, and Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, the EU's new foreign policy chief, after their nomination at the Brussels summit. Photograph: Yves Logghe/APPolish prime minister Donald Tusk, who was made new president of the European council, and Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, the EU’s new foreign policy chief, after their nomination at the Brussels summit. Photograph: Yves Logghe/AP

European leaders gathered in Brussels on Saturday night to wrestle with how to get a failing policy on Ukraine back on track, amid fears that Vladimir Putin’s campaign in the east of the country could spiral into full-scale war.

The summit was formerly called to wrangle over who should get the top jobs in the EU for the next five years, but emergency meetings between Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, and European leaders underlined how the gathering was hijacked by fears of war on the EU’s eastern flank.

As expected, Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, was appointed president of the European council, running the summit and affairs between the 28 heads of government, while the Italian foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, was made foreign policy chief and vice-president of the next European commission, replacing Britain’s Catherine Ashton.

Arriving at the summit, David Cameron warned Putin there would be “consequences” if Russian troops did not leave Ukraine, saying the incursion was “completely unacceptable”. Following Putin’s decision to send troops and heavy armour into eastern Ukraine, Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, declared that Russia was “practically at war with Europe”.

The Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, tweeted: “If it sounds like a war, if it kills like a war, it is a war.”

Following talks with Poroshenko and after speaking by phone to Putin, José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing head of the European commission, said: “We are in a very serious, I would say, dramatic situation where we can reach the point of no return.”

Poroshenko said: “We are hoping that in the very next days, starting from Monday, we can demonstrate real progress in the peace negotiations. Why? Because we are too close to the border where from there would be no return to the peace plan.

“Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are on the territory of Ukraine. There is a very high risk, not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole peace and stability of Europe.”

The Europeans were divided over the desirability of escalating the sanctions tit-for-tat with Russia as Britain, according to officials, pressed for tougher action and the Germans, while agreeing on the need for more penalties, sought to delay them.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been at the forefront of the diplomatic effort to get Putin to back down. She went to Ukraine for the first time in the six-month crisis last weekend, but Putin’s escalation of the conflict since then suggested that she had failed. Her vice-chancellor and Social Democratic party leader, Sigmar Gabriel, said the summit would definitely call for “preparing the next level of sanctions”.

The EU has used the word “preparation” to delay implementation of punitive measures, although it upped the ante last month, targeting Russian financial, energy and defence sectors. Moscow responded by banning EU food imports. The prospects are growing of a full-blown trade war, with diplomats saying embargos on the diamond, caviar and vodka industries are being considered. The Finnish prime minister, Alex Stubb, said no sanctions would be agreed immediately.

Senior EU diplomats also said there were growing calls to boycott or cancel Russia’s hosting of the football World Cup in 2018.

The Observer.