Tag Archives: Ukraine

#Shakhtar’s #Stadium #Damaged by #Shelling in #Donetsk


By Associated Press.At 6 a.m. on Aug. 23, two powerful explosions occurred at Donbass Arena in Donetsk. As a result of shelling, there is serious damage to the northwestern facade of the stadium, communications, equipment and detached building of the energy centre, There are no casualties among the stadium staff. The stadium is home to the Shakhtar soccer team. © CourtesyAt 6 a.m. on Aug. 23, two powerful explosions occurred at Donbass Arena in Donetsk. As a result of shelling, there is serious damage to the northwestern facade of the stadium, communications, equipment and detached building of the energy centre, There are no casualties among the stadium staff. The stadium is home to the Shakhtar soccer team. © Courtesy

DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian soccer champion Shakhtar Donetsk’s stadium was damaged by shelling Saturday during the conflict between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Club chief executive Sergei Palkin said two shells struck the stadium complex early Saturday morning, one damaging the arena itself and another striking its electricity substation.

Shakhtar published photos showing debris strewn around an entrance to the stadium, but said there were “no casualties among the stadium staff.”

The 52,667-capacity Donbass Arena was a venue for the 2012 European championship in Poland and Ukraine and has hosted teams including Manchester United and Barcelona for Champions League games.

Shakhtar’s home city of Donetsk is the largest city controlled by pro-Russian rebels, and fighting in the area has become more intense in recent weeks.

Shakhtar is playing its home games this season in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv due to the conflict. That will include Champions League games when the group stage begins next month.

Shakhtar is owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, whose metals industry companies employ thousands in the Donetsk area and who paid for the Donbass Arena to be built.

Akhmetov has publicly opposed the separatists and called for both sides in the conflict to refrain from bombing Donetsk.

In May, Donetsk’s ice hockey arena was looted and burned. The club that plays there, Donbass Donetsk, blamed the attack on pro-Russian separatists.

Last month, Ukrainian Premier League club Zorya Luhansk’s stadium was hit by mortar fire which smashed seats and left a crater in its field. No injuries were reported following the attack, which took place in the city of Luhansk, a separatist stronghold.

Shakhtar is top of the Ukrainian league after four games.

via Shakhtar’s Stadium Damaged by Shelling in Donetsk – NYTimes.com.

Convoy of Trucks Returns to #Russia From #Ukraine (Update)



Trucks from Russia returned to Donetsk, Russia, on Saturday after delivering aid to Luhansk, Ukraine. Credit European Pressphoto AgencyTrucks from Russia returned to Donetsk, Russia, on Saturday after delivering aid to Luhansk, Ukraine. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

MOSCOW — The huge convoy of Russian trucks that entered war-torn eastern Ukraine on Friday, sharply escalating tensions, returned to Russia on Saturday after unloading food and medicine in the city of Luhansk, and the Russian government quickly declared its satisfaction with the operation.

Russia’s decision to send the convoy across the border without an escort by the International Red Cross or final clearance from the Ukrainian government in Kiev had drawn harsh criticism. President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine called it a “flagrant violation of international law.” Another senior Ukrainian official denounced it as a “direct invasion.” And Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO, in a statement condemning the convoy’s entry, said it coincided with a “major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine.”

The convoy’s swift return suggested that, at least for a moment, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had scored a public relations victory, especially on the domestic front.


Areas of Recent Fighting

Areas of Recent FightingSources: Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense; Pro-Russian separatist leaders
Trucks from a Russian convoy said to be carrying humanitarian aid crossed the border into a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine, without the consent of the Ukrainian government on Friday. On the same day, NATO officials said that Russian artillery units had moved into Ukrainian territory and were firing at Ukrainian forces. Clashes continue throughout the region.
Ukraine Crisis in Maps »


During a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Saturday in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Poroshenko said that 185 trucks had returned to Russia. It was unclear where the rest of a fleet of more than 200 vehicles that crossed into Ukraine on Friday had gone. Russian news media reported that some of the trucks might move from Luhansk to Donetsk, a second rebel stronghold.

While Moscow cheered a successful aid mission, Mr. Poroshenko claimed credit for Ukraine, saying that “our strong and coordinated efforts managed to avoid provocation.” He derided Russia’s relief effort as “so-called help” and said Russia’s convoy was “in violation of all norms of international law.” But he praised Ms. Merkel for a pledge by Germany to help set up a fund of 500 million euros, or about $660 million, to rebuild war-ravaged areas of eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbass.

“We all remember the Marshall Plan for postwar Europe,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “Today I can say that this is the beginning of the Merkel plan to restore the infrastructure of Donbass.”

Russian television stations, largely controlled by the government, had carried constant coverage of the convoy crossing the border on Friday. The Russian Foreign Ministry declared the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine so grave that it could no longer tolerate what it described as stalling by the Ukrainian government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had agreed to oversee the convoy.

For weeks, Kiev and its allies, including the United States and major European countries, had raised suspicions about Russia’s plans to deliver humanitarian aid, fearing that the trucks could be used to carry arms and other supplies to pro-Russian militants who seem to be on the verge of defeat in their fight against the Ukrainian government.

There were also concerns that Russia would use the trucks to slow the Ukrainian government’s military operations in Luhansk, essentially to shield rebels as they regrouped and rearmed.

In Kiev, a military spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said the Ukrainian government was also hoping to defuse the situation, but he accused Russia of using some of the aid trucks to take military equipment from Ukrainian factories back to Russia. However, he offered no evidence to support his assertion.

“The leadership of Ukraine is using all diplomatic and political means to resolve this crisis and will not allow it to develop further,” Colonel Lysenko said at a briefing for reporters.

While witnesses reported seeing more than 200 trucks in the convoy, Colonel Lysenko said that Ukrainian officials had counted fewer than that crossing the border on Friday and that some of them, having dropped off their cargo, were being used “to take away equipment from Ukrainian enterprises.”

He said, without offering any proof, that the equipment was taken from the Topaz plant, which makes Kolchuga, a type of radar system, and from a factory in Luhansk that produces firearms magazines.

The colonel said Russia was continuing to fire artillery and missiles at Ukrainian military positions from the Russian side of the border, repeating an accusation that Ukraine has made consistently in recent weeks. Russia has denied direct military involvement in the conflict.

By swiftly returning the trucks to Russia, the Kremlin seemed to seize an opportunity to make its detractors in Kiev and the West appear alarmist, and the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the goals all along had been strictly humanitarian. “We are satisfied that the Russian humanitarian aid for southeast Ukraine was delivered to the destination,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We were guided in this exclusively by the goal of helping needy civilians.”

The statement added that Russia intended to work with the Red Cross to deliver the assistance. The hasty unloading of the trucks also seemed to confirm that many of them had been nearly empty. Journalists who were allowed to look inside some trucks had seen that many were only partly filled.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine found that most of the 34 trucks it inspected carried foodstuffs, including buckwheat, rice, sugar and water, and that some bore medical supplies.

The Red Cross said on Friday that fighting in eastern Ukraine made it too dangerous for the convoy to cross the border and deliver the aid. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the humanitarian crisis was worsening and that it could no longer wait.

Military experts say that there is no doubt that Russia could invade Ukraine — with tanks not cargo trucks — on extremely short notice and that the West could do little about it.

The loud criticism from Kiev and the West, however, seemed to provide the Kremlin with an easy opportunity to portray its critics as shrill and unreliable, while pushing back on hard-line Russian nationalists who have criticized Mr. Putin and his government for not doing more to help pro-Russian militants.

The Obama administration on Friday had also sharply criticized Russia’s unilateral decision to send the convoy across the border, which it said was “in violation of its previous commitments and international law.”

“Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks forced their way into Ukraine,” said a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden.

Ms. Hayden said that only a small number of vehicles were inspected by Ukrainian customs officials and that there was no way to know the contents of the entire convoy. The Ukrainian government complained that its customs agents sent to a border crossing to inspect the trucks had been blocked as Russia sent the convoy through.

Even as Ms. Merkel’s visit to Kiev was underway, fierce fighting continued in eastern Ukraine.

In Donetsk, heavy artillery bombardments struck at least two neighborhoods of the city on Saturday afternoon.

In one barrage, shells landed in a residential district near a traffic roundabout and rebel checkpoint, killing three people and wounding others while missing the separatist military installation. Earlier in the day, mortars landed again amid apartment buildings near an exhibition center occupied by separatist fighters.

(David M. Herszenhorn reported from Moscow, and Andrew Higgins from Kiev, Ukraine. Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Donetsk, Ukraine, and Alison Smale from Berlin).


The New York Times.

Trucks from aid convoy to #Ukraine start crossing back into #Russia


BY DMITRY MADORSKYTrucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, drive in the direction of the Ukrainian border near the town of Donetsk, in Russia's Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUKTrucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, drive in the direction of the Ukrainian border near the town of Donetsk, in Russia’s Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK

(Reuters) – Trucks from a Russian aid convoy started crossing back into Russia on Saturday after unleashing a storm of anger in Western capitals a day earlier by driving into Ukraine without the permission of the government in Kiev.

The return of the trucks may help ease the tension to some extent in time for talks in Ukraine’s capital on Saturday between visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders over how to end the crisis in the ex-Soviet republic.

Western leaders had joined Kiev in calling the Russian convoy — about 220 white-painted trucks loaded with tinned food and bottle water — an illegal incursion onto Ukraine’s soil, and demanded that they be withdrawn as soon as possible.

A Reuters journalist at the Donetsk-Izvaryne border crossing, where the convoy rolled into Ukraine on Friday, said over 100 trucks had passed back into Russia and more could be seen in the distance arriving at the crossing.

Russian state television had earlier broadcast footage of some of the trucks being unloaded at a distribution depot in the city of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry said the aid reached its intended destination.

A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near Donetsk, Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUKA Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine is parked at a camp near Donetsk, Rostov Region, August 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK

The city is held by separatist rebels who are encircled by Ukrainian government forces, and has been cut off from power and water supplies for weeks. International aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis.

NATO said it had reports that Russian troops had been firing artillery at Kiev’s forces inside Ukraine – fuelling Western allegations that the Kremlin is behind the conflict in an effort undermine the Western-leaning leadership in Kiev.

“Since mid-August we have multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, including airborne, air defence and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

“Russian artillery support – both cross border and from within Ukraine – is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she said.

Russia denies giving any material help to the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, a mainly Russian-speaking region. It accuses Kiev, with the backing of the West, of waging a war against innocent civilians.

The conflict in Ukraine has dragged Russian-Western relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and sparked a round of trade sanctions that are hurting already-fragile economies in European and Russia.

The German leader landed in Kiev and was scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.

Diplomats say she will show support for Kiev, but also urge Poroshenko to be open to peace proposals when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks next week.

HOMES DESTROYED

In the rebels biggest stronghold, the city of Donetsk, there was unusually intense shelling on Saturday. That may be part of a drive by government forces to achieve a breakthrough in time for Ukrainian Independence Day, which falls on Sunday.

The crisis over Ukraine started when mass protests in Kiev ousted a president who was close to Moscow, and instead installed leaders viewed with suspicion by the Kremlin.

Soon after that, Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and a separatist rebellion broke out in eastern Ukraine. In the past weeks, the momentum has shifted towards Ukraine’s forces, who have been pushing back the rebels.

The separatist are now encircled in their two strongholds, Luhansk and Donetsk.

Reuters reporters in the city of Donetsk said that most of the shelling was taking place in the outskirts, but explosions were also audible in the centre of the city.

In Donetsk’s Leninsky district, a man who gave his name as Grigory, said he was in the toilet on Saturday morning when he heard the whistling sound of incoming artillery. “Then it hit. I came out and half the building was gone.”

The roof of the building had collapsed into a heap of debris. Grigory said his 27-year-old daughter was taken to hospital with injuries to her head. He picked up a picture of a baby from the rubble. “This is my grandson,” he said.

In another residential area, about 5 km north of the city centre, a shop and several houses had been hit. Residents said two men, civilians, were killed.

Praskoviya Grigoreva, 84, pointed to two puddles of blood on the pavement near a bus stop that was destroyed in the same attack. “He’s dead. Death took him on this spot,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Tom Grove in Donetsk, Ukraine, Adrian Croft in Brussels, Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets in Kiev and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Ralph Boulton).


Reuters.

German vice chancellor urges ‘federal’ #Ukraine


Western leaders have demanded Russia withdraw its disputed aid convoy from Ukraine.

by Agence France-Presse.Germany vice chancellor Sigmar GabrielGermany vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel © AFP.

BERLIN, Aug 23, 2014 (AFP) – Germany’s vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said Saturday establishing a federal Ukraine would be the only viable solution to the crisis pitting Kiev against pro-Russian separatists.

“The wise concept of federalism seems to me the only viable path,” the vice chancellor and economic and energy affairs minister said in an interview to appear Sunday in the German weekly Welt am Sonntag.

The paper released extracts of the interview just hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to meet Ukrainian officials in Kiev for crisis talks.

Merkel, the most influential Western leader to visit Ukraine s pro-Western leaders, will hold talks with President Petro Poroshenko, three days ahead of the first meeting in months between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk alongside top EU officials.

Western leaders have demanded Russia withdraw its disputed aid convoy from Ukraine after the Kremlin unilaterally sent them to the insurgent stronghold of Lugansk on Friday in a move Kiev decried as an “invasion”.

Parts of the mammoth aid convoy crossed back into Russian territory on Saturday.

The German diplomatic push is aimed mainly at “avoiding, by any means possible, a direct military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine,” Gabriel said.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be preserved unless a proposition is made to the majority Russian-speaking regions,” he said.

But he was pessimistic over a return to Kiev s control of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in March.


Dunya News.

#Kremlin-backed #militants #murder #Lithuanian honorary consul


Mykola Zelenets - Murdered

Mykola Zelenets, Honorary Lithuanian Consul in Luhansk has been murdered after being abducted by militants. The information came from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius on Twitter who expressed deep sorrow that Mykola Zelenets had been “kidnapped and brutally killed by terrorists there”.  The information has been confirmed by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Informator.lg.ua reports that  Mykola Zelenets was a Ukrainian businessman from Luhansk who specialized in producing fire-fighting equipment.  He represented Lithuanian in the Luhansk oblast.

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.