Tag Archives: Ukraine

#Merkel Evokes Cold War in Warning of Long #Ukraine Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to arrive for talks at the chancellery in Berlin, on Sept. 29, 2014.

Arne Delfs and Brian Parkin reporting,

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union and the U.S. may be facing a long confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, citing the 40 years it took East Germany to escape communist control.

Merkel, who grew up in former East Germany, signaled determination to uphold EU sanctions on Russia in comments in Berlin yesterday that underscored the fraught relationship with President Vladimir Putin, whose actions in the Ukrainian crisis she says are rooted in a Cold War mentality.

“I don’t see any change at the moment regarding Russia’s position,” Merkel said. “We needed 40 years to overcome East Germany. Sometimes in history one has to be prepared for the long haul, and not ask after four months if it still makes sense to keep up our demands.”

Merkel’s warning added to her comments to German industry leaders last week that an end to the ‘‘deep-rooted conflict’’ with Russia is far off as a cease-fire fails to halt fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

“Merkel lost faith in Putin a long time ago, but there’s now a realization in Germany and Europe that the Ukraine conflict is turning from hot-phase crisis management into a long game,” Jan Techau, head of the Carnegie Endowment’s office in Brussels, said by phone today.

Ukraine’s conflict, which the United Nations says has left more than 3,500 people dead, is forcing Merkel to take a stand as the country’s government seeks closer EU ties and accuses Putin of fomenting the pro-Russian rebellion in the east. Russia denies involvement in the conflict.

Permanent Confrontation

Nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the worst casualties since a Sept. 5 truce, the government said yesterday. President Petro Poroshenko said last week that the worst of the war is over as Ukraine focuses on elections next month, securing gas supplies and preparing a bid for EU membership.

“As long as the EU tries to prop up the Kiev government, there will be permanent confrontation with Moscow,” Techau said.

Merkel, 60, grew up as the daughter a Lutheran pastor in East Germany, the state founded in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany in 1949 after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II. Communist rule collapsed after the Berlin Wall was breached following mass protests in 1989, and East Germany ceased to exist with reunification on Oct. 3, 1990.

Finland Concern

“Nobody had anticipated that Putin would take such a momentous decision” to “take us back to a Europe before 1989,” Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S., said at a Bloomberg Government lunch in Washington yesterday.

“A lot of trust was destroyed by Putin’s policy” in Ukraine, Wittig said. “And I think it’s a challenge to regain that trust.”

Merkel made her comments at a news conference after talks with Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, whose government has put fighter jets on alert after Russian planes repeatedly violated the northernmost euro-area country’s airspace.

Finland has the EU’s longest border with Russia and Stubb agreed that the Ukraine conflict isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. “We are looking at a long-term situation,” he said.

(To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net Tony Czuczka, Chad Thomas).


Defense Ministry Dismisses Reports of Russian Paratroopers Killed in Ukraine | #DmitryGudkov #Russia #paratroopers

Rebels stand in front of what they say is a mass grave with five bodies, in the town of Nizhnaya Krinka, eastern Ukraine.Rebels stand in front of what they say is a mass grave with five bodies, in the town of Nizhnaya Krinka, eastern Ukraine. Marko Djurica / Reuters

Anna Dolgov reporting,

An opposition lawmaker who inquired about the reported deaths of Russian paratroopers in Ukraine has been told by the Defense Ministry that the accounts are “rumors” and that releasing information about military casualties would violate privacy laws.

State Duma lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov — one of the few critics of President Vladimir Putin’s administration to remain in parliament — asked the Defense Ministry last month for information on whether Russian troops were fighting in Ukraine, the number active or past servicemen who had been killed in the conflict, and the military affiliation of three dozen men whom he identified by name.

The names on Gudkov’s list — 39 of them in all — included soldiers who were buried last month in the western Russian city of Pskov and which disappeared from grave markings after a local lawmaker and journalists started asking questions.

The ministry’s response, which Gudkov published on his LiveJournal social network page Monday, gave little information on any of those issues.

“Your request regarding rumors concerning the activities of Russian servicemen on the territory of Ukraine … has been reviewed,” the letter signed by Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said.

“Despite repeated accusations by a range of Ukrainian and Western politicians, quoted by foreign media, the Russian Federation is not a party in the conflict between the government forces of Ukraine and the residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who disagree with the policies of the country’s leadership.”

As for the men whose names Gudkov cited, “releasing information on citizens listed in the request is considered impossible based on the requirements of the Russian federal law of 2006 ‘On Personal Data,'” the response said.

Gudkov argued the ministry’s unwillingness to go into specifics indicated a wish to hide a possible Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

“If the servicemen listed above in my letter had nothing to do with the tragic events in Ukraine, would [the ministry] respond to me along the lines of ‘Don’t tell me what to do, and I won’t tell you where to go’?” he wrote in his LiveJournal post.

“Would they take cover behind the law on the protection of personal data?” he said, adding “by the way, I did not ask them about personal data.”

The deaths of Russian paratroopers from the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division have been shrouded in mystery ever since they were buried in August.

Pskov regional lawmaker Lev Shlosberg, who spearheaded the investigation into the servicemen’s deaths, was hospitalized with head injuries and a broken nose after being beaten by three unidentified assailants on a street late last month.

Scores of Russian journalists asking questions in Pskov have also reported being attacked by unidentified assailants, while a BBC news crew looking into reports that Russian soldiers had been killed near Ukraine’s border were beaten and had their camera smashed in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan earlier this month.

According to one human rights advocate, the secretive burials in Pskov were not a one-off.

Yelena Vasilyeva, who tracks and compiles reports about alleged Russian military casualties in Ukraine, said on her website that the bodies of more than a dozen other servicemen were brought last week to a military morgue in the southern city of Orenburg.

Vasilyeva also published a copy of a military order, discharging the servicemen from the army after they had already been killed, she said. Vasilyeva said that the order was handed to her by military officers “outraged” by the army’s handling of its casualties.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Monday published an appeal to Russian servicemen who may be deployed to Ukraine, saying “Putin, as commander in chief, knows perfectly well that the participation of the armed forces in military activity in the east of Ukraine is illegal.”

“That’s why you are serving without insignia … That’s why he is lying that you lost your way and ended up in the Donetsk and Luhansk region,” Nemtsov wrote in the appeal, published on the Ekho Moskvy website. “Putin and your commanders will disown you in a second, saying that they had not sent you to war, and your families will never find the truth if something were to happen to you.”

Requests for information on servicemen’s deaths have also come from a number of other Russian activists, including the Pskov lawmaker Shlosberg and human rights ombudswoman Ella Pamfilova, who last month gave military prosecutors 30 days to answer her request. The deadline came and went on Sunday, though Pamfilova did not receive a response, Ekho Moskvy reported.

The Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division, which last month received the Order of Suvorov from President Vladimir Putin, was awarded in honor of its long history of military glory, including its participation in various “local conflicts” during previous decades, the Defense Ministry said, in response to Gudkov’s question.

 The Moscow Times.

Renewed Fighting Around Donetsk Airport Tests Ukraine #CeaseFire #Luhansk #Donetsk

Ukrainian soldiers patrolled near Debaltseve, Ukraine, on Monday.Ukrainian soldiers patrolled near Debaltseve, Ukraine, on Monday. Anatolii Boiko/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Andrew Roth reporting,

DONETSK, Ukraine — Deadly fighting has broken out again between the government and rebels around the strategically important airport outside Donetsk, a continuing source of friction that is testing the resilience of a recent cease-fire agreement.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers and three civilians were killed during heavy shelling on Sunday, government officials announced. Andriy Lysenko, an army spokesman, said seven soldiers died when a tank shell hit their troop transport. It was the deadliest attack since the cease-fire was announced on Sept. 5.

President Petro O. Poroshenko has called the cease-fire the keystone to his peace plan for the country, and in a nationally televised news conference on Thursday said he had “no doubt that the biggest, most dangerous part of the war is already behind us.”

But at important positions held by Ukrainian forces, like the airport and the city of Debaltseve, a crucial junction between the largest rebel cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, shelling has only intensified in recent days.

The upsurge in violence comes at a particularly critical moment, as Russian, Ukrainian and rebel military officials are meeting to work out the boundaries of a buffer zone of 30 kilometers, about 19 miles, that, when finalized, could mark a neutral area in a new, frozen conflict.

“The line drawn on paper does not correspond to the current positions,” said Andrei Purgin, the deputy prime minister of the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, who participated in the talks in Minsk, Belarus, that led to the cease-fire.

In an interview, Mr. Purgin said that fighting was taking place at contested points on the proposed demarcation line, which he said amounted to 30 percent of the border between the rebel republics and Ukraine.

He also claimed that the Ukrainian Army was pouring in troops to defend the airport, which he likened to “a fetish.”

According to the cease-fire agreement, “the airport should be ours,” he said. “But they are not leaving it.”

A Russian Army delegation led by Aleksandr Lentsov, the deputy commander of Russia’s ground forces, has been in Ukraine since last week, and first met with Ukrainian and rebel military representatives on Friday, according to an official involved in the talks.

Russia has sought to minimize its public role in mediating the conflict, and on Friday the Russian Foreign Ministry denied it was a party to the talks.

On Saturday, however, Russian state television broadcast an interview with Mr. Lentsov in the rebel-held city of Horlivka, Ukraine.

“There are questions where we have found common ground, and some questions are problematic,” Mr. Lentsov said without elaborating in televised comments. “Our main task is a cease-fire. Both sides should understand that.”

Perhaps no question is more problematic than the Donetsk airport, which was renovated for the Euro 2012 soccer championship held in Ukraine and, if repaired, could be a vital supply line for either the fledgling rebel state or the Ukrainian military.

Speaking with several journalists on Saturday, Ihor Kolomoysky, the billionaire governor of the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region, said that Ukraine had agreed to abandon the airport in exchange for a wide stretch of territory south of Donetsk, a quid pro quo that had previously been unreported.

Mr. Kolomoysky, who was appointed governor by Mr. Poroshenko, has played an important part in the Ukrainian war effort, bankrolling several pro-Ukrainian paramilitary battalions.

With Ukraine still reeling from a rebel counter-offensive in August, he said, the front lines will most likely remain static until spring.

Mr. Lysenko, the military spokesman, denied during a briefing on Monday that the army was planning to abandon its positions at the airport, saying it “was, is and will be under the control of the Ukrainian military.”

Nonetheless, he said, the decision belongs to his superiors.

“We have a high military command, and it decides where the Ukrainian Army moves,” he said.

While fighting raged in the east, thousands of pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Kharkiv late Sunday evening toppled a 40-foot statue of Lenin, an anti-Russian gesture that raised the possibility of violence in what is the country’s second-largest city. Some of the protesters etched a wolfsangel, a symbol once used by the Nazis and now by Ukrainian ultranationalists, into the statue’s pedestal.

Kharkiv saw brutal street fights in March between supporters and opponents of the new Kiev government, but has quieted in recent months.

The city police made no effort to disperse the crowds. But they did announce an investigation into the episode at the same time that a protester was sawing through the leg of the statue with a chain saw.

Gennady A. Kernes, the city’s divisive and powerful mayor, promised Monday to restore the statue in an attempt to prevent a pro-Russian backlash in the city.

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister and a rival of Mr. Kernes’s, barely hid his glee.

“Lenin? Let him fall,” Mr. Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.

The New York Times.

At least 12 people have died in a day, worst fighting in a week | #Ukraine #Donetsk #Russia

A car dealership on the road leading to the airport shows signs of damage in Donetsk on Sept. 29, as a result of shelling on Sept. 28 that killed nine Ukrainian soldiers, including seven defending the Donetsk airport.A car dealership on the road leading to the airport shows signs of damage in Donetsk on Sept. 29, as a result of shelling on Sept. 28 that killed nine Ukrainian soldiers, including seven defending the Donetsk airport. © AFP

Anastasia Forina reporting,

The cease-fire looked ever more tenuous on Sept. 29, as Kremlin-backed insurgents tried to take over Donetsk airport on the night of Sept. 28. Seven Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the attack.

Overall, the Ukrainian army lost nine soldiers in the last 24 hours, according to government spokesman Andriy Lysenko, while 27 soldiers have been wounded.

Nine of the injured came when the separatists attacked a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier, according to Yuri Biriukov, one of President Petro Poroshenko’s advisers. Meanwhile, at least three civilians were killed in Donetsk overnight, bringing the death toll to at least 12 in the last day.

Despite the casualties, the ruined and closed Donetsk airport remains under control of the Ukrainian army, who repelled the attack and destroyed three tanks and killed 50 insurgents, Lysenko, the spokesman for National Defence and Security Council said.

After Ukraine’s military forces blew up the runway of Luhansk airport and left it in September, making its use impossible, they have been defending the Donetsk airport, which is located just 9.4 kilometers from the city center.

Unlike the airport in Luhansk, the Ukrainian army is better positioned to retain control over Donetsk — the provincial capital with a pre-war population of more than 1 million people — because it controls many nearby neighborhoods, Vyacheslav Tseluiko, an expert of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies told the Kyiv Post.

Smoke from a burning fuel dump at the Donetsk airport can be seen from a pro-Russia separatists checkpoint on Sept. 23, 2014.Smoke from a burning fuel dump at the Donetsk airport can be seen from a pro-Russia separatists checkpoint on Sept. 23, 2014. © JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast governor, thinks that the Ukrainian army might give up the airport soon and settle for territory south of Donetsk in return. According to his Sept. 28 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kolomoisky said: “The airport is more important to them than it is to us,” he said.

But if the Ukrainian army pulls back and leaves the airport, it remains unusable, Tseluiko said. “It will take a lot of time and resources to rebuild the airport. But the main thing is that there is no point of restoring the airport, which is located on the front line. It will be under fire anyway, so using it for its intended purpose will be problematic,” Tseluiko said.

The once-new and fancy airport cost $750 million, most of which came from the state budget as part of the preparations for the Euro 2012 football tournament. It was severely damaged on May 26, when it was seized by illegal armed insurgents. Ukrainian authorities regained control, but it has remained under the constant threat of takeover. There were several attempts to attack Ukrainian soldiers and retake the airport in July, August and September, but Ukrainian servicemen fended off the attacks.

Overall, Ukraine is seeking more than $100 billion from Russia in various international courts for compensation to losses suffered in the Kremlin-backed war in eastern Ukraine and the theft of the Crimean peninsula.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at forina@kyivpost.com).

Kyiv Post.

Protesters topple Lenin monument in Kharkiv | #VladimirLenin #Ukraine

Vladimir Lenin monument was toppled in Kharkiv on the night of Sept. 28.Vladimir Lenin monument was toppled in Kharkiv on the night of Sept. 28. © facebook

Anastasia Forina reporting

A rally of Ukrainian activists in Kharkiv ended with toppling a Soviet-era monument of Vladimir Lenin on the night of Sept. 28.

The monument was standing on the city’s central Svoboda Square (Freedom Square). It took protesters, some of them reportedly being football hooligans, several hours to topple the statue. They sawed the legs of the metal statue with an angle grinder before putting cables on its body and pulling the monument down.

Over 160 Lenin monuments were toppled in Ukraine in less than a year. The first Lenin went down in Kyiv on Dec. 8, 2013, toppled by the EuroMaidan protesters.

At least 5,000 people reportedly showed up at the rally in support of Ukraine’s unity earlier on Sept. 28 in Kharkiv. Many were holding Ukrainian flags and singing national anthem at the rally.

Some of the participants then moved to Svoboda Square where they attempted to saw off parts of the Lenin’s monument and used a hammer to make a “Glory to Ukraine” inscription on it.

“A monument to the heroes who fought and died for Ukraine’s independence and unity should be put on this place instead,” Anton Herashchenko, adviser for Interior Minister, said in a Facebook post.

His boss Arsen Avakov, once a governor in Kharkiv, wrote his own post, saying “let him fall,” and adding that he ordered police to not guard the monument.

In response to activists’ attempts to topple Lenin’s monument Kharkiv region governor Ihor Baluta has signed a decree on official demolition of the monument.

“For the purpose of settling the situation that occurred in the region over the monuments of totalitarian era, the monument of Lenin in particular, regional department of culture and tourism should immediately take measures regarding demolition of Lenin monument on Svoboda square,” the decree reads.

However, the monument was toppled before the authorities could begin to demolish it.

Kyiv Post.