Tag Archives: Ukraine

Australia sends 100 more police for #MH17 mission, as rhetoric softens


Tony Abbott and AFP commissioner Tony Negus in Canberra on Friday. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAPTony Abbott and AFP commissioner Tony Negus in Canberra on Friday. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

Australia is sending 100 more federal police officers to Europe in the hope they will be able to join a Dutch-led mission to secure the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Tony Abbott said some of the police could be armed and backed up by defence personnel, as he rejected suggestions the fall of the Ukrainian government could affect the completion of a deal with Ukraine to enter the site.

The Australian prime minister also emphasised that the mission’s aim was merely to bring back the remains of loved ones, not to engage in “the politics of eastern Europe” – an apparent signal that he would refrain from further forthright criticism of Russia or pro-Russian rebels as efforts continue to seek acceptance for an international mission to enter the site.

The 298 people who died in the apparent shooting-down of the plane in eastern Ukraine last week included 38 Australian citizens or permanent residents. On Friday evening the Australian government revised that number up from 37 after information came to light about a New Zealand citizen who was a long-term resident in Victoria.

The pre-deployment of 100 Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers is in addition to the 90 officers who have already been sent to Europe to take part in the international police mission.

The AFP commissioner, Tony Negus, said 50 officers had been sent to London while 40 were in Ukraine and the Netherlands. It would be one of the largest overseas police delegations since the 2002 Bali bombings, Negus said.

In an update to the media on Friday, Abbott said Ukraine had formally delegated leadership of the investigation to the Netherlands, and Australia was close to finalising an agreement with Ukraine to allow the deployment of federal police to the site.

Abbott said the deal was unaffected by the resignation of Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, after the collapse of the governing coalition. He said Australia’s agreement would be with the president, Petro Poroshenko, and would require the approval of the Ukrainian parliament “but nothing that’s happened overnight is expected to hinder that”.

The Netherlands will provide about 40 unarmed police to the MH17 crash site, media reports indicate.

But Abbott raised the prospect of some of the AFP officers being armed and backed up by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

“Many of the AFP deployed won’t be armed, some of them could be armed, and yes there will be some ADF as part of this deployment,” Abbott said.

Abbott said a “very modest” ADF team was in Ukraine, led by a colonel who was a liaison officer, several planning personnel and a personal protection team for the envoy and former defence chief Angus Houston.

Negus said the safety of officers was paramount and it had been “well documented this is a difficult part of the world at the moment”.

“We will be deploying in there in an unarmed capacity,” Negus said.

“There may be some members that can be armed, but if this mission goes ahead, it will be led by the Dutch. We’ll be working hand in glove with the Dutch to make sure that this mission is done as safely as possible.”

Abbott said the mission was still “very much in the planning stages” and humanitarian in nature. He said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had been “full of sympathy, as you’d expect from another human being, for what’s happened to 37 families in Australia and he certainly has been publicly and privately supportive of securing the site”.

Abbott said the discovery of more wreckage and remains in a heavily wooded area showed it was more important than ever to properly secure the crash site.

“Others can engage in the politics of eastern Europe. All we want to do is claim our dead and bring them home,” he said.

Asked whether this was a sign he was stepping away from strong criticism of Russia to increase the chances of a team being allowed to enter the crash site, Abbott said: “What I’ve tried to do over the last week since this atrocity took place has been to respond appropriately to the events of the particular time. What we are focused on now, what we are solely and wholly focused on now, is Operation Bring Them Home. That’s what we’re focused on.”

The acting opposition leader, Tanya Plibersek, said Labor supported the deployment of AFP officers and potential ADF back-up.

“This is a very dangerous area of Ukraine, there are heavily armed rebels on the site,” she said. “They have been haphazard about allowing access to the site, it’s plain that not all of the rebel groups are cohesive, that there are different units operating that don’t follow a clear command structure.

“So, making sure that Angus Houston, that our police, federal police … any consular officials who are on the site are safe – if that takes Australian defence personnel, then of course we support that.”

In a phone conversation with Abbott on Friday, the US president, Barack Obama, praised Australia’s leadership and indicated the US would co-ordinate closely with Australia, a White House spokesman said.

Abbott later told reporters it was an international mission “not a US operation”, but Obama had voiced his “full support for what Australia and other countries have in mind”.

Abbott said the personnel leaving Australia would include Dr Simon Walsh, a trauma expert who led the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.

via Australia sends 100 more police for MH17 mission, as rhetoric softens | World news | theguardian.com.

#Economy: Russian execs fear lasting damage from plane crash


FILE - In this Monday, July 21, 2014 pool file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Samara, Russia. Having for months dismissed Western sanctions on Russia as toothless, business leaders here are now afraid that the crash of the Malaysian jetliner will bring about an international isolation that will cause serious and lasting economic damage. The U.S. and EU are still playing something similar to “good cop, bad cop” with Russia, said Chris Weafer of the Moscow-based Macro-Advisory, but it remains to be seen whether the Malaysian plane crash will be a game changer for Russia’s economy. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service, File)FILE – In this Monday, July 21, 2014 pool file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Samara, Russia. Having for months dismissed Western sanctions on Russia as toothless, business leaders here are now afraid that the crash of the Malaysian jetliner will bring about an international isolation that will cause serious and lasting economic damage. The U.S. and EU are still playing something similar to “good cop, bad cop” with Russia, said Chris Weafer of the Moscow-based Macro-Advisory, but it remains to be seen whether the Malaysian plane crash will be a game changer for Russia’s economy. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Having for months dismissed Western sanctions on Russia as toothless, business leaders here are now afraid that the crash of the Malaysian jetliner will bring about an international isolation that will cause serious and lasting economic damage.

Throughout the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. and European sanctions had mainly targeted a handful of individuals, sparing economic ties. Then last week the U.S. imposed penalties on some of Russia’s largest corporations. And when the airliner was shot down just a day later in Ukraine, allegedly by separatists with Moscow’s support, concern grew in Russia that the sanctions would only get worse as President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of cooperation.

“Over the past few months, there was a sense that Mr. Putin acted decisively, forcefully, and correctly, and that everybody else in the world would accommodate themselves to that reality and we’d get back to something like business as usual,” said Bernard Sucher, a Moscow-based entrepreneur and board member of Aton, an independent investment bank. “Now we’re talking about real fear.”

When Russia annexed Crimea in March, triggering a deep freeze in relations with the West, stock markets in Russia dropped but later rebounded as investors understood that the country’s lucrative trade relations would remain largely unscathed. Europe, which is in frail economic health, dared not block energy imports from Russia or the trade in goods such as cars or heavy machinery. Oil companies like BP and ExxonMobil continued their operations in Russia, with some even signing new deals.

The U.S. took a tougher stance, but until last week was also careful to limit sanctions to asset freezes on individuals who were perceived to have had a hand in supporting eastern Ukraine’s insurgency.

On July 16, the night before the Malaysia Airlines jet crash, Russian markets appeared to have fully recovered from the crisis in Ukraine, with the MICEX benchmark index adding roughly 23 percent since March 1.

Then last week, the U.S. announced new sanctions that had investors in Russia fear a turn for the worst. The U.S. shut off its financial markets for a broad swath of defense companies as well as Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, gas producer Novatek, which is half-owned by a close Putin ally, and a major bank, VEB. The move offered investors a glimpse of what they had thought would never happen: serious international isolation of Russia’s powerhouse corporations.

According to Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, those sanctions were the first to really pack a punch because they were “broader and more specific: they went beyond the symbolic.”

Rodzianko said anecdotal evidence suggests that in some cases investment decisions have been delayed “particularly when people were just considering coming in to the market.”

When the Malaysian airliner went down one day later, investors worried conditions would only get worse.

The stock market has fallen 5 percent since Thursday last week. That is expected to see investors keep pulling money out of the country. They withdrew $74.6 billion in the first six months of the year, a figure forecast to reach $100 billion for the whole of 2014 — almost twice the $60 billion in withdrawals seen last year. Continue reading

Dmitry Tymchuk’s military blog: Ukrainian troops still being shelled by the terrorists and Russia


Russian border guard soldiers man a foxhole near a checkpoint on Ukrainian border in the southern Russian Rostov region on June 21, 2014. © AFP PHOTO / ANDREY KRONBERGRussian border guard soldiers man a foxhole near a checkpoint on Ukrainian border in the southern Russian Rostov region on June 21, 2014. © AFP PHOTO / ANDREY KRONBERG

Brothers and sisters!

Here’s the Summary for July 24, 2014 


The bad news:

(1) The RNBO [National Security and Defense Council] announced today that pro-Russian insurgents prepared attacks in Sloviansk schools. In only one local school, #4, four explosive devices have been found. Other educational establishments in the city were mined as well. A lab for the production of explosives was set up by insurgents on the premises of a kindergarten.

I don’t know how to characterize Putin’s mercenaries after this. I am deeply convinced that a human being is unable to prepare the murder of children–and a massive one at that. Such a creature should be referred to as something else, but not a human being.

And yet there are those who still do not consider these creatures terrorists…

(2) With all our expectations, the situation in the border areas (along the Tarany–Dmytrivka–Dolzhansky–Chervonopartyzansk and near Izvaryno) is not changing for the better. The positions of our troops are still being shelled from both sides–by the terrorists and by Russia. The supply problems, which are of utmost importance, have not been resolved yet.

We are far from alarmist sentiments, but it really is a problem that cannot be silenced. On the contrary, it must be addressed first and urgently.

(3) The parliamentary coalition fell apart–the “UDAR” [Vitaly Klitschko] and “Svoboda” [Oleh Tyahnybok] factions left [the coalition]. The government led by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk resigned. Changes to the budget in the context of the ATO have not been adopted, neither has the law on combating terrorism.

And this [happened] at a time when the Ministry of Finance reports that starting from August 1, there will be no money even for payments to the servicemen in the ATO zone, and that changes in the state budget are needed right now.

I understand that early elections are vital. It is hoped that the parliamentary games will not affect the ongoing ATO.

(4) The State Border Service of Ukraine reported that due to the actions of Russian border guards towards people traveling to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea from mainland Ukraine, some kilometer-long queues have been formed on the administrative border of Crimea.

Here, we really must investigate what types of citizens are so eager to go to Crimea. If these are locals frequenting mainland Ukraine, who are then returning–it’s one thing. But if it comes down to Ukrainian citizens who want to relax in occupied Crimea, it’s another.

According to our estimates, in June about 100,000 Ukrainian citizens went for a vacation to Crimea, occupied by Russians. Compared to the vast influx in past summers, it seems like a miserly amount. But considering that in this same time period, because of these same Russians, our boys are dying daily in eastern Ukraine, I think this number is unacceptable. I don’t think that even a tiny trickle of Ukrainian tourists to the peninsula should be tolerated.

In any case, the line up from the mainland to Crimea is only positive in one case–if it is a queue of armored vehicles from the Ukrainian Liberation Army. I believe this day is not far off.


The good news:

(1) ATO forces are already in Lysychansk. It is premature to talk about a complete extermination of a toxic pro-Russian mold from the city, but there are no doubts that the city will soon be ours.

This is a strategic success. With the liberation of Lysychansk, an “appendix” that is conditionally controlled by insurgents, is being eliminated. This will allow the ATO forces to regroup and begin the next step of their operation.

(2) In the case of the downed “Boeing,” the terrorists continue to oscillate between bravado and the instinct for self-preservation. As a result, their lies and Moscow’s lies continue to surface.

The little leader of the so-called “Vostok” battalion Alexander Hodakovsky boasted in an interview with Reuters that the rebels did in fact have a “Buk” SAM [surface-to-air missile] system. Moscow immediately dispatched an order to the babbler, after which he immediately began to disavow [the aforementioned] as such, in an interview with Russia Today propaganda TV channel, vowing that he had not done such a thing.

But, thank God Reuters is not the Russian media. Here, journalists respect themselves, and don’t change their assertions to the contrary every second because of a signal “from above.” And now, Western journalists have become indignant, [since] the agency broadcast exactly what Khodakovsky had said.

It looks like after this mishap, the “DNR” [Donetsk People's Republic] had an ulterior motive for suddenly prohibiting journalists from working in the conflict zone (presumably, this does not include propagandists from Russian media). We also send Mr. Khodakovsky our condolences. We shudder in anticipation of the sad news of an accident he will find himself in. The FSB does not like talkative fools, but what should [they] do if there is no one else at hand…

(3) The Head of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] announced the dissolution of the Communist Party faction in Parliament. At the same time, it became known that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Security Service of Ukraine had initiated 308 criminal proceedings against members of the Communist Party in connection with the support of the annexation of Crimea and for aiding and abetting the “DNR” and “LNR” [Luhansk People’s Republic] terrorists.

I don’t want to jinx it, but it looks as if we are finally breaking with the insane Communist past. That is the thing that would not allow the country to adequately develop for 23 years in a row.

We wish the European “left,” who are trying to stand up for the Ukrainian Communists, not to be such a “fifth column” in their own countries in an hour of sorrow, which is what the Communist Party is in Ukraine. No one likes traitors and collaborators anywhere. Even in peacetime, a normal political opposition should spur the government to move forward, and not to drag it back into the past tooth and nail, and in the direction of the neighboring Soviet empire at that.


Dmitry Tymchuk’s military blog.

Ukraine reports overnight rebel attacks on border


Residents examine a bomb shelter in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on July 24, 2014. The bomb shelter built in the 50 years of the last century and prepared by city's powers for using accommodates about 300 people. © AFPResidents examine a bomb shelter in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on July 24, 2014. The bomb shelter built in the 50 years of the last century and prepared by city’s powers for using accommodates about 300 people. © AFP

MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian army on Friday claimed that soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight and were attacked by rebels in several other places in the restive east.

Ukrainian forces are trying to close in on the rebels, cutting them off from the border with Russia which Kiev believes is the source of arms and reinforcement. Moscow has vehemently denied a role in the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government troops which has left more than 400 people dead and displaced tens of thousands.

In a statement on Friday, the headquarters of the government’s military operation in the east listed at least seven locations where rebels attacked Ukrainian troops. They also claimed that attacks on two locations including a border crossing were supported by artillery fire from Russia.

Late on Thursday, Ukrainian troops entered the town of Lysychansk, which has been in rebel hands for several months, the military press office said. Rebels on Friday morning admitted in comments carried by Interfax that they had to flee the town which is 70 kilometers (45 miles) north-west of the regional capital Luhansk.

International observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Friday were traveling to inspect the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane and to search for more bodies. Human remains are still being found at the crash site more than a week after the plane went down.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens — were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably downed by a missile fired by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Associated Press.

Halya Coynash: Whose war? #MH17


Artist Wan Ahmad Farid Ramli, 23, works on a graffiti featuring the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which crashed over Ukraine, in Kuala Lumpur on July 24, 2014. © AFPArtist Wan Ahmad Farid Ramli, 23, works on a graffiti featuring the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which crashed over Ukraine, in Kuala Lumpur on July 24, 2014. © AFP

The shooting down of MH17 has led to harsh words used about both the Kremlin-backed militants in eastern Ukraine and those behind them, but left terminology largely intact.  With the western media still talking of ‘separatists’ and of a ‘civil war’ underway in Ukraine, it is worth noting the poignant words spoken by Said Ismagilov, Mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine who is himself in Donetsk.

Asked how he would describe what is presently happening in Donetsk and in the Donetsk oblast, he replied:

“I can’t even understand what is happening. Who could tell me!  Heavy military technology with Russian flags is passing through city streets, together with a large number of armed soldiers.  There is constant military action. It’s very audible and visible, and people are dying.  It’s pretty difficult to formulate or give any classification for what’s really happening. People say that it’s more like an undeclared war. Because huge amounts of military technology and armed men are getting through from a neighbouring state and they are engaging in armed conflict with Ukrainian military units. This is happening in full view of residents.  What classification do you give it?  Here military experts should give their assessment, maybe politicians, maybe human rights and international organizations.  A serious war is underway using Grad rocket systems, tanks, mortar, grenade launchers, you name it”.

Civil War?

The Kremlin and Russian media have assiduously pushed two different but related narratives.  One is that Ukraine is in a state of civil war, the other that a ‘fascist regime in Kyiv’ is waging war against the people.  The rhetoric has continued unabated regardless of the results of numerous public surveys and the unprecedented victory in the presidential elections by Petro Poroshenko.  Profound, if not fatal, division is assumed in the west also.

Differences there doubtless are, yet even the immediate silencing of Ukrainian media and imposition of Russian propaganda channels have not resulted in the militants , from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics [DPR, LPR, respectively] being seen as representatives of the people,.  Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are returning to normal life after the militants fled and there are no signs that the residents want them back.

Religious intolerance from the militants’ official ideologues who acknowledge only the Russian Orthodox Church, the abduction of clergy and murder of four members of an evangelical church have probably only strengthened impressive solidarity seen among representatives of different faiths. This has been especially strong in Donetsk where Pastor Sergei Kosyak, Said Ismagilov and other religious figures have led a prayer marathon for the last 142 days.

In the same Radio Svoboda interview, Said Ismagilov was adamant that the majority of Muslims in the Donetsk oblast support Ukraine, and that there would only be a minority who side with the DPR.  Asked if he is aware of pressure from the DPR on Muslims, he answered that he himself had not been targeted, but noted that the situation was difficult for members of other faiths. “It’s hard to feel calm and confident when representatives of other faiths are abducted, when pressure is put on them. The Donetsk Christian University was seized in the last few days, everybody was thrown out and armed formations moved in.”

Separatist or terrorists?

Western media preface any use of the term anti-terrorist operation with the words that this is how the Ukrainian government calls its operation against the Kremlin-backed militants.  Even the shooting down by militants of a Malaysian airline has not led to a readjustment of terms.  The logic is presumably that they did it ‘by accident’ believing that they were ‘only’ shooting down a Ukrainian military transport plane.

The so-called separatists have in general not been locals.  In Slovyansk they had to ask how to get to the central square of the city, while another lot dazzled in Kharkiv by mistaking the opera house for the regional administration building they wanted to storm.  A very large number of those fighting are Russian nationals, and Moscow has long abandoned attempts to rely on home-grown ‘separatists’ to front the so-called ‘republics’.  The DPR leaders, for example, include Russian ‘defence minister’, Igor Girkin [Strelkov], believed to be a GRU military intelligence man, Alexander Borodai, a Russian PR manager and the new ‘deputy prime minister’ Vladimir Antjufeev, former head of the KGB of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria which is politically and economically supported by Moscow.

Most of this has been reported countless times, and will be so again, with seemingly no impact on the terminology used.

The presentation of those fighting as ‘separatists’ is not swayed either by the overtly terrorist or simply criminal activities that the militants are currently involved in.

As of July 24 two priests are still held hostage: Father Yury Ivanov (Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate) and Father Viktor Wąsowicz, a Polish Roman Catholic priest from Horlivka.  The number of journalists, civic activists and simply members of the public taken hostage is much higher and ongoing.   Four deacons and members of a church,  Horlivka deputy Volodymyr Rybak, 19-year-old student Yury Popravko and others were tortured before being murdered.   An unmarked grave was uncovered on July 24 in Slovyansk which may well hold the  remains of people killed for alleged help to the Ukrainian military, etc.

Much of the hostage-taking appears to be linked with banal extortion, or – as with the abduction of up to 9 African students from Luhansk and many other young men – for use as physical labour or live shields.

The elaborate performance in which the Russian Vostok battalion was deployed to ‘clean up’ the Donetsk militants on May 29 was for the cameras only. The militants have actively plundered and robbed civilians, shopping complexes and ‘confiscated’ Privatbank in Donetsk. On July 23, for example, the supermarket Varus and shopping centre Donetsk City were cleaned out by the ‘militants’. Said Ismagilov writes that the saddest show was enacted against 8-10 Indians selling mobile phones in small shops. They were shoved out onto the street with automatic rifles pointed at them. The Indians shouted something to each other in their own language, and received a torrent of foul language from the militants and demand that they speak Russian. Their whereabouts now are unknown.

In the meantime western countries who have clearly recognized Moscow’s very major role in providing the arms and military technology, men and training for this artificially manufactured unrest, are continuing to ‘consider’ tough measures which they may just set to paper before heading off for their summer vacation.

KHPG.