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#MH17: more human remains found at crash site, says Dutch PM

Mark Rutte says lull in fighting allowed investigators to re-enter eastern Ukraine site where Malaysia Airlines plane came down.

Part of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), about 80km east of Donetsk.Part of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), about 80km east of Donetsk. Photograph: Alexander Khudoteply/AFP/Getty Images


A Dutch team took advantage of a pause in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine on Friday to recover human remains from the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash site, the Dutch prime minister said.

Mark Rutte said “the team recovered human remains from the so-called burn site” where the plane hit the ground, but he gave no more details.

It was the first time in weeks that Dutch authorities had been able to reach the area.

All 298 passengers and crew, two-thirds of them Dutch, died on 17 July when the aircraft was downed.

Kiev blames pro-Russian separatists for the airliner’s destruction. Russia says a Ukrainian military aircraft shot it down.

So far, 289 victims have been identified.

Security conditions were good enough on Friday for a small Dutch team, accompanied by members of the Ukrainian fire brigade and officials with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officials, to search part of the crash site, Rutte said.

The remains would be sent back to the Netherlands for identification.

The Guardian.

#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

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.

The Moscow Times.

#Rebels in #Ukraine ‘post video of people’s court sentencing man to death’

A pro-Russian separatist from the rebel Interior ministry stands near an armored personnel carrier during an oath-taking ceremony in Donetsk. The Donetsk People’s Republic announced it was introducing the death penalty for “gravest crimes” in August.A pro-Russian separatist from the rebel Interior ministry stands near an armored personnel carrier during an oath-taking ceremony in Donetsk. The Donetsk People’s Republic announced it was introducing the death penalty for “gravest crimes” in August. Photo: MAXIM ZMEYEV/REUTERS

Tom Parfitt, Moscow.

Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have released a video which appears to show a “people’s court” sentencing a man to death by a show of hands.

The man, accused of rape, is brought before a panel of three rebels in military fatigues, one of them in a mask, on a stage in front of an auditorium where several hundred people are sitting.

After a brief review of evidence, the panel asks the audience to vote on whether the man should be executed.

Some of the people in the room giggle as the majority raise their hands. The senior rebel on the panel announces that he will be shot dead. A second man is acquitted by a similar vote.

The video could not be independently verified but has been widely shared by pro-separatist media. It was originally published on a YouTube channel associated with Alexei Mozgovoy, a rebel who commands the Prizrak (Ghost) battalion.

Warning: The volume is very loud.

It was unclear whether the punishment had been carried out. The hearing reportedly took place on October 25 in Alchevsk, a small city under rebel control in Ukraine’s Luhansk region.

The rebel leadership in the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic announced it was introducing the death penalty for “gravest crimes” in August.

The Telegraph.

#France Suggests No #Mistral Delivery to #Russia – Yet

The signing of the $1.7 billion contract for the delivery of two Mistral ships in June 2011 has placed France in a conundrum since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine.The signing of the $1.7 billion contract for the delivery of two Mistral ships in June 2011 has placed France in a conundrum since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine. Photo: Wikicommons

Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber reporting,

France’s Finance Minister cast doubt Thursday on what Russia had said was the imminent delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers, feeding uncertainty that French political analysts view as authorities’ reluctance to be seen as caving in to Russian pressure.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Thursday that the conditions set by French President Francois Hollande last month for delivering the first Mistral — i.e., upholding the tenuous cease-fire and reaching a political settlement in Ukraine — “had not been met at this time.”

“What are the conditions? The conditions are to have a basis for normalization in Ukraine that contributes to de-escalating the situation, and that Russia play a positive role in this process,” Sapin said in an interview with France’s RTL radio station. “Things have been going better, but some issues remain.”

The announcement runs contrary to the statements of Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of military issues, who tweeted Wednesday that the Vladivostok, the first French-made Mistral ship, would be handed over to Russia on Nov. 14. Rogozin published a photograph of a letter from DCNS, the French industrial group in charge of constructing the ships, inviting Anatoly Isaikin, head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, to the French port city of Saint-Nazaire to attend a ceremony in honor of the ship’s delivery.

Dated Oct. 8, the letter is signed by Pierre Legros, a senior vice president in DCNS’s surface ships and naval systems division. DCNS has not confirmed the letter’s authenticity and said that no delivery date had been confirmed at this time, French media reported Thursday.

The signing of the $1.7 billion contract for the delivery of two Mistral ships in June 2011 has placed France in a conundrum since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, where the West accuses Moscow of fomenting unrest.

France’s European and other Western partners have urged it to cancel the deliveries on the basis that they would bolster Russia’s military arsenal. Meanwhile, the economic-minded factions of French politics and business circles — including the late CEO of French energy giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, who was killed at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport last week when a snowplow struck his private jet on the runway — have lobbied their government for pragmatism to prevail over politics.

Saving Face

Hollande said in September that the Vladivostok would be delivered by Oct. 31, before postponing his deadline for a decision to November. Observers thought Euronaval, a large exhibition specialized in naval defense held in Paris through Friday, would serve as the stage for Hollande’s announcement.

Philippe Migault, a senior research fellow at the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations, said Hollande’s postponement of making a decision — hesitation that some observers have said is simply France waiting for tensions in Ukraine to subside — was connected to Russian authorities’ attitudes toward the delivery of the ships.

“The timeline for their delivery depends on the discretion of Russian authorities,” Migault said. “If Russia is discreet, France will likely make a quick decision and deliver the first ship. But France cannot be viewed as having made its decision under Russian pressure.”

Rogozin’s tweet was a deliberate attempt to force Paris’ hand, according to Tatiana KatsouОva-Jean, head of the Russia Center at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. The French government was coerced to confirm, deny or clarify the nature of the document published by Russia.

“Rogozin’s tweet is not a coincidence,” KatsouОva-Jean told The Moscow Times.

“This is Russia’s way of forcing the French government to admit that the Mistral will in fact be delivered [on Nov. 14], or to deny it, which is much more difficult to do when a letter of invitation is published. France’s perpetual postponing of the decision has only made the issue more complicated.”

Rock and a Hard Place

“France’s two options — to deliver or not to deliver the Mistral ship to Russia — are both bad solutions to the problem,” KatsouОva-Jean said. “There are so many factors to weigh up here — public opinion, France’s bilateral relations with different partners, its role in multilateral forums, the military industry — that greatly muddle the issue.”

French political analysts concurred that France would not change its overall stance on the delivery of the Vladivostok. Sapin’s concession that the situation in Ukraine has improved attests to France’s eagerness to deliver the Mistral while respecting the conditions it outlined with Ukraine and the West in mind. But the country’s desire to deliver the Vladivostok without sparking the ire of its European and North American partners is likely unattainable, regardless of Russia’s position on Ukraine, according to French pundits.

“Some of France’s various partners will be displeased no matter what happens,” Migault told The Moscow Times.

“In a situation in which more than 5 million people are unemployed, one in eight children live in poverty and the country’s economy is on the verge of recession, it is clear that France will not want to pay a 1 billion euro fine [for not delivering the ships] and risk losing other military contracts just to please Poland and the Baltic States.”

French military experts have said that the cancellation of the Mistral deliveries for the sake of politics could jeopardize other military deals, including ongoing negotiations for a multibillion-dollar contract for 126 Rafale combat aircraft to India.

The Moscow Times.

Ukraine: #Poroshenko and #Yatsenyuk’s parties maneuver for lead role in coalition

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a cabinet meeting.Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a cabinet meeting. © AFP Photo / Prime Minister Press-Service / Andrew Kravchenko

Ian Bateson and Olena Goncharova reporting,

Two days after Ukraine’s Oct. 26 parliamentary election Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s party People’s Front is nearly tied with the Petro Poroshenko Bloc with the parties receiving  22.17 percent and 21.81 percent respectively with 99 percent of the vote counted.

Both parties campaigned on the accomplishments of the post-Maidan government and the vote is seen as an affirmation of the current political status quo. The parties are expected to enter into coalition together but questions remain about which party will take the lead role in the coalition and what other parties will be included.

Yatsenyuk said he expected to stay on as prime minister heading the pro-Western coalition and that his party should lead talks to form a coalition.

Coalition talks are traditionally led by the largest party in parliament but despite receiving the largest percentage of the party list vote People’s Front will not be the largest party in parliament.

The Ukrainian ballot is split between votes for parties and votes for candidates in single member districts. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc is expected to only receive 63 seats from the party list vote but will pick up another 69 seats in single member districts for a total of 132 seats.

Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front will receive 65 seats from the party list but will only pick up another 18 seats from single member districts, making it the second largest party in parliament with 83 seats.

Poroshenko’s party did not commit to Yatsenyuk being prime minister on Oct. 29 with Deputy Prime Minister and number 4 on the list Volodymyr Hroysman telling journalists that it didn’t matter who would be prime minister and the issue had yet to be discussed.

Experts believe Volodymyr Hroysman is Poroshenko’s own top choice for the prime minister’s chair.

“Yatsenyuk clearly wants to remain prime minister, while Poroshenko seems eager to get his own man, Hroysman in the seat as the new prime minster,” said analyst at Standard Bank in London Timothy Ash.

People’s Front and Poroshenko Bloc have also both released their own competing coalition agreements. The People’s Front’s agreement is five pages where Poroshenko Bloc’s is 48. Both focus on European integration and giving more power to local and regional government.

The parties are also committed to creating a wide coalition including other pro-Western parties that Yatsenyuk said should be called the “European Ukraine coalition.” The parties differ on who exactly should be included in the coalition.

Yatsenyuk emphasized that he considered the Petro Poroshenko Bloc to be a “strategic partner,” but that wants at least three other parties in the coalition including Batkivshchyna, Samopomich and the Radical Party.

Hroysman said they are ready for negotiations and said the collation must include Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front Party, Samopomich and Batkivshchyna as “key partners.” He said Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party joining the coalition would remain “a possibility.”

“Poroshenko Bloc’s people think they will have enough power to form a coalition even without Oleh Liashko Radical Party,” said Vitaliy Bala, a head of the Situations Modeling Agency adding that the Poroshenko Bloc is eager to keep ministerial positions from going to other parties.

Other parties are concerned by these conflicts that seem to have little to do with political ideology and more with influence and risks creating a broad coalition in name only.

Samopomich was the other surprise winner of the election receiving 33 seats and 10.99 percent of the vote after being predicted to barely make it past the 5 percent threshold required to enter parliament. They released a statement on Oct. 29 emphasizing that all coalition members should be involved in drafting the coalition agreement.

Kyiv Post.


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