Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Russian soldiers reveal the truth behind Putin’s secret war #Ukraine #PutinsSecretWar #Russia


by Newsweek.
A Pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at a checkpoint on Sept. 10, 2014 on a road of the Donetsk airport. © AFPA Pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at a checkpoint on Sept. 10, 2014 on a road of the Donetsk airport. © AFP

Lyudmila Malinina’s voice trembled as she described the secret funeral she witnessed on a recent night in her small town of Sudislavsky in the Kostroma region of central Russia. At about 8 p.m., a truck parked at the cemetery a few yards away from her wooden house. The truck’s headlights stayed on to illuminate the ground for several men to hurriedly dig the grave, “as if they were thieves hiding something“, Luydmila says.

More neighbours popped out of their windows and doors to watch and discuss the strange scene, wondering why anybody would bury a relative at this hour. Besides, that part of the graveyard was reserved for the deceased in war, as somebody pointed out.

While Nato sat down for a summit to decide what to do about the war in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin negotiated a ceasefire deal with Kiev, Russian society recoiled from reports about secret funerals of soldiers killed in Ukraine: missing sons, calls from husbands begging their wives to save them from ­battle, bodies with missing limbs arriving in coffins to Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Pskov, Murmansk, Dagestan and other regions of Russia. The death toll for Russian soldiers jumped to more than 200 soldiers in a few days, between August 12th and September 2nd, in a war that was, officially, not happening.

Russian army wives have a special term for dead soldiers returning home from the front lines in zinc coffins: they are called “cargo 200” – a phrase that has echoed like a curse to a Russian ear since the days that a tide of zinc packages came in from Afghanistan during the Soviet war of 1980s. The secrecy around their husbands’ deployments “was like a trap created by a schizophrenic”, one of the Kostroma paratroopers’ wives says.

An alleged Russian soldierAn alleged Russian soldier stands in front of the besieged Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near Simferopol, Crimea.. Daniel Van Moll/Nur/Photoshot

One of the soldier contractors, who served in Ukraine, described “the longest August” of his life on the front, in a phone interview with Newsweek. What was the worst part? Wounded friends dying in Rostov hospitals; the men in zinc, the “200s” being sent home, and a high risk of becoming one. “When we were on the train to Rostov last month, I had no idea we were to go to Ukraine; we all believed they brought us to a base for the usual routine exercises. If I knew it was for war, I’d have quit back in Kostroma, as I have two little children at home,” the paratrooper of the 331st regiment of Russia’s 98th Guards Airborne Division, says.

What mattered to the paratrooper most were the men on his left and right, his children and wife waiting for him in his hometown of Kostroma, 320km north of Moscow. Among his fellow men, he says, there was little understanding of Putin’s idea to establish Novorossiya, or New Russia, as a separatist state in eastern Ukraine.

Who was Russia’s main enemy? That answer seemed instantly ready: “America.” In a few days on the front lines under constant fire, the Kostroma paratrooper “dried up down to the bones”, not from the lack of food but from the constant fear of death, he said, that he had never experienced before.

Earlier that day, his regiment was brought back to the base in Rostov region, to wash in the banya, or Russian steam bath, and have one night of solid sleep. The soldiers had their first chance for a break from battle, for a quick chat with families since they crossed the Ukrainian border on August 18th. So as not to be identified as Russian regular forces, commanders ordered the paratroopers to change into the Western military surplus desert camouflage their wives had to buy for them, with their own money.

Russian paratroopers captured in UkraineRussian paratroopers captured in Ukraine at a press conference in Kiev last month.. Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Nobody asked the servicemen to sign any additional papers, though current contracts did not stipulate deployment to a foreign state. “I never volunteered for this; but any attempts to quit would be useless – they are sending us back to the meat grinder tomorrow; if somebody told me earlier about the truth, none of us would have signed up for $1,000 a month to get fried alive in Ukraine,” says the officer in his thirties, who requested his identity be concealed.

The use of misleading uniforms to sneak into foreign territory for a secret operation does not surprise Russian military experts. One Moscow-based army analyst recalled the earlier “masquerades” or false flag operations under Soviet military doctrine, sending Soviet and Russian commandos dressed as locals in Afghanistan and in Chechnya: “Our forces conducted secret operations in the Middle East and in Africa this way. Putin’s strategy is not unique,” says the analyst who declined to be named.

While the Russian leaders stuck to their denials, mobile phone chats and social media forums fill up with images of ­the country’s artillery and “Grad rocket” launchers rolling across Ukrainian border. Russian internet users across the country watched videos of army mothers and wives covering their wet-with-tears faces with both hands, begging Putin to free their loved ones “in God’s name”, as well as video interviews with soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces.

Early each morning, paratroopers’ wives crowded on Nikitskaya Street outside the Airborne Division, waiting to hear more official explanations about their husbands “participating in military drills in Rostov”.

The women spoke to their husbands on the phone and knew the truth. “My boy asked me to go to church and light candles for his survival, as they were herded back to Ukraine,” one of the terrified wives, Veronika Tsiruyeva, says.

The invasion of Ukraine has been happening in slow motion since spring. On the afternoon of April 16th, professional-looking militia in green uniforms surrounded the perimeter of the administration building on the Square of October Revolution in Slaviansk, a city in eastern Ukraine.

"Cargo 200" is a special term in Russia for dead soldiers returning home“Cargo 200″ is a special term in Russia for dead soldiers returning home. This photograph shows a crudely marked truck carrying the bodies of Russian ‘volunteers’ killed fighting in Ukraine en route to Russia.. Maria Turchenkova/Echo Photo Agency

“We are ‘polite green men’, born in the USSR, just the same as in Crimea,” one of them told me. A few days later, rebels occupied one more Ukrainian town, Horlivka. Their commander Anatoly Starostin described what “a great relief” it was to have support from Russian special forces. “They are about 60 top-class professionals, unspeakably well-trained,” Starostin said of the “polite green men”. Russian special forces took over television transmitters, so locals would watch only Russian state channels covering the Kremlin’s official line.

It wasn’t long before the first truck with a large, crookedly written “200” on its side rolled into Russia on June 2nd, bringing back 31 bodies of Russian “volunteer” soldiers, mostly in their late 30s to early 40s. Afterwards, members of the press in the courtyard of Kirovsky Hospital’s morgue in Donetsk, watched doctors and rebels whispering over the wooden coffins: “Let them receive them on the other side and figure out where to send the refrigerator,” they muttered, clueless about the final destination.

No Russian state channels mentioned the 31 red coffins making their way home across the sunflower fields; it took days for families of “the volunteers” to break through the wall of secrecy and find the frozen bodies of their men.

A 'Cargo 200' truck, carrying the bodies of Russian 'volunteers' killed fighting in Ukraine, crosses the border into RussiaA ‘Cargo 200′ truck, carrying the bodies of Russian ‘volunteers’ killed fighting in Ukraine, crosses the border into Russia. Maria Turchenkova/Echo Photo Agency

This month, Russian commanders planned to demonstrate unprecedented nuclear forces exercises involving Supersonic MiG-31 fighter-interceptors and Su-24MR reconnaissance aircrafts. The Kremlin warned the west against welcoming Ukraine to join Nato, as the alliance began their drills on Ukraine’s western border. As the sides of the conflict sat down for talks, Putin’s security advisers changed the military doctrine, lowering Russia’s threshold for using nuclear weapons. As mainstream television channels pumped the anti-Americanism muscle on a daily basis, commanders drilled soldiers to fight the war against America and Nato.

Meantime, back in Sudislavskoye village, news about the secret burial travelled fast, from door to door until the entire neighbourhood spoke the truth: “The deceased man in the grave was Dmitry Kustov, a drafted soldier, serving in the army since last year,” Lyudmila says. For some reason wholly unknown to his family, Dima ended up fighting a war in a foreign country, Ukraine, in late July. “He hadn’t lived long enough,” locals say of the 20-year-old soldier quietly buried in the twilight.


Newsweek.

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.

Nadiya Savchenko: Yanukovych fell, so will Putin #Savchenko #Putin #Russia


Halya Coynash.Nadiya SavchenkoNadiya Savchenko

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian officer held in a Russian SIZO or pre-trial detention centre since her capture by Kremlin-backed militants and abducted to Russia is to face a forced psychiatric examination in the notorious Serbsky Institute in Moscow. In a statement passed to her lawyer, Savchenko has condemned the psychiatric examination as illegal and said that she will be refusing to give any testimony, answer any questions etc.

She clearly states that she “was illegally abducted from Ukraine, unlawfully brought to the Russian Federation and is being held here illegally. She considers the psychiatric examination to be carried out on her unlawful. She is therefore refusing to speak with the clinic staff; to give any kind of testimony; to answer any questions in writing or verbally; to fill in any forms or undergo any tests.

The Serbsky Institute gained notoriety in Soviet times for its application of punitive psychiatry and the fact that Savchenko is being placed there for a month is of grave concern. She herself categorically prohibits the use against her of any psychological or physical pressure; any substances added to food, injected or placed in her bed linen that has a psychological or physical effect

At the court hearing on Aug 27, Savchenko’s detention was again extended until Oct 30. This was the first occasion that she was brought to the courtroom, though kept enclosed in a glass cubicle.

As on all previous occasions Nadiya Savchenko demonstrated her courage and refusal to be cowered. She rejected any involvement in the death of Russian journalists and said that she did not understand what connection the Russian investigators and court had to events in Ukraine.

She also told the court: “You have no justice, you have no law. Thank God Yanukovych has gone. I will hope that Putin will also soon go.”

Savchenko was taken prisoner in the Luhansk oblast by militants from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic on June 17 or 18. Two days later a video appeared of her being interrogated by the militants. She demonstrated courage during the interrogation and refused to provide the information the militants demanded.

On July 2 a Russian court remanded her in custody until August 30. Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on July 9 that charges had been laid against Savchenko for alleged “complicity in the group killing of two or more people carrying out official activities in a publicly hazardous manner for motives of political hatred”.

The investigators claim that in June, as a member of the Aidar Battalion, Savchenko found out the whereabouts of a group of TV Rossiya journalists and other civilians outside Luhansk, and passed these to fighters who carried out a mortar attack which killed TV Rossiya employees Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.

They also assert that Savchenko crossed the Russian border, without any documents, pretending to be a refugee. They allege that she was initially detained to establish her identity.

This story is totally denied by Savchenko who says she was forcibly taken across the border with a bag over her head and in handcuffs. The Russian investigators’ version is also wildly implausible. More details about the holes in the case, and the use of Russian TV to try to conceal them here.

Russia has effectively abducted five Ukrainian nationals and is holding another in custody on highly suspect grounds. Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirny are all from the Crimea and all actively opposed Russia’s annexation of their homeland. They were arrested at different times in May and after interrogation allegedly with the use of torture were taken to Moscow where they are facing positively far-fetched ‘terrorist’ charges. Chirny has also been subjected to a Serbsky Institute ‘examination’ and the NGO Open Dialogue has expressed concern that he could be the victim of punitive psychiatry. Yury Yatsenko, a final law student from Lviv has been held in custody, supposedly awaiting deportation since May. A couple of weeks ago, the Russian authorities suddenly charged him with equally dubious charges of ‘smuggling explosives’.

Halya Coynash

Information about the court hearing and Nadiya Savchenko’s statement from Hromadskie.tv


Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

Hundreds protest in Wales before NATO summit #WarinEurope #Putin #NATO


War is comingSupporters take part in the ‘No to NATO’ protest march in Newport, south Wales, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014.

LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of anti-war protesters have marched through the Welsh city of Newport before a major NATO summit there next week.

About 1,000 peace activists holding banners and placards that read “No to NATO” and “Stop NATO Expansion” marched Saturday in a peaceful procession.

The Sept. 4-5 summit at Newport’s Celtic Manor Resort will be attended by more than 150 heads of state and officials.

Police have said that about 9,500 officers from around Britain will secure the event, which is expected to draw a large number of protesters. Authorities have warned that a minority of protesters is expected to disrupt proceedings and challenge police.


Associated Press.


War is coming, it is just a matter of when.

Unless Putin’s ‘Land Grab War’ is halted’ war will be coming to europe whether we like it or not! President Putin has not hidden the fact that he wants to rebuild the soviet union, and like Hitler before him he is power hungry, he will want more… “Don’t mess with nuclear Russia”, Putin has said, is he bluffing? time will tell.

Take A Stand.

Anne Applebaum: War in Europe #Russia #Ukraine #WarInEurope


Putin has invaded Ukraine. Is it hysterical to prepare for total war with Russia? Or is it naive not to?
 Anne Applebaum.A view of a house destroyed in an air strike carried out by Ukrainian armed forces in the village of Stanitsa Luganskaya , on July 2, 2014. © AFPA view of a house destroyed in an air strike carried out by Ukrainian armed forces in the village of Stanitsa Luganskaya , on July 2, 2014. © AFP

WARSAW, Poland – Over and over again – throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels – I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets.

I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

I realize that this question sounds hysterical, and foolishly apocalyptic, to American or Western European readers. But hear me out, if only because this is a conversation many people in the eastern half of Europe are having right now. In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkov and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state—Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here—Novorossiya can grow larger over time.

Russian soldiers will have to create this state—how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them—but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote—and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine.

But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky—the Russian member of parliament and court jester, who sometimes says things that those in power cannot—argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries—“dwarf states,” he called them—and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes—perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city—to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But Mein Kampf also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.

Ukrainian servicemen stand in position during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk on Aug. 26, 2014.Ukrainian servicemen stand in position during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk on Aug. 26, 2014.

But Stalin kept to his word and carried out the threats, not because he was crazy but because he followed his own logic to its ultimate conclusions with such intense dedication—and because nobody stopped him. Right now, nobody is able to stop Putin, either. So is it hysterical to prepare for total war? Or is it naive not to do so?


Slate.