Daily Archives: April 24, 2014

US inciting civil war in Venezuela to get its oil – Bolivia’s Morales

An anti-government protester, with the Venezuelan flag, kicks back a gas canister to police during a demonstration in which masked youths battled police and blocked a main highway in Caracas April 21, 2014

Washington is pushing Venezuela towards a “civil war” because it wants access to the country’s rich oil reserves, Bolivian President Evo Morales has warned. The Venezuelan government has also accused the US of fomenting a coup d’état.

Addressing over 3,000 young people at a Latin American Youth Summit in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, Morales branded the US an “empire” with its eye on Venezuelan oil wealth. Morales said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was blameless in the recent wave of unrest in the country and accused Washington of orchestrating a civil war.

“I believe [the US] are trying to incite if not a coup d’état then a civil war from their empire,” Morales said. “They are always going to sponsor internal conflict so that they can interfere and invade us to take control of our oil reserves.”

An anti-government protester, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, stands with a shield near flames from molotov cocktails thrown at a water cannon by anti-government protesters during riots in Caracas April 20, 2014

The world needs an “anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial youth,” said Morales, urging Latin Americans to stand together in solidarity with Venezuela. Morales said there was no danger of a coup d’état in Bolivia since the government had ejected US Ambassador Phillip Golberg in 2008 after he was accused of collaborating in a plot to overthrow the government.

Venezuela has been gripped by a wave of anti-government protests since February which has left at least 41 dead and over 600 injured. The Venezuelan government has recognized people’s right to demonstrate, but has accused foreign-backed, right-wing extremists of hijacking the protests in an attempt to oust Maduro.

At present, the Maduro government is in dialogue with some of the members of the opposition movement to try and find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The opponents of the government complain that Venezuela is experiencing massive inflation and shortages of basic food products, as well as frequent power cuts.

An anti-government protester throws a Molotov cocktail during riots with police in Caracas April 17, 2014

‘Economic war’

Maduro announced last week that Venezuela was facing an “economic war” and as such his government intended to fight back with a new “offensive” to combat capitalism. He set out the main aims of the new initiative on Monday, including the encouragement of supply and production and the stabilization of prices in Venezuela.

“This new economic offensive should bring prosperity to the people and the country. Neoliberalism speaks of growth, but growth for whom? For those that always had wealth, not the have-nots,” Maduro said.

Maduro has previously blamed the strife in Venezuela on Washington, saying that the US is orchestrating the unrest with a view to overthrowing his government. In March, Caracas’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of inciting murder and violence in Venezuela. Washington has denied any links to the ongoing unrest and maintains the Venezuelan government is terrorizing its own people.

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Russia ‘forced’ to launch military drills at border in response to Ukraine op – Moscow

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu

Russia has begun extensive military exercises in Ukrainian border area following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.

“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow.

“War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are also not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”

Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment exercises by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force maneuvers.

Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists.

“National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” the minister said.

He added that Ukrainian sabotage units have been deployed near the Russian border.

In contrast, Shoigu said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations.

“It’s not an evenly matched confrontation,” added Shoigu.

Reports in Ukrainian media suggested that Russia’s show of strength led Ukraine to suspend its ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, due to fears of a potential intervention. Later on Thursday, acting President Aleksandr Turchinov gave an order to resume it, accusing Moscow of “blackmail”, and demanding that Russia pull back its troops from the border.

Pro-Russian activists occupied several key government buildings in provincial towns in eastern Ukraine a fortnight ago. Last week the order was given to re-take them, and fighting has intensified in the past two days, after Turchinov blamed opposition forces of initiating a campaign of abductions and murders. Ukrainian authorities have also repeatedly stated that their opponents are funded by Moscow, and organized by infiltrator agents.

The heaviest fighting on Thursday took place in Slavyansk, with the Ukrainian interior ministry reporting the deaths of at least five ‘terrorists’.

NATO has estimated that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied that it has moved troops to the region, but said that its internal troop movements are its own prerogative.

NATO began military exercises in Poland on Wednesday, with more scheduled to take place in the Baltic states next week. So far 150 US paratroopers have arrived in the country from their stationary base in Italy, with 450 more set to join them.

Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has also asked the alliance to deploy 10,000 troops in his country.

On Wednesday, USS Taylor, a frigate, became the latest US ship to enter the Black Sea on a rotating deployment. NATO has dispatched a separate rapid reaction force to the Baltic.

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US troops arrive in Poland for drills amid rising tensions over Ukraine

First company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, northern west Poland April 23, 2014

The first wave of US troops has arrived in Poland to begin military drills “promoting peace and stability” across Eastern Europe. Tensions continue to mount in the region, as Ukraine teeters on the brink of a civil war.

A contingent of 150 American soldiers arrived in the Polish town of Swidwin on Thursday and will be shortly joined by another 450 troops. The soldiers will participate in military exercises in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the next three months, with a view to reassuring NATO allies in the region.

Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, who announced the drills Tuesday, said they sent a clear message to Moscow.

“If there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” Kirby told reporters. Washington has accused Russia of meddling in the affairs of neighboring Ukraine, which is currently embroiled in a crisis that shows no signs of de-escalation.

Moscow categorically denies the accusations and says that Washington has orchestrated the unrest in Ukraine to further its geopolitical ambitions in the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT on Wednesday that “the Americans are running the show” and he denied claims of a Russian military presence in Ukraine.

In addition, he said that the Russian troops massed along the Ukrainian border had been deployed for routine drills, something that has been verified by international inspectors.

“Ukraine is just one manifestation of the American unwillingness to yield in the geopolitical fight. Americans are not ready to admit that they cannot run the show in each and every part of the globe from Washington alone,” Lavrov said.

Soldiers from the first company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy walk after unpacking as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, northern west Poland April 23, 2014

In Ukraine, the coup-appointed government in Kiev re-launched an “anti-terror operation” in the east of the country after pledging to cease all violence at four-sided talks between the EU, the US, Russia and Ukraine in Geneva last week.

Government tanks besieged the eastern city of Slavyansk on Thursday, killing five people as part of a self-proclaimed “anti-terror operation.” Pro-Russian activists have taken control of government buildings in the area to protest the coup-appointed government in Kiev, which they view as illegitimate.

The Russian government has condemned the use of violence by the interim Ukrainian government on unarmed civilians in eastern Ukraine.

“In Geneva, we agreed there must be an end of all violence. Next afternoon [interim Ukrainian President Aleksandr] Turchinov declared almost a state of emergency and ordered the army to shoot at the people,” Lavrov told RT.

Russia does not recognize the government that rose to power in Kiev on February 22, following weeks of deadly protests.

The first company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march attend a welcoming ceremony as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, northern west Poland April 23, 2014

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Putin: Kiev authorities are junta if they use force against civilians

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If Kiev authorities have started to use force against the civilian population, this is a serious crime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Taking this action makes them a “junta” and may affect their relations with other countries, he added.

“If the Kiev regime started military actions against the country’s population, this is without doubt a very serious crime,” Putin said at All-Russia People’s Front media forum.

According to Putin current situation in East Ukraine is another proof Russia was right when it supported Crimeans, when they decided to have a referendum.

“[Otherwise] it would have seen there the same things which are now happening in the east of Ukraine, or even worse,” he said. “That’s one more proof to the fact we did it all right and in time.”

Putin believes that the use of force by the coup-imposed government in Kiev means that it’s actually a junta.

“If current authorities in Kiev have done this [used force], then they are junta,” the president said. “For one thing, they don’t have nation-wide mandate. They might have some elements of legitimacy, but only within the framework of the parliament. The rest of the government bodies are for various reasons illegitimate.”

Vladimir Putin described the use of force in eastern Ukraine as a “reprisal raid” and said that it would have an impact on Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Earlier in the day, fighting erupted just outside Slavyansk, a town in eastern Ukraine where the population voiced their protest against the Kiev authorities. Ukrainian troops in tanks and armored vehicles have been trying to break into the town.

According to the Ukrainian Interior ministry, at least five self-defense guards have been killed and one policeman injured after the “anti-terrorist operation” launched by Kiev in the town. Three checkpoints erected by the anti-government protesters have also been destroyed.

Self-defense forces managed to repel an attack at one checkpoint 3 kilometers north of Slavyansk, forcing at least three infantry vehicles to retreat, Russia-24 TV reports.

On Wednesday, authorities in Kiev announced they were resuming a military operation against protesters in eastern Ukraine, which they described as an “anti-terrorist” one.

Protesters believe the move was contrary to the agreement on de-escalation reached in Geneva.

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Kiev military op: Ukrainian army tanks, APCs, troops attack Slavyansk

Ukrainian special forces take position in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 24, 2014

Five anti-government protesters have reportedly been killed and one injured in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk after Kiev authorities sent tanks and armored vehicles against the local population.

“During the antiterrorist operation, three checkpoints erected by illegal military groups have been destroyed in the northeastern part of Slavyansk,” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, adding: “At least five terrorists have been killed. One policeman was injured.”

Witnesses report on Twitter Slavyansk self-defense forces are now burning tires to hamper the entrance of infantry vehicles from Kiev into the city.

According to Rossiya 24 TV channel, self-defense forces have repelled the attack of the Kiev gunmen at the key checkpoint 3 km north of Slavyansk. At least three infantry vehicles had to retreat.

Police has announced the beginning of the crackdown via loudspeakers and a special vehicle is currently patrolling the streets warning local people about the crackdown.

The local citizens in the city are preparing for the Kiev crackdown. The majority of shops, kindergartens and schools have been closed in the city. Only the shops selling bread and water remain open.

“Fighting the outskirts of Slavyansk started at about 12pm Moscow time (08:00 GMT),” one of the leaders of the self-defense forces, Miroslav Rudenko, told Interfax, “We are checking reports of one dead and one injured. There are shootings at a number of checkpoints at some of Slavyansk exit-roads.”

Rudenko said it was impossible to reach self-defense leaders in Slavyansk by phone, suspecting that mobile phone connection could have been switched off.

Rossiya 24 TV channel reported there was a slow offensive by Ukrainian troops on Slavyansk.

“Now armored vehicles and special forces are just 10km away from the town,” said Rossiya 24 correspondent currently on the ground.

According to locals, at least eight armored infantry vehicles passed the village of Hrestische, near Slavyansk, on Thursday morning, reports Gazeta.ru.

At least three snipers from Ukrainian army are now at the barricades, the residents also told Gazeta.ru, adding that when one of the journalists tried to approach the barricades, the snipers opened fire.

Meanwhile, two columns of armored vehicles are heading towards Slavyansk. The first column is now 6km from the city, while the second is 3 to 4km, Mayor of Slavyansk Vyacheslav Ponomarev told Rossiya 24 TV channel.

Ukrainian special forces take position in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 24, 2014

Meanwhile, the armored infantry vehicles are currently heading towards the town of Izyum in the Kharkov Region, not far from Slavyansk.

Anti-government protesters are still controlling the checkpoints on the outskirts of Slavyansk.

Ukrainian military Mil Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters have been detected in the city of Artyomovsk near Slavyansk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Kiev’s crackdown on anti-government protesters “a very serious crime.”

“If the Kiev regime started military actions against the country’s population, this is without doubt a very serious crime,” Putin said.

He maintains that the current situation in eastern Ukraine is another proof that Russia was right when it supported the Crimeans when they decided to have a referendum.

Meanwhile, Russian OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) envoy Andrey Kelin proposed sending immediately the observers to Slavyansk, calling the city and near-by regions “hotspots.”

He criticized Kiev’s ‘anti-terrorist’ operation, launched against anti-government protesters in the city as “serious violation of the Geneva agreements.”

 RT News.

 

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Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Is ‘Bargaining Chip’ in Ukraine

U.S. journalist Simon Ostrovsky’s current whereabouts are unknown.

As friends and family waited impatiently to hear from Simon Ostrovsky, the journalist kidnapped by pro-Russian insurgents Tuesday, an image of a scantily dressed woman crawling across a bed appeared on his Facebook page Wednesday, likely the work of hackers.

Also Wednesday, the self-proclaimed mayor of the Ukrainian city of Slovyansk said he would not free Ostrovsky.

“We need prisoners,” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk, told Gazeta.ru on Wednesday. “We need bargaining chips. Many of our comrades are behind bars. They [the Ukrainian security forces] take them to Kiev and torture them. Now we are doing the same. Taking prisoners, that is.”

Stella Khoroshego, a spokeswoman for the self-appointed authorities of Slovyansk, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Ostrovsky was “fine” and that he had been detained on suspicion of “bad activities,” without elaborating on their nature.

Ponomaryov told Interfax that Ostrovsky was an informant for Ukraine’s Right Sector far-right nationalist party, the news agency reported.

Ostrovsky, a journalist at Vice News and former Moscow Times reporter, had been covering the crisis in Ukraine for the past weeks. He had presented a series of bold video dispatches called “Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine,” in which he regularly challenged armed men with blunt questions and sharp observations.

Ostrovsky’s whereabouts remain unknown. Pro-Russian insurgents denied that Ostrovsky was being held at the local state security building.

The self-appointed leaders of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk contradicted Ponomaryov and Khoroshego, denying the involvement of pro-Russian militants in the kidnapping of Ostrovsky and other journalists.

“We can neither confirm nor exclude the possibility that any foreign journalists have been kidnapped,” a spokesman for Yekaterina Gubareva, the self-styled foreign minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told The Moscow Times on Wednesday. “All we can say is that we [the Donetsk People’s Republic] have not done this. This could be a provocation.”

The spokesman cited the case of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov‘s party, who was found dead Tuesday after reportedly being abducted by pro-Russian forces and tortured, as an example of a “provocation” aimed at discrediting regional self-appointed authorities.

“We had nothing to do with the incident [involving Rybak] and we have stated this clearly,” the spokesman said. “It was a provocation. The same could be true about stories of kidnapped foreign journalists.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a statement Tuesday calling for Ostrovsky’s immediate release and expressing concern about the “ongoing negative pattern in relation to journalists’ safety in Ukraine.”

Earlier this week, Irma Krat, a Ukrainian journalist and pro-government activist, was taken hostage by pro-Russian forces in Slovyansk. The 29-year-old journalist was later brought out blindfolded and paraded outside the city’s security service building, where she confirmed that she was being detained and had not been harmed.

Belarussian reporter Dmitry Galka, as well as French and Italian journalists Paul Gogo and Kossimo Attanasio, were also detained in Slovyansk on Monday but were released a few hours later.

“My colleagues were trying to capture the daily life of the city on camera,” Galka, who is currently reporting from Donetsk, told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Then suddenly three armed young men in camouflage [gear] showed up and accused them of being European spies. We were pushed into the backseat of a car and taken to what we think was the center of their operations.”

Galka said that the reporters’ passports and equipment had been confiscated but returned to them upon their release.

“One of the men was on the phone, most likely speaking with his superiors,” Galka said. “And all of a sudden, we were told we could leave. And the armed men even told us we could be photographed with them. We used this picture as a ‘pass’ when we were stopped by other militants after our release.”

A Moscow Times reporter was also briefly detained by pro-Russian insurgents in Slovyansk on April 15. His belongings were personally searched by Ponomaryov, the self-appointed mayor.

Vice News, Ostrovsky’s employer, released a statement Tuesday saying that the organization was “in contact with the U.S. State Department and other appropriate government authorities” to ensure the journalist’s safety and security.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington during Tuesday’s daily briefing that the department condemned the hostage takings but that it did not have any additional information on Ostrovsky’s case.

Ukraine currently ranks 127th in Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 Freedom of the Press Index, behind Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda. Russia ranks 148th.

 The Moscow Times.

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UK jets scrambled to see off two ‘Russian bombers’ near Scotland

Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers

Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers

The UK on Wednesday scrambled several Typhoon fighter jets to see off two “unidentified aircraft flying near the north of Scotland,” a UK Defense Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.

The agency said Britain’s Royal Air Force later identified the aircraft as Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers, commonly known by their NATO reporting name “Bear.

” The planes “were flying in international airspace at all times, they didn’t go into UK sovereign airspace,” the spokeswoman said, adding that there had been eight similar incidents in 2013.

Local media reports claimed that two Russian bombers turned away and flew towards Scandinavia after being contacted by the British jets.

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