Tag Archives: Ukraine

Breaking news – Military jet downed by anti-Kiev forces in Lugansk – Ukraine’s defense ministry

Anti-Kiev forces took down a Ukrainian military Il-76 jet as it was landing in Lugansk, the country’s Defense Ministry said. It did not provide details on casualties.

TSN.ua news website earlier reported that around 30 paratroopers were killed as self-defense forces hit the jet with a rocket.

The plane was transporting rotating military personnel and had “troops, machinery, equipment and food,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Il-76 is a heavy military transport aircraft that usually has a crew of seven and can transport up to 167 soldiers with weapons.

Meanwhile, shooting has resumed in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region as the Ukrainian military continues its crackdown on self-defense forces in the country’s east, a self-defense representative said.

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Lavrov : Iraq developments show total failure of American-British ‘adventure’

The events in Iraq are a result of the actions carried out by the US and the UK, and the situation has spiraled out of control, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists.

“It has been reported that the UK foreign minister declared that the events in Iraq are, according to him, an illustration that terrorism is rampant in the region due to the absence of reconciliation in Syria,” Lavrov said.

“We’ve known that our English colleagues have a unique ability to twist everything. But I didn’t expect such cynicism, because the events that are taking place in Iraq are an illustration of a complete failure of the venture started by the US and the UK that allowed it to spiral out of control completely.”

“We express our solidarity with the Iraqi authorities, the Iraqi people who should restore peace and security in their country, but the actions of our Western partners raise a lot of questions,” Lavrov marked.

Kurdish Iraqi Peshmerga forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles on the outskirts of the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, only 1 kilometre away from areas controlled by Sunni Muslim Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Iraq on June 12, 2014.

Lavrov noted that 11 years ago the US president announced the victory of democracy in Iraq, and that “the situation has deteriorated in geometrical progression.”

“The unity of Iraq has been called into question. The rampant terrorism is taking place due to the fact that the occupation troops didn’t pay any attention to the interior political processes, didn’t help the national dialogue, and only pursued their own interests,” Lavrov said.

On Monday night, the terrorists seized control of the town Mosul – the administrative center of the northern province of Nineveh. On Wednesday, the authorities informed the population about the fall of Tikrit, the hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein and just 150km from Baghdad.

Sergey Lavrov has also touched on the developments in Ukraine. He said Moscow demands an immediate investigation into the reports of the use of banned weapons in Ukraine.

A local resident stands in front of the blown out windows and walls of a residential building after it was hit by mortar shells during clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on June 11, 2014.

“We emphasize concern over the reports about the use by the Ukrainian military of fire bombs and other indiscriminate weapons. Those reports must be urgently checked,” Lavrov stressed.

He said the Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin “will be calling the OSCE mission which has observers in Ukraine, to establish facts [of using indiscriminate weapons], as well as will strive for the investigation into the tragedies in Odessa on May 2, in Mariupol on May 9, the ongoing actions in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk, and the snipers’ case on Maidan in February – all those probes should be brought to a close.”

“We know that the European Council is ready to be involved in the probe which the Ukrainian authorities carry out. We are convinced that this should be done,” Lavrov stressed.

Russia is also submitting to the UN the draft resolution on Ukraine calling to follow the roadmap the OSCE previously proposed.

“We’ve asked our UN envoy to submit to the UN Security Council the project on the resolution on the Ukrainian situation because the lack of progress on the halt of the violence and military actions since the start of the punitive operation causes concern,” Lavrov said.

At the moment there is no talk about bringing peacemakers to Ukraine, Lavrov said.

“We don’t think that the situation has reached that point yet. There is still hope for a declaration by [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko that the violence will be stopped and the negotiations will begin,” he added.

Pentagon to send military advisers to Ukraine

A Ukrainian Antonov-26 plane burns after it was shot down by a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on June 6, 2014.

American military advisers will soon arrive in politically fractured Ukraine in a move the Pentagon says is designed to build “defense institutions” in the country, where nationalist forces continue saber-rattling against Russia.

In preparation for the consultations, US defense officials met with Kiev authorities earlier this week to discuss ways how the two countries “could strengthen our long-term defense cooperation to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions,” Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez said, as quoted by Military Times.

The Pentagon considers sending its military advisers “a first step” toward helping to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through training, education, and assistance.”

“We are committed fully to getting the assistance to Ukraine as quickly as possible,” Lainez said.

Lainez’s statement follows President Barack Obama’s promise earlier this week that the US would provide Kiev additional military help which may include training of its law enforcement and army personnel.

The Pentagon spokeswoman asserted that Washington does not see a military solution to the Ukrainian crisis, after an armed coup forced out its president, Viktor Yanukovich, following Kiev’s decision to put on hold the association agreement with the EU over economic concerns.

“Our focus continues to be on supporting Ukraine economically and diplomatically,” Lainez said. “As the president has said, we do not see a military solution to this crisis. Throughout the review, we’re looking at items with the intent that whatever is approved will stabilize the situation in Ukraine.”

In the meantime, since March, the White House has approved more than $23 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

On June 4, Obama said that the US was providing additional $5 million aid for “the provision of body armor, night vision goggles and additional communications equipment.” The White House also said other aid for Ukraine included 300,000 ready-to-eat meals and financing for medical supplies, helmets, hand-held radios and other equipment.

Obama’s pledges to Ukraine, at the same time, came on the heel of his vows to invest $1 billion in stepping up the US military presence in Eastern Europe in order “to defend your territorial integrity”.

READ MORE: Obama pledges $1bn for more troops, military drills in E. Europe

The US President statements came amid the deteriorating political crisis in south-eastern Ukraine, where anti-Kiev protesters seek independence and where intense clashes between self-defense militia and the regime’s troops are now a part of everyday life.

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Self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic elects head, passes constitution

“People’s Governor” of the Lugansk Region Valery Bolotov (center) read an address to the residents of Lugansk at the rally devoted to the results of the referendum on the status of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) on May 12, 2014

The self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) elected its head and passed its own constitution on Sunday. This comes after the region held a referendum on May 11 and proclaimed itself independent from Kiev.

LNR’s state council – which acts as a temporary legislative body – has chosen Valery Bolotov as the head of the republic. The council also elected its speaker, Aleksey Karyakin, and Prime Minister – Vasily Nikitin.

Bolotov was born in Russia’s southern port city of Taganrog in 1974. He has two university degrees. He also worked his way up from a manager to the director at a meat factory. Before being elected as the head of the self-proclaimed republic, he was serving as the “people’s governor” of Lugansk region.

Deputies of the council who where elected earlier on Sunday on also adopted a temporary constitution of the Lugansk People’s Republic.

The newly elected prime minister already identified what his first steps in the office will be. “As the prime minister I will form a new government. I will announce the specific candidates later. The members of the new cabinet will be determined in the second part of the day [tomorrow],” Itar-Tass quoted Nikitin as saying.

Last weekend, Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums in which the majority of voters supported self-rule.

In Lugansk region 96.2 percent of voters supported the region’s self-rule, according to final figures announced by the local election commission. Almost 90 percent of voters in Donetsk region have endorsed political independence from Kiev.

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Explosions heard in Slavyansk, reports of fighting

Ukrainian soldiers and police take position at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukranian city of Slavyansk

Military action has reportedly resumed in the town of Slavyansk in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, with local residents reporting on social media loud explosions and a large number of signal bombs in the sky.

At least one self-defense activist was wounded as fighting resumed between Kiev forces and self-defense units, Hromadske TV reported, citing local residents.

“[There was a] very strong blast – it was heard in the center [of the town]. Windows are shaking on Artema Street,” one local said on social media.

“At 21:00 local time the battle began in Andreevka. The junta has artillery and is shelling from its positions on Mount Karachun. At the same time, Kiev troops delivered a blow from behind Semyonovka,” the self-defense forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk told Politnavigator.net.

“The blast was so powerful…that I thought lightning struck a fence nearby,” one resident wrote.

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RF ambassador : NATO seeking to make maximum use of Ukrainian crisis to prove its worth

BRUSSELS, May 13. ITAR-TASS.

NATO seeks to make maximum use of the crisis in Ukraine to prove it is still in demand, Russia’s permanent representative at NATO Alexander Grushko said on Tuesday.

“These days, NATO representatives have said many words how important it is for the alliance to waken from sleep, and, judging by the enthusiasm of the rhetoric about the emergence of a new threat in Europe, NATO is seeking to make maximum use of the Ukrainian crisis to prove that it is still needed in the current security environment,” he said. “The aim of this deliberately heightened rhetoric is simple – to reanimate the bloc, to have more funds for military needs. And this requires an enemy.”

“The base of argument is being built up to prove that Russia has some expansion plans,” he noted, adding that for these ends new threats were being invented. “Thus, one of NATO’s military chief has worded a universal formula explaining any protest movements – everything gives away the hand of Moscow.”

“At the same time, they prefer not to see the contribution our country has made to do away with the heritage of the Cold War and put an end to the arms race. If truth be said, Europe should be thankful to Russia that it can spend only one to two percent of its GDP on defence. Now, amid this campaign, taxpayers will be tapped for additional money on defence,” Grushko said.

“The alliance denies the fact that the crisis in Ukraine is an internal one and, despite all the tragic instances, keeps on speaking about a foreign interference in Ukraine’s eastern regions,” the Russian ambassador said. “I hope that now that they have seen longest queues to polling stations in Donetsk and Lugansk NATO would admit that this is civil society but not mythical ‘agent provocateurs.’ If the alliance is really interested in deescalating of the situation, as its representatives are claiming, it can also make its contribution by urging the Kiev regime to stop the punitive operation, to pull back its troops and by stopping any aid to it.

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WH, State Dept Duck Questions on Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Gig

BY: Washington Free Beacon Staff

May 13, 2014 4:36 pm

Both the White House and State Department bluntly replied Hunter Biden was a “private citizen” when asked about his new role with Ukraine’s largest gas producer and whether that could pose a conflict given the tense situation between the U.S. and Russia.

Biden is the younger son of Vice President Joe Biden.

“Does this building diplomatically have any concerns about potential perceptions of conflict or/cronyism – which is what you’ve often accused the Russians of doing?” Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked.

“No, he’s a private citizen,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki replied shortly.

White House press secretary Jay Carney referred ABC’s Jon Karl to the vice president’s office and said Hunter Biden’s work did not reflect an endorsement by the administration in any way.

White House exchange:

JON KARL: On another subject, Hunter Biden has now taken a position with the largest oil and gas company — holding company in Ukraine. Is there any concern about at least the appearance of a conflict there – (inaudible) — the vice president’s son –

JAY CARNEY: I would refer you to the vice president’s office. I saw those reports. You know, Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president. But I would refer you to the vice president’s office.

State Department exchange:

MATT LEE: And it was — the question was referred to the vice president’s office. But I’m wondering if the State Department has any concerns or any thoughts about the vice president’s son joining the board of directors of this Ukrainian gas company. Does — in particular, I understand when — the White House would refer this to the vice president’s office, but does this building diplomatically have any concerns about potential perceptions of conflict or/cronyism – which is what you’ve often accused the Russians of doing?

JEN PSAKI: No, he’s a private citizen.

LEE: I — OK. But then so the — do you consider that the Russian oligarchs who control or the Ukrainian oligarchs who control these, they’re all private citizens as well, correct?

PSAKI: We certainly wouldn’t put them in the same category on that.

LEE: No, I’m not suggesting that — I’m not — and I’m not suggesting that it should be in the same category, but I’m wondering if if there are concerns in this building about the perception of — about how the Russians and / or the Ukrainians would perceive the involvement of a son of the vice president of the United States in this, especially given the situation.

PSAKI: No, there are not.

via Washington Free Beacon.

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Son of US VP Joe Biden appointed to board of major Ukrainian gas company

Hunter Biden, son of US VP Joe Biden, is joining the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer. The group has prospects in eastern Ukraine where civil war is threatened following the coup in Kiev.

Biden will advise on “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities” to “contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.”

Joe Biden’s senior campaign adviser in 2004, financier Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter Biden’s, also joined the Bursima board claiming it was like ‘Exxon in the old days’.

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Biden Jr.’s resume is unsurprisingly sprinkled with Ivy-league dust – a graduate of Yale Law School he serves on the Chairman’s Advisory Board for the National Democratic Institute, is a director for the Center for National Policy and the US Global Leadership Coalition which comprises 400 American businesses, NGOs, senior national security and foreign policy experts.

Former US President Bill Clinton appointed him as Executive Director of E-Commerce Policy and he was honorary co-chair of the 2008 Obama-Biden Inaugural Committee.

Burisma Holdings was set up in 2002. Its licenses cover Ukraine’s three key hydrocarbon basins, including Dnieper-Donets (in eastern Ukraine), Carpathian (western) and Azov-Kuban (southern Ukraine).

The Biden board news came as Gazprom moved Ukraine to a prepaid gas delivery regime and sent Naftogaz, Ukraine’s gas champion, a $1.66 billion bill that is due June 2, or Moscow will halt supplies.

Ukraine currently has about 9 billion cubic meters of gas in storage, but by the winter needs 18.5bcm. Kiev bought 27.7 billion cubic meters from Gazprom for which it still owes some $3.5 bn in 2013.

Gazprom is demanding Kiev pays $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, raised from $268.50 after Moscow was forced to cancel several discounts agreed upon under Yanukovich’s tenure as president. Kiev rejects the new price as “politically motivated” and says it will only pay its debt if Gazprom lowers the price back to $268.50, or else open an arbitration case against the company in Stockholm.

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CNN: NATO’s Rasmussen says separatist Ukraine referendums ‘don’t count,’ pledges ‘further steps’ if needed

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says May 11 referendums in estern Ukraine were illegal, “organized in a chaotic manner with dubious and ambiguous questions.”

Referendums by separatists in Ukraine, such as Sunday’s in Donyetsk, “don’t count,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“These referendums are illegal, they are organized in a chaotic manner with dubious and ambiguous questions.”

Pro-Russian separatists claimed victory in a vote in the eastern Ukrainian region; they say that 90% of voters wanted independence from Ukraine.

The acting Ukrainian president called the referendum a “propagandist farce.”

“The only thing that counts is the presidential election on the twenty-fifth of May. And I urge all actors to make sure that those general elections can be conducted in an orderly manner,” Rasmussen told Amanpour.

NATO has tried, through limited troop deployments, military exercises, and air flights to present an enhanced deterrent to Russia, its erstwhile Cold War foe.

Amanpour challenged Rasmussen on whether that was enough.

“The allies say they’d like to see a little bit more – if not reassurance, heft,” Amanpour said. “I don’t know what you think, but a hundred and fifty U.S. soldiers to Poland? I mean, is that really enough to tell Mister Putin – who’s got forty-thousand troops massed on the borders there – to step back?”

“We are right now in the process of considering further steps,” Rasmussen said. “Those further steps might include an update of existing defense plans, development of new defense plans, enhanced exercises, and also appropriate deployment.”

“However, it’s a bit too early to tell exactly how to do it and where to it, but we will not hesitate to take further steps if needed.”

Russia, he told Amanpour, “obviously” has a “strong influence on the separatists.”

“So no doubt that if Moscow took the decision to encourage separatists to lay down their weapons and let the presidential elections go forward in an orderly manner, that would also happen.”

Amanpour asked if Russia could move against the Ukrainian port of Odessa or the surrounding area in an effort to land-lock the country.

“Well at least they have the capacity to do so. They have massed armed forces along the Ukrainian borders – around 40,000 troops. And in addition to that 25,000 troops in Crimea.”

“We have seen that Russia is able to – or the Russian armed forces are able to act within a few hours if the political decision is taken. What I don’t know is whether the political decision has been taken or will be taken. But at least they have the capacity to do that.”

NATO has seen no evidence of Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian border, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed, he told Amanpour.

Rasmussen also, of course, has much responsibility in Afghanistan, which just held the first round of presidential elections.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement, which he negotiated, to keep foreign security forces in the country past 2014. All of the major Afghan candidates, including the front-runner Abdullah Abdullah, have pledged to sign an agreement in interviews with Amanpour.

“We will establish a training mission to continue to train, advise, assist the Afghan security forces after 2014,” Rasmussen said. “I am confident that we will get a signature on the necessary security agreement.”

He praised the Afghan security forces’ performance securing the country for the presidential elections.

“We have seen them address that in a very professional manner.”

“Of course we are alert, but the fact is that the Afghan security forces took the lead in ensuring a secure environment for the conduct of presidential elections, and they will continue to be in the lead.”

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Moscow in no rush to respond to Donetsk People’s Republic plea for accession

Russia is taking its time before reacting to Donetsk People’s Republic’s plea to consider its accession into Russia while calling for dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions.

The Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told Kommersant newspaper Russia does not yet have a response to the plea.

Earlier on Monday the Kremlin’s press service issued a statement, saying: “Moscow respects the will of the people in Donetsk and Lugansk and hopes that the practical realization of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner.”

It stressed the necessity of a “dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.”

On Monday, Donetsk People’s Republic proclaimed itself a sovereign state and asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, the Republic’s council said.

Earlier in the day, the results of referendums were announced in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, showing the majority of voters support self-rule, amid an intensified military operation by Kiev which resulted in several deaths.

Experts on the issue have weighed in with their view on Russia’s response.

International legal expert Alexander Mercouris told RT that Moscow’s reaction was consistent with its previous policy on Ukraine.

“Moscow is following what has been its consistent policy right from the start, right from the moment when the coup took place in Kiev in February, which has been pressing for negotiations between Kiev and the actual true democratic representatives of the eastern regions in order to achieve constitutional change,” Mercouris told RT. “I do not think Moscow’s position has changed. But I think Moscow’s position may change in the future.”

International relations expert and senior lecturer at Moscow State University Mark Sleboda also told to RT that he does not view Moscow’s reaction as contradicting its previous stance.

“Moscow’s reaction to the referendum – they of course recommended that it be postponed, and they had a somewhat tepid reaction to it. But at the same time they did not completely disown it either,” Sleboda said.

People cast their ballots in a polling station during a so-called referendum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 11, 2014.

“The first statement out of Moscow this morning that it looked forward to a dialogue between Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev to resolve the situation and implement the people’s will was a very strong indication that Russia is still really trying for dialogue with Kiev,” Sleboda added.

Professor of History and Politics in Berlin Ronald Suni noted that Russia’s slow response will indeed provide room for international dialogue, which may help the situation.

Vladimir Putin and his advisors decided a few days ago that we’ve got to pull back, that we’ve got to slow things down. That all these people acting in their own interest, out of their own emotions and passions could lead to some very dangerous situations – civil war or international war,” Suni told RT.

“So, why not postpone the referendum, which of course the locals did not want to do, recognize the May 25 elections, which part of Ukraine probably won’t do, and pull troops back from the frontier, which Putin did. Even so, these actions have not led to a response, on both sides it would allow for some kind of international negotiation,” he added.

Mercouris also explained the referendum results are valid statement of opinion. “Yes, they were organized in great haste, in civil war, revolutionary conditions, but even people who are present, who are hostile to these referendums, from the Western media now accept that these are in fact representative of the powerful mass movement,” he said.

Sleboda stated that when examining Donetsk and Lugansk referendums, one must pay attention to three things. “One, the extremely large turnout, which is nearly impossible to deny. The overwhelming landslide victory – since the vote was essentially public with the glass ballot boxes and the Western journalists who served in place of international monitors, we could say, who clearly informally polled on the ground the strength of support for the independence vote.”

“And three, we have to remember that this did indeed happen under the barrel of a gun – but not the barrel of the gun of the self-defense forces, but under the barrel of the gun of this Kiev regime who was actually killing voters as they tried to vote against it on the referendum day,” he argued.

via Moscow in no rush to respond to Donetsk People’s Republic plea for accession — RT Op-Edge.

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