It has been a terrible year so far for the citizens of Ukraine, but it seems lately that the US-masterminded neo-Nazi Kiev government is finally beginning to falter and crumble. Last week, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks regarding the drafting of a new agreement to uphold and reinforce the Minsk agreement from September 2014 – an accord that brought about an official ceasefire and lull in hostilities that lasted until early January this year, when the Kiev coup forces unilaterally began a new offensive on the breakaway independent states of Novorossyia (Donetsk and Lugansk).
Here is a timeline of some of the major events from the last five weeks:
Monday, January 12th – Crisis talks in Berlin:
After the meeting in Berlin on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the political process to end the Ukraine crisis will only succeed if Kiev treats the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics as equal partners.
“It was stressed that the political process can be successful only when you start a direct dialogue, in this case between the representatives of the Ukrainian government and the proclaimed DPR and LPR, and they should feel fully involved in the political process as equal partners,” Lavrov said.
Following the meeting, the four ministers called on the contact group of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to try to make progress on implementing the Ukraine peace deal agreed in September, including creating the “relevant conditions for an effective ceasefire,” the joint statement reads.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that while the session was a“very open exchange,”it did not produce enough results for a meeting of the leaders of Russia, Germany, Ukraine, and France this week in Kazakhstan.
Tuesday, Jan 13th – Bus shelling in Donbass kills 12, injures 18.
Twelve people died and 13 more were injured as a bus was shelled in the eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. Denis Pushilin, Donetsk People’s Republic representative at Minsk talks, said the attack may have been staged by Kiev.
The incident took place near a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha on Tuesday, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the Donetsk region, Vyacheslav Ambroskin, said. He posted the information on his Facebook page.
Initially, 10 people were killed in the shelling. A woman reportedly died in hospital later in the day, according to the Donetsk regional administration which cited health officials. The regional administration also reported that 18 people had been injured. […]
The site of the shelling was“deep in Kiev-controlled territory”and the Donetsk militia could not have reached it, the spokesman for the DNR People’s Council, Andrey Purgin, told Donetsk media.
“We don’t have the capability to shell this checkpoint either from the side of Telmanovo or Elenovka. The Ukrainian side has to figure out what has happened deep in its territory. It’s very far from the contact line,” Purgin said.
Denis Pushilin also told RT that the shelling occurred near Volnovakha at a Ukrainian army checkpoint that is “out of the operational range of the artillery of our militia.”
“I don’t rule out the possibility that [the attack] could be the Ukrainian army’s provocation, to attempt to put the blame for what has happened on local militia,” Pushilin said. He added that according to his data the closest DNR artillery crew was stationed 50 kilometers from the site, which makes it technically impossible for the local militia to have shelled it.
Sunday, Jan 18th – The OSCE releases its report on the bus shelling.
The OSCE mission in Ukraine has found that the deadly shelling blamed for the killing of 12 bus passengers in Donbass came from a different direction than initially thought. Both Kiev forces and militia control territories in the northeastern direction.
On Tuesday, 12 people were killed and 18 others injured when a bus was attacked close to a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha, in the eastern Donetsk region. During its third fact-finding visit, the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE concluded that the attack was “caused by rockets fired from a north-north-eastern direction.”
The comprehensive examination of the accident site on Saturday focused on five craters caused by the explosions.
“The investigation included comprehensive crater analysis of two specific blast craters, including the crater located 10 meters from the side of the passenger bus. In the SMM’s assessment all craters examined were caused by rockets fired from a north-north-eastern direction,” OSCE reported.
Sunday, Jan 18th – Kiev regime orders massive artillery bombardment of the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian troops have launched a massive assault on militia-held areas Sunday morning after an order from Kiev, a presidential aide said. […]
The order to launch the offensive was issued early approximately at 6:00 am, according to Yury Biryukov, an aide to President Petro Poroshenko.
“Today we will show HOW good we are at jabbing in the teeth,” he wrote on his Facebook page, a mode of conveying information favored by many Ukrainian officials.
In a later post he said: “They are now striking a dot. Uuu…” in a reference to Tochka-U (‘tochka’ means ‘dot’ in Russian), a tactical ballistic missile, one of the most powerful weapons Ukraine so far deployed against rebel forces. […]
Reports from the ground confirmed a sharp escalation of clashes across the front line, with particularly heavy artillery fire reported at Gorlovka.
“Locals in Donetsk said they haven’t heard such intensive shelling since summer,” Valentin Motuzenko, a military official in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Interfax news agency.
“The Ukrainian military are using all kinds of weapons, Grad multiple rocket launchers, mortars…” Motuzenko said.
A source at the site told RT that a group of OSCE monitors have demanded that the Ukrainian military stop the shelling. The source added that there is a danger that the group may itself come under artillery fire.
Monday, Jan 19th – Moscow warns of potentially ‘irreversible consequences’ to Ukraine after Kiev offensive:
Kiev’s attempt to solve the Ukrainian crisis with military force is a blunder, which may affect the country’s territorial integrity, Russia’s foreign deputy minister said. On Sunday, Kiev renewed its assault in southeast Ukraine.
“It’s the biggest, even strategic mistake of the Ukrainian authorities to bank on a military solution to the crisis in Ukrainian society and to all of southeast Ukraine’s problems. This can lead to irreversible consequences for Ukrainian statehood,” Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Earlier, in a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged Kiev to take steps to pull its heavy weapons out of Eastern Ukraine, saying that their militia opponents had already signed a roadmap for it.
An arms pullout is a key point in the so-called Minsk agreement, a roadmap to deescalating the situation. However it was never fully implemented after the Russia and OSCE-brokered deal between the government in Kiev and their opponents was penned in September 2014.
“If Kiev truly prepared to pull back heavy weapons as would the militia do… this should lead to practical steps on the ground, especially considering that the leaders of [the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics] have already signed a roadmap for it,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.
The rebels did sign the roadmap, but a disagreement remains on where the disengagement line separating the warring parties should exactly be. On Sunday Moscow said it is trying to do what it can to make the militia commanders agree to the terms that the Ukrainian government is insisting on.
Tuesday, Jan 20th – New Ukraine military draft comes into effect, seeks to enslave 100,000 civilians as soldiers and cannon fodder.
The Ukrainian military draft for 2015 has come into effect. It’s expected to see 100,000 people joining the army in three stages throughout the year. The self-proclaimed Donetsk republic says the process is undermining peace agreements.
The first stage of the draft, starting on Tuesday, will last ninety days and will seek 50,000 recruits. Two more stages will follow in April and June.
The main aim of the mobilization is said to be replacement for those on the front line in eastern Ukraine, who were recruited last year.
Tuesday, Jan 20th – Obama gives State of the Union speech, blames Russia for Ukrainian crisis.
Wednesday, Jan 21st – Russian FM Lavrov criticises Obama speech, US:
Attempts at isolating Russia will not work, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference on the outcome of 2014.
“We hear from our Western partners that Russia has to be isolated,” Lavrov said. “Specifically, Barack Obama has just repeated that. These attempts won’t be effective. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia will never resort to self-isolation.”
The minister said Moscow is calling on Washington to resume cooperation that was thwarted last year. “Relations between Moscow and Washington significantly deteriorated in 2014. We call for resuming effective cooperation at a bilateral and international level. But dialogue is only possible if based on equality and respect for each other’s interests,” he said.
Cutting ties with NATO was not Russia’s choice, according to Lavrov.
“NATO followed the US in its drive for confrontation. NATO made an absolutely politicized decision to halt civil and military cooperation. Almost all projects have been frozen,” Lavrov said. Moscow “will not allow a new Cold War,” he added.Commenting on US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, Lavrov said it showed Washington wanted to dominate the world and required all the rest to acknowledge their superiority.
“Americans are absolutely non-critical in assessing their own steps, and yesterday’s speech by Obama shows that the core of their philosophy is: ‘we are number one’. And all the rest should accept that.”
Lavrov described US “aggressive” foreign policy as “outdated.”
Lavrov has denied allegations of a Russian military presence in southeastern Ukraine, calling on those who believe the opposite to prove their point. “I say it every time: if you are so sure in stating that, confirm it with facts. But no one can or wants to provide them,” he said.
Lavrov said he would try to negotiate an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine at talks in Berlin due to take place later in the day. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany and France are expected to be present.
He said it was now vital to withdraw heavy artillery from the line separating militia-held territories from those under Kiev’s control. The move would prevent civilian casualties. “Russia has already persuaded the self-defense fighters to withdraw heavy artillery,” he said. “Now the Ukrainian authorities should do their bit.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is, according to Lavrov, ready to discuss the peace plan offered by President Putin on January 15, despite earlier reports of its rejection.
“Judging by the reaction of President Poroshenko, we feel he’s ready to discuss it, but raises certain questions, some of those quite technical. They can all be agreed upon equitably.”
In response, Poroshenko says that Kiev is committed to adhering to the Minsk agreement. The Ukrainian president also says that his country wants to see an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine by “removing heavy artillery” and “starting a political process.”
Wednesday, Jan 21st – ‘Normandy Four’ agree on heavy-weapon withdrawals
Foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to strongly support the pullback of heavy artillery by both sides in the Ukrainian conflict, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said. The Normandy Four also urged the reactivation of talks.
“The most important decision adopted today…was strong support for immediately withdrawing heavy artillery from the line of contact, which has been established in the Minsk agreements,” Lavrov said.
Following talks that ended late on Wednesday near Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that progress has been made and an agreement had been reached on establishing security zones between the Kiev military and eastern Ukrainian militia.
Lavrov added that the ‘Normandy Four’ called for the activation of the contact group for further meetings in order to agree on a peaceful settlement for the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as proposing the creation of more working subgroups.
The contact group meetings are attended by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, former Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, and representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The minister stressed that direct dialogue between the Kiev government and the regions is the “key to resolving the Ukrainian crisis.” He added that parties involved will be able to begin a real peace process, only when the agreement to pull back heavy artillery is fulfilled by both sides.
Wednesday, Jan 21st – Bizarre case of a Russian mother indicted for high treason
Svetlana Davydova from western Russia has been detained on charges of high treason. A criminal case has been launched against the woman, who allegedly informed the Ukrainian embassy of the possibility of Russian troops being sent to Ukraine.
According to Davydova’s husband, Anatoly Gorlov, who lives with her in an apartment block in the town of Vyazma in Smolensk region, she noticed in April 2014 that a military unit of Russia’s Chief Intelligence Directorate, located near their house, had become quiet and presumably empty. She also allegedly overheard a phone conversation on public transport, with an unidentified man telling someone that he – together with other servicemen – were “being transferred in small groups to Moscow, strictly in plain clothes, and then are sent on a work trip somewhere further,” Gorlov told Kommersant newspaper.
Having presumed the man was from the military unit and that, together with other servicemen, he was being sent to Donetsk, Svetlana decided to share her assumptions with the Ukrainian embassy, her husband explained, adding that he didn’t initially know she had made such a call.
According to Gorlov, officers from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained the woman in her apartment on January 21. She was then transferred to Moscow and is being held at Lefortovo pre-trial detention center. Charges of high treason in Ukraine’s favor were brought against her, the court confirmed to Interfax news agency. If found guilty, she will face up to 20 years in prison.
According to Davydova’s lawyer, Andrey Stebenyov, the woman has admitted to contacting the Ukrainian embassy.
“She admits she called and said it, but does not admit she wanted to inflict harm on Russia,” Stebenyov said, as quoted by RIA Novosti. “She is not a lawyer, not military, but an ordinary housewife. She did not know it was such serious information.”
Wednesday, Jan 21st – Apple suspends all trade in/with Crimea
America’s Apple Inc. has halted all product sales in Crimea in order to comply with US sanctions banning economic activity with the region, which the US still recognizes as Ukraine, not Russia. The sales ban will go into effect on the first of February.
Though Apple doesn’t have any official stores in Crimea, nor any part of the Russian Federation, many products are sold through third party authorized dealers, the biggest being Apple Rus, a subsidiary that handles sales in Russia, and the Russian Republic of Crimea. The dealer can directly supply customers with American products, cutting out middle men.
In a letter penned Wednesday, Apple Rus notified business partners and representatives that all contracts would be terminated, in line with the latest round of US sanctions.
Thursday, Jan 22nd – 9 killed, up to 20 injured in rush hour shelling attack, ‘covert group’ arrested
At least nine people were killed and up to 20 injured in a shelling in Donetsk on Thursday morning. In the wake of the attack, conflicting reports emerged over the arrests of what local authorities call a ‘covert group.’
Residents of Donetsk’s Leninsky district heard shelling at about 08:30 local time, media report. Windows in the buildings near a tram stop were blown out. Locals say they believed their district to be “a quiet place” and were shocked by the “tragedy that happened when people were heading to work.”
A trolleybus was also hit, and eye-witnesses said there were victims inside, as well as bodies lying at the stop, local news outlets said. Conflicting reports, citing medical sources, indicate there may have been up to 13 deaths.
“A covert group has been operating, they have been arrested now. No more comments,” the defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Vladimir Kononov told Gazeta.Ru newspaper.
The authorities of the self-proclaimed republic also say the shelling was carried with mortars, RIA-Novosti reported.
“Our officers were at the scene, according to the preliminary information, the shelling was conducted with mortars from one of the nearby districts. It appears that two bombs fell on the stop,” said a spokesperson for the DPR Security Ministry.
“The self-defense forces shortly thereafter arrested a covert group of Ukrainian security forces not far from the scene, at the moment it is being verified whether they were involved in the shelling,” the spokesperson added.
The deputy speaker of the DPR parliament, Denis Pushilin, told RIA-Novosti that the investigation is ongoing and that “the shelling was supposedly conducted from a minibus or a dustbin lorry.”
Dead bodies in NATO uniforms and a great number of US-made weapons have been recovered from under the debris of the Donetsk airport, Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the defense ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said on Thursday.
“While examining the building of the Donetsk airport, we found a great number of American firearms, assault rifles and hand mortars, equipment and communications devices,” he said. “We also found publications in European languages, including on religious matters.”
Apart from that, “we found dead bodies in NATO uniforms under the debris in the new terminal. Personal belongings indicated that these people were foreign citizens contracted by private military companies who operated under the disguise of Ukrainian subversive groups,” he said.
Friday, Jan 23rd – US announces military instructors will train Ukrainian troops
US soldiers are to be deployed to Western Ukraine to train the country’s National Guard, said the commander of the US Army in Europe during a news conference in Kiev. The US also intends to sponsor the production of Ukrainian light armored vehicles.
The exact number of American troops heading to Ukraine is still to be determined, said Lieut. Gen. Ben Hodges on Wednesday.
The instructors will be working at the 40,000 square kilometer Yavoriv Training site close to the Polish-Ukrainian border. This is the largest military firing range in Europe near the western Ukrainian city of Lvov.
Friday, Jan 23rd – UN estimates casualties in Ukraine have exceeded 5000 since April 2014
More than 5,000 people have died since April as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, according to the UN. The news came hours after the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said he reject a truce with Kiev and will continue to fight.
The United Nations human rights office made the announcement on Friday saying that 262 people had died in the last nine days alone. This, they noted, is the “most deadly period” since the Minsk agreement in September, which should have paved the way towards a ceasefire.
“The significant escalation in hostilities has taken the toll to 5,086 individuals and we fear the real figure may be considerably higher,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency also hit out at the Ukrainian government, with the Geneva based organization saying that government security regulations were making it difficult to deliver aid to those affected in the east of the country and it is making it more difficult for those who have been displaced.
Meanwhile, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, says his anti-government forces aren’t interested in a truce with Kiev and will instead try to push Ukrainian forces back to the borders of the Donetsk region. While talks with Kiev have been ruled out for the moment, Zakharchenko said discussions would continue concerning prisoner exchanges.“There won’t be a ceasefire. There will only be exchanges of prisoners. Our fighters need to return home,” he said on Friday, as reported by TASS.
Sunday, Jan 25th – Kiev boosts military forces in Eastern Ukraine
Kiev “sees no alternative” to the Minsk ceasefire accords, President Petro Poroshenko said. However, the Ukrainian military is building up troops in the east to conduct “an adequate response” to the militia advancement, the Defense Ministry stated.
The violence in eastern Ukraine escalated recently with the ceasefire deal penned in Minsk last year finally shattering. Ukraine last week attempted to launch a massive offensive operation against militia positions, but it ended in failure. Their opponents have since pressed forward and gained ground, advancing in the direction of the port city of Mariupol in the south of the Donetsk region.
Amid an apparent setback for the Ukrainian military, President Petro Poroshenko called for sticking to the Minsk accord.
“The Minsk agreement is a priority for us, we don’t see any alternative to it. We will not allow it to be undermined. Everything relies on it. Now we must implement it comprehensively and accurately,” the Ukrainian president said.
Sunday, Jan 25th – Western mercenaries in Donestk caught on camera?
Armed people in uniform speaking fluent English with no accent have been spotted in Mariupol in the aftermath of the rocket hit, fuelling allegations that foreign private military contractors are serving among Ukrainian troops.
The port city in eastern Ukraine, under Kiev’s control, saw a surge of violence on Saturday, when several rockets hit a residential area in the east of the city, reportedly killing 30 civilians. Numerous videos from the scene showed destruction in the aftermath of the attack, for which local militia and Ukrainian troops blamed each other.
But among footage shot in Mariupol, there are some videos showing armed men in military uniform, who speak English fluently.
One video uploaded on YouTube is apparently raw footage of a local news channel MSN (Mariupol News Service). One episode shows a man passing resolutely by the camera.
The man holds a carbine in his hand and is wearing a tactical vest. As the correspondent points her microphone with a request to comment, the man covers his face with the other hand and says in an American or Canadian accent, “Outta my face, outta my face!”
The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says.
“We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin.
He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg.
According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”
Kiev has been reluctant to find political solutions to the crisis in eastern Ukraine and only used the ceasefire to regroup its forces, the president stressed.
“Unfortunately official Kiev authorities refuse to follow the path of a peaceful solution. They don’t want to resolve [the crisis] using political tools,” Putin said, adding that first Kiev authorities had first used law enforcement, then security services and then the army in the region.
“It is essentially a civil war [in Ukraine]. In my view, many in Ukraine already understand this,” Putin added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reacted to President Putin’s words, calling his statement “nonsense.”
“The statement that there is a NATO legion in Ukraine is nonsense. There is no NATO legion,” Stoltenberg told reporters. […]
Western countries reiterated accusations of Russia backing the rebel forces, and so being partly responsible for violations of the Minsk agreement. They called for more sanctions against Moscow.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama promised the United States would examine options to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia” on the Ukraine issue.
At the same time, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Washington has “more tools” available to increase pressure on Russia.
“I think we have seen that the sanctions work to create real stress in the economy. We have more tools. I am not today going to enumerate what the tools are but we have more tools,” Lew told a news conference in Brussels.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski also called on the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Moscow, saying: “The response of the Western world should be very firm.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also hinted at further restrictions, adding that “an attack or a broad offensive on Mariupol would be a qualitative change in the situation to which we would have to react.”
Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called fresh threats of anti-Russian sanctions “an absolutely destructive and unjustified course that would eventually prove to be shortsighted.”
“Instead of stepping up the pressure on those who refuse to start a dialogue and to solve the conflict in a peaceful way, we hear they want to resume this economic blackmail against Russia,” Peskov noted in his statement.
Monday, Jan 26th – FBI charges 3 men with spying for Russia
Federal prosecutors in the United States have announced charges against three Russian men who allegedly operated an international spy ring based out of New York City.
US attorneys said Monday that Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy have been charged “in connection with Buryakov’s service as a covert intelligence agent on behalf of the Russian Federation.” Buryakov unlawfully acted as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, the federal complaint alleges, and his co-defendants are charged with conspiracy thereof.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation says that their investigation into the three co-defendants began shortly after ten alleged Russian spies, including Anna Chapman, were arrested in 2010 following a multi-year investigation. “Within a few months” of the Russians’ subsequent guilty pleas, according to this week’s statement, the FBI began investigating Buryakov, Sporyshev and Podobnyy.
Tuesday, Jan 27th – Reports of Ukrainian Army using ‘barrier troops’ to prevent soldiers retreating
The Ukrainian military employed barrier troops who fired at their fellow servicemen in order to prevent their retreat during a night battle in the country’s southeast, the Defense Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said.
“Ukrainian troops are demoralized, which is proven by an unprecedented incident that occurred last night,” DPR Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said, as quoted by Donetsk News Agency.
An injured Ukrainian soldier who surrendered to the militias said during questioning that “anti-retreat units from territorial defense battalions were used against the Ukrainian troops,” Basurin said.
According to the spokesman, 70 Ukrainian troops have surrendered to the rebels since January 9, with 11 of them capitulating in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry decided to accelerate the graduation of students from the country’s military schools and universities in order to deploy them to the conflict zone in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, TASS reported.
“It is done to make up for the huge combat losses of officers” in the fighting in the southeast and the mass evasion of mobilization by reserve officers of the Ukrainian army, representative parent associations of Ukrainian military schools said.
According to the parents, the Defense Ministry plans to send over 2,000 under-educated lieutenants to the war-torn southeast.
Tuesday, Jan 27th – EU announces 1.8 billion Euro loan for Ukrainian regime
European Union finance ministers have agreed to loan Ukraine €1.8 billon to stave off a default. Some governments pressed for €2.6 billion in medium-term loans for 2015 and 2016.
“The European Commission put €1.8 billion on the table. Some wanted us to do more,” French Finance Minister, Michel Sapin, told reporters Tuesday. “What is urgent today is to start implementing this package … because Ukraine needs it so the government will not be faced with an unbearable situation.”
In an interview for the French newspaper Le Monde on Monday, the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde said the fund would provide financial assistance to Ukraine only when the situation in the country is stabilized. According to Lagarde, when the IMF gave financial support in the spring of 2014, experts expected the conflict on the East of the country to end by the winter.
Also Tuesday, State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin, currently on a visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), laid flowers at the memorial stone to Holocaust victims located near PACE headquarters. After the ceremony, Russia’s top parliamentary official said that he was “unpleasantly shocked” by the fact that the President of the PACE, Anne Brasseur, had failed to mention the fact that it was the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz in 1945. “The head of the CE’s Parliamentary Assembly could not find two seconds to say that Auschwitz and its inmates were liberated by Red Army units. It sounded as if Auschwitz was liberated by some unknown force and as if the Nazism vanished all by itself,” Interfax news agency quoted Naryshkin as saying.
He also thanked Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jaglandfor correcting this mistake in his speech near the memorial stone in Strasbourg.
Wednesday, Jan 28th – Ukraine government launches legal attacks on Russian oil companies
Ukraine has launched a series of assaults against Russian oil companies, from physical damage of property to court proceedings with accusations of ‘financing terrorism’, claims Moscow has dismissed as groundless.
“Ukraine’s actions can be totally interpreted as an implementation of somebody’s political order. Treatment of Russian companies in Ukraine has significantly changed after a political coup took place there,” Valery Nesterov, oil and gas analyst at Sberbank-CIB, told RT.
Lukoil, Rosneft, Transneft, and Tatneft all face political pressure from Kiev, which Moscow says it will counter with financial support, if needed.
“The government will provide the necessary support for Russian energy companies in Ukraine, where they face problems,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.
On January 16, Ukraine’s secret service, the SBU, opened a criminal case against Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil company, accusing it of financing terrorists in the eastern region of Donbass. The SBU claimed $2 billion in funds were being sent via Lukoil and VETEK between 2013 and 2014 to the breakaway regions in Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia has denied the allegations.
“The accusations against Russian companies, namely the latest legal action against Lukoil look politically motivated,” Sergey Pigarev, a financial analyst from Rye, Man & Gor, wrote RT in an e-mail.
“Lukoil is one of the world’s leading oil and gas companies with an ideal reputation, perfect management and business all around the world; this is why we can hardly imagine that Lukoil could be meddled in financing terrorism. This accusation looks very strange,” Pigarev added.
The anti-government activists claim they have hacked personal computer of Ukraine’s Judge Advocate General and copied a number of classified documents. These documents are allegedly exposing some dark secrets of Kiev’s authorities regarding the real state of things in the zone of the so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions of the country.
The price of the warfare resumed by President Petro Poroshhenko in the east is terrifying. The hacked documents claim at least 1,100 servicemen of the Ukrainian army have lost their lives over the period of the last two weeks. Many dozens Ukrainian soldiers gave up to rebel forces. Ukrainian army has lost over 100 tanks and the armored vehicles.
This information comes into collision with the latest reports by Kiev generals about “no losses”, “defeated enemy” and “thousands of eliminated terrorists”.
The explanation to this is simple: according to the documents allegedly hacked, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has officially forbidden the Defense Ministry to reveal true casualties among servicemen.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has decided not to restore Russia’s voting rights until April. Moscow was first stripped of its rights in PACE after Crimea joined Russia last year.
In turn, Aleksey Pushkov, the chief of Russia’s PACE delegation and chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “We are exiting PACE until the end of the year.”
“As PACE stripped Russia of the right to vote in its governing bodies, we can no longer speak of any contacts with the organization,” he explained.
PACE also backed an amendment that called on Russia to free Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko in 24 hours or turn her over to a third party. Savchenko was detained in July and is in Russian custody. She is suspected of involvement in the murder of two VGTRK news network journalists in eastern Ukraine in June.
However, the assembly declined the amendment to the resolution which declared the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics in eastern Ukraine “terrorist organizations.”
Following the assembly’s vote, Pushkov said that Russia retracts its earlier suggestion on PACE visiting Savchenko in custody. In turn, PACE’s monitoring missions in Russia will also have to suspend their work, he added.
The UK Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador on Thursday afternoon to lodge a complaint about the flight of Russian military jets over the English Channel, which authorities claim posed a danger to passenger aircraft.
On Wednesday the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed a number of Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled in an attempt to intercept the Tupolev 95 ‘Bear’ Aircraft which were flying along the south coast.
An MoD spokesperson said “the Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.”
The FCO, however, said that while they were never in the UK’s airspace, their patrol posed a threat to civil aviation.
“While the Russian planes did not enter sovereign UK airspace and were escorted by RAF Typhoons throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest, the Russian planes caused disruption to civil aviation. That is why we summoned the Russian ambassador to account for the incident,” a spokeswoman said.
Authorities did not specify, however, what the threats to civil aviation were.
wo Russian journalists working for Life News TV channel have been detained in Kiev by Ukraine’s Security Service, which says the crew will be expelled from the country and denied entry for five years.
The news of the journalists’ detention was first tweeted by Director General of NewsMedia group Aram Gabrelyanov.
“Life News journalists have been detained in Kiev by SBU [Ukraine’s Security Service],” he posted. “They’ve been taken away in an unknown direction. They claim they are investigating some subway bomb planting.”
The detention was later confirmed by the SBU’s senior adviser, Markian Lubkovsky. “I’d like to confirm that SBU in Kiev detained two citizens of the Russian Federation, Life News journalists,” he wrote on Facebook, adding that the journalists will “in the near future be expelled” from Ukraine and denied entry for five years. […]
The two women were getting into a taxi to go to film an interview, when two other people got into the same vehicle and showed their SBU IDs.
Khramtsova and Kalysheva were apparently told they were being taken for questioning over a phone call warning of a bomb planted at Leo Tolstoy Square in central Kiev. That’s where the two had been waiting for their taxi.
“They asked us to be witnesses,” Khramtsova said by phone. “We said we did not see anything, but they said we needed to go to the main SBU building to answer a few questions. They promised to show us a video recording with us, which proved we could see something.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has demanded in a statement Friday that Ukraine release the LifeNews reporters detained in Kiev immediately and stop “intimidating the media.” The ministry added that there has been no contact with the reporters since their detention and their whereabouts are not currently known.
Moscow “expects a corresponding reaction from related international organizations and first of all from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) representative on media freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, to another unlawful incident when Kiev authorities are trying to protect Ukraine’s information space from unbiased views of what is happening in the country,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“Kiev is trying to avenge its military setbacks [in Donbass] using journalists,” said LifeNews editor-in-chief Anatoly Suleymanov. In Kiev, Russian journalists are seen as “enemies,” he said, adding that “you always have to watch your back.”
The Ukraine army’s chief of staff has admitted that Kiev troops are not engaged in combat with Russian units, thereby thwarting all Western allegations of Moscow’s “military invasion,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
“Yesterday afternoon the Chief of the General Staff – Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – Viktor Muzhenko officially acknowledged during a briefing for foreign military attachées that Russian troops are not involved in the fighting in the country’s southeast,” Konashenkov said on Friday.
Given the fact that Muzhenko directly supervises military operations in the southeast, “his statement is a legal fact, which thwarts numerous accusations made by NATO and Western states” concerning Russia’s alleged “military invasion” in Ukraine, the spokesman added.
he Russian Defense Ministry, however, was puzzled by a statement from Muzhenko’s subordinate, Sergey Galushko, made several hours later. According to Galushko – an employee of the Department of Information Technology – Russian troops are located in the so-called “second echelon.”
On Thursday, Muzhenko said “the Ukrainian army is not engaged in combat operations against Russian units.” He added, however, that he had information about Russian individuals fighting in the country’s east. He also said the Ukrainian army has everything it needs to drive off armed units in Donbass. His speech was aired by Ukraine’s Channel 5 television, owned by President Petro Poroshenko.
Commenting on Muzhenko’s statement, Galushko said that reporters were only allowed at the open part of the meeting. He said that later, during the closed part, the chief of general staff said that Russian units are “in the second tier.”
Muzhenko himself did not elaborate on the initial statement.
Some 8,000 Ukrainian troops are believed to be surrounded near the village of Debaltsevo in Donbass, as militia units cut off the only road linking the pocket to Kiev-held territory. The servicemen have been offered the chance to surrender.
The forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR) have stormed and captured the town of Uglegorsk, a stronghold of the Ukrainian army in the east of the country used for communication and supply. It is about 10 kilometers from Debaltsevo.
Ukrainian MP and commander of the Donbass volunteer battalion Semyon Semenchenko, says on his Facebook page that Uglegorsk has been abandoned by Ukrainian forces. Semenchenko claimed that the rebels attacked his unit from the rear.
Donetsk People’s Republic head Aleksandr Zakharchenko says Uglegorsk was captured in a violent “dawn-to-dusk operation” and offered enemy troops to surrender, promising to spare their lives.
“Guys, my proposal is to lay down arms and surrender. You’re fighting the wrong people. You have the only chance to save your lives. Surrender and you will live. I promise that all of you will return home afterwards,” Zakharchenko said.
Following the offer, 11 Ukrainian soldiers have already “crossed the DPR’s border” and surrendered to the rebel forces. “Their lives are not in danger,” DPR Defense Ministry spokesperson Eduard Basurin said.
NATO is expected to station additional soldiers in six member states in Eastern Europe as part of its new anti-Russian strategy. The units would be small, but involved in possible deployment of the alliance’s future ‘rapid response’ force.
The additional NATO troops would be posted to the three Baltic states, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
Each unit would consist of 40 to 50 troops comprised in roughly equal parts of soldiers from the host nation and those from other NATO members Reuters reported, citing an alliance diplomat.
The units would be involved in organizing NATO exercises in corresponding countries. They will also perform command and control functions for the future European NATO force, which is to be created over the year. The force, according to the alliance, would respond to a crisis situation within two days, with the assumption that it would counter an attack from Russia.
“It is completely within all our international obligations and what we are doing is defensive and it is proportionate,” Stoltenberg said, explaining why Moscow shouldn’t see the deployment as provocative.
The force is expected to be officially presented after defense ministers form the 28-member military bloc been on Thursday next week. The ministers would decide on which countries would provide the several thousand troops for the force.
Saturday, Jan 31st – Ukraine’s paramilitary (aka right-wing neo-Nazi thug) Aidar battalion demonstrates against ‘lack of support’ from the ‘official’ Kiev government
Fighters of the notorious paramilitary battalion Aidar have rallied in Kiev against their disbandment, attempting to storm the Ukraine Defense Ministry’s HQ and accusing the regular army of deliberately shelling Aidar’s own positions with heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s most infamous volunteer squad, the Aidar battalion – condemned by Amnesty International for its unmatched brutality in eastern Ukraine – allegedly came under Grad and Smerch rocket fire by the regular military near the town of Schastya in Lugansk region.
“[Ukrainian] artillery is working against Aidar battalion’s positions,” said Aidar commander and MP representing Ukraine’s Radical Party, Sergey Melnichuk, during a protest outside the Defense Ministry’s building in Kiev. Citing his own fighter, Melnichuk claimed that Kiev’s artillery targeted the battalion’s positions “15-20 times.”
Melnichuk and his fighters called the rally outside the country’s military headquarters on Friday, after the volunteer battalion was disbanded – or “rebranded” – according to the Defense Ministry.
“The battalion was disbanded three days ago. It does not exist according to documents. The Minister of Defense and the Head of the General Staff say that they have not signed such an order. However, documents confirming that such a unit does not exist as well as the seal of a new unit have already been delivered to the frontline,” Melnichuk told Apostrophe publication.
Saturday, Jan 31st – Talks in Minsk, Belarus result in no progress
All of the participants of the contact group on the Ukraine crisis – OSCE representatives, Kiev, Moscow, and the Donbass region – have met in Minsk. No new agreements have been reached, with the meeting ending in a blame game between Kiev and the rebels.
Saturday, Jan 31st – Ukrainian military spokesman admits draft evasion is a huge problem for them
The most recent military draft in Ukraine has been described as “problematic” by Kiev’s army spokesman. The recruitment effort, coming amid ever more intense fighting in the country’s east, sees a lack of enthusiasm on the part of potential soldiers.
“The fourth wave of mobilization is problematic,” Ukraine army spokesman, Vladimir Talalay acknowledged on Saturday, according to Tass. “The biggest difficulties are seen in Sumy, Kharkov, Cherkassy, Ternopol, Zakarpatye and other regions.”
The comment comes as Ukraine’s Joint Staff reported of the first stage of the draft – sending out conscription notices – being over. The military warn of blacklisting deserters and passing on the information to police.
A little less than 7,500 Ukrainians are already facing criminal charges for evading military service, the country’s Defence Ministry announced on Saturday.
The Ukrainian president’s adviser, Yury Biryukov, was more specific earlier this week. He did cite preliminary draft statistics, showing evasion was primarily a problem in western Ukraine, traditionally a major source of anti-Russian sentiment.
According to Biryukov’s figures, 57 percent of Ivano-Frankovsk potential conscripts would not show up at enlistment offices, while 37 percent fled Ukraine.
He mentioned that local authorities in the Ternopol region were sabotaging the draft, refusing to help distribute notices.
Nineteen percent of Volynskaya region men, bound to military service, cited religious motives for not joining the army. Previously not more than 0.7 percent would use this pretext.
Sunday, February 1st – Greek government urges EU to think of long-term relations with Russia
The EU should consider long-term relations with Moscow, instead of making feverish anti-Russian moves, new Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said, adding that his country does not want to give up its historic ties with Moscow.
“Greece is interested in stabilization and peace in Ukraine, as well as avoiding a split in the relations between the EU and Russia,” Kotzias told Athens News Agency, explaining Greece’s stance at the emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday.
He said he urged the European Union to “finally consider what it wants to do with Russia on a long-term basis…instead of reacting [to the Ukrainian crisis] in a morally direct, correct, but feverish fashion.”
The debate in the Belgian capital was a tough one, the minister stressed, as it was crucial for Athens “to avoid confusion in relations in the non-economic sphere with the Europeans and not to disturb Europe’s and Greece’s relations with Russia.”
“Those of our partners, who don’t want a serious breakup with Russia, looked at us with great sympathy, and some even hid behind our backs during the negotiations. The others, who strongly oppose dialogue and relations with Russia, treated us critically and distanced themselves from us. It was a difficult negotiation,” he said.
Anti-Kiev hacking group CyberBerkut has released legal documents allegedly obtained from the office of Ukrainian far-right politician and warlord Dmitry Yarosh, which it claims implicate him in a host of economic crimes.
“We are publishing documents that expose the criminal activities of the head of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, which confirm multiple incidences of extortion – the illegal and cynical seizure of properties and businesses belonging to Ukrainian citizens by Yarosh and his associates. The stolen money is then taken out of the country through fronts and deposited in offshore accounts,” reads an unsigned document that accompanies a series of document scans on the CyberBerkut website.
Sunday, Feb 1st – Severe shelling in Debaltsevo region of Ukraine as fighting continues
Shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk is continuing practically non-stop with shells landing in civilian areas after mediators’ talks failed Saturday. Militia and Kiev forces are fighting for the strategically key area of Debaltsevo.
Officials of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said at least three civilians have been killed by Ukrainian artillery fire targeting residential areas overnight.
“Overnight, the Ukrainian troops fired about 30 barrages at DPR cities. The night shelling injured 14 civilians” in two of the city’s neighborhoods, reported Eduard Basurin, deputy defense minister in the DPR.
Four more people have been killed on Sunday, the militia said, while the total number of injured over the past 24 hours is being counted at over 20. They blamed Ukrainian units holding two villages northwest of the city and several infiltration groups for the violence.
“They drive the streets in common freight mini-vans or garbage trucks and fire mortars they have inside at civilian and military targets, mostly to spread panic,” a militia official told RIA Novosti.
Monday, Feb 2nd – The US announces they are considering supplying weapons to Ukraine
The Obama administration, so far withholding any lethal assistance to Ukraine, may reconsider its position and send “defensive” weapons to Kiev forces, The New York Times reports, citing Gen. Philip M. Breedlove as one of the advocates of the move.
Breedlove, NATO’s military commander, is now reportedly leading the crusade to provide lethal military assistance to Kiev to battle the anti-government forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics after failed talks in Minsk this weekend.
“General Breedlove has repeatedly stated that he supports the pursuit of a diplomatic solution as well as considering practical means of support to the government of Ukraine in its struggle against Russian-backed separatists,” the spokesman, Capt. Gregory L. Hicks of the Navy, told the NYT.
Interviewing a number of decision makers that chose to remain anonymous until or if any policy shift on lethal aid to Ukraine is announced, the publication reports that Secretary of State John Kerry and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, are now “open for discussions.”
One official said that Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, is also now prepared to hear arguments for helping Kiev battle the self-proclaimed republics. If true, this would signal a paradigm shift in the White House’s approach to the issue, which has so far been reluctant to escalate the crisis further than it already has.
“Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
Another Pentagon official told the publication that General Dempsey and Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now also believe that providing “defensive weapons” to Ukraine should be considered.
“A comprehensive approach is warranted, and we agree that defensive equipment and weapons should be part of that discussion,” the Pentagon official said.
The US State Department said that “no decision” had been made about, whether to provide lethal aid, but assured that it was “constantly assessing” the situation.
Tuesday, Feb 3rd – Right-wing protesters try to break into the Ukrainan Presidential offices
Several hundred protesters have reportedly tried to break into the Ukrainian president’s administrational office in the country’s capital Kiev, but were repelled by security forces guarding the building. The stand-off grew into clashes in the street.
The demonstrators, who demand access to the administration’s conference room in order to make a TV statement, are still clashing with the National Guard, TASS reports.
Earlier, protesters managed to break through the first cordon of security forces, but were prevented from entering the building.
The rioters’ demands include the introduction of martial law in Ukraine over the fighting with the rebels in the southeast of the country. They also insisted on the resignation of the heads of all Ukrainian security agencies – from defense minister to prosecutor general – due to their incompetence.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has, however, denied there were any attempts to storm the president’s HQ.
“There was no storming. There’s also nobody being detained and no one was injured during the action,” a ministry spokesman said.
Tuesday’s protest in Kiev was called by the All-Ukrainian Battalion Brotherhood, a fresh group that includes formers volunteer fighters, who went to eastern Ukraine, as well as Maidan activists.
The Ukrainian capital has already seen several protests by volunteer troops, who returned from Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk and Lugansk regions, after the government disbanded the Aidar volunteer battalion last week. On Sunday and Monday, Aidar fighters staged a protest and burnt tires outside the Defense Ministry.
Wednesday, Feb 4th – S&P cuts ratings of Russia’s biggest banks and state rail service to junk
International ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the long-term foreign currency ratings of Russian Railways, Gazprom, VTB and Russia’s other big companies and banks to the level of being right under the non-investment line. […]
On Wednesday, the head of Dagong, one of China’s biggest debt-rating companies, called the downgrade of Russia’s credit rating by US-based Standard & Poor’s a “politically motivated” decision.
“We believe that the downgrades of Russia’s rating by the Big Three rating agencies [Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Fitch and Moody’s] … are politically motivated,” Guan Jianzhong, president of Dagong rating agency said in an interview with TASS.
Thursday, Feb 5th – Hospital in Donetsk damaged by shelling
A hospital in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine was hit by artillery shelling, local authorities said. One person has been confirmed killed, with initial reports of over 15 feared dead.
“There are multiple casualties at the hospital. A preliminary count says more than 15 people were killed,” local emergency services told Interfax.
The Ukrainian prosecutor’s website says from four to 10 people were killed in the shelling and blames the rebels.
The midday barrage also damaged a residential building nearby and a high-voltage power line, the city council said. The entire neighborhood is without power.
Top EU officials, rather than Russia, threatened Ukraine with a coup d’état if Kiev refused to sign an association agreement in 2013, Nikolay Azarov, Ukraine’s former prime minister, said.
“I’ve never heard neither Putin nor Medvedev saying that if you sign an agreement with the EU, you’ll have a different government. But I’ve heard [EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Stefan] Fule, repeatedly saying that if you don’t sign then the other government will sign it,” Azarov said at the presentation of his book ‘Ukraine at a crossroads. Prime Minister’s notes’ in Moscow.
The decision to delay the signing of the association agreement by then-Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, led to Euromaidan protests in the capital, Kiev, which turned violent and resulted in a regime change in February 2014.
According to Azarov, it was Washington which masterminded the plan to ouster Yanukovich and his government.
Thursday, Feb 5th – Ukrainian parliament passes law allowing military deserters to be shot
Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law which authorizes commanding officers to use physical force against army defectors. It comes as the latest military draft has seen a lack of enthusiasm on the part of potential soldiers.
Ukraine’s parliament voted on Thursday with 260 MPs in favor – only 226 votes were needed to pass the law. The new article 22(1) added to the charter regulating service in the armed forces of Ukraine states that commanders “have the right to personally use physical force, special means, and weapons when in combat” against soldiers who commit “criminal acts.”
Under criminal acts the law lists “disobedience, resistance or threat to use force against the commander, voluntary abandonment of military positions and certain locations of military units in areas of combat missions.”
Thursday, Feb 5th – NATO announces further military build-up in Eastern Europe
The NATO Response Force in Europe might increase to 30,000 troops, more than double the current 13,000, said the alliance’s secretary general after a defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels. Most of the troops are set to be stationed near Russia’s borders.
NATO’s rapid deployment forces will consist of a 5,000-strong brigade, sea and air-based elements and special task troops, said NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenber after meeting with the alliance’s 28 defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday.
Before the meeting he noted that he expected the ministers to “agree on several important elements of a package that increases our collective defense.”
The UK has already announced plans to deploy 1,000 troops and four multirole Typhoon fighter jets to join the Response Force in Eastern Europe.
The spearhead of that force will be 5,000 servicemen, distributed among six compact command centers in Eastern Europe, with about only 50 officers in each.
“It is a response to what we have seen from Russia over a period of time and it is in full accordance with our international obligations,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.These six Rapid Deployment Force units to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are expected to be capable of rapidly reinforcing the region” in response to any threat from Russia,” Reuters reports.
“In Ukraine, violence is getting worse and the crisis is deepening. Russia continues to disregard international rules and to support the separatists,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters before the meeting.
When necessary, this force could be deployed in two days. The remaining 25,000 will be operational within a week.
Thursday, Feb 5th – U.S. Secretary of State blames Russia for escalation of violence in Ukraine
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Ukraine to discuss Kiev’s plea for weapons, laid all of the blame for the conflict’s escalation on Russia, and disregarded Kiev’s intensified assault on rebel-held areas.
On Thursday, the White House admitted that possible military assistance from the US to Ukraine could increase bloodshed in the region. Earlier in the day, Kerry said Washington preferred a diplomatic solution to the conflict and argued “Russian aggression” was the greatest threat to Ukraine.
Following his meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kerry told journalists it was impossible to ignore “tanks crossing the border from Russia” and “Russian fighters in unmarked uniforms crossing the border, and leading individual companies of so-called separatists in battle.“
Russia has long rejected allegations of its troops being engaged in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
“I say it every time: if you are so sure in stating that, confirm it with facts. But no one can or wants to provide them,” Russian Foreign Minister said in January.
NATO weapons deliveries to Ukraine are unacceptable and could lead to dangerous and unpredictable consequences, says Moscow’s NATO envoy. He also urges the OSCE to look into the use and origin of Western arms already supplied to the country.
Moscow is warning Washington against sending arms to war-torn Ukraine, including military hardware being pulled out of Afghanistan, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, said on Thursday.
“They are telling us in NATO that they aren’t supplying anything, that lethal weapons are not supplied [to Ukraine] … that NATO has no [standard] arms and all weapons are national and there are no NATO systems as such. In reality this is not true,” he said.
The hryvnia lost 34 percent against the US dollar after the head of the central bank signaled it can no longer support the currency with regular interventions and will allow greater fluctuations. The hyrvnia hit a historic low of 24.5 per 1 USD.
“Get used to market volatility,” National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) Governor Valery Gontareva told reporters in Kiev on Thursday.
With foreign exchange reserves at only $7.5 billion, the central bank “is changing its approach to monetary policy, while strengthening its rigidity,” according to a statement published Thursday.
After the policy shift announcement, Ukraine’s hryvnia fell to 24.5 against the dollar and 28.092 against the euro.
The bank also announced an unexpected interest rate hike to 19.5 percent from 14 percent, in a move to try and mend the worsening economic situation.
Foreign exchange reserves are at a ten-year low of $7.5 billion, down more than 60 percent since last year. In December reserves stood at about $10 billion.
“It’s more about economic failings and the war situation at this stage. Interest rates won’t make any difference just as they are not in Russia,” Simon Quijano Evans head of emerging markets research at Commerzbank in London, told Reuters.
Friday, Feb 6th – IMF wary of providing Ukraine with extra bailout funds
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $17 billion to Ukraine, which was almost two-thirds of the $27 billion given to Kiev from backers that included the United States and the European Union. However, with Ukraine now in need of new loans in the region of $15 billion, the monetary board doesn’t want to provide more than two-thirds of any new loans and is circumspect due to the lack of any economic growth in the country.
“Ukraine from the beginning has been a political issue, not an economic issue,” said Andrea Montanino, who was formerly Italy’s representative to the IMF, as reported by Bloomberg.
The IMF arrived in Ukraine in January for talks on providing Kiev with extra funds. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde on January 26, the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde said the fund would provide financial assistance to Ukraine only when the situation in the country is stabilized.
According to Lagarde, when the IMF gave financial support in the spring of 2014, experts expected the unrest in the East of the country to end by the winter. This has not proven to be the case, with the conflict still raging in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.
Neither Kiev nor the IMF has said how much Ukraine has requested, however Montanino says he believes the fund will provide between $5 billion and $6 billion. With new loans in the region of $15 billion needed, this would put pressure on the US, the EU and other institutions such as the World Bank to come up with the remaining $9 billion to $10 billion.
A nine-page peace plan proposed by Putin in mid-January could be the basis for the initiative the French and German leaders are coming to Moscow with, Western media reports.
Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande reworked Putin’s peace plan having taken out suggestions the EU and Ukraine were most opposed to, Western diplomatic sources told AP.
The new text is said to contain the promise of more autonomy for the rebel-held eastern Ukraine areas, and more protection for the Russian language and culture.
Apart from more powers, the breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions could be offered extra territory, taking into account the land gains of 1,500 square kilometers (around 600 square miles) the rebels have made since the last peace agreement struck in Minsk in September, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, claiming knowledge of the plan’s details.
German officials have, however, denied reports of offers of territorial concessions being part of the peace talks agenda.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Friday that supplying weapons to Ukraine, an option under consideration in Washington, would escalate the ongoing conflict.
In an interview during the Munich Security Conference, Fallon told Reuters he fully supported a new effort by the leaders of Germany and France to try to halt the Ukraine conflict.
However, the Defence Secretary said territory taken by rebels since the Minsk agreement in September should “absolutely not” be recognized in any new ceasefire.
A ceasefire starting from 9 am local time (0600 GMT) on February 6 has been suggested by the Donetsk militia, in order to provide a corridor so that civilians in Debaltsevo can leave the conflict area. Kiev has reportedly agreed to hold fire.
The proposal for the local ceasefire was initiated by the militia, the Donetsk defense ministry representative Eduard Basurin announced on Thursday. The corridor should give people caught in the fighting in and around the town of Debaltsevo the chance to flee the area, Basurin said.
Kiev’s military officials have confirmed their agreement to the ceasefire, according to Basurin.
Russian journalists from the ‘Rossiya’ TV channel and RT have come under fire near Debaltsevo in the Donetsk region. They were reporting on the evacuation of civilians from the conflict zone.
The RT crew of four, including correspondents Roman Kosarev and Anna Knishenko, were near a checkpoint from which a bus with Debaltsevo refugees was supposed to leave for Donetsk when they came under fire.
“The bullets were flying two or three meters from us,” said Kosarev after the attack. “The [humanitarian] column stopped and we were shot at by a sniper. We laid low.”
“None of our crew was injured, but two anti-government forces’ fighters were wounded. Their lives are not danger,” he said.
Kosarev and Knishenko said they had to go back to the town of Uglegorsk, where it’s safer. They later went back to Donetsk.
Knishenko told RT by phone that she believed they had come under sniper fire.
“Self-defense fighters had to open fire in response,” she said. “We are now waiting for a humanitarian convoy. Refugees find themselves in this humanitarian corridor, which the Ukrainian side seems not to respect.”
Rossiya TV channel journalists Dmitry Malyshev and Artyom Kol were with the refugees from the village of Chernukhino when fighting broke out.
“We became witnesses to the fighting which started during evacuation of civilians from the village of Chernukhino,”Rossiya TV channel correspondent Artyom Kol said, according to TASS. “We weren’t hurt, but a Chernukhino resident received a leg injury. He is now in hospital.”
Friday, Feb 6th – Moscow joint talks on Ukraine described as “constructive”
Five hour-long Moscow talks behind closed doors between the leaders of Russia, France and Germany have brought hopes for further dialogue between Kiev and E. Ukraine. The meeting was said to be ‘constructive’, but peace plan details remain a mystery.
Journalists were given a mere 30 seconds to take photographs of the three leaders, and none of them uttered a single word to the press during the photo-shoot.
Friday’s visit by President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Moscow was a hasty one. No usual diplomatic rituals – European leaders headed straight to the Kremlin from the airport and were on their flights back very quickly after the talks.
Journalists, who spent five hours waiting had to eventually make do with only an afterword from the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, which didn’t shed much light on what the leaders actually talked about.
“On the basis of proposals made by the French President and German Chancellor, there is currently on-going joint work to prepare the text of a possible joint document on the implementation of the Minsk agreements – a document that would include proposals made by Ukrainian President Poroshenko and proposals put forward today by Russian President Putin,” Peskov said.
Preliminary comments from Russian, German and French officials only describe the talks as “constructive.” More clarity is expected on Sunday when the so-called ‘Normandy Four’ – Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine – discuss the results of the talks by phone.
US Vice President Joe Biden has called on European countries to show unity when it comes to sanctions against Russia, labeling the dissenting voices “inappropriate and annoying”, reported ‘Der Spiegel’, quoting the participants of the Brussels meeting.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said that the US vice president’s remarks were made at a special meeting of leaders of the European parliament factions at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Biden called on European countries to ‘stand firm’ against Russia’s alleged threats to the region’s unity.
“Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past… including in Minsk,” Biden said, referring to “little green men”, but failing to provide any exact details of Russia’s alleged military presence in the region.
Critics of the policy of sanctions against Moscow should be aware that they also benefited from the current low price of oil, Biden said. He deemed complaints made by some European states about costly sanctions against Russia “inappropriate and annoying.”
“This is the moment when the US and Europe must stand together, stand firm. Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe. That is exactly what they are doing,” the US top official claimed during his one-day trip to Brussels to meet EU leaders on Friday. He went on to claim that “Russia continues to escalate the conflict.”
Britain’s former top NATO commander criticized Cameron’s government for becoming a “diplomatic irrelevance” while France and Germany spearhead the peace efforts.
“The UK is a major NATO member, it is a major EU member, it is a member of the UN Security Council, and it is unfortunate that the weight that the British Prime Minister could bring to efforts to resolve this crisis appear to be absent,” General Sir Richard Shirreff told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Shirreff said that this “warning that he is a ‘bit player’ in foreign policy, is yet more confirmation that David Cameron is weakening Britain’s influence abroad, at the time when it is most needed.” He accused the British PM of being “behind our allies,” while suggesting that this wasn’t the first instance.
Cameron responded by stressing how the UK has been in the forefront within the EU in its implementation of sanctions against Russia – which he deems an appropriate response to the crisis.
Saturday, Feb 7th – Crisis in E. Ukraine tops Munich Security Conference agenda
The spiralling conflict in eastern Ukraine is in the spotlight at the Munich Security Conference with a rift opening between the US and Europe. Washington is considering supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, while European nations are opposing the move.
Among the most anticipated speakers on Saturday, considered the most crucial day in the conference, are Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden.
The event comes in the wake of the much anticipated and secretive talks between the leaders of France, Germany and Russia, which were held behind closed doors in the Kremlin late on Friday.
The German chancellor and the French president went to Kiev and Moscow to work out a solution to the conflict in the Normandy Four format (Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France), which would satisfy both Kiev and the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
While there have been no details provided on the talks held in the Ukrainian and the Russian capitals, it has been noted the sudden initiative by the European leaders came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Kiev, discussing possible weapons supplies to government troops.
This has been perceived as a sign of the US and the EU being divided on ways of dealing with the Ukrainian crisis.
“I think the US is concerned that Europe can take an independent path away from the Unites States, in other words away from the NATO alliance in defense of their own national interests,” Brian Becker, director of Anti-War Answer Coalition, told RT.
Saturday, Feb 7th – NATO Commander-in-Chief says West should not rule out arming Ukraine
NATO’s commander in chief says the West should not rule out arming Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove said no troops would be sent to the region, but providing Kiev with weapons and equipment was on the cards.
Speaking to reporters at a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Breedlove said: “I don’t think we should preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option.”
His strong comments come as the US is considering sending weapons to help Kiev in its fight against anti-government militias.
The chief commander of NATO said the proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine was “completely unacceptable,” and added “there is no conversation about putting boots on the ground.”
The head of the Russian Duma committee on CIS affairs and Eurasian integration, Leonid Slutsky, slammed Breedlove’s comments as“absolutely cynical.”
“Through every step, as the crisis has developed, our American colleagues and the EU under their influence have tried to escalate the situation,” Lavrov maintained.
He pointed to the failure of the EU to engage Russia about Ukraine signing an economic association agreement with the bloc, Western involvement during the Maidan protests, the failure of the West to condemn Ukraine for calling its own citizens terrorists and for supporting a coup, which led to the toppling of a democratically elected president.
“The US made it public it brokered the transit of power in Ukraine. But we know perfectly well what exactly happened, who discussed candidates for the future Ukrainian government on the phone, who was at Maidan, and what is going on (in Ukraine) right now,” Lavrov said.
Saturday, Feb 7th – Ukrainian Prime Minister claims a handful of Russian passports are the best proof they have of Russian troop intervention in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko showed the audience at the Munich Security Conference several passports on Saturday, saying they belonged to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
“We asked the Ukrainian side to give us copies of the documents containing last names, because such IDs, as were shown yesterday, could easily be bought,” said Viktor Sorokin, director of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) department within the Russian Foreign Ministry, as cited by RIA Novosti.
“There’s no real proof, as of today, the Ukrainian side hasn’t been able to give us copies of these documents.”
“If we don’t find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it’s called war,” Hollande told journalists in the city of Tulle in central France, according to Reuters.
Earlier on Saturday, Angela Merkel was sharing her vision of the possible solution to the Ukraine crisis at the Munich Security Conference.
“The Ukrainian crisis cannot be resolved militarily,” she said.
Merkel is sure the Franco-German initiative was worth undertaking even if so far its results are unclear.
“After the talks yesterday in Moscow that the French president and I had, it is uncertain if it will succeed,” she said, as cited by Reuters. “But it is my view and the French president’s view [that it’s] definitely worth trying. We owe it to the people affected in Ukraine, at the very least.“
Despite the recent efforts to try and to stop the violence and find a peaceful way out of the Ukrainian conflict, with French and German leaders having taken an initiative to discuss a peace plan with Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, the actions of the West are still “profoundly self-righteous,” critics say.
“What I saw today in the press conference is a total unwillingness from the European, Western side to even take into consideration the arguments of the other side…the questions they pose are so selective, so predetermined by their self-righteousness – that is not the way you try to get peace,” former security consultant at the OSCE Lode Vanoost told RT, adding that the West is hypocritical to a level “so profound that [its behavior] is not a serious way to try to get peace.”
However, despite the overwhelmingly anti-Russian rhetoric coming from the West, there are increasingly numbers of politicians who are softening their stance.
Following the Friday meeting of President Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Moscow, which was said to be “constructive,” the French leader revealed that the discussion included the creation of a larger demilitarized zone between the Kiev and militia-controlled territories. He also called for “quite strong” autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions.
Sunday, Feb 8th – Follow-up peace talks to be held in Minsk on Wednesday
A ‘Normandy Four’ meeting may be held in the Belarus capital as early as Wednesday, the German government said, following a phone call between Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany held a joint telephone call this morning, the German government says.
“In [the call] they worked further on a package of measures in the context of their efforts on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine,” Steffen Seibert, Germany’s government spokesperson, said in a statement.
“This work will be continued tomorrow in Berlin with the goal of holding a ‘Normandy Format’ summit on Wednesday in Minsk,” he added.
Signatories of last year’s Minsk deal, including representatives of the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine and rebel forces would join the meeting in Minsk.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said the meeting will take place “if by then we manage to agree our positions, which we have been discussing very intensively in recent days.”
The German intelligence service estimates the real losses in the Ukrainian civil war at 50,000 dead (civilians and servicemen), which is nearly 10 times higher than reported by the Kiev authorities, German media report.
The information comes from a source in German intelligence, who spoke to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ) newspaper.
“Germany’s special services estimate the probable number of deceased Ukrainian servicemen and civilians at up to 50,000 people. This figure is about 10 times higher than official data. Official figures are clearly too low and not credible,” the newspaper reported on Sunday, citing its source.
Russia is ready to restore contacts with the NATO, when the alliance itself is ready to do the same, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said before leaving the Munich Security Conference.
World leaders gathered in Munich this weekend to discuss the most pressing security issues. During the conference NATO members expressed interest in continuing dialogue with Russia, Lavrov told reporters on Sunday, adding that their interest included military contacts and air space coordination.
However, the most pressing topic of the conference was the Ukrainian crisis in the eastern regions, which has escalated since January. Regarding Kiev’s aspirations to join NATO, Lavrov expressed hope that the US-led bloc’s ardent support would not do the Ukrainian government a disservice.
“As for Ukraine in the context of its relations with NATO and the parallels between Ukraine and Georgia, I’d rather refrain from drawing a parallel of this kind,” he said. “It was drawn by NATO members in April 2008 when they said in a declaration at the bloc’s summit in Bucharest that Georgia and Ukraine would have its membership someday.”
Lavrov said he has no doubt this declaration“played an improper role in the decisions that were made by [then-President] Mikhail Saakashvili when he began a military venture in South Ossetia, including against peacekeepers.”
In 2008, the pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attempted to take South Ossetia by military force, starting the operation with an attack on Russian peacekeepers. The Russian army had to intervene to repel the Georgian attack and re-establish peace. After the 2008 conflict, Russia and a few other countries recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
“I very much hope, and I said this in my speech at the conference that such reckless support does not blind the current Ukrainian government,” he added. […]
The West is starting to see that it’s high time to abandon unsubstantiated accusations and talk of punishment over the Ukraine crisis, and instead look at creating a stable system of European security, said Lavrov.
During his many meetings at the Munich conference, Lavrov says: “I felt other moods, as well as understanding that fanning emotions in public, unsubstantiated accusations and calls for punishment are a path to nowhere.“ Lavrov gave quite a list of contacts who shared that mood naming leaders and ministers from Germany, Italy, Austria, Serbia and Slovenia among them.
On Saturday, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko presented several “Russian passports” [that they] alleged were taken from Russian soldiers found on Ukrainian territory. Poroshenko said it was “best evidence” of aggression.
However, following a query made by Moscow, Kiev failed to provide copies of the passports, said Russia’s Foreign Ministry as quoted by RIA Novosti on Sunday.
Sunday, Feb 8th – Huge explosion at Donetsk military chemical plant, Ukrainian regime blames ‘dropped cigarette butt’
Windows were shattered and homes shaken in Donetsk after a huge blast rocked the vicinity of a city chemical plant which was under rebel control. Kiev and the militants accuse each other of causing the blast.
The powerful explosion took place at 10:50pm local time on Sunday. Local militia reported that a military chemical plant DKZHI was the target of Kiev’s artillery shelling.
The European Union has announced new sanctions against Russian officials and Ukrainian militias, but will postpone enforcing for a week, pending new peace talks in Minsk on Wednesday, according to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.
“The principle of these sanctions remains but the implementation will depend on results on the ground. We will see by [next] Monday and see how the meeting in Minsk went,” said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.
Monday, Feb 9th – CNN headline refers to Obama considering arming “Pro-US troops” in Ukraine, a blunder it quickly apologised for.
Social media is abuzz after CNN labeled Ukrainian forces involved in Kiev’s deadly military operation in the country’s southeast as “pro-US troops.” Online comments are calling it a Freudian slip, claiming it unmasks the true agenda behind the conflict.
The headline during CNN’s Monday segment, dedicated to talks between Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the resolution of the Ukraine crisis, read: “Obama considers arming pro-US troops.”
[Ruslan] Kotsaba is from Ivano-Frankovsk, located in the western part of the country which is loyal to Kiev. He has been accused of treason and espionage, his wife wrote on her Facebook page. She also reported that police searched their house and seized the journalist’s personal belongings.
The journalist himself has only admitted to attempting to wreck the draft.
“I find it easier to serve in prison two to five years, than going to the civil war, to kill or assist in killing my compatriots who live in the east,” he said in a video released on January 17. “Even if they think different and believe that the Kiev government is not worthy to be obeyed.”
The option of supplying Kiev with “lethal defensive weapons” is on the table, Barack Obama said in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel. However, the German chancellor reiterated there is no “military solution” to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined,” the US president said during a joint press conference with Merkel in Washington.
“I want to emphasize that a decision has not yet been made,” Obama said when questioned about weapons a second time. “It is true that if, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options. What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin’s calculus?”
Merkel – who conducted direct negotiations with Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, alongside French President Francois Hollande – struck a less antagonistic, if equally firm, tone.
“We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, although we have suffered a lot of setbacks. But, I’ve always said I don’t see a military solution in this conflict,” she said through a translator.
Tuesday, Feb 10th – Obama calls Putin ahead of Minsk talks to discuss peace deal
In the first talk in weeks, President Barack Obama called Vladimir Putin to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine and the upcoming meeting in Minsk to resolve the conflict, the White House said.
“President Obama underscored the rising human toll of the fighting and underscored the importance of President Putin seizing the opportunity presented by the ongoing discussions between Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine to reach a peaceful resolution,” the White House said.
According to the Kremlin, the discussion was focused on the “objectives of achieving a peaceful settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine.”
“Vladimir Putin provided a detailed assessment of the situation in the southeast of Ukraine, with an emphasis on Russia’s recent proposals discussed, in particular, in the context of preparation for the [Minsk summit],” the statement reads.
“The presidents of Russia and the United States have emphasized the importance of a political – through dialogue – resolution of Ukraine’s internal conflict, the speedy cessation of bloodshed, and the protection of the legitimate rights of all Ukrainian citizens without exception, including in the southeast,” the Kremlin’s statement added.
At least 7 civilians were killed and 16 others wounded as the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk was shelled on Tuesday, according to local authorities.
“As a result of today’s shelling of Kramatorsk… seven civilians were killed and another 16, including two children, received injuries of varying degrees of severity,” the Donetsk Regional State Administration said.
According to the administration, the shelling was carried out by Grad multiple rocket launchers and came from the direction of the town of Gorlovka, southeast of Kramatorsk.
Ten Ukrainian servicemen, who were stationed at Kramatorsk, were also injured in the bombardment, it added.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the bombardment, which took place at 12:30 pm local time, with Kiev forces and the militias putting the blame for the incident on each other.
With the Minsk peace talks now underway, hopefully an agreement can be reached – and stuck to.