Sunday, 31 August 2014

Kremlin Trapped In Its Own Web Of Lies

The Kremlin has played an astute hand in the Ukrainian crisis, lying to the international community and the Russian people about its innocence in the conflict while simultaneously ratcheting its aggression. In Crimea, the Russian government and media initially denied that the Russian military was involved in securing the peninsula for Russian control and a sham plebiscite. It wasn’t until April that Putin admitted that Russian troops were responsible for disarming the Ukrainian military in Crimea and facilitating its illegal annexation. The Kremlin progressively increases its involvement in Ukraine, forces the international community to accept the new status quo by hinting at de-escalation, before intensifying its aggression even more. This strategy was successful as long as the Russians dying in Ukraine were primarily volunteers and social outcasts—members of fascist organizations, hired mercenaries, and ex-convicts. When these fighters died in Ukraine there was little outrage; they had volunteered to fight. However, this same approach will not work when Russian servicemen, rather than ideologically-motivated volunteers, fight and die in Ukraine.
 
Evidence of direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine is now irrefutable. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian government revealed that it had captured Russian servicemen on Ukrainian territory.
 
The soldiers admitted that that had been ordered, some of them unknowingly, onto Ukrainian territory. Rapid militant advances in the Donbas at the moment are known to be done with the assistance of Russian military troops and heavy weaponry. Even Alexander Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, admits that several thousand Russian soldiers operate in eastern Ukraine, who he dubiously claimed are volunteers and on temporary leave from the military. Despite continued denials emanating from the Kremlin, the Russian government will find it increasingly difficult to cover up the death and capture of its own soldiers, even to Russian society itself.
 
Russian civil society organizations are increasingly expressing concern that its soldiers are being secretly deployed to Ukraine without the notification of family members. The families of those Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine publicly pleaded to President Putin and the Russian government to secure their release from Ukraine. The Committee for Soldiers’ Mothers, a Russian NGO, has stated that approximately 15,000 Russian soldiers are currently serving on Ukrainian territory.
 
NATO, on the other hand, has stated that there “at least” 1,000 Russian military soldiers in Ukraine.
Furthermore, Russian reporters have said that they were attacked when following a story about the surreptitious burials of Russian paratroopers killed in Ukraine. According to journalists from newspapers Pskovskaya Guberniya and Telegraf, when reporters arrived in Pskov, to the site of alleged burials, armed thugs threatened them with death, eventually attacking their cars and erasing photographs of the site. All the while, the Kremlin denies that the soldiers buried in Pskov are related to the conflict in Ukraine.
 
Unlike the extremist Kremlin-supported Russian volunteers who have been fighting in the Donbass, the Kremlin will not be able to deny responsibility and sweep the deaths of Russian soldiers under the rug. These soldiers, many of them conscripts, have families that will ask questions about the disappearances, injuries, and deaths of their loved ones. Additionally, civil society organizations that support the welfare and interests of Russian soldiers, such as Committee for Soldiers’ Mothers, remain among the most independent NGOs in the country.
 
Clamoring voices are already revealing the Kremlin’s web of lies and prevarications, debunking the narrative that the Russian government is neither assisting the militants nor sending Russian troops into Ukraine. As Russia’s involvement deepens, which is overwhelmingly evident over the past several days, the Kremlin lies will likely fall apart not only in front of the international community, which has long recognized Russian prevarications, but in front of the Russian people as well. Only so many Russian soldiers can end up captured, injured, or killed before friends and relatives start asking questions and demanding answers. Soon, Putin will either need to come clean about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, or face increasing scrutiny and distrust from his own people.

NSDC: Russian invaders in Novoazovsk apply methods of fascist propaganda

Kyiv, August 31, 2014. Yesterday nine Russian paratroopers were exchanged for 63 soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine at the checkpoint in Kharkiv region, reported Colonel Andriy Lysenko, spokesperson of Information and Analytical Center of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
 
Andriy Lysenko said that in the last 24 hours four Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 34 got wounded. According to NSDC representative, the Ukrainian military engaged the terrorists and the Russian military 33 times in the vicinity of the following ​settlements: Stanytsia Luhanska, Heorhiivka, Krasnaya Polyana, Andriivka, Lutugino, Kruglyk, Uspenka, Berezove, Vergunsky Rozyizd, Fedorivka, Zempliane, Maryinka, Adrianopil, Makarovo, Fashchiivka as well as near “Luhansk” airport. The spokesperson for the National Security and Defense Council said that the ATO forces destroyed two tanks, an “Urahan” [‘Hurricane’] installation, six Grad systems and more than 100 terrorist militants.
 
Colonel Lysenko said that the shelling of ATO positions continues from the territory of Russia. Thus the position of Ukrainian military near the village Horodyshche was fired upon with anti-tank guided missiles. In addition, the Ukrainian-Russian borderline in Luhansk region,  and the bridge over the Kamyshnaya river near the village of Nizhnebaranovka (Bilovodsky district), as well as the positions of the ATO forces in the village of Makarovo (Stanychno-Luhansk region) suffered from the shelling which originated from the territory of the Russian Federation. The NSDC representative emphasized that yesterday Ukraine recorded four Russian drones close to the village of Rosa Luxemburg (Donetsk region) and near the village of Yuhanovka (Luhansk region).
 
Lysenko cited numerous facts of destruction of Donbas infrastructure by the terrorists. He particularly pointed toward the evidence of shelling of Lutugin scientific and industrial roller mill, and the downing of the bridge over the Kalmius river near the village of Granite, Telmanovsky district. On a separate note, Lysenko reported that the Ukrainian forces found and disabled 163 units of ammunition and explosives.
 
Commenting on the situation in Mariupol, which is under the threat of a Russian invasion, the NSDC spokesperson said that the city was preparing for the defense, noting that yesterday more than a thousand residents of Mariupol stepped out creating a human chain at the checkpoint on the road coming from Novoazovsk, which is now occupied by the Russian army. In Novoazovsk, according to Andriy Lysenko, the Russians have been recorded to disseminate leaflets on “How to deal with the peacekeeping force of the Russian troops,” where the local population was suggested not to resist the Russian invaders and take the collaborationist position. The leaflet also assures that “no one will be shot down just for no reason.”
 
Colonel Lysenko noted that the National Guard of Ukraine received several Mi-8 MTV1 helicopters which have been redesigned and modernized to be able to evacuate the wounded and provide first aid. According to the NSDC representative, the helicopters have successfully passed the flight test and have no analogues in the world.
 
Notably, on August 30 President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko held a series of meetings with European leaders, including the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. Reportedly, the European community condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine. In addition the European Union calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops and equipment from Ukraine and fully supports President Poroshenko’s peace plan.

NSDC: Russia keeps sending military equipment to Eastern Ukraine

Within the last 24 hours ATO forces inflicted powerful damage on the enemy. Ukrainian servicemen eliminated the enemy’s convoy of 30 vehicles on the move towards Luhansk – Alchevsk. Two more vehicles of Russian mercenaries moving towards Zugres – Khartsyzsk were also eliminated. In total Ukrainian armed forces eliminated with fire 2 tanks, 3 APCs, 1 Uragan and 6 Grad multiple rocket launcher systems as well as 35 militants. The information was presented by Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman of the Information-AnalyticalCenter of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine at a briefing in the UkraineCrisisMediaCenter. “Direct military aggression of the Russian Federation continues in the East of Ukraine. Russians keep sending military machinery and mercenaries to Donbas. The situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions is getting more complicated due to activities of the Russian Armed Forces. Following yesterday’s combat with terrorists and Russian troops near Komsomolske village Ukrainian forces got on defensive positions and set their strongholds,” added Col. Andriy Lysenko.
 
Ukrainian army started offensive in Luhansk region. Over forty terrorists were eliminated. Planned operational work was conducted in several settlements in Slovyano-Serbsky district, Krymske and Sokolnyky villages. “Active combat is on at the Luhansk direction. Regular units of Ukrainian Armed Forces got an order to retreat from Khryashuvate and Novosvitlivka of Krasnodonsky region, they took defense positions near Luhansk. In Luhansk region positions of ATO forces near Horodyshe and Makarove of Stanychno-Lyhansky district came under fire from the territory of the Russian Federation,” informed NSDC spokesman.
 
Ukrainian servicemen keep bolstering fortifications in Mariupol. In Mariupol district of the Donetsk region border guards jointly with volunteer battalions have organized round-the-clock patrolling to discover subversive and reconnaissance Russian groups. All main entries to Mariupol have been reinforced by dog support units and border guard specialists. Special units to repel tanks attack were additionally established.
 
On 29 August Ukraine’s Security Service detained Russian citizen, Serhiy (Gennadiyovych) Chernysh, date of birth 1965, who took part in terroristic activities in Ukraine. Citizen of the Russian Federation together with other mercenaries illegally crossed Ukraine’s state border at a Russian border crossing point. “Together with the militants Chernysh previously experienced in “hot spots” took over a role of instructor, coordinated groups activities, ensured terrorists’ retreat under attacks of ATO forces a number of times. Russian mercenary was detained when he was on special mission to find the pilot who managed to escape from an aircraft downed by the terrorists. Detained is in custody, investigation is underway,” explained Col. Lysenko.
 
Enterprises making part of state-owned “Ukroboronprom” group will work in 3-shifts mode. Production effectiveness is thus expected to be increased by 40 percent.
 
Servicemen of the Russian Federation are holding propaganda activities to get support for pro-Russian oriented terroristic organizations. Propaganda promoters also offer financial reward in exchange for information on dislocation places of Ukrainian armed forces units, Ukrainian special forces servicemen and members of their families.
 
In Makiivka militants installed “Grad” multiple rocket launchers and shell Donetsk and Yasynuvata.
US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham urge to immediately start supplying weapons to Ukraine and introduce more powerful economic sanctions against Russia as a result of its military invasion on Ukraine’s territory.
 
Minister for Foreign Affairs of France Laurent Fabius claimed to be in possession of undeniable proofs of military invasion to Ukraine by the Russian Federation and stressed on the possibility to step up sanctions provided that Moscow refuses peaceful settlement of the conflict.
 
German government’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said that numerous violations of the Russian-Ukrainian border testify on military intervention of the Russian Federation to Ukraine. In this regard official Berlin requests from Kremlin explanation of the above situation.
 
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte outlined the need for the EU member states to introduce additional sanctions against Russia in response to conflict escalation in Eastern Ukraine.
 
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic considers invasion of the Armed forces of the Russian Federation to Ukraine being a threat to peace and stability in Europe and urges Kremlin to pull back its armed forces from Ukrainian territory.

Assassination Attempt Made on Zakharchenko, PM of 'Donetsk People's Republic'

An assassination attempt was made on Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the appointed "prime minister" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), ITAR-TASS reported.
 
The attempt was made during the day on August 30, a source in the DNR told ITAR-TASS. Shots were fired at the car in which he was traveling, Interfax reported.
His driver was injured, but Zakharchenko escaped unharmed.
 
The attack came after Zakharchenko replied to President Vladimir Putin's call on the "Novorossiya militia" to open up a humanitarian corridor to allow Ukrainian soldiers encircled by Russian-backed separatists to escape. Zakharchenko said he would approve the corridor if first Ukrainian battalions gave up their heavy weapons and vehicles. The Ukrainian soldiers began leaving the area of fighting near Ilovaisk yesterday morning, amid reports that they were fired upon nonetheless by separatists.
Zakharchenko was installed August 8, after the resignation of Aleksandr Boroday, and as a man with some military training, said he would make the unification of the separatist command and victory on the battlefield a priority.
 
Speculation about the nature of the assailants ranges from rival separatists to Ukrainian forces to Russian intelligence but there is no information available at all on the attackers.
There were reports on August 28 that Valery Bolotov, the former "governor" of the "Lugansk People's Republic" was assassinated, after disappearing soon after resigning from his position, citing the need to recover from wounds. The reports have not been confirmed.
 
Another DNR leader who suffered repeated assassination attempts was Denis Pushilin, former chairman of the Supreme Council. In a June 7 attack, his aide Maksim Petrukhin was killed; on 12 June, his car was blown up while he was away in Moscow, and two people were killed. He left his post on July 18.
MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hailed pro-Moscow Thugs in eastern Ukraine as “insurgents” battling an army that he likened to Nazi invaders during World War II, and the Ukrainian government raised the prospect of joining NATO as it seeks help to repel what it calls an outright Russian military invasion
 
Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk.
 
In a statement published on the Kremlin’s Web site early Friday, Putin also urged the separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers trapped since Monday in the southeastern town of Ilyovaisk.

The double-edged statement — couched as a humanitarian gesture but perhaps aimed at helping the rebels consolidate control — came a day after the government in Kiev said Russian soldiers, tanks and heavy artillery had begun rolling into the region to help the separatists reverse recent Ukrainian military gains.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday that Ukraine may seek to join NATO, announcing the submission of a bill to parliament that would repeal the country’s “non-bloc status,” the Interfax news agency reported.

A Ukrainian military spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, told reporters that Russia continues to send troops and materiel across the border.

He said the force includes tanks bearing inscriptions such as “We are going to Kiev.” 

“I assure you that on our shells we won’t have any messages like ‘to Moscow’ or ‘on to Moscow,’ ” Lysenko said.

“We are not aggressors. We’re just trying to liberate Ukrainian lands.”

Lysenko said the Ukrainian army, after retreating from the southeastern coastal town of Novoazovsk, was ready to defend the key port city of Mariupol, about 28 miles farther west on the Sea of Azov.

Putin did not answer accusations by the Ukrainian government and the West about Russia’s military presence in southeastern Ukraine.

Instead, he praised the separatists as “insurgents” who had undermined “Kiev’s military operation, which threatened lives of the residents of Donbas and has already led to a colossal death toll among civilians” — a reference to the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donets Basin, or Donbas, whose unofficial capital is rebel-held Donetsk.

Ukraine’s military responded quickly, saying that Putin’s call for an exit corridor for encircled Ukrainian troops showed that the separatists are “led and controlled directly from the Kremlin.”

Pro-Russian separatists said they would comply with the Kremlin’s request, but it was unclear whether Kiev would accept the offer.

At a youth forum later Friday, Putin said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had agreed to a prisoner swap that would include sending 10 captured Russian paratroopers back to Russia.

An advocacy group called Soldiers’ Mothers has been pressing Russian authorities for answers on the fate of troops believed to be fighting in Ukraine.

Russia responded by putting the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg on a government list of foreign agents.

In the same appearance, Putin said the recent Ukrainian offensive against pro-Russian rebels reminded him of “the events of the Second World War, when the Nazi occupiers, the troops, surrounded our cities — for example, Leningrad — and point-blank shot at these settlements and their inhabitants.”

He added: “It’s awful. It’s a disaster.”

Although Putin skirted the issue of Russian military involvement in Ukraine, his remarks directly addressing the separatists and his disparaging comments about Ukrainian forces served to escalate the rhetoric surrounding the crisis at a time when Moscow and Kiev are supposed to be talking about prisoner swaps, humanitarian convoys and other matters.

Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to meet in Brussels today with top European leaders to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian border security services are also expected to meet at the Nekhoteyevka checkpoint in the Belgorod region of Russia, near to the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, to discuss the situation along the Russian-Ukrainian border, and strategies to prevent militants and military hardware from crossing back and forth. 

Putin also said that Ukraine should not fear federalization, asserting that Russia itself would be moving further in that direction, possibly by shifting some central government authorities to Siberia.

That declaration comes barely two weeks after activists calling for more federalism in Siberia were detained and protests on the subject were banned.

However, Russia would not “meddle” with Ukraine’s internal affairs, Putin added. 

U.S. officials said privately Thursday that they consider the Russian show of military force this week tantamount to an invasion.

Speaking at a news conference, President Obama did not use the term but said it was clear the uprising in eastern Ukraine was not “homegrown.”

“The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia,” he said.

In a response Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry again accused the United States of hypocrisy — this time for what it called U.S. disregard for civilians in eastern Ukraine.

“In any other conflict, whether in the Middle East, Africa or anywhere else, the West has consistently opposed actions causing harm to civilians,” the ministry said on its Web site.

“It is only in relation to southeastern Ukraine that it holds a diametrically opposite line, in gross violation of international humanitarian law.”

A total of 2,593 people, including civilians, have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, a senior U.N. human rights official said Friday.

“The trend is clear and alarming,” Ivan Simonovic, U.N. assistant secretary general for human rights, told journalists in Kiev.

“There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east.” Simonovic said the number would be close to 3,000 if the 298 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were counted.

Civilian casualties would continue to rise “as each side increases its strength, through mobilization, better organization, or the deployment of new fighters and more sophisticated weapons and support from outside,” he said.

Simonovic had sharp words for both sides.

“Armed groups continue to commit abductions, physical and psychological torture,” he said of the separatists, whose tactics he said were aimed at terrorizing the population under their control. But he added that the United Nations has also heard “disturbing reports of violations committed by battalions under government control.” 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized the U.N. official as repeating “fabrications against the militia forces of Donetsk and Luhansk” but commended him for addressing “the criminal actions of the Ukrainian army” — although the ministry maintained that his report did not go far enough.

“The mission was forced to admit the obvious,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.