Ukraine ceasefire: Putin lays out 7-step plan to stop hostilities in E. Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to journalists following Russian-Mongolian talks in Ulan-Bator. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to journalists following Russian-Mongolian talks in Ulan-Bator. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

RIA NOVOSTI
Published time: September 03, 2014 12:19
Edited time: September 03, 2014 19:16

Kiev must withdraw troops from southeastern regions of Ukraine and rebels must stop offensive to stop bloodshed, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says. He and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko discussed “a ceasefire regime.”

President Putin has outlined a seven-point plan to stabilize the situation in the crisis-torn east of Ukraine.

“On my way here from [the city of] Blagoveschensk to Ulan-Bator [Mongolia], I outlined some ideas and plan of actions. It’s here, but in handwriting,” Putin told reporters.

1. Militias should cease military advances in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

2. Pro-Kiev armed forces should withdraw to a distance that excludes the possibility of shelling settlements.

3. Implement full and objective international control over ceasefire observation and monitoring.

4. Exclude the use of combat aircraft against civilians and villages.

5. Prisoner/captive-exchange via an ‘all-in-all’ formula, without preconditions.

6. Humanitarian corridors for refugees movement and delivery of humanitarian aid across Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

7. Direct repair-crew access to destroyed social and transit infrastructure with supportive aid.

Putin expressed hope that final agreements between Kiev and militia in southeastern Ukraine could be reached and secured at the coming meeting of the so-called contact group on September 5.

“I hope the leaders of Ukraine will support the anticipated progress in bilateral relations,” Russia’s president said.

He called on Ukraine to take an active part in the work of the contact group “for a final and comprehensive settlement of the situation in the southeastern Ukraine, of course, with full and unconditional assurance of the legitimate rights of the people who live there.”

Commenting on the phone call with the Ukrainian president earlier on Wednesday, Putin stressed that their “views on ways to resolve the conflict are aligned.”

Later on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president expressed “great hope” that the peace process will start negotiations in Minsk on Friday.

“The first task is peace,” Poroshenko said. “Today at 5am, because of the time difference, we talked with President Putin about ways we could stop this horrible process. It is impossible to deny that people should being killed,” he added. The Ukrainian President stressed that all Ukrainians want peace and that is why he will strive for it.

Anti-Kiev militias say they are ready to lay down arms, but only if the same is done by all the government units fighting in the east of the country, said DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko.

The political leader of the self-proclaimed republic noted that Kiev will have to obtain compliance from irregulars, such as Right Sector volunteer battalions, and mercenaries, who are also fighting on the side of the government.

“These have previously sabotaged existing deals,” said Zakharchenko.

The DPR leader said that the recent upturn in the rebels’ fortunes would improve the chances of striking a deal with Petro Poroshenko’s government.

Germany has supported the news that the two presidents are showing willingness to resolve the conflict, saying that Germany and the International community are ready to assist measures aimed at securing the ceasefire.

“Presidents Poroshenko and Putin are bearing responsibility not only for their nations, but all Europe,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Hamburg. He stressed that now it is important to take decisive steps to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine.

“We are ready to assist this path via either repeating the meeting in Geneva or through other international formats,” he added.

In Ukraine, meanwhile, Putin’s peace plan was met with criticism from the country’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenuk, who said that Russia’s real plan is to destroy Ukraine and restore the USSR.

“We are waiting for decisions from NATO and the EU on how to stop the aggressor,” he said.

In Yatsenuk’s opinion, Putin’s 7-point plan is “an attempt of eyewash for the International community ahead of NATO summit and an attempt to avoid inevitable decisions from the EU on the new wave of sanctions against Russia.”

The “best” for Ukraine would be a one-point plan, Yatsenuk stressed, which is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

“And then there will be peace,” the PM said.

Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of direct military involvement in the conflict.

So far, attempts at temporary ceasefires between Kiev and self-defense forces in the past months have failed to bring about any improvement in the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Each time fighting has continued, with both sides blaming each other for breaking the truce.

2,593 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN reported last week.

The military conflict that started this spring has displaced over a million Ukrainians, with the majority of them finding refuge in Russia.

Kiev retracts ‘permanent’ ceasefire statement, says steps for establishing peace agreed

Kiev retracted its earlier statement regarding a “permanent ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine, which followed a phone call between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. The new wording from Poroshenko’s office talks of a ceasefire “regime”.

The Russian and Ukrainian languages use the word to mean “mode”, signifying the possibility of a softer, less permanent version of the previous suggestion.

Although an earlier corresponding message from Poroshenko’s office initially talked of a “permanent ceasefire”, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov underlined that this wording is not applicable because Russia isn’t a party to the violence.

“In the course of today’s phone call between Putin and Poroshenko there was indeed an exchange of views that went a long way toward an agreement on steps to be taken for a swift end to the clashes taking place between the Ukrainian military and south-eastern uprising,” Peskov said.

But the spokesperson thought it important to point out that because the conflict is an internal one – and not one between two countries. This view has already been voiced by President Putin last week in Minsk, where he met the Ukrainian leader.

Ukrainian servicemen ride in an armoured vehicle near Kramatorsk

“Frankly speaking, we can’t frame the discussion in ceasefire terms, those concerning any possible negotiations between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – this isn’t any of our business, it is Ukraine’s,” the Russian president said then.

Donetsk authorities say they are willing to engage in a diplomatic settlement with Kiev if it proves its commitment to peace by stopping the shelling.

Ukraine’s Aydar battalion has acknowledged its readiness to carry out the order to cease fire, if such an order is given, its commander Sergey Melnichuk told local TV channel ‘112 Ukraine’.

Kiev’s bloody eastern Ukraine campaign LIVE UPDATES

The confrontation between the anti-government forces and the Ukrainian military, lasting over four months, has claimed the lives of around 2,500 people, according to UN estimates.

A million people have been displaced – the majority of them to Russia.

Donetsk region update

But the biggest toll was inflicted on the peaceful population in cities like Donetsk and Lugansk, who were left without energy, food, water or connection to the outside world.

While international condemnation was initially aimed at Russia in an attempt to blame it for the escalation, lately the balance has shifted to recognizing the often indiscriminate nature of Ukrainian military shelling of the eastern parts, which used high-powered weaponry forbidden by international law to be used in populated areas.

Human Rights Watch was the latest to condemn the use of such weapons and point to their presence as the major contributing factor to the high death toll in the area.
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Russian Journalist missing Andrey Stenin confirmed dead in Ukraine

Andrey Stenin (Image by RIA Novosti)

Andrey Stenin (Image by RIA Novosti)

‘I’ll be home soon’: The life and work of Andrey Stenin (1980-2014)

 

Published time: September 03, 2014 08:36
Edited time: September 03, 2014 14:07

 

 
Photojournalist Andrey Stenin left for Ukraine on May 15, his mother Vera told RT after his disappearance in August. She said they last talked on the phone on July 17 – during that conversation her son said, “It’s close. I’ll be coming home soon.”

Vera Stenina had been trying for weeks to find her son, missing in war-torn eastern Ukraine. She told RT she had addressed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help, and had urged Kiev to organize a search mission for the journalist.

“They said that they would try to look for him,” she said, adding that the Red Cross showed “understanding” of her problem.

Since Stenina was aware that “people are being tracked via their mobile phones” in Ukraine, she tried to use the internet to keep track of her son.

“I woke up in the morning and went online – to see if the photos were there, that everything was alright. That’s how I kept an eye on him, via the TV and internet,” she said.

Andrey Stenin was born in 1980 in the city of Pechora in northwestern Russia. He began his career at Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, where he was employed as a correspondent from 2003, and Gazeta.ru.

Russian Journalist Andrey Stenin kidnapped

Russian Journalist Andrey Stenin kidnapped

In 2008, Andrey took a professional interest in photography, and worked for such news media as Reuters, the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Russia’s Itar-Tass, Kommersant and RIA Novosti.

“He is probably one of the most experienced Russian photojournalists, who has witnessed many wars. He has lived through Syria, Libya, Egypt and Kyrgyzstan. He was at numerous trouble spots, and he took pictures everywhere he went and sent really outstanding photographs, valued by various media,” political analyst Yury Matsarsky said on radio after news of Stenin’s disappearance broke in August.

Since 2009, Andrey Stenin had been employed as photo correspondent by RIA Novosti, which was transformed into Rossiya Segodnya international news agency in 2014.

Donetsk region update

In the course of his coverage, Stenin witnessed various emergencies, protests, trials and traveled into warzones. In 2010 and 2013, he was awarded the prestigious Russian Silver Camera.

Some of the photographer’s latest work

From the beginning of the Ukrainian coup, Stenin was at the center of it. He documented the events in Kiev’s Maidan Square in February, then the horrors of Odessa, the Crimean transition to Russia, and most lately the fierce fighting in parts of eastern Ukraine.

Rescue workers remove bodies of the dead and fragments of the Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner that crashed near the city of Shakhtyorsk in the Donetsk Region. Andrey Stenin/RIA Novosti

Rescue workers remove bodies of the dead and fragments of the Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner that crashed near the city of Shakhtyorsk in the Donetsk Region. Andrey Stenin/RIA Novosti

He sent photos of soldiers of the Ukrainian army captured by the armed militia, the horrific results of Ukrainian artillery shelling of militia-held cities and the crash site of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was downed over the Donetsk Region in July.

“Andrey was doing his job professionally: he covered both sides of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. His work was appreciated by colleagues and a wide audience, as it showed the world the sufferings of Ukraine and its people, no matter which side of the conflict they are,” Dmitry Kiselyov, general director of Rossiya Segodnya, said.

Malaysian Boeing crashes in Ukraine

Stenin went missing on August 5 as he was covering the Ukrainian army’s campaign against the anti-Kiev rebels in the country’s southeastern Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

His employers at Rossiya Segodnya said they had failed to obtain any information on their journalist from the Kiev authorities. In mid-August, an adviser to Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said that Stenin had been arrested by the Ukrainian Security Service for “aiding and glorifying terrorism.” However, he backtracked on that statement soon afterwards.

Urging the journalist’s release, a number of events in support of Andrey Stenin took place around the world in August.

Now a selection of Stenin’s recent work is on display in the street leading to the main entrance of the news agency’s building. At a press-conference, Stenin’s grieving colleagues spoke of him as a professional photojournalist, an excellent reporter and a reliable friend, who preferred hotspots to working in an office.

“Once I asked him: ‘Why do you go to war so often?’ He replied: ‘And why did you go so often – 28 times in Chechnya?’ I said that I went for one picture and then he replied: ‘I also go there to take pictures’,” photo correspondent, Vladimir Vyatkin, who has worked for RIA Novosti since 1968, recalled. “[His] photos are very professional, necessary for history, not just ours, but history in general. Sooner or later somebody will have to answer for the atrocities that are happening now in Ukraine, and his pictures will be visual documents. Andrey did it honestly, professionally, did it great,” he added.

His colleague, Vladimir Astapkovich, a photo correspondent, also stressed that Stenin was a person you felt secure with in difficult situations.

“Stenin was someone who would help you in a critical situation. I remember one of the first unauthorized rallies Moscow. The crowd, police, everyone is running, pushing. You run with everyone else. You get knocked off your feet, you almost fall. Suddenly, someone grabs you – Andrey. And then you run together. Short break… A cigarette… A quick chat and back to work,” Astapkovich recalled.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had hoped until the last minute that Stenin was alive and would return home to his relatives.

“We hoped that Andrey [Stenin] would return to his family and friends but bitter news dashed all these hopes. He performed his professional and human duty to the last. [He] did everything so that people, the whole world learnt the truth about the tragic events that are happening in Donetsk,” said Putin’s statement on the Kremlin website.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev also expressed his condolences.

“It’s a terrible sorrow when the life of a young, talented man who is full of energy is taken in war. A war in which his only shots were photos! He wanted to bring us photos documenting the atrocities and injustice,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

RIP Andrey

Pictures of courage: A look at the acclaimed work of missing Russian photographer Andrey Stenin

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RT
Published time: August 07, 2014 19:54
Edited time: August 12, 2014 08:28

 
From a Friend:
“Rest in peace my friend. May the God of this world give to you the peace which we all look for in this troubled world. May he comfort your mother in this time that no parent should have to endure. May someone somewhere realize from your work the evil of war and what it does to men’s hearts. May we see the good in humankind by stopping this carnage now. I pray that the God of this world wraps his arms around you and welcomes you to your final resting place.”