Obama & State Dept. contradict each other on ‘Russian troops in Ukraine’ – Putin’s spokesman

 

RT – Published time: September 03, 2014 20:23

Published time: September 03, 2014 20:23 Edited time: September 04, 2014 01:35

An east-Ukrainian rebel inspects a gun at a destroyed war memorial at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, August 28, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

 

The US President says it is now “provable” that “Russian combat forces and tanks” moved into Ukraine. But Kremlin says Obama’s words are in conflict with the State Department that said it has no proof of Russian troops in the area.

A statement from the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov came in response to Barack Obama’s address to the Baltic States’ leader. Speaking ahead of NATO summit, President Obama said that the US has no doubt that Russian troops are involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“The Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine aren’t on a ‘humanitarian’ or ‘peacekeeping mission.’ They are Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks. There are Russian warheads with Russian weapons and Russian tanks. Now, these are the facts. They are provable. They’re not subject to dispute,” Obama said at a press-conference in Tallinn.

However, this information comes into conflict with the recent statement of the US State Department, Peskov said.

“We have repeatedly said there are no Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine. While Obama says there can be no doubts about that, US Department of State officials say simultaneously with their president that the United States has no proof of Russian military presence in Ukraine. This situation underscores their reluctance to use facts,” the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian News Service radio station.

“It’s an obsession with attributing a negative role in the development of the Ukrainian crisis to Russia, and we strongly object to this,” Kremlin’s spokesman added.

 

Press conference by Vladimir Putin

On Tuesday the US State Department spokeswoman told reporters that the US does not have “anything new to confirm” that Russian military moved into Ukraine.

The only information the US has on the movement of Russian troops across the Ukrainian border was “confirmed” last week, Jen Psaki said, referring to NATO’s satellite images released as a “proof” of Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine.

Remember Iraq? Former US intel officers warn Merkel against NATO images of Ukraine

The images were ridiculed by Russia’s Defense Ministry, while an alliance of seven former US intelligence officers – the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) – said the evidence produced by NATO from the Ukrainian-Russian border was on a par with the “same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the US-led attack on Iraq.”

‘Many of our comrades can’t look quietly’

On Wednesday, Russian veterans have called to end speculations around those Russian men who voluntarily joined east-Ukrainian rebels in the fight against Kiev.

“These are not adventurers, not criminals, not mercenaries, these are Russian people, who have it already laid down in their genes: to help our friendly nations in a difficult situation. We understand that this internal conflict or civil war in Ukraine is not Russia’s business. But this way Russia [through volunteers] has a right to help,” said Colonel-General Valery Vostrotin, the chairman of the Council of the Moscow Department “Battle Brotherhood”.

Several veterans’ organizations have issued a statement in which they explained what makes them, retired military servicemen, take arms again.

“Many of our comrades can’t look quietly [at what is happening in Ukraine] and take part in this conflict,” Igor Shevchuk, a veteran of Alpha special forces, said.

alpha

A retired Russian officer Vladimir Melnik is one of those men. He is now undergoing treatment in Moscow after being injured in leg in Ukraine.

He does not call himself a hero. For him, born and raised in the Donetsk region, when it still was part of the USSR, supporting rebels in his native land is a duty. His relatives and friends still leave there. Melnik says he could not leave them in trouble.

“If somebody intrudes into you house, starts killing your brothers, your sisters, raping your women, killing your children and rob elders how would you react to this? I understand that this is, primarily, a spiritual struggle; looking at what is happening in the world today, I would not like to stand and watch as our Orthodox people are being killed in their own home,” he says.

melnikov

Melkin says there are many volunteers – former military personnel like him – fighting along with self-defense forces in the south-east of Ukraine.

“There are many of us and more people were ready to come. For now, Thank God, we are coping [with the situation] with the tools we have,” Melnik says.

When asked if he was paid or offered anything for coming to Ukraine, he says: “If I came to my father and said: Dad, I’m here to protect you from fascists for money, he would not understand me, neither would others. I wouldn’t have any respect to myself as well.”

Melnik says it was tough for eastern Ukrainian men “to leave their mines” and take arms, but now, thanks to the experience which people with military background shared, they “understand more.”

Asked about military equipment, Melnik confesses that everything rebels have is old, “from the Soviet time”, but this is enough to hold the fort.

“It is not difficult to find arms in Ukraine,” he says. “There are many ammunition depots left after the Soviet Union. It is old, from Soviet times. Yes, guys had to repair some of it or replace some of the details, but it works.”

 

ou2darjytj4

OSCE: No armed men crossing Ukraine border

OSCE’s observer mission has indicated in its latest report that it has not witnessed any Russian troops or tanks crossing the border into Ukraine.

What it did record, however, was an increased presence of unmanned aerial vehicles and young men and women crossing from Russia into Ukraine unarmed.

There has been “increased military activity principally of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the vicinity of the Border Crossing Points,” OSCE said in the weekly update from August 28 to September 3.

“Throughout the week, the OTs [Observer Teams] noticed a net increase of young people (both men and women) wearing military-style dress crossing the border in both directions but did not observe any weapons among these groups.”

OSCE noted that supporters of self-defense forces said they are not allowed to cross the border with weapons. But once they cross into Ukraine, weapons can be obtained from self-defense forces.

The observer mission added that situation in Lugansk remains “dire.” OSCE cites accounts of “severe destruction caused by artillery fire which resulted in the interruption of water, gas and electricity supplies, the latter apparently unavailable for more than five weeks in some areas including Lugansk city itself.”

OBEY! OBEY! OBEY!

Officials and members of the European Parliament in Brussels (AFP Photo)

Officials and members of the European Parliament in Brussels (AFP Photo)

EU adopts new sanctions against Russia to come into force in ‘next few days’

A new package of sanctions against Russia has been adopted by the EU. Previous reports said the “further restrictive measures” were aimed at targeting three major oil companies, as well as the defense sector.

According to a Monday statement by the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the new package was adopted through written procedure, “deepening the targeted measures of 31 July.”

“The sanctions aim at promoting a change of course in Russia’s actions destabilizing eastern Ukraine,” the statement reads.

Although it was previously reported that the new sanctions could come into force by Tuesday, the final EU decision did not specify the date when they will be applied, only saying it “will take place in the next few days,” leaving time “for an assessment of the implementation of the cease-fire agreement [in Ukraine].”

“Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part,”Van Rompuy’sstatement reads.

Over the weekend, some EU diplomats told Reuters that the sanctions could be lifted if the ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and militia forces holds. The truce was agreed last week.

“A ceasefire must hold for sanctions to be lifted,” the agency quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying.

According to some EU representatives, the sanctions could “even get ridden off entirely.”

Despite some shooting over the weekend, “overall the ceasefire held,” an OSCE security watchdog said on Monday, adding that “it is still shaky.”

The new package of sanctions is reportedly aimed at Russian state-owned oil companies, particularly Rosneft, Transneft, and Gazpromneft.

On Monday, Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia may shut its air corridors to Western airlines if the next round of European sanctions hits Russia’s energy sector.

In order to be approved, the restrictive documents needed to be signed by all 28 member states of the European Union. There were reports that the decision did not go through at once, and an EU ambassadors emergency meeting had to be called, as some governments had second thoughts on the new ‘punishment’ for Moscow.

“The ceasefire is an enormous step forward and with that comes the possibility of a political solution…There is quite a strong appetite across Europe for saying we want a political solution here, we don’t want a ramping up of the economic pressure,” British opposition MP and peace campaigner Jeremy Corbyn told RT.

If new EU sanctions hit energy sector, Russia may close airspace – Medvedev

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned Russia may shut its air corridors to Western airlines if the next round of European sanctions hit Russian energy companies.

“If there are sanctions related to the energy sector, or further restrictions on Russia’s financial sector, we will have to respond asymmetrically,” Medvedev said in an interview with the Vedomosti newspaper, published on Monday.

EU ministers will gather on Monday to discuss new sanctions against Russia and are rumored to be introduced on Tuesday. The prime minister promised a strong retaliation if the West slaps Russia with more sanctions.

“We could impose transport restrictions,” Medvedev said, adding, “We believe we have friendly relations with our partners, and foreign airlines of friendly countries are permitted to fly over Russia. However, we’ll have to respond to any restrictions imposed on us,” the prime minister said.

After sanctions hit Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Dobrolet in late July, Medvedev discussed with ministers the possibility of limiting, of even completely blocking, European flights to Asia that overfly Russia.

“If Western carriers have to bypass our airspace, this could drive many struggling airlines into bankruptcy. This is not the way to go. We just hope our partners realize this at some point,” he told Vedomosti.

 

Dobrolyot plane lands in Simferopol

Flying over Russian airspace saves Western airlines headed to Asia at least 4 hours of flight time, which adds up to about $30,000 per flight.

Lufthansa said it could potentially lose more than €1 billion in three months if it does not use Russian airspace. Lufthansa, along with British Airways and Air France, are the largest EU airlines. US airlines currently don’t operate over Siberian airspace.

Many low-cost airlines have decided not to launch new routes to Russia, with the threat of sanctions possibly a factor. Last week Ryanair ditched plans to establish a Dublin-St. Petersburg route, and easyJet, another European-based airline, dropped its plans to develop a London-St. Petersburg service.

Medvedev didn’t specify whether the blocked airspace would also apply to cargo and delivery companies, such as UPS and FedEx.

Oil at stake

EU sanctions, which will reportedly be introduced on Tuesday, will ban Russia’s three main oil companies- Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, and Transneft – from raising long-term (longer than 30 days) debt on European capital markets, according to the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Rosneft – Russia’s largest oil producer – was added to the US sanctions list on July 16 and was put on the EU list on July 29. Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, Novatek, also was added to the blacklist in July, along with a ban on the export of hi-tech oil equipment needed in Arctic, deep sea, and shale extraction projects to Russia.
Gazprom Neft is the oil subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom.

Transneft is Russia’s state-owned oil pipeline company that exports all of Rosneft’s crude oil, and 56 percent of Russia’s crude exports.

Sanctions likely won’t apply to privately-owned Russian oil groups such as Lukoil and Surgutneftegaz.

The EU will also reportedly follow America’s lead on banning goods that can have dual military and civilian use from Russian companies that also supply the Russian military, the WSJ reported Sunday. On July 16, the US blacklisted several defense sector companies include Almaz-Antey Corporation, the Kalashnikov Concern and Instrument Design Bureau, as well as companies such as Izhmash, Basalt, and Uralvagonzavod.

“Sanctions are always a double-edged sword. Ultimately they end up backfiring and end up hurting those who are first to impose restrictions,” Medvedev said.

The EU has agreed on the new sanctions but said they could be delayed or even cancelled if Russia shows willingness to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.

On Friday Kiev introduced a ceasefire to calm fighting between the Ukrainian army and anti-government forces, but fighting and shelling continued in the country’s east.

Siberia flights

Siberia flights

 

 

 

What Russian invasion?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

September 8, 2014

by DAVE LINDORFF

The separatist rebels of eastern Ukraine and the government in Kiev that controls the Ukrainian army have reached a cease-fire in place that leaves the separatists largely in control of the Russian-majority regions of the eastern part of that country.

The agreement to stop the fighting was reached at negotiations organized and led by Russia and held in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. It was reached at the same time that the US was pressing leaders of the NATO countries, at a meeting in Wales, to boost their military spending and to set up more offensive military positions in countries bordering Russia.

The one thing that did not happen as a result of the cease-fire, and that in fact never even got addressed in the Minsk talks, was a withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine.

There was no withdrawal or even mention of those troops — said to number about 1000 by the US and the Kiev government — because there never were Russian troops invading Ukraine.

As both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have, quite logically, pointed out, if Russia had invaded eastern Ukraine, it would not have done so by just secretly slipping in 1000 troops. It would have gone in with all 20,000 of the heavily armed troops it has reportedly massed on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine, and with its overwhelming air power, and by now would be threatening Ukraine’s capital of Kiev.

The Pentagon knows this. The CIA knows it. The State Department knows it. Anyone who’s watched the Russians in prior military actions (Afghanistan, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc.) knows it. Never mind, President Obama continues talking ominously and speciously about a Russian invasion. But as I learned when I wrote a spoof piece about that “invasion” a few days ago and tried to find some photos of Russian soldiers or Russian weapons in Ukraine on-line to go with it, there is absolutely no photographic evidence of such an attack.

Oh, there were some alleged satellite photos of perfectly lined up heavy mobile artillery which the US claimed were Russian arms inside Ukraine aiming westward, allegedly targeting Ukrainian forces. But these photos, which looked suspiciously like screen shots of video game images, and not like the crisp photos we have grown accustomed to seeing provided by military and even commercial satellites, didn’t even include GPS coordinates. The weapons were also far too perfectly lined up to be actually in operation in the field under wartime conditions. There was no effort to camouflage them from aerial attack, no effort to put them in protected positions, for example in a forest. Rather they were out in what appeared to be a plowed field (one which, significantly, didn’t show any piled up ammunition around the weapons, either).

There were also those nine Russian paratroopers who were captured in Ukraine, and subsequently paraded before the media in Kiev, but they claimed they had gotten lost and had crossed the border by mistake — a thoroughly credible explanation given that a large number of Ukrainian forces have done the same thing in reverse, crossing inadvertently over into Russia, which has been letting them return home.

Where there were articles in the media about an alleged Russian invasion, it always turned out that the accompanying photos of Russian troops or Russian tanks, instead of being of invading forces, either were of Russian troops on the Russian side of the border, or were old stock photos from Crimea, where Russian troops have long been stationed under the terms of a long-term lease agreement between Russia and Ukraine. (This was another earlier lie pushed by the US — that Russian troops had swept into Crimea like Nazi stormtroopers in the Anschluss — when in fact the troops that supported Crimeans’ desire to leave Ukraine and seek to rejoin Russia, were already there legally under a treaty agreement with Ukraine. Actually, there was no way for a Russian army to “cross the border” into Crimea, given that the only way to get from Russia to Crimea, at least back then, was a small ferry across the Kerch Strait that links the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and that separates Crimea from Russia.)

Surely if there had been a real invasion of the Donbass region by Russian troops and their equipment over the past two weeks, the US would have had plenty of incriminating photos, including really impressive satellite images, to spread around. (US spy satellites can pick out license plate numbers from space!)

The claim of a Russian invasion was so weak, that Michael Gordon, the ethically compromised and politically tainted reporter at the New York Times who, back in 2002, brought us the bogus “aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment centrifuges” story and other war-mongering lies about Iraq, and to whom the Times, either in spite or, or because of that sorry record, handed the job of ginning up a new war hysteria, this time about Russia, was stumped. In the end, he was reduced to claiming Moscow was involved in a “stealth” invasion — one which you cannot see but just know is happening.

As a group of 30 former intelligence professionals in an organization called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) wrote in a memo delivered to German Chancellor Angela Merkel just before the NATO summit:
“The accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the ‘intelligence’ seems to be of the same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the U.S.-led attack on Iraq”.
Merkel appears to have taken the VIPS memo seriously, and has backed away from her earlier solid support for more economic sanctions against Russia. She even hedged her reference at the NATO gathering to an alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “supposed” invasion.

Indeed, while the US has dissed the new cease-fire agreement, huffing that there was no implementation plan included (cease-fire agreements, as opposed to peace treaties, are always works in progress, as the US surely knows, and as we saw recently in Gaza, and the important thing is just to stop the guns and bombs, so talks can take place), the NATO countries, led by Merkel, have refused to blindly cave in to US pressure to put added sanctions in place against Russia, preferring instead to approve tentative sanctions but hold them in reserve to give the cease fire a chance.

That hasn’t stopped US war-mongering. Although any sane observer knows that Russia’s support for the embattled Russian minority in eastern Ukraine, far from being a sign that Putin and the Russian government want to try and recapture the former satellite states of Eastern Europe, is rather a logical response to a US-led effort to turn Ukraine into an armed and threatening US/NATO outpost on Russia’s southern border. (Just recall how the US responded when the old Soviet Union tried to enlist Cuba in its NATO equivalent of the Warsaw Pact by installing missiles on the island!).

In any case, Russia’s support for the rebellion of the ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s east (the same kind of moral, financial, tactical and military support the US has given to Chechnyan rebels, the Georgian military, Nicaraguan Contras and anti-Castro rebels) has been a smashing success. The US neo-con dream of pushing Russia out of its Crimean naval base, which would have left Russia with no navy in the Mediterranean region and scant access to the Atlantic, is gone with the annexation earlier this year of Crimea, following a plebiscite. Meanwhile, the cease-fire leaves ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in control of half of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline, and, should the cease-fire collapse, within striking distance of the port cities of Mariupol and Odessa, which would leave western Ukraine an impoverished and landlocked nation.

The US, having seen its $5 billion plan for a NATO puppet state on Russia’s southern flank resoundingly crushed, is still pushing disconsolately for a more threatening NATO stance against Russia, with more weapons and troops posted near to Russia’s western border, for example in the Baltic states and in Poland, Rumania and Poland. But saner heads in Europe, particularly in Germany, are balking, noting that NATO and Russia have a treaty that bars the placing of permanent military bases in those countries. European NATO countries area also largely ignoring US calls for them to boost their military spending to bring it to 2% of GDP (US military spending is officially 3.8% of GDP, among the highest rates in the world, according to the World Bank, though adding in interest on war funding debt, veterans benefits and health care and the intelligence budget, it is really closer to 5%).

As a sop to Washington’s bruised ego, the NATO countries have approved a plan to pre-position weapons in the so-called “front-line” NATO states nearest to Russia, and to create a small “rapid action force” of several thousand NATO troops who could presumably gear up and go to those pre-positioned weapons within days in a crisis involving Russian aggression.

That plan, while a provocation, is unlikely to trouble Russia much, because a) Russia has no interest in trying to invade any of those countries like Estonia or the Czech Republic, and b) because if it did ever have such a plan, its 1-million-strong military would not be deterred by a few thousand NATO troops.

The Ukraine crisis is not over. The cease-fire is precarious, and the US is talking about providing arms to Ukrainian forces, and has announced plans for sending some US troops to Ukraine for “war games” with Ukrainian troops.

Hopefully, though, with its diplomatic nose already bloodied by the military successes of the separatist forces, Washington will decide not to risk having things get even worse, with Russia regaining full control of the Black Sea coast as it had under the old USSR, and Europe left with a rump “Novopoland” economic basket case to contend with.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).