US leads ‘largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine’ – Follows Pentagon’s Advice to Conquer the World?

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Ukrainian soldiers and servicemen of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team take part in a joint military exercise called “Fearless Guardian 2015” at the military training area in Yavoriv, outside Lviv, Ukraine, May 12, 2015.Oleksandr Klymenko/Reuters

Troops from the US, UK, Germany and 14 other countries are set to conduct what officials are calling the “largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine” in the west of the country over the coming weeks.

The exercises will be conducted in Lviv region, in western Ukraine, far from the conflict zone in the east, with as many as 1,800 servicemen from 18 countries taking part from today until the end of the month.

The Saber Guardian and Rapid Trident exercises are conducted annually between the US army in Europe and European states which agree to participate. Last year they included 1,300 defence staff from 15 militaries, including Ukraine. However last year, only Rapid Trident took place on Ukrainian soil, with Saber Guardian being organised in Bulgaria.

Beside the US military and their Ukrainian hosts, personnel from other Nato allied nations joining the exercise include the UK, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, while non-members Serbia, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan are also set to participate.

“Multinational exercises have been conducted in Ukraine since 1995, however it is safe to say that this is the largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine to date,” Don Wrenn public affairs public affairs specialist for US Army Europe, who is at the site of the exercises says.

Despite the heightening tension in eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed rebels have intensified fire towards Kiev-held positions since May, Wrenn says the exercise has no relation to the specific conflict.

“It is not anything to do with the political situation,” Wrenn says “This exercise was planned ahead of time. Countries were notified that it would occur and we can’t directly connect with the situation going on. Rapid Trident has been going for years in Ukraine.”

“Part of why this is larger this year is that there are two exercises going ahead at the same time in the same place,” Wrenn explains. The Saber Guardian exercise rotates between host nations, it just so happens that this year it was Ukraine’s turn to host it, coinciding with Rapid Trident

“The two were held together and integrated with each other,” Wrenn says. Training will begin tomorrow, after the end of today’s opening ceremony.

“We will be looking at practicing skills such as casualty evacuation and first aid, reacting to being ambushed in both an offensive posture or in defensive mode, we are conducting training in how to identify and react to improvised explosives and devices and there will be some simulated outpost operations.”

“These are all skills that are to be used either in combat or peacekeeping. Some Ukrainian armored vehicles will be included but most of the vehicles being used are just US humvees and wheeled vehicles,” he adds. Contrary to some media reports, no air operations are scheduled as part of the exercise.

Although a period of relative calm followed in the east after a ceasefire agreement was signed by the rebel leaders, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in February, clashes increase along the contact lines in May and by June the rebels launched the largest offensive since the battle for the strategic town of Debaltseve on the eve of the ceasefire deal.

Rebel leader Alexander Zaharchenko once again publically set target towns which the rebels plan to “take” in May and Reuters, Nato and the Ukrainian government have all reported an increasing military build up on the Russian side of the border.

Since the start of the conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east, Ukraine has led a series of reforms to its military in a bid to strengthen its efficiency in the short and long term. Eastern regions have obtained physical reinforcement bases and Ukraine has also pursued stronger ties with western neighbours such as the joint battalion it formed last year with Poland and Lithuania,

President Petro Poroshenko pledged yesterday to increase Ukraine’s security spending power, adding a further 5 billion hryvna (over €200m) to the defence budget, according to a statement released on his official website. Independent Russian news site Slon reported that the last Ukrainian budget allotted 90 billion hryvna to defence spending, which, together with Poroshenko’s latest pledge equals around €4bn.

However,  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s claim that the Ukraine will take over Donbass by the end of the year seems to be one more of his tricks. 

According to Forbes, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has offered Russian counterpart Vldimir Putin to ”include Donbass” in the territory of the federation. The announcement was released to Forbes magazine through an anonymous source.

It was stated that the proposal had been extended during the Normandy Four talks held in Minsk on February 11 and 12.

”Poroshenko directly told me, ”Take Donbass”, and I responded, ”Have you gone mad ? I don’t need Donbass. If you don’t need it, announce its independence”, was the statement Vladimir Putin made at his meeting with Russian industrialists and businessmen on March 19, as quoted by Forbes.

In the words of the Russian President, Poroshenko then stated that Ukrainian authorities are not able to take the step, ” Then, let Ukrainian authorities pay the pensions and social care to the population of Donbass and let them restore the banking system,” Putin allegedly insisted.

The ceasefire deal included 14 points connected to the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners, the providing of humanitarian aid for the severely affected regions of Ukraine, as well as establishing of special statute for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics.

According to the source released information to Forbes, Putin himself is skeptical regarding the peace deal and believes that Ukrainian authorities are attempting to win the fight with rebel forces and to destroy Donbass in economic terms.

Allegedly, Putin said that EU leaders are well aware of the Ukrainian intentions, but the strengthening of the conflict is said to be in favor of US foreign polices. He also informed business leaders that the EU sanctions against Russia are unlikely to be removed in the upcoming years.

On the other hand, Poroshenko’s relations with Poland have deteriorated.

A scheduled meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with the winner of the Polish presidential elections Andrzej Duda in Warsaw will not now take place, Polish news agency PAP reported on Wednesday, with reference to its own sources close to the newly-elected head of state.

At home, Poroshenko is facing serious problems with the nationalist “Right Sector” paramilitary group.  The popular assembly is dubbed ‘Away With Traitors in Power!’

The popular assembly dubbed “Away With Traitors in Power!”organized by Ukraine’s far-right paramilitary group, Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) has started on Independence Square (Maidan).

Here’s the scene on ‘s Maidan right now. 1000+ now gathered for far-right nationalist rally:

WATCH LIVE STREAMING VIDEO  HERE

The rally follows a recent shootout involving members of ‘Right Sector’, security teams close to Ukrainian MP Mykhailo Lanyo and local police officers which took place in the town of Mukacheve in Ukraine’s western Zakarpattia region on July 11. Four people were killed and up to 14 were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

‘Right Sector’ is one of a number of militarised groups that emerged during violent protests that toppled former Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych a year ago.

The militias went on to fight alongside Ukrainian troops in the east against Russian-backed militants, but concerns have risen over whether they could pose a challenge to President Poroshenko and the government or threaten public security.

‘Right Sector’ and police have accused each other of initiating the violence in Mukacheve, but on Tuesday a spokesman for the group said two of its members had surrendered to the SBU security service. 

 

KIEV’S JUNTA FORCES TERROR BOMB DONBASS

 

 

Kiev’s Junta Forces Terror Bomb Donbass

Posted by Stephen Lendman

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

 
Kiev war crimes include using banned chemical weapons, cluster bombs and white phosphorous in Donbass – including against civilian neighborhoods.
 
Reports indicate US experts are helping Ukraine produce chemical weapons for use against rebel forces. Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) intelligence learned they’re being secretly developed for escalated dirty war.
 
On Tuesday, reported fuel-air (thermobaric) explosives targeted a Donetsk chemical plant – fired from junta held Kurahhovo village 30 kilometers away.
 
These weapons suck oxygen from open areas and human lungs. They generate intense, high-temperature explosions. They’re much more destructive than conventional explosives of equal weight – especially when used against people in bunkers, shelters, caves and other enclosed places.
 
It’s virtually impossible for civilians to shelter against their destructive effects. A Russian military scientist once called their capability comparable to low-yield radiological munitions.
 
Used in large numbers, they’re enormously destructive – separate blast waves reinforcing each other increasing their overall power. They use fuel and explosive charges creating a massive blast wave. They were first used in Vietnam by US forces.
 
An earlier CIA study said their effect “within confined spaces is immense. Those near the ignition point are obliterated.”
 
“Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, rupture lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness.”
 
With air sucked from lungs, victims suffocate to death besides other injuries sustained. Make no mistake. These are terror weapons – yet not banned under international law.
 
Ukrainian forces targeted Donetsk’s chemical plant storage facilities where mining explosives are held. They tried earlier using inaccurate Tochka-U missiles. They failed again this time. Crater evidence showed thermobaric weapons use.
 
Western media ignore these type incidents – including multiple daily attacks by junta forces on Donbass.
 
Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said junta forces used artillery, mortars, grenade launchers and small arms in the last 24 hours alone. The pattern repeats daily – including willfully targeting civilian neighborhoods.
 
Russian upper house Federation Council International Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev blames US-dominated NATO for exploiting nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.
 
He expressed concern about belligerent NATO actions – calling deploying heavy weapons close to Russia’s borders “the height of irresponsibility to all peoples of Europe.”
 
Is “another large-scale military conflict planned,” he asked? “(W)hat is going on in Ukraine is a direct consequence of actions by the West, which upset the security and power balance in Europe by its (power grab in) Ukraine.”
 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said “(n)one of the Russia-NATO programs that used to (operate) are functioning at a working level.” Nothing is being done to repair ruptured relations.
 
Moscow justifiably is concerned about US-dominated NATO’s planned Eastern European buildup – creating more dangerous flashpoint conditions than already.
 
Russia intends responding appropriately to protect its security against hostile Western actions. Days earlier, a Foreign Ministry statement said:
 
“We will keep an eye on the United States’ and their allies’ steps towards building a global missile defence system and other factors impacting Russia’s security, such as the United States’ stockpiling non-nuclear strategic weapons within the Prompt Global Strike concept and its persistent unwillingness to undertake legally binding liabilities not to deploy weapons in outer space.”
 
“…Russia reserves the right to take (all) necessary steps to protect its security and defend its national interests.”
 
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of provocations “designed to aggravate bilateral relations.”
 
Moscow wants mutual cooperation with all nations. At the same time, it’ll defend itself responsibly against hostile US actions. Whether East/West confrontation can be avoided remains to be seen.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 2:51 AM

posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal @ 2:19 PM

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

The Isolation of Donetsk: A Visit to Europe’s Absurd New Border- Spiegel Online International

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Borders can be annoying, but largely predictable — in Europe at least. That is what truck driver Yevgeny believed until recently. Many of them are no longer monitored at all, but even those that are guarded rarely hold surprises for those wishing to cross them. “You know if you can zip across them or if you have to plan for a five-hour wait. But this one? I have no idea how it works.”

The border he is referring to is that of a wartime stronghold on the edge of a largely borderless European continent. At the first checkpoint after Kurakhove, travelers must present their papers, open the trunks of their cars and submit to pat-downs as guards search for weapons. Another 500 meters down the road, there are blocks of concrete, barricades, antitank barriers and signs that curtly order travelers to switch off their headlights and stop immediately. After that, there are containers and hooded soldiers, their Kalashnikovs at the ready.

Fields line the road on both sides. It looks almost as though oversized moles have been at work in the brown soil, covered with dirty snow. Black smoke pours out of chimneys sticking out of the smaller mounds while tank canons protrude from the larger ones. Further along, a single excavator is digging a trench in the heavy, wet dirt.

One kilometer from here, the territory of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” begins, an area the Ukrainians treat as enemy territory and as a stronghold for terrorists. The Ukrainian army, though, is holed up here, just past the small city of Kurakhove. In between is the road that leads from Zaporizhia to Donetsk — at least when traffic is allowed to flow. Yevgeny’s truck is now parked on this road. He has the heat and the TV on, and the cab smells of coffee. You could almost call it cozy. “But not if you’ve been sitting here for three days and have no idea when you’ll start moving again,” he complains.

A seemingly endless chain of vehicles — big trucks, small delivery vans, long-distance buses and shared taxies — are parked on the shoulder. In the midst of it all is Yevgeny’s small, green-and-white truck, a Russian-made GAZelle designed to carry 1.5 tons of cargo.

Yevgeny drives for a businessman in Donetsk and he is carrying supplies for shops in the rebel capital — a load of canned goods, tomato paste, condensed milk and spices that he picked up in Mariupol, the port city 120 kilometers (75 miles) away that could be the separatists’ next target. Yevgeny has passed through six checkpoints since leaving Mariupol, but now his trip has come to a standstill near Kurakhove, 40 kilometers from his destination.

As Isolated as West Berlin

One can argue whether the separatists are to be blamed or whether Kiev is exacting revenge. But either way, Donetsk is now just as isolated as West Berlin once was. Even from the east, where the border to Russia lies nearby, hardly any goods are allowed through. The rebels control the border, and they only allow the propaganda-driven aid shipments from Moscow to pass. Everything from milk to meat and vegetables is becoming scarce in the city. And the Ukrainian government has all but sealed off access to the “People’s Republic.”

More recently, anyone wishing to cross the line between the two warring camps must present a “propusk,” a small, white identity card with a large “B” printed on it. The Ukrainians have divided the demarcation line between their forces and the separatists into sections. The propusk is the Open Sesame for crossing the line in “zone B.” Since January, no one has been able to cross the line without this propusk. The problem is that it’s difficult to get.

There is currently a two to four-week waiting period to obtain the propusk, which is issued in Velyka Novosilka, a village 90 kilometers west of Donetsk. But a “Sector B” propusk is required to reach Velyka Novosilka from Donetsk in the first place. The result is that people from Donetsk are in a paralyzing catch-22.

Even in divided Berlin, such problems were more effectively solved. West Berliners were able to obtain travel permits from East Berlin officials in West Berlin so that they could cross the Wall. It was a small gesture of goodwill in the Cold War.

“It’s a theater of the absurd,” says Yevgeny, while another driver calls the situation at the border Kafkaesque. “Just look at the people over there, who have come from Donetsk. They give their documents to Ukrainian soldiers, hoping that the documents will somehow reach Velyka Novosilka. And then they come back, two weeks later, and spend days standing outside in the cold here to get their propusk.”

Yevgeny obtained the pass, but it’s not much help now that the Ukrainians have come up with a new requirement: Anyone transporting goods into rebel-held territory must now present proof of permit from the tax authorities. All companies that sell products to the rebels must possess such a permit, including the company in Mariupol where Yevgeny picked up his canned goods.

‘Obama Is a Beast’

“Of course, the company doesn’t have the document,” says Yevgeny. “I went to the border anyway. Last week, we waited here for six days. Then we gave a police officer 1,000 hryvnia. That’s only about €35 ($38), but here it’s a month’s pension. The police officer guided us to Donetsk through villages where there were no checkpoints yet.” But even these loopholes have now been closed, leaving only the official crossing, which is also closed. No one, no matter which documents he presents, is crossing the border on this winter day. According to an officer at the checkpoint, the order to open the border hasn’t arrived yet.

Donetsk, which is east of the checkpoint, seems peaceful on this day, with a fragile ceasefire having been in effect since Feb. 15. City workers are cleaning the streets, damaged buildings are being repaired in the Kiev and Petrovsky district, and even the university is open. But the war-torn city seems to have lost its moral bearings, with the newspapers reporting 18 murders in the last three days.

Supporters of the new leaders have gathered on Lenin Square, carrying flags with images of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the words “Victory will be ours” and “Obama is a beast.”

War films are being shown on the “First Republican Channel,” with messages running across the bottom of the screen like: “The ‘Oplot’ special battalion seeks tank drivers and paramedics.” Interested parties are instructed to call the phone number listed and ask for “Natasha.” Similar recruitment efforts are also underway in the streets. One poster depicting a Kalashnikov with a scope, along with the phone number of the Donetsk Republic army, reads: “I am waiting for my hero.” Novorossiya, the separatist newspaper, writes: “Following our military victory, we have achieved a diplomatic victory in Minsk: We have become de facto independent.” A man like Russian President Vladimir Putin, the article continues, is “born only once in a thousand years. The day will come when he will also be our president.”

There is very little artillery fire to be heard, and yet hardly anyone ventures out onto the streets, especially at night. “After 6 p.m., 40 percent discount on vodka, wine and champagne,” reads a sign outside the El Torro Steakhouse on Pushkin Boulevard. But the restaurant remains empty even after 6 p.m. So does the fur shop on Artem Street, which promises a “20 percent discount for wives of soldiers in the People’s Army.”

Other businesses lack products instead of customers. Not even aspirin makes it into the rebel-held territory, let alone pain medication for patients in the cancer clinics and methadone for the city’s drug addicts. “Either I hang myself or I join the People’s Army,” says a young man who has been in methadone therapy for four years. “Then I’ll fight with those guys, and I won’t be buried as a junkie but as someone who defended his homeland.”

Getting Out of Donetsk

As difficult as it is to get into Donetsk, it’s just as difficult to get out. Those hoping to escape the besieged city go to the southern bus terminal in Donetsk. Older women stand around holding out paper cups, quietly begging for money and a man digs through a trashcan, looking for anything of value. People are lined up at the information booths, where they pay 2.60 hryvnia for information. To prevent arguments, notes on the windows read: “We don’t know how to get a propusk either!”

There are 21 bus platforms at the terminal. The ones for buses traveling to destinations within the “People’s Republic” are empty, while the others are crowded, with buses departing for Mariupol, Sloviansk and the industrial city of Kramatorsk. The drivers only allow passengers holding a “Sector B” propusk to board their buses.

A rickety Indian-made Tata bus is ready for departure at platform four. As the passengers push their way inside, a young woman tells the driver that her mother is in the hospital in Kramatorsk and asks if he can take her along without a propusk. “Not without verification from the hospital,” says the driver. “But they won’t give it to me,” the desperate woman replies.

Another female passenger is more successful. She wants the driver to help her smuggle a relative into Donetsk on his way back. “Well,” the man says tentatively and then says “well” again, until she hands him a carton of “President” cigarettes. “How many are inside?” he asks. “Two hundred,” the woman replies. The driver opens the carton and pulls out four $50 bills. “Well,” he says again, but this time he sounds more approving. Although the war has officially cut off all connections to the outside world, ways around the blockade can still be bought.

Yevgeny, sitting in his truck over at the checkpoint, is familiar with these ways. In a country that is on the brink of economic disaster, why shouldn’t soldiers be open to bribery? “You simply go up to the checkpoint and pick out one of the more trustworthy-looking faces,” he says, “and then you strike up a conversation.”

No Future

How much does one have to pay to get a truck carrying food supplies through the front lines? Until recently, drivers had to pay the Ukrainians 10,000 hryvnia per truck, but now the price has spiked to 20,000 — the equivalent of five to six months’ salary for a soldier.

And that isn’t all. At the rebel checkpoint on the other side, soldiers from the “People’s Republic” demand “customs” payments. There is no fixed price, but the separatists normally requisition three out of five fuel tankers carrying gasoline. Even the richest businessman can’t afford such a price for long, says Yevgeny. Besides, he explains, the price of diesel has almost doubled since early February.

“I’ve spent almost my entire life in Donetsk. I have nothing bad to say about Viktor Yanukovych. When he was still in charge, he got us an apartment,” he says of the time prior to Yanukovych’s presidency when he was a local business leader. “Now I have a small house, where my wife is waiting for me. But we took our 16-year-old daughter to a school in Zaporizhia. There is no future for her in Donetsk anymore.”

The people in charge of the “People’s Republic” were unknowns until recently, Yevgeny says. “Now each of them has a Kalashnikov, and they behave like our new masters. I didn’t vote for independence.”

Then Yevgeny crawls into his sleeping bag. Another night at Europe’s new border? Or perhaps two or three?

Whether people are for or against the “People’s Republic” appears to have become a question of money. While Yevgeny waits at the border and curses the rebels, Fyodor Ilyishenko, at the Donetsk bus terminal, holds precisely the opposite views. He is holding an envelope that contains a letter to the district court in Kiev — a complaint againstPrime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. With his decision to impose an economic blockade on the People’s Republic, the premier was the one who caused the misery and suffering in the city in the first place, says Ilyishenko.

‘You Have to Fight’

“It was a criminal decision. Yatsenyuk is narrow-minded and as dull as a cork. He claims that we are no longer entitled to anything, because we live in occupied territory,” Ilyishenko continues.

Short and good-natured, Ilyishenko, 78, once served as an air force general in the far east of the Soviet Union and pulls out his veteran ID as proof. He fought against the Chinese in the 1960s, and he fought on the side of the Egyptians in the Six-Day War with Israel. Now he is a military adviser to the separatists. He no longer receives his pension, now that Kiev has cut off all payments to the “People’s Republics.”

“I have 70,000 hryvnia in my account with the state-owned Oshchadbank. The money is for my retirement, but I can’t get to it because there are no longer any banks in Donetsk. They have promised to give me all the money, but I would have to go to a branch in Ukrainian territory to get it” — which he is unable to do.

The government in Donetsk recently paid him 1,000 hryvnia in emergency assistance, he says, and he immediately spent half of the money on food. Now he is standing at the bus terminal holding a plastic bag with the words “Diamonds Delight” printed on it. The bag contains medicines.

The post office is also no longer in operation, which is why Ilyishenko is trying to find someone headed for Mariupol to take along his complaint letter. He has a friend there who can pass it on to the right place. He approaches a group of women, and one of them agrees to help. The old man shows her the letter, seals the envelope and gives her 25 hryvnia. “It will hardly change the situation, but you have to fight,” says the retired general.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan