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

The War in Ukraine: Editorial in The New York Times Suggests US Is Looking for a Face-Saving Way Out

The New York Times recommends a diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian conflict based on the Russian proposal of a year ago for Ukraine’s federalisation.

In-depth Report:

putin-nato-russia-ukraine_si-400x224The editorial in the New York Times we attach below is the first belated acknowledgement that the only way of saving Ukraine and ending the war is by conceding federalisation to Ukraine’s eastern regions.

We do not know for sure  whether this editorial reflects official US thinking. However, the probability is that it does.

Firstly, it is not unheard of for the US government to float ideas in this way through editorials in the New York Times. The New York Times is regularly chosen to do this because of its reputation and because it is widely read abroad.  The British government used to use the Times of London in the same way.

We have previously reported the concerns of some officials within the US government at the way in which the Ukrainian crisis is leading US relations with Russia into an impasse.

It is at least possible that with the war going disastrously wrong for Kiev and with the US administration looking increasingly short of options, the US administration is now trying to find a face-saving way out by finally embracing the federalisation solution that the Russians proposed last spring.  If so then this editorial, which will surely be read in Moscow, is intended as as an olive-branch.

The following words give the clear impression that a concrete offer has been made to Moscow through diplomatic back-channels. The carefully chosen words clearly convey the sense that the authority of the US government lies behind them:

“Russian officials have suggested that Moscow has no interest in annexing eastern Ukraine, the way it grabbed Crimea, but rather seeks a Ukrainian federation in which the pro-Russian provinces would have relative autonomy, along with assurances that Ukraine will not move to join NATO.

There is definitely potential for negotiations there……..

Tempting as it is to focus on punishing Mr. Putin, the greater objective must be to end the fighting so that Ukraine can finally undertake the arduous task of reforming and reviving its economy. Toward that end, the West must make clear to Mr. Putin that if a federation is his goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement.”

Poroshenko has just issued another statement ruling out federalisation.  This also suggests we are looking at an actual behind-the-scenes offer.  We have already explained why for Maidan talk of federalisation is anathema.  Poroshenko’s words suggest he knows of the US initiative and is trying to scotch it and to make his opposition to the idea clear before Secretary Kerry flies to Kiev as he is due shortly to do.

Moscow and the rebels are however unlikely to take up the offer.

The Russians pushed strongly for federalisation of Ukraine’s eastern regions following the February coup.  On 17th April 2014 a Statement was agreed by the US and Russian foreign ministers, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, and was signed by the EU and the Ukrainian government, that called for constitutional negotiations between the various Ukrainian parties. These were obviously intended to lead to a constitutional settlement that would have led to federalisation. Many people in the Donbass at the time of the independence referendum of 11th May 2014 appeared to support the idea.

What was offered (and declined) in Spring 2014 may however no longer be on the table in Winter 2015.

Since the federalisation idea was floated last Spring there has been a murderous war in the Donbass causing massive devastation and loss of life. Russia has been subjected to two rounds of sectoral sanctions. There has been a relentless propaganda campaign against Russia, the rebels and Putin himself. It is difficult to believe that all of this has not caused views to harden since the spring.

Promises of constitutional negotiations like the ones made in Geneva on 17th April 2014 and in Minsk on 5th September 2014 have come and gone. No negotiations have however taken place. Given that Kiev is dead against them, after all that has happened it is very doubrtful the rebels or the Russians now believe they ever will. Nor are the Russians likely to be in any sort of mood to believe in US assurances that “if federation is the goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement”.

What made sense in the Spring, when it was proposed to prevent a war, may anyway no longer make sense in the Winter, after the war has already happened. After so much violence it is barely conceivable that the rebels or the people of the Donbass who support them would now agree to be part of a federation that left them within Ukraine, especially now when they are on the brink of victory.

If this is correct, then it looks like the US and its allies have missed the bus.


The text of the editorial that appeared in The New York Times on February 2nd, 2015:

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has flared up again, putting an end to any myth about the cease-fire that was supposed to be in force since September.

Though the Russian economy is staggering under the twinned onslaught of low oil prices and sanctions — or, conceivably, as a result of that onslaught — President Vladimir Putin has sharply cranked up his direct support for the rebels in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, while continuing to baldly deny it and to blame all the violence on the United States.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is broke, and without the military means to move against the Russian-backed rebels. Most of the victims are civilians who struggle with hunger and dislocation in the rubble of the combat zones and die in the constant exchanges of shells and rockets.

The eruption of fighting in recent weeks, which was not supposed to happen until spring, has given new force to pleas to the Obama administration to give Ukraine the means to resist Mr. Putin — in money and in arms.

Certainly the United States and Europe should increase their aid to Ukraine and explore ways to expand existing sanctions against Russia. NATO’s commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, is said to support providing weapons and equipment to Kiev. And Secretary of State John Kerry is said to be open to discussing the idea. But lethal assistance could open a dangerous new chapter in the struggle — a chapter Mr. Putin would quite possibly welcome, as it would “confirm” his propaganda claims of Western aggression.

So far, President Obama has cautiously pledged to help Ukraine in every way “short of military confrontation.” Yet with sanctions and diplomacy making no headway against Russian aggression, it is imperative that the United States and its allies take a new look at what would bring Russia to a serious negotiation.

The first question is, to negotiate what? Along with denying the direct involvement of his troops in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin has not made clear what he is trying to achieve. Russian officials have suggested that Moscow has no interest in annexing eastern Ukraine, the way it grabbed Crimea, but rather seeks a Ukrainian federation in which the pro-Russian provinces would have relative autonomy, along with assurances that Ukraine will not move to join NATO.

There is definitely potential for negotiations there. Yet the latest rebel attacks have focused on Mariupol, an important port on the Black Sea, and on expanding the rebels’ control to areas that would give their self-proclaimed “republics” greater military and economic cohesion. And that speaks to long-term rebel occupation.

Tempting as it is to focus on punishing Mr. Putin, the greater objective must be to end the fighting so that Ukraine can finally undertake the arduous task of reforming and reviving its economy. Toward that end, the West must make clear to Mr. Putin that if a federation is his goal, the United States and its allies will actively use their good offices with Kiev to seek a workable arrangement.

But if the evidence continues to accumulate that Mr. Putin and the rebels are carving out a permanent rebel-held enclave in eastern Ukraine, à la Transdniestria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, he must know that the United States and Europe will be compelled to increase the cost.

NATO Meeting in Brussels Heightens Danger of War with Russia

 

In-depth Report:

11039-400x287NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels today to consolidate the military alliance against Russia, increasing the risk of a direct military confrontation between nuclear-armed powers.

NATO sources have revealed plans to establish a long-term presence in Eastern Europe, according to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS). So-called NATO “Force Integration Units” will be established in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. There are also plans to deploy such a unit in Hungary at a later time.

The units will consist of 40 soldiers each. They will be tasked with preparing exercises for a new NATO rapid response force and coordinating military activities in emergencies. Germany, which is spearheading the operation this year, intends to deploy a total of 25 soldiers within the units.

The ground troops of the rapid response force are to consist of a brigade of some 5,000 soldiers. The goal is for their most flexible units to have the capability to move to a new location within 48 hours. The entire brigade will be trained and equipped to be able to move to a new location within a week. The leadership of the operation will rotate yearly between NATO member countries.

According to the FAS, NATO defense ministers have already decided on the equipment to be provided during the “test phase,” which is to last until the beginning of next year. Starting in April, a company of German paratroopers will supplement American units that have been stationed in the Baltic States and Poland since last year.

Two weeks ago, the FAS revealed that NATO defense ministers will convene the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) at the beginning of today’s meeting to discuss “the nuclear threat scenario from Russia in the past few months.”

Unlike previous years, according to the FAS, this will not merely be a routine meeting. An analysis of threat scenarios worked out at NATO headquarters will be presented to the defense ministers. Afterwards, the ministers “will for the first time discuss the consequences for the nuclear strategy of the alliance.” A separate consultation session is planned with France, which is not a member of the NPG.

NATO’s nuclear simulations underscore the fact that the imperialist powers are ready to risk nuclear war in order to force Russia to its knees. In the past week, a number of prominent figures, including former Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev, have warned of the danger of a Third World War if NATO, led by the United States, continues to take aggressive measures against Russia.

Under conditions of escalating fighting between troops of the Western-backed Kiev regime and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Gorbachev warned of a “hot war” that “could well inevitably turn into an atomic war.”

On Sunday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the Russian military expert Yevgeny Buchinsky, who warned that, in response to an offensive against the Donbass by Kiev,

“Russia will have to intervene, and then, bluntly speaking, to take Kiev. Then NATO would be in a difficult situation. Then you would have to start World War III, which no one wants.”

In spite of such warnings, the imperialist powers and their proxies in Kiev are escalating the conflict. On Monday, the New York Times revealed that the Obama administration is considering sending advanced weapons to Kiev. The newspaper listed high-ranking current and former administration officials and military officers who are pushing for such a move.

The Times report triggered opposition among sections of the European elite. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that a decision by Washington to arm the Kiev regime with offensive weapons would be taken by Russia as the equivalent of a declaration of war. Russian officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke against any such move during a visit to Hungary.

Washington intends to use today’s NATO meeting to bring the member states into line behind its provocative and reckless course. At the beginning of the week, Alexander Vershbow, a former US ambassador to Russia and currently the deputy secretary general of NATO, referred to “Russian aggression” in Ukraine as a “game changer in European security.”

He emphasized the necessity of deploying rapid response troops in Eastern Europe, extending NATO’s reach in the east, and arming the Ukrainian military. Referring to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, all former Soviet republics, he said,

“The more stable they are, the more secure we are. So helping Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova—to strengthen their military forces, reform their institutions and modernize their economies—is not an act of generosity, it is in our fundamental strategic interest.”

He added,

“NATO is doing its part. To help Ukraine to modernize and reform its armed forces, we have launched five trust funds to assist in areas like command and control, logistics, cyber defense and military medicine. We are sending more advisors to Kiev and will be carrying out exercises with Ukraine’s armed forces. And we are helping Moldova and Georgia to strengthen their defense capacity in similar ways, and, in Georgia’s case, to help it prepare for future membership in the Alliance.”

At the end of his speech, Vershbow warned:

“This time around, having chosen our course, we must stick to it. We must stay united, stay firm and increase the costs to Russia of its aggression.”

Meanwhile, voices in favor of arming Ukraine are growing louder. Michael Gahler (Germany’s Christian Democratic Union—CDU), who is the spokesman on security policy for the European People’s Party in the European Union parliament, spoke in favor of sending weapons to Ukraine in an interview on Deutschlandfunk radio.

Wolfgang Ischinger, leader of the Munich Security Conference, which takes place this weekend, has adopted the same line. On ZDF Television he spoke in favor of the “announcement of possible weapons shipments” to Ukraine. “Sometimes one needs to use pressure to enforce peace,” he declared. While he cautioned that Germany should not send weapons, he said he could “imagine that other members of the alliance would want to do this.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose regime was brought to power nearly a year ago by a fascist-led putsch backed by the US and Germany, and has since waged a brutal war against the population of eastern Ukraine, made an appearance yesterday in Kharkiv, which is near the border with Russia and the contested areas. He said that “we will need lethal weapons, and I am sure that foreign weapons will be sent to Ukraine.” He continued: “I don’t have any doubt that the US and other partners will provide help with lethal weapons so that Ukraine will be able to defend itself.”

Poroshenko will take part in the Munich Security Conference along with 20 other heads of state and 60 foreign and defense ministers. He is meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Kiev today.

Crowd of Several Hundred Tries to Storm Ukrainian Presidential Administration Office

 

In-depth Report:

Ukraine-anniversary-Maidan-coup-4-400x270A crowd of several hundred people has begun storming the Ukrainian presidential administration’s office, a TASS correspondent reports from the scene.

Protest demonstrators have penetrated the first cordon of the National Guards and are trying to make their way to the conference hall. Police forces are being moved in. National guards in full riot gear entered a brawl with the demonstrators, who are demanding access to TV cameras for a statement.

Earlier, demonstrators demanded the introduction of martial law and resignation of all top law enforcement officials, including the defense minister and prosecutor-general.

Also, one of their demands is the removal of the 25th Kievan Rus battalion of the Ukrainian armed forces from the area of Debaltsevo. Women from the Mothers’ Union have told TASS their sons could not have been contacted for the past several days.

“Je Suis Donetsk”: Ukraine Army Attacks Bus and Trolley in Center of Donetsk. 13 Killed including Children

 

In-depth Report:

 

cluster-rocket-ukraine-400x222This morning January 22nd at 8:30 local time in Donetsk the Ukrainian army fired what appear to be 82mm shells at buses and trolleys near the center of the city.

The targets were located within roughly a 25 meter radius of each other. The OSCE is investigating.

The terrorist strike on the bus shown above claimed the lives of 13-15 people including children. There are reported to be over 20 other critically injured, many with blast amputations. The driver of a car next to the blast burnt to death. The blast was large enough to blowout 2nd story windows in an apartment across from it and stopped the clock at 8:30.

Donetsk Defense Minister Vladimir Kononov gave a statement that a group of terrorists launching attacks on civilians have been caught and are Ukrainian military operatives. Small teams of Ukrainian army/terrorists have been perpetrating random drive by shootings with automatics in Donetsk since the Ukrainian army reignited the hot war eleven days ago.
 

 
 

In another development on Slavakaya St. which is located on the outskirts of Donetsk, a local resident noticed an improvised trip mine pictured above. The DNR(Donetsk Peoples Republic) army responded by sending an explosives team to defuse it. The mine was set up on a pathway to a children’s playground.

In the town of Stahanovo today a Grad and Hurricane rocket and missile attack left three children’s kindergartens entirely destroyed this morning. Three more pre-school facilities were targeted and partially destroyed. So far casualty reports are 8 civilians dead including at least 2 children and over 20 wounded. The attacks on civilians are escalating.

Sources are reporting that the attack this morning is only the beginning of a much larger one. Ukraine’s Donbas Battalion is moving military equipment into Artemovsk flying DNR flags and wearing DNR uniforms. Artemovsk is in the control of the Ukrainian army.

The latest attacks on civilian targets in Donetsk show a blatant pattern of criminal murder that has come to define the Ukrainian Government in Kiev throughout the war. Like the other bus attack near Volonovaha where the Ukrainian army fired Grad rockets at one of their own checkpoints this attack shows the open criminality of the Poroshenko regime.

In developed countries governments that give their army units orders to murder other army units and their own civilians are criminals. Every official that could have influence and stop the crimes are held accountable. Most developed countries also adhere to laws of war that makes the purposeful targeting of civilians an international crime. Leaders of countries that order crimes of this magnitude are prosecuted either internally or in an international forum like the War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremburg. After WW2, a guilty verdict meant the responsible leaders were hung.

Why is this openly Nazi government instead rewarded?

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army, is head of Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) for NATO was in Kiev yesterday and awarded US Army Europe medallions for excellence to the Ukrainian army’s wounded. General Hodges shook one Ukrainian soldiers hand and stated he was “proud of his service to his country.”

 

At Debalsevo and the Donetsk airport where these wounded soldiers are coming from the Ukrainian army has been targeting civilians for several months. The US Army head of LANDCOM takes pride in this? As an American I have never felt this much shame for my country. Just the sight of this man who is in the position of knowing exactly who he is dealing with shames the memory of my own grandfather and uncle who fought in WW2 against ultra-nationalism.

My grandfather and uncle would not thank openly nazi governments for receiving him on “such short notice.” They were proud to be American.

 

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