Περί Ουκρανίας

Russians Open Fire in Ukraine, NATO Reports

KIEV, Ukraine — Russia on Friday escalated tensions with Ukraine to the highest level since its stealthy invasion of Crimea in the spring, sending more than 200 trucks from a long-stalled aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine over the objections of Kiev and, NATO said, conducting military operations on Ukrainian territory.

NATO officials said that the Russian military had moved artillery units inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces. Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops or military hardware into Ukraine, just as it denied any link to the unidentified gunmen who paved the way for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea — until President Vladimir V. Putin stated in April that Russian troops were “of course” involved.

There has been “a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO said in a statement. “Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” Mr. Rasmussen added.

Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO, in a statement, accused the alliance of indifference to humanitarian suffering in eastern Ukraine and described its protests over the entry of a Russian aid convoy into Ukraine without Red Cross escorts as “another cynical attempt to cover the crimes of Ukrainian authorities.”

Mr. Rasmussen did not say how many Russian artillery pieces had moved into Ukraine or where they were located, but one Western official said the number of Russian-operated artillery units was “substantial.”

The NATO allegations are based on intelligence reports from several alliance members, Western officials said, and the allegation generally echoed Ukrainian claims in recent days of an expanding Russian military involvement in support of pro-Russian rebels who are battling to hold off a Ukrainian offensive.

A NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, also said that the alliance had receive multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine.

The NATO statements added new pressure on Moscow before a flurry of diplomacy in coming days, including a visit to Kiev on Saturday by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and a scheduled meeting next week between President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine and his Russian counterpart, Mr. Putin, in Minsk, Belarus.

Ms. Merkel spoke by telephone with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on Friday and “expressed her great concern” over Russia’s unilateral decision to move its aid trucks into Ukraine, her spokesman said. She also spoke with President Obama and, according to the White House, both leaders agreed that the arrival of the convoy represented “a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In a news briefing, the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, condemned the convoy as an “unauthorized entry into Ukraine” and called for the vehicles’ immediate withdrawal. The move into Ukraine, without the Red Cross escorts that had been agreed upon, drew angry accusations from Ukraine that Moscow had broken its word and mounted what Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, called a “direct invasion.”

But Ukraine stepped back from earlier threats to use “all forces available” to halt any Russian vehicles that crossed the frontier without its full accord, and Mr. Poroshenko told the visiting foreign minister of Lithuania, “We will do our best to ensure that this does not lead to more serious consequences.”

The comments by Mr. Poroshenko suggested that Ukraine would limit its response to verbal protests and not use force against the Russian vehicles, although it was unclear whether volunteer Ukrainian battalions of sometimes shaky discipline would respect calls for restraint.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement saying in essence that it had authorized the crossing because it was fed up with stalling by the government in Kiev. Russian news agencies quoted a spokesman for Mr. Putin as saying that he had been informed of the convoy’s movements.

“All the excuses to delay the delivery of aid to people in the area of a humanitarian catastrophe are exhausted,” the ministry said. “The Russian side has made a decision to act. Our column with humanitarian cargo starts moving toward Luhansk.”

That brought a curt response from a spokeswoman from the Obama administration.

“It is important to remember that Russia is purporting to alleviate a humanitarian situation which Russia itself created,” Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “If Russia really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies,” she added.

In a telephone interview after a meeting with Mr. Poroshenko, the Lithuanian foreign minister, Linas A. Linkevicius, described the Russian move as “a serious escalation” but said Ukraine’s president had made clear there would be “no attack” on the trucks by Ukrainian forces.

“They will not add anything to this escalation,” he said, adding that Russia’s decision to move in its aid trucks, many of which appeared half empty to Western journalists allowed to see them earlier this week, only strengthened suspicions that the Kremlin’s humanitarian effort “is a smoke screen for something else.”

Rather than an invasion, however, the arrival of Russian trucks — only 34 of which Ukrainian officials inspected Thursday evening on the Russian side of the border, and found to contain buckwheat, rice, sugar and water — appeared to be a Russian effort to stall an accelerating offensive by Ukrainian forces against beleaguered pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has suggested it would be reluctant to attack with a convoy interposed.

The trucks are traveling toward Luhansk, a war-ravaged rebel-held city where the bullet-riddled body of the acting honorary consul for Lithuania, a 39-year-old Ukrainian national named Mykola Zelenets, was found on Thursday. He was kidnapped earlier this month by armed separatists, the Lithuanian ambassador to Ukraine, Petras Vaitiekunas, said.

Luhansk has come under heavy military pressure in recent days from Ukrainian forces. The rebel city’s recapture by Ukraine would deliver a humiliating blow to Mr. Putin, who has faced mounting calls from hard-line nationalists in Russia to intervene decisively to stave off defeat for the Russian-speaking and often ethnically Russian separatists.

While denying that it supports the rebels, despite a steady flow of arms and fighters into eastern Ukraine from Russia, the Kremlin has tied itself to their fate by whipping up a nationalist fervor with vows to protect Russians beyond Russia’s borders.

The decision to send in the aid trucks in defiance of Kiev suggested an attempt by Mr. Putin to calm nationalist complaints that he has not done enough to prevent a rebel defeat and marked the latest in a long series of surprise moves by the Russian president, a judo practitioner, to put Ukraine and the West off balance.

Spreading the conspicuously large white aid trucks through Luhansk could effectively impose a cease-fire, essentially daring the Ukrainians to fire at vehicles that have been sent to provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Any respite in Ukraine’s military offensive could allow rebels to dig in further, and indefinitely postpone any attempt to oust them.

Ukraine has from the start viewed Russia’s aid convoy, which left Moscow on Aug. 12, with deep suspicion, worrying that the vehicles could be carrying weapons or be part of a ruse by Moscow to support the pro-Russian separatists, or possibly an attempt to provoke Ukraine into an ill-advised attack.

“This is a provocation,” said Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s military spokesman. “They expect us to attack the convoy.”

He added that Ukrainian forces would allow the convoy to reach Luhansk, because “it is easy to shoot but the consequences would be very destructive.” He said Ukraine would adopt a different approach if it turned out that, after reaching Luhansk, the convoy “has other equipment, not just humanitarian aid.”

Under the arrangements agreed to by the two countries, officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross were to escort the trucks to Luhansk. They decided not to proceed after heavy shelling around the city during the night, Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said in Geneva.

The main highway from the border crossing at Izvaryne to Luhansk has seen heavy fighting over the past week, as Ukrainian forces pressed their military campaign against the separatists. The rebel forces have been driven out of a string of towns and villages but are still holding out in Luhansk and Donetsk.

There were no signs of Russian military vehicles or any other indications of an armed escort by Russian troops. The United States and its European allies have warned that any crossing of the border by Russian military vehicles, even under the pretext of protecting the aid convoy, would be regarded as an invasion.

Several dozen trucks, from a convoy of about 270, crossed the border around noon. Soldiers carrying automatic rifles and wearing camouflage, some bearing the markings of the rebels in eastern Ukraine, cleared the road to let the convoy move past.

Andrew Higgins reported from Kiev, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth from Izvaryne, Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer from Donetsk, Ukraine, David M. Herszenhorn and Alexandra Odynova from Moscow, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.
Des soldats russes arrêtés en Ukraine, un « accident », selon Moscou
(Le Monde.fr avec AFP | 26.08.2014 à 11h04 • Mis à jour le 26.08.2014 à 12h19)

Moscou a reconnu, mardi 26 août, que des soldats russes avaient été arrêtés sur le territoire ukrainien, comme l'avait annoncé Kiev lundi soir. Une source au ministère de la défense russe a toutefois exclu une incursion militaire, évoquant plutôt un « accident ».

« Les militaires en question participaient à des patrouilles à la frontière russo-ukrainienne et l'ont traversée sans doute par accident sur un tronçon sans démarcation. »

Mais l'armée ukrainienne a diffusé mardi le témoignage des soldats interpellés, qui mettent en doute cette version officielle. L'un d'eux, Ivan Romantsev, explique qu'il pensait dans un premier temps participer à des « manœuvres ». « Quand on a fait exploser mon blindé, j'ai commencé à avoir peur. J'ai compris que ce n'était pas des manœuvres », a-t-il raconté dans une vidéo diffusée par le service de presse de l'opération militaire ukrainienne.

« Je me suis rendu compte qu'ici c'[était] la guerre entre l'Ukraine et la Russie », a-t-il poursuivi, ajoutant : « Ce que raconte la télévision russe ne correspond pas à la réalité. » Etait-il possible de se retrouver sur le territoire de l'Ukraine en se perdant en cours de route ? « Si on parle de toute la compagnie, non », assure-t-il.


« Nous avancions en colonnes dans des champs, pas sur la route. J'ai deviné [que nous étions en Ukraine] quand on a commencé à nous bombarder. Je ne sais pas à quel moment on a traversé la frontière », indique un autre homme, le caporal Ivan Miltchakov, « citoyen russe né en 1995 ». Il dit avoir été informé qu'il se rendait en Ukraine, sans lui préciser le but de la mission. « On nous utilise comme de la chair à canon, nous ne savons pas pourquoi on nous a envoyés ici », ajoute-t-il.

Selon les services de sécurité ukrainiens, qui ont « ouvert une enquête criminelle », les hommes arrêtés sont dix parachutistes russes. Ils ont été interpellés à Dzerkalne, à une vingtaine de kilomètres de la frontière et à environ 50 kilomètres de la ville de Donetsk, place forte des rebelles prorusses.


A la mi-août, Alexandre Zakhartchenko, chef du gouvernement autoproclamé de la « République populaire de Donetsk », annonçait avoir reçu le renfort de « 1 200 combattants aguerris formés en Russie » et de plusieurs dizaines de blindés et de lance-roquettes. Moscou l'avait démenti et rappelé à l'ordre.

Quelques jours plus tard, Kiev et des journalistes ukrainiens assuraient, photos à l'appui, avoir retrouvé dans des blindés détruits des documents les reliant à une unité de parachutistes russe basée à Pskov, en Russie. Moscou avait cette fois ironisé : « Il est difficile de comprendre pourquoi on transporte une telle bibliothèque dans un blindé. » Lundi, pourtant, la presse russe relatait l'enterrement très discret, à Pskov, de plusieurs parachutistes, dont la date et les conditions de la mort n'ont pas été dévoilées.

C'est dans ce contexte tendu que les présidents russe et ukrainien doivent se rencontrer mardi à un sommet régional à Minsk, en Biélorussie, en grande partie consacré au conflit ukrainien.

Since November 1912, it had been an established assumption of Russian mobilization practice that the concentration of troops and matériel should be completed, if possible, 'without beginning hostilities, in order not to deprive the enemy irrevocably of the hope that war can still be avoided'. During this period of latent mobilization, 'clever diplomatic negotiations' would be used to 'lull to sleep as much as possible the enemy's fears'. (Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914, p. 483-4)
Russians start asking: are we at war?
Families demand answers over deaths and disappearances of troops thought to have been fighting in neighbouring Ukraine. RFE/RL reports
(Glenn Kates for RFE/RL, part of the New East network / The Guardian)

In early spring, Russian president Vladimir Putin deployed soldiers without insignia into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea to ensure a quick annexation of the territory.

After a month of denying their existence, the Russian president acknowledged that the thousands of well-armed fighters, who had previously been referred to as “little green men”, were in fact Russian troops.

Decried in the west, Russians gave the move near unanimous support. A territory was won through military might – and an overwhelming referendum vote that has not been recognised in the west – but without a fight.

Now, as Moscow apparently reinvigorates a flailing pro-Russian separatist insurgency with a barely concealed incursion into south-eastern Ukraine, indications are that Russian military men are dying. And as captured Russian paratroopers are paraded on Ukrainian television and servicemen are buried in secrecy, some Russians are asking a seemingly simple question: “are we at war?”

No information

The answer to the question, posed this week in an editorial in the business daily newspaper Vedomosti, is one that is becoming increasingly obvious for military families. It is the details that they say are not forthcoming.

In Kostroma, 1,300km from Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine, family members of a group of 10 Russian paratroopers captured in Ukraine say all their information has come from secondhand, online sources.

One mother, Olga Pochtoyeva, says when she approached officials with photos on the social media site Vkontakte that appeared to show her son had been taken prisoner in Ukraine, her claims were dismissed as “provocations.”

“We showed them [these pictures] and they didn’t believe it,” she says. “It’s Photoshop, they told us. I’m sorry, I’d never mistake my son’s eyebrows for Photoshop.”

The paratroopers, who have been paraded in front of cameras by Ukrainian authorities at least three times, are only the most public face of Russian military involvement.

Members of Russia’s presidential council on human rights have asked for an investigation into the deaths of nine military contractors, while the Stavropol Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers has compiled a list of 400 Russian troops it says have recently been either killed or wounded.

The claims come amid evidence of secret funerals for Russian servicemen, reports of which began with small drips of information from Pskov, a small city in northern Russia.

On 25 August families buried Leonid Kichatkin and Aleksandr Osipov, two Russian paratroopers from a regiment based in the city. Some of the brigade’s gear and documents had been spotted by Ukrainian journalists days earlier in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

State media did not cover the funerals and independent reporters who had come to inspect the paratroopers’ gravestones were accosted by unidentified men.

“It was more like a threat than any sort of demand,” Ilya Vasyunin, a journalist for the online Russian Planet news site, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service. “They wanted to make sure we understood that there was no need to visit the cemetery or dig any deeper into the situation.”

The names on the gravestones, which showed the dates of death as 19 and 20 August, have since reportedly been removed.

There has been a near complete blackout in coverage of the funerals by Russia’s state-controlled media and a message on Kichatkin’s VKontakte page saying that the serviceman had been killed, apparently written by his wife, has been removed. The families have since been unwilling to speak with media.

More funerals

Meanwhile, reports of new funerals continue.

On 25 August, Anton Korolenko, a commander – apparently from the same Pskov-based paratrooper division – was buried in Voronezh. A local journalist told RFE/RL’s Russian Service that an unidentified family member had claimed the circumstances behind his death were “secret” but that “he did not die in vain”.

And in Russia’s Urals republic of Bashkortostan, the mother of Marsel Arattanov told the independent Dozhd TV station that she had buried her son on 22 August after being ordered by the authorities to claim his body in Rostov, a Russian city near the border with Ukraine. “He was not on our territory when he died,” Venera Arattanova said. “We have heard that they went to Ukrainian territory.”

Asked about the funerals, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told the Itar-Tassn ews agency the information was “being checked by the agencies concerned”.

A Nato official said on 28 August that more than 1,000 Russian soldiers were serving with separatists in Ukraine. The head of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, Valentina Melnikova, said the number was as high as 15,000. And Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, admitted that there were members of the Russian military serving with the rebels, though he said they had come during their “vacations.”

Although Russians have been largely supportive of pro-Russian separatists, a survey conducted by the government-backed Public Opinion Foundation found that just five per cent of respondents would favour sending troops into Ukraine.

Families of soldiers still unaccounted for fear the worst. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Ella Polyakova, a member of Putin’s advisory council on human rights, who so far has been unsuccessful in using official channels to gather information. “People are demanding answers – where are their sons?”

RFE/RL’s Russian Service contributed to this report
Και λίγα από τη βαλκανική διάσταση:

Bulgaria Accuses Russia of Waging 'Information War'
(Balkan Insight)
Defence Ministry report says Bulgaria is in an information war with Russia, as the Kremlin strives to regain its lost influence in the former Soviet bloc.

A Bulgarian Defence Ministry report, “Outlook 2020: Bulgaria and NATO in European Defence”, published on the ministry website, says the country faces threats of “hybrid wars, energy dependence, Russian propaganda, failed states, terrorism and migration.

“The active and total propaganda of Russian policies, particularly with the mediation of Bulgarian economic and political entities, media and NGOs is an open information war, undermining the integrity of institutions and state and directly attacking the national democratic values, spirit and will,” the report reads.

The report, presented by Bulgaria’s caretaker Defence Minister, Velizar Shalamanov, will be presented by President Rosen Plevneliev and Shalamanov at the NATO summit in Wales on September 4 and 5.

The report says the propaganda war is prompted by Russia’s long term ambitions to regain its influence in the former Soviet bloc and by the situation in Ukraine.

Bulgaria's relations with Russia have deteriorated in recent months as a result of being caught up in the worsening feud between the EU and Moscow over events in Ukraine.

As an EU member, Bulgaria had no option but to join sanctions slapped on Russia as a result of the Kremlin's perceived interfence in Ukraine's affairs and support for pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

The report also outlines plans for reform and modernisation of Bulgaria's defence forces. According to it, 2 per cent of GDP must be set aside for defence yearly by 2020, of which 10 to 15 per cent should be spent purchasing new armaments.

Και από Σερβία, το Μάρτη (από το ίδιο σάιτ):

Serbian Officials Stay Neutral on Ukraine Crisis

Serbia’s outgoing government is maintaining a neutral stance on the crisis over Crimea in an attempt to preserve good relations with both Russia and Ukraine.
BIRN, Beta

Outgoing Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said on Sunday that Serbia hopes to see a political solution to the crisis that has taken ex-Soviet neighbours Ukraine and Russia to the brink of armed conflict.

"Both Ukraine and Russia are friendly countries and friendly peoples, and what is happening [over there] is a tragedy. This is why we hope for stabilization and a political solution for relations between Russia and Ukraine," Dacic told Beta news agency.

When asked why Serbia hadn't taken a stronger position on Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, Dacic replied that Serbia was not China, Russia, the US or Germany, but a small country with hardly any impact on international relations.

"We are not important enough to be asked for our stance, and we also have our own problems, from the issue of Kosovo to accession talks with the EU, not to mention our economic plight to deal with," he said.

Dacic also pointed to Crimea as the best example of why some countries had been wrong to recognize Kosovo's self-declared independence in 2008.

"That set a precedent which could become the rule for many countries around the globe," he argued.

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s outgoing Deputy Prime Minister, said meanwhile that Belgrade did not want to interfere in situations which have nothing to do with Serbia.

"When the elephants fight, the mice usually suffer, and we do not want our people to suffer," Vucic said.

He insisted that a potential "Ukrainian scenario" – the overthrow of the government through mass protests - was impossible in Serbia.

Crimea, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, is currently the subject of a stand-off between Russia and Ukraine, which accuses Moscow of occupying the region.

The majority of people in Crimea are ethnic Russians, and many say it was wrong of the former Soviet authorities to transfer Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, although large minorities of ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars in the region would prefer to remain under Kiev’s control.

Η Ουκρανία τότε είχε απαντήσει ότι λυπάται γι' αυτή τη στάση της Σερβίας, αλλά ότι παρ' όλα αυτά δεν θα αναγνωρίσει το Κόσοβο, γιατί σέβεται την ακεραιότητα και την κυριαρχία, σε αντίθεση με τον Πούτιν ο οποίος επικαλέστηκε το παράδειγμα του Κοσόβου για να καταλάβει την Κριμαία. (στο ίδιο σάιτ)
Kazakhstan is latest Russian neighbour to feel Putin's chilly nationalist rhetoric
(Ian Traynor / The Guardian)


But it is in the south, not in the north-west, that the chilly blast of Putin's rhetoric is being felt, far away from Europe and from Nato.

In little-noticed remarks last week, he called into question the legitimacy of the post-Soviet state of Kazakhstan while ordering the Kazakhs to be on their best behaviour when it came to serving Russian interests.

The remarks, to an audience of young people in Russia on Friday, sent shock waves through the central Asian republic, which also hosts a large ethnic Russian minority centred in the north on the Russian border.

Putin said there had never been a country called Kazakhstan, that the republic was purely the product of the current president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"I am confident that a majority of its population supports development of close ties with Russia," said Putin. "Nazarbayev is a prudent leader, even the most prudent in the post-Soviet space. He would never act against the will of his country's people."

Kazakhstan, he said, was "part of the large Russian world that is part of the global civilisation in terms of industry and advanced technologies. I am confident that that's the way things are going to be in the medium – and long-term."

Nazarbayev had "done a unique thing. He created a state in a territory that had never had a state before. The Kazakhs had no statehood."

NATO in Wales: Summit of missed opportunities
(Ian Kearns / European Leadership Network)

The NATO Summit in Wales was the latest in a series of summits involving Western leaders focused on addressing the consequences of recent Russian behaviour in Ukraine. It produced some notable achievements. Allies re-affirmed their commitment to collective defence. They provided a measure of re-assurance to eastern members of the alliance by agreeing a Readiness Action Plan that will establish a continuous rotation of air, land and maritime forces in Eastern Europe. And they agreed to increase NATO’s ability to move quickly in response to emerging threats by agreeing the creation of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), some 4,000 to 6,000 troops strong, and capable of being deployed at two to five days’ notice. When seen alongside the commitment to increase the tempo of NATO exercises in Eastern Europe, this all amounts to a substantial advance in NATO readiness to face challenges coming from its east.

Despite the achievements, however, this NATO Summit, along with many others that have taken place among EU leaders in the recent past, left two major questions in the wider Western response to a changed strategic environment in Europe unanswered. These are first, what is the West’s overall strategy toward Russia? Second, how does the West, and especially Europe, intend to pay for the policies it needs to pursue to its east?

On the first question, it can be argued that the Wales Summit leaves the West’s strategy in relation to Russia shrouded in the same cloud of ambiguity and incoherence that has been present for some time.

The rhetoric coming out of the Summit was certainly clear, and tough. The Summit declaration referred explicitly to Russia’s ‘aggressive actions against Ukraine’. NATO’s formal position is that Russia must reverse its recent pattern of behaviour, hand Crimea back to the control of Kyiv, and stop destabilising the situation in the Donbass. If it does not do this, or if it further escalates its involvement in Ukraine, it will face further diplomatic isolation, increased economic sanctions and a growing NATO footprint and tempo of activities in Eastern Europe. So far, one might argue, so good.

The most important truth underpinning Western policy with regard to Russia confirmed at the Summit, however, was that NATO is unwilling to confront Russia militarily either in Ukraine or anywhere else in non-NATO Eastern Europe. Underpinning and explaining this truth is also a second of strategic significance, namely that Western interests in the region are deemed insufficiently core to warrant the taking of such a risky step against a nuclear armed opponent. This point about the limited nature of the interests perceived to be at stake by many Western leaders has also been brought into sharp relief by the protracted struggle involved in agreeing harsh sanctions on Russia, since it has been the desire not to harm even limited economic interests elsewhere in Europe that has been the sticking point.

This means the current approach is rhetorically confrontational, but not underwritten by a commitment to do what is necessary to succeed in the confrontation. It is an approach that holds out the prospect of some future improved relationship with Russia if Russian behaviour changes but appears incapable of applying sufficient economic or diplomatic pressure to change Russian action. And the alternative, which would be to seek some accommodation with Russia, is unattainable because it sees all of the compromises that might be required to get an accommodation as politically unpalatable and reminiscent of 1930s appeasement.

This no doubt all reflects internal divisions within the West over what to do, as well the complexity of the problem that Russian behaviour presents and the often fast moving nature of events on the ground. Nevertheless, the upshot is that NATO leaders left Wales with no strategy toward Russia worthy of the name.

With regard to the second question of how NATO intends to pay for the strategy it wishes to pursue in relation to Russia and Eastern Europe, assuming that the strategy can in time be clarified, the situation is no less worrisome.

Despite the welcome steps announced in Wales, the Summit failed to commit members to spend 2% of GDP on defence before 2020 and even by 2020 they have only committed to strive to meet that guideline, not to actually meet it. To the extent that this represents a spending commitment at all, in the 24 member states that do not currently meet the 2% target, this represents a decision by one group of leaders to commit their successors to something they are unwilling to commit to themselves. This is the clearest signal possible that, despite claims to the effect that recent events in Europe have been a game-changer, European leaders are in fact still unwilling to change the game and in reality do not perceive what has happened in Ukraine as sufficiently threatening to require them to do so with urgency.

This is all the more worrying because what underlies it appears to be the assumption that Putin either will not go any further or that if he does, then the US will continue to be the guarantor of Europe’s security. While it is true the US has huge economic and political interests in Europe that it is unlikely to abandon any time soon, this is a dangerous position for European leaders to put themselves in.

For one thing, it appears oblivious to the huge pressure on resources in Washington. President Obama has in the recent past said he will ensure that 60 percent of America’s military might is in the Pacific, that he will ramp up the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, bolster NATO in Eastern Europe and do what is necessary to contain Putin’s Russia, all despite cuts on a significant scale to the US defence budget. It is unclear how the president intends to square this circle.

Also discounted in European thinking, apparently, is the possibility that the US could become embroiled in a major confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region that could see its military assets in Europe reduced out of necessity, not choice, leaving Europe exposed amid the sea of turbulence currently being experienced both to its east and south.
The alternative way out for Europeans if they are not willing to increase their overall defence spending, which is namely to get more bang for their current buck by radically increasing defence collaboration, was also not grasped convincingly in Wales, despite announcements of a number of cooperative initiatives under the Framework Nations Concept banner.

European leaders approach the end of 2014, in overall resource commitment terms, behaving as though nothing of significance has changed in the European security environment over the last 12 months.

While the NATO Summit produced a short-term show of support to allies in the east, therefore, it did nothing to suggest that NATO leaders intend to radically upgrade their deterrence and defence posture for the long-term or say anything that would indicate European and US leaders are willing, or know how, they are going to pay for it. At the same time, the Summit did nothing to indicate a European understanding of the profoundly changing pressures on the United States and what those pressures might mean for Europeans’ own need to take more responsibility for their own security. This has to be addressed through both increased defence budgets and more convincing defence cooperation among members of NATO soon. If not, there is an increased likelihood that real damage to NATO unity and to European security and economic interests will follow.

NATO officials and others worked incredibly hard in the run up to the Summit in Wales to deliver concrete outcomes that left the alliance stronger coming out of the meeting than going in. The outcomes achieved were welcome and worthwhile and those involved in delivering them deserve our thanks.

Ultimately however one is forced to conclude that the Summit was the latest in a long series of missed opportunities for Western leaders to confront and clarify their collective position with regard to the big strategic dilemmas and choices facing the West in its relations with Russia and the countries of non-NATO Eastern Europe. For that reason, the summit cannot be said to have laid the ground-work for a reconstituted Western strategy or even to have contributed to such ground-work. Those who say this was never a realistic prospect for the summit and therefore not its goal should perhaps reflect on the words of the late Italian writer and holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, who, in a different context asked: "If not now, when?"


Staff member
Οι πολιτικοί που δεν κατανοούν τη δύναμη της συλλογικής συνεργασίας στα ΜΚΔ είναι καταδικασμένοι. Όχι βραχυμεσομακροπρόθεσμα αλλά σχεδόν άμεσα.
Από το Συμβούλιο του Ευρωπαϊκού Πράσινου Κόμματος, Istanbul ’14 (7-9/11/14):
Θέσεις για την κρίση στην Ουκρανία
(από το melitagg.wordpress)

Position Paper on the situation in Ukraine
Adopted at Istanbul Council, 9 November 2014.

1. The Current Situation
European Greens note with satisfaction that on October 26, 2014 Ukrainian citizens democratically elected their new parliament. We equally regret that citizens on Crimea and in parts of Eastern Ukraine were prevented from participating. The new parliamentary majority promises a European orientation, while ultra-nationalists, right extremists and communists found only little support. We regret, however, that the Minsk agreement has not been fully implemented.
1.1 On 5 September in Minsk the trilateral Contact Group reached an agreement on a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine based on a 12-point protocol posted on the OSCE website calling for an immediate cease fire, the release of hostages, measures to improve the humanitarian situation and for the inclusion of provisions for a decentralisation of authority and early elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The ceasefire agreement is still fragile but overall holding in spite of reports of violations in particular around the areas of Donetsk and Mariupol.
1.2 European Greens welcome the signing of the Minsk ceasefire agreement and call on all sides to make every effort to implement it in full and in good faith with a view to paving the way for the start of a genuine peace process. We further call on all parties to continue the negotiations in order to clarify all pending issues with regard, in particular, to the status of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions or part of them within the framework of a united Ukrainian state.
1.3 In the weeks before the ceasefire agreement Russia had increased military and logistical support of the separatist militias through a steady flow of weapons, ammunitions, armoured vehicles and equipment, mercenaries and soldiers in disguise in spite of the calls of the EU to make every effort to de-escalate the situation. Since the beginning of the crisis the Russian Federation had amassed troops and military hardware on the border with Ukraine.
1.4 European Greens reiterate our commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and stress that only a genuine political solution to the crisis can pave the way to a full reconciliation between the parties and strengthen the unity of the country. Nobody must be allowed to treat Ukraine as a pawn in a geo-strategic game. This is and must continue to be a clear principle of European foreign and peace policy.
1.5 We underline that the OSCE plays a crucial role in the Ukrainian crisis due to its experience in dealing with armed conflict and crises and the fact that both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are members of this organisation. We call on the EU Member States, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and the European Commission to make every effort to strengthen and increase the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine both in terms of personnel and in terms of logistics and equipment. We emphasize the need to deploy without any further delay the OSCE monitors all along the parts of the Ukrainian-Russian border currently under the control of the separatists.

2. The Immediate Consequences
2.1 During the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine more than 3000 people have lost their lives. Many more have been injured. More than a million people left the conflict zone seeking refuge in the Russia Federation and in other Ukrainian regions not affected by the hostilities. Altogether, the situation in the conflict area is a matter of deep concern both from a humanitarian, social and health point of view. Given the large population displacements and the lowest vaccination rate in Europe, Ukraine is at high risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases, especially amongst children.
2.2 The social situation in Ukraine is dramatic. We call for full transparency regarding the agreements with the IMF, and demand accompanying measures aimed at alleviating the current situation with regard, in particular, to the most vulnerable sections of the population.
2.3 European Greens urge the European Commission to start the preparation of a third and ambitious package of Macro-financial assistance to Ukraine as well as to play a leading role in organizing the Donor Conference for Ukraine due to take place before the end of 2014 involving international organisations, international financial institutions and civil organisations. The international community must commit to support economic and political stabilisation and reform in Ukraine, notably in the framework of Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the EU, together with a credible emergency plan for reconstruction and development in the regions affected by the conflict and humanitarian and medical assistance for refugees and displaced people.
2.4 European Greens draw attention to recent reports published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International which accused both sides in this conflict of human rights violations, listing crimes such as abduction, torture, extra-judicial killings and the use of heavy weapons against densely populated urban areas.
2.5 We express our firm condemnation of the abductions, savage beatings, torture, murder, extra-judicial killings and other serious abuses of human rights and breaches of humanitarian law against activists, protesters, journalists and many other citizens not active in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that have occurred over the last three months. According to Amnesty International [1] these have been mainly perpetrated by armed separatists, but in some cases also by government forces. We support the call to the Ukrainian government to create a single and regularly updated register of incidents of reported abductions, and the thorough and impartial investigation of all allegations of excessive force, ill-treatment or torture.
2.6 There must be an independent and impartial investigation of the deadly events that occurred on Maidan on 20 February 2014 in Kyiv, in Odessa on 2 May 2014, as well as all other crimes that have taken place since November 2013. The investigation must include a strong international component and be placed under the supervision of the Council of Europe. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
2.7 The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is a crime that has shaken all of Europe and all of us. A preliminary report of the experts on the crash has been published that leaves many questions unanswered. We insist on the full and unrestricted access of the experts to the area of the wreckage in order to enable them to conclude their investigation and full cooperation of all States with the ongoing (criminal) investigations. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
2.8 The Ukrainian authorities must address in full the remarks referred to in the findings and the conclusions of the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission for the recent presidential elections.
2.9 Clear evidence of right-wing extremism has been seen on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine. Right wing extremists should not be given a single chance to exploit the drastic situation of the country. Paramilitary groups of all sides have to be disarmed as fast as possible. European Greens urge the Ukrainian authorities to engage in an open, transparent and inclusive dialogue with all the components of Ukrainian society. We call on them not to delay, after the new parliament enters into office, the necessary and long-awaited reforms at constitutional, political and economic level, including decisive action against corruption. We appreciate the recent proposals of President Poroshenko about a potential decentralization of Ukraine in the hope of maintaining the territorial integrity of the country.
2.10 We have always been in favour of Ukraine defending and guaranteeing all minority rights in the country including Crimea and we strongly emphasize this need. On the other hand we strongly call on the Russian Federation to stop repressive measures against Tartars and other minorities in occupied Crimea.

3. International Law and Sanctions
3.1 Russian’s direct and indirect military intervention in Ukraine including the annexation of Crimea violates international law including the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the 1994 Budapest agreement and the 1997 Bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine. European Greens do not accept the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and demand that Russia respect Ukraine territorial integrity. Without Russian meddling, tensions within Eastern Ukraine would not have escalated to the level of military conflict. Russian aggression is therefore at the heart of the conflict. When Ukrainian government forces seemed to be gaining the upper hand, Russia escalated its intervention to prevent that.
3.2 After a lengthy and complex decision-making process, the latest set of EU sanctions on Russia entered into force on 12 September 2014. These aimed at further tightening of access to EU capital markets by Russian banks, energy and defense firms and a broadening of the previous sanctions.
3.3 The EU must make full use of non-military means in order to prevent the ceasefire agreement from turning Eastern Ukraine into another frozen conflict and into a region under the full control of Russia. It is necessary to keep up the pressure on Russia until substantial and irreversible signs of improvement in its policy towards Ukraine are proven. We welcome, therefore, the extension of EU sanctions including targeting the ability of Russia‘s top oil producers to raise capital in Europe. Any new sanctions would have to be carefully targeted to minimize their negative impact on ordinary Russian people.
3.4 We welcome Germany’s decision to cancel arms exports to Russia. We are relieved that France suspended the export of the first Mistral class helicopter carrier in November due to the Russian aggression of Ukraine and we want France to revoke this contract completely. We urge the United Kingdom to immediately withdraw all current arms exports licences to Russia and equally urge the EU Member States to reinforce the EU arms embargo on Russia by not only banning future exports, but all current contracts and licences.
3.5 European Greens do not support NATO expansion to Ukraine. We do not consider this to be in the interest of stability in the wider region. We regret that various voices from NATO, in particular the former Secretary General Rasmussen, have made statements that were confrontational. On the other hand, we take seriously the security concerns from Russia’s immediate western neighbours. These concerns must be dealt with in the framework of Euro-Atlantic security institutions and arrangements.

4. EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
4.1 The political provisions of the Association Agreement (AA) between the EU and Ukraine were signed in March 2014 and in June 2014, the EU and Ukraine officially signed the remaining part of this Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).
4.2 The European Parliament and the Verhovna Rada simultaneously ratified the Association Agreement on 16 September 2014 which is a fundamental step for the deepening of relations between the two parties. We underline the importance of putting in place an adequate structure (Task Force) to provide technical support to Ukraine, as well as of providing the necessary financial assistance in order to ensure a successful implementation of the agreement. We point out the importance of defining a clear roadmap for implementation so that Ukraine can benefit from access to the EU market as soon as possible.
4.3 We call on the EU Commission to strongly repudiate demands from Russia to change the Association Agreement.
4.4 The Association Agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine relations, nor does it pre-empt a future possibility of EU membership. Nonetheless it is undoubtedly clear that the immediate focus of European support has to lie in the creation of democratic, political, and economic stability, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and the rule of law and an effective fight against corruption. The EU must remain firm in demanding full implementation of the anti-discrimination directives, including for LGBT persons. We think it is good that this possibility remains open.
4.5 We welcome the decision of the Council to move to the second phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan in June 2014. A quick finalisation of the visa-free regime between the EU and Ukraine as a concrete response to the European aspirations of the people is necessary. In the meantime we advocate introduction of temporary, very simple and inexpensive visa procedures.

5. Energy
5.1 We take note of the agreement, reached on 31October 2014 between Ukraine and Russia facilitated by the EU on gas supply.
5.2 We support the initial measures adopted by the Commission to enable Ukraine to tackle the energy crisis following Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to the country, and urge, in this respect, the Council and Commission to continue giving assistance and support to Kyiv. We call on the EU and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to step up their support for energy-saving measures in Ukraine, where energy consumption per unit of GDP is currently three times the EU average.
5.3 At the same time the EU must move to reduce the strong dependence on the Russian Federation as well as on other authoritarian regimes as regards energy supplies. Policies must be put in place particularly to help those Member States that currently rely on Russia as single supplier. The Commission should pursue the full implementation of the Third Energy Package and support energy efficiency projects as well as promote diversification of energy sources by developing renewables with more ambitious targets in order to free European foreign policy from fossil addiction. The October European Council must adopt an effective, credible and comprehensive emergency plan for the months to come, including also the respective stakeholder positions and taking account of the views of the European Parliament.
5.4 The Ukrainian crisis has underscored the need for ambitious and binding targets for energy efficiency of 40% and renewable energies of 45% in the 2030 framework discussions in order to create EU jobs in these sectors, increase security of supply, fulfil our climate goals and reduce European dependency on fossil fuel imports.
5.5 European Greens ask the EU to consider gas storage, inter-connectors and flow back facilities as strategic assets and therefore regulate the share of third party business contracting parties in those crucial sectors. We urge the Member States to cancel planned agreements with Russia in the energy sector, especially the South Stream gas pipeline.

[1] “Abductions and torture in Eastern Ukraine”, Amnesty International Publications 2014 (link)
Από άρθρο για την πτώση της τιμής του πετρελαίου (Καθημερινή):

Πέφτει το ρούβλι
Εχοντας κάνει «βουτιά» 39% έναντι του δολαρίου στο σύνολο του έτους, το ρούβλι υποχώρησε χθες 0,9% παρά τις παρεμβάσεις 4,5 δισ. δολαρίων της Τράπεζα της Ρωσίας. Το ρωσικό υπουργείο Οικονομικών αναγκάσθηκε χθες να ακυρώσει μία ακόμη δημοπρασία δεκαετών ομολόγων, καθώς οι αποδόσεις εκτινάχθηκαν κατά 30 μονάδες βάσης στο 12,97%.
A Lesson in Propaganda?
Lithuania’s Russian-language schools are under a microscope after students attend a boot camp for kids from ex-Soviet republics.
by Linas Jegelevicius 9 December 2014
(Transitions Online)

VILNIUS | Like kids the world over, lots of young Lithuanians are interested in guns. But to much of the country, pupils from two Russian-language schools in Vilnius dismantling and reassembling Kalashnikovs at a martial youth gathering in far-off Kyrgyzstan hardly looked like child’s play.

Indeed, the news of what a handful of ethnically Russian Lithuanian teenagers did on their summer vacation caused a brouhaha in the Baltic country, where always-bubbling tensions with Russia have come to a boil over the Ukraine crisis and ongoing trade and energy fights.

“Obviously, this constitutes a threat to Lithuania’s national security,” said Gediminas Grina, director of the Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD). “I suggest we not make our children hostages to the interests of other countries in that way.”

Youth from across the former Soviet sphere who attended the “Soyuz 2014 – Heirs of Victory” camp in the Kyrgyzstani town of Issyk Kul in August not only wielded Russian arms and wore Russian paratroopers’ camouflage gear. They also heard lectures on the glory of the Soviet Union, the menace of NATO and Western propaganda, and Baltic politicians tearing down the house of Slavic unity.

“That sort of a youth camp definitely serves as a means to preach a certain extremist ideology. Through brainwashing youth are actively recruited for aggressive actions,” said Nerijus Maliukevicius, a lecturer at Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science. “This is how Islamic extremists are recruited, through military exercises and indoctrination.”

To many ethnic Russians in Lithuania, the uproar is a tempest in a samovar – albeit one that has brought them under the microscope of national intelligence services. Since the story broke in Lithuanian media in early September, the Russian-language Vasily Kachalov and Sofia Kovalevskaya schools – from which 10 senior boys went to Issyk Kul, accompanied by a chaperoning teacher – have drawn scrutiny from Vilnius city agencies; the Ministry of Education and Science, which has authority over the schools; and the security service.

Lithuanian media reported that police searched the two schools on 3 December. Rita Aliukoniene, a Vilnius District prosecutor, told the Delfi news website the raids were related to an investigation into students’ participation in the Soyuz camp, but chief prosecutor Ramutis Jancevicius said at a press conference that the young people were not a target of the probe.

“We are talking about criminal activity noted in Article 118 of the penal code, about helping another country act against Lithuania,” Jancevicius told reporters. “Your colleagues … have shown reports from some schools where certain people were noticed visiting schools and trying to recruit children to go to a certain country for training.”

The security service has refused to comment on the searches, which were condemned by the Russian Union of Lithuania as a “public relations campaign” aimed at discrediting the country’s Russian population, according to the Baltic News Service.

“Unfortunately, with the focus on the schools, many in the community now feel that anyone of Russian ethnicity could pose a national security threat,” Ela Kanaite, president of Lithuania’s Russian School Teachers Association, said.

The father of one 17-year-old who attended the camp dismissed the indoctrination scare. “For my son, it was all about the spirit of a military camp and getting involved in real-life paramilitary exercises, not the politics,” he said. “For many here in Lithuania it’s nearly turned into treason. We want to be left alone as soon as possible, which I understand is hardly possible now with the scrutiny of the kids and their families.”

The father spoke on condition of anonymity and declined a request to interview his son, whom he said “has had enough already,” referring to media and law-enforcement attention to the camp participants.

In an October interview with Lithuanian news site Alfa.lt, security chief Grina said his agency had met with some the participating students' parents and “the schoolchildren will effectively be objects of our surveillance now.” SSD spokesman Vytautas Makauskas told TOL the agency has provided “surveillance information” to the Education Ministry, even though the trips to Soyuz were not illegal.

“In a democratic country like Lithuania, which is based on EU values, the SSD cannot forbid citizens to travel where they want. However, issues of national security and legality sometimes are not identical,” Makauskas said in a statement. “Military youth camps in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States aim to nurture individuals to defend the interests of those countries. Therefore, the department advises parents to consider whether their children could become unfriendly foreign states’ pawns in our state.”


According to Russian media, which covered Soyuz 2014 extensively, the annual event brings together youth from all the former Soviet republics, but a good deal of the coverage focused on kids from the Baltics. News outlets celebrated the work of Russian-language schools in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in supposedly overcoming hurdles to bring their charges for what Russian-government-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta called a “truly geopolitical” project.

“Even though the Baltics have demonstratively stood with NATO and everything that aims to thwart Russia, even if it hurts the region’s economic, political, and social interests, for several years in a row schoolchildren from Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have come,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported in August.

Behind the annual gathering stands a Russian organization, also called Soyuz – Heirs of Victory, which states a goal of nurturing “the spirit of international friendship” through the camps. On its website, the group calls the events “a yearly international and educational convention of youth military and sports organizations and cadet corps.”

One of the main organizers, Oleg Bakanach, has been described in Russian media as a former Interior Ministry special forces instructor. He boasts that Soyuz instills the Soviet spirit in Russian-speaking youth from across the former Soviet bloc.

“After the breakdown of the Soviet Union it became evident the republics, having gained independence, have been regressing and moving away from one another,” Bakanach told Russia’s News-Asia website.

Amid the uproar, officials at the Vilnius schools have been at pains to note that they have no official connection with Soyuz. Attending the camp, or doing anything else over the summer holidays, is “always up to the schoolchildren and their parents,” said Roza Dimentova, director of the Vasily Kachalov school.

She has apparently had to say it frequently. “Once again, I want to repeat it,” Dimentova told TOL in response to a request for comment. “Our pupils’ summer activities are not part of the school curriculum and the school does not bear responsibility for them.”

The principal acknowledged that her school has shared information with students on opportunities to the go to the camp. “The school constantly receives invitations to participate in various events, and some of the children opted for the camp this year,” she said.

Education Minister Dainius Pavalkis said he was previously unaware of the camp or the participation by Lithuanian pupils, adding, “The ministry has never supported, does not support, and will never support any events that are organized within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

Pavalkis said he hoped the “ruckus” over Soyuz would deter Lithuanian youth from similar travel but added that “the eastbound trips, whatever their purpose, aren’t going to end all of a sudden. We don’t live behind the Iron Curtain that we had 25 years ago.”

Still, his department is aiming to nudge the deterrent along. In light of the camp controversy, the ministry, working with defense officials, “has instructed the headmasters of Russian schools on how to identify propaganda of other states and how not to get involved in their manipulations,” spokeswoman Danguole Barauskiene said. Pavalkis views the “participation of Lithuanian schoolchildren in camps abroad [as] not only an issue of education, but also a problem of national security,” she added.

Barauskiene said the ministry has also set aside 1 million litas ($359,000) to conduct “an inter-institutional civil education program” next year. The money will go the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, a paramilitary organization that was active between the world wars and relaunched in 1989.

Liudas Gumbinas, the head of the union and a lieutenant colonel in the Lithuanian reserves, said the organization has seen “incrementally growing numbers” of adult members as tensions with Russia have flared. He said the group does not actively recruit youth but does have about 3,500 school-age members, many of whom “joined this year.”

Gumbinas said he was not comfortable setting up the union as a political counterweight to the Russian military camps but that it is set “to make inroads” in Lithuania’s Russian schools.

“Definitely, we’ll go into the schools and talk to the youth. We’ve already visited some of the schools, and the children were quite interested in what we were offering them – a real-life boot camp with everything that type of facility can offer,” he said. “If young people really care for that kind of experience, they can get it in Lithuania.”

From her side of the controversy, Kanaite, of the Russian teachers’ association, is also wary of politicizing the Soyuz trips, which she called “irresponsible.”

“One would hardly talk about them if not for the timing this year,” she said, referring to the camp taking place amid the escalation of the Ukraine conflict and the Lithuania-Russia standoff on trade and energy. “In fact, there was a similar camp in Ukraine last year, and it stirred not a ripple.”

Kanaite worried that the splash the Soyuz camp made this year could grow into an anti-Russian tide.

“We should consider ourselves poor educators and a weak nation if we believe that youth participating in boot camps abroad will soak up the ideology and wield it against Lithuania,” she said. “I daresay our 18-year-old boys can sort the wheat from the chaff. But the shadow of mistrust, citing some camp far away, cannot be a reason to cast a shadow on the entire Russian community.”

Linas Jegelevicius is a freelance journalist in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Fresh warning of economic disaster in Ukraine (TOL)

The IMF is warning that Ukraine needs $15 billion within weeks to avoid financial collapse, the Financial Times reports.

The IMF says the money is needed to top up the $17 billion bailout package arranged in April.

“People briefed on the IMF warning said the fiscal gap has opened up because of a 7 percent contraction in Ukraine’s gross domestic product and a collapse in exports to Russia, the country’s biggest trading partner,” the Financial Times says.

The central government has lost control of eastern regions accounting for some 16 percent of gross domestic product. In addition, the central bank has been forced to use its foreign-currency reserves to meet the government’s financial commitments, the Financial Times writes.

Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnya, has been the world’s worst performing in 2014, according to CNBC. Further falls could bring the risk of hyperinflation, defined as prices rising by more than 50 percent in a month, just over twice the rate recorded in November.

The IMF report coincides with a draft statement for next week’s European Union summit. EU leaders will say they are prepared to give Ukraine more money on top of the recent 500 million euro payment, EUObserver reports.

The IMF has paid just over $8 billion of the $17 billion bailout arrangement, while the EU has committed to give Ukraine about $2 billion to date, EUObserver says.
Interpol rejects Ukrainian murder charges against ex-officials
(Maxim Tucker / Kyiv Post)

Interpol issued a statement today saying that it had rejected a Ukrainian request to place ex-regime officials, including former President Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, on its wanted list for murder.

The international police agency instead issued "Red Notices, or international wanted persons alerts, for four individuals including former President Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov," for financial crimes only.

The alerts are based on a new request by the Ukrainian authorities, as a March 2014 request on charges including abuse of power and murder was "assessed by Interpol as not compliant with the Organization's rules and regulations and was refused," the Interpol statement read.

"Red Notices are only issued to Interpol member countries if the requesting National Central Bureau has provided all the information required by the General Secretariat."

Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office accuses Yanukovych and Azarov, along with other regime officials, of plotting the murder of Euromaidan protesters on Independence Square by ordering security forces to open fire on a three-month old demonstration against their leadership.

The massacre of more than a hundred people undermined support for the former President among his own party and he was forced to flee in his helicopter, leaving behind overwhelming evidence of massive corruption in the form of his billion-dollar Mezhigirya mansion - complete with galleon, zoo and classic car collection.

Ukraine's new government had already faced fierce criticism for failing to gather enough evidence of human rights violations or corruption to obtain an Interpol red notice or support EU sanctions against former regime officials. Serious flaws in their investigation into the Euromaidan killings were exposed in a Reuters special report last October.

So when Ukraine’s Minister for Internal Affairs, Arseniy Avakov, announced that after “argument and explanation” and “months after the submission of a request from the Interior Ministry, Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the Security Service,” Interpol had appointed a special commission to deal with the request, it seemed to represent a major breakthrough.

But the "argument" is far from over. The Minister claimed six people had been added to the list, whereas Interpol list only four.

“On the international wanted list of Interpol (red notice – wanted for extradition to Ukraine): Viktor F. Yanukovych, [his son] Olexander Yanukovych, [former Prime Minister] Mykola Azarov, [former Health Minister] Bagatyreva Raisa , Kolobov Yurii (former Minister of Finance), Dzekon GB (former head of Ukrtelecom),” he posted on Facebook.

For the majority of the day even ex-Prime Minister Azarov did not appear on Interpol's list, and the organisation responded “either there is no red notice for that person, or the country has requested that the red notice not be made public," when questioned about his absence by the Kyiv Post.

By late afternoon he had been included, but Yanukovych’s son Olexander and former Health Minister Raisa Bagatyreva still do not appear on the police agency's list. The organisation has also not issued notices for a number of key regime leaders, including former Internal Affairs Minister Zakharchenko, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Oleksandr Yakymenko and former head of the Presidential Administration Andriy Klyuyev.

The government will suffer a serious blow to its credibility if its law enforcement arm cannot present a convincing case against Yanukovych and other key figures for the deaths of demonstrators, who have become legend in Ukraine as 'the heavenly hundred'.
Warsaw moves to airlift ethnic Poles from eastern Ukraine
(Kyiv Post)

Poland’s operation to evacuate some 200 people claiming Polish ancestry from strife-torn eastern Ukraine is underway, officials said this weekend.
Some 162 people went to the Polish Consulate in Kharkiv to be airlifted to Poland, Radio Poland, with more due to arrive.
Polish authorities have declined to announce when the group would be flown out of Ukraine, citing security reasons. Weather problems were also a factor in removing the individuals and families.
“We haven’t come across any serious problems, although we have had to alter our travel plans due to the weather conditions,” Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Pawlik, who was in Kharkiv to oversee the evacuation, told Radio Poland.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said the evacuees included children, families, and the elderly. They were to be flown to the northern Polish city of Malbork.
One man from Luhansk who was waiting at the consulate told Radio Poland, “It is impossible to describe it in one word. The war has been ongoing for half a year, and even earlier I lost my job in Luhansk. I was even arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad.”
Poland will be the first European nation to attempt an evacuation from the contested region, the Financial Times reports.
“Ukrainians are seen by the Poles as important neighbors, people very similar in terms of language, culture,” Jaroslaw Cwiek-Karpowicz, head of research at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, told the FT. “Ukraine is perceived as a place that deserves our support. … It is in our interests to support them.”
Ένα παλιότερο (2012) άρθρο επικαιρότητας ενός ρωσόφωνου Ουκρανού συγγραφέα για το γλωσσικό ζήτημα στην ενιαία (τότε) Ουκρανία, με αναδρομή στην ιστορία του ζητήματος. (Guardian)
Από ανακοίνωση της Χρυσής Αυγής:
"Πάγια θέση της Χρυσής Αυγής, η οποία έχει διατυπωθεί και δημόσια στη Βουλή είναι ότι η Ελλάς δεν πρέπει να συμμετάσχει στις κυρώσεις Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης και ΗΠΑ κατά της Ρωσίας. Αυτήν την στάση επιβάλλει το Εθνικό συμφέρον και τα γεωπολιτικά δεδομένα." Πηγή: http://www.lifo.gr/now/politics/59407

Μόνο για την τουρκική εισβολή στην Κύπρο οφείλουν να επιβάλλουν κυρώσεις τα ξένα κράτη, αδιαφορώντας για το εθνικό τους συμφέρον και για τα γεωπολιτικά δεδομένα.