NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine

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Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.

 

NATO To Expand Partnership in a ‘post-Crimean World’

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NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO's new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO’s new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO has promised that the transatlantic security partnership must focus not only on collective defense in its immediate region, but global partners as well, in a “post-Crimean world”.

The statement came from NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershblow on Friday at Wrocław Global Forum in Poland.

“Our Strategic Concept sets out collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security as three essential core tasks for NATO,” Mr. Vershblow said.  “Although Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the strategic environment in a fundamental way, all three core tasks remain essential, valid and vital for our security.”

Mr. Vershblow went on to accuse Russia of changing borders “through force”, continuing to subvert a sovereign state [Ukraine] through covert means and a cynical disinformation campaign,” ripping “up the international rule book”, and seeking to “recreate a sphere of influence based on a dangerous new doctrine of limited sovereignty for countries that form part of the so-called ‘Russian World’.”

Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, NATO has heavily criticized and rebuked Russia’s “aggressive” actions in Ukraine, which the Alliance believes are bent on expanding the Kremlin’s power.

Since the Ukraine-crisis began, NATO has taken steps to meet the crisis and strengthen collective defense from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Mr. Vershblow said.

Every NATO member is contributing in one way or another; either with aircraft, naval ships, ground troops and/or commanders and planners, he added.

NATO is also “considering the longer-term implications of Russia’s actions for our Alliance.”

Over the last few months, Western countries have applied sanctions against Russia–allegedly damaging its already crippled economy–in consequence for Moscow’s supposed backing of anti-Kiev separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

In light of the conflict between the EU and the US and Russia over Ukraine, NATO Defense Ministers discussed earlier this week about a “Readiness Action Plan”, which includes improving NATO’s reaction time, enhancing its intelligence and awareness capabilities, pre-positioning equipment and supplies further East, “and carrying out more high-intensity military exercises in more demanding scenarios.”

NATO is also working towards filling “capability gaps” that exist within the alliance, Mr. Vershblow said.  These gaps include drones, transport aircraft, Special Forces and deployable C2, all of which are needed to be able to “react quickly, together, and effectively to all threats, whether here in Europe or out of area.”

Ambassador Vershblow stated that developing these capabilities “puts a premium on our ‘Smart Defense’ multinational capability projects, and on further regional cooperation.”  He added that “Poland and its Višegrad partners continue to demonstrate that this is a pragmatic and cost-effective way to build greater security together, and in a way that makes both NATO and the European Union stronger.”

Mr. Vershblow challenged NATO members who do not spend the required 2% of their GDP on defense, to raise their defense spending to the expected percent.

Order Descending NATO Members’ GDP Defense Spending According to WorldBank 

  1. U.S. 4.2%
  2. Greece 2.6%
  3. U.K. 2.4%
  4. France 2.3%
  5. Turkey 2.3%
  6. Estonia 1.9%
  7. Poland 1.9%
  8. Portugal 1.8%
  9. Croatia 1.7%
  10. Italy 1.7%
  11. Albania 1.5%
  12. Bulgaria 1.5%
  13. Denmark 1.4%
  14. Norway 1.4%
  15. Canada 1.3%
  16. Germany 1.3%
  17. Netherlands 1.3%
  18. Romania 1.3%
  19. Slovenia 1.2%
  20. Belgium 1.1%
  21. Czech Republic 1.1%
  22. Slovakia 1.1%
  23. Lithuania 1.0%
  24. Latvia 0.9%
  25. Spain 0.9%
  26. Hungary 0.8%
  27. Luxembourg 0.6%
  28. Iceland 0.1%

“The crisis in Ukraine has made us go ‘back to basics’ and focus more on collective defense,” Mr. Vershblow said.  But it must not “lead to a self-centered, inward-locking Alliance,” he added.  The Alliance must focus on the “Future NATO” that is needed to meet the “evolving 21st century security needs.”

Dialogue and cooperation with partner countries is “vital” to fulfill NATO’s vision of the future, the ambassador said.  This applies to NATO members, and Ukraine and “other Eastern neighbors whose sovereignty is being challenged by Russia.”

Mr. Vershblow stated that partnership is crucial for keeping Europe free, stable, and peaceful, and NATO must keep its doors open for European partners who wish to join the Alliance.

He also added that NATO, in coordination with the EU, the UN, and regional organizations such as the African Union, must do what they can to help countries in the Middle East and North Africa develop their own defense capacity.

In conclusion to his speech, Mr. Vershblow summarized NATO’s new policies: “when it comes to shaping transatlantic security and defense in a post-Crimean world, we should avoid false choices.  NATO’s duty is to defend all 28 Allies against any possible risk or threat to their security, whenever and wherever it may occur.  This means we not only need the right capabilities, but also the right connections, so that we can deter aggression at home and project stability abroad.”

A Plan to Bring Peace to Ukraine

While responding to journalists on Friday at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Northern France, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had mentioned to him a “plan” to bring an immediate cease-fire between Ukraine military forces and separatists in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s military operations against separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and demanded an immediate end to them.

Fighting between the Ukrainian military forces and separatists in the last few months has left over 100 dead–soldiers, militants and civilians.  Kiev authorities have accused the Kremlin of backing and supporting the armed separatists–who are deemed as terrorists by the authorities–and demanded that Russia use its power to convince the gunmen to lay down their arms.

In April, at Geneva, Moscow had agreed to use its influence to bring an end to the fighting, but their promises never came about.

Fighting has drastically intensified since and threatens to divide the country in two if it does not end soon.  Many citizens of Ukraine believe the country is already in a civil-war.

The situation took a turn for the worse on May 11 when separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence after holding referendums on self-rule.  The Ukrainian government has refused to recognize the referendums as legitimate–including the one in Crimea–and has been conducting what they call “anti-terrorists” military operations against the separatists.

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers at BCP at Marynivka.  Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.  Location, BCP at Marynivka. Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

And amid all of this, the West and Russia have continuously accused each other of fueling the fire and doing nothing to extinguish the growing flame.

President Putin said that he does not know if Mr. Poroshenko’s plan will be implemented and carried out, but he “thought the general attitude seems right; I like it.”

He added that if the plan does go-through, Russia will work towards developing relations on other areas, “including economic relations.”

Moscow has stated that they will “respect” the will of the Ukrainian people, and work with authorities to bring stabilization and peace to the agonized Ukraine.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the U.S. to present its proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the U.S. to present its proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the United States’ claim of possessing proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

During an interview with Radio Europe 1 news and TF1 TV channel, Mr. Putin was asked about claims by the U.S. that they had proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine. President Putin’s response was: “Proof?  Why don’t they show it?”

He went on to discredit the the alleged proof by recalling the United States’ claim of evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, only to find out after U.S. troops invaded Iraq and Saddam Hussein was hung that there was, in fact, no WMDs.

“The entire world remembers the U.S. Secretary of State demonstrating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the U.N. Security Council,” Mr. Putin said.  “You know, it’s one thing to say things and another to actually have evidence,” he added.

The Ukrainian Government and Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of supporting the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine that are fighting for independence, a claim which Moscow denies.

When asked about Russian troops annexing Crimea in March, Mr. Putin clarified the soldiers’ roles, saying that they didn’t annex the region.

“It’s a delusion that Russian troops annexed Crimea,” he said.  “Russian troops were in Crimea under the international treaty on the deployment of the Russian military bases.  It’s true that Russian troops helped Crimeans hold a referendum on their (a) independence and (b) desire to join the Russian Federation.  No one can prevent these people from exercising a right that is stipulated in Article 1 of the U.N. Charter, the right of nations to self-determination.”

The contents of Article 1 of the U.N. Charter:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Mr. Putin has repeatedly stressed that Ukrainian citizens have “certain rights, political, humanitarian rights, and they must have a chance to exercise those rights.”

NATO and Kiev have refused to recognize the annexation as legitimate and have stressed that Crimea is still part of Ukraine.   NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday that “NATO allies do not, and will not, recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”

When asked if Russia will return Crimea to Ukraine, Mr. Putin said that “In accordance with the expression of the will of people who live there, Crimea is part of the Russian Federation and its constituent entity.”

President Putin stated that with the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, Moscow “could not allow a historical part of the Russian territory with a predominantly ethnic Russian population to be incorporated into an international military alliance, especially because Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia.  I’m sorry, but we couldn’t act differently.”

Known as “little green men” these Russian troops abruptly began appearing in Crimea following the ousting of Ukraine’s former president. Photo by AP.

Following the annexation, pro-Russian activists in eastern and southern Ukraine took up arms against the Kiev authorities, leading to clashes with the Ukrainian military that have resulted in scores of deaths in recent months.  The Ukrainian government has accused Moscow of supporting and supplying the separatists, a claim which the Kremlin denies.

Mr. Putin and other top ranking Russian officials have criticized Ukraine for allegedly attacking its own citizens and denying its people their rights.

It is “vital” to hold talks with the separatists “instead of sending tanks” to deal with them and “firing missiles at civilians from the air and bombing non-military targets,” the president said, adding that the Kiev authorities must hold talks with the militants to deescalate the crisis.

Fighting in recent weeks has resulted in dozens of deaths.  Clashes between the Ukrainian military and armed separatists at the Donetsk International Airport last week left over 50 militants dead, separatists leader said.  On Monday, an estimated 500 separatists began a three-day attack on a border center near the city of Luhansk. Today, the guards left the center.  Also on Monday, a Ukrainian fighter jet bombed Luhansk’s main regional building, resulting in the deaths and injuries of several citizens.

lugansk-3

Russia has demanded that Kiev bring an immediate end to its military operations against the separatists, and expressed its will to work with the Ukrainian government to deescalate the crisis.

In response to Westerners’ claims of Russia wishing to restore the Soviet Union and destroy Ukraine, Mr. Putin said that Moscow recognizes Ukraine as sovereign state and respects the country’s choices, but wishes that it would not join NATO because it would mean “NATO’s infrastructure will move directly towards the Russian border, which cannot leave us indifferent.”

President Putin also responded to accusation against the Kremlin by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton that Russia’s recent actions resembles Hitler’s during the 1930’s: “when I hear such extreme statements, to me it only means that they don’t have any valid arguments.”

He also said that the U.S. takes the “most aggressive and toughest policy to defend their own interests… and they do it persistently.”

Mr. Putin concluded his statement by scoffing the United States’ disapproval of Russia’s recent “aggressive” actions, saying:  “There are basically no Russian troops abroad while U.S. troops are everywhere.  There are U.S. military bases everywhere around the world and they are always involved in the fate of other countries even though they are thousands of kilometers away from U.S. borders.”

 

 

 

 

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Multinational Military Exercises to be held in Ukraine

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The Supreme Council of Ukraine has announced plans to admit international military forces to participate in military exercises in Ukraine, Colonel General Mykhailo Koval said.

Speaking at a briefing for mass media after the Meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Committee, Gen. Koval said: “Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine [The Supreme Council of Ukraine] adopted the Act of Ukraine ‘On admission of units of armed forces of other states to the territory of Ukraine in 2014 for participation in exercises’ and approved the Plan of Multinational Exercises.

“We didn’t stop any action and we are ready to conduct them; the necessary resources have been allocated.”

The general’s announcement comes amid recent fighting between anti-Kiev separatists and Ukrainian military forces in eastern Ukraine that has resulted in scores of deaths in recent months.

On Monday, a Ukrainian fighter jet bombed strike the city of Luhansk’s main regional building, resulting in several deaths and injuries.

Ukrainian Diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev denied claims of the airstrike, saying that the explosion had come from the misuse of a grenade by separatists.  However, videos on Youtube showing the airstrike contradicted Mr. Sergeyev’s claims.

Other videos showed the bloody aftermath of the airstrike.  Several dead and injured laid around the regional building. Those alive were in critical condition, some drenched in their own blood and or mutilated, while the dead laid in pools of blood.

One particular video shows a white car just barely avoiding the airstrike.

The airstrike came during an attack by pro-Russian militants on a border command center outside of Luhansk.

Reports from the Border Guard Service of Ukraine say that a “great number” of armed separatists have surrounded the center for a second day in a row, but have not yet attacked.  The service added that the guards maintain high moral and will stand their ground against any further attacks.

The gunmen used small-arms, machine-guns, mortars, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) during their attack on Monday.

NATO To Amp its Defense Measures

On Tuesday, NATO Defense Ministers reviewed collective defense in wake of the current Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, Moscow and Ukraine have continuously insulted each other and accused the other of fueling the fighting between Ukrainian military forces and anti-Kiev separatists.

The Kiev authorities have accused Russia of “supporting terrorism” in eastern and southern Ukraine, a claim which Russia has repeatedly denied.

In recent weeks, the West has strengthened its support for the Ukrainian government, and shown its disapproval of Moscow’s actions by applying sanctions against top ranking Russian officials.

“We are facing a new security landscape because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said on Tuesday during the first day of a two-day Ministerial.  “We have already taken immediate steps.  In a strong show of solidarity, every single Ally, from both sides of the Atlantic, contributes to bolstering our collective defense, including deployments of ships, aircraft and troops,  It really is all for one and one for all,” he added.

Mr. Rasmussen also said that the Ukraine crisis has shown that the security threats NATO is facing is increasing and becoming more unpredictable.

The current conflict in Ukraine erupted back in February when protesters in Kiev clashed with police, resulting in over 100 deaths and the ousting of the president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.

Shortly later, Crimea held a referendum on secession from Ukraine, and was then annexed by Russia in March, an act that Kiev and the West declared illegitimate.

Following the annexation, pro-Russian activists in east and south Ukraine rose up against the Kiev authorities and demanded for greater autonomy from the Ukrainian government.

When their requests were denied, the activists took up arms, leading to clashes with the Ukrainian military that have since resulted in scores of deaths.

Fighting has amplified in recent weeks.

Roughly a week ago, over 50 separatists were killed in fighting with the Ukrainian military at the Donetsk International Airport.

Last week, 14 Ukrainian soldiers, including a top ranking general, were killed when the helicopter they were travelling in was shot down by separatists.

Moscow has repeatedly called for an immediate end to the bloodshed, and on Monday, called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security council to seek a cease-fire.

Mr. Sergeyev claimed Moscow’s resolution for an end to the fighting was “immoral”, and accused Russia of backing the separatists.  He demanded that the Kremlin use its power to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine as promised in the Geneva convention in April.

The Kiev authorities have deemed the anti-Kiev activists of being “terrorists” because of their violent actions taken against the Ukrainian government and military.

 

Ukrainian Diplomat Blatantly Lies About Airstrike

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lugansk-3

A member of the local self-defense forces covers the body of a person killed during the air attack on the building of Lugansk regional administration by Ukrainian air force. (RIA Novosti / Evgeny Biyatov)

Ukrainian Diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev has blatantly lied to journalist about a military airstrike on the city of Lugansk’s main regional building that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries on Monday.

During a Security Council meeting on Monday evening, Mr. Sergeyev was asked to comment on the bloody airstrike that killed and wounded several civilians.  He lied about who carried out the attack, saying it was rebels who misused a grenade, causing it to explode.

Videos on Youtube showed the attack and gruesome aftermath.  Several survivors were badly mutilated.  One woman’s leg had been sliced in three, the skin just barely keeping the parts together.  Her face had been torn apart as well.

In a separate video, a woman is seen laying against a car, alive but drenched in her own blood.

Another video shows a white car avoiding being hit in the strike by just a mere second.

“There were no Ukrainian airstrikes on Lugansk because the Ministry of Defense did now allow it,” Mr Sergeyev said, adding that the explosion was caused by the misuse of a grenade by “terrorists”, before promptly leaving.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly accused anti-Kiev activists of being terrorists who’s goal is to divide the country.

On May 11, separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk region declared a “People’s Republic” after holding referendums on greater autonomy from the Kiev authorities.

Ukraine had accused Russia of backing the separatists, and Mr. Sergeyev reiterated these claims during the meeting.

He accused Russia of “sponsoring terrorism” multiple times and criticized Moscow for its annexation of Crimea in March.

Ukraine “continues to face aggression from the Russian Federation”, he said.

But in recent weeks, the Kremlin has stressed for an end to the fighting and bloodshed raging in eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian military forces clash on an almost daily basis.

Last week, Ukrainian “anti-terrorist” military operations against separatists at the Donetsk International Airport resulted in the death of over 50 militants.

Scores more of Ukrainian soldiers and separatists have been killed in other clashes between the two sides in recent months.

Also last week, 14 Ukrainian soldiers, including a general, were killed when the helicopter they were in was shot down by militants.

Newly-elected President Petro Poroshenko has promised to squash the rebellion and bring order and stability in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s military operations and demanded they be brought to an end.  On Monday, Russia called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to seek a cease-fire.

In Mr. Sergeyev’s statement, he described Russia’s resolution for a cease-fire as “immoral” because of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its alleged support of “terrorists”.

Ukraine is “ready to do dialogue, but with our own people” he said, adding that majority of the pro-Russian activists aren’t actually Ukrainians, but Russians.

He demanded that Russia uphold its promises in the Geneva agreement in April to use its power to deescalate the crisis in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Meanwhile on Monday, an estimated 500 anti-Kiev gunmen attacked a border center near the city of Luhansk.  Five were reportedly killed and another eight wounded.

Several border guards were wounded but there were no reports of fatalities.

More OSCE Monitors Detained in Ukraine

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Pro-Russian Separatists in Donetsk prepare for fighting against Ukrainian military forces. Photo by Reuters.

Eleven members of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine were detained on Wednesday, the OSCE reports.

The group was on its way to Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine’s fourth largest city with a population of roughly one million, from Donetsk city when they were stopped at a road block in Marinka.

Contact with the monitors was then lost for several hours before being reestablished when the group returned to Donetsk.

The nationalities of the group are American, Austrian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Slovak.

The OSCE lost contact with another SMM group, consisting of four members, on Monday and has not heard from them since.

In April, a separate team of observers were detained for a week by pro-Russian activists in Slovyansk, the separatists stronghold in Donetsk region, before being released.

“It’s war, it’s civil war.”

Ukraine has been in a crisis for nearly eight months that threatens to tear the country in half.

In November of 2013, pro-EU activists took to the streets in Kiev to protests against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych against a deal he favored for closer ties to Russia.

The protest turned violent when the former president passed an anti-protest law which led to clashes between the protesters and police officers in and around Maidan, Kiev’s Independent Square, that resulted in over 100 deaths and the ousting of Mr. Yanukovych.

Shortly later, Russian soldiers, referred to as “little green men” because of the green uniforms they wore that bore no insignia, invaded Crimea, raising fears that Russia would repeat in Ukraine what it did to Georgia in 2008.

In March, Moscow annexed the peninsula after referendums on joining the Kremlin were held in the region.

Kiev and the West refused to recognized the referendum and annexation as legitimate but there was little the Ukrainian government could do.  Majority of the population in Crimea are ethnic Russians and are in favor of being apart of Russia.

After the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin continued to stress its right to intervene in Ukraine if it felt the rights of the Russian-speaking population were violated, leading to fears that Moscow would order a military invasion.

The support pro-Russian activists were receiving from Moscow led to separatists uprisings throughout eastern Ukraine.

The Kiev authorities then ordered for “anti-terror” military operations to squash the rebellion.

On May 11, pro-Russian leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums for greater self-rule and then declared a “People’s Republic”.

Just two hours later, Denis Pushilin, the leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” asked for the region to be annexed by Russia.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin declined Mr. Pushilin’s request and seemed to have flip-flopped from his previous aggressive position.

In recent weeks, Mr. Putin has stressed his desire for peace and stability in Ukraine and has said that Moscow will work with the Ukrainian government to make his desires a reality.

Meanwhile, the military operations conducted by Kiev authorities have continued and resulted in the deaths of dozens of people.

Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has promised to crush the separatists uprising in the east of the country “within hours”, suggesting that the “anti-terrorists” operations will escalate into further, bloodier violence.

Moscow, however, has demanded that Ukraine end its military operations.

Over 100 people have been killed at Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in the past three days in the bloodiest fighting between Ukrainian military forces and anti-Kiev separatists.

One agonized and tormented middle-aged man that is a resident of Donetsk described the situation in Ukraine to BBC, saying: “It’s war, it’s civil war.”

 

 

“What’s happening in Ukraine… is a threat for all of Europe”

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Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint outside SLovyansk, which is not far from Kramatorsk. Photo by John Moore, New York Times

The crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate on Tuesday with the death of seven Ukrainian soldiers and one pro-Russian militant.

At 13:00 local time, Ukraine forces were ambushed by roughly 30 pro-Russian gunmen near the town of Kramatorsk, a regional significant city located in northern Donetsk.

The fighting broke out when an armored personnel carrier carrying Ukrainian paratroopers was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (some reports say it was a grenade launch), killing two and injuring three.

A firefight between the Ukraine soldiers and pro-Russians followed.  The rebels attacked from bushes along a river and used automatic weapons and grenade launchers.

The firefight ended with several more deaths and injuries.

This is the largest number of deaths suffered by Ukrainian forces since Kiev began its “anti-terror” operations back in mid-April against pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.

Ukraine forces continue to surround Slovyansk, the pro-Russian activists’ strong hold.

Also on Tuesday, self-declared governor Valery Bolotov was shot in an attempted assassination, the “Luhansk People’s Republic” press office said.  He lost a significant amount of blood but will live, they added.

Meanwhile in Donetsk, while speaking at a news conference, Kiev elected governor of Donetsk, Sergei Taruta, called on the parliament to pass a legislation authorizing a vote to help regions to obtain more independent power while staying part of Ukraine.

He stated that the referendums held on Sunday in Donetsk and Luhansk by pro-Russian activist was nothing more than “an opinion poll” and that the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” did not exist legally or politically.  He also added that Donetsk can not survive economically as an independent territory.

Referendums on greater autonomy from Ukraine were held in Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday by pro-Russian activist who control a large number of cities in eastern Ukraine.

The ballot papers asked: “Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic?”

There was a whopping 70% turnout, and according to pro-Russian officials in Donetsk, 2,252,867 voted yes, while a mere 256,040 voted no.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, 89% and 90% respectively voted “yes”.

It is very possible that a larger number of citizens in eastern Ukraine do not support an independent Donetsk/Luhansk, but the results from the vote won’t show it because numerous pro-Unity residents refused to cast a ballot in the referendum.

However, the legitimacy of the results are more likely than not, inaccurate.  Reason being that none of the voting stations were independently monitored; meaning that the factual number of votes could have very well been manipulated.

Some journalist even reported seeing people vote more than once.

On Monday, after the votes were counted, pro-Russian authorities declared Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent countries.

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Donetsk is red, and Luhansk is yellow.
As you can see, both regions are right next to Russia.

Just two hours later, Donetsk People’s Republic Leader Denis Pushilin asked for Russia to annex the newly founded nation.

Later that night, he urged Moscow listen to the “will of the people” but stated that he was not asking for Russian military intervention.  He did add that “peacekeepers” may be needed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Kiev on Tuesday and urged talks between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian activists.

He fully supports the national round table that the government has planned to hold on Wednesday.  The meeting will include politicians and civic leaders from eastern Ukraine.

It seems though, that talks between government officials and rebels will not happen.

On Tuesday, in an interview with interim President Arseniy Yatsenyuk by BBC, he said: “you can’t have the dialogue with the terrorist who are holding and possessing live ammunition and machine guns.  We [the Ukrainian government] are willing to talk to the Ukrainian people, but not to terrorist.”

Mr. Pushilin has stated that there will not be dialogue between the Donetsk People’s Republic and Kiev.

“What about negotiations with Kiev?  The only question that will be discussed with them is the question of hostage exchange.  Nothing else,” he said on Monday.  “As well as this, a middleman must participate.  We see this middleman as the Russian Federation,” he added.

He also warned the Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk region, saying: “To those illegal military units in our territory, you are offered to either take the people’s side or leave our territorial region.”

In other developments

Where is Ukraine Heading?

Kiev and western nations have repeatedly claimed the referendums held by pro-Russian separatist to be illegal and illegitimate.  This, however, did not stop the activist from continuing with the voting.

The same happened back in March when Russia annexed Crimea after it held a referendum and declared itself to be an independent nation.

In the interview with Mr. Yatsenyuk by BBC, he stressed that Ukraine does not accept the referendum held in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Let me explain, there was no referendum at all,” he said.  Prime Minister Yatsenyuk went on to say that the majority of Ukrainians actually want a “unified, territorial, integral, country.”

This claim would appear to be backed by a recent survey by Pew Research Center which stated that 77% of Ukrainians wanted the country to stay united.

However, the survey was conducted after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but before the bloody violence in Odessa a couple of weeks ago that resulted in the death of 40 people.

Therefor, it is possible that the recent violence in eastern Ukraine has caused some peoples’ opinion to flip-flop.

On May 11, during the referendum in Donetsk Vice journalist Henry Langston interviewed a man named Yuri who said that he had “never seen so many people at the voting station.”

The crisis in Ukraine started back in February when former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office following violent protest in Kiev which resulted in roughly 100 deaths.

Soon afterwards, Crimea held its own referendum on separating from Ukraine, which received a distinct “yes”.  Russia then annexed Crimea.

And now Kiev fears the same will happen in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Mr. Yatsenyuk stated that “What’s happening today in Ukraine is not only a threat for Ukraine, this is a threat for the entire Europe.  Because, Russia undermined the international law, the security, and tries to build up a new Berlin Wall.

“It seems the ultimate goal of [the] Russian President [Vladimir Putin] and [the] Russian Regime is to make Ukraine a failed state,” he added.  “And I want to be very clear, Russia will fail in making Ukraine a failed state.”