Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ukraine Tackles Graft With New US-Style Police Force

KIEV, Ukraine -- Some 2,000 young, athletic, US-trained Ukrainians on Saturday swore oaths to enforce the law -- and resist the temptation to take bribes -- at the launch of a new police service in Kiev to replace a notoriously corrupt force.

Patrol police stand next to police cars as they are sworn in during an official ceremony in Kiev, on July 4, 2015.

Hands on their hearts, the new recruits assembled on a central square sang the national anthem, watched by President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko and the US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

Stamping out graft among the police has been a key priority of Ukraine's new pro-Western government.

"Believe me, your job will be no easier than that of soldiers in the Donbass," Poroshenko told the recruits, referring to the eastern region where government forces are locked in a 17-month conflict with pro-Russian insurgents, in which over 6,600 people have died.

"The main danger zone," Poroshenko told the officers, who will patrol the streets and monitor traffic, was "not where the bullets are whizzing but where the banknotes are rustling" -- a reference to the backhanders often sought by traffic police particularly to turn a blind eye to transgressions.

The head of the new force is a 28-year-old former commander of a pro-government volunteer battalion, who spent time on the frontline in the east.

The successful candidates were selected from over 33,000 applicants and received training from US police. Around one in five are women.

Members of the previous force will be required to undergo tests to determine whether they have the fitness level necessary for patrols.

Deputy interior minister, Eka Zguladze, a Georgia native among several officials from Georgia and Baltic states to be given senior posts in Ukraine's new administration, spearheaded the shake-up of the force.

The US contributed $15 million to the effort, with Japan, Australia, Canada and other countries also chipping in funds.

Zguladze, who carried out similar reforms in Georgia under that country's former pro-Western president Mikhail Saakashvili, told AFP she had "the utmost faith" in the new officers.

"They are strong, they will succeed," she said. The new service is to be progressively rolled out to other cities, including the southern city of Odessa, Kharkiv in the east and Lviv in the west.

Source: AFP

In Ukraine, War And Peace Live Side By Side

KIEV, Ukraine -- Konstantin Bernatovich’s hands began to tremble. He leaned forward, breathing quickly. He tried to say something, but his English failed him and he pulled out his smartphone to type a Russian message into Google Translate: “Seeing you makes me feel very nervous. I have to go smoke a cigarette for a moment to calm down.”

Life beside war in Slavyansk, Ukraine.

This reporter had spent eight days embedded with Bernatovich’s unit on the front lines in Pisky, just outside Donetsk.

As he sat down for coffee at a café along the Obolon boardwalk in north Kiev, Bernatovich was reminded of the war.

“He has changed,” his wife Zhanna said while Bernatovich smoked his cigarette.

“He shows more emotion when he’s home, but when he calls from the front there is no joking.”

“I don’t understand how the soldiers can live out there,” she added.

Bernatovich left the war for six days to go home for his twin sons’ 13th birthday.

It was supposed to be a four-day trip, but the 33-year-old arrived two days early to surprise his wife. 

Some friends were in on the surprise and convinced Zhanna to go on a late-night walk—as she turned a corner she saw her husband for the first time in more than three months.

“I didn’t believe it was real,” she said on Bernatovich’s last day at home, only hours before he left to go back to the front lines.

“I kept asking my friends if it was really him, if he had really come back.”

On the broad Obolon boardwalk, life uninterrupted by the war went on.

A street performer played guitar and sang Santana songs as a mother and young daughter danced hand-in-hand.

Groups of twentysomethings strolled by with beers in their hands.

Out on the Dnieper River, boats pulled water-skiers and kayakers paddled.

Beachgoers sunbathed and shirtless young men exercising on pull-up and dip bars posed and postured for passersby.

“I don’t understand people,” Bernatovich said as he walked past a string of waterfront townhomes, mostly owned by politicians and oligarchs, which go for about $3 million apiece.

“How can they be laughing and smiling when there is a war going on?” he said.

“It’s like I’m in another world, or I’m in a dream and tomorrow I’ll wake up and be back in Pisky.”

A Quarantined War 

Outside of the conflict areas, life seemingly goes on uninterrupted.

The direct effects of combat are quarantined to the approximately 200-mile-long front line in the East.

This coexistence of peace and war inside Ukraine, coupled with the untreated psychological trauma many soldiers suffer in combat, leaves many veterans and returning troops feeling out of place and unable to reintegrate into the lives they left behind.

“It’s hard to return to normal life,” said Vitaliy Dorokhin, 39, a lawyer from Dnipropetrovsk and a combat veteran who served last year in operations near Mariupol and in Pisky.

“And it’s impossible to explain what war is like.”

On a warm summer day in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, 800 miles from the front lines, tourists fill the narrow Galician streets and outdoor cafes.

Women wearing traditional Ukrainian dresses hand out flowers, and wedding parties wander the streets snapping photos.

Street performers play “Por una Cabeza” on violins and strum American rock songs on acoustic guitars.

Life goes on, appears normal, and feels festive.

There are plans in Lviv for a jazz and art festival this summer, and a vintage car show.

There was a doughnut festival in January, about a week before heavy shelling began in Debaltseve.

In Kiev, 420 miles from the front lines, young actors in panda and bunny costumes pose with tourists on the Maidan.

University students drink beer and make out on park benches at night in Shevchenko Park.

Oligarchs and their families (the golden children) zip through the streets with techno music pumping through the tinted windows of their Porsche Cayennes or glossy black Land Rovers while the proletariat bumbles along in their creaking Ladas.

In Kharkiv, 160 miles from the front lines, the city zoo is packed with families on the weekends.

At night, teenagers do tricks on their BMX bikes in the concrete plaza in front of the Kharkiv Theater of Opera and Ballet.

Hints of the war are woven into normal life like an off-colored thread.

Soldiers home on leave wear their uniforms around town.

Recruiting booths for the regular army and different volunteer battalions are common sights in parks and town squares.

At the Lviv train station, families and friends gather on the platform to cheer those returning from the front.

Two soldiers who step off the train together smile awkwardly to the adoring crowd and then turn to each other, nod and silently shake hands goodbye.

Other reminders of the war are both subtle and ubiquitous, mainly reflecting Ukraine’s newfound patriotism instead of a shared sense of suffering or sacrifice.

Bars and restaurants across the country offer discounts to soldiers and veterans.

Yellow and blue Ukrainian flags and the red and black Ukrainian partisan flags hang from apartment balconies and from the rearview mirrors in taxis.

Many women have yellow and blue ribbons tied to the straps of their purses.

Street vendors sell rolls of toilet paper adorned with Vladimir Putin’s likeness.

On Ukrainian TV, there is a commercial—reminiscent of a Budweiser commercial that aired in the U.S.—of Ukrainian soldiers walking through a train station.

The civilians in the hall begin, one by one, to stand and clap.

At the end of the spot, one soldier looks back, forces an embarrassed smile and nods.

“Many soldiers feel lost when they come home, and it doesn’t help that they’re put on a pedestal,” said Roman Torhovitsky, a Harvard-trained biomedical scientist and the founder and president of Wounded Warrior Ukraine.

“Hero can be a dangerous word because it prevents people from connecting.”

Torhovitsky created Wounded Warrior Ukraine in February 2015 to train a corps of military medics, psychologists and civilians in how to treat combat-induced psychological shock and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The organization is set to graduate its first 20 participants, and plans to educate 500 in its first year.

A Warrior Class Despite Ukraine’s patriotism, which many say is something new after the 2014 revolution, many men and women who have experienced the war firsthand struggle to find their footing when they return to civilian life.

“You can’t understand the soldiers unless you’ve been there,” Torhovitsky said.

“You come back, but you don’t come back,” said Ditte Marcher, a therapist who developed a program to treat Danish soldiers returning from Afghanistan and is head of training for Wounded Warrior Ukraine.

“You see people doing normal things and you wonder how others can feel any joy.”

While he was home, Bernatovich tried to rejoin the life he had left behind.

He took his sons out to play Frisbee and for bike rides.

He said his sons weren’t overtly emotional when they first saw him.

But they wouldn’t let go of his hand while walking together, Bernatovich said, which is something they didn’t do before he left.

“For me it is still very difficult to be a good soldier and a good papa,” he said.

“I know I’m different now.”

The war was always there while he was home, and random reminders of it returned his mind to the hell of artillery, snipers and tanks from which he had a six-day reprieve.

The family went to a waterpark, and as Bernatovich went down a slide, the rhythm of his body going over the plastic seams sounded like artillery explosions.

He was back in the war, and he had a panic attack.

“Too much adrenaline,” he said later, shaking two clinched fists for emphasis.

In Pisky, Bernatovich slept on a mattress next to a half dozen other soldiers in the main room of the dank cellar in which they sheltered from artillery and tank fire.

At night he would flip through family pictures on his old laptop.

Combined Russian-separatist forces routinely send reconnaissance squads across lines at night to kill and abduct Ukrainian soldiers.

And so Konstantin kept his Kalashnikov assault rifle by his bed.

In bed with his wife in Kiev, he would instinctively reach for his rifle in the night.

“It’s very hard to sleep without my AK,” he said.

“The AK saved my life, and now I don’t feel safe without it.”

The tandem existence of war and peace in Ukraine, sometimes only separated by a 10-minute car ride, leaves soldiers’ heads spinning.

To some returning soldiers, people outside of the conflict areas seem ambivalent or unaware that the war is going on.

“They can see that the civilians don’t get them,” Torhovitsky said.

“It’s not the same with my civilian friends,” Bernatovich said.

“They don’t understand what it’s like.”

While the coexistence of peace and war can strain soldiers’ relationships with friends and family on their return, some argue that the continuance of peacetime habits by those at home is necessary to both win the war and rehabilitate returning soldiers.

Roman Kulik, 23, is a journalist who recently volunteered for the Ukrainian army.

He requested to be sent to Pisky with the 93rd Brigade.

“There is war, and now if I call myself a man I must show it,” he said.

“I must go and defend my home, my family and my country.”

“But it’s natural that civilians live their lives normally,” Kulik added.

“Putin wants the Ukrainian people to live in fear, so I think it’s great that people go on and live their lives and help build our society to be better.”

For Torhovitsky, the coexistence of peace and war is essential for soldiers’ long-term psychological recovery, even though it can initially leave soldiers feeling out of place.

“There is no war here in Kiev, and the fact that there is peace here provides an environment where the soldiers can regenerate themselves,” Torhovitsky said.

“But sometimes the soldiers get sick of the peaceful environment,” he added.

“There is a lot of attraction in war. The soldiers have much closer relationships with friends, and there is a brotherhood. They find some meaning in war. And then you go back to Kiev and people are more or less for themselves.”

While at home, some soldiers are consumed by thoughts of their comrades still in danger, making it difficult to reintegrate into life at home.

“I like it at home,” Konstantin said.

“But I’m always thinking about the guys. And when I think about them, my heart is filled with adrenaline, and I panic.”

Kulik said the war has affected his friends who have served in different ways.

“Some of my friends say it’s hard to be a civilian now,” he said.

Kulik described one friend who served with the Kievska Rus Battalion in the Debaltseve battle, in which retreating Ukrainian forces suffered heavy losses.

“When he came back, he was a bit angry toward people here in Kiev who don’t want to be part of the war and who don’t want to give money to the army or read news from the front line,” Kulik said.

“He saw many people die, and he saw many dead people. And it was difficult for him.”

Ukraine recently announced that it has 60,000 soldiers actively serving in the conflict areas, the highest at any point in the conflict, which has killed more than 7,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and displaced about 1.3 million people.

There is no reliable data on the rates of PTSD among Ukrainian soldiers or on suicide rates, but those familiar with these issues say that anecdotal evidence points to high rates of psychological trauma.

And with a lack of dedicated mental health professionals available to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate affected soldiers, the first line of treatment is often the family.

“When Ukrainian soldiers come home all they have are their families,” Kulik said.

One focus of Wounded Warrior Ukraine, Torhovitsky explained, is teaching families how to communicate with soldiers about their experiences.

“Working with families is essential, they have to learn how to relate to soldiers,” Torhovitsky said. 

“It’s not only about telling somebody not to bug the soldier with questions,” he added.

“It’s a different way of communicating and connecting. The families think the soldiers are the same, but they are no longer the same. And the family starts to bug them to know what happened and understand what the soldier went through. But soldiers are not ready to share their experiences right away.”

“I’m strong, but it’s very hard,” Zhanna Bernatovich said as she walked along the Obolon boardwalk.

The conversation stopped as the group passed a volunteer battalion recruitment tent.

Young men in shorts and T-shirts were talking with soldiers in uniform.

There was a display of expended ordnance spread on the ground, and children were looking at it. 

There was silence.

After a few moments, Zhanna spoke.

“There’s nothing romantic about war,” she said.

Source: The Daily Signal

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ukraine Crisis: Rally In Kiev Urges War On Eastern Rebels

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 1,000 Ukrainian pro-government fighters and far-right supporters have marched through the centre of the capital, Kiev.

The protesters called on the government to declare war formally on the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Many burned tyres and wore balaclavas; some carried white supremacist flags.

They called on the government to end the Minsk ceasefire accord and declare war on pro-Russian rebels in the east.

The demonstrators say the Russian government is bringing troops and equipment into Ukraine, a claim that Russia has always denied.

Many in the rally were from volunteer battalions and were dressed in their battle fatigues.

They said they had returned from fighting Russian forces and demanded an end to all diplomatic relations with Russia.

The ultra-nationalist Right Sector group called the march.

Protesters also demanded the nationalisation of Russian-owned businesses.

More than 6,600 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine that began in April 2014 when rebels seized large parts of the two eastern regions.

This followed Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula.

The BBC's David Stern in Kiev says Friday's rally was a show of strength in the heart of Ukrainian officialdom.

But above all, our correspondent says, the demonstrators were calling for change.

Both in the way that the conflict is being fought in the east and in the way that the country is being run.

Central to their demands is an end to the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed in February which they say is a charade because of Russia's activities in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and NATO all say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with heavy weapons and soldiers.

Independent experts echo that accusation.

But Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are volunteers.

Clashes between government troops and rebels have recently intensified.

Fierce fighting took place in June outside the rebel-held city of Donetsk, with Ukraine accusing the rebels of launching a full-scale offensive in violation of a truce.

The separatists denied this and accused Ukrainian troops stationed nearby of repeatedly shelling the city - a claim in turn denied by the Ukrainian military.

Source: BBC News

How Putin Ignited A Civil War In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The war in eastern Ukraine is a Kremlin-manufactured conflict. The arrival of "little green men" in Crimea in February 2014 transformed the conflict from a domestic altercation between citizens and their government to an international crisis.

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces are seen at their positions near the town of Maryinka, eastern Ukraine, June 9, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly acknowledged in a government-sponsored documentary that he carefully planned and orchestrated the military takeover of the Crimean peninsula.

No such admissions have been made about the war in the Donbas.

From the outbreak of fighting in the east, the official Kremlin narrative has framed the Ukrainian crisis as a civil war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists.

In reality, for the first six months of the conflict, from March to August 2014, the Ukrainian civil war was a myth concocted by Russian state-sponsored media, reiterated by Russian officials and then picked up by Western media outlets eager for objectivity and balance.

But with the continued influx of Russian weapons, soldiers and Russian recruitment and training of local Ukrainian forces, that myth is swiftly becoming a reality.

At the outset, Ukrainians were a minority in the forces fighting for regional separatism in the east.

In the spring of 2014, civilian protesters and little green men from Russia attempted takeovers of government buildings in the Donbas, Kharkiv and Odessa.

At times, the efforts were farcical; in Kharkiv in April 2014, "local" separatists took over a theater which they had mistaken for city hall.

The homegrown Ukrainian separatists were never alone—Moscow backed them with arms, mercenaries, heavy equipment and leaders, playing a leading role in igniting and escalating the conflict from the start.

But even supplied with Russian-made arms, these separatist groups were lousy soldiers.

Accounts on the ground showed them to be disorganized, undisciplined and without strategic leadership.

By the summer, as Ukrainian government forces regained ground in Donetsk, the Russian military deployed massive supplies in mysterious aid convoys across the border to reverse Ukraine's gains.

By August, the Russian military was operating in full force to recapture the strategic city of Ilovaisk. 

With hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers killed and many more wounded, the loss of Ilovaisk represented a crushing defeat.

Shortly after the battle of Iloviask, the first ceasefire agreement was signed on September 5.

Taking advantage of the lull in fighting after the first ceasefire agreement came into place, the Russian military built up supplies and increased personnel in the Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic.

By January 2015, the ceasefire was in shambles as heavy fighting resumed around the Donetsk airport.

Ukrainian forces, facing Russian artillery attacks and a reinvigorated force, eventually lost that battle and the strategic city of Debaltseve on February 18, despite the second Minsk ceasefire agreement that went into place three days prior.

The standard term to describe the forces fighting in Ukraine's east in the Western press has been "Russian-backed separatist forces," but the more accurate term for the groups that carried out the bulk of fighting in Debaltseve and Iloviask is "separatist-backed Russian forces."

Debaltseve marks a turning point in Russia's strategy in the east.

Prior to it, the Kremlin's primary focus was the supply of arms, equipment and soldiers.

But since Debaltseve, Russian military forces have reportedly increased their recruitment and training of Ukrainians.

At least one massive Russian military base now operates in Ukraine to train new recruits.

As the proportion of Ukrainians fighting alongside the Russian military increases, the civil war that the Kremlin manufactured may become a reality.

Source: Newsweek

Millions In Military Gear Goes To Scrap Heap Instead Of Ukraine

OTTAWA, Canada -- Canada is moving ahead with the destruction of surplus anti-tank missiles and other equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite a plea by Ukraine for such equipment to help it fight separatists.

Canada's Department of National Defence said it tried to sell some surplus Buffalo (L), and Husky vehicles, but could not find any buyers.

Among the items declared surplus are more than 5,400 Eryx anti-tank missiles, according to a 2014 Department of National Defence documents leaked to the Citizen.

In addition, there are 10 Husky and Buffalo vehicles, used to clear routes of improvised explosive devices.

Those vehicles were purchased in 2007 for use in Afghanistan.

Also surplus are four specialized landmine detection systems and 194 LAV-2 or Light Armoured Vehicles- 2 surveillance vehicles scheduled to be taken out of service this year, according to the documents.

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray said the stockpiles raise questions about Defence Minister Jason Kenney’s earlier claims that Ukraine’s beleaguered army can’t be provided with useful Canadian equipment because no such gear exists.

Ukrainian officials came to Ottawa in September looking for anti-tank missiles, surveillance gear and armoured vehicles.

They say their forces are outgunned by separatists equipped with Russian tanks and other weapons. 

But Kenney recently told the Globe and Mail newspaper that Canada has nothing to offer.

He ordered an inventory of weapons be done earlier this year and that determined the Canadian Forces did not have useful surplus equipment that could be shipped to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s soldiers use Russian-designed weapons so armaments sent from Canada could not be used, he added.

Canadian military officers say that is the case for small arms and other such weapons.

But Canadian anti-tank missiles could be used, surplus armoured vehicles could provide protection for troops, and the Husky and Buffalo vehicles would be valuable in dealing with roadside bombs, military sources noted.

Asked specifically about the missiles and other equipment, Kenney’s spokeswoman Lauren Armstrong stated that the minister had already made his comments about the issue.

She referred questions to the Department of National Defence.

The Department of National Defence in an email acknowledged the stockpiles of surplus equipment existed.

But spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier pointed out Friday that in some cases the equipment would either require too much training for the Ukrainians to use or would have to be refurbished for combat operations.

In other cases the vehicles are equipped with machine-guns that use NATO ammunition not in Ukraine’s stockpiles.

Canada tried to sell the stockpile of 5,400 Eryx anti-tank missiles but couldn’t find any buyers.

So the missiles are now being destroyed, according to DND.

The launchers and other related gear are also being destroyed.

“The small number of systems involved would not justify creating the maintenance (spare parts and tools) infrastructure Ukraine would need to operate them,” Le Bouthillier stated.

“(Ukraine’s forces) would have to conduct a significant amount of training to enable the use of the system.”

DND also tried to sell some of the Husky and Buffalo vehicles but with no success.

Those vehicles, part of a $30- million deal in 2007, will now be destroyed.

Some of the LAV-2s will be sold or destroyed while a disposal strategy for the rest still has to be worked out, according to DND.

The DND hasn’t figured out what to do with the landmine detection systems.

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray said she is not surprised there is usable surplus equipment available despite what Kenney claimed.

“The minister is saying one thing and we’re finding the opposite is true,” she said.

“We never get a straight answer from this government, whether it’s on equipment, whether it’s on procurement, whether it’s about the defence budget.”

In February the Stratfor Global Intelligence organization noted, “a significant portion of the anti-tank weapons Ukraine owns are old and likely inoperable.”

Anti-tank missiles “could give Ukrainian troops a credible capability against separatist and Russian heavy armour,” the private intelligence firm, with close links to the U.S. defence establishment, pointed out.

Other needed equipment included armoured transport vehicles and battlefield surveillance gear, Stratfor added.

Canada also has 415 thermal imagers from the Eryx anti-tank weapons, according to the documents.

Such devices can detect the heat given off by armoured vehicles and can be used for surveillance. 

Canada is a key supporter of Ukraine and has denounced Russian involvement in the ongoing crisis in the region.

The Conservative government has provided more than $570 million worth of aid to Ukraine.

Included is non-lethal equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles.

But in August 2014 Vadym Prystaiko, then Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada, told the Citizen that his country needed Canada and its allies to act immediately by providing “real” military support.

Prystaiko noted Ukraine’s wish list included fighter jets, surveillance equipment and light armoured vehicles.

Ukraine troops have also faced improvised explosive devices such as those Canadian soldiers dealt with in Afghanistan with their Husky and Buffalo vehicles.

DND also had around 2,000 TOW 2 missiles, worth $100 million, as part of its surplus stocks, according to the documents.

Those missiles, purchased in 2009, have been disposed of but DND could not provide details about whether they were destroyed or sold.

The Canadian Army decided to get rid of the missiles as it tried to deal with cost-cutting measures brought in by the Conservative government.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Friday, July 03, 2015

Ukraine Says Russian Generals Lead Separatists

KIEV, Ukraine -- Five Russian generals are playing a key role in organizing and commanding separatist forces inside Ukraine, according to a dossier provided by Ukraine's security service to the Obama administration last month.

Lieutenant General Alexander Ivanovich Lentsov, the deputy commander of Russian ground forces, who has also been accused of having a role in commanding Russian troops aiding the separatists. Lentsov is a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Chechen Wars.

The document, obtained by us, is a consensus product of the Security Service of Ukraine and dated June 16.

It identifies five Russian generals and a Russian colonel as playing a senior leadership role inside Ukraine.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Russian military personnel are directing military operations inside the country.

Top Ukrainian intelligence officials shared the document with White House, State Department and U.S. intelligence officials in Washington late last month.

U.S. officials have confirmed receiving the document and told us that the information it contains generally conforms to U.S. intelligence assessments of Russian activity inside Ukraine.

For more than a year, U.S. and NATO officials have accused Russia's special operations forces and its military intelligence agency of aiding separatists in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian intelligence document goes further than previous public information by accusing specific Russian generals of being involved.

These include Major General Oleg Mussovich Tsekov, who it says commands two brigades of the Luhansk People's Militia, and Major General Valerii Nikolaevich Solodchuk, accused of commanding the first army corps of the separatist Novorossia armed forces in Donetsk.

Other officers named include Major General Sergey Yurievich Kuzovlev, who it says commands regular Russian military operations in the Luhansk region and Major General Aleksei Vladimirovich Zavizion, who commands and coordinates Russian military operations in the Donetsk region.

The dossier identifies Major General Roman Aleksandrovich Shadrin as the minister of state security for the Luhansk People's Republic.

It also says Colonel Anatolii Konstantinovich Barankevich, a former minister of defense for the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia, serves as an adviser for combat readiness for the Luhansk People's Republic.

Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian security services at New York University, told us that the Ukrainian intelligence document for the most part confirmed what he has learned about Russia's role in Ukraine.

He said the identification of the Russian generals represented an important development.

"Up to now you have seen Russians lieutenants, captains and majors in Ukraine," he said.

"But now they are actually embedding their senior officers; these are Russian commanders."

Galeotti said this signaled that Russia wanted a more permanent influence over Ukrainian separatists.

"It's a control issue, to make sure maverick commanders don't prosper," he told us.

"Somewhere in Moscow they have made the decision this will be a long-term frozen conflict."

The Russian military has confirmed that a small military contingent has been deployed inside Ukraine, at the request of the Kiev government and with the mission to help the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe implement the Minsk agreement on the ground.

There is a Joint Center for Control and Coordination set up to oversee the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

The Russian general that has been attached to the center as part of the agreement is Lieutenant General Alexander Ivanovich Lentsov, the deputy commander of Russian ground forces, who has also been accused of having a role in commanding Russian troops aiding the separatists.

“They are of course only accusations that General Lentsov is responsible for orchestrating and commanding some of the Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine, but it does seem plausible that he and his staff maintain contact with the other commanders in eastern Ukraine,” said Hannah Thoburn, Eurasia analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative.

“How the chain of command works in this situation is unclear.”

The 30-page dossier provided to Congress and the U.S. government also represents an effort from the Ukrainian security services to prove to their allies that they are making progress in rooting out Russian saboteurs from Ukraine.

It includes tallies and briefings on military intelligence suspects arrested by Ukraine.

The dossier reports that Ukrainian intelligence services believe there are just under 9,000 Russian regular army soldiers currently deployed inside Ukraine, organized into 15 battalion tactical groups.

That estimate could not be independently confirmed.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

The Ukrainians also contend that Russia continues to pour heavy weaponry into Ukraine, an accusation often echoed by senior U.S. officials.

Those weapons include tanks, armored personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft missile systems similar to the one that accidentally shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 over Donetsk last year.

On Capitol Hill, there’s bipartisan support for giving the Ukrainian military defensive weapons, given the Russian actions, but the Obama administration has made clear they have no intention of going beyond the limited non-lethal assistance that is currently being provided.

“There are still incursions on the borders, they are still interfering in the sovereignty of Ukraine,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I still believe we should be providing Ukraine weapons that allow them to defend their borders better than they are.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain traveled to Ukraine last month and met with Ukrainian political, military and intelligence leaders.

He said the Ukrainians are outmatched by a Russian-supported force that has better technology and better intelligence.

“They’ve got 20th century weapons against 21st century weapons,” McCain said.

“They are begging for us to help them defend themselves. They’ve proven they will fight, but we’ve got to give them something to fight with.”

Source: Bloomberg View

Ukraine Can Defeat The Separatists

NEW YORK, USA -- For those following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an ongoing source of concern is where Russia will draw the line.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks along destroyed houses in Shyrokyne, Donetsk region in late June.

Common wisdom says if Ukraine continues to resist, Russia will commit more forces and overrun Ukraine—possibly continuing its momentum into Estonia or Poland.

As members of NATO, an attack on either of those two countries risks invoking Article V, NATO’s common-defense clause, thus drawing Europe and America into war with Russia, inexorably leading to World War III and nuclear exchange.

Well, there’s another cause for concern. Ukraine is much stronger than people give it credit for.

Up until now, the Ukrainians have been fighting with one arm tied behind their back—much of their combat power has deliberately been held in reserve, to risk provoking Russia into allocating more forces to the fight.

The last time the Ukrainian military mounted a calculated offensive against the separatists, in August of last year, it experienced quick success.

Russia had to move thousands of soldiers across the border to shore up separatist resolve, and assisted the separatists with artillery, tanks and anti-air assets (including the Russian AA battery that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17).

Since then, there has been a status quo of sorts—not to be confused with a cease-fire, as casualties by the dozens occur every day.

The battle in East Ukraine has reached equilibrium.

 Many in the West believe that Russia can decide to break this status quo at any time with a quick push; it can blitz through Ukrainian lines and make its way to Kiev and Odessa—or beyond.

Ukraine is incapable of standing up to the Russians, and their defensive capabilities are barely adequate to resist an invasion.

Presumably, conventional wisdom is the same in Russia because its military has not made any serious, concerted effort to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.

Up to this point it has made strong probes against Ukrainian lines, or maneuvered to surround National Guard positions, and then negotiated surrender with Ukrainian authorities.

But Ukraine does have sophisticated defensive capabilities, which are increasing with every day.

The Ukrainian population—especially Kiev and parts of the West and South—feels more and more invested in the struggle as friends and relatives are killed or wounded on the front lines.

And Ukrainian military formations are training hard.

On the ground in Ukraine I spent a week in Yavoriv recently, watching my old unit, the 173rd, train two companies of Ukrainian National Guardsmen (NGU).

It was very impressive: Ukrainian soldiers moving and communicating tactically at a level that matched or exceeded most conventional U.S. units.

For nearly seven years, I served as an infantry officer (over two of which I spent in Afghanistan) in combat; in my time training Afghan police and soldiers, I never saw a unit of Afghans that looked as professional as the Ukrainians.

Throughout that week, I heard artillery and tank fire—Ukrainian artillerymen training to increase their capacity to fight together as small units, working with mechanized assets, calling for fire from mortars and from artillery.

They were part of a unified military based on principles of merit and organization rather than Soviet authority.

How Ukraine can pull ahead If the Ukrainians continue to train hard, and build combat power—and I suspect that their incentive to do so is greater than that of their (mostly Russian) adversaries—there is a possible outcome here that I have yet seen described in Western media, nor have I heard it in Russian media, either:

Ukraine can defeat the separatists.

Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.

Ukraine and its military does not know this, but it is possible.

In fact, Russian overconfidence, Russian complacency and broken Russian doctrine makes it not just possible but even likely that a decisive, surprise combined-arms attack by a well-trained, reinvigorated Ukrainian military will be able to achieve complete surprise over its adversaries, surround them, and wipe them out.

Russia is fragile.

The longer it waits in Ukraine, the greater the chances that its military forces will encounter a disaster not faced since World War II: the encirclement and destruction of a Russian battle group.

Every week that passes, the Ukrainian military is growing stronger and more confident.

Every week that passes, the Russian soldiers and units become more certain that they have the advantage, and that their Ukrainian adversaries are weak and unmotivated.

Risks of an endgame

This is the greatest risk we face for World War III.

Not that Russia defeats Ukraine and moves toward Poland and Estonia, but that Ukraine wipes out the Russians currently in Ukraine, and Putin is forced to take some drastic action to prevent further losses.

After all, why should Ukraine not feel entitled to take some of Russia’s territory in return for their lost Crimea?

And who will be there to stop them, save demoralized and confused Russian conscripts?

I hope Western negotiators are able to help Putin see the folly of his position in Ukraine, and sooner rather than later—the longer he stays in Ukraine, the more likely it is that he will suffer a dangerous and humiliating reverse.

(Adrian Bonenberger, the author of this article, was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 2005-2012 and served twice in Afghanistan. He is now a freelance journalist.) 

Source: Forces Opinion

Saakashvili Warns Of Odessa Region’s Importance To Ukraine

ODESSA, Ukraine -- Mikheil Saakashvili was appointed governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region in February, to fight corruption.

Mikheil Saakashvili, Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region,  being greeted with traditional Ukrainian bread and salt.

The former Georgian president might even be considered for higher office.

We talked to him in the major Black Sea port city.

euronews: “Many people in Ukraine are asking why did Saakashvili become the governor of Odessa when there are so many things to do against corruption in Kyiv?”

Saakashvili: “Odessa is strategically amazingly important, both for Ukraine, but unfortunately also for the country that invaded Ukraine: Russia. And the problem here is that Putin’s vision of his project, ‘Novorossiya’, includes Odessa as his linchpin. So, first of all we need to safeguard and make sure that Odessa stands, that it doesn’t fall. Because if this region falls, then I think Ukraine will be in major trouble and the whole region might go, not only Ukraine but all the Black Sea, Caucasus and the others. That’s why we need to safeguard Odessa. And second: the way to safeguard is also to develop it. And so we need to do things here.”

euronews: “There are two problems here. One is that there are a lot of pro-Russian people in this region, a huge number, and secondly a huge problem with corruption and with crime related to the sea port. What are your projects in order to crack down on these huge problems that sometimes, maybe, are also connected?”

Saakashvili: “I don’t think that Odessa is by itself pro-Russian. I think what is true here is that they speak Russian, they have Russian cultural heritage. This is true, and this is not a weakness, this is a great strength. Odessa is a major international brand. It’s also a very important thing both for the Ukrainian and Russian cultures, their histories, and I think that’s something we should capitalize on. “Now, with regard to corruption, yes it’s a major issue. This very sea port, this customs [post] that is here, which makes one of the biggest ports on the Black Sea and basically the biggest of Ukraine. It is a major centre also for all kind of smuggling, trafficking; our estimate is that annually something between 500 million and one billion euros is being diverted from the state budget, that’s to say stolen by corrupt officials, by customs officers, by law enforcement, and of course it is also related to crime.”

euronews: “It’s true that there are some oligarch regime people who are being fired. But it’s also true that, for instance, the former head of the SBU, of the Security Service of Ukraine, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, was fired. Many Ukrainians didn’t understand why, because they think that he was doing quite a good job and they are afraid that he was fired for not clear reasons. Why?”

Saakashvili: “Look, just before he was fired, Nalyvaichenko told me, ‘I am sending you an SBU group to reinforce you in fighting the corruption in the customs.’ I can tell you, I said, publicly, ‘I don’t want that group to come here’, because more SBU means more corruption; the problem is here, and it was a problem until now, that the main smuggling is not even done by the customs or by professional smugglers, it is done by the Ukrainian Security Service, it’s done by elements of the prosecutor’s office, it was traditionally done by the police. The whole drug trafficking of the city is controlled by the police. The problem is that law enforcement is not the solution. At this stage, law enforcement is a problem in itself.”

euronews: “In order to crack down on crime it is very important to have a strong security service. So you don’t trust the security service of Ukraine.”

Saakashvili: “At this stage, there is a big problem of trust. However, in August we will have a new patrol police in Odessa, which is totally like almost 100 per cent new people, like recruited from scratch. They are getting now proper training, they will get proper salaries. We have a new head of police. I ordered him to shut down smuggling from Transdnistria. “That is very important because most of the criminals and smuggling come now from Transdnistria and the area not controlled by Moldova, and it is a black hole of Europe. We are now recruiting new people for the police and we will make sure that they will have new salaries. We are recruiting new people for the customs. We are recruiting new people for the tax services. We need to give them higher salaries. And there are lots of volunteers in Ukraine. This place has amazing potential.”

euronews: “You are mentioning these groups which were controlling this Oblast, this part of Ukraine, the region of Odessa. Do you think there is a direct connection between Transdnistria, these groups and Moscow?”

Saakashvili: “Well, certainly the last main potential base for Russian intrusion here is corruption and illegal and illicit activities, because, you know, it’s basically what Putin calls the ‘Russian world’. Their real soft power is corruption and criminal ties. Indeed, most of the criminal gangs, most of the organised crime people whom we know, many of them might be from Georgia, by the way, here, but they have always, traditionally, had their ties with the Russian mafia and with the authorities in Moscow. That’s a very well known and well documented fact.”

euronews: “Before you mentioned the importance, as an asset, as a cultural asset, of the Russian speaking population of this region. But don’t you think that the Kiev government made some mistakes and alienated the consensus of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, as a whole, and of course also of this region?”

Saakashvili: “Obviously, especially immediately in the aftermath of Maidan, some mistakes were made. But I think that is changing right now, because people have full awareness that this country is not about ethnicity or just about one language. It certainly has state language and it certainly has clear identity, but that identity is based on multiculturalism, and is based on people speaking different languages.”

euronews: “Someone might say that that is what you tried to do in Tbilisi, in Georgia, in your own country of origin, but then something went wrong.”

Saakashvili: “No, nothing went wrong. I am very proud of what we achieved in Georgia. Georgian institutions are the strongest right now, most of them, among former Soviet states. Georgia has really built new cities, has really built new landscapes. Tourists went up 60 times, 60 times! On my watch. And that’s why people invited me here. If the present Georgian government doesn’t like me…” 

euronews: “Why? What is the problem with them?”

Saakashvili: “That’s the government who changed, and some of them are really revengeful or basically vicious people. But that doesn’t change the whole picture. Georgia still has one of the least corrupt institutions in Eastern Europe, one of the safest places still, despite some problems in this region, and still is a place where people want to go, where people want to invest and I think my team has created that. And, of course, teams do change, governments do change, but the main measurement of the reform is if the institutions can survive its creators, then they were successful, and that’s the case in Georgia, for sure.”

euronews: “Someone told me that Mr Saakashvili wants to become the prime minister of Ukraine. Must [current Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk be afraid of you?”

Saakashvili: “Look, there are lots of speculations of course. I am aware of that, but that’s what the nature of politics is. The good thing is that I have a real job to do now, I am very much concentrated on it and I love it. Because it’s very challenging, but I love challenges, and the more challenging it gets the more excited I get. “So, there are such a huge number of things to achieve here that I certainly will stick to it for the moment, and for a long time. And, hopefully, in some time we can report a real progress here in Odessa on the ground, and of course I’m willing to work with the government in Kiev because without meaningful progress also in support of this reform from the government of Kiev, no real changes can be achieved. We will work with them, certainly we will work with them from this angle.”

Source: euronews