Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Cold, Cynical, And Possibly Crazy Logic Of Putin's Ukraine Invasion

WASHINGTON, DC -- After months of supporting separatist rebels to stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an overt (if relatively small-scale) invasion of eastern Ukraine sometime around August 21, sending in tanks, mobile artillery, and at least 1,000 troops.

Putin, Czar of the "Evil Empire".

This seems likely to come back to hurt Putin.

The US and European countries were already imposing tough economic sanctions that had pushed the Russian economy on the edge of recession.

It is all but certain that these countries will heighten sanctions — even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, normally hesitant to take such action, is suggesting as much — and damage the Russian economy further.

So why is Putin doing it?

In the short-term, Russia's goal appears to be bolstering the separatist rebels, who have been losing ground to Ukrainian military forces in the weeks since those rebels shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17.

But that's just a short-term goal.

What is Putin's long-term aim?

Four compelling theories exist, and while there is almost certainly some truth to all of them, it is the fourth — that Putin was pulled into invading by a crisis whose momentum is beyond his control — that is both the most plausible and the most frightening.

1) Putin wants to annex eastern Ukraine 

This is the big fear: that Putin will do in eastern Ukraine what he did in Crimea in March, occupying the region militarily and then declaring it to be part of Russia.

The evidence for this is two-fold.

First, Putin wouldn't go to such great lengths to defend the rebels unless he really wanted them to hold that ground, and he's been hinting ominously for weeks that he may have to intervene to save eastern Ukrainians against the fascist Ukrainian army (this is a fiction, to be clear).

Second, Russian forces just opened a second front far south of rebel-held territory, in the Ukrainian coastal area near the town of Novoazovsk.

It looks like maybe they are trying to open a route from the rebel-held areas around Donetsk and Luhansk to the Black Sea — either to open supply lines or to make it a more viable slice of territory for annexation.

The evidence against this is that, even for Putin, it would be just bananas crazy.

No one wants to admit this, but as illegal and hugely offensive as Russia's annexation of Crimea was, the region has a large Russian ethnic population, a real degree of preexisting pro-Russia sentiment, and a bizarre history by which Russia handed it over to Ukraine during the Cold War.

That is not to say that Russia's annexation of Crimea was at all acceptable — it was not — but world leaders were only willing to go so far to oppose it.

Eastern Ukrainians are majority ethnic Ukrainian and appear far less okay with the idea of a hostile Russian invasion.

There is no historical or demographic case for Donetsk as part of Russia, and world leaders have made very clear that they see Russian intervention there as far more offensive than the annexation of Crimea.

2) Putin wants to maintain a perpetual crisis in eastern Ukraine 

It looked, in the first months of Putin's meddling in eastern Ukraine, like this was the aim: not to annex outright, but just to foment enough chaos there that Ukraine would be unable to fully break from Russia's orbit; that the low-level violence would be Moscow's gun to Ukraine's head.

The Ukraine crisis began, after all, when Ukrainians protested en masse in autumn 2013 to push their government away from Russia and toward Europe, something that Putin fears.

The evidence for this is that Putin has long pushed specific policy requests for the Ukrainian government as part of peace negotiations.

The biggest is for Ukraine to adopt a federal system, which would allow province-level Ukrainian officials in more pro-Russia areas greater autonomy, and thus more room for Russian influence.

The other bit of evidence is that Russia has used this strategy before to force its influence in former Soviet states.

As Clinton-era Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott tweeted, "Putin's strategy in Ukraine includes creating 'frozen conflicts' in east, much as Russia's done in Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan."

In this thinking, Putin is not invading to annex eastern Ukraine, but to protect the Russian-backed rebels that were in danger of being overrun by the Ukrainian military, so that he could keep his destabilizing influence there.

3) Putin wants to force peace a deal that favors him 

Before Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military was looking awfully close to overrunning the rebels.

Had that happened, Putin would have lost his ability to kick up trouble in eastern Ukraine — and thus lost a lot of leverage with the Ukrainian government.

All Putin would have to show for his trouble would be a Russian economy devastated by economic sanctions.

Maybe, then, this is Putin's last, desperate attempt to salvage something from the crisis by escalating it beyond what he knows the West can tolerate.

The Ukrainian military is too weak to defend against Russia's, after all, and there's no way NATO will intervene and risk World War Three over the status of Luhansk.

So perhaps Putin's ambition is to force Ukraine, the US, and Europe to accept some sort of peace deal that will grant Russia some face-saving concessions.

4) Putin, boxed in by his own rhetoric and earlier escalation, has simply lost control 

This seems the most likely: that Putin did not choose to invade eastern Ukraine, so much as he was pulled into it by his own rhetoric, his own propaganda, and the degree to which he attached his political legitimacy to the crisis.

This is the only way that the invasion really makes sense.

Even if Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine achieves the best possible outcome for Putin (maybe that means annexation, maybe it means Western and Ukrainian concessions), the long-term consequences will be so dire for Putin and Russia that it could not possibly be worthwhile.

There is one place where the invasion does make rational sense: in the fantasy world that Putin has constructed in Kremlin propaganda and Russian state media.

The official Russian narrative, which is disturbingly popular among Russians, is that Ukrainians are crying out for Russian liberation from the fascistic, American-run puppet regime in Kiev.

The narrative also says that Russia is not just saving fellow Russian-speakers in Donetsk but is fulfilling its destiny as a great power, retaking the dignity that was lost with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The stakes are high for Putin personally.

Since taking power in 2000, he has governed through an implicit deal with the Russian people, one that has proven generally popular: he delivers high economic growth, and Russians accept some curbs to political and individual rights.

But then the economy began to slow, and in March 2012 a small but significant number of Russians protested against Putin's sham reelection, and he shifted strategy.

Since then, Putin has based his legitimacy less on generating economy growth and more on stirring up old-style Russian nationalism.

That appears to have been a big part of what drove his invasion of Crimea and his instigation of a rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which have been hugely popular in Russia.

To juice that popularity, Russian state media has relentlessly and shamelessly fear-mongered about the supposed threats in Ukraine and praised great leader Vladimir Putin for standing up to the West and to the Ukrainian fascists there. Putin, unable to resist, repeatedly threatened a Russian humanitarian intervention.

All of that paid of nicely for Putin, until it looked like his rebels were about to be expelled by the Ukrainian military, which would have been a disastrous humiliation for him and a repudiation of the nationalism on which he has increasingly based his legitimacy.

It would have left him without the nationalism and certainly without an economy, which is nearing recession.

Meanwhile, far-right nationalist voices within the Russian media and Putin's government have been urging him to escalate.

So, no other way out, he did.

If this is truly what is driving Putin, it means he may well be operating without a clear strategy or objective in mind.

If one of the world's largest militaries is invading just to invade, then it is not at all clear when the tanks will stop rolling, or what sort of political compromise or concession would turn them back.

Putin is not crazy, but he may have created a crisis with an internal momentum so great that it has broken beyond his control.

That is a truly scary possibility.

Source: VOX

Resurgent Pro-Russia Rebels Brim With Confidence In Ukraine After Gaining Ground

STAROBESHEVE, Ukraine — As the survivor of a tank attack on a Ukrainian army truck was being carried into an ambulance, he was showered with verbal abuse by a rebel fighter.

Ukrainian loyalist fighters from the Azov Battalion stand guard on a hill on the outskirts of Mariupol on August 30, 2014. Pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine warned on Saturday that they will launch a fresh offensive against government troops, days after seizing swathes of territory.

“Why didn’t you say before that you were alive? Why so quiet?” the rebel taunted.

Minutes later, the Ukrainian soldier drew his last breath.

Under the gaze of rebels, Ukrainian soldiers loaded the bodies of six other dead comrades onto trucks outside the village of Starobesheve.

A couple of kilometres away, in the village itself, other rebels made wisecracks and boasted about dealing another punishing blow to Ukrainian forces.

After weeks of yielding ground, the Russian-backed separatists are brimming with confidence following a string of seemingly effortless victories.

On Saturday, Ukraine announced it was abandoning Ilovaisk, a city 25 kilometres north of Starobesheve.

Surrounded on all sides over several days, they sustained fire so intense that the government was compelled to plead for a corridor out.

“We are surrendering this city,” said Ukrainian Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council.

“Our task now is to evacuate our military with the least possible losses in order to regroup.”

Lysenko said that regular units of the military had also been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city.

Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.

Adding to that, Ukrainian government forces are now facing the prospect of an onslaught from yet another front along the coast of the southeastern Azov Sea. 

Ukraine and numerous Western governments have said they believe rebels have been amply supplied with powerful Russian weaponry and that regular Russian troops are engaged in combat.

NATO estimates that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine even though Russia heatedly denies any involvement in fighting that has so far claimed at least 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures.

Preparations for the evacuation from Ilovaisk were spotted by AP reporters Saturday morning in the village of Mykolaivka, 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, where 20 flatbed trucks were parked in line primed to go and collect stranded Ukrainian troops.

Anxious Mykolaivka residents reported hearing blasts of artillery Friday and the convoy made painstaking progress throughout the day to avoid rebel ambushes.

After more than an hour’s travel through tortuous country roads, the convoy reached the countryside outside Starobesheve and joined up with about 15 government ambulances readied to collect the wounded.

As drivers awaited the order to move, a green army truck drove in from the opposite direction packed with weary and evidently traumatized soldiers.

Speaking over one another, they said rebels reneged on promises to provide a safe corridor out of Ilovaisk and opened fire on departing Ukrainians troops.

Although palpably frustrated with what they see as fatally indecisive leadership from the authorities, rank-and-file troops are reluctant to go on the record with their complaints for fear of reprisals.

But their rage Saturday was mainly reserved for their opponents.

“We came from Ilovaisk bearing white flags,” said one soldier, who declined to give his name and had his face covered with a mask.

“They shot us from all sides. We were not engaged in military actions. We were just on the move.”

While none could offer a specific estimate of how many had died, they said the deaths may have numbered in the dozens.

Ukrainian National Guard Lt. Col. Mekola Hordienko, who was accompanying the evacuation operation, said the attack on departing soldiers constituted a violation of international conventions.

The surrounding area has been scene of skirmishes and shelling attacks over the past week.

In Starobesheve, the dozens of rebels milling around the otherwise deserted rural settlement were jubilant Saturday over having trapped a column of Ukrainian tanks and armoured personnel carriers after a brief battle that morning.

Standing in groups, some fighters shared jokes and battle stories, while one showed off pictures taken on his phone of insignia from troops in the trapped Ukrainian battalions.

At one stage in the afternoon, three rebel tanks raced up to the local police station, which now operates at the local rebel headquarters, only to be angrily ordered back down the hill by the local commander.

One separatist fighter, who provided only his first name Sergei and the nom de guerre Frantsuz (Frenchman), said the Ukrainian armoured column was intercepted while it was travelling to Ilovaisk to assist in evacuating government troops.

“They wanted to take Starobesheve, but this operation failed,” he said.

“Starobesheve remains under our control and their equipment is under our control.” 

After hours of negotiations, dozens of Ukrainian troops were allowed to leave the village riding on six APCs, but without ammunition.

Frantsuz said rebel commanders agreed to allow ambulances and trucks to travel to Ilovaisk to take away the injured and the dead.

Near a bridge on the road out of the village, six bodies lay in disarray around a medical truck that was torn apart by a rebel tank shell.

Ukrainian army personnel dragged away the bodies with cables — a precaution adopted to avoid impact from possible unexploded ordnance.

A man in the recovery group wretched after one especially mangled body was loaded into a truck.

Although the bodies showed signs of having lain in the open overnight, one severely injured man in the crew was found to still be alive and was carried away for treatment.

About half an hour later, he too died and was tipped face down into the back of the truck along with the other men.

Source: AP

Putin Hails Ukraine Separatists; Kiev Raises Prospect Of Joining NATO

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hailed pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine as “insurgents” battling an army that he likened to Nazi invaders during World War II, and the Ukrainian government raised the prospect of joining NATO as it seeks help to repel what it calls an outright Russian military invasion.

Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk.

In a statement published on the Kremlin’s Web site early Friday, Putin also urged the separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers trapped since Monday in the southeastern town of Ilyovaisk.

The double-edged statement — couched as a humanitarian gesture but perhaps aimed at helping the rebels consolidate control — came a day after the government in Kiev said Russian soldiers, tanks and heavy artillery had begun rolling into the region to help the separatists reverse recent Ukrainian military gains.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday that Ukraine may seek to join NATO, announcing the submission of a bill to parliament that would repeal the country’s “non-bloc status,” the Interfax news agency reported.

A Ukrainian military spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, told reporters that Russia continues to send troops and materiel across the border.

He said the force includes tanks bearing inscriptions such as “We are going to Kiev.” 

“I assure you that on our shells we won’t have any messages like ‘to Moscow’ or ‘on to Moscow,’ ” Lysenko said.

“We are not aggressors. We’re just trying to liberate Ukrainian lands.”

Lysenko said the Ukrainian army, after retreating from the southeastern coastal town of Novoazovsk, was ready to defend the key port city of Mariupol, about 28 miles farther west on the Sea of Azov.

Putin did not answer accusations by the Ukrainian government and the West about Russia’s military presence in southeastern Ukraine.

Instead, he praised the separatists as “insurgents” who had undermined “Kiev’s military operation, which threatened lives of the residents of Donbas and has already led to a colossal death toll among civilians” — a reference to the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donets Basin, or Donbas, whose unofficial capital is rebel-held Donetsk.

Ukraine’s military responded quickly, saying that Putin’s call for an exit corridor for encircled Ukrainian troops showed that the separatists are “led and controlled directly from the Kremlin.”

Pro-Russian separatists said they would comply with the Kremlin’s request, but it was unclear whether Kiev would accept the offer.

At a youth forum later Friday, Putin said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had agreed to a prisoner swap that would include sending 10 captured Russian paratroopers back to Russia.

An advocacy group called Soldiers’ Mothers has been pressing Russian authorities for answers on the fate of troops believed to be fighting in Ukraine.

Russia responded by putting the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg on a government list of foreign agents.

In the same appearance, Putin said the recent Ukrainian offensive against pro-Russian rebels reminded him of “the events of the Second World War, when the Nazi occupiers, the troops, surrounded our cities — for example, Leningrad — and point-blank shot at these settlements and their inhabitants.”

He added: “It’s awful. It’s a disaster.”

Although Putin skirted the issue of Russian military involvement in Ukraine, his remarks directly addressing the separatists and his disparaging comments about Ukrainian forces served to escalate the rhetoric surrounding the crisis at a time when Moscow and Kiev are supposed to be talking about prisoner swaps, humanitarian convoys and other matters.

Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to meet in Brussels today with top European leaders to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian border security services are also expected to meet at the Nekhoteyevka checkpoint in the Belgorod region of Russia, near to the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, to discuss the situation along the Russian-Ukrainian border, and strategies to prevent militants and military hardware from crossing back and forth. 

Putin also said that Ukraine should not fear federalization, asserting that Russia itself would be moving further in that direction, possibly by shifting some central government authorities to Siberia.

That declaration comes barely two weeks after activists calling for more federalism in Siberia were detained and protests on the subject were banned.

However, Russia would not “meddle” with Ukraine’s internal affairs, Putin added. 

U.S. officials said privately Thursday that they consider the Russian show of military force this week tantamount to an invasion.

Speaking at a news conference, President Obama did not use the term but said it was clear the uprising in eastern Ukraine was not “homegrown.”

“The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia,” he said.

In a response Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry again accused the United States of hypocrisy — this time for what it called U.S. disregard for civilians in eastern Ukraine.

“In any other conflict, whether in the Middle East, Africa or anywhere else, the West has consistently opposed actions causing harm to civilians,” the ministry said on its Web site.

“It is only in relation to southeastern Ukraine that it holds a diametrically opposite line, in gross violation of international humanitarian law.”

A total of 2,593 people, including civilians, have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, a senior U.N. human rights official said Friday.

“The trend is clear and alarming,” Ivan Simonovic, U.N. assistant secretary general for human rights, told journalists in Kiev.

“There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east.” Simonovic said the number would be close to 3,000 if the 298 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were counted.

Civilian casualties would continue to rise “as each side increases its strength, through mobilization, better organization, or the deployment of new fighters and more sophisticated weapons and support from outside,” he said.

Simonovic had sharp words for both sides.

“Armed groups continue to commit abductions, physical and psychological torture,” he said of the separatists, whose tactics he said were aimed at terrorizing the population under their control. But he added that the United Nations has also heard “disturbing reports of violations committed by battalions under government control.” 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized the U.N. official as repeating “fabrications against the militia forces of Donetsk and Luhansk” but commended him for addressing “the criminal actions of the Ukrainian army” — although the ministry maintained that his report did not go far enough.

“The mission was forced to admit the obvious,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Source: The Washington Post

Ukraine Says Russian Tanks Flatten Town; EU To Threaten More Sanctions

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Ukraine said Russian tanks had flattened a small border town and pro-Russian rebels had made fresh gains in its east, as EU leaders signaled on Saturday they would threaten more sanctions against Moscow over the crisis.

A Russian separatist stands near the damaged war memorial at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, August 28, 2014.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, attending an EU summit in Brussels, said he was hoping for a political solution, but warned that his country was on the brink of full-scale war.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed accusations from Kiev and Western powers that it has sent soldiers into its neighbor, or supported pro-Russian rebels fighting a five-month-old separatist war in Ukraine's east.

But Ukraine military spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko told journalists in Kiev that Russian tanks had entered the small Ukrainian town of Novosvitlivka on the border with Russia and fired on every house.

"We have information that virtually every house has been destroyed," Lysenko added, without giving details on when the reported attack took place.

Ukraine's daily military briefings typically cover the previous 24 hours.

Lysenko said the rebels had made new gains just east of the border city of Luhansk, one of the rebels' main strongholds, after opening up a new front in another area last week.

"Direct military aggression by the Russian Federation in the east of Ukraine is continuing. The Russians are continuing to send military equipment and 'mercenaries'," Ukraine's defense and security council said in a separate Twitter post. 

Kiev and Western countries say recent rebel gains were the result of the arrival of armored columns of Russian troops, sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to prop up a separatist rebellion that would otherwise have been near collapse.

There was no immediate fresh comment from Russia on Saturday.

Putin on Friday compared Kiev's drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two.


EU leaders meeting in Brussels appointed Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as president of the European Council, giving hawkish Kremlin critics in Eastern Europe new influence in the bloc.

According to a draft statement from the summit, the EU leaders were set to ask the European Commission and the EU's diplomatic service "to urgently undertake preparatory work" on further sanctions that could be implemented if necessary. 

French President Francois Hollande stressed that a failure by Russia to reverse a flow of weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine would force the bloc to impose new economic measures.

"Are we going to let the situation worsen, until it leads to war?" Hollande said at a news conference.

"Because that's the risk today. There is no time to waste."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was prepared to toughen sanctions against Russia but also that it wanted a political deal to end the confrontation.

"We are ready to take very strong and clear measures but we are keeping our doors open to a political solution," Barroso said at a news conference with Ukraine's president.

Poroshenko said the crisis was close to a tipping point.

"I think we are very close to the point of no return. The point of no return is full-scale war, which already happened on the territory controlled by separatists," he said.

He added, however, that a trilateral meeting on Monday involving representatives of Kiev, Moscow and the European Union could produce a ceasefire. 


The crisis started when Ukraine's Moscow-backed president was ousted by street protests in February after he ditched a pact with the EU that would have moved the ex-Soviet republic firmly toward Europe and away from Russia.

Russia denounced the pro-Western leadership that took over as "a fascist junta" and went on to annex Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

Pro-Russian separatists then rebelled in Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking east in April, setting up 'people's republics' and declaring they wanted to join Russia.

A senior U.N. human rights official said on Friday nearly 2,600 civilians, Ukrainian government forces and rebels had been killed in a conflict which has led to the biggest Russia-West crisis since the Cold War.

In Kiev, Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a group of pro-Ukrainian fighters had broken out of encirclement by pro-Russian rebels near Donetsk early on Saturday, though other reports suggested many remained trapped.

Defense Minister Valery Heletey also ordered a clamp-down on information coming out of Ilovaysk, a town to the east of Donetsk.

Indicating government forces were being pulled back from the area, Heletey said on his Facebook page:

"As soon as the danger for Ukrainian units has passed, all open information for the current period relating to the withdrawal of forces from Ilovaysk will be published." 

Last week Russian rebels opened a new front in a separate, coastal territory along the Sea of Azov and pushed Ukrainian troops out of the town of Novoazovsk.

They are now threatening the strategic port city of Mariupol.

Several shots were fired on Saturday at a car carrying Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, but he escaped unscathed, another separatist leader, Sergei Kavtaradze, told Reuters.

"Zakharchenko wasn't hurt. His driver was wounded and is being operated on," Kavtaradze said, adding that an operation was under way to catch whoever had fired the shots.

Source: Google News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: EU Leaders Consider Response To Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- EU leaders are to meet in Brussels to consider fresh sanctions against Russia following accusations that its troops are fighting inside Ukraine.

Residents of Mariupol are digging trenches to help Ukrainian soldiers defend the strategic port city.

Russia continues to lie and denies that its regular forces are backing a rebel offensive in eastern Ukraine.

But ahead of the summit, EU officials said a clear message must be sent to Russia to de-escalate the crisis.

In Ukraine, a number of government troops remain encircled by the rebels in the Donetsk region.

Reports say the pro-Russian fighters have issued an ultimatum to the Ukrainian troops near the town of Ilovaisk to surrender by Saturday morning.

Some 2,600 people have died in fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The conflict there erupted in April following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula a month before.

In Brussels, the leaders of the 28-member bloc are also to decide who will fill two of Europe's top jobs: president of the European Council and foreign policy chief to replace Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton.

'New dimension' 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in Brussels to meet Mr Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing head of the Commission, ahead of the summit.

Mr Poroshenko is expected to press for tougher action against the Kremlin.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the "already dangerous situation" in Ukraine had now entered "a whole new dimension". 

"The border infringements have intensified, and raised concerns that the situation is slipping out of control.

"This needs to stop, especially if we want to avoid direct military confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian military forces."

He was referring to reports by Ukraine that regular Russian troops had entered Ukraine, capturing the south-eastern town of Novoazovsk.

Russia continues to deny the accusation.

Mr Steinmeier's sentiments were echoed by other EU foreign ministers: France's Laurent Fabius spoke of "unacceptable" intervention by Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

Sweden's Carl Bildt said a clear message had to be sent to Russia: "We have to be aware of what we are facing: we are in the midst of the second Russian invasion of Ukraine within a year"

The Netherlands' Frans Timmermans said the presence of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine could not "remain unanswered".

But it remains unclear if a new round of sanctions will be adopted in Brussels.

The EU and the US have already imposed sanctions against dozens of senior Russian officials, separatist commanders and Russian firms accused of undermining Ukrainian sovereignty.

In late July, the EU also blacklisted some key economic sectors, prompting Russia to retaliate by banning food imports.

Russia's energy minister has warned that the Ukrainian crisis could lead to a disruption of gas supplies to European countries this winter.

NATO membership 

On Friday, NATO held an emergency meeting after releasing satellite images it said showed columns of Russian armed forces inside Ukrainian territory. 

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Russia to "take immediate and verifiable steps towards de-escalation".

Mr Rasmussen also indicated NATO could consider Ukraine's application to join the alliance, shortly after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced he was putting Ukraine on course for NATO membership.

War in eastern Ukraine: The human cost 

At least 2,593 people killed since mid-April (not including 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, shot down in the area) - UN report on 7 August.

951 civilians killed in Donetsk region alone, official regional authorities said - 20 August.

In some particularly dangerous places, such as Luhansk region, victims are said to have been buried informally, making accurate counts difficult.

Rebels (and some military sources) accuse the government of concealing true numbers 155,800 people have fled elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia.

Source: BBC News Europe

Ukraine Brings Back Conscription As Russia Appears To Launch All-Out Invasion

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s national security council has ordered the reinstatement of mandatory conscription in response to what seems to be a full-scale Russian invasion of the country.

Russian soldiers sit atop an armored vehicle as they travel near the village of Krasnodarovka in Rostov region, Russia, on Aug. 28, 2014.

The draft, affecting able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 25, is the latest indication that the Ukrainian conflict is rapidly intensifying.

Previous attempts at mandatory conscription have led to protests.

But during a meeting with the council Thursday, Poroshenko urged his countrymen to “keep a cold mind” as Ukrainians geared up for a broader conflict.

NATO has provided satellite images that appear to show Russian armored vehicles fighting in Ukrainian territory, CNN reports.

British intelligence says it has similar evidence, while U.S. officials say there are now up to 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to taunt Kiev by calling on separatist forces to open a humanitarian corridor in southeast Ukraine so that demoralized Ukrainian troops could flee home to their “mothers, wives and children.”

He also claimed that “a large number” of Ukrainian troops were not “in the military operation of their own volition” but were simply “following orders.”

Vox reported that in his statement Putin referred to Ukraine’s embattled Donbass region by the politically loaded term Novorossiya, literally “New Russia.”

Novorossiya is the old czarist name for the parts of Russia and Ukraine around the Black Sea and is a designation favored by separatists wishing to confer a historical integrity on the areas for which they are fighting.

“A counterfactual equivalent might be if a disturbingly post-Gestapo government in Germany began referring to the Netherlands as Western Germany or to western parts of the Czech Republic as Sudetenland,” John Besemeres, professor and adjunct fellow at the Australian National University’s Center for European Studies, tells TIME.

Responding to the incursions, Western envoys lambasted Russia on Thursday at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York City.

The U.S. representative, Samantha Power, said “Russia has come before this council to say everything except the truth. It has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied. So we have learned to measure Russia by its actions and not by its words.”

The British envoy Mark Lyall Grant described Moscow’s incursions as a “brazen” violation of the U.N. Charter and international law.

Moscow’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin admitted there were Russians fighting in the Ukraine but claimed they were volunteers.

He then went on to raise questions about the presence of U.S. military advisers in the country.

“A message must be sent to Washington — stop interfering in the internal activities of sovereign states and restrain your geopolitical ambition,” Churkin said, according to a U.N. statement.

Earlier on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm about the escalating conflict and urged Moscow and Kiev to follow up on talks held in Minsk earlier this week to forge “a peaceful way out of the conflict.”

Reports have meanwhile surfaced that separatist forces have succeeded in opening a third front after seizing the port city of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov in the wake of days of shelling.

Analysts continue to speculate whether the move is designed to draw troops away from heavy fighting near the separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, or is part of a strategic maneuver to forge a corridor to the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula farther west.

Source: TIME

Defiant Putin Compares Kiev To Nazis As Ukraine Seeks To Join NATO

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin remained defiant as Ukraine renewed its pleas Friday for Western military help, accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.

Putin while attending an education forum for students in in Seliger, northwest of Moscow, Aug. 29, 2014.

Putin, meanwhile, compared Kiev’s drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two.

He announced that rebels had succeeded in halting it, and proposed that they now permit surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat.

Speaking to young people at a summer camp, Putin told his countrymen they must be “ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”

He described Ukrainians and Russians as “practically one people,” language that Ukrainians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.

The past 72 hours have seen pro-Russian rebels suddenly open a new front and push Ukrainian troops out of a key town in strategic coastal territory along the Sea of Azov.

Kiev and Western countries say the reversal was the result of the arrival of armored columns of Russian troops, sent by Putin to prop up a rebellion that would otherwise have been near collapse.

Rebels said they would accept Putin’s proposal to allow Kiev forces, who they say are surrounded, to retreat, provided the government forces turn over weapons and armor.

Kiev said that only proved that the fighters were doing Moscow’s bidding.

Russia drew a fresh rebuke from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who told French television station France 24 that Russia could face more sanctions from the European Union.

“When one country sends military forces into another country without the agreement and against the will of another country, that is called an intervention and is clearly unacceptable,” he said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Russia’s footprint was undeniable in Ukraine.

“We have regularly marshaled evidence to indicate what exactly is happening, despite the protestations of the Russian government that for some reason would have us all believe otherwise,” he said.

“The fact is, those denials are completely without any credibility, and, you know, we’ve been pretty candid about that.”

Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, complete with the protection of a mutual defense pact with the United States, putting more pressure on the West to find ways to protect it.

So far, the West had made clear it is not prepared to fight to protect Ukraine but is instead relying on economic sanctions, first imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March and tightened several times since.

Those sanctions seem to have done little to deter Putin, leaving Western politicians to seek tougher measures without crippling their own economies, particularly in Europe which relies on Russian energy exports.

European foreign ministers met in Milan on Friday ahead of a weekend EU summit.

They made clear the bloc will discuss further economic sanctions against Moscow.

Some said that was no longer sufficient, and other measures to help Kiev should be discussed.

Also on Friday Poland denied permission for Russia’s defense minister to fly over its air space after a trip to Slovakia, forcing him to return to Bratislava.

Warsaw said he could fly if he reported the status of his plane as civilian rather than military.

‘Best not to mess with us’ 

Moscow still publicly denies its forces are fighting to support pro-Russian rebels who have declared independence in two provinces of eastern Ukraine.

But the rebels themselves have all but confirmed it, saying thousands of Russian troops have fought on their behalf while “on leave”.

NATO has issued satellite photos of what it says is artillery fielded by more than 1,000 Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

Kiev has released interviews with captured Russian troops.

Reuters has seen an armored column of Russian troops on the Russian side of the frontier, showing signs of having recently returned from battle with no insignia on their uniforms.

Members of an official Russian human rights body say as many as 100 Russian soldiers died in a single battle in Ukraine in August.

Encouraged by state media, Russians have so far strongly backed Putin’s hard line, despite Western sanctions that have hurt the economy, the Kremlin’s own ban on imports of most Western food, and now reports of Russian troops dying in battle. 

Putin’s lengthy public appearance on Friday and his overnight statement on the conflict appear to be an acknowledgment that the war has reached a turning point, potentially requiring greater Russian sacrifice.

Putin answered questions from young supporters, some of whom waved banners bearing his face, at a pro-Kremlin youth camp on the shores of a lake.

Wearing a grey sweater and light blue jeans, he looked relaxed but his tone grew intense while he spoke about Russia’s military might, reminding the crowd that Russia was a strong nuclear power.

“Russia’s partners ... should understand it’s best not to mess with us,” Putin said. 

Putin compared Kiev’s assault on the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died, perhaps the most powerful historical analogy it is possible to invoke in Russia.

“Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure,” he said.

“It sadly reminds me the events of the Second World War, when German fascist ... occupiers surrounded our cities.”

He said the only solution to the conflict was for Kiev to negotiate directly with the rebels.

Kiev has long refused to do so, arguing that the rebels are not a legitimate force on their own but proxies for Moscow, which must agree to rein them in.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Friday, August 29, 2014

U.S. Says Russia Has 'Outright Lied' About Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS, USA -- The United States told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Russia has "outright lied" over its military activity inside Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian armed forces.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The accusation came hours before President Obama said the United States "is not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem" but trying to mobilize international pressure on Moscow.

"Russian soldiers, tanks and air defense have supported and fight alongside separatists as they open a new front in a crisis manufactured and fueled by Russia," Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the council.

She noted that it was not the first time Russia has been called by the council to account for its activities inside Ukraine.

"At every step, Russia has come before this council to say everything but the truth," Power said.

"It has manipulated, obfuscated and outright lied."

In response, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said, "Everyone knows there are Russian volunteers in eastern Ukraine. No one is hiding it."

He said the conflict was Ukraine's fault, calling it the "direct consequence of the reckless policy of Kiev, which is conducting a war against its own people."

Rather than blame Russia, he said, the United States should "restrain your geopolitical ambitions. Countries around the world would breathe a sigh of relief." 

The Ukrainian envoy, Oleksandr Pavlichenko, accused Russia of intentionally undermining peace efforts.

Churkin asked if Kiev's demand for separatists to disarm was an attempt to provoke more violence.

Pavlichenko replied that Kiev is "ready to engage on a whole range of issues" and the only non-negotiable issues are Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and its "European aspirations."

At the White House, Obama ruled out a U.S. military response.

"It is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between Russia and the United States in this region," he said during a 30-minute news conference.

He said he did not see the moves of the past week as an invasion but "a continuation of what's been taking place for months now ... not really a shift."

"This is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine," he said.

"The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. ... We've seen deep Russian involvement in everything they've done."

He echoed Ukrainian claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected attempts to resolve the conflict peacefully.

"We have not seen any meaningful action on the part of Russia to actually try to resolve this in a diplomatic fashion," Obama said.

He spoke earlier in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the Russian incursion, and both agreed the United States and European Union would have to consider expanding sanctions on Moscow, the White House said in a statement.

The U.N. Security Council convened the emergency meeting hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who will meet with Obama at the White House next month, declared that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine" in support of separatist rebels.

The meeting, called by Lithuania, followed charges Thursday by NATO officials of a significant increase of Russian military activity — including evidence of combat soldiers — in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has strongly denied such allegations.

"Russia has to stop lying and has to stop fueling this conflict," Power said.

"The mask is coming off. In these recent acts, we see Russia's actions for what they are — a deliberate effort to support and now fight alongside illegal separatists in another sovereign country."

Power said Russia's actions in the past 48 hours "have spoken volumes," and she called on the Security Council to take immediate action.

"How can we tell those countries that border Russia that their peace and sovereignty is guaranteed if we do not make our message heard on Ukraine?" she asked the council.

"The cost of inaction is unacceptable."

Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, opened the Security Council meeting by saying its immediate focus "must be to find ways to reverse the dangerous escalation of fighting that has occurred over the past 24 hours and move quickly away from armed conflict and toward political solutions and dialogue." 

Ukraine has charged that at least two convoys of Russian military equipment entered southeastern Ukraine this week to open up a third front in the fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern regions.

More than 2,000 people have died in clashes in eastern Ukraine, according to a recent U.N. report.

Russian-backed rebels have declared two regions as independent republics and the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have been largely surrounded by Ukrainian forces. 

Poroshenko, who discussed the crisis with Putin two days ago, called for U.N. action in a televised statement to the nation, saying, "The world must provide assessment of sharp aggravation of the situation in Ukraine."

"Russian military boots are on Russian ground," said Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk., who also appealed to the United Nations for a response to a "growing military threat from Russia."

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said there is "mounting evidence that Russian troops have made large-scale incursions" into southeastern Ukraine.

Such actions are "completely unacceptable and illegal," he said, urging Russia to find a political solution to the crisis, or "there will be further consequences."

In Brussels, Brig. Gen. Nico Tak said at NATO headquarters Thursday that the alliance noted a "significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia's military interference in Ukraine" in the past two weeks.

"Russia is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favoring the Ukrainian military," Tak said.

NATO produced satellite images as "additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine's sovereign territory."

Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, wrote on Twitter that Russian troops are directly intervening in Ukraine because of a flagging military effort by rebels. 

"Russian-supplied tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and multiple rocket launchers have been insufficient to defeat Ukraine' armed forces," Pyatt wrote.

"So now an increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory. "

As charges of a Russian incursion mounted, Andrey Kelin, Russia's representative to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has an international monitoring group in Ukraine, denied the allegations.

"We have said that no Russian involvement has been spotted, there are no soldiers or equipment," he said, the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass reported.

"Accusations relating to convoys of armored personnel carriers have been heard during the past week and the week before that," he said.

"All of them were proven false back then and are being proven false again now." 

Ukraine said this week that it had captured 10 Russian paratroopers who had crossed into Ukraine and showed video of some of the men being interviewed.

Putin suggested the soldiers crossed the unmarked border by accident while on training exercises.

After his meeting with Poroshenko in Belarus, Putin said a possible cease-fire plan did not come up.

He said a solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine is "not our business; it is a domestic matter for Ukraine itself."

He said all Russia could do was "support the creation of an environment of trust."

A pro-Russian leader conceded that as many as 4,000 Russian citizens are fighting alongside the rebels but are doing so strictly voluntarily.

"Many former high-ranking military officers have volunteered to join us. They are fighting with us, considering that to be their duty," Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic in Ukraine, told Russian TV, the BBC reports.

"There are also many in the current Russian military that prefer to spend their leave among us, brothers who are fighting for their freedom, rather than on a beach," Zakharchenko said.

In Mariupol, a city of 450,000, a brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city's edge.

In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, 11 people were killed by shelling during the night, the city administration said in a statement.

"These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

She voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in southeast Ukraine near Novoazovsk and said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.

Russian forces, she said, are being sent 30 miles inside Ukraine, without them or their families knowing where they are going.

She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who've died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in a St. Petersburg hospital.

Source: AP

Russians Troops Fighting In Ukraine? Naw. They’re Just On ‘Vacation.’

DONETSK, Ukraine -- A separatist leader in Eastern Ukraine has a secret he’d like to share. There are Russian troops inside Ukraine fighting alongside the rebels and against Ukrainian troops.

'Vacationing' Russians in Ukraine

But wait. They’re really just freelancing while on vacation, according to his comment in a Reuters report.

“Among us are fighting serving [Russian] soldiers, who would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom,” Alexander Zakharchenko said in a reported interview with a Russian state television station.

Except for the Russian government itself, who continues to make up outrageous lies, they’re not even pretending anymore.

Though don’t tell the Russians that.

Just this week, after being confronted with video evidence that appeared to contradict their story, they maintained the charade.

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, agreed this morning that Russian troops have now entered the fight.

“Russian supplied tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and multiple rocket launchers have been insufficient to defeat Ukraine’s armed forces,” he wrote.

“So now an increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory. Russia has also sent its newest air defense systems including the SA-22 into eastern Ukraine and is now directly involved in the fighting.”

This comes after Tuesday’s news that ten Russian paratroopers were caught in Ukraine.

The soldiers quickly conceded in a video that a) they were Russian, and b) they had been ordered to cross the border.

The Russian Defense Ministry, for its part, said they’d wandered across the border 'accidentally'.

“The soldiers really did participate in a patrol of a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, crossed it by accident on an unmarked section, and as far as we understand showed no resistance to the armed forces of Ukraine when they were detained,” the Guardian quoted one Russian defense ministry source saying.

This of course wasn’t the first time Russia has walked back or denied something that directly challenged the veracity of their purported non-involvement.

After the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down, with a weapon that was Russian-made, U.S. officials accused Russia of shooting artillery across the border and into Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” State Department spokesman Marie Harf said.

What evidence?

Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted out several satellite images showing the artillery strikes.

Then NATO said it spotted Russia sending an “incursion” into Ukraine.

“Last night we saw a Russian incursion, a crossing of the Ukrainian border,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to Reuters.

“It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement.”

Russia’s response to such accusations: denial.

“We no longer pay attention to the allegations made by Mr. Rasmussen and his press secretary,” a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

“There is no sense to comment on them.”

But as the fighting threatens to balloon into a full-blown war between Ukraine and Russia, it may become more difficult to maintain the rhetorical sleight of hand.

On Thursday morning, Reuters’ Richard Balmforth was suspicious after separatist forces reportedly took more strategic ground near the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

“The sudden reverses for the Ukrainian military appeared to confirm the arrival of Russian forces to support the separatists,” he wrote, quoting a local soldier fighting for the Ukrainian government.

“There is military equipment … which came across the border two days ago from Russia,” he said.

“The equipment is carrying the flags of the [Donetsk People's Republic], but they are regular Russian forces.”

Source: The Washington Post

Russia Lies About Invading Ukraine As It Invades Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- Where U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have failed to make Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledge his ever-more-overt invasion of Ukraine and think about pulling back, Valentina Melnikova, the head of Russia’s famous Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, might just have a chance.

Putin is shown in good company with the Communist architects of the Evil Empire.

Early Thursday morning, Melnikova started getting phone calls from Russian army bosses.

All of them, from the deputy defense minister to the paratrooper division commanders, wanted to meet with the great matriarch of the Russian military.

She had accused the entire high command, along with Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin of invading Ukraine and of committing a crime against Russian citizens by sending Russian soldiers to "the bloody battlefields" without declaring the war, without signing legal papers with the servicemen, without letting Russian mothers know where exactly their drafted sons ended up dying.

The day before, Russian servicemen were fighting shoulder to shoulder with pro-Russian separatists in Novoazovsk, a strategic port city on the Russian border.

By taking over Novoazovsk, the separatists cleared the way for more servicemen to pour into Ukraine.

“According to our expert analyses,” said Melnikova – and few organizations have better information than hers – “ there are over 10,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine today."

It’s important to understand just how important Melnikova and her organization are in the minds of the Russian people and, often grudgingly, to the Russian military.

She is an active member of defense ministry's public council, and commanders knew perfectly well that no secrets can be hidden from Soldiers Mothers, since the organization has first-hand information about the army’s affairs.

Melnikova's opinion has been respected by the Russian people since the days when the first zinc coffins flowed back to the Soviet Union along what came to be called “the river of the dead” from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Today, in an exclusive interview, Melnikova sounded absolutely furious.

She said she was "personally humiliated as a citizen of the Russian Federation by our commander-in-chief's pure, direct crime.”

Putin is “violating not only international laws, not only the Geneva Convention, [he] also is breaking Russian Federation law about defense,” she told The Daily Beast, “and as for Vladimir Shamanov [commander-in-chief of the Russian airborne troops], we should be too disgusted to even mention his name - he forces his servicemen to fight in a foreign state, Ukraine, illegally, while mothers receive coffins with their sons, anonymously.”

Russian experts wondered how far the Russian army would go in Ukraine.

Kiev’s officials expressed concern that the Russian military will expand the southeast front all the way to the slender land-links to annexed Crimea.

At present, Russia only has access to the strategic peninsula by sea or by air.

But there remain about 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) left from Novoazovsk to Crimea, with the next major objective evidently the port of Mariupol, a Ukrainian stronghold about 50 kilometers down the road.

Last week the Russian military already was present in the area of the land crossings at Armiansk and Chongar outside what Moscow officially declares as the Russian-Crimean border, and hundreds of cars waited in line for hours to have the Russian border patrol check the trunks and stamp the travelers' documents.

But Ukraine does not recognize the border with Russia in Crimea and Ukrainian officials working on the other side of the Russian "border" did not have any stamps to let in foreign citizens traveling from Crimea.

The atmosphere was tense, as locals worried the war would spill down from embattled Donetsk all the way to Russian-controlled Crimea.

Russian servicemen outside freshly set-up border checkpoints claimed they had been deployed to "guard Crimea."

A 20-year-old soldier patrolling the road outside of Armiansk a week ago told The Daily Beast that "so far my unit has not received any commands to attack Ukrainians in Mariupol," 400 kilometers away, but that seemed to be a possibility.

For the last few weeks Melnikova's office has been getting information from alert mothers who had lost contact with their sons, draftees serving in the southern Russian region of Rostov.

Many relatives, fearing the loss of their sons and husbands, are determined to travel from Kastroma, Ivanovo, Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov and other Russian regions deep in the motherland to Ukraine to look for their boys, Melnikova said, "the way relatives previously looked for their children in Afghanistan, Karabakh and Chechnya." 

“According to our expert analyses there are over 10,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine today."

Over the weekend, Ukrainian security services arrested several Russian 98th Airborne Division servicemen from Kastroma.

Their mothers planned a street protest on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. local time but officials banned the Kastroma press from covering the protest.

Meanwhile one more Russian draftee, Petr Khokhlov, a serviceman from the 9th Motor Rifle brigade, was captured in the contested Luhansk region of Ukraine.

In a video released by Ukrainian officials, Khokhlov named every commander of his brigade ordering him and other soldiers to remove the plates on their 14 armored personnel carriers and drive across the Ukrainian border.

Russian conscripts are forced to sign contracts saying they’re volunteering to fight with the separatists, said Melnikova, and “if the guys refuse to sign, their commanders sign the paperwork for them.”

Yet, still, the Kremlin will not admit the truth about invading Ukraine, while separatist leaders offer increasingly implausible explanations.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian TV that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian citizens were fighting alongside his forces, but that they were former soldiers or active duty troops on leave.

He insisted that they are all volunteers.

Russian public opinion, in fact, does not support the idea of invasion: the latest polls by the Moscow Public Opinion Foundation showed that only 5 per cent of Russians want the regular army to fight in Ukraine.

But not many Russian citizens are ready to demonstrate against the war.

On Thursday there was only one anti-war protester in Moscow.

As Yevgeniya Chirikova, a popular opposition leader, told The Daily Beast, "most leaders organizing anti-Putin protests are under arrests already; today one of my movement's activists Dmitry Monakhov went out to the Kremlin's walls to demand Putin stop his war in Ukraine.

Police violently grabbed him and now Monakhov is facing a psychiatric examination.

Any anti-war protester could either end up behind bars or in a psychiatric clinic, " Chirkova said.

Truly, and tragically, this not-so-secret war between Russia and Ukraine is getting crazier all the time.

Source: The Daily Beast

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of invading the country Thursday, apparently dashing hopes of a diplomatic response to the crisis and challenging the West to respond.

Smoke billows over a damaged building after shelling on the outskirts of the small southern Ukrainian city of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, on Wednesday.

Kiev said Russian forces have seized the coastal town of Novoazovsk and several villages near the border with Russia, part of a wider assault on a new front.

Mr. Poroshenko called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and the European Council to respond to what said was "the introduction of Russian forces into Ukraine."

He canceled a planned trip to Turkey and set an emergency meeting with his security chiefs for later in the day.

"The world needs to pay attention to the sharply worsening situation in Ukraine," he said in a televised statement from Kiev.

Russia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Andrey Kelin, denied the accusation.

The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed claims its forces are fighting in Ukraine. 

Western capitals have grown increasingly alarmed.

France's President Fran├žois Hollande said Russia would suffer a new round of sanctions if the Kremlin failed to stop the supply of arms to pro-Russian separatists and didn't respect Ukraine's sovereignty.

"Russia cannot simultaneously aspire to be a world power in the 21st century and not play by the rules," the president said in a speech to French ambassadors.

Lithuania's foreign ministry called the attack an "obvious invasion of the territory of Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation."

The U.S. ambassador to Kiev also issued a definitive statement Thursday that Russia was now directly involved in fighting.

The ambassador, George Pyatt, tweeted that "now an increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory."

He noted that "Russia has also sent its newest air defense systems including the SA-22 into eastern Ukraine and is now directly involved in the fighting."

The advance comes as a leader of separatist rebels in Ukraine confirmed for the first time that Russian active duty military are fighting in Ukraine—although he insisted the fighters were in the country for short stints, while on vacation.

"I'll say openly that fighting among us are active military who prefer not to spend a holiday on the beach," Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk Peoples' Republic, said in an interview on Russia television.

"They are among us brothers who are fighting for their freedom."

Russia has repeatedly brushed off all allegations that it is aiding separatists or sending its troops there.

Most recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian paratroopers Ukraine said crossed the border must have wandered there "by accident."

After falling back before the advance in the southeast, Ukrainian troops are now digging in near the strategically important port city of Mariupol.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited pro-Russian rebels as saying they will be taking the city "in the coming days."

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council said Thursday the assault on Novoazovsk on Wednesday was preceded by missile fire from across the Russian border, followed by the incursion of "two columns of Russian military equipment." 

The Council said "Russian forces" had taken control of Novoazovsk and surrounding villages, as well as villages further north, toward Donetsk.

The Council didn't provide proof for its claim, however.

NATO has a briefing scheduled for Thursday in which it is expected give fresh evidence of Russian forces directing military operations inside Ukraine.

Until recently Ukrainian troops had the upper hand against rebels, pushing them back towards the Russian border and nearly surrounding strongholds in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

But in the past week Ukrainian defenses have crumbled under counter-attacks, amid reports that Russia was rushing troops and armor into the country into rebel-held areas.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on Western countries to take harsher economic steps against Russia to help Ukraine fight off "Russian aggression."

He said that sanctions taken up by the U.S. and the European Union have not been sufficient, and called on them and G-7 nations to "freeze all the Russian assets and to stop all the financial transactions of the Russian Federation… until Russia pulls out its military forces, armory and agents" from Ukraine.

Anton Herashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine's defense minister wrote on his Facebook page that "to stop Putin, EU countries, and first and foremost Germany, must make a decision to give up buying oil, gas, timber and other natural resources from Russia," he wrote.

"Stop issuing any kinds of loans or better freeze the assets of Russian state companies as sponsors of terrorism."

"This will immediately put Putin on the brink of economic abyss which will sooner or later be followed by a political abyss," he added.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion On A New Front

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Determined to preserve the pro-Russian revolt in eastern Ukraine, Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday, sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory.

The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week, further blunting the momentum Ukrainian forces have made in weakening the insurgents in their redoubts of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north.

Evidence of a possible turn was seen in the panicky retreat of Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday from a force they said had come over the Russian border.

Russia, which has denied it is helping the insurgents, did not acknowledge the military movements.

But the Russians have signaled that they would not countenance a defeat of an insurgency in the heavily Russian eastern part of Ukraine, which would amount to a significant domestic political setback for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in his increasingly fractious relationship with the United States and its European allies. 

“Russia is clearly trying to put its finger on the scale to tip things back in favor of its proxies,” a senior American official said.

“Artillery barrages and other Russian military actions have taken their toll on the Ukrainian military.”

The Russian military movements carried the potential to poison any hope that a halt to the five-month-old conflict was any closer, one day after the presidents of both countries, at a summit meeting in Belarus, outwardly professed their desire for a solution.

Russia’s behavior also raised the possibility of punitive new Western economic sanctions as a reprisal step.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in Kiev, said the Russian armored column entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, south of Donetsk, expanding what Western and Ukrainian officials have described as one of the main fronts in a multipronged, Russia-directed counteroffensive.

This week, Ukraine accused Russia of sending an armored column toward the coastal city of Mariupol, far from the fighting around Luhansk and Donetsk, with the aim of diverting Ukrainian forces to deal with that new threat.

The Obama administration accused Russia of lying about its intentions, while European officials angrily demanded answers from the Kremlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who perhaps has the most cordial relationship with Putin, telephoned him on Wednesday to request an explanation, her office said.

Evidence that Russia was seeking to change the course of the conflict was abundant this week in the small southeast border town of Novoazovsk, where Ukrainian forces beat a nervous retreat on Tuesday, under attack from what fleeing soldiers described as columns of tanks, artillery and combat troops coming across the border. 

Exhausted, filthy and dismayed, some Ukrainian soldiers staggering out of Novoazovsk for safer territory said they were cannon fodder for the attacking forces.

As they spoke, tank shells whistled in from the east and exploded nearby.

Some of the Ukrainian soldiers appeared unwilling to fight.

The commander of their unit, part of the Ninth Brigade from Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, barked at the men to turn around, to no effect.

“All right,” the commander said.

“Anybody who refuses to fight, sit apart from the others.”

Eleven men did, while the others returned to the city.

Some troops were in full retreat.

A city-busload of them careened past on the highway headed west, as purple curtains flapped through windows shot out by gunfire.

More fighting and shelling punctuated the area around the town on Wednesday, although it was unclear whether the assailants were Russian forces or members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the name the separatists have given themselves.

The Obama administration, which has imposed increasingly punitive economic sanctions on Russia because of the Ukraine crisis, has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s “unwillingness to tell the truth” that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.

Ms. Psaki apparently was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government on Tuesday, that directly challenged Putin’s assertions that Russia is a mere bystander in the conflict.

The videos were publicized just as Putin was meeting with his Ukraine counterpart, Petro O. Poroshenko, in Belarus.

Russian forces have been trying to help the separatists break the siege of Luhansk and have been fighting to open a corridor to Donetsk from the Russian border, Western officials say.

To the south, Russia has been backing a separatist push toward Mariupol, a major port on the Sea of Azov, according to Western and Ukrainian officials.

The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine. 

Some Western officials fear the move might even be a step in what they suspect is a broader Russian strategy to carve out a land link to Crimea, the strategic Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in March, setting off Moscow’s worst crisis with the West since the Cold War.

The Russian military’s use of artillery from within Ukraine is of special concern to Western military officials, who say Russian artillery has already been used to shell Ukrainian forces near Luhansk.

And along with the antiaircraft systems operated by separatists or Russian forces inside Ukraine, the artillery has the potential to alter the balance of power in the struggle for control of eastern Ukraine.

The separatists have asserted that they are using captured Ukrainian equipment.

But American officials say they are confident that the artillery in the Krasnodon area of Ukraine is Russia’s since Ukrainian forces have not penetrated that deeply into that separatist-controlled region.

American officials also say the separatists have no experience in using such weaponry.

The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say.

One photo dated Aug. 21, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine.

Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine. 

Advanced air defenses, including systems not known to be in the Ukrainian arsenal, have also been used to blunt the Ukrainian military’s air power, American officials say.

In addition, they said, the Russian military routinely flies drones over Ukraine and shares the intelligence with the separatists.

In Novoazovsk, at least, there was no doubt among the retreating Ukrainians that their assailants were coming from Russia.

On the highway in Novoazovsk on Tuesday, Sgt. Ihor Sharapov, a soldier with the Ukrainian border patrol unit, said he had seen tanks drive across the border, although they were marked with flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Others suggested the flags were a ruse.

“I tell you they are Russians, but this is what proof I have,” said Sgt. Aleksei Panko, holding up his thumb and index finger to form a zero.

Sergeant Panko estimated that about 60 armored vehicles crossed near Novoazovsk.

“This is what happened: They crossed the border, took up positions and started shooting.”

The Ukrainian Vinnytsia brigade met the cross-border advance over the six miles of countryside separating Novoazovsk from the Russian border, but later retreated to the western edge of town along the Rostov-Mariupol highway, where soldiers were collapsed in exhaustion on the roadside.

“This is now a war with Russia,” Sergeant Panko said.

The counteroffensive that Ukrainian officers said was at least in part staged across the border from Russia pushed the Ukrainian Army off a 75-mile-long highway from Donetsk south to the Azov Sea.

On Wednesday, it amounted to a no-man’s land of empty villages, roads crisscrossed by armored vehicle treads, felled trees and grass fires burning out of control, and panoramas of sunflowers and corn rotting.

Source: The New York Times

Breakthrough Hopes Dented As Ukraine Accuses Russia Of New Incursion

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Ukraine accused Russia of launching a new military incursion across its eastern border on Wednesday, as hopes quickly faded that Tuesday's talks between their two presidents might mark a turning point in a five-month-old crisis.

A Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter gunship flies above a military base in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk August 27, 2014.

Accusations of direct Russian support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have prompted Western governments to impose sanctions on Moscow, despite its denials, and fanned tensions with NATO to levels not seen since the Cold War.

Ukrainian military spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armoured infantry carriers and a lorry and entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.

Ukraine's Security Services also said in a statement it had detained another Russian soldier in the east of the country who has confessed his unit provided military support to separatist rebels.

Lysenko said fighting in two other towns, Horlivka and Ilovaysk, had killed about 200 pro-Russian rebels and destroyed tanks and missile systems.

Thirteen Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the past 24 hours and 36 had been wounded.

No comment was immediately available from the Russian defence ministry on the alleged incursion.

Russia continues to lie and denies sending weapons and soldiers to help the rebels, and says the men captured on Monday had crossed an unmarked section of the border by mistake.

Late-night talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk had appeared to yield some progress towards ending a war in which more than 2,200 people have been killed, according to the U.N. -- a toll that excludes the 298 who died when a Malaysian airliner was shot down over rebel-held territory in July.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would work on an urgent 'road map' towards a ceasefire with the rebels.

Russia's Vladimir Putin said it would be for Ukrainians to work out ceasefire terms, but Moscow would "contribute to create a situation of trust".

But Wednesday's new accusations from Ukraine made clear that the poisonous dispute over Russia's role remained unresolved.

In a telephone call with Putin, Germany's Angela Merkel said reports of a new Russian military incursion into Ukrainian territory had to be cleared up, a spokesman for the chancellor said in a statement.

"The latest reports of the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory must be explained," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

"She emphasised Russia's major responsibility for de-escalation and watching over its own frontiers."

A senior NATO diplomat said Russian support for the separatists was becoming increasingly open.

“I think there’s a shift here that we may be witnessing, very recently, from largely covert, ambiguous, deniable support to what appears increasingly to be flat-out, overt and obvious (support) and with the only form of ambiguity being that the Russians ... claim it is not happening,” said the diplomat, speaking to reporters in Brussels on condition of anonymity.

He said increasingly sophisticated weapons systems were now in the area, including the SA-22 surface-to-air missile, which is more advanced than the SA-11 system that many Western officials suspect rebels used to bring down the Malaysian jet.


The United States said on Wednesday new military incursions on Ukraine's eastern border indicate a Russian-directed counter-offensive is likely under way in two Ukrainian towns.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the military movement "would be consistent with the other kinds of destabilising military activities that Russia has pursued in Ukraine".

Ukraine's State Security services said in a statement late on Wednesday that it had detained a private in Ukraine's easternmost Luhansk Province from a unit stationed in Russia's Rostov region near the border with Ukraine.

The statement said that when questioned, he said his military unit transfers military equipment and ammunition including multiple rocket launchers BM-21 Grads as well as armoured personnel carriers to the rebels.

Fighting in the east erupted in April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in response to the toppling of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev. 

The crisis has prompted the United States and EU to impose sanctions on Russia's finance, oil and defence sectors, and Moscow has hit back by banning most western food imports.

The trade wars threaten to tip Russia into recession and strangle economic recovery in Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was not looking for a further escalation of trade tensions.

"We have no interest in a confrontation or in whipping up a spiral of sanctions," he told an audience of students.

The next step would be for a 'Contact Group', comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the rebels and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to meet in Minsk, he said without giving a time frame.

But Ukrainian foreign policy adviser Valery Chaly told reporters in Kiev that Poroshenko's declaration on a ceasefire road map did not mean an immediate end to the government’s military offensive against the rebels.

"If there are attacks from the terrorists and mercenaries, then our army has the duty to defend the people," he said.

A crowd of several hundred gathered outside the presidential administration building in Kiev to demand reinforcement for Ukrainian forces in Ilovaysk, a town in Donetsk region, where government troops have been encircled by rebel units.

"We want to show the current authorities who came to power thanks to active citizens that we will not allow them to stand by as those people die who were brave enough to take up weapons and defend our country," Kiev resident Mykola Vasyk said.

Earlier, Ukrainian military spokesman Lysenko said units were on the defensive in Ilovaysk, but that some equipment and support had reached the troops.


A rebel leader, Oleg Tsaryov, wrote on Facebook that he welcomed the outcome of the Minsk talks, but the separatists would not stop short of full independence for the regions of eastern Ukraine they call Novorossiya (New Russia).

He said he saw "a real breakthrough" in Putin's offer to contribute to the peace process.

But he added: "It must be understood that a genuine settlement of the situation is only possible with the participation of representatives of Novorossiya. We will not allow our fate to be decided behind our back...

"Now we are demanding independence. We don't trust the Ukrainian leadership and don't consider ourselves part of Ukraine. The guarantee of our security is our own armed forces. We will decide our own fate."

Further underlining Kiev's distrust of Moscow, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said his country needed "practical help" and "momentous decisions" from NATO at an alliance summit next month.

He said he knew of Russian plans to halt gas flows this winter to Europe, up to half of which are shipped via Ukraine.

Russia's energy minister called the assertion groundless.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June in a dispute over pricing and debt, but Putin said after Tuesday's talks that he and Poroshenko had agreed to resume discussions.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said gas consultations would take place in Moscow on Friday between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. 

Source: Google News

Ukraine Crisis: NATO Plans East European Bases To Counter Russia

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO is to deploy its forces at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the Ukraine crisis and in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from causing trouble in the former Soviet Baltic republics, according to its secretary general.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: 'We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner.'

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisations's summit in Cardiff next week would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia's borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.

He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine's security, "modernise" its armed forces and help the country counter the threat from Russia.

Rasmussen said: "We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe."

We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed.

Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness.

"In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the east."

Poland and the three Baltic states have been alarmed at the perceived threat from Russia and have been clamouring for a stronger NATO presence in the region.

They have criticised what they see as tokenism in the alliance's response so far.

But the issue of permanent NATO bases in east Europe is divisive.

The French, Italians and Spanish are opposed while the Americans and British are supportive of the eastern European demands.

The Germans, said a NATO official, were sitting on the fence, wary of provoking Russia.

The Cardiff summit is likely to come up with a formula, alliance sources said, which would avoid the term "permanent" for the new bases.

But the impact will be to have constantly manned NATO facilities east of what used to be the iron curtain.

"It can be on a rotation basis, with a very high frequency. The point is that any potential aggressor should know that if they were to even think of an attack against a NATO ally they will meet not only soldiers from that specific country but they will meet NATO troops. This is what is important," said Rasmussen.

The only NATO headquarters east of the old cold war frontier is at Szczecin, on Poland's Baltic coast.

Sources said this was likely to be the hub for the new deployments.

Air and naval plans had been completed, but the issue of international land forces in the east was proving trickier to agree upon.

Asked whether there would be permanent international deployments under a NATO flag in east Europe, Rasmussen said: "The brief answer is yes. To prevent misunderstanding I use the phrase 'for as long as necessary'. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan."

Rasmussen said the forces could be deployed within hours.

NATO has clearly been caught napping by the Russian president's well prepared advances in Ukraine since February and is scrambling to come up with strategies for a new era in which Russia has gone from being a "strategic partner" of the alliance to a hostile actor perfecting what the alliance terms "hybrid warfare".

Rasmussen, whose term as NATO chief is coming to an end, said: "We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner. Russia is a nation that unfortunately for the first time since the second world war has grabbed land by force. Obviously we have to adapt to that."

In an interview with the Guardian and five other European newspapers, he said: "It is safe to say that nobody had expected Russia to grab land by force. We also saw a remarkable change in the Russian military approach and capability since, for instance, the Georgian war in 2008.

"We have seen the Russians improve their ability to act swiftly. They can within a very, very, short time convert a major military exercise into an offensive military operation."

Rasmussen reiterated that the Russians had massed in their thousands on Ukraine's eastern borders, and had been firing artillery into Ukraine.

His information was based on NATO's own intelligence and "multiple reports".

But NATO officials admitted that the intelligence was impaired by a lack of solid information from the ground.

"We can only watch from 23 miles up," said an official.

Rasmussen said: "We have reports from multiple sources showing quite a lively Russian involvement in destabilising eastern Ukraine.

"We have seen artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have seen a Russian military buildup along the border. Quite clearly, Russia is involved in destabilising eastern Ukraine … You see a sophisticated combination of traditional conventional warfare mixed up with information and primarily disinformation operations. It will take more than NATO to counter such hybrid warfare effectively." 

If western leaders have been surprised and also impressed by the sudden display of Russian military prowess, Ukraine, by contrast, is in a pitiful condition militarily, according to NATO officials.

"If we are two steps behind the Russians, the Ukrainians are 16 steps behind," said a NATO source recently in Kiev.

"Their generals just want to blow everything up. But it's not a shooting war, it's an information war."

In further moves certain to rile Putin, NATO is to step up its aid to, and collaboration with, the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, is to attend the Cardiff summit and will be the sole non-NATO head of state to negotiate with alliance leaders.

Four "trust funds" are to be established to finance Ukraine's military logistics, command and control structures, and cyber defences, and to pay the armed forces' pensions.

"Ukraine follows its own path. That will be demonstrated at the summit because we will have a NATO-Ukraine summit meeting," said Rasmussen.

"It is actually what we will decide to do at the summit, to help them build the capacity of their security sector, modernise it."

The summit will also grapple with the perennial question of reduced European defence spending at a time of intense instability on the continent's eastern and southern borders as well as the growing US exasperation with Europe's reluctance to fund its own security properly.

"Since the end of the cold war we have lived in relatively good weather. Now we are faced with a profound climate change. That requires more investment," said Rasmussen.

"Politicians have tried to harvest the peace dividend after the end of the cold war. That's understandable. But now we are in a completely new security situation." 

Source: The Guardian