Fresh Clashes Threaten Ukraine Ceasefire

ANDRIYIVKA, Ukraine -- Ukraine's unilateral ceasefire hung in the balance Sunday after clashes engulfed the separatist east and Russian President Vladimir Putin put troops on "full combat alert".

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, speaking with soldiers at the Ukrainian army's Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters near the city of Izyum.

The resurgence of violence in the 11-week pro-Russian uprising threatening to splinter the ex-Soviet state came as Washington accused the Kremlin of covertly arming the rebels and sternly warned Putin against sending troops into Ukraine.

But the Russian strongman appeared ready to continue sabre-rattling in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War by ordering units from the Volga to western Siberia to conduct snap military drills.

"There is no ceasefire," a woman named Lila Ivanovna said Saturday just four kilometres (two miles) southwest of the battled-scarred rebel stronghold city of Slavyansk.

"They were shooting last night and I heard mortar and machinegun fire at four this morning. Nothing has changed."

Ukrainian border guards said the militia used sniper fire and grenade launchers to strike a base in the eastern Donetsk region four hours after President Petro Poroshenko declared a unilateral halt to hostilities that have claimed more than 375 lives.

They said troops had to return fire when the same rebel unit mounted a second attack near a different Russian border crossing a few minutes later.

A spokesman for Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" confirmed the battles around Slavyansk while the defence ministry said one of its anti-aircraft bases was assaulted by "50 men in camouflage".

Ukraine's SBU security service said nine border guards were wounded in violence overnight.

But the separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic told reporters that Slavyansk had absorbed a heavy air and artillery assault from Ukrainian troops.

Poroshenko ordered his forces to hold fire for a week on Friday evening as part of a broader peace plan that would eventually give more rights to eastern industrial regions where pro-Russian sentiments run high.

Canada imposes sanctions  

But Poroshenko's peace initiative includes a major caveat that allows the military to retaliate with equal force against any attack.

"We know how to protect our nation," he told wounded soldiers during a visit to a Kiev military hospital.

The 48-year-old has followed through on his May 25 election promise to ignore Kremlin pressure and bring Ukraine into the Western fold by signing an historic EU trade agreement in Brussels on Friday, 27 June.

Putin issued a carefully-worded statement on Saturday saying he "supports... Poroshenko's decision to halt fire in the southeast of Ukraine".

But the Kremlin chief stressed that any peace initiative "not aimed at starting the negotiating process will not be viable or realistic".

Putin also called on "the conflicting parties to halt all military activities and sit down at the negotiating table" -- a comment that implied a degree of criticism for the rebels' continued attacks.

Meanwhile Canada announced economic sanctions and travel bans on 11 Russians and Ukrainians, as well as a Crimean oil company, saying they had facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

"Russia's illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and provocative military activity remains a serious concern to the international community," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

The sanctions follow similar penalties imposed recently in coordination with the United States and the European Union. 

'Destabilising Russian presence'

Poroshenko's attempts to resolve the country's worst post-Soviet crisis have also been complicated by a new deployment of Russian forces along parts of the border where the rebels mount the most frequent attacks.

Putin appeared to be stirring tensions further on Saturday by ordering troops stretching from the Volga region in central Russia to the Ural Mountains and swathes of Siberia to go on "full combat alert" as part of a surprise readiness check.

The Russian defence ministry said military exercises in the expansive region whose western-most edge lies 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Ukraine would involve 65,000 soldiers along with 60 helicopters and 180 jets.

But both Kiev and its Western allies are also anxious about the presence of new Russian forces along the border amid charges of growing flows of heavy weapons crossing into rebel-held parts of the industrial east.

A Russian defence ministry source told the RBK news agency this week that troops were prepared to enter Ukraine's insurgent regions in order to "put up barriers between the civilian population and the Ukrainian army".

"We will not accept the use, under any pretext, of any Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that most of the equipment being gathered in southwest Russia was no longer used by its military.

"We believe that Russia may soon provide this equipment to separatist fighters," Psaki said.

Source: AFP


Igor Skakovsky said…
The specialist who advising Ukraine to take Rumania or Bulgaria as a model should move there him self, and experience life there.
It is totally idiotic to follow such pathetic advice. People in Ukraine did not suffer for the last 20 years and specially last 9 moths to end up with the same prospects as 9 month ago. If that what Ukraine should expect from European Union it will be better off in arms of old Boss (Russia)
The job of newly elected president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to work with Verhovna Rada to bring corruption to the level of let's say Switzerland because it is naif to expect have no corruption. Corruption must be eliminated at the consumer level and government offices which provide services directly to people and business, that would include any size procurements. Poroshenko's job to introduce more effective governance. There must be no other option for Ukraine, or Maidan should continue until all above is implemented.
Igor Skakovsky said…
This article is very important. The required action as described in this article is necessary in every regional capitals.
Все публичные акционерные общества, которые обслуживают энергетический комплекс Киева, нужно национализировать и передать в собственность столичной общины. Об этом заявил директор «Института города» Александр Сергиенко, передает корреспондент ForUm'a.
«Сегодня 70% акций «Киевэнерго» принадлежат господину Ахметову. Таким образом, влиять на процесс формирования тарифов городские власти практически не могут, а все претензии жителей столицы высказывают Киевсовету. Поэтому публичные акционерные общества необходимо национализировать и вернуть в собственность города, - считает Сергиенко.

С экспертом согласен и бывший городской голова, депутат Киеврады Александр Омельченко.

«За последние семь лет столица потеряла контрольные пакеты акций важнейших предприятий: «Киевгаз», «Киевэнерго», «Киевводоканал», аэропорт «Жуляны»... Городу нужно вернуть в законодательное поле 1999-2010 года, когда все средства, зарабатываемые Киевом, оставались в его распоряжении», - сказал он.

Говоря о росте тарифов для населения, Омельченко заявил, что эта категория услуг должна относиться «не к экономической, а к социально справедливой»:

«70 процентов жителей Киева живут от зарплаты до зарплаты. Государство, планируя средний уровень доходов населения и определяя минимальный уровень заработной платы, не имеет права поднимать тарифы настолько, чтобы речь шла лишь о физическом выживании населения, потому что это просто аморально. Никто не имеет права поднимать тарифы, например, на тепло, если зимой температура батареи зимой не превышает 60 градусов. А если это 40 градусов - потребитель может не платить за эту услугу вообще», - считает Омельченко.