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« Reply #495 on: Jan 21, 2015, 06:52 AM »

Of course ... nothing more than a victim ...

West trying to overthrow Putin with ‘illegal sanctions,’ Kremlin official says

Agence France-Presse
21 Jan 2015 at 06:30 ET   

Western countries are trying to use the Ukraine conflict to topple President Vladimir Putin and wreck Russia’s economy, the president’s spokesman said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“In the West they are trying to kick out Putin, to isolate him in international politics, to throttle Russia economically due to their interests, to bring down Putin,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“If it was not for Crimea, they would think up another reason,” Peskov claimed in an interview with Argumenty i Fakty weekly.

He insisted that Russia’s economic situation was under control despite
“illegal sanctions” over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, which along with low oil prices have led to the ruble plunging in value.

“I’ll remind you what Putin said (in December): everything is under control, we know what to do, how to do it, and we have everything we need to do it.”

Peskov said Russia could not resolve the crisis in Ukraine as the West demands.

“Everything that Russia can do to end the conflict, it is already doing,” Peskov said, pointing to humanitarian aid and supplies of coal and electricity.

“But Russia cannot resolve this conflict within Ukraine.”

He said that Kiev needs “to start talking to its own regions.”

“Germany, France, Russia and the OSCE can act as guarantors for a settlement,” Peskov added.

“We hope the Minsk group will continue its work and as a result there will be grounds for a meeting of leaders…, which is planned to be held in Astana. But the meeting will only happen if it can give some concrete results,” he said.

Peskov conceded that despite euphoria over Crimea’s annexation, Russia was in “an anxious state” due to “open confrontation from countries in the West — an ideological, media, political and diplomatic (confrontation) but thank God not a military one.”

“This confrontation makes us all expect a crisis,” Peskov said.

The events in Ukraine “tore off the masks from international diplomacy,” he added.

He cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying in an interview last week that Putin should not expect an invitation to a G7 meeting because the countries within it shared common values.

“By the way, Putin isn’t expecting one,” Peskov added.

“I’m sure the West will never get off our back,” he said, adding that “isolationism would be a mistake.”

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« Reply #496 on: Jan 21, 2015, 07:37 AM »

'Russian Forces' attack Ukraine Troops as Poroshenko Cuts Short Trip to Davos

by Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2015, 09:00

Ukraine on Tuesday accused Russian forces of attacking its soldiers after crossing over into the ex-Soviet state's war-wrecked separatist east in violation of a September truce deal.

The charges -- met with initial silence by Moscow -- should add further tensions to difficult talks in Berlin on Wednesday aimed at stemming a spike in fighting that has already killed 4,800 people and driven a million from their homes.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, on a visit to Davos for the World Economic Forum, planned to cut short his trip due to the "worsening situation" in his country's rebel-held east, his spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said.

"In violation of all prior agreements, Ukrainian military units were attacked in the north (of the war zone) by regular units of the Russian armed forces," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a hastily convened press conference in Kiev.

The claim came only hours after Moscow called "absolute nonsense" an allegation by Kiev that about 700 new Russian soldiers had crossed over into eastern Ukraine to help the insurgents' latest advance on government troops.

Blasts of incoming and outgoing artillery echoed all night across the rebels' main stronghold of Donetsk -- a once bustling industrial hub now the crucible of one of Europe's worst humanitarian and diplomatic crises since the Cold War.

Rebel city administration member Ivan Prikhodko said two civilians were killed and eight were seriously wounded when a shell hit a bus stop on the northwestern edge of town.

"The bus stop itself and a store nearby have been levelled," Prikhodko told AFP by telephone.

Two top Western diplomats in Kiev said they believed the pro-Russian militias had made significant progress on the ground in recent days.

One of them added on condition of anonymity that the gunmen appear to be trying to undermine European peace efforts in order to win more ground before a final partition agreement is reached.

- New peace push -

The flare-up coincided with the warring sides' attempt to establish a demarcation line between their armies that would define the confines of rebel-controlled lands.

Moscow insists that the separatists have the right to a ruined airport near the rebels' main stronghold that the remnants of a Ukrainian force have been holding on to for months.

Kiev denies ever accepting such terms.

Ukraine has also set in motion a previously approved fourth wave of military call-ups since the start of hostilities in mid-April.

The 50,000 new volunteers and reservists will be mostly deployed in the war zone in stages stretching over three months. Their call-up also reflects Ukraine's increasingly frantic attempts to defend itself against what it views as Russian "aggression".

The blame game between Moscow and Kiev is being watched by European leaders who hope to see a quick end to a nine-month conflict that has plunged East-West relations into crisis and sparked a damaging sanctions war.

The Kremlin said the resumption of what Kiev now says is full-scale war means no peace summit between the neighbours' presidents and the leaders of Germany and France was likely any time soon.

But Germany said that the four countries' foreign ministers would still meet in Berlin on Wednesday to see if they could somehow find a compromise that could stem the violence.

"The chief aim now is to prevent a further deterioration of the military conflict and a renewed political escalation between Kiev and Moscow," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement. "This is worth every effort."

- Deadly airport battle -

The most bitter fighting focused on the international airport that Ukraine spent nearly a billion dollars rebuilding for the Euro 2012 football championship matches staged in Donetsk.

The rebel militias -- armed with heavy artillery guns and Grad systems that fire up to 40 rockets in less than a minute -- have pulverized the once gleaming structure.

They reportedly captured the airport on Monday after a weekend assault.

Ukraine's army claimed to be back in control by Tuesday but also admitted that the rebels had captured eight of its troops.

"There was a battle. There were deadly losses. And eight people were captured," Poroshenko's defense adviser Yuriy Biruykov wrote on Facebook.

Russian state television aired footage of the captured men's interrogation on its evening news shows.

Ukraine's defense ministry also said Tuesday that rebels had blown up the runway at the airport and reinforcements had been sent.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #497 on: Jan 24, 2015, 07:00 AM »

Report: U.S. Spies Link Litvinenko Killing to Kremlin

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 January 2015, 09:29

U.S. spies intercepted communications between the chief suspects in the murder case of Russian former spy Alexander Litvinenko, linking his poisoning to the Russian state, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

According to the report, the National Security Agency (NSA) obtained electronic messages sent between London and Moscow shortly after the Kremlin critic was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at a hotel in the British capital in 2006.

British authorities received the evidence, which is reported to directly implicate the Kremlin, but it is inadmissible in court, the Telegraph said.

However, Litvinenko's widow Marina has applied to the NSA to disclose the intercepts, saying they should be made available to former British judge Robert Owen, who is chairing a nine-week inquiry into the murder that begins in London's High Court on Tuesday, the Telegraph reported.

Litvinenko, 43, an ex-agent in Russia's FSB intelligence agency who turned against his former masters, said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in his killing after he publicly criticized the leader, himself an ex-Soviet KGB agent.

British police have identified Russian spy-turned-lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi as the chief suspect and have issued an arrest warrant for his fellow former agent Dmitri Kovtun, but Moscow has refused to hand them over. They both deny involvement.

Marina Litvinenko asked for "NSA intercepts of telephone communications of Mr Andrei Lugovoi and Mr Dimitry Kovtun from London, UK, in the period October 15 to November 1, 2006," in a Freedom of Information request issued last year.

Senior NSA official Paul Blaskowski replied that the NSA could not reveal "existence or non-existence" of the information, the British paper reported.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #498 on: Jan 24, 2015, 07:03 AM »

War Is Exploding Anew in Ukraine; Rebels Vow More

JAN. 23, 2015

DONETSK, Ukraine — Unexpectedly, at the height of the Ukrainian winter, war has exploded anew on a half-dozen battered fronts across eastern Ukraine, accompanied by increasing evidence that Russian troops and Russian equipment have been pouring into the region again.

A shaky cease-fire has all but vanished, with rebel leaders vowing fresh attacks. Civilians are being hit by deadly mortars at bus stops. Tanks are rumbling down snowy roads in rebel-held areas with soldiers in unmarked green uniforms sitting on their turrets, waving at bystanders — a disquieting echo of the “little green men” whose appearance in Crimea opened this stubborn conflict in the spring.

The renewed fighting has dashed any hopes of reinvigorating a cease-fire signed in September and honored more in name than in fact since then. It has also put to rest the notion that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, would be so staggered by the twin blows of Western sanctions and a collapse in oil prices that he would forsake the separatists in order to foster better relations with the West.

Instead, blaming the upsurge in violence on the Ukrainians and the rise in civilian deaths on “those who issue such criminal orders,” as he did on Friday in Moscow, Mr. Putin is apparently doubling down, rather than backing down, in a conflict that is now the bloodiest in Europe since the Balkan wars.

With the appearance in recent weeks of what NATO calls sophisticated Russian weapons systems, newly emboldened separatist leaders have abandoned all talk of a cease-fire. One of the top leaders of the Russian-backed rebels said Friday that his soldiers were “on the offensive” in several sectors, capitalizing on their capture of the Donetsk airport the day before.

“We will attack” until the Ukrainian Army is driven from the border of the Donetsk region, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic rebel group, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

“On our side, we won’t make an effort to talk about a cease-fire,” Mr. Zakharchenko said. “Now we’re going to watch how Kiev reacts. Kiev doesn’t understand that we can attack in three directions at once.”

For long-suffering residents of Donetsk, who have lived with constant shelling, chronic electricity failures and, since September, a cutoff of pensions and other government support payments from Kiev, the resumption of military action came as little surprise.

“It was pure illusion that peace could be achieved now,” said Enrique Menendez, a former advertising agency owner who now runs a humanitarian relief operation in eastern Ukraine. “None of the sides has yet achieved its goals. The only real surprise is that the fighting started in the winter instead of the spring.”

While the separatist forces now seem ascendant, analysts have little doubt that their fortunes are tied to the level of support provided by Moscow. In August, on the verge of defeat, they were rescued by an all-out Russian incursion that turned the tide on the battlefield and drove Kiev to the bargaining table. The same dynamics appear to be at work now, Ukraine and NATO say, with Russian troops in unmarked uniforms apparently joining the separatists in the assaults on Ukrainian positions.

While Moscow denies any role in the fighting, Sergei A. Markov, a political analyst close to the Kremlin, says it is not surprising that Mr. Putin has continued to support the rebellious republics of southeast Ukraine even in the face of economic pressure from the West. In fact, the intensity of the standoff, he said, has undermined the influence of Mr. Putin’s liberal economic advisers in government, rendering their voices almost mute in debates over Ukraine.

Konstantin Sonin, a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, echoed that point. “The influence of economists as a whole has completely vanished,” Mr. Sonin said of the Kremlin. “The country is on a holy mission. It’s at war with the United States, so why would you bother about the small battleground, the economy?”

Mr. Putin is said to watch his approval ratings closely, and they have risen to great heights recently with the annexation of Crimea and the tensions with the West over eastern Ukraine. In this respect, said Igor Shuvalov, a first deputy prime minister of Russia, continued fighting in Ukraine may actually help to solidify Mr. Putin politically at a time of deteriorating economic conditions.

“When a Russian feels any foreign pressure, he will never give up his leader,” Mr. Shuvalov said Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We will survive any hardship in the country, eat less food, use less electricity.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Markov said, the stresses of juggling a war and the deepening economic crisis in Russia have left Mr. Putin noticeably preoccupied.

“We have much less time than before,” he said of a recent meeting between experts and Mr. Putin in which he participated. “It was clear to me that the thoughts of Mr. Putin were somewhere else, but not in our room.”

The slow grind of combat in southeastern Ukraine that began in April has now killed at least 5,086 soldiers and civilians, the United Nations reported on Friday. The world body bases its estimate on official morgue and hospital reports, and analysts believe that it understates the total death toll. The report said that 262 of the deaths occurred in the past nine days, making that period the deadliest since the September cease-fire.

Signs of the new belligerence were evident across eastern Ukraine on Friday.

Indeed, fighting has also flared beyond Donetsk, including a road and rail hub northeast of the city, as well as a strategic checkpoint near Luhansk, the other main rebel stronghold. Rebel commanders claimed on Friday to have captured the village of Krasny Partizan, north of Donetsk, which would be another setback for government forces.

In another worrisome sign, the rebels were not the only ones taking a more aggressive tone.

Speaking to security officials in Kiev after the loss of Donetsk airport, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine expressed frustration with the broken peace process.

“If the enemy does not want to abide by the cease-fire, if the enemy doesn’t want to stop the suffering of innocent people in Ukrainian villages and towns, we will give it to them in the teeth,” he said.

Any major offensive by either side would clearly be a repudiation of the cease-fire signed on Sept. 5 and endorsed by the group’s main sponsor, Russia. That agreement, always shaky, began to break down several weeks ago. It had set the de facto borders of the rebel republic to encompass about one-third of the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Mr. Zakharchenko has threatened to expand his territory before, but his warnings have not typically prompted much alarm. Now, with the war raging and his troops on the march, more attention is being paid.

As recently as a few weeks ago, peace seemed to be slowly seeping into the blood-soaked fields of eastern Ukraine. Russia seemed occupied with the drop in oil prices and the ruble’s collapse. The shaky cease-fire was holding. Language on both sides was noticeably more conciliatory.

That all seems a long time ago now on the war-rattled streets of Donetsk, where a main hospital was hit by a shell this week.

If one were to ask the remaining residents of Donetsk, even those who have been loyal to the Kiev government, whether they supported this new rebel advance, they would say yes, Mr. Menendez said — and not necessarily for political reasons.

“They just want to push the front lines out of the city,” he said, “to stop the shelling on them.”


EU Tells Moscow to 'Assume its Responsibility' in Ukraine War

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 January 2015, 09:25

The European Union called Friday on Moscow to "assume its responsibility" in ending the separatist war in Ukraine.

"Time is running out in eastern Ukraine where the escalation of fighting has caused far too many civilian as well as military casualties," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Mogherini said the deaths of eight civilians in the shelling of a bus in rebel-held Donetsk illustrated the urgency of halting the violence.

Hours before her statement, the pro-Russian separatists announced they would follow up their capture of Donetsk's ruined international airport from Ukrainian government forces with a wider offensive to win more territory.

"Those responsible for the recent escalation must now show that they are serious about their commitment to a political settlement," Mogherini said, calling for withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontlines.

"We call notably on Russia to fully assume its responsibility. Public statements distorting the reality on the ground, inciting to hatred and further violence will not lead to the badly needed de-escalation," she said.

Russia denies arming or fighting alongside the rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian and Western governments say Moscow backs the rebels with direct military aid, an accusation supported by multiple sightings of sophisticated Russian-issue military hardware, usually unmarked.

Mogherini called for implementation of the September Minsk accord that ordered withdrawal of heavy weapons and a truce. She also lashed out at the parading of wounded Ukrainian prisoners in Donetsk as a violation of humanitarian law.

She did not, however, mention the future of current EU sanctions imposed against Russia over its policies in eastern Ukraine and earlier annexation of the country's Crimea province.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #499 on: Today at 09:02 AM »

Missile attacks kill at least 30 in Mariupol, east Ukraine

Pro-Russian rebels announce major new offensive in Ukraine, after attacks on crowded residential district

Chris Johnston and agencies, Saturday 24 January 2015 11.12 GMT   

Shelling killed at least 30 people and wounded over 97 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Pro-Russian rebels announced a major new offensive in Ukraine on Saturday after missiles killed at least 30 people in Mariupol, a strategic city linking rebel territory with Russian-occupied Crimea.

The local mayor’s office said 97 people were also wounded in the attack, which struck a crowded residential district early in the morning and then again shortly after midday.

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said on Friday that he had withdrawn from all peace talks with pro-western leaders in Kiev. On Saturday he said his forces had launched “an offensive against Mariupol” but did not accept direct responsibility for the earlier rocket attack.

The European Union condemned the attacks and warned that the escalation in fighting would harm EU-Russia relations.

The offensive “would inevitably lead to a further grave deterioration of relations between the EU and Russia”, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said.

Ertuğrul Apakan, chief of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission, called for an immediate ceasefire. “Ukraine and its people need and deserve peace. The parties must return to the negotiating table without further delay,” he said.

Mariupol municipal spokesman Oleg Kalinin called on Russia to intervene to end the violence.

Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine’s national defence council, described the incident as “another bloody crime against humanity committed by the Russian military and the bands of terrorists under their complete control”.

A strategic highway that links rebel-held regions to the east and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Russia annexed from Ukraine in March runs through Mariupol, which is home to about 500,000 people.

A massive rebel assault on the city in August was held back by government forces, but took a heavy toll and prompted Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to agree to a truce in September.

However, more clashes followed costing the lives of at least 1,500 people.

Rebel forces have regained control over the remains of Donetsk airport, which has been controlled by the Ukrainians since the start of the conflict. The rebels appeared to be moving in on the town of Debaltseve, where Ukrainian troops are under siege.

One Mariupol resident said: “Everyone in the city is very scared. The rebels have already seized the airport. And now they are starting to destroy Mariupol itself.”

Poroshenko said this week there were 9,000 regular Russian troops in Ukraine. Russia has denied that there were any, and denied even supplying weapons to the rebels, despite the obvious evidence of such transfers on the ground.

The military rhetoric on both sides has intensified in recent days, with the Ukrainian leader saying on Twitter that if the rebels failed to abide by the ceasefire, Kiev’s supporters would “give it to them in the teeth”.

The UN human rights office said the conflict in eastern Ukraine has now left 5,000 people dead, including 262 in the past nine days.


Obama Ramps Up Pressure on Russia after Deadly Ukraine Blitz

by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 January 2015, 14:20

U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to ramp up pressure on Russia after rocket attacks blamed on Kremlin-backed Ukrainian rebels killed 30 and injured 95 more.

Saturday's surprise assault on the strategic eastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol threatened to open a new front linking separatist territory near the Russian border with the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Moscow annexed in March.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told an emergency security meeting that Kiev had intercepted calls confirming Saturday's barrage was carried out by separatist "terrorists who receive support in Russia."

And Obama said he would now look at all options -- short of military intervention -- aimed at restraining Russian President Vladimir Putin's alleged proxy war aimed at stripping Ukraine's pro-Western leaders of their vital eastern industrial base.

He pledged to "ratchet up the pressure on Russia" in cooperation with the European Union, which had been thinking of easing existing sanctions on Russia in the coming months.

"If Mr Putin and if Russia are hell-bent on engaging in military conflicts, their military is more powerful than Ukraine's," Obama said during a visit to India.

"The question is going to be whether they continue to pursue a path that not only is bad for the people of Ukraine, but is... bad for the people of Russia."

New European Council President Donald Tusk -- a former Polish prime minister who had long been suspicious of Putin -- also warned that the Mariupol attack showed that "appeasement encourages the aggressor to greater acts of violence.

"Time to step up our policy based on cold facts, not illusions," Tusk tweeted.

- 'No alternative to truce' -

The Kremlin flatly denies arming and funding the rebels, who have renounced all truce talks.

It had remained conspicuously silent about Saturday's offensive and Russian state media played repeated footage of a low-ranking militant claiming that the assault was ordered by the Kiev government.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday that the latest upsurge in violence was the result of "constant shelling" by Kiev's troops.

"Lavrov pointed out that an escalation of the situation is a result of Ukrainian troops crudely violating the Minsk agreements by constantly shelling residential settlements," the foreign ministry said after Russia's top diplomat spoke to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by phone.

Poroshenko told his top generals that he had asked the European Union to ramp up sanctions on Russia at a special session of foreign ministers on Monday.

The Western-backed leader -- looking tired after cutting short his attendance at the burial of the late Saudi king -- also insisted that the attack would not provoke Kiev into ordering a tough military response.

"Ukraine remains a firm proponent of a peaceful solution," he told a televised meeting of his National Security and Defense Council.

Regional police said 95 people were also wounded by dozens of long-distance rockets that smashed into a packed residential district and a market in Mariupol on Saturday.

"It is really dangerous here now," Mariupol resident Yulia Simina told Agence France-Presse.

The 27-year-old said she had moved to the city to avoid the daily bloodshed in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk that lies to the north.

But she lost her car in the shelling and just avoided being hit by shrapnel herself.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's leader Alexander Zakharchenko claimed Saturday that "today we launched an offensive against Mariupol".

He later distanced himself from the rocket fire and denied ordering an actual invasion of the industrial port of half a million people.

But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the Grad and Uragan rocket fire came from two locations "controlled by the 'Donetsk People's Republic'".

- Link to Crimea -

Mariupol remained calm on Sunday as international monitors patrolled its muddied streets.

The Sea of Azov port of nearly half a million people provides a land bridge between guerrilla-held regions in the east and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

It is also home to two of Ukraine's largest smelters and most of the southeast's vital coal and steel exports go through its docks.

A rebel assault on the port in early September saw Kiev repel the attack at such heavy cost that it prompted Poroshenko to pursue peace and offer the rebels three years of limited self-rule.

But the ceasefire was followed by further clashes that killed at least 1,500 people, and combat resumed in full in mid-January after a three-week lull.

Western diplomats linked the rebel advance to a new infusion of Russian troops -- denied by the Kremlin -- designed to expand separatist territory before the signing of a final truce and land demarcation agreement.

Ukraine claimed Monday that Moscow had poured nearly 1,000 more Russian soldiers and dozens of tanks into the southeast to secure control over factories and coal mines that could help the rebels build their own state.

"Taking Mariupol is a first step to a broader offensive. It is also an end in itself, anchoring the southern flank in the city," the U.S.-based Stratfor global intelligence company warned in a "red alert" issued to clients.


Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk keep on the attack as war of words intensifies

Vladimir Putin blames ‘criminals’ from Ukrainian government for increased violence in east of the country

Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Friday 23 January 2015 16.24 GMT   

Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk have said they plan to stay on the attack against Kiev’s forces, as the Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed “criminal orders” from the Ukrainian government for increased violence in the east of the country.

“There will be no more ceasefires,” said rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko at a meeting with students, a day after an attack on a trolleybus in Donetsk left up to 13 dead. Zakharchenko said Ukraine was currently mobilising recruits and had been planning a new assault.

“We took the decision not to wait for the Ukrainian army to attack. We will attack them until we have reached the borders of the former Donetsk region,” said Zakharchenko, indicating an area that includes a number of towns currently under Ukrainian control, including the port city of Mariupol.

The UN human rights office says the conflict in eastern Ukraine has now left 5,000 people dead, including 262 in the past nine days alone.

A ceasefire was agreed at talks in Minsk in September but has never really held. The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met on Wednesday evening in Berlin and again affirmed the document, calling on heavy artillery to be withdrawn from the front lines, but the situation on the ground has only got worse.

Already this week the rebels have regained control over the remains of Donetsk airport, which has been controlled by the Ukrainians since the start of the conflict, and appear to be moving in on the town of Debaltseve, where Ukrainian troops are under siege.

In televised comments, Putin blamed the renewed violence on Ukrainian forces: “The Kiev authorities have given an official order to start large-scale military operations practically throughout the whole line of contact. The result is dozens of killed and wounded, not only among the military on both sides but... among civilians,” Putin told senior state officials.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, said: “The west does not treat Russia as an equal partner, and this will make the conflict in Ukraine a bleeding wound for decades.” He blamed the west also for sanctions against Russia, which have combined with falling oil prices to deal a hefty blow to the rouble in recent months. German’s chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that the sanctions should not be lifted yet.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, said this week there were 9,000 regular Russian troops in Ukraine. Russia has denied that there are any, and denies even supplying military hardware to the rebels, despite the obvious evidence of such transfers on the ground.

The military rhetoric on both sides has intensified in recent days, with Poroshenko taking to Twitter on Thursday evening to say that if the rebels did not abide by the ceasefire, Kiev’s supporters would “give it to them in the teeth”.

Much remains unclear about the bus attack in Donetsk on Thursday. Rather like an attack on a Ukrainian checkpoint this month that also left 13 dead, both sides have blamed the other. In the earlier incident, international monitors said it appeared that the bus had been hit by missiles fired by rebels.

This time, Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said the attack had been carried out by “Russian terrorists”, while rebels said a Ukrainian “diversionary group” operating behind rebel lines was responsible for carrying out the attack. However, no further information about the group, which rebels said they had detained, has been forthcoming.


Kerry denounces pro-Russia rebels' missile attacks in Ukraine

Reuters in Zurich, Saturday 24 January 2015 21.05 GMT 

John Kerry, US secretary of state, said on Saturday he joined his European counterparts in condemning an assault by pro-Russia rebels on Mariupol, Ukraine, and called on Russia to end its support for the rebels.

At least 30 people died in Mariupol, a strategic city linking rebel territory with Russian-occupied Crimea, on Saturday. The local mayor’s office said 97 people were also wounded when missiles struck a crowded residential district early in the morning and then again shortly after midday.

“It is reprehensible that the separatists are publicly glorifying this and other offensives in blatant violation of the Minsk agreements they signed,” Kerry said in a statement issued while on a visit to Zurich.

Kerry said the separatists’ assault has been aided by Russia’s “irresponsible and dangerous decision to resupply them in recent weeks with hundreds of new pieces of advanced weaponry, including rocket systems, heavy artillery, tanks, armored vehicles, in addition to continuing operational command and control”.

“We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing. Otherwise, US and international pressure on Russia and its proxies will only increase,” Kerry added.


EU Mulls Emergency Meeting over Russia-Ukraine Conflict

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 January 2015, 17:39

The European Union is considering an emergency meeting to discuss the Russia-Ukraine conflict after rocket attacks killed at least 30 people in Ukraine's strategic Maruipol port on Saturday.

Latvia, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency until July, called for an emergency meeting of the EU foreign affairs council next week.

"I call for extraordinary EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting next week, fully support action by HR @FedericaMog addressing situation in UA," Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said Saturday via Twitter.

In a separate statement the Latvian Foreign Ministry said it was increasingly evident that Russia "is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict" in Ukraine in light of events in Mariupol.

"Those responsible for the aggression should be aware that the international community will undoubtedly and sharply react to further escalation," the statement said.

Earlier the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini denounced the rocket attacks saying in a statement that the escalation would cause a further deterioration in relations between the EU and Russia.

On Saturday Alexandre Zakhartchenko, leader of the self-declared Donetsk republic, announced the launch of an offensive on Kiev-controled Maruipol.

That assault has already caused at least 30 deaths and injured 90 people, according to provisional counts AFP obtained from Mariupol municipal spokesman Oleg Kalinin.

Mogherini called directly on Russia to intercede and halt the carnage.

"I call ... openly upon Russia to use its considerable influence over separatist leaders and to stop any form of military, political or financial support," her statement said.

"This would prevent disastrous consequences for all. Those responsible for the escalation must stop their hostile actions and live up to their commitments."

Although the EU may adopt new sanctions against Russia in the event of continued escalation, thus far there has been no official debate on additional action beyond measures already approved and applied against Moscow after.

Source: Agence France Presse

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