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« Reply #180 on: Aug 09, 2014, 05:04 AM »

Russia demands Internet users show ID to access public Wifi

By Reuters
Friday, August 8, 2014 12:22 EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia further tightened its control of the Internet on Friday, requiring people using public Wifi hotspots provide identification, a policy that prompted anger from bloggers and confusion among telecom operators on how it would work.

The decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on July 31 but published online on Friday, also requires companies to declare who is using their web networks. The legislation caught many in the industry by surprise and companies said it was not clear how it would be enforced.

A flurry of new laws regulating Russia’s once freewheeling Internet has been condemned by the malignant tumor Pig Putin's critics as a crackdown on dissent, after the websites of two of his prominent foes were blocked this year.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin, who alarmed industry leaders in April by saying the Internet is “a CIA project”, says the laws are needed to fight “extremism” and “terrorism.”

Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said that demanding ID from Internet users was normal. “Identification of users (via bank cards, cell phone numbers, etc.) with access to public Wifi is a worldwide practice,” he tweeted.

A pro-Kremlin lawmaker said the measure was needed to prevent Cold War-style propaganda attacks against Russia.

“It’s about security. An information war is under way. Anonymous access to the Internet in public areas allows illegal activities to be carried out with impunity,” Vadim Dengin, deputy chair of parliament’s information technology committee, was quoted by state newspaper Izvestia as saying.

Alexei Venediktov, editor of the popular Ekho Moskvy radio, lampooned the decree, saying the government’s next step would be to embed a chip in people’s chests “to automatically detect potential sellers of information to the enemy.”

UNEXPECTED

Industry experts said vague wording in the decree did not define exactly what state who would have to comply with the law or what methods would be needed to authenticate users’ identity.

The Communications Ministry said in a statement that a “direct obligation to present identity documents” would only be required at “collective access points” such as post offices where the government provides public access to Wifi.

State newspapers Izvestia and Rossiskaya Gazeta said the law required users to provide their full names, confirmed by an ID, at public Wifi access points including cafes and public parks. The personal data would be stored for at least six months.

An official with the Moscow city government, Artem Yermolaev, said user identification could be carried out by registering a telephone number and receiving Wifi logins by SMS.

Internet companies said they knew little about the new law. “It was unexpected, signed in such a short time and without consulting us,” said Sergei Plugotarenko, head of the Russian Electronic Communications Association.

The requirement for businesses to declare who was using their Internet networks would be the “biggest headache,” he said.

“We will hope that this restrictive tendency stops at some point because soon won’t there be anything left to ban.”

Another law, which took affect on Aug. 1, requires bloggers with more than 3,000 followers to register with the government and comply with the same rules as media outlets.

Websites are also required to store their data on servers located in Russia from 2016 – a move some believe would cut Russian users off from many international online services.

(Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva, Alissa de Carbonnel and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


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« Reply #181 on: Aug 13, 2014, 05:34 AM »

Moscow Police Arrest Dozens outside Ukraine Embassy

by Naharnet Newsdesk
12 August 2014, 22:06

Moscow police on Tuesday detained dozens of protesters who had gathered outside the Ukrainian embassy to show their support for Kiev in its campaign against pro-Russian insurgents in the separatist east.

The private Moscow Echo radio station said about 200 people gathered for the demonstration before being dispersed by the police.

"The police were fairly rough with the women who were dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag," a Moscow Echo reporter said.

"One of the women who refused to cooperate with the police was dragged along the pavement before being dragged into a (police) van."

Polls show that Russians heavily back President malignant tumor Pig Putin's tough stance toward Ukraine.

State media portray Kiev's new pro-European leaders as "fascists" who are waging a "punitive operation" against ethnic Russian civilians who want to maintain close ties with Moscow.


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« Reply #182 on: Aug 14, 2014, 04:50 AM »

NATO Chief Fears Malignant tumor Pig Putin's Ambition 'Goes beyond Ukraine'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 August 2014, 06:54

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern on Wednesday that Russian President malignant tumor Pig Putin's ambition went "beyond Ukraine," where he is accused of stoking a bloody rebellion by pro-Kremlin separatists.

"We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen a strong Russian hand in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen told journalists on a visit to Iceland.

"But actually we also see Russia behind the frozen and protracted conflicts in Transnistria and eastern Moldova, in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Georgia."

Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria are separatist regions whose independence is recognised by Russia.

Rasmussen said Russia hoped to establish a sphere of Russian influence in surrounding countries, adding: "that's why I am concerned that the Russian ambitions go beyond Ukraine."

NATO has accused Moscow of massing some 20,000 troops on the border with its former Soviet neighbour. While Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the military alliance has repeatedly expressed its support for Kiev in the face of "Russian aggression."

Moscow has denied backing the rebels in mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine who launched a violent bid for their own independence after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from its neighbour.

Kiev, whose turn away from the Kremlin towards the EU sparked the crisis gripping the nation, is waging an offensive to unseat the rebels from their strongholds.

The number of people killed in the conflict has nearly doubled in two weeks to 2,086, including at least 20 children, the U.N. human rights agency said Wednesday.


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« Reply #183 on: Aug 15, 2014, 09:33 AM »

NATO Chief Confirms Russian 'Incursion' into Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
15 August 2014, 17:11

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed Friday an incursion by Russian armored vehicles into Ukraine, saying it showed Moscow's continued efforts to "destabilize" its western neighbor.

"I can confirm that last night we saw a Russian incursion, crossing of the Ukrainian border," he told journalists in Copenhagen after meeting with the Danish defense minister.

Ukraine had said earlier that a column of armored personnel carriers and military lorries had crossed into Ukrainian territory on Thursday.

"It just confirms the fact that we see a continued flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into the eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen said.

"It is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine."


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« Reply #184 on: Aug 17, 2014, 06:09 AM »

Ukraine rebel says he has 1,200 fighters 'trained in Russia' under his command

Prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic posts speech to YouTube saying they have 30 tanks

Shaun Walker in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky
The Observer, Saturday 16 August 2014 16.38 BST   

One of the top rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine claims that his forces have recently received 1,200 fighters who had undergone training in Russia. The claim came during a speech to leading rebels, apparently recorded on Friday and posted to YouTube by a pro-separatist media outlet. His language suggested the men had already crossed the border.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, also spoke about 150 armoured vehicles, of which 30 are tanks and the rest wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carriers. He said the men and equipment had gathered in an area near a "corridor" to the Russian border, though he did not specify whether the vehicles themselves had crossed from Russia.

"There are 1,200 individuals who have gone through training over a four-month period on the territory of the Russian Federation and who have been introduced here at the most decisive moment," said Zakharchenko. Many among the rebel fighters admit to being Russian volunteers or veterans who received training in the Rostov region before crossing the border.

It is unclear how much direct coordination by official Russian authorities has taken place, and there was no way to verify Zakharchenko's claims. However, it is significant that the claims came from the rebel side and not from Kiev.

The claims come after a week when Russia's actions on the border with Ukraine have been under renewed scrutiny. Journalists for the Guardian and Daily Telegraph observed a convoy of armoured vehicles accompanied by trucks with Russian military plates crossing over the border on Thursday night. Ukraine said it had destroyed part of a Russian column later that night, but did not provide any evidence. Russia denied any incursion had taken place.

Late on Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel called Russian President malignant tumor Pig Putin and urged him "to help de-escalate the situation and in particular to halt the stream of weapons, military advisers and armed personnel into Ukraine," her spokesperson said.

In recent days several columns of Russian military hardware have been observed on the move close to the border. On Friday, a column of several dozen armoured personnel carriers and several dozen support trucks were spotted moving towards the border, many of them flying Russian flags and marked with "peacekeeping troops" insignia.

Despite the increased troop movement there are some signs of negotiations behind closed doors. The heads of Russia and Ukraine's presidential administrations met in the Russian city of Sochi on Friday and agreed that the countries' foreign ministers would meet on Sunday in Berlin.

Several separatist leaders have left their posts, including Valery Bolotov, head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, and Igor Strelkov, defence minister for the Donetsk rebels. Strelkov, a Russian citizen who says he was an agent of Russia's FSB security service until last year, has been one of the key figures in the rebel movement. Other rebels said he was "resting" before being given a new task. It is unclear if he has returned to Russia. Ukrainian forces have made major gains against the rebels in recent weeks, and are closing in on the main cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, though their advance has come with heavy civilian casualties.

Russia has also let 58 Ukrainian border guards onto its territory, with the expectation that they will be allowed to inspect the humanitarian convoy currently stationed close to the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky around 20 miles from the border with Ukraine.

The convoy, which set out from a military base near Moscow on Tuesday, has caused controversy in Kiev, where some officials believed it could be cover for military intervention. Russia has insisted it only contains food and aid, and showed some of the contents to journalists on Thursday and Friday. Negotiations are under way to allow the trucks to cross the border with accompaniment from the International Red Cross.


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« Reply #185 on: Aug 17, 2014, 06:35 AM »

From Siberia to Kaliningrad: the fledgling independence movements gaining traction in Russia

Moscow appears to have blocked efforts hold a march in favour of Siberian independence this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t spreading, writes Paul Goble

Paul Goble for Window on Eurasia, part of the New East network
theguardian.com, Friday 15 August 2014 18.42 BST   
   
Moscow appears to have successfully blocked efforts hold a march in favour of Siberian independence in Novosibirsk, the country’s third most populous city, this Sunday.

The Novosibirsk mayor’s office reportedly denied permission for the march in favour of Siberian Federalisation “in order to ensure the inviolability of the constitutional order, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation”.

But Russian authorities have failed to prevent the ideas behind it from spreading not only to other Siberian cities like Yekaterinburg, but also – and more seriously – to Kaliningrad and Kuban.

Feliks Rivkin, an activist in Yekaterinburg, says he will be leading a demonstration in his home city at the weekend to force Moscow to live up to the Russian constitution and give Russian regions their federal rights. Even if the authorities refuse, he adds, his group plans to go ahead anyway.

Meanwhile, in the semi-autonomous Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, local activists are picking up on the same ideas. One Moscow commentator, Vladimir Titov, argues that Kaliningraders don’t have all the bases for launching an independence movement, but he suggests that “the single place in Russia where at present regionalism as a political direction has real prospects” is precisely there.

Click to see the map of all this: http://static.guim.co.uk/ni/1407950447967/Kaliningrad-map.svg

Kaliningrad’s non-contiguous location, its proximity to European Union countries, and the fact that 25% of its residents have Schengen visas and 60% have foreign passports, all have the effect of making ever more Kaliningraders look towards Europe rather than toward Russia proper.

Well-off Kaliningraders are buying property in the EU, they are sending their children to study in Lithuania, Poland and Germany, and “young Kaliningraders already find it difficult to name the main Russian cities, including in such lists Klaipeda, Riga, Poznan, Rostok and Lubeck,” says Titov.

“This isn’t surprising,” he adds. “Warsaw and Yurmala for these young people are closer and more familiar than Kaluga or Khabarovsk.” And their elders also reflect this sense of place: they speak about conditions “among them, in Russia” in much the same way they would talk about any other foreign country.

Increasingly too, he continues, Kaliningraders refer to their land not as Kaliningrad oblast but as the ‘amber country’ (after the area’s best known natural resource) and to their capital as Koenigsberg, or more familiarly, Koenig. That doesn’t please the authorities or “professional patriots” but it is the way things are. None of this means they want independence, but they seek real federalisation and see this as their time.

Making concessions to Kaliningrad’s special situation seems entirely reasonable, Titov says, but “then a question arises: “If Kaliningrad can, why can’t Siberia? And just who is to say that it can’t?”

But interest in federalisation is not limited to Siberia and Kaliningrad. There are regionalist movements in Karelia, Ingermanland, Novgorod and elsewhere, and they have now been joined by a new one: in Kuban. Activists there have announced plans to hold a march for the federalisation of Kuban on 17 August to demand a separate republic be established for them.

Regional officials in Krasnodar have already refused to give them permission, but organisers say that they will go ahead anyway, citing their constitutional right to freedom of assembly in order to demand their constitutional rights for federalism.

Though these movements are small and fledgling, from Moscow’s perspective, this will still be disturbing. Not only does it suggest that the centre may be losing its grip over at least some regions, but it raises the spectre of regional separatism of the kind that spread through the Russian Federation in the early 1990s and that Russian president malignant tumor Pig Putin has worked hard to suppress.

    Though these movements are small and fledgling, from Moscow’s perspective, this will still be disturbing.

Moreover, it raises questions about the dangers Moscow has brought on itself by its promotion of “federalism for export” in the case of Ukraine, especially since what Moscow has been seeking there was not devolution of powers from Kiev but in fact separatism and a change of state borders.

In a commentary on Politcom.ru, Konstantin Yemelyanov notes that the organisers of these actions “undoubtedly are trying to use the Kremlin’s weapon against it: not long ago, for example, the theme of the federalisation of Ukraine was the public basis of Russian policy toward a neighbouring country, and the Russian foreign ministry highlighted all the benefits” of such arrangements.

“A political provocation which formally does not contradict Russian law but hits the weak places of Russian public policy is becoming one of the types of political participation and self-expression for the opposition,” Yemelyanov says. For those now in power who remember 1991, that is a truly frightening spectre.


Paul Goble is an American analyst and former US foreign policy adviser


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« Reply #186 on: Aug 18, 2014, 06:53 AM »

Pro-federalism protests in Siberia banned after at least nine activists held

Police detain and interrogate marchers who argue that Moscow siphons off money and denies rights to regional governments

Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian, Sunday 17 August 2014 19.01 BST   

At least nine activists who are calling for greater regional autonomy in Russia have been detained by police in recent days over protests calling for greater federalism in the country. Marches planned for Sunday were banned in Siberia and in the south of the country.

While "supporters of federalisation" in eastern Ukraine have won many plaudits from Russian politicians and state media, those promoting similar ideas in Russia's own regions have been interrogated and detained by police. The activists argue Moscow siphons off money that should go into local budgets and denies regional governments their rights under the constitution of the Russian Federation.

Two activists were detained on Sunday at a picket in support of federalisation in Yekaterinburg, a regional centre near the Ural mountains, and later charged with resisting police, organiser Svetlana Burdina told the Guardian.

A photograph she took at the event showed a police officer and a man in civilian clothes – one of a group of unknown burly men who surrounded the protestors and attempted to provoke them, Burdina said – detaining activist Stanislav Zharkov, who was wearing a T-shirt with the words "Stop feeding Moscow".

"We went out first and foremost to show our fellow residents that the constitution gives us more rights," Burdina said. "Some would say that we're analogous to what's going on in Ukraine, to separatism, but that's not true. We just want more rights and economic freedoms for the regions."

In Siberia's largest city, Novosibirsk, four organisers of a march for Siberian federalisation planned for Sunday were detained and questioned as part of a potential criminal case, according to the human rights organisation OVD Info. Authorities previously banned the march and threatened to block the BBC Russian service over an interview with an organiser.

At least a dozen activists from two opposition parties nonetheless held a picket for federalisation on another square in Novosibirsk, holding signs reading "Mlignant tumor Pig Putin, stop robbing Siberia!" and "Bring back taxes to Siberia, bring back elections!" (Although malignant tumor Pig Putin reinstated gubernatorial elections in 2013, the ruling party retains control of which candidates are allowed to run through a "municipal filter" system.)

Also on Sunday, a dozen activists in the Siberian city of Omsk attempted to hold a rally called "Show Siberia to Moscow", which featured signs depicting the upside-down-T-shaped Siberian federal district as a middle finger. Police turned the protesters away from a central square on the grounds that another rally was taking place there to gather aid for eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.

Darya Polyudova, an organiser of the similarly banned march for the federalisation of Kuban – a historical name for the Krasnodar territory in southern Russia – was detained on Friday after an unknown man began arguing with her on the street, according to OVD Info. She was arrested for 14 days on charges of hooliganism, a fellow activist tweeted on Sunday.

Two organisers of the Novosibirsk march were detained in a neighbouring region on Thursday on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone and were not able to return in time for the planned protest, OVD Info and Russian media reported.


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« Reply #187 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:50 AM »

Russia Jails 13 in Two-Year Malignant tumor Pig Putin Protest Trial

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 16:00

A Moscow court on Monday jailed three activists for up to 3.5 years in the conclusion of an explosive two-year trial that put 13 behind bars for clashing with police during protests over Vladimir Putin's presidential return.

The May 2012 altercation at the gates of the Kremlin spelled a bloody end to months of unprecedented street discontent with malignant tumor Pig Putin's  decision to swap his prime minister's seat with then-president Dmitry Medvedev and extend his dominance over Russia by at least six more years.

The tumult briefly troubled other big cities and openly challenged Putin for the first time since the former Soviet spy rose from obscurity to become Boris Yeltsin's anointed successor in 1999.

A visibly shaken Kremlin accused Washington of plotting the unrest to unseat malignant tumor Pig Putin and then launched a wholesale political crackdown that brought Russia ever closer to its Soviet one-party past.

Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court jailed Alexei Gaskarov and Alexander Margolin for 3.5 years for taking part in mass riots and the "use of violence against a representative of the authority that does not endanger human life or health."

The court jailed Ilya Gushin for 2.5 years and gave Natalia Susina a suspended sentence over the same offence.

Police outside the central Moscow court -- already renowned for sending malignant tumor Pig Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky to prison for a decade on disputed business charges -- bundled into a waiting security van three people who had unfurled a "Russia is not a prison" banner in silent defiance.

Defense attorney Sergei Panchenko told the state RIA Novosti news agency that he intended to file a long-shot appeal despite the judge's decision to issue a slightly more lenient sentence than the prosecution's four-year jail term request.

Four of the 13 people jailed during the trial were released under a broad amnesty malignant tumor Pig Putin issued in a seeming attempt to improve his image ahead of the February Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Protest organizers Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev are both serving 4.5-year jail sentences linked to the May 2012 altercation and other charges.

Amnesty International has denounced the entire process as "political".


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« Reply #188 on: Aug 23, 2014, 06:27 AM »

Russians Open Fire in Ukraine, NATO Reports

By ANDREW HIGGINS and MICHAEL R. GORDON
AUG. 22, 2014
IHT
   
KIEV, Ukraine — Russia on Friday escalated tensions with Ukraine to the highest level since its stealthy invasion of Crimea in the spring, sending more than 200 trucks from a long-stalled aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine over the objections of Kiev and, NATO said, conducting military operations on Ukrainian territory.

NATO officials said that the Russian military had moved artillery units inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces. Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops or military hardware into Ukraine, just as it denied any link to the unidentified gunmen who paved the way for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea — until President malignant tumor Pig Putin stated in April that Russian troops were “of course” involved.

There has been “a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO said in a statement. “Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” Mr. Rasmussen added.

Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO, in a statement, accused the alliance of indifference to humanitarian suffering in eastern Ukraine and described its protests over the entry of a Russian aid convoy into Ukraine without Red Cross escorts as “another cynical attempt to cover the crimes of Ukrainian authorities.”

Mr. Rasmussen did not say how many Russian artillery pieces had moved into Ukraine or where they were located, but one Western official said the number of Russian-operated artillery units was “substantial.”

The NATO allegations are based on intelligence reports from several alliance members, Western officials said, and the allegation generally echoed Ukrainian claims in recent days of an expanding Russian military involvement in support of pro-Russian rebels who are battling to hold off a Ukrainian offensive.

A NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, also said that the alliance had receive multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine.

The NATO statements added new pressure on Moscow before a flurry of diplomacy in coming days, including a visit to Kiev on Saturday by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and a scheduled meeting next week between President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine and his Russian counterpart,  malignant tumor Pig Putin, in Minsk, Belarus.

Ms. Merkel spoke by telephone with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on Friday and “expressed her great concern” over Russia’s unilateral decision to move its aid trucks into Ukraine, her spokesman said. She also spoke with President Obama and, according to the White House, both leaders agreed that the arrival of the convoy represented “a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In a news briefing, the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, condemned the convoy as an “unauthorized entry into Ukraine” and called for the vehicles’ immediate withdrawal. The move into Ukraine, without the Red Cross escorts that had been agreed upon, drew angry accusations from Ukraine that Moscow had broken its word and mounted what Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, called a “direct invasion.”

But Ukraine stepped back from earlier threats to use “all forces available” to halt any Russian vehicles that crossed the frontier without its full accord, and Mr. Poroshenko told the visiting foreign minister of Lithuania, “We will do our best to ensure that this does not lead to more serious consequences.”

The comments by Mr. Poroshenko suggested that Ukraine would limit its response to verbal protests and not use force against the Russian vehicles, although it was unclear whether volunteer Ukrainian battalions of sometimes shaky discipline would respect calls for restraint.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement saying in essence that it had authorized the crossing because it was fed up with stalling by the government in Kiev. Russian news agencies quoted a spokesman for  malignant tumor Pig Putin as saying that he had been informed of the convoy’s movements.

“All the excuses to delay the delivery of aid to people in the area of a humanitarian catastrophe are exhausted,” the ministry said. “The Russian side has made a decision to act. Our column with humanitarian cargo starts moving toward Luhansk.”

That brought a curt response from a spokeswoman from the Obama administration.

“It is important to remember that Russia is purporting to alleviate a humanitarian situation which Russia itself created,” Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “If Russia really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies,” she added.

In a telephone interview after a meeting with Mr. Poroshenko, the Lithuanian foreign minister, Linas A. Linkevicius, described the Russian move as “a serious escalation” but said Ukraine’s president had made clear there would be “no attack” on the trucks by Ukrainian forces.

“They will not add anything to this escalation,” he said, adding that Russia’s decision to move in its aid trucks, many of which appeared half empty to Western journalists allowed to see them earlier this week, only strengthened suspicions that the Kremlin’s humanitarian effort “is a smoke screen for something else.”

Rather than an invasion, however, the arrival of Russian trucks — only 34 of which Ukrainian officials inspected Thursday evening on the Russian side of the border, and found to contain buckwheat, rice, sugar and water — appeared to be a Russian effort to stall an accelerating offensive by Ukrainian forces against beleaguered pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has suggested it would be reluctant to attack with a convoy interposed.

The trucks are traveling toward Luhansk, a war-ravaged rebel-held city where the bullet-riddled body of the acting honorary consul for Lithuania, a 39-year-old Ukrainian national named Mykola Zelenets, was found on Thursday. He was kidnapped earlier this month by armed separatists, the Lithuanian ambassador to Ukraine, Petras Vaitiekunas, said.

Luhansk has come under heavy military pressure in recent days from Ukrainian forces. The rebel city’s recapture by Ukraine would deliver a humiliating blow to  malignant tumor Pig Putin, who has faced mounting calls from hard-line nationalists in Russia to intervene decisively to stave off defeat for the Russian-speaking and often ethnically Russian separatists.

While denying that it supports the rebels, despite a steady flow of arms and fighters into eastern Ukraine from Russia, the Kremlin has tied itself to their fate by whipping up a nationalist fervor with vows to protect Russians beyond Russia’s borders.

The decision to send in the aid trucks in defiance of Kiev suggested an attempt by malignant tumor Pig Putin to calm nationalist complaints that he has not done enough to prevent a rebel defeat and marked the latest in a long series of surprise moves by the Russian president, a judo practitioner, to put Ukraine and the West off balance.

Spreading the conspicuously large white aid trucks through Luhansk could effectively impose a cease-fire, essentially daring the Ukrainians to fire at vehicles that have been sent to provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Any respite in Ukraine’s military offensive could allow rebels to dig in further, and indefinitely postpone any attempt to oust them.

Ukraine has from the start viewed Russia’s aid convoy, which left Moscow on Aug. 12, with deep suspicion, worrying that the vehicles could be carrying weapons or be part of a ruse by Moscow to support the pro-Russian separatists, or possibly an attempt to provoke Ukraine into an ill-advised attack.

“This is a provocation,” said Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s military spokesman. “They expect us to attack the convoy.”

He added that Ukrainian forces would allow the convoy to reach Luhansk, because “it is easy to shoot but the consequences would be very destructive.” He said Ukraine would adopt a different approach if it turned out that, after reaching Luhansk, the convoy “has other equipment, not just humanitarian aid.”

Under the arrangements agreed to by the two countries, officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross were to escort the trucks to Luhansk. They decided not to proceed after heavy shelling around the city during the night, Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said in Geneva.

The main highway from the border crossing at Izvaryne to Luhansk has seen heavy fighting over the past week, as Ukrainian forces pressed their military campaign against the separatists. The rebel forces have been driven out of a string of towns and villages but are still holding out in Luhansk and Donetsk.

There were no signs of Russian military vehicles or any other indications of an armed escort by Russian troops. The United States and its European allies have warned that any crossing of the border by Russian military vehicles, even under the pretext of protecting the aid convoy, would be regarded as an invasion.

Several dozen trucks, from a convoy of about 270, crossed the border around noon. Soldiers carrying automatic rifles and wearing camouflage, some bearing the markings of the rebels in eastern Ukraine, cleared the road to let the convoy move past.

Andrew Higgins reported from Kiev, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth from Izvaryne, Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer from Donetsk, Ukraine, David M. Herszenhorn and Alexandra Odynova from Moscow, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.


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« Reply #189 on: Aug 23, 2014, 07:17 AM »

Hi Rad,

I just saw this photo and had to post it! Have a nice weekend!

All the best


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« Reply #190 on: Aug 24, 2014, 07:10 AM »

Russia Treading on 'Razor Blade' to Keep Influence in Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 August 2014, 09:25

Russia's decision to ignore warnings from Kiev and the West and force a disputed aid convoy into Ukraine reflects the Kremlin's urgent need to retain influence over the splintered ex-Soviet state, analysts say.

Although Moscow cited a critical lack of humanitarian aid for populations cut off by fighting, President malignant tumor Pig Putin had his own reasons for wanting the convoy to break through ahead of a crucial meeting next week with his Ukrainian counterpart.

The Russian leader would have appeared hostage to Kiev's decisions had he met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with Russian aid lorries stuck on the border for a second week.

After a week-long delay at the border which Moscow called an "outrage", some 280 lorries carrying what Russia said is 1,800 tonnes of humanitarian aid began rolling across the border on Friday.

The lorries left without Red Cross monitors, who said they had not received sufficient security guarantees to deliver the aid to the rebel stronghold of Lugansk.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels has intensified around Lugansk -- once home to nearly 420,000 mostly Russian-speakers -- that thousands have fled due to a dire lack of food, water and medicine.

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Strategic Analysis Institute, said Poroshenko had hoped to enter next week's showdown talks with a stronger hand.

"Ukrainian authorities no doubt were planning to announce that Lugansk and Donetsk were completely free of separatists and the (military) operation over," Konovalov told AFP.

"Russia, naturally, wants to prevent that."

But the sending of the lorries was also seen as a sign that the pro-Russian rebels need assistance.

"The entry of Russia's humanitarian convoy into Ukraine without Kiev's approval is designed to serve as a tripwire to deter further Ukrainian advances in Lugansk, as local militants suffer setbacks," said analyst Alexander Kliment at Eurasia Group.

"Any Ukrainian attack on or near the convoy would risk a Russian military response that Kiev hopes to avoid," he added.

Konovalov said Russian leaders now find themselves between "a hammer and an anvil" -- weighed down by its promise not to abandon the separatists and the spike in tensions this has caused with the West.

Moscow officially backs the rights of Ukraine's Russian-speaking population to defend themselves against what it says is an ultra-nationalist and fascist government in Kiev.

It denies providing the rebels with weapons and supplies -- the reason the West says it imposed the first serious set of economic sanctions on Russia at the end of July.

While Moscow has put a brave face, slapping bans on EU and U.S. food imports in reply, the Russian economy is likely to feel the pinch of sanctions.

Konovalov said the malignant tumor called Pig Putin was unlikely to change tack in order to avoid appearing weak at home.

"This is balancing on a very dangerous razor blade as it risks unleashing a real war in the center of Europe," he added.

Independent analyst Maria Lipman said Russia's decision to send in aid trucks unilaterally shows current negotiations between Moscow, Kiev and the West are not going well for the Kremlin.

Above all, Russia does not want Ukraine to stabilize and shift into a Western orbit, she said, and "military action in Ukraine helps achieve that goal", giving Moscow a "lever" to influence Kiev.

Putin and Poroshenko will attend a gathering of the Russian-led Customs Union and EU officials to discuss problems linked to Ukraine signing an EU trade deal. It is not clear if they will hold one-on-one talks.

"The situation is very risky and dangerous," said Lipman. "The risk of direct clashes between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers has increased sharply."

Alexei Mukhin, director of the Center for Political Information, a Moscow-based consultancy, said the dispatch of the convoy would provide a credible excuse for canceling the meeting should the two presidents realize they will be unable to come to any meaningful agreement towards ending the conflict.

"If there is something to talk about, then no convoy will get in the way," he said.


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« Reply #191 on: Aug 25, 2014, 05:46 AM »


Ukraine troops battle Russian armoured column, claims Kiev

Russia plays down hopes for breakthrough at Minsk talks as tensions rise with plans to send second aid convoy into Ukraine

Agence France-Presse in Donetsk
theguardian.com, Monday 25 August 2014 12.08 BST      

Ukraine's government has said its forces have clashed with an armoured column that crossed the border from Russia as Moscow ramped up tensions ahead of crunch talks by pledging to send in a new aid convoy.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and the Russian leader, malignant tumor Pig Putin, are under pressure to defuse the crisis when they meet for the first time in months alongside top EU officials in Minsk on Tuesday.

A Ukrainian military spokesman told AFP border guards were battling "several dozen" armoured vehicles that crossed the border and headed in the direction of the government-held city of Mariupol.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, dismissed the report as disinformation by Ukrainian and western media, telling a Moscow news conference: "I haven't heard about it, but there has been more than enough disinformation about our invasion. No doubt some foreign newspaper will print that 'news' tomorrow."

If confirmed, the incursion could represent a dangerous push into territory in the Donetsk region under Ukrainian control after a brutal offensive by Kiev had led to government forces pinning back insurgents.

A rebel chief on Sunday announced a counter-offensive to the south of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk and claimed to have deployed fresh tanks and artillery.

AFP journalists witnessed heavy fighting to the south ofDonetsk with the sound of explosions ringing out and smoke rising from towns to the south.

While fighting raged on the ground, Moscow ratcheted up the pressure further by saying it would send another aid convoy into eastern Ukraine.

Russia last week sent more than 200 lorries filled with what it said was aid to the rebel stronghold of Lugansk in a move characterised by Kiev as a "direct invasion".

Lavrov announced that Russia wanted to send a new convoy this week and had appealed to Kiev to help facilitate the delivery after the first batch of lorries returned on Saturday.

Kiev and the west fear that the aid initiative could be a gambit to bolster the ailing insurgency or be used by Moscow as a pretext to invade, but Russia insists it just wants to help the stricken region.

More than 400,000 people have fled the fighting since April and residents in some rebel-held cities have been without water or power for weeks.

The upcoming meeting between Poroshenko and Putin has been seen as a rare opportunity to de-escalate tensions more than four months of fighting that has cost more than 2,200 lives.

Poroshenko has pledged to "talk peace" with the Russian president but insists the withdrawal of pro-Kremlin forces is the only way to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev has accused Russia of increasing arms supplies to the rebels as government troops cut deeper into their territory while Moscow has demanded Ukrainian forces cease their offensive.

Lavrov played down hopes for a major breakthrough in Minsk by saying only that the talks would "facilitate the exchange of opinions about the situation concerning efforts to start the political process to settle the political crisis".

International pressure is high on both sides to compromise as the crisis has sent east-west tensions soaring to their highest point since the end of the cold war.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, called for a bilateral ceasefire and tighter border controls during a visit to Kiev at the weekend while stressing support for Ukraine's territorial integrity.

She said later in an interview she wanted to find a way out of the crisis "that doesn't harm Russia" with the EU and US already having slapped the harshest economic sanctions on Moscow since the collapse of communism.

Passions rose further on Sunday after rebels paraded dozens of captured soldiers in front of an angry crowd in the centre of Donetsk in an event timed to undermine a military parade taking place in Kiev to mark Ukraine's independence day.

Kiev's defence minister, Valeriy Geletey, criticised the rebels for failing to respect "the laws of war and humanity".

"This is a challenge not just to Ukrainian society but to the world."

Lavrov stirred controversy further by saying that he "didn't see anything close to what could be considered as humiliating" in images of the parade.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands at the independence day celebrations in Kiev on Sunday, Poroshenko decried Russian "aggression" and said he was "convinced that the battle for Ukraine, for independence, will be our success".


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« Reply #192 on: Aug 25, 2014, 07:45 AM »


Ukraine: Russian tank column enters southeast

A column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles has crossed into southeastern Ukraine, away from where most of the intense fighting has been taking place, a top Ukrainian official said Monday.

By JIM HEINTZ
Associated Press
08/25/2014

KIEV, Ukraine —

A column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles has crossed into southeastern Ukraine, away from where most of the intense fighting has been taking place, a top Ukrainian official said Monday.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security Council, told reporters that the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near Shcherbak and that the nearby city of Novoazovsk was shelled during the night from Russia. He said they were Russian military vehicles bearing the flags of the separatist Donetsk rebels.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday he had no information about the column.

The reported incursion and shelling could indicate an attempt to move on Mariupol, a major port on the Azov Sea, an arm of the Black Sea. Mariupol lies on the main road between Russia and Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in March. Capturing Mariupol could be the first step in building a slice of territory that links Russia with Crimea.

Although Mariupol is in Ukraine's separatist Donetsk region, most of the fighting between separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops has been well to the north, including around the city of Donetsk, the rebels' largest stronghold. A full offensive in the south could draw Ukrainian forces away from the fight for Donetsk.

Lysenko said Mariupol has enough defenders "to repel any attack of uninvited guests."

Ukraine and the West say that Russia is supporting and supplying the rebels and that since mid-August, Russia has fired into Ukraine from across the border and from within Ukrainian territory. Moscow denies those allegations.

Fighting continued elsewhere in the east, notably around the town of Olenivka, 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Donetsk. Lysenko said Monday about250 separatists had been killed in that fighting, but did not specify in what time period. On Sunday, rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said two-thirds of Olenivka had been wrested away from Ukrainian control.

Ukrainian forces had made significant inroads against the separatists in recent weeks, but the rebels have vowed to retake lost territory.

Russia announced plans, meanwhile, to send a second aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where months of fighting have left many residential buildings in ruins.

Russia's unilateral dispatch of over 200 trucks into Ukraine on Friday was denounced by the Ukrainian government as an invasion and condemned by the United States, the European Union and NATO. Even though the tractor-trailers returned to Russia without incident on Saturday, the announcement of another convoy was likely to raise new suspicions.

Lavrov said Monday that Russia had notified the Ukrainian government it was preparing to send a second convoy along the same route in the coming days, but Lysenko said he had no information on that plan.

Lavrov also said the food, water and other goods delivered to the hard-hit rebel city of Luhansk was being distributed Monday and that Red Cross workers were at talks on how best to distribute it. There was no immediate confirmation on that from the Red Cross.

In sending in the first convoy, Russia said it had lost patience with what it called Ukraine's stalling tactics. It claimed that soon "there will no longer be anyone left to help" in Luhansk, where weeks of heavy shelling have cut off power, water and phone service and made food scarce.

The Ukrainian government had said the aid convoy was a ploy by Russia to get supplies to the rebels and slow down government military advances.

On Sunday, as Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its 1991 independence from Moscow, President Peter Poroshenko announced that the government would be increasing its military spending in a bid to defeat the rebels.

In rebel-held Donetsk, captured Ukrainian soldiers were paraded Sunday through the streets, jeered by the crowd and pelted with eggs and tomatoes.

___

Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Ukraine, and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report
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« Reply #193 on: Aug 26, 2014, 05:19 AM »


Russia admits its soldiers have been caught in Ukraine

Defence ministry source claims captured soldiers seen on video were on a border patrol and had strayed into Ukraine by mistake

Shaun Walker in Kiev
theguardian.com, Tuesday 26 August 2014 10.44 BST   

Sources in Moscow have admitted that men captured inside Ukraine are indeed serving Russian soldiers, but said they crossed the border by mistake. The admission comes as President malignant tumor Pig Putin Putin is due to land in Minsk for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday afternoon.

Videos were released by Ukrainian authorities of interrogations of prisoners, who said they were serving Russian army officers. One said he had not been told exactly where they were going, but had an idea he was inside Ukraine. There was no immediate confirmation of the authenticity of the recordings, but the fact that Russian wire agencies ran a defence ministry admission that soldiers had indeed crossed into Ukraine suggested that the footage was genuine.

"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," a source in Russia's defence ministry told the RIA Novosti agency.

Ukraine said it had captured 10 Russian soldiers, though it did not state how they were caught. Weapons and fighters are able to cross the porous border freely, but until now there has never been confirmation that serving Russian soldiers are active inside Ukraine, despite repeated claims from Kiev and some circumstantial evidence.

This makes the videos released on Tuesday all the more significant, if authenticated.

Two weeks ago, the Guardian saw a convoy of armoured personnel carriers and support trucks with Russian military plates cross an unmarked section of the border near the town of Donetsk.

Russia furiously denied that any incursion had taken place, and said the column was on a "border patrol" mission that stayed strictly on the Russian side.

The incursions by Russian soldiers are likely to be discussed at the meeting between malignant tumor Pig Putin and the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, on Tuesday.

Poroshenko has already landed in Minsk and malignant tumor Pig Putin is due to arrive in the early afternoon. The official reason for the summit is a meeting of the nations of the Customs Union, which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. But EU officials and Poroshenko are also invited, and all eyes will be on the expected meeting between malignant tumor Pig Putin and Poroshenko.

Russia has called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, but Kiev wants to finish its "anti-terrorist operation" to win back control of the whole country. Both leaders are under pressure from domestic audiences not to make concessions, and there is little hope of a major breakthrough.


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« Reply #194 on: Aug 26, 2014, 05:40 AM »

As Peace Talks Approach, Rebels Humiliate Prisoners in Ukraine

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW ROTH
AUG. 25, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — On the sidewalk of a busy street beside a checkpoint, a bearded gunman wrapped a woman in a Ukrainian flag and forced her to stand, sobbing in terror, holding a sign identifying her as a spotter for Ukrainian artillery. “She kills our children,” it read. Because the woman was a spy, said the gunman, a pro-Russian militant, everything that would happen to her would be well-deserved.

Passers-by stopped their cars to get out and spit, slap her face and throw tomatoes at her. Her knees buckled. She struggled to mumble in protest of her innocence and to shake her head in denial.

This theatrical scene of abuse unfolded a day after the rebel movement had paraded Ukrainian prisoners of war down a main thoroughfare here at bayonet point, then dramatically washed the pavement behind them.

The public humiliation of prisoners came as the presidents of Russia and Ukraine prepared to meet for peace talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Tuesday. The taunting and provocation appeared to be aimed at dissuading the Ukrainian government from accepting a settlement that might forestall a broader Russian intervention, a development that separatists here are banking on as their military fortunes wane.

Further muddying the prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough, Ukraine accused Russia on Monday of opening a new front in the war by sending an armored column across the border from Russia south of the Ukrainian lines that surround the rebel capital, Donetsk.

The Russian government dismissed the accusation and the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Moscow, said that Western governments should not expect Russia to make all the concessions in a settlement and that Ukraine, too, would have to compromise.

The Ukrainian military said 10 tanks and two armored infantry vehicles manned by Russian soldiers disguised as separatist fighters had crossed the border near the town of Novoazovsk and engaged in combat with Ukrainian border guards. The claim could not be independently confirmed.

Also on Monday, Russia announced it would send a second convoy of humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine across a border area controlled by pro-Russian separatists; Ukrainian officials say the movement of goods is calculated to undermine the country’s sovereignty.

The drama that played out on the streets of Donetsk Monday seemed sure to ratchet up tensions. A military unit of Russian nationals from the region of North Ossetia, in southern Russia, held the woman at a checkpoint in a roundabout in Donetsk known as “the Motel,” for a nearby hotel. The men, smiling and gesturing toward the woman, waved over cars for drivers to observe or take part.

“We should hang you on the square,” one woman in the crowd yelled, then walked up and spat in the face of the victim, then kicked her in a thigh, causing the woman accused of spying to stagger back.

The gunmen looked on. At times, the pro-Russian soldiers posed beside the crying woman to take selfies on their smartphones, or playfully twirl her hair with their fingers.

At one point, a fighter walked a few paces back, crouched in the street and aimed a Kalashnikov rifle at the woman in a mock execution. The woman shut her eyes. “Open your eyes, stand up straight!” another of the gunmen yelled.

A call placed by The New York Times to an aide for a senior separatist commander informing him of the abuse resulted in the rebel soldiers at the checkpoint briefly detaining the journalists. The aide, who uses only the nickname The Georgian, sent a car with gunmen to extricate the suspected spy and journalists from the Motel.

The two groups of gunmen agreed to release the journalists, but were not able to agree on handing over the woman. After the discussion, the captors drove her away to an unknown location.

The man known as The Georgian, who is a member of the Vostok Battalion, which consists of mostly local Ukrainians, said the Ossetian volunteers at the Motel checkpoint do not report to Ukrainian commanders, so nothing further could be done. He said he condemned the abuse.

At the peace talks in Minsk, President malignant tumor Pig Putin of Russia and President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine will be joined by representatives of the European Union and the Russia-led Customs Union, including the presidents of Kazakhstan and Belarus. Although the talks offer some hope for a negotiated settlement to the conflict, both Mr. Putin and Mr. Poroshenko are under strong pressure from nationalists at home to press on militarily.

Oleh Voloshyn, a former Ukrainian diplomat, said in a telephone interview from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, that Mr. Poroshenko will use the summit meeting to ask malignant tumor Pig Putin to halt the flow of Russian volunteers and military hardware across the border and may offer, perhaps in private talks or via subordinates on the sidelines, autonomous status for portions of eastern Ukraine in exchange. The Ukrainian government, however, will not accept any legitimization of the main rebel group here, the Donetsk People’s Republic, Mr. Voloshyn said, particularly after the public abuse of prisoners.

“After yesterday’s parade of prisoners of war, the sympathy toward the people of the Donbass is low in other regions in Ukraine,” he said, making it politically difficult for Mr. Poroshenko to negotiate, something that factions in the separatist movement intent on drawing in Russian peacekeepers want, Mr. Voloshyn said. “Most Ukrainians want peace. But if it comes to a choice between total humiliation and war, they will choose war.”

In Moscow, Mr. Lavrov, the foreign minister, was questioned about the parade held Sunday in which prisoners of war from the Ukrainian Army were displayed. Researchers with Human Rights Watch said the parade violated Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment against prisoners of war.” Mr. Lavrov said the parade did not appear to meet that standard. “I saw a picture of this parade,” he said. “I did not see anything close to abuse.”


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