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Thread: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

  1. #51
    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Ukraine claims to have averted an assassination attempt on Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders by Russia-backed terrorists.

    Nothing has been verified yet.

    There are hardly any English sources for this, so you'll have to settle on this Lebanese website:

    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/1...dutch-minister

    Ukrainian security services claimed Tuesday to have thwarted a plot against the Dutch foreign minister as he paid his respects to the victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

    The alleged plot against Bert Koenders dates back to November 8 in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, where he and a delegation were due to visit a building housing the remains of some of the victims.

  2. #52
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...t-putin-russia

    In a few days Russia’s last remotely independent radio station could be silenced. Ever since the country’s energy conglomerate Gazprom took a majority holding, Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) has battled against censorship. The station’s editor in chief, Alexei Venediktov, has long become accustomed to threats, but Friday’s meeting could mark the last for him. His station has already been given a final warning for airing a discussion about the fighting in Ukraine – information, said the regulator, that was “justifying war crimes”.

    The fate of the station is symptomatic of a country where a clique of political, financial and security interests has trampled on anything in its way. The author of Russia’s misfortune is one man, Vladimir Putin. During the G20 meeting of the top industrial nations in Australia, the Russian president was subjected to a series of public and private criticisms from other world leaders. The question is not why they did it, but why it has taken them so long?


    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...iversity-exile

    When Russia-backed separatists took over the Donetsk National University campus in September, ousting the university’s rector, appointing their own replacement and bringing gunmen to guard the building, Tetyana Nagornyak knew it was time to leave.

    As acting dean of the history faculty, some of the gunmen were stationed in Nagornyak’s office, making it impossible for her to work. Though they did not threaten her and her colleagues directly, Nagornyak knew they could not continue to teach under those conditions.

    “This is when I realised I can’t work at gunpoint,” she says.

    Led by the university’s original rector, Nagornyak traveled with a group of other teachers to Vinnytsia last month, to negotiate the university’s move to a new campus, which was later approved by Ukraine’s Education Ministry.

  3. #53
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    This post on Bellingcat from September is quite interesting, they attempt to identify the Buk that has appeared in several videos and images:

    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-a...ussian-troops/



    And this should refute the conspiracy wing nuts (for instance Zero Hedge) who claim that a too early date stamp proves that Ukraine fabricated important evidence:

    https://gist.github.com/klaufir/d1e694c064322a7fbc15

    The incorrect date results from a programming error on YouTube and appears on other videos as well.

    In fairness, it is true that the Ukrainian government forces made false accusations about the rebels.

  4. #54
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Putin has been eyeing up supporters inside the EU and has found them in (for the greater part) extremely authoritarian right-wing populists, even some fascist groups and a few mavericks from other parties. There are money strings to le Front National. Other suggested targets for support are the AfD, the NPD, the Lega Nord, Jobbik and Golden Dawn:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wo...u-9883052.html

    President Vladimir Putin is widely suspected of being behind an extraordinary Russian cash and charm offensive that is reported to be trying to woo Europe’s far-right populist parties in order to strengthen the Kremlin’s political influence within the European Union.

    In recent weeks, the Kremlin’s targets have included France’s xenophobic Front National (FN) party, and politicians from three German parties including the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Social Democrats (SPD).
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wo...s-9888509.html

    The financial and political firepower of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) is to be transformed by a €40m (£32m) loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin, it has been alleged.

    Ms Le Pen confirmed earlier this week that a Russian bank was lending her cash-strapped, far-right party €9m. This is part of a growing pattern of connections between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and far-right and Europhobic parties in the European Union.
    http://www.dw.de/is-the-kremlin-fina...sts/a-18101352

    Many right-wing European political parties are anything but shy when it comes to showing their pro-Russian sentiments. Millions of euros have also been deposited by Russian banks in the pocket of France's Front National.
    So Putin's getting snug and chummy with European populists, authoritarians and (former) fascist/neo-Nazis. Well, birds of a feather...

    The question is, does this mean that several of the neo-Nazi fighters on the Ukrainian side will defect to the Russian side in a few months?

  5. #55
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    So, there was a lot of resentment in Putin's speech today about the West denying Russia its proper place in the world. (For many Russians, Russia's proper place in the world is at the head of an Eurasiatic empire.)

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30527984

    President Vladimir Putin has sought to ease fears over Russia's economy, insisting that the dramatic fall in the rouble will stabilise.

    Speaking at his end-of-year news conference, which lasted over three hours, he blamed "outside factors" for the currency hitting an all-time low.

    But he admitted Russia's central bank could have acted more swiftly.

    Russia is on the verge of recession due to falling oil prices and sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

    However, the president denied pursuing an "aggressive" foreign policy and accused the US and EU of conspiring to weaken Russia.
    On Ukraine, President Putin said he was hopeful the conflict could be solved through peace talks.

    He urged the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country to conduct a quick "all for all" prisoner swap before Christmas.

  6. #56
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    And I forgot to mention that the EU imposed new sanctions on Russia:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29154488

    New EU sanctions against Russia have gone into force, blocking loans for five big state banks and curbing EU business with oil and defence firms.

    The aim is to keep pressure on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis. But the measures could be eased or lifted if a ceasefire in Ukraine holds.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the EU of "taking a path towards undermining the peace process".

    Nato says Russia still has about 1,000 heavily armed troops in east Ukraine.

    The EU sanctions will block the export of services and deep-water technology for Russia's oil industry.

    Three major Russian state oil firms are targeted: Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, the oil unit of gas giant Gazprom.
    Obama has promised to detail new American sanctions tomorrow (Friday).

    US President Barack Obama said his country would join the EU in imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, targeting the defence, finance and energy sectors. He said he would provide details on Friday.

  7. #57
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    A closer look at the ideological surround of Russian politicians, Russian nationalist separatists and the Russian public will help understand why the Russians can't suffer Ukraine to have a reasonable degree of sovereignty.

    The BBC's Tim Whewell describes the mindset of some Russian volunteers in the Donbas:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30518054

    Since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine eight months ago, the Kremlin has denied any direct involvement, including sending Russian troops. But there are Russian fighters on the ground who are proud to announce their presence - and to discuss their ideas of "holy war".

    Even when the morning sun catches the gold domes of its Orthodox churches, the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, stronghold of the pro-Russian rebels, doesn't look much like Jerusalem. Trolley-buses trundle through the dirty snow, past belching chimneys and the slag-heaps from the coal-mines on the edge of town.

    But through the smoke and grime, Pavel Rasta sees a sacred city - and he's fighting for it, Kalashnikov in hand, just like the Crusaders fought for the heart of Christendom centuries ago. He may be a financial manager - most recently working in a funeral parlour - who's never held a gun before in his life, but he sees himself as the modern version of a medieval knight, dedicated to chivalrous ideas of Christian purity and defending the defenceless.
    There is an explanation on the meaning of Putin's unbearable rhetoric at Vox. It is all rather obvious stuff, referencing the Russian fear of an ever-expanding NATO.

    http://www.vox.com/2014/12/18/741494...-essential-for

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a press conference on Thursday to address the country's increasingly dire economic crisis, made an extended, bizarre reference to bears that is drawing a lot of attention, and rightly, because it makes him sound absolutely crazy.

    But Putin's bear quotes — and the bear, it is widely understood in Russia, is a metaphor for the Russian nation — are actually essential for understanding Putin and his growing hostility to the West.

  8. #58
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Don't believe the forecasts and promises written down there, but Russia Today is accurate about China's proposal for a currency deal:

    http://rt.com/news/216563-china-russ...mic-hardships/

    China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.

    “Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation," Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity."
    Putin's weakness is in matters of the economy and pundits agree that he doesn't know where to borrow a clue:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/12/21/no_p...onomy_partner/

    MOSCOW, Russia — Vladimir Putin’s marathon news conferences are typically a time for the characteristically cool former secret agent to add shine to his claim of steering his country out of the toughest of times.

    But he had few good answers on Thursday when it came to Russia’s most pressing problem: a quickly tanking economy that threatens to shake up global markets.
    Russia’s worst economic crisis since a government debt default in 1998 — a seminal moment whose fallout helped propel Putin to power with a promise of stability — poses the Kremlin its biggest challenge yet.

    Although the president’s approval ratings remain sky-high, the threat of a crashing currency, high inflation and diminishing savings may well stir discontent among ordinary Russians if those trends continue into next year.

  9. #59
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    There aren't any English sources for this yet, but evidence has come forward that again suggests that a ground-to-air missile battery from separatist held territory was responsible for bringing MH17 down.

    http://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/binne...alde-mh17-neer
    http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/12/22/...neergeschoten/

    The photos show fumes coming from a field in rebel territory. Some fumes resemble those of missile launches, others are darker and show that part of the field caught fire. This is consistent with the evidence of satellite images from several days later.


    Photograph showing light fumes:

  10. #60
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Russia would say that all of that is fabricated using Photoshop, knowing Russian propaganda.
    Spoiler: See my plush Kirby toy with wizard hat 
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  11. #61
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    By the way, the Russian version is that it totally was a Ukrainian fighter jet/Buk missile launcher that deliberately did this to rally Western countries against Russia (the main players in the EU were less than enthusiastic about sanctions earlier).

    That is also the popular version among conservative/libertarian conspiracy theorists (Infowars, Zero Hedge).



    And there are of course other conspiracy theories, from AIDS/HIV denialism (or the contrary, that the scientists on board had a cure for AIDS) to people who see Masonic/Zionist/Illuminati plots everywhere.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ati-russian-tv
    Last edited by Villerar; December 24th, 2014 at 02:54 AM.

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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Poroshenko accused Russia of having 9,000 soldiers active in the east of Ukraine.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30913027

    Russia has 9,000 soldiers and 500 tanks, heavy artillery and armoured personnel carriers in eastern Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko has said.

    He urged Russia to withdraw its troops and comply with a ceasefire plan, amid escalating fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels in the east.

    Russia has repeatedly denied claims its soldiers are fighting with the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

  13. #63
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Separatists have rejected any cease-fires, at the moment at least.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30949527

    The main pro-Russian rebel leader in eastern Ukraine says his troops are on the offensive and he does not want truce talks with Kiev.

    Alexander Zakharchenko said his forces would push the front line back to the borders of Donetsk region. They are in control of the city of Donetsk.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukrainian government forces of "criminal" shelling of civilian areas.

    Kiev "ordered the start of major combat operations" along the front, he said.

    Earlier, Mr Zakharchenko said the rebels "will not make any attempts at ceasefire talks any more".
    It is difficult to believe that the rebel gains in recent months could have been achieved on their own. That Russia continues to deny any involvement is absolutely farcical.

  14. #64
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Separatists are attacking Mariupol, after having been the likely culprits of a rocket attack on the city. (In fairness to them, the Ukrainian government has probably killed a lot more people by shelling Donetsk.)

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...shell-mariupol

    Grad rockets rained down on residential areas of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday, killing at least 30 and wounding more than 90, according to local authorities.

    The rockets, apparently fired by pro-Russia rebels, came on the day their leader announced an assault on the city, despite earlier denials from rebel authorities that they were responsible.

    “Today an offensive was launched on Mariupol. This will be the best possible monument to all our dead,” said Alexander Zakharchenko, speaking at a memorial event for those killed in a mortar attack on a trolleybus stop in the rebels’ capital Donetsk on Thursday.
    The important thing is that this has reopened an old front. It is suggested that rebels only could mount this offensive because of Russian support.

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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Earlier this week, European countries considered to increase sanctions against Russia:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31000692

    EU leaders have asked their foreign ministers to consider imposing further sanctions on Russia in response to the continued fighting in Ukraine.

    A statement said the ministers, who will meet on Thursday, should "consider any appropriate action, in particular on further restrictive measures".

    It urged Russia to observe last September's Minsk ceasefire deal, which has been ignored amid clashes between Ukraine's army and pro-Russian rebels.

    More heavy shelling has been reported.


    But that may have hit a new snag. Greece wants to steer a deviant course on Russia. That is problematic as it makes European foreign policy less coherent.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...tsipras-merkel

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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    The US are also considering to increase their sanctions:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31018092

    US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said sanctions against Russia could be extended because of the escalation of violence in east Ukraine.


    The EU sanctions have been extended but not expanded:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31033924

    EU foreign ministers have agreed to extend existing sanctions against Russia until September.

    At an extraordinary meeting in Brussels, they also agreed to discuss names to add to the list of individuals targeted for EU travel bans and asset freezes.

    However, they did not agree on imposing new economic sanctions against Russia.

    The ministers met as fighting raged in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies any involvement in the conflict.

  17. #67
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Heavy fighting has ensued in and around Debaltseve, roughly between Donetsk and Luhansk:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31055881

    Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels are exchanging heavy tank and artillery fire in and around Debaltseve, a strategic town in eastern Ukraine.

    There are reports - not independently confirmed - that the rebels have seized the nearby town of Vuhlehirsk.

    Many civilians remain trapped in Debaltseve, while others - including people with shrapnel wounds - have managed to reach the town of Artemivsk.

    Russian media say shellfire has killed seven people in the city of Donetsk.


    In a display of Kafka-esque bizarreness, Russia continues to deny involvement. This opinion article, despite its obvious bias, lays out why that is ridiculous.

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinio...ne/515039.html

    Everybody knows that so-called Novorossia in eastern Ukraine is awash with modern Russian weapons. Social networks publish photos and videos daily showing endless columns of military vehicles traversing the region. Whenever Ukrainian forces manage to destroy such a column, they show the documents carried by the soldiers who manned the tanks and armored vehicles.

    And yet, as recently as last week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once again stated that Russia does not supply military equipment to the separatists and demanded that Russia's accusers present evidence.

  18. #68
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    The U.S. government considers to offer Ukraine military aid, most outstanding is this of course includes arms:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...ks-says-report

    President Barack Obama’s administration is considering providing Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons and equipment in the face of a rebel offensive that has shattered a five-month truce, according to the New York Times.

    The newspaper quoted US officials as saying secretary of state John Kerry and US joint chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey were open to discussions of the idea and that Nato military commander General Philip Breedlove supported providing such lethal aid.

    One official was quoted as saying that US national security adviser Susan Rice was also prepared to reconsider her previous resistance to providing such assistance.
    This development is legitimately worrying. It could easily lead to escalation of the current crisis and I think the Russian government will see it as a challenge. Besides, I think it will be easier for Russia to step up its military support and mobilisation in the Donbass than for the U.S. So it could turn out very bad if the conflict does escalate to the point of a cold war between the United States and Russia.

  19. #69
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Something has come out of the negotiations in Minsk:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...in-minsk-talks

    The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France appeared set to announce an agreement on Thursday morning aimed at achieving a ceasefire within 48 hours in the Donbass region following all-night talks on resolving the Ukrainian conflict.

    Details began to emerge after more than 12 hours of peace talks in the Minsk, the capital of Belarus, with one source saying there was hope agreement could be reached and another saying a document would be signed, according to news agencies.

    But the document may be a joint declaration rather than a full agreement, and signed by lower-level envoys rather than the leaders themselves, said Reuters, quoting sources.

    The Kremlin press service said on Thursday that talks were continuing.

    Any agreement would however be sent to a “contact group” that includes representatives of the pro-Russian rebels, whose involvement could be crucial, Reuters was told.
    The question is whether whatever it exactly is will in fact be enforced.

  20. #70
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    The ceasefire is to go into force on Saturday at midnight. There is bombardment going on at the moment, so whether it will ever get to a ceasefire an open question.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31449981

    New shelling has been reported in the rebel-held east Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, a day after a peace deal was reached in Minsk.

    There are no confirmed reports of casualties. Both cities are near the front line where the pro-Russian rebels face government forces.

    The ceasefire agreed in the Belarusian capital is to begin in eastern Ukraine after midnight (22:00 GMT) on Saturday.

    The EU has warned Russia of additional sanctions if the deal is not respected.

    BBC journalists in Donetsk heard new shelling on Friday morning, though they said it sounded less intense than in recent days.

    Luhansk also came under bombardment overnight - with Russian TV reporting some of the heaviest fighting in months.


    Encore:

    http://coub.com/view/4z2tx

    kek

  21. #71
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    The ceasefire hasn't been observed everywhere, but there was no fighting at most parts of the front:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31483116

    The Ukrainian military command said the pro-Russian rebels had attacked 112 times since early Sunday, mostly in the bitterly contested Debaltseve area.

    A Ukrainian officer said there was also fighting near Mariupol, a port city.

    The rebels accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Donetsk airport. Meanwhile, further EU sanctions against Russia have gone into effect.

    The new sanctions list targets 19 officials - most of them in the pro-Russian separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, but also two Russian deputy defence ministers and a Russian celebrity singer and MP, Iosif Kobzon.

    Armed separatist groups are also targeted, including a Cossack formation. Those listed are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes across the EU.


    It is annoying about the BBC that they constantly add a line like "Russia denies that their military is involved in Ukraine", which makes the sentence sound unduly sceptical. Try have some scepticism after this!

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...led-in-ukraine

    A growing body of information about Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine has started to reveal a damning picture of Moscow’s intervention in the separatist conflict there, despite Kremlin denials of involvement.

    As fighting continued to flare in the east particularly around Donetsk airport, an online organisation has catalogued more than 260 people reportedly killed in eastern Ukraine. The Open Russia organisation , started by the Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has also published a map showing where the dead are from.

    The official denial of Russian military participation in Ukraine has pressured the relatives of those who served and died there to keep silent, and could deprive many of them of the benefits to which they are entitled. But some have started to speak out.

  22. #72
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Putin has demanded that the Ukrainian government surrenders Debaltseve, as he is squirming from the conditions of the ceasefire:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31514295

    The US has accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreement on Ukraine, as the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve the ceasefire deal.

    Vice-President Joe Biden said "the costs to Russia will rise" if it continued to violate the accord.

    Fighting is continuing around the strategic town of Debaltseve, with pro-Russian rebels saying they now control most areas.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine's troops there to surrender.

  23. #73
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    From this it clearly emerges that Russia always wanted to violate the ceasefire to begin with.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...-rebels-russia

    Ukrainian troops are retreating from the hotspot of Debaltseve after intense fighting in what marks an important strategic victory for pro-Russia forces.

    “All units are being withdrawn. The order was given at six this morning by army command,” said Yevgeny Shevchenko, aide to the commander of the Donbass Battalion, on the road between Debaltseve and Artemivsk. He said 6,000 soldiers had been in the city.

    Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, said more than 80% of his troops in the town had left.

    The size of Debaltseve – it was home to about 25,000 people before the war emptied its streets – belies its strategic importance to rebels as the site of a rail junction connecting their strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sought to delay a ceasefire by 10 days to give separatists time to capture the city, an EU summit was told last week.

  24. #74
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    It looks like serious political commentators are becoming more willing to describe the current Russian power matrix with the f-word.

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/is-rus...02-13szrz.html

    Julia Gillard began her last year as prime minister with a statement on national security declaring that "Australia enters a new era of national security imperatives".

    Pronouncing the end of the 9/11 decade, she looked to the future: "It will be an era in which the behaviour of states, not non-state actors, will be the most important driver and shaper of Australia's national security thinking."

    In other words, time to get beyond a preoccupation with terrorism and look to the old-fashioned business of statecraft. She pointed in particular to the tensions between the United States and China as the defining question.

    Tony Abbott, opposition leader at the time, took issue with her: "The most important security threats we face are Islamist terrorism and an unstable world."

    Two years on, Abbott has given his own prime ministerial statement on national security. It was wholly about terrorism and the rise of a "new dark age". There was not a single word in last week's speech on the dangers of competition between nations.
    I disagree that Russia is fascist, as there is no actual leader cult, no anti-communism, no anti-conservatism (Putin is if anything a conservative), no third-positionism and there is still a nominal, semi-functional democracy in place.

    And I don't think China and Da'esh are fascist either, even though Leninism and its derivations, especially Stalinist-inspired ideologies, do share a significant number of features with fascism.

  25. #75
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    It appears that the ceasefire is slowly beginning to take hold. Notable withdrawals have taken place.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31806946

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says pro-Russian rebels in the east have withdrawn a "significant" amount of heavy weapons.

    Speaking on TV, Mr Poroshenko said his government forces had also pulled back "the lion's share" of their rocket and heavy artillery systems.

    Under a ceasefire reached in February both sides were due to pull back heavy weapons by the beginning of March.

    The ceasefire appears to be taking hold despite continuing clashes.

    The opposing sides have accused each other of breaking the truce or using it as a cover to regroup.

    At least 6,000 people are believed to have been killed and more than one million have fled their homes since conflict erupted last April in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    In another development, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted for the first time that the plan to annex Ukraine's Crimea region last March was ordered weeks before the referendum on self-determination.

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