Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Kharkiv mayor transferred to Israel for treatment after assassination attempt

April 30 (Brisbane Times) Kharkiv mayor Gennady Kernes may have been able to see the person who shot him, one of the surgeons who operated on him yesterday following the attempted assassination has said.
Dr Andrey Kozachenko, deputy head of Meschaninov Emergency Aid Hospital said the gunman would have been in front of Mr Kernes based on the entry and exit wounds caused by the bullet, contrary to initial reports in which a witness described Mr Kernes being shot in the back. “Yes, he was shot in the front,” Dr Kozachenko said on Tuesday morning, after he assisted in yesterday’s surgery. The bullet entered Mr Kernes’ front left side, destroying one of his adrenal glands and causing damage to his stomach and muscle around the spinal cord, before exiting his back, he said.
“Fortunately not the liver, fortunately not the heart, fortunately not the kidney … fortunately not any major organs,” Dr Kozachenko said. Mr Kernes might have been able to see the shooter and identify them when he recovers, Dr Kozachenko said, although the mayor would be facing a recovery of perhaps half a year. Dr Kozachenko said Mr Kernes, who is Jewish, was transferred to a hospital in Israel at about 3am in a stable condition for further operations.
He said he wasn’t sure which exact hospital Mr Kernes was transferred to, but thought it was one in Haifa because it was close to the border with Syria and the doctors there would have treated thousands of gunshot wounds. Yury Sydorenko, director of information at the council, said Israeli doctors decided after examining his wounds that Mr Kernes could be transported and he was flown out early on Tuesday. He is now being treated at Elisha, a private hospital in the northern city of Haifa.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ukraine: Photos 'show Russian troops' in east

April 21 (BBC News Europe) The US State Department has released photos of soldiers in eastern Ukraine, which it says show that some of the fighters are Russian special forces. The BBC is unable to verify the pictures, which were provided by Ukrainian diplomats. The photos appeared to identify Russian soldiers, and show similarly equipped and armed fighters in different cities in eastern Ukraine. There was no immediate response to the pictures from the Russian government. Pro-Russian militants are holding official buildings in towns and cities in the east. However, Russia has denied it has any soldiers in Ukraine. The photos, provided to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, appeared to show the same man taking part in operations in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine, and in operations in Georgia in 2008.
Diplomats said the soldier circled in red was seen in both Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, and in a photo (centre) showing a group in the Russian Special Forces

Ukrainian diplomats said the fighters in Kramatorsk (left) and Sloviansk were similarly equipped and armed
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The bloody fighting in Mariupol

April 17 (BBC News Europe) Three pro-Russian separatists have been shot dead in a clash with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, near the Azov Sea, Ukraine's interior minister says. Separatists attacked a military unit in Mariupol overnight and troops opened fire, killing three, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post on Thursday. According to Mr Avakov, 13 of the attackers were wounded and so far 63 have been detained. He said none of the interior ministry troops had been killed. Mariupol is in the far south of Donetsk region, where separatists have seized dozens of official buildings. The operation is continuing - Ukraine has sent in reinforcements including helicopters. There was no independent confirmation of his statement. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ukraine 'bid to take back Sloviansk police HQ'

April 13 (BBC News Europe) On Saturday, armed men took over police stations and official buildings in Sloviansk and two other eastern towns - Kramatorsk and Druzhkovka. Similar reports emerged from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk of armed men dressed in camouflage arriving in buses and storming the police stations. Pro-Russian demonstrators also continued their occupation of the main administrative building in the regional capital Donetsk, which they have held for one week. A protest leader told the BBC that the activists in Sloviansk took action to support the Donetsk sit-in. Eastern Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population and has seen a series of protests since the ousting of Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
Ukrainian forces have launched an operation against pro-Russian activists who seized a police station on Saturday, the interior minister says. Arsen Avakov announced on his Facebook page that "all security units" were involved in an "anti-terror operation" in the eastern city of Sloviansk.
Russia warned earlier that any use of force in eastern Ukraine could scupper crisis talks due later this week. The US accuses Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kiev government was "demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country".
Four-party talks involving Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU are due to start in Geneva on Thursday. Busloads of armed men

A small group of gunmen took over the police station in Sloviansk on Saturday

Friday, April 11, 2014

In pictures: Russian military build-up near Ukraine

April 11 (BBC News Europe) Nato's decision to release over 20 satellite images and associated maps of the Russian military build-up on Ukraine's eastern frontier is a signal of the concern among the alliance's commanders that a Russian military option against Ukraine is very much on the table, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports.

The imagery issued by Nato's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Shape) reportedly dates from late March and early April. It encompasses five locations in an arc around Ukraine's frontier. Imagery from a sixth site was provided by Airbus Defence and Space.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Coal miners' thoughts on future

April 10 (BBC News Europe) In eastern Ukraine pro Russia activists continue to occupy government buildings in two cities - Luhansk and Donetsk. This region is important as Ukraine's industrial heartland. The BBC's Steve Rosenberg has been finding out what coal miners in Donetsk think about the crisis.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Russian debate: Invade or persuade?

April 8 (BBC News Europe) Tensions are rising in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, as pro-Russian demonstrators occupy government buildings. Meanwhile, the Russian media look on and mull whether it's time for their country to step in - or even to annex more of its neighbour's territory.

Russian militants are raising the stakes in eastern Ukraine

"Current events hardly seem real," writes Dimitriy Durnev in Novyye Izvestiya, "and reminds one a lot of a film." Mikhail Rostovskiy in Russian daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets calls the situation "a tornado, a hurricane that sweeps away everything in its path and does not recognize any state borders". He continues:
The east of Ukraine was not the one to throw the first stone in the conflict. It only took on a challenge that it was confronted with. The east of Ukraine is trying to talk to the west of Ukraine in the only language the latter understands... The inevitable conclusion is that it is time for Ukrainian servants of the people from all regions to again start mastering the political art that has been completely lost in the country - the art of negotiating.
Russian author and political dissident Eduard Limonov writes in Izvestiya that he is not surprised by the recent turn of events.
"I predicted many years ago that the independence Ukraine got for free might not stand the first serious endurance test. And this is exactly what has happened," he writes.
What occurs next, he continues, is up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I advise him to make Donbass [in eastern Ukraine] part of Russia," he says. "The West will not hamper this. And relations with them have been spoilt forever. We understood that they wanted to make Ukraine a base for attacking Russia and to take hostage eight million Russians living in Ukraine. This will not happen."
Russia is facing a "difficult choice", writes Sergey Frolov in Trud:
Diplomatic methods of settling the intensifying crisis in Ukraine are still available. But if Kiev decides to play an all-or-nothing game and blood is shed in the south-east, talk will be of no use any more... The key thing is obvious: Ukraine is missing its last chance to preserve its statehood and territorial integrity.
Kirill Khartyan in Vedmosti agrees that Mr Putin is confronting an "unpleasant dilemma":
Suffer sanctions - even from Germany, which has proved most loyal in the given circumstances - that would extend beyond the Ozero cooperative [nickname for businessmen close to Mr Putin] and would most certainly worsen the already not-so-brilliant situation in the Russian economy, or disappoint overjoyed Russians who, having got the gift of Crimea, are prepared for new gifts. I think in the vision of values held by the Russian leader the second option is much worse.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pro-Russian protesters have stormed government buildings in three eastern Ukrainian cities.

April 6 (BBC News Europe) Ukraine's acting president called an emergency security meeting in response. The unrest comes amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the removal of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow has the right to protect the Russian-speaking population there. Ukraine's leaders deny the country's Russian speakers are under threat and have said they will resist any intervention in their country. Ukrainian Acting President Olexander Turchynov cancelled a planned visit to Lithuania and called a meeting of the country's security chiefs to deal with the unrest.
In Donetsk, in what was reportedly the day's most violent protest, a large group of activists broke away from a crowd rallying in the main city square to attack and occupy the regional government seat. After clashing with riot police and breaking through their lines to enter the building, they raised the Russian flag and hung a banner from the building. Protesters outside cheered and chanted: "Russia, Russia."
 Ihor Dyomin, a spokesman for Donetsk local police, said about 1,000 people had taken part in the storming of the building. "Around 100 people are now inside the building and are barricading the building," he added.
In Luhansk, police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters who broke into the local security service building in an attempt to force the release of 15 pro-Russian activists who were arrested earlier in the week and accused of plotting violent unrest. Local news reports said at least two people had been injured in clashes, and TV pictures from the scene showed a riot policeman being taken away on a stretcher. And in Kharkiv, several dozen people also entered the regional government building after breaking through police lines. They waved Russian flags out of windows as a crowd outside cheered and chanted. Police officers reportedly refused to use force against the crowd and moved away from the government building after the pro-Russian supporters broke in.

Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused President Putin and Mr Yanukovych - who was forced from office in February following months of street protests and is now living in exile in Russia - of "ordering and paying for another wave of separatist turmoil in the country's east".
In a message posted on his Facebook account, he said: "The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive. The situation will be brought under control without bloodshed. But at the same time, a firm approach will be used against all who attack government buildings, law enforcement officers and other citizens."
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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ukraine rejects Russia Gazprom gas price hike

April 5 (BBC News Europe) Ukraine has rejected moves by Russia to almost double the price of Russian gas supplies to the country and threatened legal action. Ukraine's interim PM, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said Moscow's hikes were a form of "economic aggression". His energy minister said Ukraine would try to negotiate a gas deal, but warned that if talks failed Ukrainians should prepare for Russia to cut off supplies. Moscow says the price change is due to Kiev's failure to pay its bills. Russia's state-controlled company Gazprom has raised the cost of gas to Ukraine by 81% to $485.50 (£292.86, 354.33 euros) from $268.50 for 1,000 cubic metres. The increase comes amid tense diplomatic relations following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Correspondents say the gas price rise could also affect supplies to Europe.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Russia nearly doubles Ukraine gas price in a week

April 3 (Euronews) For the second time in three days, Russia has raised the price of gas for Ukraine, stepping up pressure on an economy already on the brink of bankruptcy. The head of state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that 1,000 cubic meters would now cost $485.
That means that since the start of the week, the price Moscow is charging Ukraine has nearly doubled. An earlier increase was announced on Tuesday. In hiking the price, Russia has scrapped two discounts simultaneously. One was introduced in 2010 when Ukraine agreed to extend terms for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea until 2042. The second was agreed in December after Ukraine’s then President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped a trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties to Moscow.
As part of that deal, the Russian government agreed to scrap gas export duties for Ukraine-bound gas. Earlier this week, however, the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, voted to annul the agreement on the Black Sea Fleet after Crimea was annexed by Russia. Ukraine, which has a new International Monetary Fund loan package to cushion some of the blow, has dismissed the increase as politically motivated, saying the price was too high and that it should not have to pay for supplies at this level. But Gazprom has now also said that Ukraine’s debts for Russian gas now stand at $2.2 billion, up from an earlier estimate of $1.7 billion. On Thursday, it additionally told Ukraine to increase the level of gas in storage to ensure its stable transit to Europe.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ukraine crisis: No sign of Russian troop pullout - Nato

April 1 (BBC News Europe) Nato is not seeing a Russian troop pullout from the border with Ukraine, the military alliance's chief has said. Anders Fogh Rasmussen again stressed that the best way to solve the crisis was through "a political dialogue". Nato foreign ministers are now discussing ways to help Ukraine and also reassure allies in Eastern Europe. This comes after Russia's takeover last month of Ukraine's Crimea region. Meanwhile, Moscow warned Kiev against integration with Nato. It is the first time ministers from the 28-member Nato bloc have convened since the annexation of Crimea. The alliance has also bolstered air drills to be held over the Baltic states. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he had ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops near the eastern border of Ukraine, according to the German government. Moscow is believed to have massed tens of thousands of soldiers there in recent days, causing alarm in Kiev and the West.
Russian energy firm Gazprom is increasing the price it charges Ukraine for gas from Tuesday. Gazprom's chief executive Alexei Miller said the price of Russian gas for Ukraine had gone up to $385.5 (£231) per 1,000 cubic metres in the second quarter of 2014 from the previous rate of $268.50. Mr Miller added that Ukraine's unpaid gas bills to Russia stood at $1.7bn.
In other developments on Tuesday
  • Ukraine's parliament ordered security services to disarm all "illegal armed groups", following Monday night's shooting in Kiev that involved a member of the radical Right Sector group
  • MPs in Kiev voted to allow to hold joint military exercises with Nato and other nations on Ukrainian soil
  • Russia's upper house of parliament voted to pull out of a treaty with Ukraine on the Black Sea Fleet's presence in Crimea