Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ukraine army helicopter shot down near Sloviansk

May 29 (BBC News Ukraine) Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have shot down a military helicopter near Sloviansk, killing 14 people, the country's outgoing president says. 
President Turchynov said the 14 dead included Maj Gen Serhiy Kulchytskiy, head of combat and special training for Ukraine's National Guard. It is one of the worst losses of life for government forces in the conflict. Last week at least 14 soldiers died in a rebel attack on an army checkpoint near Donetsk, some 130km (80 miles) from Sloviansk. Earlier this month, separatists shot down two army helicopters, also near Sloviansk, killing a pilot and another serviceman. Mr Poroshenko has called the separatists "terrorists" intent on maintaining a "bandit state". After Sunday's election he vowed to tackle them "in hours", not months.

Obituary: Major General Serhiy Kulchytsky

Major General Serhiy Kulchytsky, who led the combat training department in Ukraine's National Guard, was among more than a dozen people killed when pro-Russian separatists shot down a military helicopter near the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk. The attack has been described as one of the worst setbacks for Ukraine's government forces since they began an offensive against the rebels in April. Gen Kulchytsky was appointed head of the military and special training directorate at Ukraine's National Guard after President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February 2014. He had been promoted to the rank of major-general by Mr Yanukovych six months earlier.
Born on 17 December 1963 in Weimar, in the former German Democratic Republic (DDR), General Kulchytsky had a military upbringing. His father served with the Soviet forces stationed in the region. He graduated from the Ussuriysk military college in the Soviet Far East in 1981 and went on to train at the Far Eastern Higher Military Command School in the city of Blagoveshchensk, attaining a distinction in 1985. His military career began with the role of marine platoon commander at the Soviet Northern Fleet in the northern Murmansk region.
After Ukraine became an independent state, Gen Kulchytsky moved to the west of the country and became deputy commander of a National Guard battalion in Ternopil in 1992. Moving up the ranks, he became the battalion's commander in 1994. And in 2010 he was appointed deputy commander of the Western Command of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's troops. Gen Kulchytsky was married with a son. He was travelling with soldiers to a base near Sloviansk when their helicopter was shot down.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Petro Poroshenko claims Ukraine presidency

May 26 (BBC News Ukraine) Ukrainian confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko has claimed outright victory in the country's presidential election. Mr Poroshenko, known as the "chocolate king", won more than 55% of the vote in the first round, exit polls suggest. Announcing he had won, the 48-year-old businessman promised to forge closer links with the EU and restore peace in restive eastern regions. 
Pro-Russian separatists severely disrupted voting there. Some 20 people have died in fighting in recent days. No polling stations were open in Donetsk city, and across the region only seven out of 12 district electoral commissions were operating. The separatists are in control of large areas of the Donestk and Luhansk regions. Four hours before polls closed, at 16:00 (13:00 GMT), unofficial estimates put the turnout nationwide at 45%.
  Vitaliy Klitschko (right) says he has been elected mayor of Kiev

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chocolate Putins are flying off the shelves in Ukraine

24 May 2014 (BBC News Ukraine) When revolution gripped Ukraine at the beginning of the year, Lviv, in the country's west, was at the centre of events. Activists set up barricades in the city and travelled to Kiev, where they helped oust the former president, Viktor Yanukovych. Now the situation has stabilized and its residents are again enjoying the charms of this Middle European city. But as David Stern has found out, on the eve of  Ukraine's presidential elections, the people of Lviv are still very much engaged in the country's politics - although in their own special way.

( Chocolate figures of the Russian president Vladimir Putin — wearing a prison uniform and holding a bomb — have become a popular treat in candy stores in western Ukraine.The figurines were designed by professional sculptors and have hit confectionery stalls in the city of Lviv. Customers can also purchase another model of Putin, wearing a Napoleon Bonaparte-style hat and a straightjacket. Priced from 35 hryvnias ($2.93) for a small 100-gram figure to 65 hryvnia for a 250-gram piece, the chocolates are mostly snatched up by tourists. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ukraine's chocolate billionaire tipped for president

23 May 2014 (BBC News Ukraine) Violence has continued in eastern Ukraine, which is due to hold its presidential election on Sunday. Clashes, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk, have seriously disrupted preparations for the polls. The frontrunner in opinion polls is billionaire chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko. Daniel Sandford reports on the man who could be set to take on the current crisis.
See this video at

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Brokered talks to begin in Kiev

May 14 (BBC News Ukraine) Talks to end the crisis in Ukraine are due to begin in Kiev, brokered by international monitors, but pro-Russian rebels look unlikely to attend. The OSCE - a security and rights monitoring group drawn from European and North American states - said Russian President Vladimir Putin supported its initiative. A veteran German diplomat, Wolfgang Ischinger, has been brought in to moderate Wednesday's talks. But reports suggest that representatives of the pro-Russian separatists, who in any case lack a single leader or agreed goals, will not attend the talks. Furthermore, the interim government has refused to talk to separatists. "The government in Kiev does not want to listen to the people of Donetsk," Denis Patkovski, a member of a pro-Russian militia in Sloviansk, Donetsk region, told the Associated Press news agency. "They just come here with their guns." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, currently visiting Ukraine, said he hoped that Wednesday's talks would lead to the separatists disarming and would also improve the atmosphere for the presidential election.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has held talks in Kiev and Odessa 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in Berlin, said the more representative the talks were, the better. But she added: "Clearly, people are only welcome if they can credibly show that they are prepared to reach their goals without violence." Armed separatists continue to occupy key government buildings in the east while Russia denies fomenting the unrest just over its border.
Nato believes some 40,000 Russian troops are deployed near Ukraine's border, although Moscow says they have been pulled back. Russia annexed Ukraine's southern autonomous republic of Crimea in March following a controversial referendum and the Ukrainian interim government fears a similar outcome in Donetsk, Luhansk and parts of the south.
Charred wreckage a day after Ukrainian troops were ambushed in the east 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin visits annexed Crimea

May 9 (BBC News Ukraine)  President Vladimir Putin is making his first visit to Crimea since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in March. He told crowds marking the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis that Crimea had shown loyalty to a "historical truth" in choosing to be part of Russia. 
In the Crimean port of Sevastopol, Mr Putin thanked the armed forces for their role in World War Two and hailed the incorporation of the peninsula into the Russian Federation. He watched a fly-by of Russian aircraft and addressed seamen on naval vessels, as crowds gathered on cliffs overlooking the harbour. He said: "I am sure that 2014 will go into the annals of our whole country as the year when the nations living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, affirming fidelity to the historical truth and the memory of our ancestors."
The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Sevastopol says Mr Putin was treated as a conquering hero as he walked through the main square and shook hands with Crimeans. Mr Putin earlier addressed thousands during a huge, hour-long military parade in Moscow's Red Square, vowing to defend the "motherland". He told the crowd that 9 May, known as Victory Day in Russia, was a "day of grief and eternal memory" and stressed how the "iron will of the Soviet people" had saved Europe from slavery.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Dozens killed in Odessa fire amid clashes

May 2 (BBC News Ukraine) At least 31 people have been killed in a fire in an official building amid violence in Odessa in south-west Ukraine, the interior ministry says. The deaths came as pro-Russian protesters clashed with Ukrainian government supporters in the city. Officials said some people were overwhelmed by smoke and others died after they jumped from the building. Earlier President Oleksandr Turchynov said many separatists had been killed in a government offensive in Sloviansk. Activists have seized scores of government buildings and detained observers in eastern Ukraine.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Sloviansk rebels down army helicopters

May 2 (BBC News Ukraine) Pro-Russian rebels have shot down two of Ukraine's army helicopters during an "anti-terror" operation in the eastern city of Sloviansk, Kiev has said. It said a pilot and serviceman had been killed, four suspected separatists held and 10 rebel checkpoints seized. Half of the city was later declared "under control" of the Ukrainian units.There has been no independent confirmation of the claim. Separatists at three checkpoints earlier told the BBC they were still in control there.
Russia said the use of the army by Kiev against its own people "is leading Ukraine to catastrophe".
Describing the military operation as "punitive", the Russian foreign ministry also urged Western powers to give up their "destructive" policy on Ukraine. The ministry earlier warned that any assaults by Ukraine's troops in the region would have "catastrophic consequences", triggering fears of an invasion by Moscow. Separately, several foreign journalists were reportedly detained in Sloviansk and some of them were released later. Sloviansk is a stronghold for pro-Russian separatists who are exerting increasing control in the region.