Tag Archives: Ukraine

Oops, They Did it Again: Russia Invades Ukraine

Russian-Tanks-In-Ukraine-AGain

For what I believe is now the 50th time, Russia has once again invaded Ukraine. Russian military tanks, artillery, air-defense systems, and combat troops have reportedly entered eastern Ukraine over the past two days.

“Across the last two days we have seen the same thing that OSCE is reporting. We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air-defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, said.

Gen. Breedlove expressed concern that the border between the former Soviet allies was now “completely wide open,” allowing Moscow to potentially bolster rebels in eastern Ukraine who are continuing to pick fights with government troops despite a so-called ceasefire. Nothing says ceasefire like sending in tanks!

The ceasefire agreed by the pro-Russian rebels and government forces more than two months ago is pretty much non-existent now. Amid fears of a return to full-scale fighting, Ukraine is redeploying troops in the east.

And once again, Russia is denying the whole thing. A Russian Defence Ministry official, Gen.-Maj. Igor Konashenkov, said in Moscow that “there were and are no facts” behind such statements and Russia had given up paying attention to such accusations by NATO.  Moscow also denied sending in troops and armour back in August but said some Russians may have been there as volunteers during their holidays and some soldiers may have gotten lost and “accidentally” crossed the border. Come NATO, how many times do they have to say it?! They were tourists taking a family vacation in a tank!!

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Ukraine Seeks NATO Membership

Current Event Cat - Has Nato

Amid the ongoing effort to subdue the pro-Russian rebels in the eastern part of the country, Ukraine has decided it wants to join NATO after all – which is kind of like trying to get home insurance when your house is already on fire.

In an attempt to regain control of eastern Ukraine and establish stronger ties with the West, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has submitted a proposal to Parliament to put the country on a path towards NATO membership.

Ukraine may be denied NATO coverage due to a pre-existing condition (a bad case of the Russians), but if they do join, it will surely piss off Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia was quick to denounce Ukraine’s moves to join NATO as well as NATO’s plan to turn up the heat in Eastern Europe.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ahead of the Western military alliance’s two-day summit in Wales that opens on Thursday that the growing Russian threat meant NATO must create a bigger presence in Eastern Europe. NATO is expected to endorse the creation of a new military force of some 4,000 troops capable of moving on only about eight hours’ notice.

“The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the East,” says Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“We must face the reality that Russia… considers NATO an adversary,” he told reporters. “We cannot afford to be naive.”

While Ukraine was busy asking NATO for help, Russia was busy denying their military support of the pro-Russian insurgency. Although Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Russia of direct involvement in Ukraine, with NATO saying last week that Russia had more than 1,000 of its troops deployed in Ukraine and 20,000 massed along the border, Russia continues to deny sending troops. And when Ukraine released a video of Russian paratroopers it says it captured within its eastern border, Russia was quick with an excuse. Russian military responded by saying the men had crossed an unmarked portion of the border “by accident”.

But not everyone was buying that – especially Canada. In its most aggressive act since 1812, Canada’s NATO delegation sent out a tweet in map-form to the Russian soldiers “who keep getting lost and ‘accidentally’ entering Ukraine”.

Canada NATO

The Russian NATO delegation then returned fire with a tweet from its official account. On their map the Crimean Peninsula is labelled “Russia” and the conflict-ridden area in eastern Ukraine is conveniently absent.

Russia NATO

I guess ownership is TBD… ?

Meanwhile, more than a million people have left their homes because of the escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine and some 2,600 people have been killed since the violence erupted. But there’s nothing like a little Twitter diplomacy to lighten the mood!

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Current Event Cat of the Day: MH17

Current EVent Cat - MH17

All 298 people on board flight MH17 died when it crashed over the pro-Russian rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine on July 17. The good news is that CNN will have enough material for the next 3-6 months. The bad news is… everything else.

Since the tragedy, the US and other nations are growing increasingly suspicious of Russian complicity in the crash.

Secretary of State John Kerry said “it’s pretty clear” the missile that downed the commercial jetliner came from “a system that was transferred from Russia.”

As for Vladimir Putin, he pointed his finger at the pro-Western government in Ukraine, arguing Ukraine’s crackdown on separatist rebels stoked tensions that led to the disaster.

“I believe that if military operations had not resumed in eastern Ukraine on June 28, this tragedy probably could have been avoided,” Putin said, referring to the end of a 10-day-old cease-fire.

Interesting theory. And how can you not trust a guy who kills his political rivals?

Putin’s involvement aside, there has also been international outcry over the way rebels have handled the whole situation. Pro-Russian rebels have delayed access to the site, allowed untrained volunteers to comb through the area, and even seized the remains of MH17 victims and stored them in train cars, much to the dismay of the international community.

John Kerry said on television on Sunday, “Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site. What’s happening is really grotesque and it is contrary to everything President Putin and Russia said they would do.”

Pro-Russian rebels have since allowed Dutch investigators to examine bodies from the crashed MH17 flight at a railway station in eastern Ukraine, but internatonal investigators are still being denied full access to the wreckage at the accident site.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels on Monday – the first fight since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. Ukrainian military tanks reportedly launched an assault in Donetsk in an attempt to break the separatists’ hold of the city.

All in all, you know it’s a rough situation when it’s eclipsing an onslaught of Israeli air strikes and a (mainly civilian) Palestinian death toll of 500.

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Current Event Cat of the Day – Black Hawk Down: Ukraine Edition

Current Event Cat - Ukraine Helicopter Black Hawk

So much for not turning into Somalia… Rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down a government military helicopter black hawk down style Thursday amid heavy fighting in the town of Slovyansk.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov (until the Chocolate King takes over) said the rebels used a Russian-made anti-aircraft system to bring down the helicopter. Ukraine’s National Guards put the death toll at 12 soldiers, including one general.

Slovyansk, a city of 120,000 residents in the Donetsk region (one of the two provinces in eastern Ukraine that have unilaterally declared independence from the evil government in Kiev), has seen fierce fighting between separatists and government forces in recent weeks. And it’s not the first time the region has been some black hawk down action. Earlier this month the separatists shot down two other army helicopters, also near Slovyansk, killing a pilot and another serviceman.

Shortly after his election win, President-elect Petro Poroshenko (aka the Chocolate King) vowed to tackle the “bandits” in the east “in hours”, not months.

“The anti-terrorist operation should not last two or three months. It should last for a matter of hours,” Poroshenko said on Monday, adding: “They (pro-Russian separatists) want to preserve a bandit state which is held in place by force of arms. These are simply bandits. Nobody in any civilized state will hold negotiations with terrorists.”

He also vowed not to let eastern Ukraine turn into Somalia.

“Their goal is to turn Donbass (east Ukraine) into Somalia. I will not let anyone do this to our state and I hope that Russia will support my approach.”

Well, he better hurry up and take over office, because once you go full Somalia, it’s hard to go back. Just ask Somalia.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: The Chocolate King

Current EVent Cat - Chocolate King

All hail the Chocolate King! While the rest of Europe took the ultra right-wing xenophobic route, Ukraine turned to chocolate, electing the billionaire candymaker Petro Poroshenkohas.

Ukraine’s Chocolate King-turned-politician Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential elections with 54 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a run-off vote. The 48-year-old billionaire and former foreign minister, was formally declared the winner on Monday and wasted no time in promising to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow. If anyone can sweet talk Putin, it’s the Chocolate King!

But things aren’t going as smoothly as the Chocolate King would like. During the elections, armed separatists in the eastern regions took over polling stations, blocking some citizens from casting their ballots. And then after the election… trouble continued with bloody clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk. At least 30 pro-Russia separatists were reportedly killed after a failed attempt to take over the airport early on Monday.

“The airport is under our full control. The enemy suffered heavy losses. We have none.” Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.

So far, Poroshenkohas has taken a no-nonsense approach with the pro-Russian troublemakers.

There are no talks with terrorists,” said the centrist pro-Western tycoon.

“Their goal is to turn Donbass (east Ukraine) into Somalia. I will not let anyone do this to our state and I hope that Russia will support my approach.”

Vowing not to let Ukraine turn into Somalia, the go-to example of a failed state? Don’t set your goals too low Chocolate King…

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Pro-Russian Separatists and Their Pro-Russian Vote

Current Event Cat - Pro Russian Rebels

Despite a weak effort on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s part to postpone any independence referendums in Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists went ahead with the “self-rule” referendum and the results were decidedly pro-Russian.

Last week, in a possible attempt to appease the West, Putin called for a postponement of the independence referendums in eastern Ukraine in order to create the conditions necessary for dialogue. But the pro-Russian separatists in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk decided to go ahead with the vote anyways.

So while Putin spent his weekend attending a giant Soviet-style parade in Moscow’s Red Square and travelling to newly annexed Crimea to check out some of Russia’s warships and bask in the loving patriotic chants of Crimeans, rebel leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk geared up for a hastily put together self-rule referendum.

The leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said the decision to proceed with the vote had been unanimous.

“We just voice what the people want and demonstrate through their actions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities (along with the US and the EU) say they will disregard the results, calling the referendums an illegal farce with no legal consequences for Kiev.

And the results of the illegal referendums are in… and the pro-Russian separatists have declared a resounding victory in their favour!

According to the pro-Russian leaders,who counted up the votes without the help of international election monitors, roughly 89% of Donetsk voters and 96% of Luhansk voters opted for sovereignty in the Sunday elections.

Cue more violence and further sanctions on Russia, who Ukraine is accusing of orchestrating the unrest in a possible attempt to grab another chunk of the crumbling country.

But before Donetsk and Luhansk can go full Crimea, they must first ask Putin whether or not Russia will “absorb” them. So far the Kremlin has shown no immediate intention of annexing eastern Ukraine, although they still haven’t pulled back their 40,000 troops from the border. Either way, Donetsk and Luhansk had better ask Russia extra nicely to take them in – because neither region could survive economically on their own.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Putin Backs Down… A Bit

Current Event Cat - Softer Stance Putin Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pulled his forces back from the border and endorsed Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25 as a step “in the right direction”.

Speaking on Wednesday during a meeting with the Swiss president, President Putin appeared willing to keep his promise not to invade Ukraine (for now).

“We’re always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds,” Putin said.

After a tumultuous week that involved pro-Russian militants wreaking havoc in Odessa while Ukrainian officials scrambled to reclaim what’s left of the eastern region of the country, killing at least 30 pro-Russian separatists in the process, Putin now appears willing to make some concessions – with a few conditions of course.

Putin urged pro-Russian activists in southeastern Ukraine to cool it, suggesting that the series of independence referendums planned for this weekend should be called off “in order that conditions necessary for dialogue are created”. Instead, he gave his approval to the May 25 presidential election in Ukraine, calling it a “step in the right direction.”

BUT Putin made it clear that the vote would decide NOTHING unless the rights of “all citizens” were protected.

“I would like to stress that… while they are a move in the right direction, [the election] will not decide anything if all the citizens of Ukraine fail to understand how their rights are protected after the elections are held,” Putin said.

The Kremlin says it will protect the rights of the largely Russian-speaking people in south and east Ukraine against what it calls an undemocratic, Euro-wannabe government in Kiev.

Of course, protecting the rights of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population was kind of their rationale for annexing Crimea, so who knows what will happen…

UPDATE: NATO and the Pentagon say Putin is pulling a fast one on them and there is no indication that Russia has withdrawn its forces from its border with Ukraine. Oh Putin!

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Insane in the Ukraine: Pro-Russia Mobs Seize Buildings and Declare Donetsk a People’s Republic

ukraine-donetsk-protests-referendum

Russia’s sinister plot to get the whole Soviet gang back together is unfolding very quickly. After pro-Russian protesters took control of government buildings on Sunday, they declared the Ukrainian city of Donetsk a “people’s republic”.

Over the weekend pro-Russian groups in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine occupied a number of government buildings, protesting against the new, less Russian interim government in Kiev. Things went one step further in Donetsk when protesters proclaimed independence called for a referendum on secession from Ukraine by May 11.

Ukrainian officials were not too pleased at the rapid deterioration of their country.  In response to the unrest, Ukrainian leaders, including the interior minister Arsen Avakov, accused Moscow and ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych of inciting “separatist disorder.”

“Putin and Yanukovych ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country. The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive,” Avakov wrote on Facebook.

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov also condemned the seizure, calling the unrest an attempt by Russia to “dismember” Ukraine.

Following the government building seizures, Ukraine sent in a bunch of security officials to  Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv to try and calm things down, but it didn’t stop the protesters from proclaiming the Donetsk region independent and demanding a secession referedum. Pro-Russia activists are even asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to send “peacekeeping troops” to the region.

“Without your support, without the support of Russia, it will be hard for us to resist the Kyiv junta on our own,” one activist said.

Russian troops remain within 30km of the border and NATO says up to 40,000 Russian soldiers have mobilized and present a distinct threat to Ukraine – so maybe the pro-Russian activists will get lucky.

However, according to Moscow, Putin has no intention of invading. But… he does reserve the right to protect the rights of ethnic Russians, which pretty much leaves the door open for an invasion at any time.

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Ukraine May Have a New King… A Chocolate King. And Other News…

Klitschko to not run for president Chocolate King

The Chocolate King takes the lead! Former boxing champ Vitaly Kilschko bowed out of Ukraine’s presidential race, deciding to endorse  48-year-old billionaire Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko, dubbed the Chocolate King after his money-making chain of confectionery shops, is now the front-runner for a May 25 presidential election. Well, he was the front runner before Kilschko backed out too… but now the Chocolate King’s victory against Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, is pretty much solidified. The more pro-Russian Ukrainians should be fairly pumped about that – especially after a recorded phone convo leaked, in which Tymoshenko is heard saying “One has to take up arms and go wipe out these damn ‘katsaps’ [a derogatory Ukrainian term for Russians] together with their leader,” and “I would have found a way to finish off these bastards.” Globe and Mail

Sad HollandeHow do you say electoral meltdown in French? France’s Socialist Prime Minister resigned along with his entire government after President Francoise Hollande’s Socialist party suffered major losses in Sunday’s elections. The Socialists lost in 155 towns with more than 9,000 inhabitants during Sunday’s municipal elections – but they did win in Paris, so that’s something. But if the Socialists are down, who’s up? The far-right! The far-right National Front enjoyed unprecedented extremist success, capturing 11 key constituencies. President Hollande is expected to announce a new cabinet and, taking a cue from the nation’s swift move to the right, he chose to replace the old PM Jean-Marc Ayrault with Manuel Valls, the tough-talking Interior Minister who is fiercely anti-immigration. BBC News

Glitchy Healthcare.govIt just wouldn’t be the last day to enroll on Healthcare.gov if there wasn’t some type of glitch. Apparently the last minute scramble to sign up for Obamacare was too much for the website to handle. As tens of thousands rushed to sign up for Monday’s Obamacare deadline, the website crashed again and was down for six hours Monday morning. Then it was up. Then it activated its “virtual waiting room.” Then it blocked newcomers creating accounts. Then it was up again, with 1.6 million visitors before 2pm. Technical glitches aside, more than 9 million people who didn’t have insurance before have signed up through federal and state exchanges and according to Joe Biden, who’s on some kind of Obamacare promotional tour, they are “going to be better off for it.” Politico

Cat WhaleThe Chinese have their shark fins and the Japanese have their whales – until now. In an effort to end whaling in the Southern Ocean, Australia decided to sue Japan, arguing that Japan’s assertion that its whaling is for scientific purposes is totally bogus. On Monday the International Court of Justice sided with Australia (and the whales) and ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program. Presiding Judge Peter Tomka said Japan failed to justify the large number of whales it aims to catch annually. “The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking, and treating of whales … are not ‘for purposes of scientific research‘,” Tomka said. In other breaking news, water is wet and the sky is blue. CBC News

Water BaptismTurns out believing in Jesus is no substitute for a flotation device. A 43-year-old man is missing after he was reportedly swept out to sea during a California baptism ceremony on Sunday morning. Mauro Cervantes, the pastor of Santa Maria Church of Jesus Christ Light of the Sky, said the man and two others were dragged off the beach by a rogue wave during the ocean baptism ceremony. While the two others were able to make it back to shore, the 43-year-old is still missing. NY Post

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Who Knew That Tupac Shakur Was Alive And Well In Russia?

Tupac Shakur Sanctions

As the United States and the European Union pile sanctions on Putin for annexing Crimea, Russian politicians are laughing them off – apparently while listening to Tupac Shakur.

In Moscow, sanctioned Russian officials mocked the White House’s announcement that the U.S. was going to impose costs on Russia for making military moves in Ukrainian territory. Turns out freezing assets and banning travel visas don’t do much to discourage Putin’s top aides.

Vladislav Surkov, a top Putin advisor and one of the eleven Russian and Ukrainian officials slapped with White House sanctions, declared that he’s “proud” to have made the sanctions list, equating it to a “political Oscar from America for a best supporting actor”.

“The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg and Jackson Pollock,” Surkov told a Russian newspaper. “I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Allen Ginsberg the gay, peace loving hippy poet? And Tupac Shakur? Did 90s music just hit Russia? Maybe next year they’ll get the Notorious B.I.G.

Putin, Putin, Putin, can’t you see, sometimes your Cold War tactics just hypnotize me…

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s chief foreign policy aide, also dismissed the sanctions, saying they “are already a bore.”

“They truly cause a sense of irony and even sarcasm,” he told Interfax on Tuesday.

Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister of Russia in charge of defense (and friend of Steven Seagal!), took to Twitter to ridicule the U.S. sanctions.

“I think some prankster prepared the draft of this Act of the US President,” he wrote.

“Comrade @BarackObama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?”

Screenshot 2014-03-18 21.38.19

It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will have any impact on Russia’s plan for Crimea – but from the looks of it the answer is no. President Obama may have to resort to much more drastic measures than freezing assets and restricting visas to convince Putin to hand Crimea back to Ukraine – perhaps freezing Putin’s Facebook account?

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