Friday, 12 August 2016

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko preparing to attack Donbass and Crimea - an extremely dangerous situation

This is an incredibibly dangerous situation and if I had to venture a guess I would say that the shit will hit the fan in October – with everything coming together in a Perfect Storm.

Even RT seems to be playing this down while the western media is practically ignoring it.

Ukrainian president orders forces on border with Crimea and eastern Ukraine on highest alert

© Mikhail Palinchak / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko preparing to attack Donbass and Crimea
Despite angry rhetoric, private calls for restraint from the West likely to prevent war, though situation remains extremely dangerous.

Alexander Mercouris

11 August, 2016

In the aftermath of the shoot outs in Crimea the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, have met with their higher political and military leaderships. 

Putin’s meeting took the form of a plenary meeting of Russia’s Security Council, the body which was partially and hurriedly convened on Monday. Poroshenko’s meeting was with the Ukraine’s National and Security Council, a body that has a similar name to Russia’s Security Council but which does not have the same all-encompassing powers, and whose remit is far more narrowly restricted to defence and security questions.

Poroshenko has also put the Ukrainian military in Donbass and along the border with Crimea on alert. He is also trying to contact the US and European leaderships to gain their support.  It is a certainty that over the next few hours ritual statements of support for Ukraine and criticisms and warnings to Russia will indeed come from the US and European leaderships.

Putting aside all the rhetoric, will these latest moves result in war between Russia and Ukraine in Crimea, and between Ukraine and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the Donbass? 

Two things first need to be said.  Firstly the idea that there is peace in the Donbass is a myth.  Fighting goes on there every day on the contact line with the Ukrainian military regularly shelling militia positions and the militia shelling the Ukrainian military in return.  Firefights happen continuously  At the beginning of July Ukraine admitted losing 80 of its soldiers in fighting in the Donbass in the course of just one week, whilst towards the end of July Ukraine admitted losing 6 of its soldiers in a single clash on just one day.  Secondly the political situation in Ukraine is so unstable and the anti-Russian atmosphere there is so strong that it would be foolish to count on Ukraine showing any sort of restraint.  War is therefore unfortunately a very real possibility.

On balance however I doubt it will happen. The Kremlin’s brief summary of Putin’s meeting with the Security Council speaks only of discussions for “additional security measures and critical infrastructure protection in Crimea” and of a detailed review of “scenarios of counter-terrorism security measures along the land border, offshore and in Crimea’s air space.”  That suggests that the Russians are only looking at tighter security measures within Crimea itself, and that they at least have no plans to start a wider war.  That would of course be consistent with the whole approach the Russians have been taking ever since the Ukrainian conflict began in 2014.

As for Ukraine, though there are undoubtedly individuals there who are fully capable of starting a war and who show every indication of wanting to do so, I personally doubt that in the end Ukraine will take the plunge and go to war. Behind the ritual statements of support I expect both the US and the Europeans in private to be urging Ukraine to show restraint for two reasons:  firstly, because whatever they may pretend in public I am sure they have guessed the truth that it is the Russian account of the Crimean incident which is true; and secondly and far more importantly because they know that in any war between Ukraine and Russia – or even between Ukraine and the two People’s Republics of the Donbass – Ukraine would lose.

Obama certainly does not want another defeat in Ukraine in the middle of a US Presidential election campaign on his hands, especially since this would probably play into the hands of Donald Trump, though unfortunately the same cannot be said of some of the more psychopathic individuals who support Hillary Clinton, who seem to be yearning for confrontation with Russia on just about any pretext.  More to the point I just cannot imagine that Angela Merkel, facing criticism in Germany for her open-door refugee policy and with her anti-Russian policy coming under growing criticism from the SPD, the CSU and the German business community, wants another debacle in Ukraine on her hands. 

In fact I suspect that some people both in the US and Europe are privately furious with the Ukrainians for landing them in this mess, whatever they may feel obliged to say in public.  Whether or ot that is so I expect that the telephone lines between Western capitals and Kiev are currently burning with urgent calls for restraint.  Despite the strength of the war party in Kiev I doubt that the Ukrainian authorities in the end feel strong enough to disregard these calls.

There will be dismay in Europe over something else.  The Europeans have stupidly linked the lifting of sanctions against Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk II Accords notwithstanding that they know perfectly well that it is Kiev not Moscow which is not honouring them.  The whole premise of this foolish step was that it would pressure Moscow to make concessions.  In the event not only has Moscow failed to make any concessions but Putin has now called off the next Normandy Four meeting, which was supposed to review progress in implementing the Minsk II Accords.  With growing public anger in Europe over the sanctions there must now be panic on the part of some European leaders that the Russians may be prepared to walk away from the whole Minsk II process – which they foolishly linked the sanctions to – leaving these same European leaders high and dry. 

Just as I suspect that the telephone lines between Kiev and Western capitals are currently burning with calls for restraint, so I suspect that the telephone lines between Moscow and Western capitals are also burning with urgent calls to the Russians to modify and explain their new hard line and to recommit to the Normandy Four format.  I would not be surprised if the Russians in return are being given private assurances that the Western powers will act to prevent Kiev doing what it tried to do in Crimea ever again.  Whether of course the Russians would believe those assurances is another matter.

Having said all this I want to repeat again that the situation remains extremely dangerous.  Ultimately any decision for war or peace lies with Kiev.  No one in their senses would place any firm reliance on Kiev doing the sane thing. The next few days or hours will decide the issue.



August 11, 2016

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has disrupted a plot to carry out terrorist attacks in the Republic of Crimea. The attacks, planned by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Chief Intelligence Directorate, targeted critical infrastructure and facilities in Crimea. Russia’s intelligence services take the view that these planned acts of sabotage and terrorism were intended to destabilise the socio-political situation in the region in the run-up to federal and regional elections.A group of saboteurs were apprehended near the town of Armyansk on the night of August 6. An FSB officer was shot and killed in the process of apprehending the terrorists. Explosive devices with a total charge of more than 40 kilograms of TNT, munitions, grenades, land mines and other weapons were found at the scene. Ukrainian Defence Ministry special units made two further attempts to infiltrate Crimean territory in the early hours of August 8, but the groups of saboteurs and terrorists were intercepted by the FSB and other Russian forces. These attempts to infiltrate Crimea took place under cover from armoured equipment and massive fire by Ukrainian armed forces from inside Ukrainian territory. One Russian Defence Ministry serviceman was killed as a result.
Russia has now taken action to dismantle the Ukrainian Defence Ministry Chief Intelligence Directorate’s network of agents in Crimea and have detained Ukrainian and Russian citizens who aided in the preparation of these terrorist attacks. The detained individuals include Yevgeny Panov and Andrey Zakhtey. All of them have admitted their involvement and are giving a confession.
We have repeatedly brought to our partners’ attention that the current authorities in Kiev have no real interest in searching for a peaceful solution to the problems in Ukraine, are not ready to compromise, and intend to resolve issues that arise through the use of force, including terrorism now.
The attempts to enter Crimea unlawfully, the recent attempt on the life of Head of the Lugansk People’s Republic Igor Plotnitsky, the constant firing along the line of contact in Donbass, and the actions of radical nationalists and so-called ‘activists’ from around Ukraine that go beyond the bounds of any lawful framework are a vivid illustration of the state of affairs in Ukraine today. The numerous provocations, efforts to portray Moscow as the enemy, and the deliberate cultivation of anti-Russian sentiments are an attempt by the Ukrainian government to distract the public from the country’s own troubles and the problems affecting the majority of people in Ukraine. We see a deliberate effort to divert public attention from the actions and responsibility of those in power and their inability to carry out long overdue reforms and conduct an honest investigation into the murders of journalists and human rights activists and the crimes committed in 2014 during the Maidan protests, in Odessa, Mariupol, and other cities.
Ukraine’s government makes loud declarations in a bid to deny what is evident and pass responsibility for its own actions to others, even the UN Security Council – anything to avoid taking meaningful steps to normalise the situation.
We call on our partners, whose efforts play a large part in keeping the current regime in Kiev in power, to show common sense and finally get their Ukrainian wards to end their constant provocations and fulfil their obligations in accordance with Minsk Agreements on a political settlement in Ukraine.
Mr Poroshenko constantly touts the “unconditional support from the USA, NATO, and the European Union” in his “fight to return annexed Crimea”. The West’s willingness to play along with this rhetoric undoubtedly played a role in the Ukrainian leadership’s criminal decision to attempt an armed provocation in Russian Crimea. If the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces was involved in these decisions, he will have driven the final nail in the coffin of the peace process. If these decisions were taken without his knowing, then it is even worse. Kiev’s inaction in the face of growing militaristic rhetoric and violent acts planned and executed by so-called volunteer battalions and other extremists is cause for grave concern.
We hope that Western capitals will draw the appropriate conclusions.
Attempts to destabilise the situation in Russian Crimea are doomed to fail. Russia unconditionally guarantees Crimea’s stability and security.
Kiev and its foreign backers should know that any harm to Russia or the deaths of Russian personnel will not go unanswered.
As President Vladimir Putin noted on August 10, given the current situation and until we see real positive steps from Kiev, like renouncing terror and provocations, it makes little sense to hold Normandy format meetings, like the Beijing meeting in early September requested by Mr Poroshenko recently.
Once again, we call on our partners to use their influence with Kiev to dissuade the government from taking any dangerous steps that could have grave consequences. Playing with fire is dangerous.

Russia Pulls Out Of Ukraine Peace Talks Citing Crimea Attack; Videos Of Detainee, Weapons Captured

11 August, 2016

News of the border attack on Crimea by Ukraine last weekend has finally made mainstream media.

What woke up mainstream media was not the attack per se.

Rather, it was hard for mainstream media to not report on a result of the attack: Russia pulled out of Ukraine peace talks.

First let’s consider Colonel Cassad’s report on Details of Detained Ukrainians and Their WeaponsUkraine denies anyone was detained.

Sabotage and reconnaissance groups tried to break through in the Crimea over the weekend. Three people were arrested out of it, the rest retreated to the territory of Ukraine. This was told by a source in Russian law enforcement. According to him, two attempts to break through Ukrainian territory in the Armenian district of the city were taken. One of them – on the night of 6 August 7th. That’s when broke through sabotage and reconnaissance group of 15 people. The second group tried to break through August 8, the saboteurs used the ICV. During attempts to break into the territory of the Crimea have been detained at least three saboteurs. This happened at a time when they were laying different types of explosives including anti-tank mines and other types with a total capacity of 40 kilograms of TNT Group of detainees, according to a source, led the citizen of Ukraine Evgeny Panov was born in 1977. He is a career employee GUR Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. The source said that all the detainees are on the territory of Crimea.

Evgeny Pano Detained


It’s pretty hard to claim no one was detained when videos prove otherwise (see footage towards end of this video).

Here’s a Russian version of the August 6-7 Attack on Crimea.

With a tip of the hat to Colonel Cassad and Jacob Dreizin, I had this story correct a couple days ago: Russia Masses Troops on Crimea Border; Ukraine Warns Russian Invasion Possible “At Any Minute”

Financial Times Synopsis

The Financial Times has a reasonably close synopsis of Russian claims in Putin Accuses Kiev of Armed Crimea Incursion.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Wednesday that it had foiled “terrorist acts” prepared by Ukrainian military intelligence against infrastructure in the territory, with the aim of disrupting Russia’s parliamentary elections due on 18 September. Kiev has denied the allegations.
In response to the alleged operation, Mr Putin said he was pulling out of international peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He said he was no longer ready to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, and German and French leaders in the so-called Normandy format, which has been used for negotiations. Mr Putin hinted at a possible meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China early next month.
Under these conditions, meeting in the Normandy format, especially in China, is meaningless,” Mr Putin said at a press conference. “Apparently, the people who seized power in Kiev and continue to hold on to it, instead of seeking compromise, instead of searching ways of a peaceful settlement, have moved on to the practice of terror.”
The FSB, the successor organisation to the KGB, claimed that one of its officers and a Russian soldier had been killed while taking down the Ukrainian plot last weekend. The FSB said the soldier died in an exchange of fire with the Ukrainian army across the border that now separates Crimea from the rest of Ukraine — a level of fighting between the two militaries not seen even during the annexation. Moscow said it had arrested several people, including an Ukrainian military intelligence officer.
Ukrainian intelligence denied an officer was detained, and officials said Russian claims of a plot were unfounded. The Ukrainian defence ministry described the Russian claims, which could not be independently verified, as “an attempt to justify redeployment and aggressive actions by military units of the Russian Federation on territory of the temporarily occupied peninsula.”
In Moscow’s account of the alleged Ukrainian incursion, the FSB said it had confronted a group of “saboteurs” in the town of Armyansk, just south of the border with Ukraine, overnight on Saturday. It alleged that 20 home-made explosive devices, as well as a collection of weapons normally used by Ukraine’s special forces, had been found. 
The FSB said a second operation followed on Sunday night when Ukrainian troops had tried to ram their way into Crimea supported by armoured vehicles.
The Minsk accords, brokered by France and Germany in early 2015, sharply reduced the intensity of the conflict from its peak in 2014. However, as fighting in the Donbas region continues, the opposing sides have failed to implement political aspects of the Minsk deal that envision Donbas reintegrating with Ukraine. 
Russian officials have been criticising Ukraine for failing to implement certain components of the agreement, such as legislation enshrining special status for majority Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine. Observers say Russia and the fighters whom it backs have equally failed to deliver, but that the structure of the Minsk deal has made it easy for Moscow to focus on Kiev’s lack of progress.

Minsk II Violations

Minsk II is set up in a way that Russia can blame Ukraine for not meeting the political targets, and then you lose the perspective that Russia is still fueling this conflict,” said a European diplomat in Moscow.

The preceding paragraph is precisely what one would expect from mainstream media. Here’s a short translation: “It’s all Russia’s fault”
In reality, it’s clear both sides have violated aspects of the Minsk II agreement.

However, Ukraine has taken none of the key steps on constitutional reforms and local autonomy laws for Donetsk and Luhansk as promised.


Tomorrow’s Ukraine discusses the reasons for a “deadlock” in Minsk II: A Trap, or an Escape?

France is calling for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties.”
—French President Francois Hollande.
We are confident that only through full and faithful implementation of the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015 can we put an end to the bloodshed and find a way out of the deadlock.”
—Russian President Vladimir Putin.
We are here to implement the Minsk deal, not to call it into question.”
—German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Many leaders in the East and West find the Minsk II Agreement indispensable. But is this truly the case?
Why Isn’t Minsk II a Slam-Dunk?
Point 9 says that control of the border between Russia and Ukraine should be restored to Ukrainian control IF Ukraine successfully implements Point 11; which, in turn, requires Ukraine to enact constitutional amendments permanently decentralizing power and to pass laws permanently granting special status to separatist territory, which would entail local self-government, the right to form “people’s militias,” and more. And then there’s Point 10, which mandates the “pullout of all foreign armed formations” and the “disarmament of all illegal groups.”
But here’s the rub: popular opinion in Ukraine makes it impossible to discuss a special status for the breakaway territories until free and fair local elections are held there, and “free and fair” effectively means that illegal armed groups and foreign armies need to pull out. But Minsk II says that border control doesn’t need to be restored to Ukraine until after it decentralizes, while also requiring that local elections be held in accordance with Ukrainian law.
This is the definition of “deadlock.” Elections that prop up what Kyiv calls “terrorist regimes” would be difficult for Ukraine’s elite to sell to the people, regardless of the merits of such a plan. The general fear on Ukraine’s side is that if Kyiv approves of the elections in rebel-held territory, the separatist leaders—who would likely win any election held at their guns’ points—would claim some degree of legitimacy. Public opposition to granting even the slightest concessions to the separatists, much less elections that could possibly lead to “special status,” is driven by populists like Oleh Lyashko and his Radical Party, as well as by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Fatherland Party, both of whom stand to gain many seats in Parliament if MPs are unable to form a government and new elections are held.
The “Prisoners’ Dilemma” from game theory describes this situation exactly. The game illustrates why two rational actors might not cooperate, even though cooperation is in both their best interests. 
The second main reason why Minsk II is seen as controversial is that it requires Ukraine to enact constitutional amendments that devolve some powers to local and regional governments. In the fall of 2015, it became clear that Ukraine was not going to be able to enact the constitutional amendments required. The German, French, Ukrainian, and Russian heads of state, meeting in Paris on October 2, 2015, informally decided to postpone the deadline into 2016.

Minsk II Designed to Fail

Minsk II
With so many obvious complications, Minsk II was setup to fail right from the start.

By accident or design, the setup is precisely what warmongers like

Who Instigates Russian-Ukrainian War Over Crimea?

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