Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gorbachev: Ukraine could explode into 'hot war' between Russia and the West

(CSM) Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader and widely credited for helping end the cold war, today blamed the West and the US in particular for “dragging” Russia into what he says could be a larger, “hot war” over Ukraine.

"Unfortunately I cannot say for sure that a cold war won't lead to a 'hot' one,” Mr. Gorbachev was quoted. “I fear they could take the risk.”
For years, the West has considered former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev a voice for understanding, dialogue, and restraint – even as he is widely pilloried in Russia for his role in helping dismantle the Soviet communist empire under his policies of glasnost and perestroika.
Yet in recent months, the former Soviet leader has changed some of his internationalist stripes, and he has made nods toward the approval of Putin's policies in claiming territory in Russia's so-called near abroad. Gorbachev is on record saying that Russia’s de facto annex of the Crimean Peninsula is legitimate, and corrects a historical mistake – a position of changed borders not accepted by much of the world community.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

• Latest News Letters East Ukraine Rebels Push Military Out of Donetsk Districts

Govt Declares Rebels 'Terrorists,' Seeks More Foreign Aid

by Jason Ditz, January 27, 2015

Rebels in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast have reported that their forces have successfully pushed the military’s troops out of two key districts on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, their de facto capital.The rebels say their goal right now is to push the Ukrainian military out of artillery range of the city and to increase control over the surrounding area, with an eventual goal to capture the rest of the oblast.
Nine Ukrainian troops were reported killed and 30 wounded in the fighting, and the military says they will continue to shell the front lines in both Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine’s parliament also officially declared the rebels “terrorists” today, and the Russian Federation an enemy “aggressor.” The moves are in keeping with their long-standing rhetoric, but officials say they believe the latest declaration will secure them some more foreign aid from NATO nations.
EU rebuffs Greek criticism of Ukraine statement

(Reuters) - The European Union rebuffed on Wednesday criticism from the new Greek government that it had not been consulted about a statement calling for work on possible new sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

EU leaders issued the unusual joint statement on Tuesday in response to an upsurge in fighting in Ukraine, a day after left-winger Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece's prime minister.

Tsipras's office said on Tuesday the EU should have secured consent from Athens before issuing the statement. It said Tsipras had voiced his dissatisfaction in a phone call with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
In a further sign that the election of the new Greek government will make it even harder to forge EU unity on sanctions, Greece's newly appointed Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was quoted on Wednesday as saying Greece had no interest in imposing sanctions on Russia.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Russia's newest ally

Seems Greece wants to turn a new page, and a big part of it is cutting its commitments to the EU, which it sees as the source of all its woes.  I don't imagine Russia will be willing to extend poor Greece the credit it got from the EU, but heh it gives Russia a chance to extend its influence in the "Cradle of Civilization," as Greece tries to recover its "lost dignity."
Who Killed Litvinenko? 
Perhaps Not Russia After All

(Newsweek)  Litvinenko’s movements shortly before he became ill included lunch with an Italian agent and investigator, Mario Scaramella, in a Piccadilly sushi bar, and a meeting with Lugovoi – who, it turned out, was a long-time associate – at the Pine Bar in Mayfair’s Millennium Hotel. It was here, police concluded, that the deed had been done, when a deadly dose of polonium was added to Litvinenko’s tea. Boris Berezovsky, the émigré oligarch, fierce Putin foe and incorrigible schemer, had more than a bit part. Litvinenko, it emerged, had been partly in his employ, and Berezovsky had funded the family in London. Reinforcing the cloak-and-dagger atmosphere was the coincidence of the new James Bond film, Skyfall, hitting the screens, with spectacular sequences shot around the Thames-side headquarters of MI6.
The years of delay nourished a clutch of conspiracy theories, but the official version of events and motives has been set for so long that few expect Owen to turn up any surprises, despite his repeated resolutions to undertake a “fair and fearless” inquiry. UK public opinion has largely tired of the story, dismissing it as just another example of Kremlin thuggery.

Yet the gaps and inconsistencies that have been pointed out by some of those lumped with conspiracy theorists are fundamental to documenting, if not actually explaining, what happened. The most glaring, seen as the key to any inquiry by the US investigative author, Edward Jay Epstein, among others, is the publication of the post-mortem findings. Although Litvinenko’s death provoked shocked headlines and prompted a drawn-out diplomatic row, the actual post-mortem results have never been released, not even to support the UK’s extradition request for Lugovoi. 

As the British investigative reporter David Habakkuk notes, it is still not at all clear who contaminated whom, and in what order. There remain questions about the role of Berezovsky in “managing” information, and the role of a certain businessman, Yuri Shvets (who was the focus of a BBC radio investigation soon after Litvinenko’s death).

As Rebels Press Offensive, Ukraine President Vows to Return Calm

by Jason Ditz, January 25, 2015

After the on-again, off-again fighting over the Donetsk Airport finally went south for the Ukrainian government, President Petro Poroshenko was inconsolable, talking up a full-scale military offensive across the rebel frontier.

After a week of fighting that’s gone exceedingly poorly, the rebels are now the ones on the offensive, and Poroshenko is once again insisting that the Minsk ceasefire deal is the only game in town, and that it is the rebels who really violated it.
Poroshenko insists he is going to return “calm” to the situation, and is echoing calls from Russian officials to get back to the bargaining table, while blaming Russia for the ceasefire faltering in the first place.
Obama, as usual, is backing whatever Poroshenko says at any given time, and while the administration was averse to the ceasefire a few days ago now they’re insisting it needs to be saved from “Russian aggression,” and that all options are on the table to harm Russia because, once again, the Ukrainian civil war isn’t going the way they wanted.
Syriza’s historic win puts Greece on collision course with Europe

(Guardian)  Voters handed power to Alexis Tsipras, the charismatic 40-year-old former communist who leads the umbrella coalition of assorted leftists known as Syriza. He cruised to an eight-point victory over the incumbent centre-right New Democracy party, according to exit polls and projections after 99% of votes had been counted.

The result surpassed pollster predictions and marginalised the two mainstream parties that have run the country since the military junta’s fall in 1974. It appeared, however, that Syriza would win 149 seats – just short of securing the 151 of 300 seats that would enable Tsipras to govern without coalition partners.
Tsipras’s victory, widely predicted, was nonetheless stunning in scale and in impact. Single-party majorities are very rare in parliamentary systems in Europe these days, in recent years occurring in only Hungary and Slovakia under strongman leaders of the right and left. For an upstart party such as Syriza, which has never been tested in power, the victory highlighted how five years of fiscal orthodoxy in Europe have turned politics upside down.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda

(Consortium News)  One danger of lying is that you must then incorporate the falsehood into the longer narrative, somehow making the lies fit. The same is true of propaganda as the New York Times is learning as it continues to falsify the narrative of the Ukraine crisis, writes Robert Parry.
There’s no sign that the New York Times has any regrets about becoming a crude propaganda organ, but just in case someone is listening inside “the newspaper of record,” let’s reprise the actual narrative of the Ukraine crisis. It began not last spring, as the Times would have you believe, but rather in fall 2013 when President Yanukovych was evaluating the cost of an EU association agreement if it required an economic break with Russia.

This part of the narrative was well explained by Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, even though it has generally taken a harshly anti-Russian line. But, in a retrospective piece published a year after the crisis began, Der Spiegel acknowledged that EU and German leaders were guilty of miscalculations that contributed to the civil war in Ukraine, particularly by under-appreciating the enormous financial costs to Ukraine if it broke its historic ties to Russia.

In November 2013, Yanukovych learned from experts at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that the total cost to the country’s economy from severing its business connections to Russia would be around $160 billion, 50 times the $3 billion figure that the EU had estimated, Der Spiegel reported.

The figure stunned Yanukovych, who pleaded for financial help that the EU couldn’t provide, the magazine said. Western loans would have to come from the International Monetary Fund, which was demanding painful “reforms” of Ukraine’s economy, structural changes that would make the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder, including raising the price of natural gas by 40 percent and devaluing Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.
After the collapse of the EU deal, U.S. neocons went to work on one more “regime change” – this time in Ukraine – using the popular disappointment in western Ukraine over the failed EU agreement as a way to topple Yanukovych, the constitutionally elected president whose political base was in eastern Ukraine.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Russia accuses Poland of 'mockery of history' for crediting Ukrainians in Auschwitz liberation

(Fox News)  Russia has accused Poland of engaging in a "mockery of history" after the Polish foreign minister credited Ukrainian soldiers, rather than the Soviet Red Army, with liberating Auschwitz 70 years ago.

The exchange underlines the deep tensions between Russia and Poland, which is hugely critical of Russian actions in Ukraine. Those strains are casting a shadow over the 70th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of the Nazi death camp, which will be held Tuesday in Poland.
Poland has apparently snubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will not attend even though he was at the 60th anniversary event in 2005. The situation is particularly awkward since Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945, and some of the more than 1.1 million victims were Soviet citizens, including Jews and prisoners of war.
"Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, which included Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars and Georgians, among others," Lavrov said.

Pentagon Confirms US Troops Will Deploy to Ukraine in Spring

US Army commander in Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges visited Ukraine today, as Pentagon officials confirmed plans to send troops to war-torn Ukraine this spring for a “training operation.”
Officials say the number of troops involved has not been determined at this time, and that the troops are part of an effort to strengthen the “rule of law” in the country.
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