Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Only American Fighting for Ukraine Dies in Battle

(Vice News) Mark Gregory Paslawsky, the sole American fighting on the Ukrainian side of the war in the east of the country, died from injuries sustained in battle in the town of Ilovaysk on Tuesday.

Known by the codename "Franko," the 55-year-old investment banker was a Manhattan native, and had a slight limp and a pronounced New York accent, making him seem an unlikely candidate for a soldier in an eastern European war that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives.
Paslawsky spoke both Ukrainian and Russian and served in a unit with five other men where he had a reputation for being a joker. "The whole platoon says 'fucking' every other word, we got it from him. He used to say 'fucking Obama' all the time, because the US hasn't given Ukraine any support, he was really ashamed of that," Lex said.

Paslawsky could also be merciless, however. Lex explained that after capturing eight separatists, half of whom were Russian, a Ukrainian soldier gave one of the prisoners a drag from a cigarette and Paslawsky burst into a rage. "He said, 'Why don't you pour him a shot of vodka as well. These are the guys trying to kill us!' " Lex recalled. "He really hated the Russians. We all hate the Russians."
He predicted that the volunteer battalions — which have emerged as a formidable force alongside regular Ukrainian troops — would set their sights on the Kiev authorities with a "Maidan 3.0," as he called it, to push for reforms after the war was over.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is the Kremlin's two-avenue 'diplomacy' in Ukraine paying off?

(Christian Science Monitor) Russia's dueling shipments of humanitarian aid to refugees and arms to rebels in Ukraine go toward the same end, experts say: leveraging a peace on Kremlin terms.
Ongoing talks over recent days between foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine have not so far produced a cease-fire deal. But top aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met amid semi-secrecy in Sochi last Friday, in what could lead to a face-to-face summit between the two leaders in Minsk next week. In another sign that something may be afoot, German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to visit Kiev on Saturday, an event the Ukrainian foreign minister describes as "unusual."
"Putin opened Pandora's box with this nationalist appeal, and now he's come to a red line he doesn't want to cross. Russia does not want to annex eastern Ukraine, and is ready to let it go. But the propaganda machine, once started up, has to be fed regularly. Hence, this convoy to help the people of Donbass must go forward," he adds.

"To an outside observer, it may look like Putin's policies are contradictory. But this is not a problem for him at home," where his popularity is spiking over 80 percent, says Masha Lipman, an independent political expert.

More Serbs join pro-Russian forces in Ukraine

"The forces that come to us, they are all volunteers. For example, on Monday 14 Serbs arrived," said Zakharchenko at a news conference in Donetsk, as reported by Interfax.

Officials in Belgrade last week appealed on Serbian citizens not to join wars abroad, and also announced new legislation that would criminalize this behavior. 

Zakharchenko previously explained that the forces under his command received weapons from Russia, but this was later denied in Moscow. 

"It is our equipment, the equipment we took over from the Ukrainian troops. That's enough for us. Basically, it's a trophy," he said. 

Zakharchenko also said that Kiev will have to recognize the DNR as an independent state, "because it is no longer possible to look for some form of autonomy."

Monday, August 18, 2014

The sound of eggshells cracking 

A new prelate for Ukraine

(Economist)  HISTORIANS may record the fact with bewilderment. As conflict rages on between Ukraine and Russia's proxies, the most extensive religious structure on Ukrainian soil is still one whose ultimate masters are in Moscow. As of yesterday, that structure—the Ukrainian Orthodox church (UOC) under the Moscow Patriarchate—has a new leader. Or to be precise, its acting leader, Metropolitan Onufry (pictured above), was formally enthroned as Primate in one of Kiev's holiest places—amid a chorus of good wishes from Russian and Ukrainian leaders who certainly do not wish one another anything but harm.

A terse announcement by the UOC said the ceremony was attended by representatives of the 12 of the world's 15 nationally or regionally based Orthodox churches, while the remaining three had sent "valid excuses". The arcane quarrels of the Orthodox world came into view when it was reported that a representative of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has a kind of "moral primacy" in global Orthodoxy, declined to participate fully on grounds that he was not given the place of honour which his institution deserved. Orthodox squabbles are wonderfully resilient. You can be pretty sure that on the day some catastrophe forces mankind to flee planet Earth and colonise the moon, Orthodox clergy will be studying the church canons to see who has primacy on lunar soil—and disagreeing.

But as the dust settles after yesterday's colourful rites, what can Metropolitan Onufry actually do to assuage his conflicting masters: spiritual ones in Moscow and earthly ones in Kiev? The messages which the newly enthroned Primate is getting could hardly be more different. His ultimate spiritual boss, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, often stresses the "spiritual unity" between followers of his church in Russia and Ukraine. That might sound like a warm and fuzzy sentiment, and it is certainly better than simply beating the drums of war in support of Russia and against Ukraine. But this "spiritual unity" explicitly excludes Ukrainians who adhere to rival religious groups: Orthodox institutions like the Kiev Patriarchate which take a patriotic line, and the powerful Greek-Catholic church which flourishes in western Ukraine.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ukraine factories equip Russian military despite support for rebels

(Washington Post)  Deep into a conflict that has sundered decades-old ties between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine is still selling military gear over the border to its neighbor, Ukrainian defense industry officials say.

Ukraine’s new leaders have vowed to stop the flow of these defense products, which include key parts for ship engines, advanced targeting technology for tanks and upkeep for Russia’s heaviest nuclear missiles. New laws passed this week bolster their powers to do so. Kiev says helping to arm Russia is tantamount to equipping an enemy during wartime when Moscow is sending support to separatist rebels, a charge the Kremlin has denied.

But Kiev’s pleas for an end to trade ties have run into strong resistance from workers at companies like Motor Sich, here in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where 27,000 employees build engines tailor-made for Russian military helicopters and planes. Most senior executives here grew up as part of the same Soviet military-industrial club as their Russian peers.
The increasingly bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine is fraying the nation’s historically close relationship with its far larger neighbor. But after nine months of protest and war, Ukraine’s economy is deep into recession, and it can ill afford to lose jobs, particularly in the key eastern industrial regions that are home to many of the defense plants — and where many people are sympathetic to Moscow.
Since the February ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin has unveiled crash plans to make itself less dependent on Ukrainian exports.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Russia Deploys Mobile Border Guard Teams to Border With Ukraine – FSB

MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has deployed mobile teams of border guards to the vicinity of the border with Ukraine, but they are to operate strictly on the Russian side, a spokesman for Russia’s FSB Border Guard Service said Friday.

The spokesman said that residents of the border territories are under threat due to increased numbers of Ukrainian servicemen crossing into Russia and frequent cross-border shelling.

The White House Has No Idea What's Going On With The Russian Convoy In Ukraine

Despite eyewitnesses seeing a column of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine on Thursday that was reportedly attacked on Friday by the Ukrainian military, The White House released a statement saying it was "not currently in a position to confirm" this series of events.
"We are working to gather more information regarding reports that Ukraine’s security forces disabled vehicles in a Russian military convoy inside Ukraine. We are not currently in a position to confirm these reports," National Security Council Spokesman Caitlyn Hayden said. "Even as we work to gather information, we reiterate our concern about repeated Russian and Russian-supported incursions into Ukraine. Russia has no right to send vehicles, persons, or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, under any pretext, without the Government of Ukraine’s permission."
While the Russian government has dismissed claims its convoy was attacked as "fantasy," Hayden went on to describe Russia's actions as a threat to Ukraine's stability. 

Europe risks deeper economic crisis as Russia buckles and defaults mount in Ukraine

(Telegraph)  German bond yields plummeted to record lows and stock markets sold off across the world after Ukraine and Russia came to the brink of war, threatening to set off a financial shock and push Europe into deep recession.

Flight to safety sent yields on German 10-year Bunds tumbling to 0.97pc after Ukraine said its artillery had destroyed a “significant” part of a Russian armoured column that crossed the border into the Donbass. Yields on two-year notes turned sharply negative, implying that large investors are willing to pay the German state to look after their money.
The DAX index of equities in Frankfurt buckled in the last minutes before the market closed, ending the day down 1.4pc, and down 10pc since early July. The VIX volatility index surged 11pc. Yields on 10-year US Treasuries dropped to a fourteen-month low of 2.33pc, while the DOW was off 114 points in early trading, with heavy falls for Russian stocks listed in New York.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On a somber note

Russians lining up outside the US embassy
The number of Russians emigrating in the last two years was some five times higher than in the two before Putin began a new six-year term in May 2012, official figures show.
Russia's statistics service data shows 186,382 moved abroad in 2013 and 122,751 in 2012, compared with 36,774 in 2011 and 33,578 in 2010. The true figures could be far higher, as they may not capture those who leave but remain formally registered in Russia.
So has genealogist Vladimir Paley, who said in July that he has four times more clients now than last year, and they want him to dig up their family history with one goal in mind: making a case to obtain foreign citizenship and leave Russia.
What is interesting to me is that this latest exodus is linked to Putin's third term.  The Ukrainian crisis has only accelerated this flight.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Russian Convoy Carrying Aid to Ukraine Is Dogged by Suspicion

MOSCOW — A gift horse or a Trojan horse?
That about summed up the latest, almost farcical encounter between Moscow and Kiev, as a mammoth convoy of some 260 trucks thundered across Russia on Tuesday bearing thousands of tons of humanitarian aid for the people of the besieged Ukrainian city of Luhansk.
The Kremlin has insisted that it is interested only in relieving the suffering of civilians and has called for the supplies to be delivered speedily under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross. But Ukraine, suspecting that the convoy is more a threat than a sincere offer of help — perhaps an attempt to infiltrate Russian forces into the country under the guise of a humanitarian mission — said on Tuesday that the trucks would be barred at the border.
Latest (BBC):
A huge Russian convoy carrying aid for east Ukraine has stopped in central Russia as officials in Ukraine say they will not let it cross the border.

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