Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Muscovy responds with toxic language to the Franco-German request to release Ukrainian POWs. Sputnik exploits UK archive release to good effect. Russia completes fence along boundary between Crimea and mainland Ukraine. Russian kills off remaining export trade with Ukraine, losing another lever. Russian assertions that Ukrainian gas transit will remain after Nordstream 2 activates contradicted by evidence. More on the Avangard MaRV.
Observations by a Belarusian Quisling. Shelin on the persistence of the Chekist regime. Krichevsky on regime domestic blundering, Butrin on its absence of any vision – other than sustaining itself for as long as possible. Kuznetsov speculating, and elaborating on the popular appeal of the“Third Rome” trope, exceptionalism, and the messianic mindset of far too many Russians (this form of madness would not be out of place in Tehran). Russian Ambassador to UK rebutted by HM Govt.
Ukraine’s GUR issues a public warning on the likelihood of a Russian CW attack against civilians in occupied Donbas, replacing in a more vicious manner the 2014 practice of lobbing 120mm mortar fire at civilians in Russian held areas, so Russian propagandists posing as media could produce reports misrepresenting the false flag attacks as Ukrainian. The game with CW takes this up to a new level of criminality – a false flag CW strike on a civilian target. Is this another Gleiwitz play? Is this an attempt to distract and scare the Russian public? Is this an attempt to show the impotence of the West? Or is this some combination of all three?
Ukraine continues to argue it will not abandon the Azov Sea to Russia. Russians violate Donbas New Year’s Eve truce almost immediately. Update on Ukrainian Navy patrol vessels. Politics update, and more on Muscovy’s little helpers in the former Hapsburg lands.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says Berlin and Paris accuse Russia of violating human rights in Crimea
Russia on Saturday dismissed a statement by the leaders of France and Germany accusing it of using military force and carrying out illegitimate checks on Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea. In asking Moscow on Friday to release 24 Ukrainian sailors captured last month near the Kerch Strait, which adjoins Crimea and gives Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea an exit to the Black Sea, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron listed issues that “greatly concern us.”
Russia rejected a Franco-German call to release 24 Ukrainian sailors seized during a naval clash last month, and accused the European powers of siding with the government in Kiev.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused Berlin and Paris of “double standards” and said their demands were “regrettable.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has rejected what it says are unacceptable demands by Germany and France to release Ukrainian soldiers held by Russia.
VLADIMIR Putin’s Government branded “unacceptable” France and Germany’s demands to release the 24 Ukraine sailors Russia has been holding prisoners for more than a month – and ridiculed their leadership.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed in phone talks on Friday the US plans to withdraw its troops from Syria, as well as the situation around the Ukrainian provocation in the Kerch Strait, the Kremlin press service said.
London and Washington knew of the overwhelming desire of Crimeans to re-unite with Russia from the early days of Ukraine’s independence. UK and US diplomats predicted that Ukraine would split and that Crimea would look to Russia, British Cabinet papers released to the National Archives in London reveal.
While certain politicians are still having difficulties getting their walls built, Russia has announced it had finished a border barrier between Ukraine and Crimea. Construction took just over a year and less than $3 million.
The construction of a 60-kilometer fence on the border with Ukraine has been completed in Crimea
Russia has finished constructing a 60-kilometer fence on the Crimean border with Ukraine. In September 2017, the Federal Security Services (FSB) branch of the annexed Crimean peninsula announced an auction to build a two-meter high fence bordering Ukraine. According to reports at the time, the fence was estimated to cost over 200 million rubles ($2.8 million).
Russia’s state security service, better known as the FSB, announced the completion of a high-tech fence on the Isthmus of Perekop, Crimea’s bottleneck that connects the Kremlin-occupied peninsula with Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast, BBC reported on Dec.28. The project started in 2017, three years after the peninsula was illegally annexed by Russia. Now, 60 kilometers of the two-meter high fence towering on the Isthmus, which is the only one legal way to enter Crimea from Ukraine. “It was built to protect against crazy tricks of the current Ukrainian government and inadequate radicals,” said Efim Fix, vice speaker of the internationally unrecognized Crimean Parliament, BBC wrote. The fence is equipped with barbed wire and night-vision video cameras. It also has vibration and radio-beam alarming systems, with several hundreds of sensors, detecting the danger.
Russia has completed a fence between Crimea and mainland Ukraine which it says will prevent “violators” entering the peninsula. The 60km, £2.3 million barrier, fitted with motion sensors and video cameras and topped with barbed wire, stretches from the Black Sea in the west to the Syvash lagoo
Security barrier equipped with sensors to prevent “penetration by Ukrainian saboteurs”.
Crimea’s de facto authorities say the fence aims to protect the peninsula’s population from Kiev’s ‘crazy antics’.
Russia has built a 37-mile fence between Ukraine and Crimea, the territory that Russia annexed in 2014, according to Russian media.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has announced a ban on Ukrainian goods, including agricultural and industrial products, days after adding Ukrainian firms and individuals to Russia’s sanction…
Russia on Saturday banned imports from Ukraine worth an estimated $510 million in 2018, the Russian Economic Development Ministry said.
Russia expanded a ban on imported goods from Ukraine on Saturday, saying it would halt some $500 million worth of annual imports of mainly industrial products in retaliation for economic sanctions by Kiev.
Russia has added to its list of imports from Ukraine that are banned, claiming it is a retaliatory move against restrictions on certain Russian goods.
Wheat, bread, pastries, vegetables, juices, beer and wine; Wallpaper, furniture, transformers and other goods which import from Ukraine is banned by Russian Government Decree No. 1716-83 of December 29, 2018. The list of goods that are prohibited to import into Russia:
Russia has banned imports of industrial goods, agricultural products and foodstuffs from Ukraine. The main volume of goods subject to the ban imposed are classified as industrial ones.
European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger says it would be difficult to stop the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 project as it is now being built. The EU demands a “fair deal” from Russia’s Gazprom as for further gas transit shipments via Ukraine.
CEO of national joint-stock company Naftogaz Ukrainy Andriy Kobolev has called on the European Union (EU) to objectively evaluate the uncertain benefits and real threats posed by the construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the loss of gas transit through the gas transmission systems (GTS) of Ukraine, pointing to the actions of Gazprom that violate the assurances of conservation this transit after 2019.
Russia is not going to ensure gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transport system after 2019, the board chairman of the national oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrayiny, Andriy Kobolev, has said, as quoted by Interfax-Ukraine. Kobolev urged the EU to give an unbiased assessment to the uncertain benefits and real threats posed by Nord Stream-2 and the loss of gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transport system. He said some of the steps recently taken by Gazpom go against its assurances to maintain the transit via the Ukrainian system after 2019. “Gazprom said that it was decommissioning compressors in the Ukrainian direction. Despite the promises and assurances which the Russian government allegedly gave our European partners, Russia is not going to guarantee gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transport system after 2019,” he said. In Kobolev’s opinion, Gazprom plans to move transit to the Nord Stream pipeline, which will cause irreparable damage to the European energy security. Thus, if the construction of Nord Stream-2 continues, no-one will be able to force Russia to stop dismantling gas transport facilities in the Ukrainian direction. “The concentration of a large share of export routes in the north, refusal from gas transit via the reliable and flexible gas transport system of Ukraine will result in a significant increase in man-made risks,” Kobolev said.
Russia has manufactured 12 of the new weapons.
Get breaking national and world news, broadcast video coverage, and exclusive interviews. Find the top news online at ABC news.
For the past year, the U.S. Army has initiated many changes to help modernize the force. Among those changes, the Army made strides to improve its hypersonic capabilities. According to Army News Service, the U.S. Army is working to develop unique hypersonic weapons, similar to precision technology currently in development by the Air Force and Navy. Hypersonic weapons move five times faster than the speed of sound and are designed to potentially deliver a precision-guided airstrike anywhere in the world within an hour. The Army, specifically, is after a long-range missile that redefines long range. “We, the Army, have as our number one priority for modernization long-range precision fires; a subset of that is the hypersonic piece to it,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said March 15 in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. The U.S. military began pursuing hypersonic weapons in earnest under the Conventional Prompt Global Strike program in 2007. The program sought to achieve a non-nuclear strike anywhere around the globe within an hour. Now, a prompt global strike also appears useful as part of a package of options to counter anti-access and area denial measures. As concern grows about China’s efforts to close off what it considers its part of the Pacific, a weapon that could fly undetected into the denied area while the launch platform stays well outside becomes more attractive to U.S. military planners. The Army team collaborated with a number of national laboratories on the launcher and glide vehicle design, and refined it in wind tunnels where vehicle forces were measured at hypersonic speeds. While the Army establishes its hypersonic program office, representatives from the Army and other services will continue to work together to develop the military’s hypersonic weapons capability. Currently, the joint team is working to create a standard “hypersonic glide body” to provide a means to deploy a hypersonic weapon.
It is extremely likely that Tehran and Pyongyang will acquire hypersonic missiles, according to a senior U.S. general.
The Kremlin has shown a greater appetite for risk. These units of the GRU are a perfect fit.
While America and its allies have been fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Russians have been perfecting their conventional capabilities.
The CIA should release its evaluation of who was responsible for the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia. Was it Putin?
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – Moscow risks having to deal with the eventual appearance of an American military base near Smolensk unless it moves quickly to install “pro-Russian people” in the power structures of Belarus before the Americans can organize a Ukrainian-style Maidan there, according to Valery Bainyev. The words of the economics professor at the Belarusian State University, covered by the influential Moscow outlet Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya highlight both Russian hysteria about Belarus and the existence of people in Belarus ready to support a Russian move against it (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/12/27/zapad_stremitsya_realizovat_ukrainskij_scenarij_v_respublike/). “I consider that there are serious problems” in relations between Belarus and Russia, Bainyev says, not about gas prices or anything like that but about the efforts of Western governments in Belarus which are now trying to set it against Russia just as they have managed to set Ukraine against Moscow in recent years. According to the Belarusian economist, “the West is very actively working in Belarus, advancing its people in power and in administrative structures, and they are quietly being pushed forward with the financial, political and moral support of the West.” While this is happening, Moscow is convinced nothing serious can happen because “Belarusians are our brothers.” As long as Aleksandr Lukashenka remains in office, the situation will be all right, Bainyev says; “but as is well known, nothing is eternal under the moon. People age and leave;” and after he goes, there will appear in Minsk “an absolutely anti-Russian and pro-Western president. And then Russia will get what it will get.” Moscow’s foreign policy has been quite successful far from Russia’s borders, he continues; but it has been anything but successful near them. Russia “took Crimea but has lost Ukraine and gotten instead a motivated enemy” which the West will arm and finance. As a result, Russia has problems of a serious kind there. The situation in Armenia and in Central Asia is anything but good. Moscow isn’t focusing on these. As a result, it is losing out to Western efforts across the board including in Belarus where the people in the Russian capital assume there cannot be any such problems by definition. According to Bainyev, “if Russia does not focus its foreign policy priorities on the countries just over the border, then near Smolensk with time will appear American military bases and rockets whose flying time to Moscow can be counted in seconds.” To prevent that, “Russia must promote in the power structures of Belarus pro-Russian people.” Otherwise, anti-Russian and pro-Western forces will triumph, he concludes; and Moscow will have to face up to the fact that the situation it will then find itself in is the result of its own inattention to the dangers near Russia’s borders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a New Year letter to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, said on Sunday that Moscow was ready for dialogue on a “wide-ranging agenda,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin also sent New Year greetings to world leaders including prime ministers Theresa May of Britain and Shinzo Abe of Japan, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – There is mounting and incontrovertible evidence that Russians no longer love or respect Vladimir Putin, Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin says; but the Kremlin leader and his regime are not yet threatened by that alone and can therefore survive for a long time to come unless something else happens. Indeed, he says, they can remain in power as long as “they fulfill at least the minimum of administrative tasks, do long allow their subjects to be completely ruined, disorganize in a planned fashion any anti-systemic opposition, maintain a strong defensive apparatus and do not divide among themselves” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/12/28/1755873.html). Many who are currently talking about “the transit of power,” the euphemism for thinking about the exit of Putin and the arrival of some other leader, often forget about that reality, focusing instead on developments that are ultimately superficial in comparison with these critical functions, Shelin continues. It is certainly the case that Putin has lost his charisma and probably done so irretrievably. None of his presentations this year generated much attention or interest, and many provoked cynical responses. The same thing is true of the behavior of his subordinates who seldom got much attention except when they become scandalous in their words and deeds. “This is one of the main causes of the general loss of authority of the powers that be,” the commentator says; but while that has occurred, something else has not. When the authorities take an unpopular decision, there is no broad wave of protest, even on occasions such as the pension reform where the Kremlin expected it. The reason for that, Shelin continues, lies “in the sharp intensification of the repressive nature of the system.” To maintain itself, the regime is prepared to come down hard on anyone it seems a problem. “The rules have changed” over the last year. But this shift from “’pro-people’ to ‘anti-people’ style of rule is not a sign of “the critical weakening of the system.” The population isn’t starving and it isn’t in the main suffering either, Shelin says. Any attempt at organizing an opposition is suppressed almost at the start. “The power vertical as before imitates the fulfillment of orders from on high. And “open resistance is exceptionally rare. The foundation of the power of Vladimir Putin is thus quite firm.” Some Russians are very dissatisfied, but they haven’t been able to organize, in large measure because the regime counters with force any steps in that direction. There are no independent regional actors: Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov stands out only as “the exception who proves this rule.” Nor is any split in the central administrative machine visible, Shelin argues. “Yes, there are there ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ and still more unprincipled lobbying clans which fight among themselves over specific decisions. But when it comes to it, when the leader gives his final word, they fulfill that which is ordered in a friendly fashion.” These groups, he says, “can be in conflict or even open fights only with one another but not with the leader from whom their positions, material well-being and even personal freedom depend. Nothing like this was true among the members of the Brezhnev Politburo, each of whom had an independent status and could at times oppose” the leader. “We don’t have that” now. The same thing is true among the rich. They too fight among themselves but not against Putin either singly or even more collectively. They are too dependent on him to do either. And they can’t leave in massive numbers because that would cost them much if not all of what they possess. Summing up, Shelin says the following: “Yes, in 2018, the authority of Vladimir Putin significantly fell in the people and in part even in the administrative machine. But his strength as a leader did not contract as much namely because the system closed ranks and began to defend its interests against the broad masses by its fists.” “And that means,” the commentator continues, this group “needs tough leadership even more than it did earlier” – and that is just the kind of leadership Putin still can and does offer. For that to change, there will have to be crises “much more serious than those which occurred in 2018.” These can’t be excluded, but they aren’t a certainty, Shelin says, adding that in his view, “the regime is fully capable of rotting peacefully for long years if 2024 were not approaching.” That is because to make the changes to allow Putin to stay in power requires “popularity” and that he no longer has. And to arrange for a successor “always raises questions about the unity of the upper reaches,” something that will inevitably divide “not only the nomenklatura but also the masses as well.” Putin’s power declined in 2018 but not as much as many think, except in one area: “the search for a resolution of the 2024 problem which is becoming ever more important.”
Paul Goble Staunton, December 28 — The most significant development of the past year, economist Nikita Krichevsky says, is “the de-sacralization of Vladimir Putin” among Russians, their increasing willingness to criticize his actions and hold him responsible rather than view him as someone standing above the fray. In this regard, the economist argues, the situation now resembles what happened in Russia after Bloody Sunday in January 1905. Russians lost confidence in the tsar and whatever steps he took, even if they were good, could not wash away the blood shed when Russian troops fired on people trying to petition Nicholas II (znak.com/2018-12-28/ekonomist_nikita_krichevskiy_v_2019_m_nas_zhdet_sabotazh_vlasti_i_plamya_massovogo_nedovolstva). Raising the pension age was “a watershed,” Krichevsky says. Not only did it undermine the implicit contract between Putin and the people, but it has meant that the people have viewed all subsequent Putin actions through its lens, focusing on the ways in which they give money and power to the rich even when they on occasion do some good for the population. And such attitudes are spreading into portions of the elite who feel that they are not getting what they are due while others are. At present, these are “the hidden opponents of the powers that be,” people who are important because “Russia is a country of palace coups, despite the several revolutions which occurred in the 20th century.” The situation promises to get worse in 2019 and ensuring years, likely leading to a real crisis in the mid-2020s, Krichevsky says. Oil and sanctions are problems but nothing compared to “the destructive actions of the government.” It may try to save itself by making concessions, but those will be viewed as insufficient given the pension reform-induced mental transformation. Russians “have lost trust in the government: we will see sabotage of the actions of the authorities. Now, people will say: give us money and leave us alone. The population already now is showing social apathy and rejects any initiative of the powers that be, however good it may be.” And “just as after Bloody Sunday,” whatever actions the regime takes will be viewed in the context of the pension reform betrayal, the economist says. It is likely that dissatisfaction will grow: “People are not ‘the new oil;’ people are ‘a Molotov cocktail.’” And that is something the regime has not yet recognized. Soviet leader Yury Andropov once observed, Krichevsky says, that “we do not know the society which we have built.’” He turned out to be a prophet: the regime acted in ways that ignored the nature of the society its own policies had created. Something similar happened after 1905 and it is happening again. “I will not advance any analogies,” Krichevsky says, “but already now it is obvious that the present-day growing instability will lead to cardinal changes throughout Russian society.”
Paul Goble Staunton, December 28 – For most of the post-Soviet period, Russian governments have been guided by the idea that they must promote economic development in order to “catch up” with the West. But over the last year, that idea has been almost completely forgotten, leaving Russians without the kind of goal in economic life they were accustomed to, Dmitry Butrin. Two things make this disappearance even more striking, the Kommersant commentator says. On the one hand, this idea has not been replaced by another in Russia, leaving a vacuum in which the government seeks to do as well as it can but without the goals that help mobilize the population in the past (kommersant.ru/doc/3843598). And on the other, Russia finds that it is not alone in this situation of having given up on one overriding idea without replacing it with another. In almost all countries, Butrin says, governments haven’t been able to come up with clearly defined goals to guide the development of their economies and societies as a whole. Instead, they like Russia are just trying to continue at least in the economy without any goals of major change, a situation that for them as for Russia means that people are increasingly unmotivated and even alienated from their respective national leaderships who have failed to provide them with an uplifting idea. For the last several decades, Butrin continues, “’catching up with the West,’ in the first instance in terms of levels of consumption, remained the chief idea of development. The protests of 2011-2012 declared corruption as a problem which was interfering with ‘catch up development.’” The Crimean Anschluss in 2014 represented “an attempt at retreating from this idea toward either the restoration of the Russian Empire or the reanimation of the USSR,” he says; but by 2018, all that had “quieted down and disappeared,” along with the idea of catch up development as well. “The government of Dmitry Medvedev is not trying to ‘catch up with the West.” And neither his ministers nor Vladimir Putin has been talking about economic growth of a kind that would allow Russia to catch up. Instead, all of them project growth rates into the future at or below rates abroad. According to Butrin, “we will develop as we can;” but there is no satisfactory answer to the question as to what we will develop for. That was highlighted when Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin launched his urban renewal program. People asked “why” and his only answer was “for comfort,” an answer not good enough for most. In Russia as in many other countries, the commentator says, “the single idea which unifies the world in 2018 remained the increasingly abstract hatred to social inequality and stratification.” But while people in Russia and elsewhere view those things as bad, they do not have an answer as to what should be pursued to overcome them. This reflects the ideological vacuum Russia and the world have been living in the past year, a vacuum in which people are not inspired but rather increasingly display unfocused anger. How long that can continue and how either Russia or any other country can live without a clearer and longer term goal very much remains to be seen.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – The Russian armed forces drafted 132,500 men in the most recent round, the General Staff reports. Of these approximately 20,000 had higher educations; but only 300 of these or 1.5 percent will serve in the military’s scientific companies, an option Moscow had been advertising as a widely available option for those completing their educations. As these 16 companies have contingents of only 800, the new draftees will form almost 40 percent of the total, an indication that there is relatively little room for expanding this option for the educated and thus making it likely even more young Russians will seek ways to defer or escape service (redstar.ru/prizyvnye-komissii-srabotali-chyotko-i-organizovanno). One group of draftees, however, was treated with greater favor: athletes. Approximately 200 of the draftees were viewed as potential Olympians and so were placed in special sports companies, where they form slightly more than half of the contingents of these units. Lt.Gen. Yevgeny Burdinsky, who oversees the draft for the General Staff of the Russian Armed Services, said he was especially pleased that the number of young people who did not appear at the draft sites had fallen from 3,000 a year ago to about 1200 this year, an improvement that may reflect the weakening economy which leaves potential soldiers with fewer options.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – It isn’t April 1st or Halloween, but Moscow philosopher Anton Kuznetsov asks people to “imagine what would be the case if suddenly everyone on planet Earth became an ethnic Russian,” a way of asking what Russian national consciousness consists of and whether Russians are capable of changing themselves and living in new ways in the future. In a 6500-word interview with Mikhail Karpov of the Lenta news agency, Kuznetsov, a staffer of the Moscow Center for the Investigation of Consciousness in the philosophy department of Moscow State University, gives answers as provocative as one would expect from his initial challenge (lenta.ru/articles/2018/12/27/philosopher/). In the course of a profoundly philosophical discussion of concepts and human perception, Kuznetsov notes that “a national idea is an idea about a particular fate in existence” and that “very few nations have one.” Israel is one; Russia is another. And “the Russian idea “hasn’t changed.” “What is ‘Moscow is the Third Rome’?” According to the philosopher, it means that “in the world there remains only one source of true Christianity. This is a messianistic idea: the Russian people is a God-bearing people whose mission in the world is the salvation of all humanity.” “This messianism,” he continues, “has never changed, although it has taken different forms” and its implications are not always understood. For the Russian idea to be meaningful, Kuznetsov suggests, there must be others who remain to be converted. Thus, there can’t really be a world in which everyone is Russian because that would contradict this idea. One of the more interesting if less well-known aspects of this Third Rome idea, he continues, is that “the appearance of cosmonautics is directly connected with Fedorov’s Philosophy of the Common Task, according to which for all mortals to be revived, we must colonize other planets. Ironically, a boy educated by Fedorov was Tsiolkovsky,the father of cosmonautics.” But another aspect of the Russian national idea is troubling: “how can we save others when we cannot save ourselves?” However, upon reflection, it is what one might expect given that an expression of the Russian idea is to sacrifice oneself for the salvation of others,” yet another manifestation of the notion that “the entire Russian people is the body of Christ.” That also means that Russian national consciousness is that of an assembly “where each individual exists for others,” Kuznetsov says. According to Kuznetsov, “the desire of our fellow citizens to revive the USSR” is not a reflection of this. Rather, it is “more the result of speculation on history.” But it does highlight the reality that “to a certain degree,” the Soviet Union was yet another incarnation of the messianic idea of Russia as the Third Rome. “If you recall the first decades of Soviet power, then people at that time really spoke about how ‘the Soviet proletariat will save the world’ and such things. This was not a metaphor” but a reflection of how Russians really felt at the time and how some continue to feel to this day, the philosopher continues. At the end of his interview, however, Kuznetsov delivers a stern warning: Talk about such national consciousness contains within itself “a great danger and a source of nationalism, exceptionalism, and discrimination within the country against those who are enemies of the people and … thus unworthy of this elevated national consciousness.”
Russian Ambassador to Great Britain Alexander Yakovenko announced on December 28 that Moscow and London have reached an agreement to restore their diplomatic missions partially. Appearing on the state television network Rossiya 24, the ambassador said Russia’s embassy in the U.K. will be half-restored.
Britain has rejected comments by Russia’s ambassador to London claiming the two countries have agreed to gradually reinstate dozens of diplomatic personnel who were expelled by both sides following…
Russian government officials and the Russian media have been predicting a Chemical Weapons (CW) attack by Ukraine in the Russian occupied Donbas for several weeks. Russia is predicting a CW attack in Donbas precisely the same way as CW attacks were launched in Syria. Coincidentally, both CW attacks will also be executed by Russia. It’s funny how Russia predicts these type events wherever they go, and then, voila, they happen – and Russia is the only constant. Only in places where Russian armed forces happen to be. It’s always called a provocation by the Russians and “provokes” Russia into aggressive action. Like Gleiwitz. Russia wants to create a reason to invade Ukraine. Ukraine has now officially called out Russia, publicly accusing Russia of a pending CW attack on innocent civilians in Russian occupied Donbas and trying to blame it on Ukraine. Let us hope that despite the Christmas and New Years holidays, the US federal government shutdown, and the winter solstice, that world leaders will be made aware of what Russia is about to do. In this case, the CW attack against Donbas would be a provocation which would “demand” an armed response by Russia, using the thousands of tanks surrounding Ukraine. Russia has set the stage already, labeling the Ukraine government nazis and fascists. By Russian logic, Russia’s invasion would ostensibly be to protect everybody from the ‘evil Ukraine government’, which Russia has been openly insulting. Since everybody knows what is coming and now Ukraine is officially confirming the Russian intent, this could be an opportunity for a large number of world leaders to call Russia out and persuade them not to kill innocent civilians in Donbas. To Russia the innocent victims in Donbas are just pieces of meat, collateral damage to provide an excuse to invade Ukraine. To Ukraine and the rest of the world, they’re vulnerable innocent civilians. The West, especially the United States, needs to act without delay. To preempt or forestall such an attack, it would be wise to very publicly raise this issue to Russia, both diplomatically and in the media, and tell them the use of CW against innocent civilians in Donbas is unacceptable, grotesque, and appalling. Militarily, the only target should be the Russian CW personnel and equipment, inside Donbas or outside, including next to Ukraine inside Russia. Economically the threatened sanctions should be damning. If such a CW attack occurs despite the warnings, the penalty to Russia should be crushing and immediate. The penalties to Russia should be incurred before an attack by Russia can be launched. A special meeting of the UN should be held, and the unprecedented step should be taken to remove Russia from their permanent seat on the Security Council. Sanctions on Russia should be severe and seen as punitive. Russia should be labeled a rogue state and censured. We know what Russia intends to do and we know why. Russia should be warned and waved off. If they do not acquiesce, they should be punished most severely. </end editorial>
December 29, 2018 Russian special services are counting on significant number of victims among civilian population. This was reported during the briefing by a representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. According to Vadym Skibitskyi, military intelligence of Ukraine observes a number of intelligence indications that are clearly referred at preparation of sabotage-and-terrorist act with employment of chemically hazardous and poisonous substances that further will be covered by the Russian propagandists as an employment of “chemical weapons” against the inhabitants of the occupied Donbas by the Ukrainian troops. The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine established that a group of the Russian specialists in the field of chemical warfare and poisonous substances arrived in the occupied territory of Donbas in the middle of December. The adversary increased readiness of the Russian occupation troops up to a level to operate amidst chemical contamination. The newest individual protective means for personnel of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian occupation troops were delivered from the Russian Federation in order to test it in combat conditions. With the aim of creation of favourable public opinion, Moscow has been conducting more than a month a large-scale information campaign on accusing Ukraine of hidden preparation for such actions. The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine states that Russia conducted information operation in a similar fashion on the eve of simulation of chemical attack in Syria on November 24, 2018, in the area of Aleppo town in order to justify further conducting of airstrikes on Syrian opposition forces.
A representative of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s intelligence directorate said on Saturday that Ukrainian source had information that Russia was planning to use of chemical weapons for accusing the Ukrainian military. According to him, the Russian Federation plans to fake chemicals weapons attacks in separatist-held parts of Donbas to discredit Ukraine internationally. “At present, the [Ukrainian] military intelligence has seen a number of signs indicating that Russia has been preparing an act of subversive and terrorist acts with the use of chemical toxic substances… In the middle of December, a group of Russian specialists in chemical, military and toxic substances arrived in Donbas. The group included Russian special services agents and agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB),” Defense Department intelligence directorate representative Vadym Skybytsky said at a briefing in Kyiv on Saturday, December 29. Skybytsky said the pro-Russian separatists and occupation forces in Donbas have been preparing for operations under conditions of chemical contamination. Chemical protective clothing and equipment for Russia-led armed formations have been imported from Russia. “At the same time, the Russian special services are cynically counting on large-scale civilian casualties, which will ensure a certain response and attention from the international community,” Skybytsky said, adding the disaster would be presented by Russian propagandists as the use of chemical weapons by Ukrainian armed forces against the residents of Donbas. Russia is trying to use its entire arsenal of information and political propaganda to discredit Ukraine before the international community, Skybytsky said. He said a similar scheme had been used by Russia before a chemical attack in the Aleppo area in Syria. But Ukrainian side did not offer any proof for that assertion. Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions has killed more than 10,000 people since it flared in mid-April 2014.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine observes a number of signs, which clearly indicate that Russia has been preparing a sabotage and terrorist act with the use of chemically dangerous poisonous substances. — Ukrinform
Representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vadym Skibitsky says Russia is plotting a terrorist act in the occupied Donbas with the use of toxic substances. A group of Russian specialists in the field of chemical warfare agents and toxic substances arrived in the occupied Donbas in the middle of December, according to intelligence data.
Germany and France have demanded “the immediate and unconditional release” of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia. But Russia has rejected the calls, describing them as unacceptable.
The sailors were detained on November 25.
German and French leaders on Friday urged Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships captured last month near the contested Crimean peninsula.
Ukraine’s Emb. to UK on Twitter: “#Russia has deployed biggest part of its Black Sea fleet in #AzovSea. The overall number is 100, incl. 40 military ships while #Ukraine has 2 military ships&2 boats. RU must stop militarization of AzovSea&ensure free passage of UA ships through #KerchStrait #stoprussianaggression… https://t.co/3uJrURCpAb”
Ukraine won’t back off from the passage of its ships by the Kerch Strait, because it is Ukrainian territory. Minister of Defense of Ukraine Stepan Poltorak claimed this to journalists, reported RBK-Ukraine. ‘Ukraine didn’t make it to go by the strait because of Russia’s provocation. If we don’t pass the Kerch Strait it will mean that we give up our territory,’ he said. Related: SBU agent detained among Ukrainian sailors in Kerch Strait claims himself POW According to the Minister, the part of the Sea of Azov belongs to Ukraine, and Ukraine has a right for the passage through the strait. On November 25, the coast guard ships of the Russian Navy attacked the ships of the Ukrainian Navy, which have been carrying out a scheduled transition from Odesa port to Mariupol port in the Sea of Azov.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have demanded that Russia release the Ukrainian sailors who were captured when three Ukrainian navy boats were seized near the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea on November 25, 2018. All the 24 Ukrainian sailors have declared themselves to be prisoners of war.
At the moment, Ukraine has two boats and two ships in the Sea of Azov, while the Russian Federation has deployed up to 40 efficient ships and boats into the region, Ihor Voronchenko, the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, said in an interview with DW. Commenting on the ratio of Ukrainian and Russian forces in the Sea of Azov, he acknowledged that this situation is not in favor of Ukraine. “Unfortunately, the situation is not in favor of Ukraine both in terms of quality and quantity. The overwhelming majority of warships and boats of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the FSB are deployed in the Sea of Azov,” Voronchenko said. He clarified that the total number of Russian ships and boats is about a hundred. “According to our calculations, the number of Russian vessels has already exceeded a hundred. The Russian side has about 36-40 ships and boats that can fully perform tasks. Unfortunately, Ukraine has only two boats and two ships at the moment. Now you can calculate the ratio,” said the commander of the Ukrainian Navy.
Members of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) in eastern Ukraine have created its own “flotilla” of about 20-25 fishing boats, which control the coastline near the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov in Donetsk region. They call it “Marine Assault Regiment.”
Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons Yuriy Hrymchak says the construction of a fortification by Russian occupation authorities along the de-facto border between Crimea and mainland Ukraine will in no way change the status of the illegally annexed peninsula. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry would send a note of protest in connection with the fact, the official said.
Ukraine is going to continue to use the Kerch Strait for passage of its ships, a statement published on the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s website says, quoting Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak as saying.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed the law “On the adjacent zone of Ukraine,” backed by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on December 6, 2018. The law is aimed at preventing smuggling and illegal entry of ships into the officially closed ports of the Ukrainian Crimea.
The Head of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation (JFO) press center, Vitaliy Sarantsev said that Ukraine has deployed anti-sabotage forces and …
The press secretary of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Oleh Slobodyan stated that a large column of Russian military equipment and …
Ukrainian Navy Commander Ihor Voronchenko has said he is convinced that Ukraine will not lose control over the Sea of Azov. — Ukrinform
Russian-led hybrid military forces mounted six attacks on Ukrainian positions in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, on December 29, the first day of a recently agreed “New Year truce.” The enemy did not use proscribed weapons.
Russian-backed militants opened fire from grenade launchers on the positions of the Ukrainian Joint Forces in the Horlivka sector on Saturday, December 29, the press center of the headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation has reported. — Ukrinform
Militants launched 11 attacks on Ukrainian positions, using weapons banned under the Minsk agreements twice, in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) area in Donbas over the past day. — Ukrinform
A fresh truce between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine appears for the most part to be holding.
Units of the Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have completed the fortification of new defensive positions between the settlements Zaitseve and Hladosove near the city of Horlivka, reported the Verkhovna Rada deputy Dmytro Tymchuk. “In order to increase defense capabilities, the units of the mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Joint Forces took under their control advantageous for future defensive actions natural frontier and, while being in close proximity to the enemy, carried out engineering reinforcement of the new positions, ” wrote Tymchuk on Facebook. He noted that the new positions are located on the strategic height, which allows the Ukrainian military to control the surrounding terrain. According to him, the subdivisions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, stationed near Horlivka, have also completed the improvement of the so-called “security belt” around the settlement Novoluhanske.
Ukraine plans to sign a loan agreement with France for the amount of 64 million euro to provide Mariupol with drinking water. On Thursday, the …
More than 450 members of Russian-led occupation forces have been killed and 850 wounded since the start of the Joint Forces Operation in Donbas on April 30, 2018, JFO commander Lt. General Serhiy Nayev has said.
One month after Russia shot at and seized three of its ships, Ukraine’s martial law has expired. Many are still skeptical about why it was imposed and what it achieved.
Ukraine in 2019 will test new types of weapons, in particular, it will begin testing the domestically produced “Kolibri” (“Hummingbird”) man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS). Poroshenko earlier announced a number of priority tasks for 2019 to create artillery rocket systems. Ukraine in 2019 will test new types of weapons, in particular, it will begin testing the domestically produced “Kolibri” (“Hummingbird”) man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS). Next year, Ukrainian arms producers will also complete the development and begin the testing of a new coastal anti-ship missile complex, “Neptun” (“Neptune”), the Ukrainian government said on Facebook. Read alsoUkraine army to get UAH 16 bln more in funding in 2019 – Poroshenko “This type of weapons will be high-precision, modern and compliant with NATO standards,” it said. As UNIAN reported, the Ukrainian military in early December successfully tested the “Neptun” anti-ship missile. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier announced a number of priority tasks for 2019 to create artillery rocket systems, mainly the “Vilkha” (“Alder”) project with an increased range of destruction. Ukraine is also finalizing the development of a number of new domestic weapons, such as the “Bohdana” 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer and artillery ammunition for it; the “Kvitnyk” (“Flower bed”) precision-guided munitions, a two-caliber mortar, the “Sokil” (“Falcon”) reconnaissance and strike drone complex, and the “Kolibri” MANPADS.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry next year will recommend a project to the government for Ukrainian enterprises in cooperation with French companies to build about 20 border patrol boats to protect the country’s maritime borders.
Ukraine will receive Island-class patrol boats from the United States in the summer of 2019, Ukrainian Navy Commander Ihor Voronchenko has said. — Ukrinform
The Island-class patrol boat, which the U.S. promised to provide Ukraine with, should arrive in July 2019. Ukrainian Navy’s Commander Ihor Voronchenko claimed this during the interview to DW. ‘They must be in Ukraine in July. The crews are getting prepared, we agreed on the procedure for complete equipping these ships and the procedure for joint training at the base in Baltimore,’ Voronchenko noted. Related: Armed Forces to use weapons during ceasefire if necessary He also added that the last measures necessary to ensure the boats arrive in Ukraine quickly have been adjusted. As we reported, on September 28, the U.S. passed Ukraine two Island-class patrol boats; during the ceremony at the Baltimore base of the U.S. Coast Guard. Both patrol boats were built 40 years ago, they are able to go to sea in any weather and perform set tasks in any situation, and to conduct fire.
The Kremlin is already meddling in Ukrainian elections at four levels, seeking to devalue any achievements of the Revolution of Dignity and prove Ukraine incapable of independent development, a researcher at Prague’s Charles University, Alexander Morozov, has said in an article for the Lithuanian news website Delfi. “The Kremlin’s main goal in global politics is to present the image of destabilized Ukraine, thus showing that the whole post-Maidan development of Ukraine ended up in a catastrophe, and nullifying the whole Euromaidan and all those forces which secured an important detachment of Ukraine from the environment in which the Kremlin is conducting its hegemonic policy, considering itself the ‘master of Eurasia’,” Morozov is confident. In his words, before 2014 the Kremlin had not questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty, relying on the concept of “soft power”. After Yanukovych fled on 22-23 February 2014, Putin decided to help him leave Ukraine and the Russian Security Council authorised the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s entire policy with regard to Ukraine shifted from “soft power”, economic blackmail and reliance on friendly big business in Ukraine to a global geopolitical conflict. The Kremlin has absolutely revised its methods of influence on Ukraine’s domestic policy: the “hybrid war” in all its possible formats has begun. The Russian influence on the Ukrainian domestic policy after 2014 has four levels. The first level is the influence of war. First of all, the Russian influence is manifested through the very act of aggression and the ensuing “routine of war” it creates. The war has a very deep penetration, producing several different reactions with political projection. “The Kremlin media happily rely on regular cynicism, making any words and actions by Ukrainian, Russian or any foreign politicians look egoistic and guided by personal interests only. Politicians profit from wars while commoners want peace. This is a useful statement for Ukrainian political forces calling for reconciliation with Russia on its terms. This is an extremely useful statement for the Kremlin because it can build its propaganda on the thesis that “simple people in Ukraine want peace but politicians want war,” Morozov said. The second level is media influence. Even after the start of the war, the Kremlin’s media potential to form the agenda has been far stronger in Ukraine than in any other country because nearly the entire population here speaks and understands Russian and shares a “culture keyboard” with Russia. “The distribution by Russian media of any information about Ukrainian oligarchs, old or new political parties or backstage alliances, the hyping of negative reports about the Ukrainian economy on Russian news generators can easily be extended to Ukraine, both in expert journalism and through the grapevine. The main Russian media hubs keep the issue of Ukraine simmering,” he said. The third level of influence is exerted through political and economic groups which were formed in close connection with Russia during Putin’s rule. These Ukrainian oligarchs can help pro-Russian candidates during the 2019 elections. The fourth level of influence is exerted by so-called “pro-Russian” political parties. The Kremlin’s direct influence on the Ukrainian elections is, above all, associated with the Opposition Bloc and political projects in its orbit run by Viktor Medvedchuk, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Yuriy Boyko. As regards the elections in Ukraine, the Kremlin plans to bet on the parliamentary rather than presidential election, hoping to boost its faction in Verkhovna Rada and make Medvedchuk a deputy speaker. According to the pundit, the Kremlin’s policy on the eve of the elections does not make it easier for pro-Russian parties to offer voters persuasive ideas on how to ease tension and ensure peace.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said Russia had already begun implementing the scenario of direct interference in the electoral processes of Ukraine and Moldova. Russia is using modern information technologies to discredit the leadership of the two countries, the Ukrainian leader says.
Russia is using information technologies to discredit leaders of Ukraine and Moldova, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said.
The Hungarian side, now in the person of the Party of Hungarians of Ukraine, duly registered in Ukraine (“Society of Hungarian Culture of Zakarpattia (KMKSZ) together with the Center for Sociological Research named after Tivadar Legocki continues manipulating public opinion in Ukraine’s Zakarpatia region, carrying out anti-Ukrainian activities to incite and fuel ethnic hatred and intolerance. Sowing discord is one of Moscow’s favorite tactics in its hybrid warfare. The Hungarian side, now in the person of the Party of Hungarians of Ukraine, duly registered in Ukraine (“Society of Hungarian Culture of Zakarpattia (KMKSZ) together with the Center for Sociological Research named after Tivadar Legocki continues manipulating public opinion in Ukraine’s Zakarpatia region, carrying out anti-Ukrainian activities to incite and fuel ethnic hatred and intolerance. In 2018, the organizations drafted and published a small brochure titled “Anti-Hungarian actions in Ukraine,” where Ukraine is directly accused of acts aimed against the Hungarian community of Zakarpattia. The brochure is being actively distributed among residents of the said region, the Information Resistance OSINT group says. Describing 182 cases of “anti-Hungarian actions in Ukraine” from April 2014 to April 2018, the authors address virtually all accusations to Ukrainian authorities, who were allegedly were involved in organizing and coordinating the actions of “aggressive nationalists” (despite the fact that the text often refers to “unidentified perpetrators” defiling Hungarian monuments and symbols). The most glaring example of Kyiv’s “unfriendly” gestures against Budapest, according to the brochure’s authors who also chose not to reveal their names was the arson by the so-called “Ukrainian nationalists” at the KMKSZ office in Uzhgorod. And this is despite the fact that it has long been indisputably proven that it was Polish pro-Russian radicals from the far-right Falanga movement who were responsible for that act.
President of Czech Republic Milos Zeman has publicly called Prague to officially express the protest against “glorification of war criminals by Ukraine”, Zeman’s Press Secretary Jiří Ovčáček reported this on Twitter. In the claim, Zeman criticized the reaction of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs by calling it ‘shameful’. Related: Ukraine extradited ten suspects to Russia in 2018 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Tomas Petricek thinks that Ukraine is the one who has to deal with its history. ‘Ukraine must cope with the painful aspects of its history itself. To do so, Ukraine needs sufficient time. I will talk about this to my colleagues during a visit to Ukraine in early next year,’ he stressed.
Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko says that the circle of suspects in the assassination of Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv has narrowed from several thousand to several hundred people. Lutsenko says that the FBI helped little with identifying the hitman.
Ukrainian Tetyana Bagatska had never been abroad until her granddaughter, Current Time’s Liubov Bagatska, invited her to visit her in Prague. There she discovered electric scooters, self-service checkouts, and the wonders of Prague’s Old Town.