Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Ukraine / Russia Ad Hoc Media Update (101)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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More saber rattling by the Vozhd, as he attempts to resuscitate approval ratings. More on who is hurting Russia with sanctions the most, while Iran pitches for Russian financial aid. Amb McFaul advises US businesses to egress Russia. Lithuania calls for stronger counter-propaganda effort in the EU. Good summary of Russia’s failure in the Balkans. Fancy Bear attacks two US think tanks. Russian military banned from using cellphones and tablets – fear of Bellingcat? Bomb hoax epidemic continues. Three digests on Russia’s internal mayhem – curiously they are proposing another major change of the Cyrillic alphabet, biggest for a century. Russia introduces stolen Ukrainian FULCRUM into VKS service, while Poland has troubles with its fleet.

Kerch / Black Sea update – Western media are paying attention again. Donbas update. UkrOboronProm announces mass production of new Verba 122mm MLRS and Vilkha 300mm GMLRS, replacements for the Soviet Grad and Smerch MLRS systems – the Ukrainian designs have new and improved TELs, and new missiles, with around twice the range of the Soviet equipment. More MTLB-S armored ambulances introduced. New long range LED airfield approach lighting deployed.

Political/election update – Yanukovich’s principal backer turns, now supporting the Poroshenko camp.

Exodus from ROC continues. Ukrainian analysts conclude that all false flag staged arson attacks on churches were conducted precisely along expected ingress routes for a Russian full-scale Blitzkrieg.


Putin Threatens To Target U.S. And Countries Stationing American Missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that if the United States deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will target not only the countries where the weapons are deployed but the U…

Putin: We’ll target USA if Washington deploys missiles in Europe | Reuters

Russia will respond to any U.S. deployment of short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe by targeting not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Putin says Russia’s new missiles will target the U.S. if Washington deploys missiles in Europe – The Washington Post

Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the testing of a new nuclear-capable missile and drone is complete and that the weapons are ready for inclusion in the country’s arsenal. This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Putin Delivers State-Of-Nation Address As Popularity Wanes

President Vladimir Putin is delivering his annual address to parliament on February 20 as polls show trust in the Russian leader is at near record lows as average Russians struggle to make ends meet.

Live Blog: Putin’s State-Of-The-Nation Address

President Vladimir Putin is delivering his annual address to parliament as polls show trust in the Russian leader is at near record lows.

UAWire – Kremlin: Russia lost over 6 billion dollars due to sanctions

Russian export companies lost 6,300 billion dollars due to economic sanctions from the West, reports Russian news agency Interfax, citing a report by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia. This figure is based on the department’s experts’ data collected at the end of 2018. The report notes that the European Union is a leader in the number of restrictive measures in respect of Russian goods. It has implemented exactly twenty-five sanctions. In the second place is Ukraine, which approved twenty-two sanctions, and in the third place, with sixteen restrictive measures, is India. The United States is not even included in the top five as the country imposed only nine sanctions that affect Russian exporters, reports Radio Liberty’s Russian service. At the same time, the U.S. sanctions caused the exporters substantial financial damage estimated by the Ministry of Economic Development at $ 1.1 billion. More than two and a half billion more damage was caused to Russian producers by measures imposed by the EU. The metallurgical industry (almost $ 4 billion loss) and agriculture, with an estimated damage of almost a billion dollars, are among the most affected types industry. At the end of 2018, in total 62 countries applied sanctions on Russian goods. The total number of restrictive measures is 159. As previously reported, the United States and the European Union are preparing new sanctions against Russia, due to the seizure of Ukrainian ships and military personnel near the Crimean coast.

UAWire – Ukraine among top 3 countries in terms of damage inflicted to Russia’s economy

Restrictive measures imposed against Russian products abroad caused a damage of $6.3 billion (expert evaluation) to the Russian economy, …

UAWire – Iran asks Russia for $5 billion 

The Iranian parliament approved a decision to borrow $5 billion from Russia in a session on Sunday. According to MehrNews, the Iranian lawmakers voted for amendments to the budget law which would include Russian money on the list of state revenue sources for the coming financial year, which will begin on 21 March (the year 1398 according to the Persian calendar). The funds will be allocated to infrastructural projects, including nuclear energy, electrical energy, railway transport, as well as the construction of a dam, irrigation networks and water pipelines. Voting took place 4 days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Sochi, Russia, on an official visit. After negotiations with Vladimir Putin, Rouhani said that bilateral relations between Moscow and Tehran are “good and developing” and progressing “to the strategic level”. The construction of Iran’s Sirik thermal power plant and the electrification of the Garmsar-Ince Burun railway line are being done through Russian export credits, said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who was also present at the meeting. At the same time, he added that there are significant reserves for expanding bilateral cooperation. These include the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, which is being built by Rosatom, and the North-South international transport corridor, which was conceived of by Russian officials as an alternative to the Suez Canal – from the Indian port of Mumbai to St. Petersburg, and from there to Europe.

U.S. Cybersecurity, Data Analytics Firm Pulls Out Of Russia

U.S. cybersecurity and data analytics company Splunk has announced its decision to pull out of Russia.

Moscow Court To Decide On Extension Of Pretrial Detention For U.S. Citizen

A court in Moscow is expected to decide on the extension of pretrial detention for a former U.S. Marine being held in Russia on an espionage charge.

UAWire – Former US ambassador urges American businessmen to leave Russia immediately

The arrest of the US citizen Michael Calvey, founder of Baring Vostok, the largest direct investment firm in Russia, should be perceived as a signal for all American businesses that continue to operate in Russia, believes Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Moscow. According to McFaul, the incident with Calvey, who has been sent to a pre-trial detention center for 2 months due to a corporate conflict surrounding Vostochny bank, shows that it’s time for Americans to close up shop in Russia, because any one of them could end up behind bars too. “If they can arrest Calvey, they are not afraid to arrest anyone,” tweeted McFaul, who was the US ambassador to Russia between 2012 and 2014. “To my American friends still doing business in Russia, it’s time to come home,” he added. The Kremlin is following Calvey’s case, since he is known to be an “extremely consistent and major investor in our economy”, said Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov in a comment on Monday. Peskov gave his assurances that there is no geopolitical element to the case and that it is entirely unrelated to the deterioration of US-Russia relations. “The state of Russia’s relations with other countries never has any influence on the business activity of foreign investors here,” Peskov emphasized. “We hope that this cannot and should not affect the investment climate in any way,” he added. The Kremlin’s hopes in this regard are unlikely to be realized. The Calvey case “could force even the bravest foreign investors to think twice before starting investment projects in Russia,” Union Bancaire Privée asset manager Pavel Laberko told Bloomberg.

 

UAWire – Lithuanian Foreign Minister calls on Europeans to step up the fight against Russian propaganda

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius stated in an interview with the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that EU countries should make greater efforts to fight against “Russian propaganda” and prepare for an information war with Russia. The Minister asserted that the West “still underestimates Russia’s informational influence” while Eastern European countries are not the only ones under “Moscow’s attack.” Linkevičius called for the continuation of a strict sanctions policy against Russia. Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called on European countries to tighten sanctions against Russia.

 

Disinfo analysis: Moscow’s Balkan defeat

Polygraph.info has used North Macedonia as the shorter version of the new official name of the Republic of North Macedonia. Since the new name came into force on February 12, 2019, we have used the earlier name Macedonia for past events and prior quotations. Contrary to Kremlin’s assertion that North Macedonia is a small country of little strategic importance to NATO, Moscow has invested substantial efforts to undermine Skopje’s prospect of joining the Western defense alliance. However, the Kremlin has failed in its latest subversive mission in the Balkans, decisively defeated by Skopje and Athens, whose determination to end an old name dispute has reinvigorated the region’s Western integration. A chance to resolve the name dispute finally emerged when the Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias, respectively—in the presence of their countries’ prime ministers, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras—signed a landmark agreement on the shores of Lake Prespa on June 17, 2018. The deal involved changing Macedonia’s name to North Macedonia in exchange for Greece’s full support for its northern neighbor’s NATO and EU accession, as well as recognition of the Macedonian nation and Macedonian language. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gesture before the signing of an accord to settle a long dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name in the village of Psarades, in Prespes, Greece, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/A Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gesture before the signing of an accord to settle a long dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name in the village of Psarades, in Prespes, Greece, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/A Remarkably, and despite nationalist opposition at home and Russian interference, both governments stuck to the deal, systematically taking each step to make it a reality. On February 12, when Macedonia’s name change to North Macedonia came into force, the NATO flag was raised in front of the government building in Skopje. The NATO accession protocol, signed in Brussels on February 6, must be ratified by all 29 members of the alliance. The process will likely take several months or a year, during which time Russia is expected to continue attempts at destabilizing the country. Indeed, Russian officials were quick to claim that by becoming a NATO member, North Macedonia will lose its ability to pursue its own foreign policy. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also warned that Skopje will have to pay for NATO’s patronage “…by increasing its defense spending and by taking part in military preparations and operations that have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Macedonia; moreover, it will be unable to conduct a truly sovereign foreign policy.” Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, stated that “joining NATO would bring nothing good either to Macedonia or to the European community.” “This is more of a symbolic than a practical step, because it is about a small country that does not have any importance to NATO. But this, however, is important for the Alliance given the collision with Russia, which constantly points to the destructive role of NATO as a remnant of the Cold War,” Kosachev told the centrist Nova Makedonija newspaper.

Survey: Estonians most unquestioning information disseminators in EU | News | ERR

Estonians top the European table when it comes to naïvity, according to media expert Raul Rebane, referring to Eurobarometer data.

Russian hackers targeted US think tanks in Europe – CNN

A hacking group that is thought to be linked to Russian military intelligence targeted the European offices of two American think tanks, Microsoft revealed late Tuesday.

Microsoft says hackers attacked European think tanks last year

In a blog post, Microsoft said hackers targeted 104 accounts belonging to organization employees located in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Serbia.

Russian hackers move within victims’ systems less than 19 minutes after entering, report finds | TheHill

Russian-backed hackers are able to enter and then move through their victims’ networks significantly faster than actors from any other major nations, according to a

Russia Votes to Ban Smartphone Use by Military, Trying to Hide Digital Traces – The New York Times

Online posts, including pictures and videos, have given away the locations and activities of Russian troops, exposing Kremlin falsehoods about actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Russia moves to mask its soldiers’ digital trail with smartphone ban | World news | The Guardian

Investigative sites have used social media posts to confirm Russia involvement in conflicts

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Telephone Terrorism Shows No Sign of Letting Up, Nesmiyan Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 19 – Today, for the fourth day in a row, telephone calls saying that bombs have been planted in key locations in Moscow and St. Petersburg have continued; and commentator Anatoly Nesmiyan says there is no sign that these calls or the emergency evacuations they have provoked are going to come to an end anytime soon. He suggests there are two possibilities in this situation. Either the authorities plan to use these attacks as the occasion for imposing a far more totalitarian system on the country, or they are not in a position to do so because those behind these attacks are Russia’s Western partners whom Moscow can’t easily respond to (rosbalt.ru/posts/2019/02/19/1765057.html). “Undoubtedly,” Nesmiyan says, “diversions and terror in the sphere of information security are a comparatively new phenomenon,” although there are precedents,” as in the case of Iran. But if the source of these attacks on Russia’s economy and sense of security really are not domestic but foreign, the authors in these countries must be shown that there will be a response. What is taking place now as the attacks continue is an attempt by the Russian powers that be to decide just who is responsible. Once that is known, the response is predictable; but as for now, the authorities do not appear to have a clear answer. As a result, there is not yet any decision about what to do; and the attacks, already unnerving many, are going to continue. How long that can continue is an “interesting” question. But at present, it has not obvious resolution. “And that means the reports about bombs and evacuations will continue” until the Putin regime decides if and how it should or even can respond, the commentator suggests.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia’s Future Will Be Dominated by Four Constants of Its Past, Igor Kon Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 18 – Many like to say that Russia is a country with an unpredictable past, but in fact, its past and thus its present and future are dominated by “four constants: a Glorious Past, Bad Neighbors, a Wise Leader and a Bright Future,” according to a 2008 essay by the late Igor Kon that Yezhednevny zhurnal has now republished. It remains very relevant. Kon, a leading Soviet and Russian psychologist and philosopher who died in 2011, observed that any country that wants to move forward will not obsess about its past but that countries that only want to go in circles and repeat that past will inevitably do so (polit.ru/article/2008/11/21/history/republished at ej.ru/?a=note&id=33423). If one ignores “all the well-known Roads and Fools,” Kon argues, “there are in Russian history four constants: a Glorious Past, Bad Neighbors, a Wise Leader and a Bright Future.” Because nothing has changed in this regard, “every old man can be a prophet” with a fair degree of confidence that he will be proved right. Those four constants were very much in evidence in Soviet times, Kon says; and after the turbulence and uncertainty of the 1990s, they re-emerged with ne force. “Despite everything we rose from our knees, found a new National Leader, returned to our spiritual sources, remembered that ‘Moscow is the Third Rome,’ ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality,’ and established a new moral-political unity and national accord.” Russians again looked to Comrade Stalin as a great national leader. And the new national leader announced a 20-year economic plan to eclipse the petty five-year plans of the CPSU. “We again began to rattle our arms, our pipelines and our non-technology threatening not only near but distant neighbors.” And Russians again decided that the European ideas of human rights contradicted our “traditional moral-religious values” as manifested in their country from Ivan the Terrible to Stalin.” Once again outsiders threaten Russia, and once again Russia girds itself to fight them, Kon continues. Russia acquires for itself in this struggle “remarkable new friends (I will not name them,” [Kon says]) and proposes the world new plans for a universal conservative renewal.” But again “the main thing is faith in the National Leader,” someone who is taken by Russians to personify and embody “our best qualities and aspirations” – even though it is almost certain that in the future as in the past every such leader will be condemned for a time only to be restored to his pedestal later. Kon recounts the following anecdote: “Once God called the leaders of the great powers to give account of themselves. The American president (this was long before both Bushes) talked about his difficulties, couldn’t restrain himself and began to cry. God put his arm over his shoulder and said ‘It’s nothing. You’ll somehow manage.’” More or less the same thing happened with the British prime minister. But when a Soviet general secretary “proudly reported about the achievements of his country, the Lord silently sat down beside the party leader and himself began to cry.” “Our chief misfortune,” Kon says, “is a lack of faith. Before 1917, we believed in a Power Vertical instituted by God … Today we do not know whom we fear more, a bandit or a policeman and whom to sympathize with, a prosecutor, a lawyer, an accused or a judge.” Perhaps what Russia needs is “not faith but trust,” things that often are contradictory. According to Kon, “for the prediction of our future, we don’t need sociology or futurology.” Russia’s history will continue to be a repetition of one and the same set of constants. Things may look different because they are given different names, but that not only doesn’t change anything, it guarantees that nothing fundamental will change.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Is Putin, like Stalin, Going to be a General Secretary? ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Asks

Paul Goble Staunton, February 19 – In a lead article today, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta suggest that the format in which Vladimir Putin’s new national projects are being discussed looks like a test of what may become the future “mechanism of power” in the Russian Federation, one in which the Kremlin leader would retain power under a new title. The State Council, which some have suggested could become the governing body of Russia after 2024 and allow Putin to continue in power in a new position, showed this past week how that body might be constituted, including ministries and governors working under someone who might be a general secretary (ng.ru/editorial/2019-02-19/2_7512_red.html). At one level, of course, what has occurred looks only like a brainstorming session given that it brings together officials who themselves have organized discussions in advance of the meeting. But Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of the Presidential Administration, implied that it could be something more in comments to the media by his praise of this arrangement. Kiriyenko called the use of the State Council in the way Putin has just done “a qualitatively different system of administration.” The only way this arrangement was new is that governors and ministers were included in a common body and allowed to discuss things on that basis. This reflects an important reality, the editors of the Moscow paper say. “People live not in ministries but in regions; the country is enormous and varied, and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach” to many policies. And that does represent a change in how business is done in Moscow. As a result, Nezavisimaya gazeta suggests, “it would be more logical” to consider that what is taking place is the outgrowth of decisions by the Kremlin leadership to do away with “the aging power constructions” of the present and come up with new ones, especially given what has come to be called the “2024 problem” of political transition. If the State Council became the central organ of power in Russia, the editors says, it would be something like a Politburo; and then the key official would be its secretary general just as was the case during Soviet times. Putin could occupy that position, continue to control all that goes on in the country, but not violate the constitution by continuing as president. That after all is how Stalin ran the Soviet Union for most of his career, a model that Putin, one of his admirers, has certainly considered.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Circassian Scholars Take Up the Cudgels to Save the Letter Щ

Paul Goble Staunton, February 19 – Olga Vasilyeva, the Russian minister of science and education, five days ago announced that as part of a new orthographic reform, seven letters now part of the Russian alphabet will be dropped as of 2020, a change that not only Russian traditionalists but Circassian linguists oppose. Vasilyeva says that next year Russians will cease to use the letters ы and ъ in place of which will be used the letter ь. In place of ё will be used е, and in place of ц, х, ч, ш, and щ will be introduced a single new letter still being discussed and to be announced later (ogokak.com/blog/archives/15627). This will represent the greatest change in the Russian alphabet since 1917 and is certain to become the subject of controversy. The first to weigh in against it, however, are not Russian traditionalists who can be expected to complain but rather Circassian linguists who say the elimination of Щ will make it impossible to express the sound values of their language. Linguists from the Adgyey Republic Academy of Sciences have sent a letter to the ministry of enlightenment asking that that letter be preserved. “We cannot replace the letter Щ,” they say, because it is needed to express certain sound patterns in Circassian. Without it, the language would be distorted and impoverished (ogokak.com/blog/archives/15729). This problem arises, of course, because the Putin regime has insisted that all languages used by indigenous peoples within the current borders of the Russian Federation use alphabets based on Cyrillic than on Latin or Arabic script or their own traditional writing systems. Were that not so, changes in Russian orthography wouldn’t matter for the non-Russians. At least some Russian officials appear to be listening although for what reasons remain unclear. Veronika Yashurova, deputy to Vasiliyeva, said in response that “the ministry will never go against the interests of the people. This reform is being carried out for the people. Fewer signs means less bureaucracy, fewer grammatical errors and higher scores on school tests.” “We will preserve the letter Щ for Adgyeya and for all Russia, but work over this reform will continue, Yashurova declared.

 

Seized Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet accepted for service by Russian Air Force – Defence Blog

The seized MiG-29 fighter jet (bort number 85 Blue) of the Ukrainian Air Force has been accepted for Russian service, the local media reported on 20 February. According to several media reports, a number of seized Ukrainian combat aircraft, included MiG-29 fighter jet and L-39 trainer, have been accepted for service by the Russian Air Force. The image of seized Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet with Russian Military Air Force red-white-blue roundel was first reported in MilitaryAviation.in.UA. For reference, Russia has seized more than a hundred advanced Ukrainian combat aircraft during the annexation of Crimean Peninsula. In 2014 Russian regular troops have surrounded and seized Belbek base and warplanes after Ukrainian servicemen inside refused to lay arms and leave the base. The compound contained barracks, arms depots and a command building. It was the last major facility to be seized by Russian forces and had endured a tense blockade for more than a week. Russian troops have taken over control of Crimea following the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The Kremlin said it acted to protect its “compatriots” in Crimea from supposedly “fascists” moving in from the mainland Ukraine.

Polish MiG-29 Reliability Under Scrutiny After Fulcrum Is Forced to Make Emergency Landing in Malbork – The Aviationist

One of the Polish MiG-29 Fulcrums made an emergency landing at the 22nd AB in Malbork around noon on Feb. 15, 2019, Onet.pl reports. The incident has been confirmed by Marek Pawlak, spokesman for the Polish MoD. Onet.pl, quoted Pawlak who stated that the pilot experienced cockpit decompression and then, using the jet’s emergency oxygen system, landed at the Malbork airbase. He was taken to a hospital in Gdynia afterwards. The pilot, as the spokesman assured, is OK. This is not the first event as such – it was reported by various media outlets that a similar occurence did happen to another Polish pilot back in Apr. 2018. The Polish Fulcrums are having a rough time recently – on Dec. 18, 2017 a Polish MiG-29 crashed near the base in Minsk Mazowiecki. The pilot did not eject, but survived. The crash in question is still under investigation. In July last year another crash happened in Pasłęk, near Malbork. In that case, the pilot ejected, but the ejection seat failed, causing his death. The general conclusion of the newspiece published by Onet is that the pilots do not trust the aircraft anymore. Keeping a clean record for nearly three decades, they were considered to be relatively safe, but during the recent period this is gradually changing. Some problems also emerge, as rumors suggest, when it comes to availability of spare parts that need to be sourced via intermediaries, from Russia. The aircraft should be replaced with the procurement of new fighter aircraft as part of the initiative referred to as “Harpia” (harpy eagle) programme.

UAWire – Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as the world’s second largest oil producer but still lags behind the US

Russia outpaced Saudi Arabia in crude oil production, moving into second place after the USA, the world's largest oil producer, RIA Novosti …

Germany’s soldiers of misfortune – POLITICO

The once mighty Bundeswehr is looking increasingly threadbare.

The Aspen Institute – Crisis in Democracy: Executive Summary

Read the Executive Summary of Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America

TASS: World – Mother requests missing person status for ex-spy Skripal — niece

The request was sent to the Russian police by mail

‘Irritated’ US admiral sends destroyer to Black Sea after Russia fires on Ukrainian vessels

MUNICH — An American destroyer is sailing to the Black Sea to conduct naval exercises with Ukraine to demonstrate “solidarity” in response to a clash with Russia that has a top U.S. admiral furious. “The whole episode in the Sea of Azov was extremely bothersome to me,” Admiral James Foggo, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, told reporters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. Russian forces fired on three Ukrainian naval vessels that attempted to pass through the Kerch Strait, the narrow waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, and arrested the sailors in late November. The maritime incident was the first public act of violence by Russian forces against Ukraine since 2014, when unmarked Russian fighters helped annex Crimea and invade eastern Ukraine. Since the takeover, Moscow has used control of the land on both sides of the waterway to restrict access to key Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. “We’re showing solidarity,” Foggo said of the USS Donald Cook’s deployment to the region from its home port at Naval Station Rota, Spain. Russia maintains that the three ships were seized after they tried to force their way through the strait without following standard safety procedures. “They were apprehended — even though some people have illusions about Crimea — they were apprehended at the place which was Russian territorial waters even before the referendum,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, in reference to the vote that Moscow cites as the basis for its claim to sovereignty over the Crimean side of the strait, during a Saturday panel at the security conference, at which world leaders have gathered annually since the Cold War.

‘This is soul-destroying’: Families of captured Ukrainian sailors fear the world has forgotten them | CBC News

To Russia, they’re criminals, but to their families, 24 young Ukrainian sailors are hostages and pawns in Russia’s latest confrontation with the West.

Ukraine President Signs Constitutional Amendment On NATO, EU Membership

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a constitutional amendment committing the country to becoming a member of NATO and the European Union.

MFA Ukraine expects fruitful discussion at UN General Assembly on further steps to bring Russia to justice – news politics | UNIAN

Speaker for the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine Kateryna Zelenko has said the ministry expects to hold a fruitful discussion at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly regarding further steps to bring Russia to justice for its aggression against Ukraine. The purpose of the meeting is to bring the issue of Russian aggression onto the largest international platform and comprehensively discuss its main aspects.

US calls on Russia to cease obstructing vessels transiting Kerch Strait

The United States calls on Russia to cease obstructing the vessels bound for Ukrainian ports and to release immediately the seized Ukrainian vessels and crew members. — Ukrinform.

Russian doctors to examine three Ukrainian sailors wounded amid Kerch incident – news politics | UNIAN

Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova has reported that the three wounded Ukrainian sailors currently imprisoned in Russia – Andriy Artemenko, Andriy Eyder and Vasyl Soroka – will be sent for a medical examination by Russian doctors. They were deprived of proper treatment for almost three months already.

Three wounded Ukrainian sailors to be sent for examination in hospital, – ombudswoman – 112.international

Andriy Artemenko, Andriy Eider and Vasyl Soroka, the wounded Ukrainian sailors will undergo medical examination at a hospital – not in the remand centre in Moscow where they are held now. Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliamentary envoy for human rights reported that on Facebook. ‘According to Russian envoy for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova, three wounded Ukrainian POWs, seamen Andriy Artemenko, Andriy Eider and Vasyl Soroka will be sent for an examination at a hospital. Finally, Russia listened to the calls of Ukraine and the entire civilized world to provide them with the medical assistance’, Denisova wrote.

Tusk: No Europe without Ukraine (Video) – news politics | UNIAN

President of the European Council Donald Tusk says there is no Europe without Ukraine. “Here and now I want to say that there is no just Europe without an independent Ukraine. There is no safe Europe without a safe Ukraine. To put it simply: there can be no Europe without Ukraine,” he told Ukrainian parliamentarians in Kyiv on February 19 on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine. “I often repeat to my colleagues in Brussels: Don’t teach them [Ukrainians] to be Europe. Learn from them what Europe is,” Tusk added. “Let me repeat the words with which I once addressed European Union leaders: Only those who show solidarity with Ukraine have the right to be called Europeans. Those who are ready to trade Ukraine are trading the future of Europe,” he said. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/10452429-tusk-no-europe-without-ukraine-video.html

Poroshenko explains why war in Ukraine so critical for Putin – news politics | UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is well aware that losing Ukraine means his plans will fail to have Russia regain its superpower status. Putin’s dream is about a belt of dependent satellite states whose sovereignty is purely nominal, according to the Ukrainian president.

Russian aggression in Crimea started five years ago

February 20 is the official date of the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea, which was determined by the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “On the Statement of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “On Countering the Armed Aggression of the Russian Federation and Overcoming its Consequences” of April 21, 2015. — Ukrinform.

Two NATO ships enter Black Sea

Two ships of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two – the German Navy’s Werra flagship and the Turkish Navy’s Akcakoca minesweeper – entered the Black Sea on February 19, Turkish online newspaper Gunes has reported. — Ukrinform.

Law on Ukraine’s course for EU, NATO published

The law introducing amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the country’s course for membership in the EU and NATO has been published in the parliament’s Holos Ukrainy newspaper. — Ukrinform.

Three Ukrainian servicemen wounded amid 16 enemy attacks in Donbas

On February 19, Russian occupation forces violated ceasefire agreements 16 times, using weapons banned under the Minsk agreements 15 times, in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) area in eastern Ukraine over the past day. — Ukrinform.

Escalation in Donbas: Three Ukrainian soldiers wounded in action in past day – news war | UNIAN

Russia’s hybrid military forces in the past 24 hours mounted 16 attacks on Ukrainian army positions in Donbas, with three Ukrainian soldiers reported as wounded in action. Three invaders were killed and another three were wounded on Tuesday, intelligence reports say.

By attacking UAVs in Donbas, invaders trying to force OSCE from Luhansk sector – JCCC – news war | UNIAN

By attacking unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Donbas occupiers are trying to intimidate OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) officials and force them to abandon monitoring in the Luhansk sector. According to the JCCC, provocative actions on the part of invaders aim to conceal their attacks on Ukraine’s Joint Forces.

Russia-led forces dig trench closer to Ukrainian positions in Donetsk region – OSCE – news war | UNIAN

Members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) to Ukraine have reported that Russia-led forces have dug a long trench closer to Ukrainian positions near the village of Pervomaiske in Donetsk region. The trench was not visible in imagery from August 22, 2018.

Recent Donetsk explosions result of internal squabbles in “DPR” – media – news ukraine | UNIAN

Self-styled “DPR leader” Denis Pushilin’s opponents, dissatisfied with him in top office, are involved in the recent explosions that rocked the Donetsk city center in the area close to the terrorist leader’s residence. It was a signal to Denis Pushilin, sources say.

President proposes Verkhovna Rada to allow foreign military to participate in drills – 112.international

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko proposes the Verkhovna Rada to admit foreign military to participate in the multinational drills in 2019, as the draft law №10067 registered in the Parliament. The document is tagged as urgent. It says that it referred to the multinational drills on the preparation of the Armed Forces units, Ukrainian American drills Rapid Trident – 2019, Sea Breeze 2019, the Ukrainian Romanian drills Riverain-2019, multinational drills Maple Ark-2019 and Ukrainian British drills Warrior Watcher-2019.

Poroshenko asks parliament to approve admission of foreign troops to Ukraine

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has registered bill No. 10067 “On the approval of the decision of the president of Ukraine on the admission of units of the armed forces of other states to the territory of Ukraine in 2019 for participation in multinational exercises.” — Ukrinform.

Ukraine announces mass production of new rocket launchers – Defence Blog

Ukrainian state-owned Ukroboronprom conglomerate formally beginning mass production of Verba 122mm and heavy Vilkha 300mm artillery rocket systems. According to a UkrOboronProm’s statement, SE Shepetovka Repair Plant (part of conglomerate ) formally launched production of an improved Ukrainian rocket launcher systems. It expected that the first Verba and Vilkha rocket launcher systems will be delivered to the Ukrainian army in this year. The Verba is a 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) mounted on KrAZ 6×6 truck chassis and equipped with cabin for 5 people. Fire control, aiming and even recharge is performed automatically from the cabin, without soldiers’ direct intervention. The weight of the new MLRS is nearly 20 tons, though “Verba” can increase the speed up to 85 km/h. The Verba is intended to replace ageing Soviet-era BM-21 Grad rocket launcher systems. The “Verba” MLRS developed by “Kharkiv Morozov Machine-Building Design Bureau” and will manufacturing at SE Shepetovka Repair Plant.

The first units armed with the MLRS systems “Verba” and “Vilkha” will form this year

Already this year, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will form the first regular artillery units that will have a high-precision volley fire system “Vilkha” and a system “Verba”. Serial production of new rocket launchers “Verba” and a launcher for “Vilkha” starts the Shepetivka Repair Plant, according to DK “Ukroboronprom”. RBC “Verba” was developed by the Kharkiv Design Bureau. O. Morozov is a modernization of the 122-mm RZZ 9K51 “Grad”. The “Verba” digital systems allow the crew to control the fire, aim and even reload automatically from the cabin. The ammunition consists of forty 122-mm rockets, capable of destroying targets at distances of up to 40 km. Full launher reload takes 10 minutes. The use of digital fire control systems has reduced the time to open fire, and thanks to the new platform stabilization system, it has been possible to significantly improve accuracy. In addition, Verbu has installed modern digital communication systems for secure transmission of information. Coupled with the high-speed chassis KrAZ-6322, it provides high combat efficiency and mobility of the “Verbs” on the battlefield. Also, SE “Shepetovsky repair factory” starts serial production of the launcher of the reactive system “Vilkha”, developed by the SCC “Luch” in close cooperation with other enterprises. “Vilkha” is a high-precision missile complex, which allows the enemy to be destroyed at a considerable distance with minimal error, due to the use of a special guidance system with the ability to adjust the trajectory in flight. In addition, this system allows for the launch of all 12 missiles with a 300-mm caliber for various purposes during a salvo. As a base chassis, the modified four-wheel drive KrAZ-7634NE chassis with a 8×8 wheelbase and a 460hp Weichai Power engine were selected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine launching production of Verba MLR systems – news economics | UNIAN

Ukraine in 2019 will start mass production of its own Verba multiple launch rocket system. Oleg Turinskiy, Director of the Shepetivskiy Repair Plant, which is part of the Ukroboronprom state concern, where the MLRS will be manufactured, says the tests had already been completed and the system had been accepted for service in the Ukrainian Army, Censor.NET reported. “On February 11-16, our plant’s team worked at the state-owned Kharkiv-based Morozov Engineering Design Bureau, which is the Verba developer. We studied design documentation and all features of this system,” he said.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine received a regular batch of medevac equipment

The base for the formation and storage of medical equipment and property of the NZ, which in Poltava region, was received and prepared for the transfer to the needs of the OS of another batch of medical evacuation equipment. Sanitary cars “Bogdan” and crawler MTBL-S were fully carried out in terms of reception and registration. The medical equipment was put into operation and, according to the outfits, was distributed to military units that carry out combat missions in eastern Ukraine. – This is the first transfer this year to advanced. The process of replacing the old and “served” the life of the samples into new ones is quite active. In 2018, we sent about 120 samples of medical equipment to the OOS region, including MTBL-S, reanimobiles and sanitary cars Bogdan. They are equipped with up-to-date medical equipment and fully adapted for assignments, “said Alexander Malyar, Lieutenant Colonel of the Medical Service, commander of the military unit.

Military airfields are already receiving domestically made light-signal equipment – Український мілітарний портал

The national system of light-signal equipment “Photon” has successfully completed state tests and has already been installed at three military airfields. This is reported by the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine The novelty has already been tested on the international exercises “Clean Sky – 2018”, which took place in October 2018. Then foreign colleagues noted the effectiveness of the new system, which is still the only fully-made LED lamp in the world. New equipment has already begun the training of cadet pilots, which created new manuals that have already been sent to military educational institutions in Kharkiv and Vasilkov. – In order for the cadets to prepare for work with new equipment, we have prepared the corresponding books with all the nuances and calculations of “Photon”, – said the chief specialist of the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Volodymyr Manaenkov. – These manuals have already been sent to the educational institutions of Kharkiv and Vasilkov, where the relevant specialists are trained. At the present stage of technical development of light signal systems, “Photon” is the most promising option. The system allows the pilot to visually see the flight at a distance of forty kilometers. At the same time the complex is still quite mobile. Currently, it is planned to supply kits of equipment in part of the military aircraft. Also, three dozen search-radar stations of Ukrainian production have already been launched at military airfields.

Amnesty International: Five Years After Euromaidan, Justice For The Victims ‘Still Not Even In Sight’

Amnesty International says the Ukrainian criminal justice system has “resisted and obstructed justice” when dealing with the human rights violations committed by police during the Euromaidan protes…

Ankle monitor put on Kherson official suspected of ordering assassination of activist Handziuk – news politics | UNIAN

An ankle monitor has been put on Chairman of Kherson Regional Council Vladyslav Manger who is suspected of ordering an assassination of local activist Kateryna Handziuk. Manger is allowed to move inside the city of Kherson.

Border Guards did not let Israeli tourists into Ukraine – 112.international

Ukraine’s state border guards did not let the group of tourists from Israel into Ukraine. A group of visitors and a guide consisted of more than 30 people, Ynet wrote. The outlet reported that after four hours of sorting it out, the law enforcers let most of the tourists pass. However, 17 people, including the guide will be deported back to Israel. The State Border Guard of Ukraine still has not provided any comments on this matter. Lately, there have been reports about border guards in Ukraine and Israel refusing to let the passengers from respective countries pass. Previously, on February 15, 140 Ukrainians had to stay at Ben Gurion airport in Israel for several hours. On the same day, the Ukrainian side held 35 Israeli citizens at Boryspil airport; however, due to the diplomatic interference, the passengers were allowed to pass.

Key Yanukovych’s ex-sponsor Akhmetov bets on Poroshenko during 2019 elections – 112.international

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, just in January 2018, Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov has increased his wealth by 830 million US dollars. People familiar with the Ukrainian realities know that one might get such capital only with the facilitation of the state. This is the answer to the question on Ukrainian richest man’s position at the presidential elections-2019. Unfortunately, many, by inertia, perceive Akhmetov and politicians associated with him, such as Vilkul or Novinsky, as a kind of opposition to Petro Poroshenko. This is, if I may say so, some “phantom pain” of the voters, inherited from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Everything used to be pretty simple before 2014; there were Party of Regions members, supported by the southeast electorate, and there are pro-Western politicians, who masked themselves to be “democrats.” Blue and orange, a bipolar world if you want, which has lasted for ten years in Ukraine. But Ukraine has changed since then and, of course, its political realities have also changed. Indeed, it could be said that right after the Maidan, Akhmetov was forced to stand in opposition. Not because a war erupted in his native region, to which he fully owes his heights, a war, which caused mass death of people and numerous destructions. In the spring of 2014, Poroshenko announced a campaign against the oligarchs in order to stop their political influence on the country. And Akhmetov, as one the largest of the oligarchs, was the main goal of this campaign. Therefore, 2015 has become one of the most difficult periods for Rinat Akhmetov. On the one hand, his companies, especially DTEK (a strategic holding company that develops business streams in the energy sector, – ed.), were squeezed by debts, and, on the other hand, he had to fight off attacks from the government and the president. The new government claimed that the prices of coal mined at the Akhmetov mines were too high, Akhmetov, in turn, mouthed off by miners ’protest demonstrations. Ministry of Energy proposed to adopt a law, according to which after the sale of 25% of the state-owned shares of Dniproenergo, Zakhidenergo, and Kyivenergo, the buyer would have the right to buy 75% of the package of these energy companies from Akhmetov. Buyback them forcibly. In fact, it was an attempt on the business of the former sponsor of Yanukovych’s party. In addition, at the end of 2015, Anti-Monopoly Committee launched an investigation against DTEK, which was quite natural, considering that the company controls 80% of the country’s thermal power generation, 80% of coal production, and 33% of the distribution networks. Subsequent events showed that all these threatening actions in relation to energy companies were nothing more than coercion to cooperate with Poroshenko. By January 2016, the cost of DTEK’s debt obligations fell to a minimum. Apparently, the conclusion of a “peace deal” between the biggest oligarch and the oligarch-president happened then. First, the ICU financial company, which (by an amazing coincidence) belonged to Poroshenko’s close associates, then Minister of Energy a Demchyshyn and the then head of the National Bank Hontareva began to buy up the debt obligations. And then the head of the electricity regulation commission becomes a former employee of ICU and at the same time former employee of Roshen Vovk, who in April 2016 introduced Rotterdam+ coal pricing formula. The cost of purchasing coal using this formula instantly rises by a quarter, which until the end of 2016, brought DTEK some additional 350 million USD of revenue. Naturally, at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians, as the authorities immediately raised electricity tariffs. By the way, the government has linked the tariff increase with the IMF requirements, which constantly demands to raise the utility costs. Related: Akhmetov rose in Bloomberg rating of billionaires placed 393rd DTEK’s debt bonds have quickly soared in price after raising tariffs by 40% in just a couple of weeks. The war with the oligarch has turned into cooperation, which just in a few months brought Poroshenko’s team immediately tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars (Akhmetov’s debt obligations). DTEK’s operating profit began to grow sharply since the second half of the year. For example, if according to the results of the first two quarters of 2016, it amounted to 107 million USD, then according to the results of the third and fourth quarters – it has reached already 535 million USD.

Connection spotted between Russia’s invasion plans and churches in Ukraine targeted for arson attacks – news politics | UNIAN

A map showing churches across Ukraine targeted for arson attacks by the Russian FSB was published by a Ukrainian blogger Oleksandr Snidalov, who added to the map locations of Russian military and navy units in the relevant proximity to those sites. Acts of arson at churches, synagogues and Catholic temples does not mean Russia will attack automatically; however, the location of targets very accurately shows where exactly Russian special services seek to create zones of instability that could give grounds for military action. A map showing churches across Ukraine targeted for arson attacks by the Russian FSB was published by a Ukrainian blogger Oleksandr Snidalov, who added to the map locations of Russian military and navy units in the relevant proximity to those sites. Russian forces’ potential operational deployment zones are marked in red, Information Resistance OSINT group wrote. “Just look at that! Isn’t it surprising to see no targets of potential arson attacks in cities like Kharkiv or Dnipro, but at the same time to spot them in the towns of Nizhyn, Buhas and Sartana? Nizhyn is located a bit to south of the M02 international highway and right at the railway junction connecting Kyiv with Russia which could be used to deploy forces if necessary.

Independent Orthodox church emerged in Ukraine thanks to feat of Heavenly Hundred Heroes – Metropolitan Epifaniy – news ukraine | UNIAN

Leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epifaniy has said an independent Orthodox church was created in Ukraine due to the feat of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes who sacrificed their lives during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. Speaking during a memorial service at Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral remembering those who perished during the Revolution of Dignity, he said the Heavenly Hundred Heroes “gave their lives for the truth.” “Thanks to their sacrificial feat, today we have a united nation, we have open borders of the European Union, and we also have an autocephalous independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine and this is the result of their sacrifice, their love for their Homeland, their love for their neighbors,” he said. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/society/10453146-independent-orthodox-church-emerged-in-ukraine-thanks-to-feat-of-heavenly-hundred-heroes-metropolitan-epifaniy.html

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Church has Already Lost 2.5 Percent of Its Parishes in Ukraine in Month Since Autocephaly

Paul Goble Staunton, February 19 – In the month since Ukraine received autocephaly, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has seen more than 300 of its parishes transfer their allegiance from Moscow to the Ukrainian autocephalous church, some 2.5 percent of the total number of Moscow parishes in that country. More will shift in the coming weeks and months and quite likely at an accelerating rate as Orthodox faithful get used to the idea; but this process, Kyiv commentator Dmitry Gorevoy says, is not going without a fight and that fight, which he details in a new article, is certain to continue and perhaps intensify as well (lb.ua/society/2019/02/16/419887_300_prihodov_pravoslavnie.html). Gorevoy says that the shift in the last month strikes some as small forgetting that since the Revolution of Dignity only about 70 parishes made the shift. In the last month alone, however, more than four times as many have done so as did over the last four years. “For the church milieu, accustomed to conservatism and inertia, this [new figure] is very high” indeed. Under Ukrainian law, parishes are supposed to be able to vote on whether to make the shift, the commentator says; but that is a more complicated proposition than many had assumed. The definition of membership is difficult and the possibilities of opponents of a shift to dispatch outsiders to vote against change are very large. Moreover, the voting rules are such that extremely small numbers of parishioners especially in rural areas where churches are often very tiny can block a move, especially if they are encouraged to do so by their priest who is under pressure from the Moscow church to block any shift. In addition, Gorevoy says, the transfer of institutions involves not just parishes but monasteries and bishoprics. Organizing their transfer is more difficult and the path less clear. Bishoprics are legal persons rather than territories while monasteries are not necessarily controlled by parishes. Moscow is exploiting both realities. Everyone needs to remember that the Moscow church “is not living only on the basis of hope for God’s help.” It is doing everything it can to block change: sending in outsiders to vote in parishes, engaging in deceptive practices like saying those who want to change need to form an entirely new church, and directly threatening priests and parishioners. At present, the Ukrainian church has real advantages, Gorevocy continues; but “the entire future dynamic of transitions will depend” on how skillfully it counters the activities of the Moscow church. There is a real struggle going on, and no one should assume that Moscow is going to yield. In this battle, he concludes, “the Orthodox Church of Ukraine must avoid the temptations of monopoly. It now is canonical, Ukrainian and autocephalous, but this doesn’t mean that it can sit with crossed arms and simply wait while parishes come to it. On the contrary, it must act, develop and become more attractive in the eyes of the believers.” That will require not only real effort but also a commitment to openness, transparency, and the participation of the faithful in church life. Only in that way, Gorevoy says, will the forces of Moscow be defeated in this critical area of Ukrainian life.

Ukraine: Return to monastery that became a morgue

Kiev Letter: Dead and wounded protesters were brought to St Michael’s five years ago

Why a centuries-old Ukraine Orthodox Church dispute matters today

Competition for dominance between the churches of Constantinople and Moscow in the Orthodox Christian world is not new — it goes back more than 500 years. But the birth of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine opens a new chapter in this history.