Tag Archives: Ukraine

NATO Unveils Expansion Plans, Invites Montenegro

by Jason Ditz

Far from the Atlantic and not particularly northerly, the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro has formally been invited today to join NATO, as part of what the alliance is presenting as an ongoing growth strategy. A nation of 600,000 people, Montenegro first made efforts to secure an invite nine years ago.

NATO last expanded in 2009, with the admission of Albania and Croatia. Montenegro is one of four nations that had been actively seeking membership. Among the others, Bosnia and Herzegovina seems the only realistic potential member, as Georgia’s existing territorial disputes would preclude membership and Greece doesn’t want to allow Macedonia in because of their name. Ukraine has also recently talked up seeking membership, but similarly has outstanding territorial disputes.

Russia has objected to NATO’s repeated expansions in the past two decades, with those expansions absorbing the bulk of their former Warsaw Pact allies, and sees the continued expansion as a deliberately provocative move aimed at ultimately “surrounding” Russia.

With its accession, Montenegro will be the third smallest active military within NATO, larger only than Iceland and Luxembourg. With no active warplanes and only two active patrol boats, the addition to the alliance will be trivial to the broader balance of power between NATO and Russia.

Monsters of Ukraine: Made in the USA

Fascists proliferate as the country slides into a sinkhole

by , July 31, 2015

We’re in the summer doldrums of the news cycle, a perfect time for our government and the media – or do I repeat myself? – to drop certain inconvenient stories down the Memory Hole. My job, of course, is to retrieve them….

Remember Ukraine? I seem to recall blaring headlines about a supposedly “imminent” and “massive” Russian invasion of that country: the Anglo-Saxon media was ablazewith a veritable countdown to D-Day and we were treated to ominous sightings of Russian troops and tanks gathering at the border, allegedly just awaiting the order from Putin to take Kiev. And it turns out there has been an invasion, of sorts – although it isn’t a Russian one. It’s the Kiev regime’s own foot-soldiers returning from the front and turning on their masters.

The war is going badly for the government of oligarch Petro Poroshenko. The east Ukrainians, who rose in revolt after the US-sponsored coup threw out democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, show no signs of giving up: they’ve repulsed the “anti-terrorist” campaign launched by Kiev, withstanding relentless bombardment of their cities and enduring many thousands of casualties, not to mention widespread destruction. Indeed, the brutal protracted war waged by Kiev against its own “citizens” has arguably steeled the rebels’ resolve and made any thought of reconciliation unthinkable.

As is usual with violent fanatics, the war aims of the Kiev coup leaders – to bring the eastern provinces back into the fold – have been rendered impossible by their methods and conduct. The de facto blockade imposed on the east has bound the separatists all the more tightly to Russia, and so economics as well as searing hatred of a government the easterners regard as “fascist” has sealed the country’s fate.

Unable to crack the rebels’ resolve, the “revolutionaries” who once gathered in the Maiden have begun to turn on each other. Poroshenko, fearful of the rising power of the far-right militias who make up the backbone of his makeshift army, has ordered their dissolution – and the rightists are resisting.

A standoff between the Right Sector militia and Ukrainian police the other day culminated in a pitched battle as the rightists attacked police positions in Mukachevo, in western Ukraine, and took a six-year-old boy hostage. A dispute over control of the local cigarette smuggling operation had ended with two Right Sector thugs killed and seven others – it’s not clear which side they belonged to – injured. The rightists used grenade launchers to pulverize two police cars. Oh well, no worries, Washington willsend replacements…. for both the cars and the launchers.

The big problem for the Kiev regime is that Right Sector and allied far-rightist militias are the core of their military operation against the east. Right Sector provided the muscle of the Maiden revolution, standing in the front lines against the widely fearedBerkut special forces loyal to Yanukovych. If these thugs must be reined in, then the success of the “anti-terrorist” campaign is doubtful: yet Kiev is increasingly unwilling to pay the high price of appeasing their increasingly troublesome Praetorians.

The aftermath of the Mukachevo stand off was a clear victory for the rightists, who saw their leader, Dmytro Yarosh, a member of parliament, negotiating with the Interior Ministry – and Right Sector militia blocking the road from Kiev to the scene of the fighting. The result was an announcement from the Interior Ministry that the police chief of Mukachevo has been suspended, pending an “investigation” of the charges of aiding and abetting smuggling.

In short, Right Sector emerged victorious. Following up their victory, the group declared that a national referendum will be held – without gathering the required signatures, and under their sponsorship – on multiple questions, essentially demanding that their entire program for the nation be adopted. They call for a formal declaration of war against Russia, a complete blockade of the eastern provinces, martial law, and the legalization of their militias. Oh yes, and they also want the present government, up to and including Poroshenko, to be impeached.

Mired in debt, and rapidly sinking into an economic abyss, Ukraine is literally coming apart at the seams – and the ugly underside of the Maiden “revolution” is being exposed to the light of day. The most recent atrocity is the uncovering of a torture chamber used by members of the “Tornado” Battalion, another far-right grouping, in which militia members kidnapped, tortured, raped, and robbed citizens in the eastern Luhansk region, where the government is fighting to retain some modicum of control. Eight members of the Tornado militia were recently arrested and are being held by military prosecutors in Kiev: the Tornado “volunteers,” who mostly consist of ex-convicts, defend their actions by claiming that this is just retaliation because they uncovered a smuggling operation run by local officials – who, they say, are collaborating with the rebels. They initially refused to lay down their arms and barricaded themselves into their camp.

The Aidar Battalion, also operating in eastern Ukraine, has been accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes: that was in 2014, but the charges were largely ignored until the local governor began to complain. Aidar’s leader, member of parliament Serhiy Melnychuk, of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, has been stripped of immunity from prosecution and charged with kidnapping, issuing threats, and operating a criminal gang.  Melnychuk, while admitting there was “some looting,” attributed the dissolution of the Aidar Battalion by authorities to “Russian propaganda” and revealed that some members are still operating independently in Luhansk.

Then there’s the openly neo-Nazi Azov Brigade, whose members sport fascist symbols from the World War II era, and whose leader, Andriy Biletsky, declares that the goal of his group is to “lead the White Races of the world in a struggle for their survival.” There was so much bad publicity surrounding the Azov Battalion that the US Congress unanimously passed legislation forbidding any aid to the group – a provision, as this piece by Joseph Epstein in the Daily Beast points out, that is essentially unenforceable:

“In an interview with The Daily Beast, Sgt. Ivan Kharkiv of the Azov battalion talks about his battalion’s experience with U.S. trainers and US volunteers quite fondly, even mentioning US volunteers engineers and medics that are still currently assisting them. He also talks about the significant and active support from the Ukrainian diaspora in the US As for the training they have and continue to receive from numerous foreign armed forces. Kharkiv says ‘We must take knowledge from all armies… We pay for our mistakes with our lives.’

“Those US officials involved in the vetting process obviously have instructions to say that US forces are not training the Azov Battalion as such. They also say that Azov members are screened out, yet no one seems to know precisely how that’s done. In fact, given the way the Ukrainian government operates, it’s almost impossible.”

Yes, your tax dollars are going to arm, train, and feed neo-Nazis in Ukraine. That’s what we bought into when Washington decided to launch a regime change operationin that bedraggled corner of southeastern Europe. Your money is also going to prop up the country’s war-stricken economy – albeit not before corrupt government officials rake their cut off the top.

Dmytro Korchynsky, who heads a group of several far-right “volunteers” gathered together in “St. Mary’s Battalion,” declares his goal of organizing a “Christian Taliban” that will put Ukraine in the forefront of an effort to “lead the crusades,” adding: “ Our mission is not only to kick out the occupiers, but also revenge. Moscow must burn.”

That’s a goal American neocons and their liberal enablers can get behind, but Korchynsky’s invocation of the Taliban ought to make the rest of us step back from that precipice. For it was the US, in the throes of the last cold war, that coalesced, funded, trained, and armed what later became the Afghan Taliban – and we all know where that road led.

Once again, in our endless search for foreign monsters to destroy, we’re creating yet more foreign monsters who will provide the next excuse for future crusades. It’s a perpetual motion machine of foreign policy madness – and the War Party likes it that way.


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You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

US House Passes Resolution To Arm Ukraine As Part Of Strategy To ‘Expose’ Putin

The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution on Monday to send military aid to Ukraine. In the resolution, US lawmakers stated that while providing lethal aid to Ukraine would help the country defend itself, it would also serve as part of a long-term strategy to “expose and challenge” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The bill, which was titled, “Calling on the President to provide Ukraine with military assistance to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” passed 348-48.

The resolution stated that the Russian Federation under Putin has “engaged in relentless political, economic, and military aggression to subvert the independence and violate the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” which includes the “illegal and forcible occupation of Crimea by Russian military and security forces.”

According to the resolution, Russian military and security forces have been infiltrated and continue to provide direct combat support to separatists in Ukraine, which has resulted in “over 6,000 dead, 15,000 wounded, and more than a million displaced persons.”

Failure to stop this aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, especially its unprovoked and armed intervention in a sovereign country, illegal and forcible occupation of its territory, and unilateral efforts to redraw the internationally-recognized borders of Ukraine undermines the foundation of the international order that was established and has been defended at great cost by the United States and its allies in the aftermath of World War II.

The resolution went on to claim that Russian aggression against Ukraine is the “most visible and recent manifestation of a revisionist Kremlin strategy to redraw international borders and impose its will on its neighbors, including NATO allies.

Quoting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko when he addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress in Sept. 2014, the resolution stated that although the US has provided Ukraine with a great deal of non-lethal assistance, “one cannot win a war with blankets.”

The resolution also quoted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, who said that the US should “absolutely consider providing lethal aid” to Ukraine and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who said during his confirmation hearing that he is “very much inclined” to providing Ukraine with lethal aid.

The resolution stated that the US and its allies should “provide assistance to support energy diversification and efficiency initiatives in Ukraine to lessen its vulnerability to coercion by the Russian Federation.”

Whereas the United States and its allies need a long-term strategy to expose and challenge Vladimir Putin’s corruption and repression at home and his aggression abroad,” concluded the resolution.

Henry Kissinger Warns of Return of “Cold War Conditions”

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned the United States and Russia to avoid a return to Cold War Conditions.

Henry Kissinger is warning the United States and Russia to consider diplomatic resolutions to the conflict in Ukraine or a return to Cold War conditions is imminent. Speaking to the BBC’s World this Weekend, Kissinger also stated that limits on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations should be lifted if they are to develop an adequate defense against Russia.

“NATO has to develop military  capacities that are relevant to dangers that they foresee. If they are determined to resist further Russian military moves it means that defense limitations should be lifted. It is inevitable that we are in a cold war strategy with Russia.”

He blamed less than cordial diplomacy between NATO and Russia for the current state of Ukraine. “I think it is essential that both Russia and NATO take a serious look at their diplomatic solutions because if they fail then I think a return to Cold war conditions is very likely.” 

The warning comes on the heels of an announcement by the United States to send $75 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. The equipment includes small unarmed drones, Humvees, and other forms of aid but none of the requested lethal weapons. President Obama is reportedly still considering sending weapons to Ukraine.

At the same time the United States has sent tanks and armored vehicles to Latvia as part of NATO military exercises known as Operation Atlantic Resolve.  RT reported that more than 120 armored tanks and vehicles were sent to Latvia. Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis called the exercise and equipment, “a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region.”

Operation Atlantic Resolve involved Canadian and American soldiers working with Latvian soldiers.

Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said NATO is using the situation in Ukraine as cover for getting closer to Russia’s border.

“Instead of uniting forces to fight evil, the worst of which is terrorism, Western nations are drawing new divisive lines, trying to realize containment schemes against unwelcome states. Today, Russia has been chosen as the target,”
– Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov

In late 2014, I asked Is America Preparing for War with Russia?I suggest a reading of that article to understand the build up between the two nations. The United States continues to push Russia with sanctions yet Russia seems undeterred.

One of the most troubling actions from either country came in the last days of 2014.  On December 26 President Putin approved an updated war doctrine for Russia. The doctrine makes it clear that Russia will use military force to protect its citizens. The doctrine also stated that the US and NATO allied countries pose a military threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign free nation.

Putin said Washington is to blame for the changes, with it’s own war doctrine of pre-emptive attacks, deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, and buildup of NATO forces on Russia’s border. Russia also acknowledged attempts at regime change through “actions aimed at violent change of the Russian constitutional order, destabilization of the political and social environment, and disorganization of the functioning of governmental bodies, crucial civilian and military facilities and informational infrastructure of Russia.”

As several independent media outlets have reported, there is much evidence indicating the United States and other Western Non-Governmental Organizations have had a role in fomenting unrest in Ukraine.

Mint Press News reported:

The U.S. has loaded the Ukraine government and key businesses with Americans or U.S. allies. Nuland was caught on a telephone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, picking the next leader of Ukraine. The call is more famous for her closing line — “Fuck the EU” — but in the call she also says that the next leader of Ukraine should be the former banker Arseniy Yatseniuk, who she calls by a nickname “Yats.” Indeed, he has since become the prime minister of the post-coup Ukrainian government.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is identified in State Department documents as an informant for the U.S. since 2006. The documents describe him as “[o]ur Ukraine (OU) insider Petro Poroshenko.” The State Department documents also report that Poroshenko is “tainted by credible corruption allegations.”

Last March Ben Swann examined the links between Western governments and the ongoing  situation in Ukraine.

New Truth in Media Episode: The Origins of ISIS Releases Next Week

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 the Truth in Media Project will release its newest episode, “The Origins of ISIS”. This episode will delve into the truth behind where ISIS came from in the first place and why the Islamic State is not a product of American “inaction” in Iraq and Syria but rather the product of “direct action”.

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President Obama considering arming Ukrainian forces

World leaders have been struggling with how to confront the issue of the war in Ukraine, and President Obama on Monday said he was considering sending aid in the form of lethal defensive arms to the Ukrainian government.

“The 21st century cannot have us stand idle and simply allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of the gun,” Obama said at a White House news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to ABC News.


The president also said Russia had violated “every commitment” outlined in the Minsk Protocol, which was signed in September 2014, by representatives from the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic, and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Russia has maintained they have not sent troops or supplies to rebels in the affected areas.

Chancellor Merkel and the French President Francois Hollande, according to FOX News, are planning for a peace conference later this week where leaders from Russia and the Ukraine would be in attendance. If the peace talks fail however, President Obama has said, “what I’ve asked my team to do is look at all options… The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined.”

“Both Angela and I have emphasized that the prospect for a military solution to this problem is always been low,” President Obama said. “My hope is that through diplomatic efforts, those costs have become high enough that Mr. Putin’s preferred option is for a diplomatic solution. ”

According to the BBC, the details of the peace talks have not been released, but a demilitarized zone is thought to be included which would cover 50-70 km, or 31-44 miles, around the affected war zone.

Until the peace talks are completed, Vice President Joe Biden, who attended the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, said, “We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself.”

Top NATO General, European DMs Oppose US Plans to Arm Ukraine

Officials Warn Move Risks Escalating War

by Jason Ditz, February 05, 2015

Several European defense ministers at a NATO meeting today in Brussels warned against the Obama Administration’s reports they are strongly considering providing arms to Ukraine for its ongoing civil war.

German DM Ursula von der Leyen warned that introducing more weapons into the area won’t bring Ukraine’s civil war closer to a solution, while others added it was likely to fuel the conflict.

Top NATO General Philip Breedlove, who interestingly enough was said to be the driving force behind the US sending arms to Ukraine in the first place, also talked down the idea in comments, saying arming the Ukrainian military risked a reaction from Russia to provide more aid to the rebels.

Virtually all of the European DMs opposed the plan, though Lithuanian DM Juozas Olekas said his nation supported the plan to provide “some elements” to the Ukrainian military.

Report: Former U.S. Officials Propose Supplying Ukraine with $3 Billion in Military Aid

On Monday, eight former United States senior officials issued a report proposing that the U.S. send $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, after pro-Russian separatists ended a five-month truce and resumed fighting in Eastern Ukraine on Sunday.

The report, which was first released by the New York Times, urged the United States to send $3 billion in defensive equipment to Ukraine, including “anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radars that can determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.”

The contributors to the report include former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder, former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Jan Lodal, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis, former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command Charles Wald.

The report claims that a “stronger Ukrainian military” will increase the prospects for “negotiation of a peaceful settlement,” and will “make clear that the West will not accept the use of force to change borders in Europe.”

The Guardian reported that although the White House has “stopped short of providing military aid to Ukraine in order to avoid provoking Russia,” it has joined the European Union in putting a series of sanctions in place against Russia.

The New York Times noted that while the U.S. has not provided Ukraine with “lethal” military equipment, it has supplied “non-lethal” items, including “body armor, night-vision goggles, first aid kits and engineering equipment.”

According to Reuters, although NATO and Kiev “accuse Russia of sending thousands of troops to support the rebel advance with heavy weapons and tanks,” Moscow denies its direct involvement.

The New York Times reported that in addition to the eight former U.S. officials showing their support for sending arms to Ukraine, the idea has also garnered support from Secretary of State John Kerry, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Kerry is planning to visit Kiev on Thursday, to speak with Ukrainian officials.

Investigation into MH17 crash claims Russians shot down the flight

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 fell from the sky over Ukraine and crashed with no survivors. Speculation flew surrounding the plane crash, some of which pointed the finger at Russia who had recently sent troops into Ukraine. Russia denied these claims and blamed Ukrainian separatists within Ukraine.

Now, months later, a German investigative group known as CORRECT!V, claims they have proof Russia is responsible for shooting MH17 out of the sky.

The CORRECT!V website focused on the investigation claims MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile. They claim the missile was fired by the 53rd Russian Air Defense Brigade, which displayed no national emblems while in Ukrainian territory. The brigade was initially tasked with protecting Russian tank units.

Various military experts spoke with the investigation team and said the BUK missile system could have only been operated by a group of “highly trained specialists acting as a close-knit unit…”

The reason these experts claim it could have only been trained specialists using the machinery is the operators would have only had seconds to switch on their machinery, fire the missile, then turn the machinery back off before they would have been found by other radar systems or targeted. At the time of the crash, no other radar signatures were reported. 

CORRECT!V sent investigators to the area of Ukraine where MH17 was downed, and the investigators spoke to witnesses of the crash as well as people who claim to have seen the BUK missile system responsible for the crash.

One witness said he had seen a vehicle launch the missile into the air, followed by a series of percussive “bang” sounds.

The missile flew from here,” said the witness. “I was in the yard and heard an explosion, a bang. It was a really loud bang. The tiles on my roof shook. Then there was a long sound. And then a very loud explosion: bang, bang. And just as I ran out into the road, the plane began to fall. Down the road, several kilometers from here. And you could see it burn.”

Aleksandr Khodakovskiy, a former SBU officer who is now a separatist commander, told Reuters months ago his initial unit was in possession of a BUK missile system, but he retracted this statement not long afterwards. He spoke with CORRECT!V saying after the MH17 crash, his unit was still in possession of a BUK, but he did not possess the personnel to operate the system properly or effectively. 

“I know for sure that the popular militia did not shoot down the Boeing,” said Khodakovskiy. “We don’t have and didn’t have specialists who can operate such high precision weapons systems.”

Russian authorities continue to claim they had no part in the downing of MH17.

The full report from CORRECT!V can be found here.

Video: Pro-Russian Member of Ukraine Parliament Thrown in Dumpster

Last week, several Ukrainian citizens revolted against Vitaly Zhuravsky, a Pro-Russian member of the Ukrainian parliament, by picking him up and throwing him into a trash bin outside the parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine.

The video, which was taken with a bystander’s cell phone, shows several men shouting obscenities as they shove Zhuravsky into a bin of trash, and then proceed to berate him, while holding him down.

Vitaly Zhuravsky was a member of former President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions. In addition to supporting the exiled President, Zhuravsky previously authored a bill criminalizing libel, and a bill severely tightening restrictions on anti-government protesters.

Zhuravsky’s bill regarding anti-government protestors came about in January, during the movement that led to the removal of Yanukovich.

According to ABC News, last week’s incident occurred as a result of a series of controversial votes by the Ukrainian parliament. One of the votes granted greater autonomy to two breakaway regions in east Ukraine, which were home to intense fighting by Russian-backed rebels, and another vote was one that ratified a trade association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.

President Poroshenko asks the US for more aid against Russia

Speaking to Congress Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked for America to provide support to Ukraine to help quell the Russian-backed insurgency in the country, in the form of lethal equipment and continuing the economic sanctions against Russia.

While, according to Al-Jazeera, the US government agreed to provide $46 million in new security assistance to Ukraine’s military forces, Poroshenko made a comment saying, “Blankets and night-vision goggles are important, but one cannot win a war with a blanket.”  The Ukrainian president asked the US to give the embattled country “special security and defense status.”

Poroshenko also requested further assistance from the US in the form of “lethal and non-lethal” military equipment to aid in physical confrontations against the insurgents.

The Obama administration has said they would help the Ukrainian government in the form of financial aid and material support such as bullet-proof vests and combat helmets, but according to RT, President Obama has previously pledged non-lethal support to the country, which they plan on maintaining.

Poroshenko also made a list of evidence to support his claim of Russia’s “imperialistic mindset,” which he says threatens, not only Ukraine, but the West and the global order.  Some of the evidence included Russian troops occupying South Ossetia in 2008 and Transnistria in a similar fashion in 1992, as well as the occupation of Crimea earlier this year.

“The security assurances that were extended to Ukraine then have failed to work, proving that no agreements or treaties can secure world order,” said Poroshenko according to USA Today.  “Therefore, I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression.”

Some members of Congress are agreeing with giving lethal aid to Ukraine after hearing Poroshenko’s speech.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., both said various weapons should be given to Ukraine to help in their defense but they differ on the timing of providing such support.  While Hollen wants to wait to assess what is happening on the ground and within negotiations, Corker has said the US should have provided such support “when the Russians had 40,000 troops on the border…”

Russia has reportedly sent 1,000 troops into Ukraine

Satellite pictures from NATO have been released, reportedly showing up to 1,000 armed Russian forces inside of Ukraine, supporting separatists as well as fighting on the side of the separatists.

NATO Brigadier General Niko Tak told the BBC there has been a “significant escalation” in the level of Russian military activity and sophisticated weaponry in and near Ukraine over the past two weeks.  “[NATO has] detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defense systems, artillery, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said earlier today, according to the New York Times,  Russian soldiers and armaments had indeed crossed into Ukraine, but warned the Ukrainian national security council a panicked response would only cause further destabilization of the situation.  “The situation is certainly extremely difficult,” Poroshenko said, “and nobody is going to simplify it.”

Other Ukrainian officials are going one step further saying the Russians forces entering Ukraine constitute an invasion.

Mykhailo Lysenko, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Donbas battalion, said the Russian forces have begun a two front invasion of Ukraine.  Troops are entering Ukraine, according to CNN, from southeast of the rebel held town of Donetsk, while other Russian forces are entering the country along the nation’s southern coast near the town of Novoazovsk.

The town of Novoazovsk is a critical point in the Russia-Ukraine conflict as it establishes a supply route from Russia to the Russian-annexed Crimea.  Pro-Russian forces in Ukraine have said, according to Al-Jazeera, the link could give their forces control over the Sea of Azov, which experts claim is rich in minerals and natural gas.

“Today we reached the Sea of Azov,” prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said to Reuters.  “The process of liberating our land, which is temporarily occupied by the Ukrainian authorities, will keep going further and further.” 

All of this comes in the wake of a meeting on Tuesday between Poroshenko and Russian president Vladimir Putin.  Poroshenko reportedly said the talks were “positive” and Putin had accepted the principles of a peace plan.  However, Putin said only Kiev could secure a cease-fire between separatists and Ukraine, saying “We in Russia cannot talk about any conditions for the cease-fire.”

US Invents Reports of Russia Attacking Ukraine Bases

This article was written by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

Apparently still laying the groundwork for their own planned military intervention, the US government has invented a narrative of massive Russian artillery strikes against Ukrainian military bases along the border.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf introduced the story to the press at today’s briefing, claiming that the US has secret evidence from “human intelligence information” that the attacks are taking place. The Pentagon concurred, saying such attacks have been going on “for several days.”

During the past several days, there has not been a single report out of Ukraine of an artillery strike against any of their military bases, anywhere in the country. The last such incident was two weeks ago, when rebels fired a BM-21 grad at a military base.

And this is Ukraine we’re talking about, which comes up with its own dubious stories of Russian attacks on a near daily basis. If Russia was carried out concerted shelling against Ukrainian military targets, Ukraine would be harping on about it constantly. They aren’t even alleging anything close to that is happening.

The latest invented story appears to have been produced primarily as a replacement for Harf’s increasingly debunked allegations surrounding the MH17 shoot-down, a talking point which has gained her no small mocking in the press over the past week, as she directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s own releases on the matter.

Harf’s latest allegations included the phantom artillery fire and secret evidence of Russia planning to maybe send a bunch more weapons to the rebels. One member of the assembled press, humorously, asked if there was “a YouTube video or something that you can point us to,” calling back to Harf’s regular use of social media as “proof” for her claims.

Harf declared “I just said I wasn’t going to give you the underlying source,” and asked if the press preferred she keep things to herself that she can’t prove. This led to another exchange, with someone shooting back “Marie, I think that it would be best for all concerned here if when you make an allegation like that, you’re able to back it up with something more than just “because I said so.”


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U.S. intel says no link between Russia and downed plane

Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told the AP there is no evidence to directly link Russian involvement with the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

These same officials did say however, Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” which led to the destruction of the flight and the subsequent deaths of all the passengers on board.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was brought down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile which was fired by Russian-backed separatists, according to the Huffington Post.  Satellite photos and social media posts from these separatists which support this claim, have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

These same officials though have also said they are not sure whether the missile crew was trained by Russians on how to properly use the equipment, or if any Russian operatives were present at the launch site when the missile was fired.  Although, Russia has reportedly been stepping-up their campaign in the past weeks to train and arm rebels in the area.

These reports come after President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron made statements falling just short of putting the blame wholly on Russia, according to CNN.  These, as well as other world leaders, have said the pro-Russian separatists could not have fired the missiles or worked the equipment properly to bring down such a high-flying jet without training and weapons from Russia.

Officials have also said, in terms of who specifically launched the missile, “we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” according to ABC.

Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, said in an interview with CNN, “We do think President Putin and the Russian government bears responsibility for the support they provided to these separatists, the arms they provided to these separatists, the training they provided as well and the general unstable environment in eastern Ukraine.”

Leaked audio shows MH17 might have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists

New audio tapes have been intercepted by the Ukrainian security services which the services report to be conversations between pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine discussing how they shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight.

The individuals talking on the tapes are reportedly Igor Bezler, a pro-Russian rebel leader, Bezler’s superior, Vasily Geranin, and two other separatists soldiers going by the code names of “Major” and “Greek,” and the Cossack commander  Nikolai Kozitsyn.

The following is transcribed from the leaked audio between “Major” and “Grek” while investigating the debris:

[Grek]: Well, what do you have there?

[Major]: In short, it was 100 per cent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.

[Grek]: Are many people there?

[Major]: Holy sh–t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).

[Grek]: What kind of aircraft?

[Major]: I haven’t ascertained this. I haven’t been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats, and bodies.

[Grek]: Is there anything left of the weapon?

[Major]: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

This same audio clip goes on and “Major” blames the “Cossacks at Chernukhino” for shooting down the plane.  The “Cossacks” in question may have been under the command of Kozitsyn who was recorded telling a fellow soldier the plane was carrying “spies.”

The following is an audio clip transcribed by BBC:

[Male fighter]: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snezhnoye-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabovo. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this. They say on TV it’s a Ukrainian AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s got Malaysia Airlines written on the plane. What was it doing in Ukrainian territory?

[Male voice, identified as Cossack commander Nikolai Kozitsyn]: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be [curses] flying. There is a war going on.

Malaysian Airlines flight crashes near Russia-Ukraine border

The Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has crashed in eastern Ukraine after failing to report its entry into Russian airspace.

The flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and was carrying around 280 passengers and 15 crew members, reports the LA Times.  At least 100 bodies, supposedly from the flight, have been found so far near the Ukrainian village of Grabovov, and the debris from the flight is spread across a diameter of 15km.

One witness who would only name himself as Vladimir, told the Straits Times, “I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two.”

Interior Ministry advisor Anton Gerashchenko told Reuters he believed the flight was shot down by a ground-to-air missile.  Gerashchenko said, “A civilian airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has just been shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft system … 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed.”

A report from Capitol Public Radio says the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, told the media the Ukrainian government and armed forces were not responsible for the downing of the flight.

“We stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets,” said Poroshenko.  “We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.”

Gerashchenko and many others are blaming the attack on pro-Russian forces within Ukraine.

The U.S. government has offered assistance to the government of Ukraine to help in their investigation as to the cause of the crash.

Ukraine Govt Ready to Declare Martial Law in East

This article was written by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

The loss of several key military/national guard bases in the northeastern Luhansk Oblast has Ukraine’s interim government on edge about their ongoing military invasion of the east of the country, and has several leaders pushing for an immediate declaration of martial law throughout the region.

Outgoing Interim President Oleksandr Turchinov, who will be replaced on Saturday with the inauguration of President Petro Porchenko, urged the leaders of all security-related agencies and ministries to begin “urgently” to consider the declaration.

A statement from Turchinov’s office said martial law was needed to “stop the further spread of and put an end to an armed conflict in Ukrainian territory,” and could cover both Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

Shortly after Turchinov’s interim government took power, protests against their rule erupted in the eastern oblasts, where the majority is ethnic Russian and supported the ousted elected government. Eventually, this has resulted in a full-scale separatist movement, which the interim government dubbed “terrorists,” and a military invasion of the regions to bring them back under the control of Kiev’s central government.

The fighting has mostly centered around the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk in the northern portion of Donetsk Oblast, and yesterday the military claimed to have killed “more than 300” rebels in Slovyansk alone in 24 hours. The mayor of Slovyansk denies the claim, and said only 12 fighters were lost.

While the military’s offensive centers of northern Donetsk, the rebels seem to be gaining a lot of ground in Luhansk, where they have taken several military bases in recent days, conducting protracted gunbattles until the troops therein were forced to flee.


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Ukraine PM Slams Odessa Police, Blames Russia for Massacre

This article was written by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk dismissed anger over Friday’s killing of scores of pro-Russia protesters in Odessa, faulting the police for not cracking down on the “terrorist organizations” before they were killed.

At least 38 people were killed in the incident, which saw pro-Kiev protesters attacking the headquarters of Odessa’s pro-Russia protests, setting the building on fire and shooting at people inside as they tried to escape. The attackers have been linked to the ultra-nationalist Right Sector.

Despite the pro-Russia protesters being the victims of the brutal attack, Yatsenyuk went on to claim that Russia had carefully orchestrated the entire incident to try to foment a civil war.

Yatsenyuk and other interim officials have accused the protesters of trying to provide a pretext for a Russian invasion, and while many of the protesters, particularly in the wake of military attacks on them, are indeed calling for Russian aid, it seems Russia’s government is reluctant to intervene directly, and is rather hoping that their deployment along the border will deter Ukraine’s interim government from going too far in its attacks on ethnic Russians across the east.



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Ukraine FM: Army ‘Ready to Fight Russia’

This article was written by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

In the wake of an attack on the protest city of Slovyansk, Ukrainian interim Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia suggested that not only was Ukraine not being deterred by the threat of Russian intervention to protect the protesters, but is actually planning to “confront Russia” militarily.

“The Ukrainian people and Ukrainian army are ready to do this,” insisted Deshchytisa, saying the military was ready to fight Russia the moment it crosses into the protester-held region along the border.

Russia has had troops along the border for weeks now, and the 40,000 troops there are likely sufficient, in practical terms, to rout the whole of Ukraine’s poorly equipped military if it came down to it. Russia seems to be seeking to emphasize the troops’ proximity, but has so far ignored calls from the protesters to intervene to protect them, while insisting that they reserve the right to do so.

Ukraine, for its part, seems to be tired of waiting, and has given Russia a 48 hour ultimatum to “explain” its military exercises near the border, and with Deshchytsia talking up the nation’s readiness for a full-scale war against Russia, they seem to be daring Russia to invade at this point.

Ukrainian officials gave no indication what would happen at the end of the 48 hours, but have emphasized claims of US military backing for the offensive against eastern protesters, which they dubbed an “anti-terrorism” operation.


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Obama: Russians Know Our Military Is Far Superior

This article was written by guest contributor Jason Ditz

In a high-profile interview today, President Obama downplayed the military risks of plans to deploy US ground troops to Eastern Europe, saying Russia wouldn’t dare confront the US militarily and knows the US troops are “significantly superior.

The US, of course, spends roughly ten times what Russia does annually on its military, and much of Russia’s military arsenal remains leftovers from the Cold War.

At the same time, there is a very real risk that as the US pushes further and further eastward in Europe, they could precipitate a clash with the Russians at any rate. Any conventional US military advantage is likewise muted by both sides having enough nuclear weapons to exterminate the entire human race many times over.

President Obama’s fascination with repeatedly needling Russia on the issue is also of concern, as he has made multiple statements mocking Russia‘s comparative military weakness, and following them up with demands for Russia to return Crimea to the Ukrainian interim government.


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