Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Says Rebels Break Ceasefire

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KIEV, June 24 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday pro-Russian separatists in the east had violated a ceasefire with overnight attacks that killed one government soldier.

Rebels and Ukrainian forces have both vowed to observe a week-long ceasefire until June 27, but the government has reported rebels shooting at military checkpoints.

“Unfortunately there were violations of the ceasefire from the other side. Last night there were another eight cases, one soldier was killed, seven were wounded,” the president’s press service quoted Poroshenko as saying during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Rebel militia, using grenade-launchers and mortar, attacked a military post near the rebel-held town of Slaviansk and used small arms in an assault on another post towards the border with Russia, Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the Kiev government’s “anti-terrorist” operation, said earlier.

He said Ukrainian government forces had not been involved in any military action, in line with the ceasefire announced by Poroshenko last Friday.

Separatist leaders in two main areas of Ukraine’s east on Monday night agreed to a truce until the morning of June 27, raising the first real prospect of an end to hostilities since rebellions erupted in the east in April.

The rebels, who have declared “people’s republics” and have said they want to join Russia, began their ceasefire after talks involving a former Ukrainian president, Moscow’s envoy to Kiev and a high-ranking representative of the OSCE security and rights organization.

Poroshenko’s ceasefire is part of his peace plan to end a pro-Russia insurgency in areas near the border with Russia which threatens to dismember the ex-Soviet republic.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula earlier this year after street protests in Kiev ousted the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich from power.

Poroshenko’s plan, which offers a safety “corridor” back to Russia for pro-Russian fighters who lay down their arms, has secured the backing of Western governments and qualified support from Russian President Vladimir Putin who has urged Kiev to hold talks with the separatist leaders.

The next step in contacts between the two sides is not clear, though it seems likely the rebels may use the break in hostilities to press demands for federalisation of Ukraine – something which Kiev refuses because it sees it as likely to lead to the country breaking up. (Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Alessandra Prentice; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Putin Is Just Getting Started in Ukraine

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Forget reports that the Russian president has wound down his campaign of interference in east Ukraine. Just the opposite is true— it’s getting much worse.
When Russian tanks used to roll into a foreign country, it was known as an invasion. Today it’s known as a “failure by Russia to de-escalate [a] situation.” That was State Department spokesperson Marie Harf’s comment on widespread reports, since corroborated by NATO, that three T-64 tanks, along with multiple rocket launchers and armored personnel carriers (APCs), entered east Ukraine from Russia last week. And such are the gifts of diplomatic nicety still being bestowed upon Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States continues to treat him as a recalcitrant child at reform school rather than as a lying authoritarian who still seeks to partition or balkanize Ukraine. If only he’d behave himself…

Contrary to press claims that Putin has wound down his direct and indirect interference in east Ukraine —claims which were mostly based on his seeming acceptance of Petro Poroshenko’s election as Ukraine’s president, and his brief one-on-one conversations with Poroshenko and President Obama during the D-Day anniversary in France last week —the opposite is the case. As the West has been busy rediscovering a country called Iraq, the Kremlin has been not-so-quietly increasing its support for militants seeking to carve out satrapies in Donetsk and Lugansk. In fact, it has also cut off Ukraine’s gas supply and is now moving troops back to the Ukrainian border, a fortnight or so after belatedly withdrawing them.

For the last several weeks, my team at The Interpreter, a Russian news and analysis website, have been documenting mounting evidence of what we’ve termed Russia’s “remote controlled war” in east Ukraine. Typically, this has been a war defined by the military doctrine of maskirovka, which traffics in concealment, plausible deniability, and carefully leaked or disseminated disinformation (dezinformatsiya) designed to both confuse the enemy and deter him from predicting or responding to one’s next move. Nevertheless, every once and a while, the mask slips.

That appeared to happen on June 12, when Ukraine’s government claimed that three Russian T-64 battle tanks and several armored vehicles entered Ukraine from the Dovzhanskyy border crossing, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists calling themselves the “People’s Republic of Lugansk.” Video and photographic evidence of the tanks was circulated (and debated) online, with questions as to what model they were: T-72 or T-64 bandied about. What didn’t seem to be in dispute was their locations—they were spotted in Snizhne, a city in the Donetsk oblast, and then again in Makiivka, an industrial city in the same oblast about 40 miles to the west of Snizhne. According to NATO, which released satellite imagery to corroborate Kiev’s allegations, “The tanks do not bear markings or camouflage paint like those used by the Ukrainian military. In fact, they do not have markings at all, which is reminiscent of tactics used by Russian elements that were involved in destabilizing Crimea.” NATO concluded that the tanks and APCs “raise significant questions concerning Russia’s role in facilitating instability in eastern Ukraine and its involvement in the movement of military equipment from Russian territory into Ukraine.”

The reason, though, that people doubt this actually happened is that Russia has covered its tracks, so to speak. The only outlet to report that these were in fact captured Ukrainian tanks being driven around by separatists was a pro-Putin Russian news portal,, known for churning out disinformation. It published an item on June 9, three full days before the tanks were spotted in Ukraine, suggesting that T-64s had been captured from the Ukrainian military. That article relied exclusively on “reports from social networks” (yet my team could find none) and was the only one of its kind to appear in either the Russian or Ukrainian media.

But the report was suspect. For starters, Kiev never acknowledged the capture of any of its tanks, and it’s usually the first to go public about the commandeering of weapons, military bases or other heavy equipment because such acts legitimate its ongoing “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO) against the separatists. And while it’s true that T-64s are still active in Ukraine’s military, and that they’ve been decommissioned by Russia’s, Russia still stores plenty of T-64s for reserve purposes. And NATO’s proffered satellite imagery showed, as of June 11, 10 main battle tanks stationed across the border at Donetsk in Rostov-on-Don. Three of these were parked, four were in a training area, and three more were “loaded heavy equipment transport trucks that are normally used to move tanks, likely indicating imminent movement by road,” as NATO’s Allied Command Operations found. And here it’s also worth bearing in mind that these tanks arrived after Russia began withdrawing forces from the Ukrainian border in late May—a withdrawal which Putin claimed to have ordered twice before it actually occurred.

So far, Russia’s only counterclaim about military vehicles being used against Kiev’s armed forces was to suggest that a Ukrainian BMP—an amphibious infantry fighting vehicle—had crossed into Russian territory and was abandoned there. This is a curious allegation given that it doesn’t begin to explain how Russia’s Border Control, which is controlled by its domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, allowed a Ukrainian APC to slip past its side of the border unhindered. The State Department further confirmed that “no Ukrainian tank units have been operating” where the T-64s were seen, adding, “[w]e are confident that these tanks came from Russia.” Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, a Ukrainian national and self-declared “chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” went on Russian state TV and announced that, while his separatists did indeed have tanks in their arsenal, it would be “improper” to disclose where they came from. Well, quite.

Pushilin, as it happens, is currently visiting Moscow along with Aleksandr Boroday, the “prime minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic. BBC journalist Daniel Sanford first noticed Pushilin’s presence in the Russian capital on June 11 as the separatist was meeting with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the racist head of the racist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), which is a near-perfect misnomer because it is neither liberal, democratic nor even a “party” properly speaking, but rather a whole-cloth concoction of the KGB. Zhirinovsky had previously offered a free Volga car to “any soldier, officer or citizen who is the first to break through Kiev at some stage and plant a Russian flag on the Verkhovna Rada,” Ukraine’s parliament. In fact, the LDPR flag was recorded by the BBC flying above a building in a separatist training camp. The leader of that militia, Alexei Moskoy, even admitted that he’d just returned from “meetings with officials in Moscow.” But of course no one in Moscow has anything to do with the “little green men” trying to partition Ukraine.

Despite its earlier pullback of forces from the Ukrainian border, there are indications that Russia has begun mobilizing troops and materiel again.
Boroday is another interesting case. Unlike Pushilin, he’s actually a Russian citizen and the former editor of an ultra-nationalist newspaper in Russia called Zavtra (Tomorrow), to which he still contributes. Ideologically promiscuous or consistent, depending on taste, Boroday has enjoyed the company of Stalinists, anti-Semites, and chauvinist venture-capitalist billionaires. Boroday also featured bizarrely in the one piece of independent Russian journalism that did appear to confirm the presence of Russian foreign fighters in the separatist’s midst. In late May, he invited reporters affiliated with Ekho Moskvy radio station (which gained a pro-Putin general manager last February) to embed with a convoy of trucks transporting Russian bodies, known as “Cargo 200,” back from Ukraine. The exact nature of the corpses’ ties to the Russian government is murky, and Ekho Moskvy’s allegation that one body belonged to an FSB agent, the supposed evidence for which —a tribute to the man in a VKontakte support group for veterans called “No One is Forgotten, No One Forgets”—was later found to be absent. It is unclear how the mention crept in. But what does seem clear is that Boroday and his higher-ups no longer feel the need to present the crisis in Ukraine as a strictly internal matter. On June 17, Boroday addressed a meeting with members of the Russian Federation Council in which he reportedly thanked Russia for the “steady flow of volunteers coming from Russia who fight for the interests of people of Donbass.”

Some of those “volunteers” are readily identifiable now. In May, the Vostok (“East”) Battalion, another separatist militia, raided and temporarily seized the headquarters of the DPR. Here was one pro-Russian faction looking to undermine another—an indication, perhaps, that Moscow was growing impatient with the amateur performance of its original marionettes and so opted for more battle-hardened “professionals” to keep the show going. Indeed, as Mark Galeotti, a specialist on Russia’s security services, has noted, the Vostok Battalion was also the name for a GRU-run Spetsnaz battalion in the Russian military which was deployed to the restive Caucasus. It was disbanded in 2008 owing to a dispute between its commander and the mercurial (and insane) Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s handpicked “president” of Chechnya.

Whether or not the Vostok Battalion has been reconstituted in its original form matters less than what it is obviously up to in Donetsk. According to the Caucasian Knot website, residents in Chechnya have confirmed the arrival of additional “Cargo 200” from Ukraine’s frontlines. One resident said: “When they say there are no Chechens there, it’s a bare-faced lie. Over the last two weeks, former soldiers from the Zapad [West] and Vostok Spetsnaz battalions, which came under GRU command, have been sent there. There are also some sorts of volunteers from other organizations.”It goes without saying that Kadyrov could not deploy Chechen fighters to Ukraine without the say-so of his paymaster and capo di tutti capi in the Kremlin.

What Russia chooses not to talk about with respect to Ukraine is almost as telling as what it chooses to bang on about. On June 13, separatists shot down an IL-76 military transport plane, which was carrying troops, munitions and ammunition over Lugansk, claiming that the plane had “violated” the airspace of the “People’s Republic of Lugansk,” yet another entity which exists solely in the minds of those calling it that. All 49 people on board the transport plane were killed, making this the single deadliest incident in the four-month-long conflict. Dmitry Tymchuk, a former Ukrainian soldier and Defense Ministry official who runs a highly regarded military blog, noted that “three 9P3901 launching pipes from the MANPAD [man-portal air defense system] 9K38 Igla were found near the Lugansk Airport, which reportedly downed the ATO forces’ IL-76.” And while it’s certainly possible that the MANPAD used for this attack was pilfered from a Ukrainian military installation (Igla systems were said to have been taken from two caches in Lvov in March), it’s also possible that it came from Russia, as the 9K38 Igla is in use by both the Ukrainian and Russian militaries. However, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, at least one consignment of Igla MANPADs, recently confiscated by Ukrainian authorities from separatists in Donetsk, can be traced to “an Air Defense base of the Russian armed forces.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry, it should be known, issued no statement on the downing of the IL-76. Instead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who gave an interview a day later, placed all the blame for ongoing violence in east Ukraine on the shoulders of the Ukrainians. “Rather than extending a hand to these people, inviting them to the negotiating table and agreeing how to continue to live in the country all together, the military operation continues,” Lavrov said on Russian state TV. (One need only contrast this curious elision with what Lavrov would have said had terrorists shot down a Russian IL-76 in the skies over Dagestan.)

As it happens, Lavrov’s ministry was incredibly exercised about a non-lethal incident in Kiev: a protest that erupted outside the Russian embassy on June 14, a day after the IL-76’s downing. Diplomatic cars were overturned, windows were smashed, and the embassy walls were hit with eggs, stones and paint bottles as demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Hands off Ukraine!” and “Russia is a killer!” Moscow accused the Ukrainian police of not stopping the melee and of committing a “grave violation of Ukraine’s international obligations.” Aleksei Pushkov, the head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, went so far as to demand the sacking of Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, who attended the protest and in fact did seek to lower its temperature. Deschytsia’s offense? He referred to Vladimir Putin as a “dickhead.” The exact term he used, “Putinkhylo,” is now common at Ukrainian demonstrations and soccer matches where its connotation is more playful than insulting, as evidenced by the “la la la la” refrain which usually follows it. What’s 49 dead Ukrainians as against a teasing epithet? (Poroshenko proposed that Deshchystia be replaced with Ukraine’s current ambassador to Germany, Pavel Klimkin, though it seems likely this decision was taken before the embassy incident.)

Donetsk “self-defense” forces agree to ceasefire until 0700 GMT Friday

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The leader of self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire in the region until 10 a.m. local time on Friday. He stressed that the self-defense force’s ceasefire will come only as a reciprocal move.

“The duration of the ceasefire is the same as announced previously – before 10 a.m. on June 27. During this period monitoring by Russian and OSCE representatives will be organized. We hope that during ceasefire from both sides we will be able to reach an agreement and start consultations on the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict,” Aleksandr Boroday, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said live on Rossiya 24 TV.

Trilateral meeting in Donetsk (Screenshot from video)Trilateral meeting in Donetsk (Screenshot from video)

Ukrainian, Russian and OSCE representatives gathered in Donetsk on June 23 for talks on peaceful settlement of the conflict.

OSCE special envoy to Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini, Russia’s ambassador to the country Mikhail Zurabov, representatives of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as the former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma met to define stages of a peace plan in the country’s east.

Boroday has pointed out that the Donetsk meeting on Monday was not formal talks, but rather unofficial preliminary consultations. “In the DNR government house at least some dialogue has begun from the side of Kiev, who had preferred to speak the language of heavy artillery for several months,” he was cited as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.

Earlier Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid out his plan to deescalate the conflict, announcing a unilateral ceasefire from June 20 until June 27, the day Kiev plans to sign the EU Association agreement. On Sunday he issued a warning, stating that he had an alternative “detailed plan” of regaining control over south-eastern Ukraine should his current proposal for a truce fail to bring results.

The news on mutual ceasefire has been confirmed by former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma. “We agreed on bilateral ceasefire lasting until 10 a.m. on June 27,” said Kuchma after taking part in talks on the conflict’s settlement in Donetsk on June 23.

Prime Minister of Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Boroday (RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov)Prime Minister of Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Boroday (RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov)

The DNR leader named two reasons for which the Donetsk meeting cannot be considered as formal talks. “A fully valid negotiation process is possible only after Kiev fulfils seven conditions, proposed today by the co-chairman of the National Front of Novorossiya Oleg Tsarev. These conditions are our common position,” Boroday said.

Among the conditions are withdrawal of Kiev forces from the territories of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, compensation payments to the conflict’s victims by Kiev, amnesty to militia and political prisoners, as well as agreement between the Ukrainian president and parliaments of the people’s republics on a constitutional act, defining their status.

The absence of official state powers and status of the Donetsk meeting participants was named as the second reason by the DNR leader, who presumably referred to Kiev’s representative, ex-president Leonid Kuchma.

The involvement of the latter was initiated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is said to have had a meeting with Ukrainian representatives to the talks in Kiev before they headed for Donetsk. “Leonid Kuchma’s participation indicates the Ukrainian president’s close attention to this mission,” said Poroshenko, according to his press service statement.

Leonid Kuchma was the president of Ukraine in 1994-2005.

The consequences of Kiev military forces’ artillery attack on apartment buildings in Slavyansk. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin)The consequences of Kiev military forces’ artillery attack on apartment buildings in Slavyansk. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin)

Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov expects the talks to continue. “We expect that in the near future position of representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk will be additionally worked out, and they will announce their readiness to continue consultations in order to solve two problems: firstly, to achieve a sustainable truce and sustainable peace, non-renewal of fire, and secondly – the launch of an inclusive negotiation process,” Zurabov told Rossiya 24 TV.

Ahead of the Donetsk meeting, one of Ukraine’s representatives, Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of “Ukrainian Choice” political organization, identified the aim of the talks as “implementation of the peace plan to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine, end the bloodshed, preventing people’s deaths, preserving the country’s unity.”

The Russian President’s press-secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Vladimir Putin welcomed the participation of Viktor Medvedchuk in the talks. “He has consistently supported the idea of Ukraine’s federalization. He is respected in Kiev, and he is also familiar to the West,” Peskov said. He added that “the Russian President has repeatedly stated that a solution to Ukrainian crisis can only be possible through peaceful dialogue and consideration of the interests of eastern regions of the country.”

Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Russian State Duma committee for CIS affairs, believes the meeting Monday in Donetsk may become a turning point in overcoming the Ukrainian crisis. Slutsky also said he found the team of participants “the strongest list of negotiators of all possible. Hopefully, it will become the most effective too.”

Vladimir Putin backs Ukraine ceasefire but orders huge military exercise


Kremlin’s commitment to quelling violence still in doubt as Russian president warns that talks are needed on peace plan

A pro-Russian fighter holds a boy after taking an oath on Saturday to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People s Republic in Ukraine. Photograph: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has expressed his support for Ukraine’s unilateral ceasefire in its battle against pro-Russian separatists and has appealed to both sides to halt all military operations.

However, he warned that the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s blueprint for peace would not be viable without action to start peace negotiations.

Putin’s qualified backing for Poroshenko’s effort to halt the conflict was another in a series of shifting moves and statements by the Kremlin that still leave unclear Moscow’s level of commitment to de-escalating the conflict.

Putin’s conciliatory words on Saturday were made on the same day as he ordered large-scale military exercises that NATO criticised as likely to raise tensions. United States officials also accused Russian troops of moving back into positions near the border with Ukraine’s troubled east.

In a statement, the Kremlin said that Putin “calls on the opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table”. It said Putin supported Poroshenko’s decision to order Ukrainian troops to observe a unilateral ceasefire, starting on Friday night.

However, it added that Putin wanted to draw “attention to the fact that the proposed plan, without practical action directed at a beginning for a negotiating process, will not be viable or realistic”.

Poroshenko bills the unilateral ceasefire as designed to inspire a wider peace plan that would include an amnesty for pro-Russian separatist fighters who disarm.

Further steps would include joint security patrols; a buffer zone on the border; early regional and parliamentary elections; protections for the language rights of people who use Russian as their main language, and eventually changes in the constitution to permit more regional self-government.

For weeks, Ukrainian troops have struggled to suppress separatists who have seized buildings and declared independence in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, near the border with Russia.

Ukraine and the US have accused Russia of supporting the insurgency, including by permitting tanks to cross the border and wind up in the rebels’ arsenal. Russia counters that it is not supporting the insurgents and Russians who have joined the fighting are doing so as private citizens.

US and European leaders have called on Russia to play a constructive role in settling the conflict and to stop alleged support for the rebels. The US and the European Union have imposed financial sanctions on specific Russian officials but have held off on targeting entire economic sectors.

It remains unclear if Russia can, or will, influence the pro-Russian fighters to de-escalate the conflict. Putin has consulted Poroshenko several times by telephone on the Ukraine ceasefire initiative, but earlier Russian statements on the peace plan had criticised it sharply as an “ultimatum” seeking to pressure rebels to disarm.

The more open-minded tone of the latest Kremlin statement contrasted with Putin’s move on Saturday to order military forces in central Russia to go on combat alert and to launch an exercise for airborne troops.

The combat alert in the central military district, which encompasses the Volga region and the Ural mountains but not western Russia, will last until Saturday and involves 65,000 troops, the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said.

On Saturday, a NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, lamented Moscow’s military exercises, saying that “it can be seen as a further escalation of the crisis with Ukraine”.

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s embattled east have dismissed the ceasefire as fake and continued to shoot at Ukrainian border positions after Friday’s truce began.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said six troops had been wounded in attacks on border posts soon before the start of the truce; three others were wounded in later mortar and sniper attacks on two posts.

Nonetheless, no large-scale fighting was reported on Saturday. In Donetsk, a group of armed men gathered on Saturday in the central square to take a military oath to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Pavel Gubarev, who describes himself as governor of the breakaway republic, said there was no sign of any ceasefire near Slovyansk, the scene of serious clashes for several months.

“There is no ceasefire over there,” Gubarev said. “There is shooting all the time, and this ceasefire that Poroshenko is talking about is just fake. The Ukrainian forces are either not under his control, or he is just a liar.”

Tension between Russia and Ukraine escalated sharply in February when protests in favour of closer ties with the European Union drove the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, from power. Russia denounced the events as a coup and annexed Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking Crimea region. Rebellion in the eastern regions broke out soon afterwards, with Ukraine accusing Russia of supporting it.

Ukraine President declares week-long ceasefire

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday announced a week-long ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, his website said.

“Ukrainian army, cease fire!” it quoted him as telling military officers during a visit to the centre of the “anti-terrorist operation” in the east. “But this does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything to defend the territory of our state,” the website quoted him as adding. The ceasefire would begin Friday and last until June 27.


Fighting raged for a second successive day in the east of Ukraine on Friday, a day after clashes in which Ukrainian government forces said about 300 separatists were killed.

The casualty figures for the pro-Russian separatists could not be independently confirmed though a rebel commander said on Thursday the rebels had sustained “heavy losses” when they were outgunned by government forces backed by heavy armour.

The government forces said seven of their own number had been killed in Thursday’s fighting. The new fighting on Friday was about 100 kilometres from the border with Russia.


The United States blacklisted seven separatists in Ukraine on Friday and threatened “scalpel” sanctions on Russia’s financial, defence and high-tech industries as more Russian military material has flowed into Ukraine.

The U.S. moves respond to what American officials say is Russia’s recent increase in support to Ukrainian separatists, including the provision of Russian tanks and the preparation of more to cross into eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. Treasury named seven people, including separatist leaders in Donetsk, Slavyansk, Luhansk and the Crimean city of Sevastopol, whose assets under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and with whom U.S. individuals and firms will be generally barred from dealing. The Treasury identified one of the seven as a Russian citizen but gave no information on the citizenship of the other six.


The Kremlin on Friday denied a statement by NATO suggesting Russia was building up troops on the frontier with Ukraine but said Moscow had brought in more border guards because of security concerns.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at the frontier, and called it a regrettable step backwards following an earlier withdrawal from the border.

“There has been no buildup,” Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters. He said Russia was concerned about security at the border and added: “This means just the border guards are getting a few reinforcements, and troops have been withdrawn.”


Fighting broke out just east of the town of Krasny Liman early on Thursday after pro-Russian separatists refused to lay down their weapons in line with Poroshenko’s proposed peace plan, the government forces said.

The government forces have been gradually squeezing rebels in the area though separatists, who rose up against central rule from Kiev following the overthrow of a president sympathetic to Moscow, still control the strategic city of Slavyansk.

Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation,” said about 300 separatists had been killed in action around the villages of Yampil and Zakitne, which included artillery fire and air attacks. Heavy weapons had been seized from the separatists, including an armored personnel carrier, a truck with a high-caliber machine gun mounted on it, a shoulder-launched missile, grenade launchers and small arms, Seleznyov said on his Facebook page.

“Losses to Ukrainian servicemen are seven dead and 30 wounded. Military action is continuing,” Seleznyov said.

Australia blasts Russia “provocation” in Ukraine


Australia has accused Russia of attempting a creeping annexation of Ukraine, saying Moscow is extending the “playbook” it used to snatch Crimea into new territories.
Addressing an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Australia’s representative Gary Quinlan said Russia was repeating its tactic of ordering its forces – stripped of any identifying insignia – to pose as local separatist militias to provoke confrontation and create a manufactured sense of anarchy to justify a full Russian intervention.
“What we are actually witnessing is violence and destabilisation in an effort to manufacture a sense of crisis and separatism,” Mr Quinlan said, joining the US and Britain in condemning Russia’s actions. “Ukraine’s response to these provocations has been one of restraint under intolerable threat to its stability and independence.”
Australia’s UN representative Gary Quinlan has accused Russia of causing destabilisation in Ukraine.
Australia’s UN representative Gary Quinlan has accused Russia of causing destabilisation in Ukraine.
The meeting was called after the pro-Russian forces began exerting power in a number of eastern Ukrainian cities, seizing government buildings and exchanging gunfire with Ukrainian troops. This latest push by Moscow, leading to violent clashes, has dramatically deepened the sense of crisis over the former Soviet republic and sparked condemnation of Russia around the world.
Russia has also amassed about 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.
Mr Quinlan said there was no evidence of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine being targeted, nor of the general anarchy that Moscow claims is gripping the region, that could possibly justify any intervention.
“This has not been a spontaneous, grassroots, broad-based protest movement by local inhabitants. Rather this is a pattern of highly orchestrated destabilisation by pro-Russian groups.
“These units have used force to storm and besiege local government buildings and institutions. If all this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen the playbook used by Russia in Crimea. It became clear in that case that militia were in fact Russian forces.
“We condemn any use of proxy forces. A state cannot seek to avoid responsibility for its actions by seeking to cloak the identity of those working on its behalf.”
Mr Quinlan indicated the militias were clearly Russian troops operating without uniforms. He dismissed Moscow’s claims that Russian-speaking Ukrainians were being persecuted and threatened in the east of the country.
Mr Quinlan added that Moscow had ignored “repeated calls for de-escalation”. The government of President Vladimir Putin was deepening its own isolation, he said.
The same accusations were levelled by other countries, including the US and Britain.
Washington’s representative in the UN, Samantha Power, said the so-called protests in eastern Ukraine were clearly the work of professional Russian soldiers carrying out military operations.
“These are not demonstrations, these are not protests, these are military operations,” she said.
Russia’s credibility had been “gravely undermined” by the Ukraine crisis, Ms Power said, while adding that Washington remained “eager and willing” to talk to Moscow to calm the crisis.
But first, Russia would need to pull back its forces from the border and engage with Ukraine’s government in Kiev, she said.

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Address of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

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Address of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

Dear compatriots!

The Armed Forces completed the largest military operation in the modern history of the country. The army took under fire control and established the defense regime on almost the whole line of the state border with Russia in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The CTO forces liberated a great number of inhabited localities from terrorists and encircled extremist groups.

The state is obliged to protect its citizens from terrorists and armed gangs. Taking extraordinary efforts, Ukraine is restoring combat capability of the army and created the National Guard. Now, we have enough power and political will to deliver the final blow to illegal armed formations.

On the other hand, we soberly understand possible number of casualties among both Ukrainian servicemen and civilians of Donbas. Civilians are in fact being held hostage by militants now. That is why I suggested a peaceful plan. We are ready to restore the territorial integrity by all means, but now, we place a priority on peaceful measures.

As Supreme Commander-in-Chief, yesterday, in the headquarters of the Counterterrorist operation near Sloviansk, I commanded the Armed Forces, the National Guard, the MIA units and the border guards to unilaterally cease fire. Ukrainian authorities were the first to make such step because I feel my responsibility for the fate of the country.

The cease-fire period is limited to one week – until June 27. These are the decisive days that give a good chance for a peaceful settlement.

All illegal armed formation must understand: the initiated cease-fire doesn’t mean that Ukrainian soldiers are forbidden to shoot back. Any attempts of militants to attack will face the rebuff. Of course, not verbal.

Please, dear participants, let me inform you on some details of my peaceful plan.

In the coming days, the Verkhovna Rada will be offered to adopt the law on amnesty to those members of illegal armed formations who didn’t kill civilians and Ukrainian soldiers, who will lay down their weapons in a short time. Everyone who illegally took weapons must do so.

Hostages must be immediately liberated. I mean all hostages – from international observers to Ukrainian teachers, doctors, journalists and law enforcers.

Corridor for the escape of Russian mercenaries to their motherland will be opened. But there is a condition to leave machine guns, tanks and armored vehicles here.

10 km long buffer zone will be established on the Ukrainian-Russian border. It will become an additional protection from further entry of mercenaries and weapons to Ukraine.

Another important element of the plan is liberation of administrative premises in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Dismantling of roadblocks and barricades around them. Order must return to the streets of Ukrainian cities. By the way, not only in Donbas. This information should be heard by those who stayed too long without a reason on the tires in other regions of Ukraine.

We must restore the functioning of legal local authorities. With the assistance from the Center, they must immediately revive the social security system, power supply and water supply destroyed by extremists. It is related to both Sloviansk and Kramatorsk as cities which suffered from terrorists most. Today, I have already given the instruction to the Government to immediately restore the functioning of treasury paralyzed by militants. People must receive wages, pensions and all social payments despite any obstacles.

Immediate fulfillment of the peaceful plan will open the path to the political dialogue. I invite legally elected representatives of local government, civic organizations and everyone else to this dialogue.

Diametrically different views will not be a barrier to participation in the negotiations. I am ready to talk with those who have erred, who mistakenly stood in the position of separatism. Except, of course, people who were involved in the acts of terrorism, murder or torture.

Moreover, I guarantee safety for all participants of the negotiations. For anyone who wants to speak the language of arguments instead of the language of weapons.

Important remark. The issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is out of discussion! We hear and reckon with specific opinions of Donbas citizens. But we cannot and will not transform Ukraine, which is pretty unanimous in the issues of unity, territorial structure, language and geopolitical orientation, in accordance to them.

So where is the way out of this situation? It is in a broad decentralization of power.

For the first time in the history of Ukraine, instead of taking a full pack of powers and fighting, as it usually was, for the expansion of his power, the newly-elected President does the contrary. I will convey part of my powers to local authorities and territorial communities. In the first reading, respective amendments to the Constitution can be adopted in a few weeks. We can count on final adoption already in September.

Under the new Constitution, we will hold the elections to local Councils. The Councils will form the executive committees and elect their heads. And it will be they, not appointees from Kyiv, who will rule the regions and manage local budgets. These budgets will be substantially increased. Part of taxes will be redistributed for the benefit of communities, cities, districts and regions.

Decentralization provides for the expansion of the rights of regions in the issues of historical memory, cultural traditions and language policy. These issues will never again separate the country. Local communities of Donbas will have a right to freely use Russian language along with the state language. Communities will determine themselves to what monuments they should lay flowers. What they should celebrate and what songs they should sing at the holiday table. By the way, in which churches to pray.

But in conditions of decentralization, Donbas will not be able to deal with its problems alone. Not only Ukraine, but also the EU will come to help. We will help to restore the infrastructure destroyed by militants. At the cost of the state, we will restore housing destroyed during combat actions, we will restore workspaces. Donbas residents will have a place to return, to live and to work.

The program of creating new jobs in Donbas is being elaborated with the assistance of the EU. The case is not only about free or cheap credits, but also about the system of political risk insurance for the investors in the economy of Donbas. It is clear that there will be no investments unless there will be peace.

Peaceful plan cannot be implemented without a broad support of residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Militants must feel pressure both from Kyiv and local residents. For example, residents of Mariupol, the north of Luhansk region, the west of Donetsk region have had their say and now they live in peace.

It is gangs of mercenaries who paralyzed normal life and left people without means of living. I think that even those who had sacrificed their bodies and souls to create shields a few months ago have already changed their mind today.

I understand that not all people are ready to perceive or even hear the peaceful plan under the roar of cannon fire and naked nerve of the whole society. By the way, it is surprising that especially critical were those who did not smell gunpowder and do not know what a real war is.

To solve the problem by force is not an easy task. It means to sacrifice new and numerous casualties consciously and forcedly. To pay much bigger human price than the losses we have unfortunately already suffered today.

We must understand the main thing: not hundreds of people are taken hostage by terrorists, but hundreds of thousands residents who turned out to live in the area controlled by the terrorists. We, Ukrainian servicemen and politicians, think first of all about the fate of civilians in this situation. Otherwise, terrorists would have been wiped off from the face of the earth long ago.

I spent part of my childhood and juvenility in Transnistria. A lot of my classmates died in that military conflict. And a self-declared republic not recognized by anyone has been barely glimmering for more than 20 years already. I will not let Donbas transform into something similar to Transnistria.

I love our Donetchyna and Luhanshchyna just like my native Odeshchyna, Vinnychyna and Kyiv. Just like any other corner of my mother Ukraine.

Despite all the criticalness of the situation, we still have a choice and a chance to resolve the problem peacefully or by force. We must use this chance. We foresee various scenarios. Peaceful scenario is the main. It is our plan A.

But those who are planning to use peaceful negotiations only to kill the clock and regroup forces must know that we have a detailed plan B. I am not going to speak of it now because I believe that our peaceful plan will work out.

Our peaceful plan has already been supported by the whole global community. Particularly, by President of the United States Barack Obama, President of France François Hollande, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, leaders of many other countries of the world, international organizations, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President of the Swiss Confederation, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter (today, we have discussed with him the participation of the OSCE monitoring mission in the control over the cease-fire regime), Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and others.

Finally, President of Russia Vladimir Putin also positively evaluated the decision of Ukraine to cease fire and supported concrete steps of my peaceful plan on the settlement of the situation in Donbas.

The whole world understands: there is no better option than peace.

May God help us!

Glory to Ukraine!