Count-down running…

While the Russian president is in Kaliningrad checking the combat-readiness of Russian troops for various Baltic-war scenarios few see the danger:

“The risk of a war in Europe is greater today than it was a year ago because the allies have not used the time since the Wales summit to send an unequivocal message of reinforcement and deterrence along NATO’s Russian flank. Putin is still confident the game of escalation and de-escalation is his to play.

It is ultimately academic to try to second-guess Putin’s ultimate goals, and debate whether he will be satisfied with the current territorial gains in Ukraine or move further. What we do know is that the power imbalance in the Nordic-Baltic-Central European region makes the threat of war real, and that without permanent U.S. and allied bases in countries along NATO’s frontier there can be no sufficient deterrence against a putative Russian move, whether hybrid or conventional.”

 

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Ukraine is far more important than Greece

Nothing to add to this urgent call from Anders Åslund:

“the Kremlin opted for a third strategy [in order to crash Ukraine], identified with Putin’s diabolic aide Vladislav Surkov: a limited but bloody war in the eastern and southern part of only two of Ukraine’s 25 regions, Luhansk and Donetsk, known as the Donbas.

The destruction has been horrendous. The territory now occupied by Russian troops or their subordinates once harbored 3.3 million people, but most have since fled—1.3 million to other parts of Ukraine, 500,000 to Russia, and 100,000 to other countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Only pensioners, the destitute and criminals remain.

The economy in this rustbelt of dangerous coal mines and obsolete steel mills is stagnant, but it accounted for 10 percent of Ukraine’s GDP in 2013. The war is the main reason for Ukraine’s economic catastrophe. However, Moscow’s drastic trade sanctions have also crippled the country’s economy.

Last year, Ukraine’s exports to Russia fell by half, equivalent to 12 percent of total exports. That caused Ukraine’s GDP (excluding Crimea) to shrink by 6.8 percent. This year, GDP is likely to drop by a further 9 percent. About 75 percent of this contraction is due to the fighting in the Donbas and Russian trade sanctions against Ukraine.

With its war of destruction, the Kremlin’s apparent objective is to destabilize Ukraine to the point of political collapse. In his documentary film about the capture of Crimea, Putin said he acted when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was falling. Yet he also piled scorn on Yanukovych.

Clearly, Putin attacked Ukraine’s democratic breakthrough as a preemptive strike against democratization in Russia. Rather than a sign of political strength, this was proof of his political weakness—combined with relative military strength and Western cluelessness.

The European Union and its March 2014 Association Agreement with Ukraine was completely irrelevant. Putin has made clear that he views the EU as a political dwarf.

Yet the EU was important in other ways. Incredibly, the European Commission sees the Russia-Ukraine gas conflict as a commercial dispute rather than an act of war. That’s why, late last year, it made Ukraine pay Gazprom $3.1 billion in disputed arrears, depleting Kiev’s reserves and forcing the collapse of Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia. It also obligated Ukraine to buy gas from Russia without offering any competition for its harmful acts.

Ukraine should stop trading with Gazprom, which corrupts Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. Tellingly, during the Minsk peace talks, Russia urged Kiev’s destitute government to pay pensions and subsidies to the occupied Donbas, where Ukrainian officials can neither enter nor collect taxes. Russia wants the Ukrainian government to bleed.

Last spring, the EU proudly announced that it had opened its markets to Ukraine, but some 40 key quotas remain, causing its imports from Ukraine to fall sharply in the last quarter of 2014. Europe must open its markets to Ukrainian exports more widely, especially since Russia has closed its own markets as an act of war—and especially since the EU has delayed launching its vital Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine at Russia’s behest.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s first serious, able government in years has quickly adopted vital reforms the West had called for. It quadrupled household gas prices on April 1 without sparking any popular protests. It abolished corrupt coal subsidies and has opened up public procurement for competition, and it has cut the oligarchs down to size.

Kiev is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, but what is the EU doing? It has committed merely €5 billion in loans to Ukraine, compared with €200 billion for Greece. This makes no sense. Ukraine does all the reforms, while Greece has ignored similar demands for years and now openly opposes them. Ukraine has more than four times as many people as Greece, and it is far more strategically important for Europe.

Having lost Greece, Brussels needs a success story—and Ukraine is the obvious choice. But the EU must do far more.

If it won’t give Ukraine the military aid it badly needs, it could at least offer crucial financial aid. The European central banks could easily give Ukraine a €10 billion credit swap, which would stabilize the hryvnia without costing the EU anything, because the ECB could impose strict conditions that force Kyiv to change policies before it needs the swap. The money would stay with the ECB in Frankfurt.

There is no reason not to offer such assistance.”

– There is a reason: Russia has a lot of friends in Brussels, especially among German politicians (outstanding the German Social-Democratic Party and German businessmen who at all cost want to return to business with Russia instead of seeking alternatives in Ukraine – see the examples of Siemens and its turbines business that would allow Russia to provide Crimea with energy or German politicians lobbying for an aircraft factory in Novosibirsk). They are eagerly waiting or pressuring quite aggressively for a “normalization” with the relations towards Russia and pressure Ukraine to “cooperate” with Russia (The German SPD’s politician and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz) and to stop Ukraine from entering NATO and instead allow Russia back into the G8 (Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference). The pre-dominant topic the EU struggles with is to keep up a united stance which apparently exhausts Brussels and European decision-makers so much they have not enough engery left in order to put up pressure in the gas talks and in providing Ukraine with money.

Why do they not realize Russia is just a brink away from total war in Ukraine?

Because they still think Ukraine collapses economically and politically which would not make a large Russian military intervention necessary (in fact the non-provision of help to Ukraine is a proof they silently have hoped for that in order to appease Russia). European decision-makers in their ignorance for Ukraine have not realized the Ukrainian people will no longer allow Russia to crash the country.

The Russian president at all costs wants to upheld his illusion that “Ukraine is not a state”, using all methods he has at his disposal in order to prove it. But all methods – including economic interrelations with Russia (and the notorious gas topic), using its influence to prevent debt restructuring and a solution of the debt issue in Ukraine, corrupting politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists, spreading “kompromat”, using diversionist actions and terror attacks – all methods have been failing even if the situation in Ukraine is dire.

If Ukraine refuses to cease as a state in front of European eyes with those “conventional” methos, Russia in the near future has to decide on an open war in order to destroy Ukrainian statehood.

But for European politicians this option simply does not exist – similar to the subborn refuse that a “Grexit” is not possible and Greece has to stay in the Euro. Ukraine has to collapse and Greece has to be saved. Such is their logic.

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Russia wants more

Just a few days ago, the Russian Prosecutor General found that the transfer of Crimea from the RSFSR to Ukraine in 1954 was unconstitutional – and now the same general prosecution is going to question the legality of the independence of the Baltic states.

Lithuania reacted quickly, and called it a provocation.

The Baltic states do all they can to prepare their citizens and military for a possible   Russian military provocation. Besides, Lithuania is preparing the grounds to send weapons to Ukraine, and the Latvian military has been instructed by Ukraine on the principles of Russsian warfare.

The question is no longer if Russia will intervene military, the question only is when it will be.

The time is ripe for a Russian move: The support of the Russian president is at nearly 90%,  Europe is ready for summer vacations, and Russia’s most important negotitation partner Germany has far more stakes in Greece (some 80 billion Euros) than in the Baltic states (the crashing of NATO which Germans do not support).

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List of Russian crimes against Ukraine 2014/2015

I. Crimes connected to the Euromaidan

  1. Sending titushki to the Euromaidan in order to support the criminal regime of former President Yanukovych, to intimidate and to beat up protesters
  2. Involvement in the abduction, torture and killing of protesters; in the burning down of the Trade Union’s Building in the center of Kyiv (the headquarters of the Euromaidan) on 18 February 2015. The number of dead the fire of the building caused has never been publicly discussed – including how many of the still missing protesters were in the building
  3. Instructing and controlling special-forces (the Alpha unit) with the participation of Kremlin-aide Surkov in order to shoot protesters at Institutska Street and surroundings in February 2014, killing at least 50 people with grenades and sniper rifles
  4. Spreading false information/lying on the background of the protests and supporting the criminal regime of former Ukrainian President Yanukvoych

II. Crimes in context with the occupation of Crimea

  1. Incorporating the peninsula into Russia, imposing Russian citizenship, laws and regulations, Russian currency, Russian (anti-Ukrainian) school curricula, the Russian language, Russian military service etc.
  • Among this falls: Forcing Russian citizenship on orphans and forcing them into the less developed Russia adoption system
  • Banning Ukrainian from primary schools arguing with a lack of pupils or no interest, and getting rid of Ukrainian books, also through burning. Moreover, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar books, many of them have to do with Islam have been put on a “black-list”
  • denying Ukrainian citizens in Crimean prisons medical services, because of the lack of Russian insurance
  1. Intimidating, abducting and imprisoning Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, other ethnic minorities, and members of religious congregations not being part of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, restricting their freedom of speech and expression:
  • Several Kyiv Patriarchate Orthodox priests were forced to leave Crimea and the majority have been summoned to the FSB for questioning, plus churches were shut down; the head of a Roman Catholic parish in Simferopol – a Polish national – was forced to leave the peninsula; additionally a number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church members were forced to leave; the new authorities are searching mosques, religious schools and private homes, and try to undermine the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims
  • Arresting/imprisoning for displaying Ukrainian national symbols and interrogating Ukrainians on the grounds of their nationality
  • The same goes for Crimean Tatars. Additionally, meetings to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their deportation from Crimea were banned; a woman later had to appear in front of a court for the organization of such a meeting.
  • Targeting the families of national minorities in order to silence/hurt family members. For example the son of exiled Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzemilev was sentenced to five years in prison in Russia – his father is not allowed to enter his homeland Crimea
  1. Destroying economic structures in Crimea
  1. Ethnic engineering and ethnic cleansing of Crimea: Abducting and murdering selected representatives of ethnic minorities or imprisoning them in order to provoke Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians to leave the peninsula.

(For more details on human rights abuses see one of the rare international reports)

III. Crimes committed in Russia against Ukrainians

1. Ensuring the political and psychological environment for war against Ukraine (watch Russian TV’s news shows for one hour and you will know enough)

2. Delegating the rule in occupied territories to sadists, psychologically ill persons, gangsters and organized crime

3. Fueling inter-ethnic hate against Ukrainians in Russian and international media in underlining the inability of Ukrainians to rule a state and in stressing their subhuman nature (i.e. not an own people, never had an own state

4. Blaming Ukrainians for Russian crimes:

  • intending to shoot-down a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane in order to start war against Ukraine in July 2014 (accidentally hitting MH-17, murdering 298 persons)
  • shelling and murdering civilians on territories in control of Russia, blaming Ukraine (hotspots being Horlivka (June) and Donetsk (examples for May and June)
  • attacking Ukrainian consulates in Russia (Rostov)
  1. Abducting Ukrainian citizens and soldiers from Ukraine to Russia:
  • Abducting and selling captured Ukrainian soldiers (battle of Ilovaysk) as slaves to the North Caucasus (also in order to support the fake story of “1000 Ukrainian dead soldiers” and total defeat at Ilovyask in summer 2014).
  • Fake Ukrainian Crimea terrorism (criminal article “creating a terrorist group”): Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and the civil society activists Henadiy Afanasyiev and Oleksiy Chirniy. The two latter have been sentenced to seven years in Russian prisons
  • Torturing the Ukrainian student Yuriy Yatsenko in Russian prisons in order to get confessions against Ukraine, and sentencing him for the (faked) possession of explosives.
  • Three Ukrainians have been accused of being spies: Yuriy Soloshenko, Sergej Skirta, Valentine Vyhovskyi
  • Mykola Karpyuk, one of the leaders of the “Right Sector” for the “creation of an armed group” (He disappeared while intending to enter Russia in March 2014, and is probably dead), also Stanislav Klih, accused of being a member of the group; Serhiy Litvinov, a reported fighter of “Dnipr” faces life imprisonment
  • Russia has been impeding Ukrainian representatives of visiting the prisoners

IV. Crimes connected to the occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Donbas

  1. Crimes against oppositional politicians, activists, journalists etc.
  • Murdering the member of Horlivka’s City Council Vladimir Rybak in mid-April 2014. Found with him were Yuriy Propavko, a 19-year-old student, active in the Maidan protest movement, and another unknown person. The Ukrainian SBU suspected the Russian military intelligence officers Igor Bezler and Igor Strelkov who were about to establish a terrorist base in the city.
  • Intimidating journalists through arrests and beatings. The most prominent cases have been Novaya Gazeta’s Pavel Kanyign (twice) and Simon Ostrovsky (Vice) (who recently was banned from entering Russia). Serhiy Lefter testified in May 2014, interrogators wanted to hear detained were from the “Right Sector” – those who admitted under torture were “punished”
  • Harassing priests and members of non-Russian Orthodox Churches, for example, the evangelical pastor Serhiy Kosyak from Donetsk and fellow members of his church Yevheniy Frantsuk, Alexander Khomchenko
  • Capturing and threatening parents of pro-Ukrainian activists or journalists who fled the region for in order to force their children to return and give themselves up (abduction and imprisonment of Iryna and Valeriy Ishenko for their daughter Viktoria’s work in Donetsk)
  • Torturing civilians and publicly exposing them (case of Iryna Dovhan / Donetsk accusing her of “spying”)
  • Threatening civilians in order to force them to leave the territory (Case of the leader of the music group „Fata morgana“, Igor Roman / Horlivka)
  • Firing at civilian workers repairing destroyed infrastructure, most recently a water system repair company employee in Popasna
  1. Crimes against soldiers and military staff
  • Shooting down of Ukrainian helicopters and military airplanes between May and July 2014, for example an Il-76 on 14 June 2014, which caused 49 dead (Altogether Ukraine lost nearly a dozen of helicopters and airplanes).
  • Policy of murdering captured machine gunners and snipers, and members of certain (former) volunteer battalions, such as the “Right Sector”, and of not exchanging members of certain (former) volunteer battalions against Russian prisoners
  • Spreading videos (also with the help of “professionals”, i.e. Graham Philips). Videos most often either show how “Ukrainian” shell civilians / residential quarters or how prisoners are humiliated and tortured. Some examples are a video on YouTube (24 January 2015) that showed 12 captured Ukrainian soldiers sitting outside a building with their hands tied; at least two of them were severely wounded and had been tortured, and four other killed; in that video terrorist “Givi” hit the head of a captured Ukrainian soldier with a gun. A video and photographic material shows three Ukrainian POW paratroopers in Shakhtarsk tortured and probably later executed (31 July 2014). In another prominent video, one commander of the Donetsk airport ‘cyborgs’ Oleh Kuzminykh and his colleagues were taken to a bus stop in Donetsk that had been recently shelled – in order to be beaten up by outraged persons. In another clip, tied-up, kneeling Ukrainian soldiers had to eat up their insignia. See also videos of the Russian Sergei Zhuk torturing and humiliating Ukrainian POWs.
  • Torturing Ukrainian soldiers in order to produce fake confessions, most recently the captured Ukrainian soldier, Roma Mashchenko, who was presented in a Russian media conference on 5 June 2015 to prove that Ukrainians started the offensive on Maryinka
  • Using prisoners of war for forced labor, for example the “clean-up” of the collapsed Donetsk airport terminal.
  1. Crimes connected to the organization of terrorist groups and their activities
  • Financing and staffing terrorist groups in the occupied territories (some of the more prominent have been Givi’s “Somali”, “Motorola’s “Sparta” etc.) in order to spread terror and chaos
  • Financing and staffing terrorist groups beyond the occupied territories in Ukraine; with focus on Odesa, Kyiv and Kharkiv in order to provoke the collapse of the Ukrainian state
  • Attacking / bombing volunteer offices (at least a dozen all over Ukraine in the last months)
  • Liquidating terrorists after they have fulfilled their purpose (Alexander Bednov / Batman in January 2015 and probably also Aleksej Mozgovoj in May 2015)
  • Using suicide bombers (last at Maryinka)
  • Killing “own people” or civilians in diversionist actions, in order to discredit Ukraine (for example persons tied to the Yanukovych regime in spring 2015)

4. The (purposeful) murdering of civilians in the occupied territories includes:

  • Firing at a funeral procession in Sartana (near Mariupol), 7 killed, 17 injured (14 October 2014).
  • Firing at school No. 63 in Donetsk, two killed, three injured (5 November 2014).
  • Shelling a passenger bus near Volnovakha with 12 killed (13 January 2015)
  • Shelling in Donetsk and firing at civilians (21/22 January 2015: over a 24-hour period: 20 civilians injured and 15 people killed).
  • Shelling Mariupol, 30 killed, 75 injured with hospital treatment (24 January 2015).
  • Shelling of Kramatorsk with Smerch multiple rocket launchers, 15 dead, 63 wounded (10 February 2015).
  • Shelling Artemivsk (cluster munition), two dead, four injured (13 February 2015).
  • Bombing a rally in commemoration of the Maidan anniversary in Kharkiv, four killed, nine injured (22 February 2015).

5. Destruction of Ukrainian nature, villages, cities and infrastructure (bombing bridges, railroads, gas pipelines, electricity etc.) in the Donbas and other places in Ukraine:

V. Provoking a huge refugee wave from Crimea and the occupied territories in the Donbas causing the biggest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War in Europe

  • Some 1.3 million internally displaced, around 600.000 of whom went abroad, mainly to Crimea, Belarus, Russia etc. (only 000 of them officially applied for asylum in the EU).
  • Caritas Ukraine estimates that switching the front-line by some 15km west would cause an additional one million of Ukrainians to move west, probably beyond Ukraine.

VI. Crimes against humanity: Ethnic cleansing of Crimea and the occupied parts of the Donbas

  • Deliberately killing thousands who do not want to succumb to Russian expansionism and fight for their freedom
  • Stripping those who identify with the Ukrainian/Crimean Tatar nation or the Ukrainian state of their homeland, friends/family and assets

 

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NATO is living in another reality

Two statements of  NATO’s Central and Eastern Europe Commander Hans-Lothar Domröse, a German who is responsible for implementing the “new NATO strategy” to deter Russia (anybody seen a NATO-strategy on how to deter Russia until now?) underline we really have to be worried:

1. It is unrealistic that Russia will embark on a large-scale invasion in Ukraine

“because the costs would be terribly high” for Russia.

Has NATO even studied Russian warfare-methods?

– Russia traditionally uses “cannon-fodder” for the first wave, consisting of fanatics, criminals, drug-addicts, ethnic minorities etc. whose death hardly bothers anybody in Russia or anywhere else (as the ignorance of several thousand Russians who died in the Donbas in Russia’s war against Ukraine proves every day).

– Plus, those persons are an useful instrument to spread propaganda, terror and to commit crimes against civilians / the local population

– Russia relies on highly specialized tactical groups for the “real warfare”; heavily based on paratrooper-battalions.

– Such troops will not be used for a “classic war”, but to destroy or bloc infrastructure (railways, energy, water, crucial production lines) and communication possibilities (with a focus on electronic communication) in order to provoke chaos and a collapse of the state.

So – for whom would the costs be terribly high?

2. NATO shows the Baltic States that we take their warnings seriously: Therefore NATO will install permanent staff in each east European member state consisting out of 40 people as a first step. In the case of emergency, those persons would secure the deployment of rapid reaction forces. However, the military staff would not store heavy material as the western partners do not have sufficient material and money to provide it (sic!). NATO could ensure a joint comand post, ammunition, water, bread, dressing material. The respective states/armies should themselves ensure combat-readiness in regard to the Russian threat.

– Hopefully NATO has studied recent Russian exercises that among others have focused on blocking such command outposts.

–  NATO does not offer answers on how it intends to stop the further militarization of Kaliningrad (embedded between Poland and Lithuania)

– Wouldn’t it be the purpose of NATO to show solidarity with endangered members and a core task to send allied troops instead of passing them some weapons to look for themselves? (Polish “Patriot”-missiles will not be able to stop Iskander-missiles fired from Kaliningrad).

– Does NATO really consider Poland, Romania or the Baltic states full members worth defending them against Russia?

As long as NATO does not send brigade combat teams and at least 20.000 ground troops to the eastern European front-lines states it will not stop Russia from further testing NATO.

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Ukraine gets hold of Russian plan for large-scale invasion

Specialists from the group “Mirotvorets” acquired documents from the Russian General Staff that confirm Russia’s intentions to invade and occupy the Ukrainian territories east of the Dnipr.

The General Staff of the western military disctrict already agreed on the plan at the beginning of April in Petersburg – and wanted it to be carried out in spring/early summer 2015. It forsees to skirt big cities, and to cut communication lines and destroy infrastructure within 15 days. Such an operation would be carried out by battalion tactical groups (BTG) of the Russian regular army – as Dmytro Tymchuk (Information Resistance) also has repeatedly underlined in his military updates.

The invasion would be backed by massacres of civilians – in order to blame the Ukrainian army and justify the advance – and be again disguised as “DNR/LNR”-operation. It would be splitted into two parts: First an attack of the Kharkiv / Donetsk Oblasts, then of Poltava, Kyiv and Chernihiv. The increasing activities of (Belo)Russian military on the border with Ukraine support those intentions (see the most recent military exercises)

The Russian soutern military disctrict for its part worked out a plan to attack Zaporizhiya and Melitopol in order to open up a corridor to Crimea.

We can assume there are similar plans with Transnistria, according to recent Russian propaganda and military activities in the region.

 

 

 

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NATO is ready to invade Russia

Russia is pushing its preparations to create a prerequisite for an invasion of the Baltic states.

Today, Russian hackers posted an announcement on the site of the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense: The ongoing NATO exercise Saber Strike is preparing the annexation of Kaliningrad. This fake was widely spread in Russian propaganda media (for example LifeNews or Sputnik) and surely is believed by the Russian public.

The Pew Research Center study on NATO published yesterday found that Russians are clear in their beliefs: Russians support the president, and think NATO is an existential military threat.

On the countrary, the study found European allies do not support the use of military force in the case of military aggression against an ally. The higest rates were found in Italy (51%) and Germany (58%). Recently, the Russian president visited Italy, and ensured further support. Additionally, the German parliament is paralyzed by a Russian cyberattack and the server has to be rebuild in the next months (This could be important in an Article 5 case as the German parliament would have to meet and to decide on measures. As Germany has been Russia’s main negotiation partner since its aggression against Ukraine started in February last year, nothing would be decided without German backing).

And what about the recent declaration of the Russian president that only an insane person could imagine Russia attacking NATO?

The statement actually confirms Russia’s interest in the Baltics. More than public statements we should stick to statements the Russian president has made in private conversations. And the Pew survey underlined that NATO countries sharing a border with Russia are not considered to be full members by older NATO members, worth the military effort. Also in the Russian logic the Baltics – countries without permanent NATO (=US)-bases – are no real members, and an attack on them is not a direct attack of NATO.

 

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