Saturday, May 31, 2014

Back In The USSR

"The world hasn't forgotten the Second World War and Russia wants to start a third world war. Russia's support for the terrorists in Ukraine constitutes an international crime and we call on the international community to unite against the Russian aggression."
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine's temporary Prime Minister

"The West wants -- and this is how it all began -- to seize control of Ukraine because of their own political ambitions, not in the interests of the Ukrainian people."
Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

(Photo: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis / )   A gunman walks by thirty coffins prepared for the funerals of pro-Russian rebels killed during heavy fighting at Donetsk airport on May 26, outside a Donetsk morgue May 29, 2014.
"There is no doubt that Russia continues to ramp up its propaganda machine all the while accusing the West of some sort of plot to control Ukraine."
"Such ridiculous statements show just how out of touch -- and out of touch with reality -- the leaders are in the Kremlin."
John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada

A Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter was shut down by pro-Russian rebels using a portable air defence missile, on the outskirts of Slavyansk. The Ukrainian military has encircled Slavyansk, now considered to be rebellion-central, in Donetsk province. This is not the first helicopter the rebels have destroyed, an earlier assault with a rocket-propelled grenade hit a grounded helicopter the week before killing two crew.

On this occasion, however, the helicopter that was hit was in the process of rotating troops into a checkpoint when rebel fire struck while they were in flight. The result is a dozen dead soldiers, among them a high-ranking general who had served in the Soviet army and was now in charge of combat training for Ukraine. President-elect Petro Poroshenko, to be sworn into office on June 7 has his work cut out for him.

His election vow was that he would uproot the pro-Moscow rebels fighting for secession, to join the Russian federation. The rebels have made Slavyansk, a city of 120,000 population, their insurgency base. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-styled mayor of the city has declared himself at war with Mr. Poroshenko, willing to match bloodshed for bloodshed.

Last week the leaders of Germany, France and Italy called upon Moscow to abide by a Geneva agreement to reduce tensions."Given the absence of progress, we have to think about -- and not just think about, but act on -- the option of new sanctions", warned Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

When, last Thursday, armoured vehicles and Ukrainian commandos briefly slipped into Slavyansk, killing one insurgent, the Russian foreign minister warned that the commanders of the Ukrainian army would face justice. Now, it seems his warning has been transformed into action with the death of General Serhiy Kulchytskiy, in charge of training Ukraine's National Guard.

Moscow still retains tens of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine's border, fully equipped with tanks, artillery and Grad rocket launchers. But, not to worry, they are there only to conduct previously scheduled and completely routine manoeuvres; whatever else is happening within eastern Ukraine is simply incidental to the presence of the Russian military.

"Of course, if you will continue this hysterical campaign about Russia with empire ambitions trying to recreate the Soviet Union you can ramp up people's sentiments."
"There won't be any war. More than that I predict tensions will start gradually to recede around Ukraine. We'll soon have some kind of international framework facilitating normalization in Ukraine."
"This isn't a policy; it's propaganda. It reminds me of the Soviet Union. Lately in my discussions with your officials, I feel like I'm back in USSR, only this time it's you who are listening to the central committee of the Communist party."

"If you consider yourself here in Quebec a distinct nation, there are also people in Russia, and certain parts of Ukraine that consider themselves to be a historic nation. Historically, politically, culturally, Crimea always thought it was part of Russia. When this crisis unravelled, there were concerns the same thing would happen to them as what is happening now in Donetsk."
Russian ambassador to Canada Georgiy Mamedov

And, on the sidelines, something peculiar appears to be happening with the rebel movement in eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian fighters with armoured personnel carriers took possession of the movement's headquarters in Donetsk, destroying the barricades surrounding it. They represent a group calling themselves the Vostok Battalion, involved in conflict with the Ukrainian army.

What occurred looks suspiciously like infighting, with a move to purge those individuals considered undesirable within the Donetsk Peoples' Republic. Despite which, key rebel leaders, absent when the Vostok fighters arrived, claimed still to be in control of their revolution.

"It is extremely difficult to fight against guerrillas. You just cannot destroy them. They are not regular troops. It's the classic problem which Russia had in Chechnya and the United States had in Vietnam", stated Igor Sutyagin, research fellow at Royal United Services Institute in London

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