Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fighting Back Against Russia

"It doesn't look like this war will end, because no one wants it to end, not [president Petro] Poroshenko."
"Our guys [ethnic Russian Ukrainian insurgents] shoot, they respond. They're shooting on both sides."
"We don't need riches from the sky, just peace. It's been four years of war, but we have nowhere else to go."
Svetlana Karpenko, Novoluhanske, eastern Ukraine

"American weapons in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers are not for offensive [use], but for stronger rebuff of the aggressor [and] protection of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians."
"It is also a trans-Atlantic vaccination against the Russian virus of aggression."
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko
Prisoners of war from separatist self-proclaimed republics before boarding a bus during an exchange of captives near the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Credit Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

"[Russia’s tactics, online and off, have one single aim]: to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, to make its government look incompetent and vulnerable."
"Russia will never accept Ukraine being a sovereign and independent country."
"Twenty-­five years since the Soviet collapse, Russia is still sick with this imperialistic syndrome."
Viktor Yushchenko, pro-Western former Ukraine President
Over twenty thousand people in Ukraine have been killed since ethnic Russian Ukrainian separatists collided with the government of Ukraine's determination not to lose any of its geographic territory to the ambitions of a group of diehard militias wanting to break away from Ukrainian authority and link eastern Ukraine with Mother Russia. During the era of the Soviet Union, Russians were encouraged to migrate to all the satellite countries of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Once that union dissolved and the former satellites exercised their full right of sovereignty the ethnic Russians found themselves high and dry.

In Ukraine, that demographic, once the pro-Russian Ukrainian government in Kyiv was kicked out in a popular rebellion, decided they no longer wished to be part of Ukraine. Rather than decamping and heading back for Russia where many generations earlier they had hailed from, they decided to pack up their territory and gift it to Russia. Ukraine, understandably, would have no part of it. And this is when Moscow decided that it would, and when Vladimir V. Putin exercised his authority to send in Russian troops disguised but recognizable, to fight alongside their Ukrainian-Russian comrades.

It is also when Putin decided that the Crimea should be returned to Russia, that Russian roots and history in Ukraine was too valuable, too ingrained in Russian culture and heritage to allow it to remain with Ukraine, and so that territory too was forcibly claimed by a Russian military invasion. Since 2014, and the many battles fought between the Ukrainian military and the separatists supported by Russian military and advanced Russian weaponry which included a missile that shot down an overflight passenger jet from Malaysia killing hundreds aboard, the conflict has raged.

It is raging on low but steady ramp since the signing of an accord in Minsk in 2015, an armistice supposedly leading to a peace process which has become an inevitable war of attrition, each side claiming the other has broken the accord, leading to a like response. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe one thousand ceasefire violations occurred each day in the month of December alone. The breakaway states of Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics agree to refresh the agreement, and then relent.

Both sides, according to the deputy head of the OSCE mission, "blatantly disregard" the Minsk agreement. Ongoing antagonism between Moscow and Washington over the conflict has failed to move the peace process forward. A "massive escalation" in violence on the part of the insurgents represented a response to Kyiv's initiative to take foreigners' fingerprints at the border; a situation that caused Russian officers to leave a joint ceasefire control centre with Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has decided to level the weapons' playing field, releasing to Ukraine the export of multiple millions' worth of .50 calibre Barrett M107A1 sniper rifles. Denounced by the Russian Foreign Ministry claiming it would encourage "major bloodshed", but evidently not Moscow's arming of the rebels with advanced weaponry. Kyiv is still awaiting the promised Javelin anti-tank missiles from Washington to address their lack of advanced equipment.
The Trump administration approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.  Getty Images

"They shell themselves, and then supposedly it was the Ukrainian side that fired", said Vasil Labay, a spokesman for Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" against the separatists, who signalled that Ukraine's military was in the process of "improving our positions", yet following the ceasefire, and holding back heavy weapons. Disputed by the OSCE which holds that both sides were meant to withdraw tanks, artillery pieces and mortars from within 15 kilometres of the contact line.

On the other hand, what's a country under fire from a neighbour supposed to do, while that neighbour feints it has no involvement whatever; simply the other nation's own citizens expressing their dissatisfaction with the government...? Britain and other European nations are getting a taste of what Putin's larger agenda might resemble with an "upsurge" of Russian naval vessels passing by British waters even as the British Navy and NATO leader warn of just such Russian naval activity at levels not seen since the Cold War.

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