Kiev and self-defense forces signed a memorandum aimed at effectively halting all fighting in eastern Ukraine after talks in Minsk. It creates a buffer zone, demands a pullback of troops and mercenaries, and bans military aviation flybys over the area.
The signed memorandum consists of nine points, former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma told journalists following peace talks in Minsk, Belarus.
“The first one is stopping the use of weapons by both sides, the second is terminating new formations of units on military bases as of September 19. The third is banning the use of all types of weapons and offensive action,” Kuchma said.
The agreement outlines a buffer zone of 30 km (18.6 miles) and bans all military aircraft from flying over part of eastern Ukrainian territory, except for the OSCE’s aerial vehicles, Kuchma told RIA Novosti following the meeting.
Ukraine troops must pull back all heavy artillery by 15 kilometers from the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, the treaty states.
All foreign mercenaries must be withdrawn from eastern Ukraine by both sides of the conflict, the signed Minsk memorandum states, according to Kuchma.
“We have agreed on the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries from both sides,” Kuchma said.
Both sides also vowed to continue the exchange of prisoners.
The OSCE has been tasked to monitor that both sides adhere to the memorandum’s conditions. The organization’s observers will be sent to observe the situation along the entire zone of the ceasefire, Itar-Tass reported.
Five hundred OSCE observers will be sent to monitor the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, Lugansk People’s Republic representative Aleksey Karyakin said, adding that the meeting was quite difficult.
“We were able to substantially increase the number of OSCE observers in the conflict zone from 300 to 500,” he said.
The negotiations were also attended by Russia’s OSCE representatives.
Meanwhile, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, declared that there will be “no Ukrainian election” in Donetsk, referring to one of the conditions set out in the September 5 Minsk protocol, which gave special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, both located in eastern Ukraine.
Zakharchenko said he considers the special status as a declaration of independence of the self-proclaimed republics.
A Fusion Center for United Against Nuclear Iran & Foundation for Defense of Democracies?
The Justice department would like to the see the UANI lawsuit go away as it is aware that what is being described as “law enforcement” documents would include both privileged and classified Treasury Department work product relating to individuals and companies that it has investigated for sanctions busting. Passing either intelligence related or law enforcement documents to a private organization is illegal but the Justice Department’s only apparent concern is that the activity might be exposed. There is no indication that it would go after UANI for having acquired the information and it perhaps should be presumed that the source of the leak is the Treasury Department itself.
Enforcing those AIPAC-endorsed sanctions has been the happy task of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Created in early 2004 after intensive lobbying by AIPAC and its associated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the TFI unit has been aptly described as “a sharp-edged tool forged principally to serve the Israel lobby.” With David S. Cohen succeeding Stuart Levey as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in January 2011, a leading journalist on the Middle East was later prompted to call the position “a job which seems reserved for pro-Israeli neo-cons to wage economic warfare against Tehran.” In recent days, Cohen’s TFI unit has been eagerly waging economic warfare against Damascus. Daniel L. Glaser, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, has just completed a tour of Lebanon and Jordan to secure their compliance with economic sanctions against the Assad government. In Beirut, the U.S. Embassy announced that Glaser was pressing the authorities to “remain vigilant against attempts by the Syrian regime to evade U.S. and EU sanctions.
So now that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has invoked the U.S. States Secret privilege in the matter of Victor Restis & EST v United Against Nuclear Iran, American citizens might come to understand why foreign nations like China, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates treat American non-profits or non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) with scorn. Some of these U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt, 501C3 .org’s, or “Associations”, operating overseas are nearly the equivalent of U.S. embassies: U.S. intelligence operatives and free market ideologues populate leadership and staff positions. Funding for their operations are a mix of U.S. government and corporate largesse. Private donations figure as well. In some cases they are not-so-subtle advocates for regime-change.
Robert Merry’s piece April 2012 piece in The Atlantic does a fine job of pointing out some of the more nefarious activities of NGO’s and non-profits. In Why Do Some Foreign Countries Hate American NGOs So Much? Merry opines:
For anyone trying to understand why this anger is welling up in those countries, it might be helpful to contemplate how Americans would feel if similar organizations from China or Russia or India were to pop up in Washington, with hundreds of millions of dollars given to them by those governments, bent on influencing our politics. One supposes it would generate substantial anger among Americans if these groups tried to tilt our elections toward one party or another. But suppose they were trying to upend our very system of government, as U.S.-financed NGOs are trying to do these days in various countries–and have done in recent years in numerous locations.
Americans have a network of Israel-First organizations in the United States that are “bent on influencing our politics”. They constitute a Deep State that has no remorse in sacrificing American lives and security for the benefit of Israel. Two of these non-profits are United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). They are part of the local, state and federal matrix of Israel-First non-profits in the U.S.
UANI has managed to get 40 American state legislatures to pass, nearly unopposed, draconian sanctions on Iran which clearly are meant to instigate the general populace to revolt. UANI claims credit for many pieces of federal legislation designed to strangle the Iranians and inflict damage of the type that sanctions leveled on the Iraqi civilian populace caused.
UANI develops model legislation for adoption by the federal government and U.S. state governments to sever Iran from international trade and financial markets and prohibit investment in Iran. UANI’s model legislation provisions were included in the federal government’s Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), and in debarment legislation adopted in California, Florida, New York, Indiana, Maryland and Connecticut that bars companies with Iran business from receiving taxpayer dollars.
FDD spearheads a similar program:
FDD’s work has informed numerous pieces of Iran sanctions legislation, which were passed with overwhelming bipartisan congressional support, and which are now U.S. law, including the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013); the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012; Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012; and, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. These laws target Iran’s energy, financial, shipping, insurance, commercial, and proliferation activities, and the regime’s human rights abuses. The legislative measures are widely viewed as the most robust U.S. measures yet imposed against the Iranian regime. European and Canadian officials also relied on FDD research to inform their complementary sanctions policies. Beyond gasoline, the Iran Energy Project also seeks to reduce the amount of oil revenue the Iranian regime can devote to advancing its illicit nuclear program and repressing its citizens. As part of this effort, FDD has performed studies on sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank, the role of the IRGC in Iran’s energy sector, and the impact of a worldwide Iranian Oil Free Zone.
According to Phillip Weiss, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff were prophetic:
In late 1947, the JCS had written that ‘A decision to partition Palestine, if the decision were supported by the United States, would prejudice United States strategic interests in the Near and Middle East to the point that United States influence in the area would be curtailed to that which could be maintained by military force.’ That is to say, the concern of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was not with the security of Israel-but with the security of American lives.
And so it has come to pass that the U.S. has sustained the existence of Israel through trillions (US dollars) in foreign assistance (since 1947). The U.S. has tolerated espionage and the theft of American technology, military secrets and nuclear weapons design. The U.S. government and media have been so bent by Israel-First influence that it is nearly impossible to openly criticize Israel about its thinly disguised destruction of the Palestinian people.
It just does not seem enough for the Israel-First network. How much more must Americans sacrifice for the sake of Israel? When will the big dog set things right and get the tail to begin to obey? Few Americans want to abandon Israel but to see the United States of America getting bent over the knee by Israel is unsettling.
And with the U.S. Attorney’s invocation of the State Secrets privilege now providing cover for UANI’s operations, it is obvious what is afoot. Circumstantially, the evidence is damning: U.S. and Israel intelligence data seems to be moving between UANI, FDD and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the U.S. Treasury. The three organizations form a sort of a privatized sanctions enforcement regime apparently benefiting from government intelligence operatives and/or business intelligence snoops. Where you find David S. Cohen of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence you will also find some link to UANI or FDD. And then there is the fear factor: Financial sanctions, loss of business in Israel, and loss of political office in the U.S. How two non-profits became so powerful and feared is a testimony to the strength of the Israel-First organizations and their ability to bend the political consciousness of the United States of America.
Some Items for “You” to Explore
“From: Bart Mongoven
To: Reva Bhalla
Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:49:34 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Our mission (in the short term) is to determine how much flexibility is in the seemingly inflexible demand that the client…Client is Honeywell, which makes surveillance equipment Iran uses to monitor/secure pipelines and (allegedly) nuclear reactors…get out of Iran “right now.” The client says that it will not sign another contract but that it does not want to breach contracts that are in place. This is the position that Ingersoll Rand and Siemens have taken, and it seemed ok with UANI. At the same time, UANI is telling our client that the same pledge isn’t good enough. Is UANI still in talks or putting similar pressure on those who have pledged that they will leave when current contracts are up?…How did they decide to start targeting corporations — is there a model it is following (like the Save Darfur coalition or something else)? How do they choose their small list of targets since there are so many companies operating in Iran? Do they know people at the corporations they target? How closely do UANI and FDD work? Are there any deadlines in Iran — elections, feared nuke tests, coming deaths of really sick clerics, etc., that requires FDD and UANI show progress quickly?”
“As for the Marc Rich case, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy accurately described it as “one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of the Justice Department.” Congressional investigators called it “unconscionable.” Fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, on the run for evading nearly $50 million in taxes, found the best lawyer he could buy: former Democratic White House counsel and intimate friend of Eric Holder, Jack Quinn. Despite his denials, memos showed Holder knew of the pardon in advance, failed to notify prosecutors and the FBI that it was coming, “and even gave Quinn public-relations advice on getting out the ‘legal merits of the case.’” The evidence clearly shows Holder and Quinn violated department protocols and colluded to keep the Justice Department out of the pardon deal.’
“The central issue in this case involves an allegation that the defendants, as senior officers, managers, agents and nominees for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (“BCCI”1), illegally and secretly sought to acquire ownership and maintain control of First American Corporation: FIRST AMERICAN CORP., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan AL-NAHYAN, et al., Defendants….United States District Court, District of Columbia. November 26, 1996. William Horace Jeffress, Jr., Herbert John Miller, Jr., Douglas Frank Curtis, Martin David Minsker, David S. Cohen, Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, L.L.P., Washington, DC, William B. Shields, Washington, DC, for defendants Clark M. Clifford, Robert Alan Altman.”
“David S. Cohen…Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who oversees the OFAC sanctions effort, reportedly following meetings with Israeli officials, said last week’s actions were meant to “tighten the screws and intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime. ”The US is counting on the Iranian people to turn against and overthrow their government because of sanctions-induced hardships…In reality, the sanctions target the civilian population and the “Iranian regime” won’t be much affected… Despite the public relations language that “food and medicine are exempted from the brutal US-led sanctions, as OFAC well knows, the reality is something else. They know well the chilling effects of the sanctions on international suppliers of medicines and food stuffs with respect to a targeted country. The US Treasury department has thousands of gigabytes of data confirming that the boards of directors of international business do not, and will not allow their companies to risk millions of dollars in profits by technically violating any of the thousands of details in the sanctions — many of which are subject to interpretation — for the sake of doing business with Iran or Syria.”
“More about Stuart Levey’s intimate connections to both the US Treasury and the Justice Department: After leaving the Treasury Department, Mr. Levey was a Senior Fellow for National Security and Financial Integrity at the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to his Treasury appointment, Mr. Levey served as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the US Department of Justice, having previously served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and as the Chief of Staff of the Deputy Attorney General. Where is Stuart Levey today? Why, he’s on the HSBC Board of Directors as the Chief Legal Officer of HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC operations worldwide. We got all this information about Mr. Levey from his HSBC bio page. There we learned that he has been the drug money-laundering megabank’s Chief Legal Officer since January 2012. Thus, he would have been intimately involved in (and legally responsible for) the crafting of HSBC’s December 2012 Get Out of Jail Free settlement with the Justice Department. Intelligence from David S. Cohen’s group at Treasury must have also played a role in advising Justice on the historic settlement.”
David S. Cohen, Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: “Increasing Iran’s Isolation…First, we will continue to identify ways to isolate Iran from the international financial system. We will do so by maintaining our aggressive campaign of applying sanctions against individuals and entities engaged in, or supporting, illicit Iranian activities and by engaging with the private sector and foreign governments to amplify the impact of these measures. As part of this effort we will also target Iran’s attempts to evade international sanctions through the use of non-bank financial institutions, such as exchange houses and money services businesses. And we will explore new measures to expand our ability to target Iran’s remaining links to the global financial sector. In particular, we are looking carefully at actions that could increase pressure on the value of the rial. In that connection, we will continue to actively investigate any sale of gold to the Government of Iran, which can be used to prop up its currency and to compensate for the difficulty it faces in accessing its foreign reserves. We currently have authority under E.O. 13622 to target those who provide gold to the Iranian government and, as of July I, IFCA will expand that authority to target for sanctions the sale of gold to or from anyone in Iran for any purpose.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security affairs. He wrote The Raptor’s Eye, and his latest book is US Army Human Terrain System. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
BETHLEHEM – The Palestinian Center for Human rights said Tuesday that its lawyers confirmed that at least four Palestinians who were arrested during Israel’s assault on Gaza were subjected to “torture” during their detention period.
PCHR lawyers visited four detainees in Ashkelon prison, and said they had undergone beatings or had been shackled between two chairs for long hours in a method known as “Shabeh,” a statement said.
It said Israeli forces detained dozens of Palestinian civilians during the seven-week Gaza offensive, 31 of whom were transferred to Israeli prisons.
Four of the imprisoned detainees were released while 26 remain in custody and are accused of being members of armed groups.
One of them was charged with being an “illegitimate combatant.”
According to international law, members of armed resistance groups are considered prisoners of war, and bills of indictment cannot be presented against them, the statement added.
The recently dissolved Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said in August that 200 Palestinians had been detained in Gaza while Israeli forces conducted a land invasion in Gaza, but that some of them had been released.
Crucial information was not immediately available about the prisoners, and the ministry accused Israeli authorities of withholding the prisoners’ names and whereabouts.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an at the time that the prisoners were transferred to the Shin Bet intelligence agency for questioning.
On Sept. 9, a Palestinian died in an Israeli medical center died after allegedly being tortured in Israeli jails.
Issa Qaraqe, head of the department of prisoner affairs, said 35-year-old Raed al-Jabari had died after sustaining blows to the head, adding that an autopsy showed that internal bleeding and concussion were the cause of death.
An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman said the man had hung himself in Eshel prison.
Russia could use ballistic missiles, such as the Yars , with conventional warheads to counter CPGS. (RIA Novosti / Vadim Savitskii)
A highly-placed Defense Ministry official says that Russia may be forced to match the US Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) doctrine, which prescribes that a non-nuclear US missile must be able to hit any target on Earth within one hour.
“Russia is capable of and will have to develop a similar system,” Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said during a public discussion of the Russian rearmament program for the decade of 2016 through 2025.
“But mostly we will concentrate on countering CPGS, as our military doctrine is a defensive one.”
But the official denied that the Kremlin was setting off for another Cold War-style arms race with the West.
“This is not in these plans, and I hope will never happen,” said Borisov. “We simply want to protect our civilian population from outside threats.”
While Prompt Global Strike is often treated as a futuristic super-weapon, it is simply a system that ensures that strike areas of existing technologies cover the entirety of the planet. The concept of CPGS was first explicitly stated in official US documents during the first George W. Bush administration, and in more than a decade on, it has gone through various iterations, from ones that would see kinetic weapons fired at targets on the ground from space, to hypersonic missiles, to conventional solutions of placing short and medium range missiles around the world. There is no deadline for the program’s official completion, which is just as much subject to budget constraints as other articles of the defense budget, or consistent status updates on whether its aims may have already been achieved through existing armaments.
Despite its vague remit and gradual implementation, the program has caused considerable consternation in Moscow and Beijing. A previous US study showed that up to 30 percent of enemy nuclear launchers could be taken out with conventional weapons that would form part of the CPGS. Russian officials have said that together with the missile defense system the US is deploying around the world, this could mean that the current nuclear balance could be undermined.
This was clearly on Vladimir Putin’s mind when he spoke of creating new “assault capabilities, including maintaining a guaranteed solution to the task of nuclear deterrence” at the same Wednesday meeting.
But most experts agreed that Russia’s current abilities are already sufficient to withstand CPGS, even if it lacks the same attack capabilities.
“We already have a system of swift retaliation,” said Yuri Baluyevsky, former Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. The retired general is helping to develop the Kremlin to develop a new military doctrine by the end of the year, in the face of geopolitical changes in Ukraine, NATO’s increased presence in Eastern Europe, and the NATO missile shield.
“Russia has missiles, such as the long-range, air-based X-101 strategic cruise missile, which is able to strike at distances of 5,000 kilometers (about 3,100 miles),” the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, told RIA news agency.
“It also has high-precision ballistic missiles that could strike ground targets, providing they had normal warheads. These are the two main elements of a rapid long-range strike, That is, it can be done now. Basically, existing long-range aviation would be sufficient.”
Another expert suggested that Russia’s air defense systems – which cost considerably less than launches of ballistic missiles to operate – should form the backbone of the country’s response to CPGS.
“To create an adequate aerospace defense system it is important to develop interceptor systems, such as the S-500. It is capable of hitting targets not only in the air but also in near space at an altitude of 200 kilometers above the Earth, which are moving at a speed of up to 8 kilometers per second,” said Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine.
The unveiling of CPGS has not only bred stiff resistance around the world, but also doubts at home in the US itself. A Carnegie Center study from last year said that the system held some of the same risks as a nuclear attack, and was much more likely to be used. Within the allocated 60-minute time frame, incoming conventional missiles could be mistaken for nuclear warheads, their trajectory could be misunderstood, or they could simply hit the wrong target – all situations that may unleash a rapid response, which Russia and China, at the very least, appear to be very capable of already.
Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, head of a powerful movement in Iraq, said on Wednesday during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry that Iraq should not cooperate with “occupiers.”
“We wish for Iraq to cooperate with the neighboring countries and its allies, but not with the occupiers,” said Sadr, whose opinions hold sway over tens of thousands of militants.
Kerry, who arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday in a bid to build a coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, met Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider Abadi and said he was impressed by the premier’s plans to rebuild the Iraqi military and push broad political reforms.
Speaking in front of reporters, Kerry told Abadi he was “encouraged” by the premier’s plans for the “reconstituting” of the military and “your commitment to broad reforms that are necessary in Iraq to bring every segment of Iraqi society to the table.”
Abadi called for the international community to help Iraq fight ISIS, urging them “to act immediately to stop the spread of this cancer.”
“Of course our role is to defend our country, but the international community is responsible for protecting Iraq and protecting Iraqis and the whole region,” Abadi said at the close of his meeting with Kerry.
Abadi said there was “a role for the international community, for the United Nations” in tackling the threat of ISIS in neighboring Syria.
During Kerry’s visit, three car bombs exploded in a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing 19 people and wounding at least 52 others, officials said.
They said a suicide car bombing followed by a car bomb struck near a police checkpoint in a crowded area of eastern Baghdad.
Kerry due in Saudi Arabia “to battle extremism”
Kerry will meet with ministers from 10 Arab States and Turkey in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to hold talks on joint action against ISIS.
The talks coincide with an address from President Barack Obama at the White House, where he will outline the US’ strategy to confront ISIS and address criticism that he has been slow to respond to a wave of atrocities that has shocked the world.
Britain also announced on Tuesday that it will ship $2.6 million (two million euros) worth of weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq, to help roll back the militants’ lightning advances.
Kerry’s arrival in the region on Wednesday comes as Washington hailed the formation of the new government in Baghdad.
Iraq’s campaign to claw back territory it lost in the north and west of Baghdad in June, and US efforts to engage neighboring governments in the fightback, have been complicated by regional politics.
Saudi Arabia and the five other Gulf Arab states have had deeply strained relations with the government in Baghdad, with each side blaming the other for the jihadists’ gains.
But their foreign ministers will be among those attending Thursday’s talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, along with top diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq itself.
They will address “terrorism in the region, extremist organizations behind it and means of fighting them,” Saudi state media said.
The Arab League, which has stopped short of explicitly backing ongoing US air strikes against ISIS, also drummed up regional support for the fight.
Ahead of his visit, Kerry vowed to build “the broadest possible coalition of partners around the globe to confront, degrade and ultimately defeat (ISIS).”
“Almost every single country has a role to play in eliminating the (ISIS) threat and the evil that it represents,” he said.
Notably absent from Jeddah will be Russia, the Syrian government – which has not been consulted over possible US airstrikes on its soil – and Iran.
ISIS has taken advantage of the conflict to seize a big chunk of northeastern Syria in fighting with government forces, rival rebel groups and Kurdish militia.
Damascus views itself as a bulwark against the militants, but Washington has ruled out any cooperation.
Washington launched airstrikes against jihadists in Iraq on August 8.
Obama is prepared to authorize air strikes in Syria against ISIS, The New York Times and the Washington Post reported late Tuesday.
An opinion poll published on Tuesday suggested Americans are hawkish towards ISIS, with nearly three-quarters favoring ongoing airstrikes against the group in Iraq while 65 percent would approve extending operations into Syria.
But critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.
On Monday, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.
The report said the jihadists disposed of “significant quantities” of US-made small arms including M-16 assault rifles and included photos showing the markings “Property of US Govt.”
It also found that anti-tank rockets used by ISIS in Syria were “identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operating under the Free Syrian Army umbrella in 2013.”
The Pentagon said on Tuesday that more strikes had been carried out over the previous two days near western Iraq’s massive Haditha dam as part of operations against ISIS forces.
After months of wrangling, Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi finally formed a government on Monday that Washington said had “the potential to unite all of Iraq’s diverse communities.”
Kerry described the new government as a “major milestone” after the divisive rule of Abadi’s predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki.
Iran – alongside the United States, the key outside power in Iraq – said it hoped the change of government in Baghdad would help turn the tide against ISIS.
“I hope that during your new mandate, complete calm will return to your country,” President Hassan Rouhani said.
In reality, the new government does not constitute quite the sea-change hailed by Washington, as the divisive Maliki becomes one of three vice presidents.
In other developments, French President Francois Hollande will visit Iraq on Friday ahead of hosting a conference in Paris on security in the country next Monday, his office said.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
The MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside, the preliminary report into the Malaysia Airlines disaster in Ukraine said.
“Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside,” the Dutch Safety Board said in its preliminary report.
Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”
‘We need more analysis to investigate the crash” – Malaysian minister
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said on Tuesday that more analysis was needed to investigate the crash.
“We want to further analyze the data and the wreckage,” he said, adding that more details were needed so that the authorities “will bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The Malaysia Airlines plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people aboard crashed in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on July 17. The majority of those on the plane – which was allegedly shot down – were citizens of the Netherlands.
Plane was ‘split into pieces during flight’
The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until 13:20:03 GMT, after which it ended abruptly.
The cockpit crew made no emergency call, the radio communications with Ukrainian air traffic control shows.
“The final calls by Ukrainian air traffic control made between 13.20:00 and 13.22:02 [GMT] remained unanswered,” the report said.
The plane was “split into pieces during flight,” the investigators said, based on the analysis of the pattern of wreckage on the ground.
The Dutch investigators said that “available images show that the pieces of wreckage were pierced in numerous places.”
The report emphasizes that investigators haven’t yet had the chance to recover the components for forensic investigation.
However, the photos taken from the wreckage “indicated that the material around the holes was deformed in a manner consistent with being punctured by high-energy objects,” the report said. “The characteristics of the material deformation around the puncture holes appear to indicate that the objects originated from the outside the fuselage.”
The fact that the plane was damaged from the outside “also explains the abrupt end to the data registration on the recorders, the simultaneous loss of contact with air traffic control and the aircraft’s disappearance from radar,” the report says.
The report says that the flight recorder was “found damaged but the internal memory module was intact.”
“The external damage found on the [flight data recorder] was consistent with impact damage.”
The radar data from the aircraft shows that “three commercial aircraft were in the same Control Area” as the Malaysia Airlines plane.
“At 13.20 UTC [GMT] the distance between the closest aircraft and MH17 was approximately 30 kilometers,” the document says.
Dutch investigators concluded that the Malaysian airliner was flying “in unrestricted airspace above the restricted area mentioned by the latest NOTAM [Notice to Airmen].” Commercial flights were restricted in the area below the flight level of FL320, MH17 was flying at FL330.
Full report to be released ‘within a year of the crash’ – Dutch Safety Board
Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, said that the plane tragedy in eastern Ukraine “shocked the world and raised many questions.”
“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” he said. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead.”
Joustra said that the Dutch Safety Board’s full report will be published in summer 2015, “within one year of the date of the crash.”
In the meantime, the Russian Federal Aviation Agency said that the Dutch report marks the beginning of a thorough investigation of the plane crash.
“The investigation of the crash site and the wreckage should be an important part of this work,” said Oleg Storchevoy, the agency’s deputy head. “[We] need to investigate all the radiolocation data, perform forensic expertise…. Without this information one can’t speak of any preliminary conclusions concerning the tragedy.”
The OSCE has revealed the 12-point roadmap behind the September 5 truce signed in Minsk. It says that Ukraine must adopt a new law, allowing for a special status for Lugansk and Donetsk regions, and hold early elections there.
The document, titled ‘Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group’ and signed in Minsk on September 5, outlines what needs to be done for the ceasefire to stay in place.
“To decentralize power, including through the adoption by Ukraine of law ‘on provisional procedure for local government in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions (law on special status),’” states one of the provisions in the document.
Another point emphasizes that “early local elections” are to be held in light of the special status of both regions. The early elections must be held in accordance with the same proposed law, it says.
Kiev must then continue an “inclusive nationwide dialogue,” the document stresses.
The roadmap also implies an amnesty for anti-government forces in Donbass: “To adopt a law, prohibiting prosecution or punishment of people in relation to the events that took place in individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.”
At the same time, it notes that all “illegal military formations, military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries” have to be withdrawn from Ukraine.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a copy of the protocol early on Sunday, with only a PDF document in Russian available so far.
During the meeting on September 5, Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire.
Some of the other provisions of the truce include monitoring of the ceasefire inside Ukraine and on the Russia-Ukraine border by international OSCE observers, the freeing of all prisoners of war, and the opening of humanitarian corridors.
A “safety zone” is to be created with the participation of the OSCE on the Russia-Ukraine border, the document says.
It also calls for measures to improve the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and urges in a separate point that a program for Donbass’ economic development is to be adopted.
Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, according to the UN’s latest data. More than 6,033 others have been wounded in the turmoil.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia.
Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire, as the contact group met behind closed doors in Belarus.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has confirmed the ceasefire agreement on his Twitter account.
The truce agreement comes into force starting 6 pm local time (15:00 GMT).
The president has ordered to cease fire starting at the time stated in the protocol.
“I give the order to the chief of the General staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to cease fire, starting from 18.00 [local time] on September 5,” Poroshenko’s statement says.
Poroshenko then called on both the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the OSCE to provide international monitoring of compliance with the bilateral ceasefire.
“We must do everything possible and impossible to stop bloodshed and put an end to people’s suffering,” the president said in a statement posted on his official website.
Poroshenko expressed hope that both sides would comply with the ceasefire agreement.
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic earlier confirmed the ceasefire agreement on its official Twitter account.
Both Donetsk and Lugansk have said they are ready to lay down arms starting from 15:00GMT.
Representatives of the rebel forces have said they will obey the ceasefire if Kiev follows suit.
“Most of the points of the protocol correspond with our demands,” Lugansk’s leader Igor Plotnitsky said.
“However, the ceasefire does not mean a shift from our course of breaking away from Ukraine. This is a compulsory measure,” he said.
With military action continuing throughout southeastern Ukraine, the region is risking facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Water and electricity supplies have been disrupted, leaving dozens of people without basic essentials. In Lugansk only one hospital appeared to be operational, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission reported earlier this week.
Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, the UN reported last week. More than 6,033 have been wounded in the turmoil.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.
The OSCE’s Heidi Tagliavini has welcomed the agreement saying “it is good news.”
She has revealed that the protocol consists of 12 points, and “the ceasefire is the chief one.”
The participants in the talks will prepare another document – a memorandum on settling the situation in Ukraine, a Donetsk representative said.
The two sides accompanied by representatives of Russia and the OSCE were meeting in the Belorussian capital, Minsk, in an attempt to end the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.
In their recent phone call on September 3, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, showed a willingness to find an agreement to resolve the months-long conflict in the southeastern Ukraine.
Following the conversation with his counterpart, President Putin laid out a seven-point plan that could help find a solution.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes for Kiev and pro-Russian militias to reach a peace agreement on the spiraling crisis in east Ukraine on Friday.
Putin made the remark on Wednesday as he outlined a seven-point peace plan which calls for the end “of active offensive operations by the (Ukrainian) armed forces” and pro-Russia forces “in the southeast of Ukraine.”
“I believe that a final agreement between the authorities of Kiev and southeastern Ukraine can be reached and cemented during a meeting of the Contact Group on September 5,” said Putin.
He was referring to the European-mediated negotiations planned to be held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Friday.
The blueprint calls for the Ukrainian forces to halt airstrikes on cities in the volatile east.
Putin also called for the deployment of international observers to monitor a ceasefire, the unconditional exchange of prisoners as well as the establishment of corridors for humanitarian aid supply to crisis-stricken cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The roadmap raises hopes of an end to months-long fighting which has left more than 2,600 people dead.
Earlier in the day, Kiev said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Putin had agreed to a “permanent ceasefire” in the volatile eastern Ukraine. Russia, however, said the leaders agreed on steps towards peace in eastern Ukraine but not a truce as Moscow is not a party to the crisis.
Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence the pro-Russians there in mid-April.
Violence intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions of Donetsk and Lugansk held local referendums, in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.
Western powers and the Kiev government accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies the accusation.
Russia is not waging war in Ukraine’s east, and is not supplying rebels with military equipment, according to Russian deputy defense minister Anatoly Antonov. The anti-Kiev forces get their arms at old Soviet storages – same as government troops do.
“Surely, Russia doesn’t wage any war. Vladimir Putin’s policy is aimed at not allowing the situation to develop according to the worst-case scenario. There are, unfortunately, forces that try to push two peoples against each other to start a real war between Russia and Ukraine,” Antonov said, speaking with journalists in Slovakia.
Addressing the claims that Russia supplies weapons to the eastern Ukrainian self-defense forces, he explained where the militia may get their weaponry from.
“First, one shouldn’t forget that Ukraine used to be a part of the Soviet Union. There were many weapon storages on the territory of the Soviet Union, so when Ukraine and Russia became independent states, clearly some storages remained on Ukrainian territory.”
“Currently, in the region engulfed by this disaster, by the bloodshed, where the “punishment” operation is being carried out by Kiev against its own people, some of these storages have been seized by the self-defense forces. That’s why saying that Russians supplied the weapons to Lugansk and Donetsk is simply incorrect. Look at the Ukrainian army’s weaponry. It’s fighting with the Russian weapons – or, more precisely, with Soviet weapons,” Antonov said.
Another source is operational trophies, the deputy defense minister said. “The self-defense forces seize large amounts of National Guard’s and the Ukrainian army’s weapons. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers fled into Russia, leaving the weapons they used to own,” he added.
The cost of the war – be it “anti-terrorist operation” as Kiev puts it or a “military operation for protecting East Ukraine civilians” as the rebel forces have it – comes at a cost. To Russia, it is a stream of refugees, who “didn’t enter our territory just to “visit their grannies”,” Antonov said.
More than 130,000 Ukrainians have asked for either refugee status or temporary asylum in Russia since the conflict in the country’s east started in April, according to the Federal Migration Service, while some 820,000 Ukrainian citizens have moved to Russia.
“Those who come to Russia need to be given medical aid, provided with a job… There is no lighting, morgues and the sewage doesn’t function, there is no water, the people choke because of the unbelievable damage that the Kiev government has done. In this situation, we couldn’t be uninvolved…” Antonov said.
If Moscow sends anything to Ukraine, it is supplies to civilians caught up in turmoil as Ukraine’s east is plunging into a humanitarian crisis. Cities in Donetsk have been without water and electricity for weeks now, there are food shortages and it is hard to leave the conflict zone.
“What do we send there? We send wheat, buckwheat, medical supplies, mini electricity stations to ensure there is electricity at least in hospitals… That’s what we send!” Antonov stressed. “It was said that we would use those trucks to carry out some military intervention. I would like to say openly: it’s all nonsense. It was all counted: the number of trucks which came to Lugansk exactly corresponded with the number of those which returned to Russia, empty.”
Since April, almost 2,000 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting. Over 130,000 people have been declared internally displaced, according to the UN, while the number of those who have fled into Russia is nearing a million, according to the Russia’s government.
A group of Russian embassy employees, detained in Kiev under a completely false pretext, have been declared missing by the embassy, after the Russian Foreign Ministry’s call for their immediate release was ignored by Ukrainian authorities.
Two Russian diplomats – 3rd Secretary of the Embassy Andrey Golovanov and attaché Mikhail Shorin – were detained by Kiev police earlier this week, despite carrying diplomatic passports. While the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry admitted their detention, the Interior Ministry later denied the incident.
“In connection with such contradictory reports from Ukrainian authorities, the Russian Embassy in Ukraine is forced to officially declare the disappearance of [Golovanov and Shorin] of the territory of Ukraine,” Russia’s embassy said in a statement on Friday.
Two men who were detained near a café in Kiev were carrying “hand grenades” and had documents “resembling” Russian diplomatic passports, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry claimed in an official note on August 27.
The pretext for their detention is clearly fabricated, the Russian FM said in response, demanding the immediate release of the diplomatic staff.
“Despite showing their diplomatic passports, they were detained under a completely false pretext,” the statement said.
“We demand the immediate release of the embassy staff members and prevention of any future violations of international conventions on diplomatic immunity,” the ministry added.
Ukraine’s Cabinet has asked the country’s parliament to consider dropping the country’s non-aligned status and seek membership of NATO.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s government submitted to the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, a draft bill that would cancel Ukraine’s non-aligned status and revive the country’s quest to join NATO – a path ditched by ousted President Viktor Yanukovich in 2010.
The move followed a decision by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. It also coincided with an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels to discuss the ongoing crisis in east Ukraine.
If passed, the law would ban Ukraine from joining any political unions which would prevent it from eventually achieving “its key and sole goal” – membership in the European Union, Yatsenyuk said, the government’s press service said in a statement.
Following the adoption of the law, Ukraine will be forbidden from being a member of the Eurasian Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Community, and any other unions “which are in essence nothing but Russia’s Soviet Union,” Yatsenyuk stated.
The premier asked President Petro Poroshenko to classify the draft bill as urgent and called on the parliament to immediately consider it.
Defense Minister Arsen Avakov praised the decision as a “very correct one.”
“If the parliament approves it, the path to NATO will be open,” Avakov said on his Facebook page. “Only madmen would counter such a decision in the current situation.”
NATO said it would respect Kiev’s possible decision to seek membership of the military alliance.
“This is a fundamental principle that each and every nation has an inherent right to decide itself, on its security policies and its alliance affiliations,” the bloc’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told the media at an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
He indicated that the military alliance would be open to discussing Ukraine’s application if it meets the conditions for membership.
“I am not going to interfere with political discussions in Ukraine, but let me remind you of NATO’s decision taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 according to which Ukraine will become a member of NATO, provided of course that Ukraine so wishes and provided that Ukraine fulfils the necessary criteria,” he said.
However, the issue was not discussed at Friday’s gathering in Brussels, Rasmussen added.