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.
A leader of pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine says he has agreed to allow the government forces trapped in the conflict zone to escape through a “humanitarian corridor.”
Alexander Zakharchenko, a leader of pro-Moscow forces, told Rossiya 24 TV channel on Friday that he had agreed to offer a “humanitarian corridor” for the encircled Ukrainian troops to leave the battlefield in the restive eastern parts.
However, Zakharchenko added that Kiev’s forces should abandon their armored vehicles and ammunition before leaving.
His comments come after a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin calling on the pro-Moscow protesters to allow Ukrainian soldiers to flee the coastal town of Novoazovsk captured by pro-Russians on Wednesday.
“I call on the rebel forces to open a humanitarian corridor for the Ukrainian troops who are surrounded, so as to avoid unnecessary casualties and to give them the opportunity to withdraw from the zone of operations,” Putin said on Thursday.
The collapse of Novoazovsk is seen as a major victory for pro-Moscow fighters in eastern Ukraine. The key resort town on the Azov Sea lies along the road linking Russia to Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol and onto Crimea, which rejoined Russia in a popular referendum in March.
After weeks of military operations that have seen government forces push deep into the last bastions of pro-Russians, the tide appears to be turning once again in the four-month conflict.
Kiev has called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for help.
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 pro-Russians in mid-April.
The turmoil in eastern Ukraine has so far taken the lives of more than 2,000 people, according to the UN.
With the US continuing to push its submissive European “allies” towards an ever more confrontational stance against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine (a crisis initially provoked by the US itself through CIA and State Department actions that led to the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government), the world appears headed towards a dangerous renewed Cold War between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
A central part of that campaign by Washington has been the effort to blame the downing of Malaysian Flight 17, which killed all 298 passengers and crew, on Russia, or failing that, on pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. This campaign has used innuendo, falsified evidence and, weirdly, spurious and sometimes absurd “evidence” circulating in various social media — all of which people like Secretary of State John Kerry and president Obama himself have tried to say “prove” that Russia, or at least a Russian-provided high-altitude BUK anti-aircraft missile, was responsible for the downing.
But increasingly, critics, including analysts within the CIA, have been throwing cold water on that theory. Suspiciously, the US, which had a spy satellite located directly over the Malaysian plane at the very time of the shoot-down, and which certainly has detailed photographic images of exactly what happened, has offered no a single photo to prove its contention that a missile was fired from territory under rebel control.
Meanwhile, there are multiple claims that the CIA — and perhaps the National Security Agency too — have evidence that it was Ukrainian forces, not separatists, who shot down the plane, either using one of the several dozen BUK launchers that they are known to possess themselves, or by two Ukrainian attack fighters that were known to be tailing the Malaysian commercial jet shooting it down with machine gun fire and/or air-to-air missiles. Significantly, a Canadian investigator with the international team sent to collect and examine pieces of the crashed airliner, has said he saw holes that appeared caused by heavy 30 mm machine-gun fire –the type of ammunition used by the fighter jets — in a section of the front of the Boeing jet, as well as in both sides. Such holes in the nose and both sides of the doomed plane could not have all been caused by the projectiles released by a BUK missile, which would have all hit the plane from one direction — reportedly normally from a location beneath the plane.
A week ago, this reporter interviewed Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst with 27 years of experience at the agency, about the Ukraine crisis, on ThisCantBeHappening!’s weekly radio show that airs each Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on the Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm). McGovern says on that program that sources he knows who are still at the CIA say that the agency has refused to back the US claim that separatists or Russia were behind the shoot-down of Flight 17.
To hear analyst McGovern’s interview, click here
OSCE observers stationed at two Russian border checkpoints, the Ukrainian counterparts of which are controlled by the Ukrainian military, have not witnessed any movements of weapons across the border.
The monitors did witness young people “dressed in military style” moving across the border into Ukraine, Paul Picard, acting chief observer of the OSCE Mission, told journalists. However, all of them were unarmed.
There were also no instances of military vehicles crossing the border in some two weeks which the observers spent at Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints, he added.
He added that the OSCE did its part in assisting the international effort to check a Russian humanitarian aid convoy before it would be allowed into Ukraine, but said the organization has little impact here, because the progress with the convoy depends on Russian and Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The presence of the observers on the Russian side of the border was part of an agreement aimed at deescalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine. They were invited amid Kiev’s claims that Russia supplies arms and military vehicles to the armed militia fighting against the Ukrainian troops in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
The monitors were supposed to be deployed after a ceasefire by Kiev, but Moscow agreed to host them unconditionally as a gesture of goodwill.
A day after Ukraine’s government said it would not permit the Russian humanitarian aid convoy to enter its territory, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would hold talks in Kiev and Moscow to help Russian aid reach residents trapped by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had said on Wednesday Ukraine would only accept humanitarian aid from the Red Cross.
A Reuters report quoted Anastasia Isyuk, an ICRC spokesperson on Thursday as saying a senior official will travel to Kiev and Moscow for talks.
Laurent Corbaz, head of ICRC Operations for Europe and Central Asia, who will leave Geneva today said “the delivery of aid should not be politicized”.
“The question of border crossing procedures and customs clearance (for the aid convoy) still have to be clarified between the two sides,” Isyuk said.
Kremlin aid Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the Russian aid convoy with 280 trucks was continuing to move through Russia towards Ukrainian borders.
The Russian aid consisted of food items like cereals, sugar, infant food, medical drugs, sleeping bags and power generators and was meant for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
The UN says more than 2000 people have been killed since Kiev launched its crackdown against pro-Russia rebels.
Meanwhile, a Deutsche Welle report said on Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel intends to continue the talks on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite the sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Several rounds of US and EU sanctions have already targeted Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors, punishing Moscow for its alleged support to rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Finland-based Arctech Helsinki Shipyard has been contracted to build three icebreaking stand-by vessels for Russian shipping company Sovcomflot, for a total cost of 380 million dollars.
The contract for the three 95 meters long vessels sums 380 million dollars and should be delivered by 2017 The contract for the three 95 meters long vessels sums 380 million dollars and should be delivered by 2017
The vessels will perform operations in the north-east Sakhalin offshore region oil and gas field for Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC).
The icebreakers are capable of carrying out rescue operations and recovery of oil spills, while they can also be used for moving cargo for low flashpoint fuels.
While designing the vessels will start immediately, the company hopes to deliver them between September 2016 and March 2017.
The 95m-long and 22m-wide vessels will be based on Aker Arctic concept Aker ARC 121 and will be fitted with four diesel generator engines, to generate total power of about 20,000kW. They will have a propulsion power of 13,000kW.
Arctech and Sovcomflot signed a contract in April, which included a larger platform supply vessel under the icebreaking vessels series, which would function efficiently in extreme weather conditions.
Arctech Helsinki Shipyard managing director Esko Mustamäki said: “We are extremely satisfied to receive an order of three arctic offshore vessels from Sovcomflot.
”This remarkable order of three vessels brings a lot of work to our shipyard and to the whole maritime cluster. We will also strengthen our organization considerably.”
The vessels will be used in ice management and ice breaking in extremely low temperatures of up to -35C°.
Equipped to navigate in 1.5m-thick ice, the vessels will be fit for emergency evacuation, firefighting operations and helicopter operations, as well as for diving support as they will comprise a moon pool.
The OSCE monitoring mission on the Russian-Ukrainian border has registered no violations of international law by the Russian side during its week-long stay at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints, mission head Paul Picard said.
During his press conference, Picard was asked to comment on Western claims that Russia is shelling Ukrainian territory and has starting deployment troops to the country.
“In these two border crossings we haven’t seen such happenings,” he replied.
The observers were assessing two checkpoints – Gukovo and Donetsk – on the border with Ukraine’s Lugansk Region, which are separated from each other by around 30km.
Gukovo checkpoint is currently closed from the Ukrainian side, but traffic at the Donetsk border crossing is “high,” Picard stressed.
“About 80 percent of traffic comes from Ukraine to Russia. We heard from people that there’s a queue of hundreds of car and a kilometer of people standing in line to the checkpoint,” he said.
According to Picard, the people – who are trying to cross the Russian border from Ukraine – have their children and huge bags with them, and don’t look remotely like tourists.
The observer also confirmed that several Ukrainian shells have landed on the Russian territory during the last week.
“There was fighting on Ukrainian side south of [Gukovo] border crossing point and… two shells fell on the territory of the border crossing and two fell in the field,” he said.
Picard thanked the Russian border guards for “providing required security measures” for the OSCE mission.
He said there are currently eight OSCE employees working at Gukovo and Donetsk, but the arrival of the rest of the group is expected on Friday.
In all, there’ll be 15 observers, a head observer and three administrative staff, which will allow the mission “to work 24/7,” Picard said.
More than 400 Ukrainian troops have been allowed to cross into Russia after requesting sanctuary. It’s the largest, but not the first, case of desertion into Russia by Ukrainian soldiers involved in Kiev’s military crackdown in the east of the country.
According to the Rostov Region’s border guard spokesman Vasily Malaev, a total of 438 soldiers, including 164 Ukrainian border guards, have been allowed into Russia on Sunday night.
One of the Ukrainians was seriously injured on his arrival in Russia. He was taken to the hospital for surgery, the officials added.
The other Ukrainian soldiers have been housed in a tent camp deployed near the checkpoint via which they entered Russian territory. The Russian border guards are providing them with food and bedding.
Footage taken by the Russian media at the scene showed the Ukrainian soldiers being handed ration packs and resting in their temporary shelter. Those who agreed to speak on camera said they were relieved to be in safety for the first time in weeks.
“We were given an order to leave our positions and go to Russia trough a corridor. We were told it would be safe. Of course they, I would say, made us go fast from behind,” one of the soldiers, a BMP driver who would not reveal his name or even show his face on camera, said.
“It was so bad back there. Hot, and so many deaths and bad things,” another one, Dmitry, said. “Folks can rest here. They gave us a chance to wash, gave us new clothes. We are thankful.”
“We have been in those fields for more than six months and are very tired,” he added.
Another one, Yaroslav, said he wishes to go back to his family in Ukraine.
“I want to do something peaceful. My contract expired four months ago,” he explained.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian anti-government militia reported that it was in negotiations with a large contingent of Ukrainian troops they encircled in Lugansk region on a possible surrender. The negotiations were being hampered by the troops’ intention to destroy some 70 armored vehicles in their possession before laying down arms, which the militia wanted to capture intact.
The Gukovo border checkpoint, through which the Ukrainian troops crossed into the Russian territory, is located on Russia’s border with the Lugansk Region of Ukraine, indicating that these are the same troops that were negotiating with the militia. If so, it was not immediately clear whether the vehicles they had were really destroyed.
OSCE monitors and journos come under shelling from Ukraine at Russian border
The flow of deserters from the ranks of Ukrainian Army and National Guard seems to be increasing amid the escalating violence in Donets and Lugansk Regions, where Kiev is fighting against armed anti-government militias.
In late July 41 Ukrainian troops fled to Russia to escape fighting in eastern Ukraine. They are now being prosecuted in Ukraine for deserting in the heat of battle.
Several Ukrainian units have been reported to recently to be cut off from supply lines after attempted offensive operations, which brought them behind the militia-controlled territories and close to the Russian border.
The Ukrainian troops, while far superior to the militia in terms of heavy weapons, suffer from poor logistics. Many soldiers complain about lacking even basic supplies like food and water on the frontline. The situation is aggravated by cases of apparent negligence from the command, with units being supplied with faulty equipment, coming under friendly fire and simply left behind while retreating from militia counter-attacks.
A YouTube video allegedly shows a Ukrainian soldier explaining how he has to catch and cook snakes because his unit receives no rations.
Kiev’s National Guard unit mutiny: ‘We’ve been discarded like trash’
This causes serious morale problems in the army, with more critical voices saying the Ukraine de facto has no infantry troops and has no other way to fight but by leveling militia-held cities to the ground with artillery and air strikes.
There is a growing resistance to the military campaign among Ukrainian population, with several cases of mass protests against the latest mobilization drive, as mothers and wives of conscripts took to the streets to demand that their loved once not be drafted into the army.
Venezuela has setup orphanages to shelter Palestinian children who have been injured or who have lost their parents in the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, President Nicolás Maduro announced yesterday.
In a fiery speech delivered on the occasion of the end of the General Assembly of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Maduro pointed out that contact has already been made with Palestinian families who would be adopting children.
Maduro said he decided to establish a shelter under the name of the late president Hugo Chavez to host Palestinian children injured in the war, and boys and girls that have become orphans. “We will bring them to Venezuela,” he told a cheering audience.
“We will welcome them with love, and in coordination with the Palestinian government. We will find these little girls and boys Venezuelan parents,” he said.
Maduro called for an end to the Israeli “genocide” against Palestinians.
Chile, El Salvador and Peru have announced they are recalling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv in consultation to protest the Israeli assault on the besieged strip of Gaza.
The moves come on the heels of Brazil and Ecuador, who announced last week that they were recalling their envoys.
“Given the escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza, the Government of Chile, in coordination with others in our region, has decided to call in consultation Santiago Ambassador of Chile in Tel Aviv, Jorge Montero,” the Chilean foreign ministry in Santiago said in a statement.
“Chile notes with great concern and dismay that such military operations, which at this stage of development are subject to a collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza do not respect fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.”
The Chilean foreign ministry emphasized the more than 1,000 Palestinians killed, including women and children during Operation Protective Edge, which continued for a 22nd day on Tuesday. The statement also noted Israel’s attacks “on schools and hospitals.”
“The scale and intensity of Israeli operations in Gaza violate the principle of proportionality in the use of force, an essential requirement to justify self-defense,” the statement added, referring to rocket fire by the resistance movements in the coastal territory.
El Salvador Ambassador in the Zionist entity Susana Edith Gun was also recalled for “urgent consultations” on Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry of the Central American country said that El Salvador President Sanchez Ceren gave these instructions “over serious escalation of violence and Israel’s bombings in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.”
A similar statement was also published by the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, condemning Israel’s operation in Gaza.
Venezuela and Bolivia that cut their ties with Tel Aviv over Israel’s 2009 war on Gaza have also strongly condemned Israel’s actions.
Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela were among the 29 countries that voted in favor of a probe by the UN Human Rights Council into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.
Inspectors who came to check the state of Russian troops along the Ukrainian borders have found no violations, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said. This came as a response to the US alleging 15,000 Russian troops have amassed in the area.
“It has come to our attention that new allegations by top US officials as to the alleged amassing of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border have been voiced,” the statement by the Defense Ministry read, following allegations by the US Permanent Representative to NATO, Douglas Lute, and State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
“The last four months have witnessed 18 separate inspections along the Ukrainian border with the Russian Federation, all in line with the Vienna Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna agreement of 2011.”
The statement goes on to list the international makeup of those inspections, which included representatives from the US, as well as NATO and Ukraine. The inspections also included flybys and visits to any military units that might have aroused suspicion.
“No instances of violations by Russia along the Ukrainian border had been registered by the inspectors,” adding that in spite of the above, “frequent action by the Ukrainian military taking place on the Russian border has hindered our own ability to perform similar inspections and flybys along our border.”
While no evidence of a Russian military buildup at Ukrainian border regions was registered, similar inspections in other regions, were they to be carried out, would undoubtedly find that the opposite is true for Ukrainian forces, who’ve had heavy equipment stationed there, firing regularly onto Russian settlements, the ministry states.
“Their actions have already led to casualties on our side,” the statement concludes.
Just on Friday, Ukraine’s army fired at least 45 mortar shells at targets located inside the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia’s border officials said. The barrage destroyed houses and forced an evacuation of civilians. Ukrainian officials denied responsibility, and say that it is Russia that has been using its artillery to support anti-Kiev militants in the Donetsk region across the border.
Shells from artillery fights in Ukraine have frequently landed on Russian territory since the beginning of summer. Earlier this week, a temporary refugee camp for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict was relocated further from the border, after several mortars landed nearby.
The tragic Malaysian MH17 flight crash must not be politicised and the international experts on the scene should be able to carry out their work in complete safety, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“There are already representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk working there, as well as representatives of the emergencies ministry of Ukraine and others. But this is not enough,” Putin said officially commenting on the tragic event on Sunday.
“This task force is not enough,” Putin emphasized. “We need more, we need a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of ICAO, the relevant international commission.”
“We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia will also do everything in its power to help shift the Ukrainian conflict from a military phase into a political discussion.
“We need to do everything to provide its [ICAO commission’s] safety, to provide the humanitarian corridors necessary for its work,” Putin added.
“In the meantime, nobody should and has no right to use this tragedy to achieve their ‘narrowly selfish’ political goals,” Putin stated.
“We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and sit down at the negotiating table,” the President reminded. “I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
In the meantime, Russia has introduced its own draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an impartial investigation of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin said.
‘Yes, we did it,” Churkin told reported answering the question about Russia’s draft. “Just to show what we are talking about. The difference is that in our draft it is absolutely clear it is indeed an impartial international investigation under the under the guidance of ICAO.”
According to the latest figures from the Donetsk authorities, 247 out of 298 bodies have been recovered from the crash site. OSCE confirmed that a train with bodies of the victims is being stationed at a railway station in Torez and is set to depart for Donetsk. The bodies are being kept in especially refrigerated cars.
A team of ISCE experts and four Ukrainian forensics analysts are the only experts who have so far reached the area and are working on the investigation. A team of 12 Malaysian experts is yet to arrive at the crash site. Experts from other European nations, including the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK are en route to Donetsk.
The OSCE team has claimed that the black boxes have not been recovered, yet Aleksandr Boroday, the republic’s prime minister, told reporters that DPR might potentially be in possession of the MH17 black boxes. “What we have is just some components of the plane. We are not experts; we think that they may be black boxes but we’re not sure.”