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.
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.