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.
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.