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FTR #804 Walkin’ the Snake in Ukraine, Part 2

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

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This description contains information not included in the original broadcast.


Swoboda leader Oleh Tiahnybok salutes. Top-ranking Ukrainian defense official Andriy Parubiy was a founding member of the party.

Introduction: This broadcast extends our discussion of the crisis in Ukraine.

(We have covered the ascension of the OUN/B heirs in the Ukraine in a number of programs: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800, 803.)

Expanding material highlighted in FTR #803, this program presents further analysis of the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH 17.

Pravy Sektor: “Anti-Terrorist” Ukrainian government militias are drawn from this group and Swoboda

The first part of the program develops information about Michael Bociurkiw at greater length. (Bociurkiw heads the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. He is the “Go-to-Guy” for much of the media coverage of events related to the shootdown of the plane.)

Serpent’s Walk: Forecasts a Nazi takeover of U.S. in mid-twenty-first century, after Nazi economic interests take over the media.

After review Bociurkiw’s close association with the political and historical milieu of the OUN/B, the program details Bociurkiw’s networking with a Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood milieu that overlaps the political elements that figure in the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. That same Muslim Brotherhood milieu also networks with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

In order to further illustrate the fascist character of the Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood milieu with which Bociurkiw networks, we examine Farrakhan’s “politics of slavery.” In addition to blaming African-American slavery on the Jews, Farrakhan has been openly exculpatory of Muslim Brotherhood-connected regimes in Africa that practice slavery today.

Supplementing information presented in FTR #803, we learn that a website catering to global business travelers presented information pointing to Ukrainian military personnel as the “perps” of the shootdown of MH 17.

This allegation supplements information developed by Robert Parry concerning aerial surveillance by U.S. spy satellites showing what appeared to be [possibly drunken] Ukrainian soldiers having fired the missile that brought down the plane.

The global trav­eler web­site also notes an impor­tant last minute change of course by the MH 17 plane, appar­ently ordered by Ukrain­ian air controllers.

A last minute change of course of the doomed plane was con­firmed by an Air India air­craft nearby. That change of course brought the plane into the killing ground.

In FTR #803, we highlighted the Azov Battalion, one of many Nazi/fascist combatant militias fighting as part of the Ukrainian military. Another useful post from german-foreign-policy.com highlights the fact that the Azov Battalion was formed by Oleg Lyashko, who also heads the Radical Party. That party looms large as the single most popular political party in Ukraine.Together with Swoboda and Pravy Sektor, it forms a dominant fascist political axis in Ukraine.

Lyashko also revealed that, in addition to Michael Skillt (whom we discussed in FTR #803), the unit contained several foreign snipers, some of whom were present during the Maidan protests and appeared to have fired at Ukrainian police units. This would make the violence that led to the ouster of Yanukovych the outgrowth of a provocation.

This also places what, for lack of a better term, a “political context of provocation” within which the downing of MH 17 must be viewed.

As the world’s attention is focused on the “investigation” into MH 17, Ukrainian security personnel (read “Swoboda,” “Pravy Sektor” and “Social National Assembly”) formed an anonymous informer apparatus to identify collaborators with the rebels.

Program Highlights Include: Review of John Loftus’ work heading the OSI (routinely disparaged in the Ukrainian Weekly); review of Anwar Ibrahim’s links to both the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Zaharie Shah, the pilot of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370; the presence of a large contingent of AIDS researchers on MH 17; the unlikely coincidence of Dutch cyclist Maarten de Jong, who was booked to fly on both Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and MH 17; activism on behalf of the Chechen rebels by members of the Royal Family of the Netherlands; speculation about possible links between the Chechen support of the Royal Family, Maarten de Jonge and the UNA/UNSO’s apparent participation in Chechnya; a call by German officials for an EU/Bundeswehr military intervention in Ukraine after the downing of MH 17; the direct political evolution of Pravy Sektor from the OUN/B.

1. Michael Bociurkiw was one of the first “investigators” at the crash site. He heads the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

“Malaysia Airlines MH17: Michael Bociurkiw Talks about Being First at the Crash Site”; CBC News; 7/29/2014.

Michael Bociurkiw was among the very first people to reach the Malaysian jet’s wreckage

A personal handwritten note penned by a passenger reminding themselves to stay on budget during their vacation. Scientific literature belonging to a passenger en route to a major international AIDS conference in Australia.

These are just a few of the things that Michael Bociurkiw, a Ukrainian-Canadian monitor with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has seen up close at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Bociurkiw and one other colleague were the first international monitors to reach the wreckage after the jet was shot down over a rebel-held region of eastern Ukraine July 17.

With no other oversight on scene, the two men became the de facto eyes and ears of all those who watched in horror from around the world. More than ten days later, he’s still one of a select group of individuals who has been to crash site almost daily. . . . .

2. In the wake of the rhetorical/political firestorm over the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, we note that the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) is front and center in the “investigation” into the event.

“OSCE Describes Process for Identifying Bodies from MH17 Attack” by Simon Santow; ABC  News; 7/21/2014.

The OSCE has told AM it has finally obtained better access on the ground near the site where MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine. The spokesman for the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Michael Bociurkiw, says they have seen some remains and bodies stored in refrigerated rail wagons in the town of Tores. He says after the earlier chaos, there’s now greater co-operation but there are still plenty of concerns about getting access for crash investigators and of securing the perimeter of the area 24 hours a day.

3a. We put the quotation marks around “investigation” because the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission is headed by one Michael [“Mykhailo”] Bociurkiw. A Canadian citizen of Ukrainian extraction, he was an assistant editor for the Ukrainian Weekly.

Issues of the periodical available online point to a “pro-OUN/B” bias.

PDF copies of issues are available at their websiteThis issue appears fairly representative, and manifests a definite anti-OSI, pro Republican Heritage Groups Council bias. (The RHGC is the Nazi/ABN wing of the GOP, discussed at length in FTR #465, among other programs. It heavily overlaps the OUN/B.

A 1987 letter from the World Jewish Congress’ general counsel notes an apparent anti-OSI bias on the part of articles written by Bociurkiw. Note that the Office of Special Investigations was the Justice Department unit charged with investigating Nazi war criminals living the U.S.

The unit was formerly headed by John Loftus, who resigned his position as head of OSI as the Reagan administration was taking office because many of the people he was investiagating held staff positions with Reagan.

Bociurkiw’s position with the OSCE apparently places yet another OUN/B advocate in the mix, charged with “investigating” actions taken by a government inextricably linked with OUN/B heirs such as Swoboda, Pravy Sektor and the Ukrainian National Congress.

February 2, 1987


Ms. Janet Bendon

Director of Communications

Canadian Jewish Congress

1590 Avenue Docteur Penfield

Montreal, Quebec H3G 1C5


Re: Michael Bociurkiw

Dear Janet:

Enclosed, in accordance with your request of this date, is a nearly complete run of The Ukrainian Weekly (Jersey City, N.J.) from Vol. LIII, No. 40 (October 6, 1985) through Vol. LV, No. 4 (January 25, 1987).  These 61 issues come from my personal library, and I appreciate your assurance that they will be returned to me by courier at your earliest opportunity.

As I indicated on the phone, Michael Bociurkiw is a frequent contributor to the newspaper.  Indeed, one of his articles appears on the front page of the oldest of the enclosed issues (October 6, 1985), under the byline “Mykhailo” Bociurkiw.  Vol. LIII, issue no. 50 (December 15, 1985) reports that he has been named Assistant Editor of the newspaper.  As you can see, I have made a practice of noting on the front page of each issue those pages which contain articles of interest (which, of course, would include all articles, editorials, opinion pieces, advertisements, etc. regarding Nazi crimes and their perpetrators).  Where more than one article of interest appears on a particular page, I generally have noted this fact through the use of parentheticals.  I am convinced, by the way, that many of the unbylined “Nazi stories” were penned by Mr. Bociurkiw.  In any event, the anti-OSI, anti-Nazi prosecution bias in Bociurkiw’s written output and in the newspaper generally will be readily apparent as you read through the enclosed issues. . . .

Sincerely yours,

Eli M. Rosenbaum

General Counsel

3b. Representative of The Ukrainian Weekly‘s pro-OUN/B coverage is this obituary of OUN/B leader Jaroslav Stetsko (also “Stetzko”). Note that the OUN/B is also known as the OUN’s “revolutionary faction.”

Nowhere in this story do you see anything about OUN/B’s murderous collaboration with the Nazis, nor the fascist nature and Third Reich origin of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.

“Yaroslav Stetzko, Nationalist Leader and Former Prime Minister Dies” by Ihor Diaboha; The Ukrainian Weekly; 7/13/1986.

Yaroslav Stetzko, head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (revolutionary faction) and prime minister of Ukraine during World War II, died Saturday at the age of 74 after a prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife Slava, head of the ABN Correspondence. . . .

. . . In February, 1940, following the split in the OUN, Mssrs. Bandera and Stetzko assumed the leadership of the OUN’s revolutionary leadership.

Plans were immediately set in motion to proclaim the establishment of Ukraine’s independence. This was further expanded with other political parties through  Mr. Stetzko’s role in the Ukrainian National Committee.

Independence was proclaimed on June 30, 1941, less than two weeks after Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russian occupied territories. Mssrs. Bandera and Stetzko, the revolutionary leadership and other nationalistic figures were imprisoned in concentration camps by the Nazis. Mr. Stetzko’ s work on behalf of the Ukrainian nation and its independence continued after the war.

In 1947 he was elected chairman of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which had its roots in the clandestine Conference of Captive Nations convened by General Taras Chuprynka in 1943. Mr. Stetzko served as its only chairman.

In 1968, Mr. Stetzko was elected head of the OUN(r) central leadership.

Mr. Stetzko’s anti-Communist activity extended beyond Ukrainian affairs. As chairman of the European Freedom Council and a member of the presidium of the World Anti-Communist League. Mr. Stetsko met with international leaders and various statesmen impressing on them the need to wage a freedom campaign on behalf of captive nations.

Among the Western leaders he met were President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush.

The funeral liturgy was to be offered on Saturday, July 12, at the Ukrainian catholic cathedral in Munich. Burial was to follow at the Walfriedhoff Cemetery.

4a. Bociurkiw has networked with a Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood-connected milieu that overlaps the International Institute of Islamic Thought and–by extension–that of the pilot of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Interestingly and, perhaps significantly, Bociurkiw edited a puff-piece book about Dr. Mahathir Mohammed,  a hardline fundamentalist Muslim and–like prominent Malaysian Muslim Brother Anwar Ibrahim–a former Malaysian Prime Minister. Mahathir Mohammed is a raving anti-Semite, as are the OUN/B knock-off groups like Swoboda and Pravy Sektor.

The book is titled: Mahathir: 22Years, 22Voices.

In addition to an introduction written by Michael Bociurkiw, another was written by Abdullah Badawi. Both Mahathir Mohammed and Abdullah Badawi were proteges of Muhammad M. Abdul Rauf, a Malaysian Muslim Brother and a personal student of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Banna.

In turn, Abdul Rauf was very close to the IIIT, one of the organizations raided in the Operation Green Quest Raids of 3/20/2002. The IIIT is an offshoot of the Al-Taqwa nexus, having been founded by the Muslim Brotherhood following a 1977 meeting at Al-Taqwa director Ali Galeb Himmat’s home in Lake Lugano. The Operation Green Quest raids were instituted after an investigation of Sami Al-Arian, who declined to give grand jury testimony about the IIIT, out of fear for his safety.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was piloted by Zaharie Shah, a devotee of Anwar Ibrahim, another former Malaysian Prime Minister and prominent Malaysian Muslim Brother. Ibrahim was also a co-founder of the IIIT and a lobbying client of Grover Norquist. Recall that the flight computer on 370 appears to have been re-programmed in the cockpit.

For more about Shah, Ibrahim and the downing of Flight 370, see FTR #790.

Also worth noting is the fact that Rauf has networked with the milieu of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam!

As strange as it might appear to be at first, a jihadist/Nazi link vis a vis Russia is not strange at all. Russia appears to be undergoing a pincers movement, with Western intelligence-connected fascist elements driving East through Ukraine and Western intel-backed jihadists coming from the south.

It should be remembered that there is evidence that Western intelligence elements appear to support jihadists in Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus. The IIIT and the El Haramain charity discussed in FTR #381 are linked to Al-Taqwa. The Operation Green Quest raids–with the IIIT at the epicenter of the SAAR network raided in that operation, is inextricably linked to Al-Taqwa and Third Reich intelligence agent Youssef Nada. Al-Taqwa, in turn, dovetails with the Underground Reich in a number of ways.

“Name: Muhammad M. Abdul Rauf”; Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood in America.


  • Strongly advocated establishment of sharia law in America
  • Established Islamic “trust” controlling land and management of New York Islamic Cultural Center, which employed at least two Egyptian MB imams, that, after 9/11 blamed the atrocities on Israel. One said American would “exterminate” the Jewish people like Hitler if they knew.
  • Co-authored book and regularly collaborated with hard line MB leader Ismaʾil R. Al-Faruqi, a mid 1980s co-founder of the Herndon, Va.-based IIIT, long suspected of broadly funding terror.
  • Regularly collaborated with IIIT and Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), both among the 29 “friends” listed in the 1991 Mohammed Akram internal MB memorandum outlining secret plans to replace U.S. Constitutional democracy with sharia law.
  • Instructed hard-line Islamic leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who served as Malaysian prime minister from 2003 to 2009.
  • Close associate and friend of former Malaysian prime minister and active anti-Semite Mahathir Mohamad, who in 2002, incited global anti-West financial war as a “jihad worth fighting for.” . . . .
  • Rauf also greatly admired the “accomplishments” of American Muslim Society (AMS) founder W. D. Mohammed (Oct. 30, 1933–Sept. 9, 2008), the former Nation of Islam leader  who regularly met Muslim Brotherhood leaders, attended their meetings and accepted gifts from their chief donors. In July 1997, Mohammed attended the 22nd annual Islamic Circle of North America convention in Pittsburgh. In 2000 Mohammed joined Muslim Brother and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) general secretary Sayyid Sayeed in welcoming Louis Farrakahn into the “mainstream” of American Sunni Islam.

African American Mussolini: Farrakhan and His Stormtroopers

5. In order to better understand the Muslim Brotherhood-connected Malaysian Islamist political milieu with which Micael Bociurkiw is networking, examining the political character of Louis Farrakhan may prove useful.

In addition to blaming African American slavery on–you guessed it–the Jews, he has ardently defended Arabs in the Sudan and Mauritania against condemnation for their active, ongoing enslavement of black Africans.

Here in the Bay Area, the ripples are subsiding after Farrakhan drew a standing ovation from an African American audience at the University of California at Berkeley. Criticized from many quarters, Farrakhan’s appearance was defended by the school administration under the rubric of “free speech.”

It seems that a tree-blight is spreading through the groves of academe.

(Shortly after 9/11, a close friend counseled me that, if I continued in this line of research, I should be prepared to clash intellectually to an increasing degree with Holocaust deniers. Prominent “Truther” Jim Fetzer has indeed attempted to open the debate on that subject to “both sides.” Blaming African American slavery on “Da Jooz” is of the same intellectual fabric. So is the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center/cruise missile hit the Pentagon drivel. I’m now braced for the onslaught of the Holocaust deniers–“But what about this?”)

It appears that Farrakhan’s defense of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Sudan, which has pursued the slavery/genocide against the black population of that unfortunate country is based on a professional relationship with that murderous regime.

When Farrakhan’s defense of black African slavery was shattered by journalists, many of them were terrorized by his goons.

“Farrakhan’s Secret Relationship” by Charles Jacob; The Daily Californian; 5/16/2012.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan addressed an estimated 600 students at UC Berkeley last Saturday, and told  Black students not to befriend any Jew without first reading The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, a book whose thesis is that “the Jews” were behind the black slave trade.  Heck of a way to start up a friendship!

Scholars both black and white have exposed the NOI book as a pack of lies, a modern day calumny which, much like their medieval analogues — “the Jews poisoned the wells,” “the Jews make matzo with the blood of Christian children” –is meant to incite hatred for Jewish people.  Dangerous hatred. The Daily Californian reports that Jewish students were hurt and shocked.  No doubt.

But what will be more shocking perhaps is Minister Farrakhan’s own semi-secret relationship with the modern day slaving of African Blacks by people, and in countries, that the NOI leader has an interest to protect.  In 1994, an African Muslim from Mauritania  – Mohammed Athie — and I broke the story of a modern day slave trade in Mauritania and Sudan, in The New York Times.  We reported that “perhaps 300,000” African Muslims were still serving Arab/Berber masters. “Black Africans in Mauritania were converted to Islam more than 100 years ago,” we wrote, “but while the Koran forbids the enslavement of fellow Muslims, in this country race outranks religious doctrine. These people are chattel: used for labor, sex, and breeding. They may be exchanged for camels, trucks, guns or money. Their children are the property of the master.”

In Sudan, Africa’s largest country, we reported that slavery was “making a comeback, the result of a 12-year-old war waged by the Muslim north against the black Christian and animist south. Arab militias, armed by the Government, raid villages, mostly those of the Dinka tribe, shoot the men and enslave the women and children. These are kept as personal property or marched north and sold.” We based our reports on government documents, human rights publications  and a stunning interview with a UN official .

The op-ed shocked many. We were encouraged to launch the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) which would document a modern day slave trade around the globe, but would focus on Sudan and Mauritania as the worst case of slavery, and the most controversial, and therefore least likely to be covered by others.

PBS’s Tony Brown Show, the most popular Black news program at the time, invited Mohammed and me to speak about slavery. Immediately after our appearance, we were attacked by Farrakhan’s spokesman  who denied that Blacks served Arab masters in Sudan or – worse from NOI’s point of view, that Black Muslims served Arab Muslim masters in Mauritania. Farrakhan’s “calling,” after all, funded in part by Arab dictator Muammar Khadafy,  was to break the Black/Jewish civil rights alliance while teaching American Blacks that Islam was their path to freedom. Not in Sudan and Mauritania it wasn’t!

NOI was serious about shutting us up.  Samuel Cotton, a black reporter for the City Sun, NY’s second largest black paper conducted a thorough investigation that resulted in a five part series. “Arab Masters, Black Slaves”  screamed across the front page in NYC’s news kiosks. NOI warned Sam. They followed and menaced him when he spoke in Chicago, not far from their headquarters. Sam’s book, Silent Terror, has become an underground classic.

At a press conference in D.C in 1996, Farrakhan was asked about reports of slavery in Sudan. According to the NY Times , he angrily challenged them: “If slavery exists, go … to Sudan, and come back and tell the American people what you found.” The Baltimore Sun sent two reporters to Sudan. They found and liberated slaves and published a special four page insert in the paper’s weekend edition. Farrakhan refused their request for an interview — and pretty much went radio silent on slavery issues… until fairly recently. . . .

6. “Calypso Louie” (as Farrakhan used to call himself) has gone out of his way to stigmatize the black African victims of contemporary slavery for the color of their skin and their kinky hair!!

“Genocide and Slavery in the Sudan: The Farrakhan Connection” by Sabit Abbe Alley; www.iabolish.org; p. 56.

. . . This was clearly demonstrated during his Savior Day address on February 25, 1996, and in subsequent speeches, where the Minister graphically described the people of South Sudan as being very, very, very . . . very dark with kinky hair as compared to the brown (white!) Northern Arabs, who according to Farrakhan, looked exactly like him! He used the adverb –very 15 times to emphasize his color prejudice against the Southern Sudanese. . . .

7. We also note in passing that MH 17 went down with an important group of AIDS researchers on board, viewed by some observers as greatly setting back international AIDS research. Neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the OUN/B milieu are sympathetic to gays. (The EuroMaidan demonstrations featured the beating of a number of gays, although it received little publicity.)

It is also worth noting in passing that there is disturbing evidence that AIDS was deliberately created. IF any of the now-deceased researchers was aware of, and/or investigating this, that would have provided motive for the Underground Reich elements that appear to have created the disease to dispose of them.

“Delegates to Melbourne AIDS Summit on Doomed Flight 17” by Rick Morton; The Australian; 7/18/2014.

More than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and health workers bound for a major conference in Melbourne were on the Malaysia Airlines flight downed in the Ukraine.

It is believed that delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference, due to begin on Sunday, will be informed today that 108 of their colleagues and family members died on MH17.

Stunned researchers, activists and development workers arriving at Melbourne Airport paid tribute to AIDS researcher Joep Lange and the other attendees believed killed aboard MH17. . . .

8. Supplementing information presented in FTR #803, we learn that a website catering to global business travelers presented information pointing to Ukrainian military personnel as the “perps” of the shootdown of MH 17.

This allegation supplements information developed by Robert Parry concerning aerial surveillance by U.S. spy satellites showing what appeared to be [possibly drunken] Ukrainian soldiers having fired the missile that brought down the plane.

The global traveler website also notes an important last minute change of course by the MH 17 plane, apparently ordered by Ukrainian air controllers.

“Ukraine Air Traffic Controller Suggests Kiev Military Shot Down Passenger Plane”; eTN Global Travel Industry News; 7/17/2014.

 ETN received information from an air traffic controller in Kiev on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

This Kiev air traffic controller is a citizen of Spain and was working in the Ukraine. He was taken off duty as a civil air-traffic controller along with other foreigners immediately after a Malaysia Airlines passenger aircraft was shot down over the Eastern Ukraine killing 295 passengers and crew on board.

The air traffic controller suggested in a private evaluation and basing it on military sources in Kiev, that the Ukrainian military was behind this shoot down. Radar records were immediately confiscated after it became clear a passenger jet was shot down.

Military air traffic controllers in internal communication acknowledged the military was involved, and some military chatter said they did not know where the order to shoot down the plane originated from.

Obviously it happened after a series of errors, since the very same plane was escorted by two Ukrainian fighter jets until 3 minutes before it disappeared from radar.

Radar screen shots also show an unexplained change of course of the Malaysian Boeing. The change of course took the aircraft directly over the Eastern Ukraine conflict region. . . .

9. A last minute change of course of the doomed plane was confirmed by an Air India aircraft nearby. That change of course brought the plane into the killing ground.

“Air India Flight Was 90 Seconds Away When Missile Struck Malaysian Airlines Flight MH117” by Manju V.; Times of India; 7/20/2014.

. . . . An Air India Dreamliner flight going from Delhi to Birmingham was in fact less than 25km away from the Malaysian aircraft, a distance covered by a Dreamliner or Boeing 777 in about 90 seconds, when the latter was hit. Because of this closeness, the Dnipropetrovsk (local Ukrainian) air traffic controller asked the AI pilots to try and establish contact with pilots of the Malaysian aircraft who had stopped responding to its calls.

Minutes before the crash caused by a missile strike, the AI pilots had also heard the controller give the Malaysian aircraft MH17 what is called “a direct routing”. This permits an aircraft to fly straight, instead of tracking the regular route which is generally a zig-zag track that goes from one ground-based navigation aid or way point to another. “Direct routing saves fuel and time and is preferred by pilots. In this case, it proved fatal,” said an airline source. . . .

10a. Possibly apocryphal under the circumstances, we note the unlikely coincidence of a Dutch cyclist who was booked to fly on both Malaysia Air Flight 370 and MH17. While possible, it is unlikely from an actuarial standpoint. Might there be more to Mr. De Jong than meets the eye? (De Jong, by the way, is one of the most common of Dutch surnames, not unlike “Smith” in English. This would be useful IF he were an operative of some kind.

“Dutch Cyclist Maarten de Jonge Cheats Death Twice after Changing Flights from Both Malaysia Airlines MH17 and MH370” by Adam Withnall; The Independent [UK]; 7/20/2014. 

A Dutch cyclist has revealed how he twice cheated death after changing his plans to fly on both the Malaysia Airlines passenger jets involved in international aviation disasters over the past four months.

Maarten de Jonge, 29, has to travel around the world to compete for Malaysia’s Terengganu cycling team – and in doing so has now had two extraordinary near misses. . . . .

. . . . The cyclist said that he only decided to swap flights at the last minute, after discovering that travelling via Frankfurt today would prove cheaper.

Tweeting a link on Thursday to a Dutch article about the MH17 disaster, De Jonge said: “Had I departed today, then…”

During his interview with the local broadcaster, the cyclist revealed something even more remarkable – that he had also been planning to travel on flight MH370, the Malaysia jet which vanished on 8 March and which remains missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean. . . .

11. In a previous post, we noted the Underground Reich heritage of the Dutch Royal Family, stretching back to former SS officer and I.G. Farben spy Prince Bernhard. The family through generations appears to have “kept the faith,” so to speak.

Bernhard’s grandaughter is Mabel Smits, the daughter-in-law of a former Wehrmacht soldier, Prince Claus.

Prince Friso’s wife Mabel Smits has been an active supporter of Islamist causes (operating under the rubric of humanitarian aid). Specifically, she has been active on behalf of Bosnia and Chechnya.

Mabel Smits is a protege of George Soros, the so-called leftist, who in reality gives every indication of being a “Bormann Jew,” having gotten his start in business aiding the Nazis with the “Aryanization” of Jewish property during the Holocaust in Hungary. Smits’ charitable outlet in Chechnya may well have been lending support to the Islamist combatants in Chechnya, which has led to the suspension of that chapter of the organization.

Some key questions: Is there any connection between Mabel Smits’ apparent pro-Chechen activism and Maarten de Jong? In turn, we note the apparent presence of UNA/UNSO fighter in Chechnya.  Are they part of an anti-Russian phalanx, attacking with Islamists from the South to break up Russia?

“Mabel: Wife Of Comatose Dutch Prince Resigns As CEO Of Anti Semitic, Anti Israel and Anti American Think Tank ‘The Elders’”; Militant Islam Monitor; 5/8/2012.

. . . She was the chairwoman of the EU branch of George Soros’ Open Society Institute and also chaired a charity called ‘War Child’.”….the ‘charity’ (whose Dutch branch founder Mabel Wisse Smit (employed by George Soros), went from being the lover of jailed Bosnian foreign minister Muhammed Sacirbey, to the wife of Prince Friso of Holland,has announced they ‘have decided to stop all support to their partner organisation in Chechnya …euphemistically saying that they ‘could no longer guarantee the effective and controlled managing of War Child project activities’ .Translation: the money was ‘finding it’s way’ into the hands of terrorists.” . . .

12. In FTR #803, we highlighted the Azov Battalion, one of many Nazi/fascist combatant militias fighting as part of the Ukrainian military. Another useful post from german-foreign-policy.com highlights the fact that the Azov Battalion was formed by Oleg Lyashko, who also heads the Radical Party. That party looms large as the single most popular political party in Ukraine.Together with Swoboda and Pravy Sektor, it forms a dominant fascist political axis in Ukraine.

Lyashko also revealed that, in addition to Michael Skillt (whom we discussed in FTR #803, the unit contained several foreign snipers, some of whom were present during the Maidan protests and appeared to have fired at Ukrainian police units. This would make the violence that led to the ouster of Yanukovych the outgrowth of a provocation.

This also places what, for lack of a better term, a “political context of provocation” within which the downing of MH 17 must be viewed.

“Ukrainian Patriots”; german-foreign-policy.com;  7/30/2014.

Five months after the Kiev coup, vigorously supported by Berlin, a rightwing extremist party may become pro-Western Ukraine’s strongest political force. According to a recent survey, the Radical Party, of the ultra-rightwing politician, Oleh Lyashko, could currently expect 23.2 percent of the votes. Lyashko made himself a name with his brutality against the Kiev regime’s eastern Ukrainian opponents. He is also co-founder and supporter of the Azov Battalion, a militia of over one hundred – mainly fascist – combatants, including a Swedish Neo-Nazi sniper. He has reported that other snipers had already been in action for the opposition during the Maidan protests. It has never been revealed, who fired the fatal shots on February 20. In this highly charged atmosphere, the Ukrainian government is taking steps that indicate a political cultural development even further to the right. It is planning to censure films and books from Russia or to restrict their sales. . . .

Nearly a Third for the Ultra-Right

Five months after the Kiev coup, vigorously supported by Berlin, an extreme rightwing party may become pro-Western Ukraine’s strongest political force. According to a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, the Radical Party of the ultra-rightwing politician, Oleh Lyashko, could currently expect 23.2 percent of the vote – more than any other party.[1] Already at the presidential elections on May 25, Lyashko received 8.3 percent – a surprise success, practically out of nowhere. His popularity has grown through his public display of brutality against the Kiev regime’s eastern Ukrainian opponents. On his website, on May 7, for example, he published a video of him interrogating a nearly naked, bleeding Eastern Ukrainian insurgent prisoner. In last May’s municipal council elections, leading members of the fascist organizations Social-National Assembly (SNA) and “Patriot of Ukraine” ran on the electoral list of Lyashko’s Radical Party. According to the survey, the fascist Svoboda party would receive 5.7 percent and the militarist Pravy Sector 1.9 percent of the votes. Together with the 23.2 percent for the Radical Party, ultra-rightwing parties would poll nearly one third of the votes.

Freedom of Expression

Typical for the Berlin supported Kiev government are its efforts to eliminate as much Russian influence as possible. Benefitting from the current right-wing trend, it is planning cultural restrictions. The State Film Agency has announced that, in the future, it will closely “examine” Russian films before they may be shown in the Ukraine. Several films have already fallen victim to this censorship. Restrictions will also affect the sale of books. According to the Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, so far only one fifth of the books sold in the country are of Ukrainian production. In fact, throughout the ex-Soviet region, Russian books have been widely sold because of the still widespread knowledge of the Russian language. The Deputy Prime Minster affirms that the government is “forced to protect the Ukrainian consumers from xenophobic publications.” The government is now “introducing licensing for Russian books and a quota for foreign books.”[2] Sych is a member of the fascist Svoboda party. This party’s chief, Oleh Tiahnybok, once made headlines, when he announced that Ukraine must be “liberated” from a “Jewish mafia from Moscow.”[3] . . . .

“Liberation of the White Race”

. . . . While efforts are made to outlaw the CPU, the “Social National Assembly” (SNA) has nothing comparable to worry about. Founded in 2008 as a merger of various fascist organizations, it had been very engaged in creating the Right Sector in November 2013 during the Maidan protests. According to its own admission, it is struggling “for the liberation of the entire white race from the domination of internationalist speculative capital” – a well-known anti-Semitic codeword – and “to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man.”[4] Anton Gerashchenko, a high-ranking advisor of the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, explicitly affirmed that the Social National Assembly is “not a neo-Nazi organization,” but rather a “party of Ukrainian patriots.” He felt called upon to make this clarification to a BBC journalist’s statement about a leader of the assembly, Andriy Biletsky, who is currently a commander of the Azov Battalion, a unit of several hundred, which was founded and armed for warfare in Eastern Ukraine by Kiev’s Ministry of the Interior. In fact, numerous activists from the Social National Assembly and its “Patriot of Ukraine” paramilitary wing are members of the Asov Battalion. “Patriot of Ukraine” was commanded in the 1990s by Andriy Parubiy. Today, Parubiy, in his function as Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, bears a major responsibility for the war in the country’s east.


The Azov Battalion recently caused an international stir, when it was reported that neo-Nazis from various other European countries e.g. from Italy, France and Sweden, are also members of the unit. Apparently, the battalion is being trained professionally. A Georgian special forces trainer is said to be among the instructors.[5] The Azov Battalion is one of three special commandos – with the Dnipro and Donbass Battalions – being set up in pro-western Ukraine.[6] The Swedish neo-Nazi Mikael Skillt is a member of the Azov Battalion. Skillt, a member of the fascist Svenskarnas Parti (Party of the Swedes), says that he has “at least” three purposes in the unit: commander of “a small reconnaissance unit,” a “sniper” and sometimes he works “as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.” The person, who is rumored to have been captured by East Ukrainian insurgents, had been a sniper for six years in the Swedish military. He says, he has only been engaged in the Ukrainian conflict since March. He admits, however, to having spoken to at least two snipers, who, during the Maidan protests had shot at police from the Trade Union House in Kiev – at the time, the headquarters of the protestors. “Their mission was to take out Berkut’s snipers,” explained Skillt.[7] The deadly shots from the Maidan, which in Western propaganda had been used to legitimize the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, have never been investigated by the putsch regime, and Berlin has never applied pressure for an investigation.

Political Prisoners

The Azov Battalion has close ties to Oleh Lyashko, whose “Radical Party,” would currently be able to poll a fourth of the votes if elections were held. Lyashko is considered to be one of the Azov’s founders. For internet videos, he allows himself to be filmed at joint actions with Asov combatants. The Azov Battalion’s second in command, Ihor Mosiychuk, had been elected to Kiev’s Municipal Council on the electoral list of Lyashko’s Radical Party. This was not the first time Lyashko had intervened on his behalf. January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the “movement fighting for democracy.” The protests were unsuccessful. However, immediately after the Kiev coup, Mosiychuk and his accomplices profited from the amnesty, the pro-western Ukrainian parliament granted on February 24, 2014 to “political prisoners”. Due to Lyashko’s decisive engagement, Mosiychuk profited from the amnesty, was liberated from prison and could participate in the organization the Azov Battalion. . . .

. . . . . [1] Jakov Devcic: Jazenjuks Rücktrittsversuch. www.kas.de 29.07.2014.
[2] Ukraine will russische Kultur zurückdrängen. www.n-tv.de 29.07.2014.
[3] S. dazu Termin beim Botschafter.
[4] Dina Newman: Ukraine conflict: “White power” warrior from Sweden. www.bbc.co.uk 16.07.2014.
[5] Daniel McLaughlin: Foreigners join far-right militias in Ukraine’s fight against rebels. www.irishtimes.com 17.07.2014.
[6] Hal Foster: A special-forces unit, started from scratch, wins a key battle in Ukraine. en.tengrinews.kz 21.06.2014.
[7] Swede Patrols Ukraine’s Streets with Right-wing Paramilitaries. www.friatider.se 26.03.2014.

13a. Insight into the nature of the “liberation” manifested by the Ukrainian government forces occupying Slovyansk can be gleaned by reading between the lines of the following story. In FTR #803, we noted that the Pravy Sektor flag was flying over the Interior Ministry building after the city was captured by government forces.

“A Test for Ukraine in City Retaken from Rebels” by Andrew Higgins; The New York Times; 8/1/2014.

. . . . The new authorities, promising anonymity, have set up a hotline for residents to inform on rebel collaborators, and they have printed fliers warning that a new law mandates up to 15 years in jail for separatism. “Of course people are afraid,” Dr. Glushenko said. “They are frightened of being punished.” . . . .

13b. Illustrating the direct line of institutional evolution from the OUN/B to the present, Pravy Sektor is the political arm of the UNA-UNSO, the latest iteration of the OUN/B’s military cadre, the UPA. It elected Yuriy Shukheyvch as its head. Shukheyvch is the son of OUN/B commander Roman Shukhevych, declared a “Hero of Ukraine” by the Yuschenko government. Roman also headed the Nachtigall Battalion in their liquidation of the Lvov Ghetto in 1941.

Note that the UNA/UNSO organization–the political parent of Pravy Sektor–has apparently been active in Chechnya as well.

“The Durability of Ukrainian Fascism” by Peter Lee; Strategic Culture; 6/9/2014.

. . . . One of Bandera’s lieutenants was Roman Shukhevych.  In February 1945, Shukhevych issued an order stating, “In view of the success of the Soviet forces it is necessary to speed up the liquidation of the Poles, they must be totally wiped out, their villages burned … only the Polish population must be destroyed.”

As a matter of additional embarrassment, Shukhevych was also a commander in the Nachtigall (Nightingale) battalion organized by the Wehrmacht.

Today, a major preoccupation of Ukrainian nationalist historical scholarship is beating back rather convincing allegations by Russian, Polish, and Jewish historians that Nachtigall was an important and active participant in the massacre of Lviv Jews orchestrated by the German army upon its arrival in June 1941. . . .

. . . . Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in modern Ukrainian fascism is not simply that of an inspirational figurehead and reminder of his father’s anti-Soviet heroics for proud Ukrainian nationalists.  He is a core figure in the emergence of the key Ukrainian fascist formation, Pravy Sektor and its paramilitary.

And Pravy Sektor’s paramilitary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” collection of weekend-warrior-wannabes, as Mr. Higgins might believe.

UNA-UNSO was formed during the turmoil of the early 1990s, largely by ethnic Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Union’s bitter war in Afghanistan.  From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for foreign adventures, sending detachments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Communist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithuania in 1991.  With apparently very good reason, the Russians have also accused UNA-UNSO fighters of participating on the anti-Russian side in Georgia and Chechnya.

After formal Ukrainian independence, the militia elected Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN-B commander Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a political arm, which later became Pravy Sektor. . . .

14. After the downing of MH 17, there were calls in Germany for military action to be taken by the EU in Ukraine. This story also notes a history of error and/or deliberate misrepresentation in the context of civilian airliner shootdowns.

With 25% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves in Ukraine–most of them concentrated in the Eastern part of the country–we should not forget the cooked intelligence that led to the bloody misadventure in Iraq.

“Establish Facts”; german-foreign-policy.com; 7/21/2014.

After a jetliner was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, influential German foreign policy experts have begun calling for a military intervention, which may include German Bundeswehr units. “A Blue Helmet mission under the umbrella of the United Nations” should now be taken into consideration, declared Andreas Schockenhoff, Co-Chair of the CDU/CSU Group in the Bundestag. “Germany may also be asked” to contribute troops. For the Chairman of the Bundestag’s Defense Commission, Hans-Peter Bartels (SPD), a Blue Helmet mission is also “conceivable.” It is yet unclear, who bears responsibility for downing the jetliner. This is not an essential question for him, as past experience with Western interventions have shown: The EU and the USA must politically establish the facts. The war against Yugoslavia was justified with a massacre. Substantial doubts about central aspects of this massacre still persist. The sniper killings on Kiev’s Maidan Square on February 20 have never been elucidated, once they served as legitimation for overthrowing the government of President Yanukovych. Suspicions persist that sectors of today’s governing Maidan opposition may have played decisive roles in these murders; however that is of no interest to the West. On the contrary, there have never been political consequences for a US warship’s downing of an Iranian airliner in 1988.

No Proof

Several days after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, it is still unclear, who bears the responsibility. US intelligence agencies claim that Russia had recently delivered a BUK anti-aircraft missile system to the rebels in Eastern Ukraine and that movements have been registered over the past few days to bring that system back to Russia. However, those same agencies have, in the past, repeatedly lied to justify going to war. For example, it has been proven that, under the Saddam Hussein government, the allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and supported Al Qaeda were lies. The Russian defense ministry has reported that, right at the time of the downing of the jetliner, it had registered relevant activities of Ukrainian air-defense forces, which do possess “Buk” anti-aircraft systems; and that it is quite conceivable that inexperienced soldiers may have caused the crash through incorrect handling of that highly sophisticated system. Also for this allegation, there is no proof, albeit the Ukrainian military has actually made such a mistake. On October 4, 2001, they accidentally shot down a Tupolev of the Siberian Airlines en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, killing all 78 people on board.

Jumping to Conclusions

On Thursday, Christian Mölling, an expert in the Security Policy Research Group of Berlin’s Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), had already warned against jumping to conclusions. He recommends caution in dealing with all of the information about the downing of the jetliner – particularly information propagated by official sources. “Both sides will seek to pin the blame on the other.”[1] This has been fully confirmed, not only by the declarations of politicians. German media is peddling, without comment, US intelligence reports, while at times openly discrediting Russian information as “conspiracy theories.” In a regional newspaper, the Chair of Germany’s Federal Press Conference preempted the results of future investigations. “Evidently, they wanted to down another Ukrainian military transport plane.”[2] Referring to the political consequences, he said, “the worldwide outrage over this act of terror increases the pressure on Putin.”[3]

Manipulation of Public Opinion

Previous cases used by the West to justify military interventions, show that an impartial investigation of the downing of the Malaysian Boeing – being now used to call for a military intervention – can hardly be expected. The allegation that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was an exception. It has been proven to be a complete fabrication. A second exception was the so-called Operation Horseshoe. The German government used this lie to justify its war on Yugoslavia. It had claimed to possess a document, which showed how Belgrade was deploying its army in the form of a horseshoe to ethnically cleanse the Albanian-speaking population from Kosovo and that this was confirmed by information from intelligence services. Throughout the war, German media continuously repeated this allegation without verification. It helped to provoke public outrage at the Yugoslav government that can still be felt today. In the meantime “Operation Horseshoe” is generally seen as a fiction. Already back in 2005, “Internationale Politik,” a journal close to the government wrote that “the minister of defense had manipulated public opinion by falsely claiming in parliament that Serbs have developed the so-called Operation Horseshoe.”[4]

Unproven but Effective

Strong doubts persist about the so-called Racak Massacre (mid-January 1999), which the German Foreign Minister, Josef Fischer, primarily used to justify the aggression against Yugoslavia. On January 16, 1999, the US diplomat, William Walker presented 45 dead Kosovo Albanians to the press in the village of Racak, claiming they were the victims of a Yugoslav army execution. Western media extensively echoed this story without further investigation. Evidence that the deaths had not been the result of an execution, but rather of military combat between Yugoslav army units and units of UCK militia were disregarded. This evidence was already accessible and has since been documented by The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) as well as elsewhere. German ret. Brig. Gen. Heinz Loquai, who had been dispatched to Kosovo at the beginning of 1999, accuses Walker of being more interested in finding reasons to go to war, than in investigating the civil war already raging. “With his unverified version of what had happened in Racak, Walker lit the fuse leading to the war on Yugoslavia.”[5]

No Interest

Responsibility for the fatal sniper fire at the Maidan Square in Kiev, last February 20 is still unresolved, to say the least. At first the shots were attributed to snipers working for the Yanukovych government, which contributed to the legitimacy of it being overthrown. Since March, however, there have been reasonable grounds for the suspicion that sectors of the Maidan opposition at the time – which is now part of the current government – were involved in firing the fatal shots. This suspicion arises from a secretly recorded telephone conversation between the Estonian Foreign Minister and the EU head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, as well as from considerable research undertaken by the German TV program “Monitor.” (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) The regime brought to power in Kiev by the putsch, so far has consistently refused to allow an independent investigation into the killings. And the West is obviously not interested in pressuring Kiev into reversing its stand. An investigation possibly would implicate its own supporters.

Ambiguous Basis

In the case of the recently downed jetliner, the focus is again on the responsibility of the insurgents in Eastern Ukraine and, above all, of Russia, regardless of the evidence. Political facts are once more being established on an ambiguous basis – for example, the debate concerning a UN Blue Helmet mission in Ukraine, with the possible participation of the Bundeswehr.[7] Should these accusations against the insurgents and Russia later prove to be founded, the West will savor its triumphant. However should they prove false, it will carry no consequences.

Double Standards

The question must be raised as to the standards used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington in their judgment. July 3, 1988, a US Navy warship that was trespassing in Iran’s territorial waters, shot down a civilian Airbus A300 Iran Air jetliner. The jetliner- like the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 – was clearly recognizable as a civilian plane. 290 passengers lost their lives. There have never been political consequences for this. On the contrary, upon leaving the military, the ship’s commander was explicitly decorated with the Legion of Merit for his activities during his service in the Persian Gulf. Following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, Germany’s foreign minister declared, “If the investigations do actually show that one of the parties to the conflict has the lives of hundreds of perfectly innocent people on its conscience, it would be an atrocity beyond all imagining. No one responsible for such an atrocity any longer has any right to push for their own interests in the name of humanity.”[8] There has never been a comparable Western declaration following the downing of the civilian Iranian Airlines jetliner. . . .


26 comments for “FTR #804 Walkin’ the Snake in Ukraine, Part 2”

  1. Here’s a Swedish report on the Swedish neo-Nazis operating in the Azov battalion. While Swedish police confirmed their presence in the unit, Ukrainian authorities decideded to “stay tight-lipped” on matter:

    The Local Sweden edition
    Swedish neo-Nazis join fight in Ukraine

    30 Jul 2014, 15:57
    Four Swedes are fighting with the Ukrainian task force Azov – a squad which flies a flag with Nazi symbols and, according to one Swedish soldier, fights for “a white Ukraine”.

    Azov is a special force of about 300 soldiers, including multiple volunteer soldiers from across Europe. The force was established by the Ukrainian government, but does not fight alongside the national army and is instead steered by ultra-nationalists.

    Four Swedes are in the group. Neo-Nazi Mikael Skillt is one of them.

    “They are not fighting for a democratic Ukraine,” Anton Shekhotsov, a Ukrainian political scientist who researches right extremist movements in Europe, told Sveriges Radio (SR). “Their vision of Urkaine is a fascist dictatorship.”

    The squad, which wields a yellow and black flag decorated by the Wolfsangel symbol, is a powerful weapon against pro-Russian separatists. But they have their own priorities.

    The battalion’s commander, Andrij Belitskij, is also the leader of the Social-National Assembly (SNA), which lists among its goals the end of “sexual perversions and contact between races”.

    Skillt, a member of the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti), seems to agree.

    “My goal is a white Ukraine,” Skillt told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SVD) last week. “I am a nationalist and I want there to still be white Europeans in Europe.”

    The Swede is originally from Sundsvall, and has been in Ukraine since February. Skillt has confirmed on social media as well as for Swedish media that he fights in the Azov battalion – and that he does so in Swedish uniform.

    The Ukrainian government, however, denied that any foreigners fight in their units.

    Anton Gerashenko, advisor at the Ukrainian Ministry of Home Affairs, dodged questions from Swedish media on Wednesday.

    “I”ll stay tight-lipped on this one,” he said to SR. “It’s forbidden by law for foreign citizens to fight. You seem like a sensible person. So there is nothing more to say.”

    Swedish national police have also confirmed their presence.

    “We do not know exactly how many Swedes are fighting in Ukraine, but we know there are several,” police superintendent Sören Clerton told SVD.

    Shekhotsov warned that the battalion may not be satisfied simply by separatist defeat.

    He reported that the SNA has been behind multiple attacks against sexual and ethnic minorities in Kiev. He also expressed concern that, although Azov may not successfully instate dictatorship, the force may still block the construction of a democratic Ukraine.

    His fears seemed confirmed by Swedish soldier Skillt, who called the struggle in Ukraine a war based on race.

    “This can be the grounds for something much bigger,” he told SR. “It’s not impossible that the Kiev government will fall.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2014, 2:05 pm
  2. Over 300 Ukrainian troops crossed into Russia during heavy fighting near the border. Russia claims they’re defectors. Kiev states otherwise. Either way, a new set of very awkward negotiations between Russia and Ukraine over the fates of those troops is now on the agenda:

    Many Ukraine soldiers cross into Russia amid shelling
    4 August 2014 Last updated at 12:54 ET

    More than 300 Ukrainian troops have crossed into Russia during heavy fighting with pro-Russian separatists.

    A Ukrainian security spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said the 311 soldiers and border guards “had to cross into Russian territory” at the Gukovo checkpoint in eastern Ukraine.

    Ukraine is trying to get them back now through diplomatic channels, he said.

    Earlier a Russian security official said 438 Ukrainian troops had been given refuge in Russia as “defectors”.

    The border area is very tense amid Ukrainian allegations that Russian forces have been helping the separatists with rocket barrages.

    Russia has announced that it will hold an air force exercise this week near the border. A Russian defence ministry spokesman said 100 aircraft would take part in the operation.

    The Russian foreign ministry meanwhile accused Ukrainian forces of deploying tactical missiles and launchers near the city of Donetsk.

    In his statement on the Ukrainian troops at the border Mr Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council (SNBO), dismissed Russia’s claim that the troops had defected.

    He also denied reports that the separatists had captured some Ukrainian National Guard servicemen during the fighting.

    Another Ukrainian military spokesman said the group of soldiers had retreated into Russia after running out of ammunition and other supplies during the fighting. He said they belonged to the 72nd motorised brigade.

    Recently Kiev has been gaining ground against the rebels and claims to have retaken more than 60 towns in Donetsk and Luhansk.

    Preparing for siege

    Civilians are preparing for a siege as government forces close in on the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    Residents are stockpiling food and supplies and are sleeping in basements, with reports suggesting Luhansk is virtually surrounded and without power.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2014, 2:30 pm
  3. It’s looking like a very big battle is about to be waged over Donetsk and which is pretty ominous since it’s not at all clear that Ukraine’s forces will be able to retake the city without inflicting heavy civilian casualties. Fortunately, escape corridors are set up up for fleeing civilians so Hopefully as many civilians as possible are taking that option because, based on the intensity of battles leading up to Donetsk, the invasion of Donetsk might turn into an extended siege with heavy casualties:

    Washington Post
    Ukraine’s army positioning to move on rebels in Donetsk

    By Carol Morello and Michael Birnbaum August 4 at 5:15 PM

    KIEV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian military on Monday appeared to be readying a long-awaited major assault on the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, warning civilians to leave as troops tightened their ring around the city amid heavy fighting.

    Extra evacuation corridors were set up for cars bearing white flags, said Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman. The Donetsk city government posted the corridor routes on its Web page and noted: “As practice shows, such messages are distributed before the start of active combat operations.”

    Lysenko also announced that troops had taken the town of Yasynuvata, home to a key railway control center between Donetsk and Luhansk.

    The military has almost encircled the two large cities, where rebels have declared “people’s republics.” Intense fighting was reported Monday in the Donetsk suburb of Marinka. Members of a volunteer militia called the Azov battalion posted photos on Facebook purporting to show them advancing on Donetsk with the Shakhtarsk battalion, but mapping technology suggests that the photos were taken in Marinka.

    Residents intent on remaining in Donetsk crowded grocery stores to stock up, but the streets were otherwise empty. Two performing dolphins at an entertainment complex were transferred to a facility in the city of Kharkiv.

    In a sign of Russia’s intense focus on the developments, its Foreign Ministry on Monday accused Ukraine of moving Tochka-U ballistic missile systems and Smerch and Uragan rocket launchers toward Donetsk, implying that they may soon be used against the densely populated regional capital. U.S. officials, in turn, have said that Russia is shipping similar heavy-rocket systems to rebels over the border, which Moscow denies. Ukraine has denied possessing ballistic missiles, saying they were destroyed in the 1990s.

    In recent days, there have been increasing calls in Moscow for the Kremlin to step up support for the rebels in Ukraine as they continue to lose territory to a slow-moving but relentless military advance.

    Ukraine and the West have expressed alarm over an apparent Russian buildup along the border. On Monday, the Russian air force announced military exercises involving more than 100 aircraft, among them bombers, fighter jets and helicopters. The Interfax news agency reported that the exercises will include missile-firing practice.

    There also were indications that not everything was going Ukraine’s way on the battlefield.

    Russian officials said hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers had crossed into Russia overnight Sunday, though 180 were said to have returned Monday.

    The ITAR-TASS news agency said many were from the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, which is positioned at the border and has experienced intense artillery and mortar fire. It quoted the brigade commander as saying that the troops were exhausted after going two weeks without much ammunition, food or fuel.

    Ukrainian military officials confirmed that some soldiers had crossed into Russia. But they did not shed light on the possible motivations or say whether the troops are expected to return to Ukraine.

    In another sign of how long this conflict could potentially go for, the Pentagon is rushing more aid or Ukraine that includes armored personnel carriers and patrol vehicles. It also includes a proposal to send US military trainers, starting in 2015:

    Pentagon sends more equipment and aid to Ukraine
    Jarrad Saffren and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY 7:21 p.m. EDT August 1, 2014

    WASHINGTON —The Pentagon is rushing new aid — including armored vehicles and increased training — to bolster Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists, the Defense Department announced Friday.

    The gear includes armored personnel carriers, cargo and patrol vehicles, binoculars, night vision goggles and small patrol boats, said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. The equipment is valued at $8 million and follows a similar $7 million package of equipment shipped in April.

    Earlier on Friday, the Pentagon also announced a proposed $19 million aid package to help train Ukraine’s National Guard forces. The money will help train four companies of soldiers and a headquarters element, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said. The proposal requires congressional approval and would begin in 2015. Trainers would come from U.S. forces in Europe or the California National Guard, which has partnered with Ukrainian troops in the past.

    On Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Ukraine’s military needs weapons. Russian aggression must be confronted in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine last month, Levin said. Almost 300 people died when it was blown from the sky with what U.S. officials have said was a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile.

    Ukraine’s military has made progress in pushing back Russian-backed rebels, Levin said. He called on the White House to authorize shipments of anti-tank weapons.

    “These are defensive weapons, not provocative weapons,” Levin said.

    The request of anti-tank weapons is a reminder that the upcoming urban warfare in Donetsk is probably going to include tanks. On both sides. Let’s hope people get the hell out of there soon. Ditto Luhansk.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2014, 6:14 pm
  4. The shelling of Donetsk continues, one blown up piece of critical civil infrastructure at a time:

    Globe and Mail
    Deadly day in rebel-held Donetsk as clashes erupt at Kiev protest site


    DONETSK, UKRAINE — The Associated Press

    Published Thursday, Aug. 07 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    Last updated Thursday, Aug. 07 2014, 10:07 AM EDT

    Sustained shelling in the main rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine struck residential buildings and a hospital, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others, officials said, as government forces pressed forward in their campaign to rout the separatists.

    Mortar fire struck the Vishnevskiy Hospital in Donetsk on Thursday morning, killing one and wounding five others, Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovensky told The Associated Press. “There was a sudden explosion,” witness Dr. Anna Kravtsova said. “A mortar round flew through the window.”

    The shelling, which destroyed an array of equipment in the dentistry unit, also hit three nearby apartment buildings.

    It followed a night of shelling in another neighbourhood as the fighting between the government and pro-Russian separatists is inching ever closer to the city centre. The mayor’s office said in a statement posted on its website that three people had been killed, five wounded and several residential buildings destroyed during those attacks.

    The government denies it uses artillery against residential areas, but that claim has come under substantial strain in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

    Clashes erupted in central Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, as city authorities sought to clear away the remnants of a tent colony erected by demonstrators involved in the street uprising against pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. At the time, protesters were angry about endemic corruption and wanted closer ties with the European Union.

    In scenes reminiscent of that revolt, which climaxed with Yanukovych’s ouster in February, demonstrators set alight tires in their faceoff against a volunteer battalion overseeing the cleanup operation.

    Dark plumes of acrid smoke from burning rubber rose above Independence Square as workers in high-visibility vests worked fast to dismantle barricades surrounding the main stage.

    The square and surrounding streets were the site of huge winter protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster. Despite the election in May of a successor – 48-year old billionaire confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko – many said they would continue to squat on the square to ensure the new authorities lived up to their promise to usher in an era of transparent and accountable rule.

    Many Kiev residents have fumed over the months-long sit-in, however, complaining that it severely disrupts traffic and blights the city’s main thoroughfare.

    City authorities have been negotiating with the protesters to clear the square since a new mayor was elected, but have met strong resistance from the several hundred demonstrators still camped out there.

    While many barricades were removed Thursday, numerous tents remain in place.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 7, 2014, 2:23 pm
  5. The rebels in Donetsk are calling for a humanitarian cease-fire while vowing to turn the city into a new “Stalingrad” if the Kiev forces try to take the city. And since there’s no indication so far that Kiev is interested in a cease-fire, that probably means there’s a lot more shelling in Donetsk’s future, along with a lot more calls for humanitarian cease-fires:

    Rebel leader calls for cease-fire in besieged Donetsk
    Doug Stanglin, 2:48 p.m. EDT August 9, 2014

    A top separatist leader on Saturday admitted that Ukrainian forces had surrounded Donetsk, the stronghold of Russian-backed rebels, and called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.

    “We are ready for a ceasefire in order to avert the humanitarian catastrophe growing,” Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, said in a statement posted on a rebel website, according to the Associated Press and AFP news agency.

    Igor Girkin, a top commander of the pro-Russia militants, also acknowledged Saturday that Donetsk was surrounded and conceded that Ukrainian troops had gotten the upper hand in eastern Ukraine after four months of fighting.

    The appeal by Zakharchenko comes as Russia is pressing to send a humanitarian convoy into Ukraine to parts of the besieged eastern regions, an offer that the Ukrainian government has labeled a ploy to cover a military invasion.

    Although Western countries says Moscow has assembled some 20,000 troops just across the border, Russia has denied it .

    Zakharchenko — who took over as prime minister of of the DPR last week — warned that rebels were determined the defend Donestk if Ukrainian forces tried to capture the city of one million people.

    “The fight will be for every street, for every house, for every meter of our land,” Zakharchenko said, and would turned the city into a new “Stalingrad,” a reference to the Soviet Union’s refusal to surrender the city of Stalingrad to the Nazis during World War II.

    Zakharchenko acknowledged that the situation was “difficult and tense” but said “the troops’ morale is strong,” the AFP news agency reports.

    A spokesman for the Donetsk city administration said at least one person was killed and several injured in shelling of the city’s southern area on Saturday. Spokesman Maxim Rovninsky also told the AP that about 30 apartment blocks came under fire during the night. Explosions were also heard Saturday on the northern outskirts near the city’s airport. Ukrainian officials denied that they are shelling civilians.

    The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Saturday strongly objected to Russia sending a “humanitarian convoy” over the border into eastern Ukraine.

    “Bearing in mind numerous violations by the Russian Federation of the state border regime of Ukraine and continued illegal supply of weapons, armored vehicles and mercenaries from Russia, Ukraine has solid grounds for concerns that the convoy may trigger further escalation and lead to deterioration of the situation for the people in Donbas,” the ministry said in a statement said, according to Ukrinform.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross has acknowledged the Russian proposal to organize aid convoys and said “any humanitarian initiative is welcome” but added that any Red Cross “action will be taken in strict adherence to our fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.”

    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday and called for “urgent measures for preventing an impending humanitarian catastrophe” in eastern Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It added that Kerry “confirmed such work is being carried out with the Kiev authorities.”

    Girkin, who is also known as Strelkov, also said the town of Krasnyi Luch, which lies on one of the two main roads between Donetsk and the rebel-held east’s other main city of Luhansk, “has been taken by the enemy.”

    A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation, Andriy Lysenko, told reporters Saturday that he could not confirm that Krasnyi Luch was under the control of Ukrainian forces.

    In Luhansk, which is in far eastern Ukraine about 20 miles from the Russian border, the city council said in a statement Saturday that its situation remains critical, with the city going without electricity, water, or most communications for a week. The report said only about 250,00 people remain in the city with a normal population of 425,000.

    “Most of the shops are closed, only a few pharmacies are open. Despite the absence of electricity Luhansk bakeries continue to work,” the council’s report said, according to Interfax-Ukraine. “Fuel reserves have been exhausted, there are no new supplies,” the report reads.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 9, 2014, 3:17 pm
  6. Kiev’s strategy appears to revolve around playing chicken with the bear:

    The New York Times
    Ukraine Strategy Bets on Restraint by Russia

    By ANDREW E. KRAMERAUG. 9, 2014

    DONETSK, Ukraine — The warnings from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the White House over the past week could not have been graver in tone: The Russian Army, they said, had massed enough forces on the border with Ukraine to invade.

    The last time Russian troops appeared to menace Ukraine, in the spring, the Ukrainian military quickly halted attacks on pro-Russian separatists to avoid the chance of touching off a new war in Europe. Not this time.

    Buoyed by successes against the separatists over the past two months — and noting that the Russians have threatened an invasion in the region before without following through — Ukrainian commanders have pressed ahead with an offensive to drive the rebels from their stronghold in Donetsk in the east.

    The army continued to fire artillery into the city nightly, and paramilitary groups raided outlying villages despite warnings from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he could intervene at any time to protect Ukrainians who favor closer ties with his country. And the Ukrainians have flaunted their victories.

    When pro-Ukrainian militiamen reclaimed the village of Marinka from pro-Russian forces, they captured the action with a GoPro camera mounted on a fighter’s shoulder. The video showed them marching into the village, yelling and waving their rifles in the air, firing wildly.

    Despite growing jitters in the West, Ukraine’s military leaders say they are making a well-calculated gamble, betting that Mr. Putin feels he has too much to lose to invade, including the possibility of crippling international sanctions. So while Western officials view each new Ukrainian artillery barrage in Donetsk as drawing the country closer to the brink, the Ukrainians see their unchecked advance as further confirmation that Mr. Putin is mobilizing troops only as a scare tactic to keep them from reclaiming territory.

    The government in Kiev is “calling Putin’s bluff,” said Oleh Voloshyn, a former Ukrainian diplomat, who said political leaders dismissed Mr. Putin’s moves as “psychological pressure.”

    “If we pause, it would show Putin that any time he puts troops on the border, we will stop,” Mr. Voloshyn said.

    Ukraine was given just that option on Saturday when a separatist leader, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, offered what appeared to be an unconditional cease-fire to prevent a large-scale “humanitarian catastrophe.” On Saturday night, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s minister of the interior said Ukraine would not halt its offensive.

    As Ukraine continued its all-out assault, the international maneuvering over Ukraine’s fate continued.

    If the Ukrainians’ calculations about Mr. Putin’s willingness to engage directly are wrong, Mr. Obama and other Western leaders will face yet another crisis at a time of mounting danger in Iraq and as hostilities between Israel and Hamas continue.

    So far, despite growing anxiety, the West seems loath to try to stop the Ukrainians, particularly after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, for which the United States blames the separatists.

    There are plenty of reasons for Mr. Putin to be wary about committing troops to a war.

    The separatist zones of eastern Ukraine that were well defined just several months ago are now amorphous, with the front lines shifting after the Ukrainian military retook 75 percent of the territory initially seized by pro-Russian rebels.

    Beyond that, loyalties in eastern Ukraine are split, increasing the risk that the portion of the population that supports Kiev would aid any insurgency against Russia should it invade. An invasion would also be costly, not only because of the likelihood of stiffened sanctions, but because it could plunge the region into an economic free-fall, bleeding funds from whichever country wins on the battlefield.

    But Western leaders and analysts remain unconvinced Mr. Putin will be willing to be taunted endlessly or to permit extensive deaths of pro-Russian civilians. The United Nations said recently that at least 1,543 civilians and combatants on both sides have died since mid-April.

    For the moment, it is clear the Ukrainians are emboldened.

    A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the east, Col. Aleksei Dmitrashkivsky, said morale is high. “The threats to send Russian peacekeepers into Ukraine have been around since April, but nothing happens,” he said. “The Ukrainian Army is learning quickly how to fight. Volunteers who join the army want to defend this land. We are not afraid.”

    The Ukrainian military strategy, commanders say, centers on encircling Donetsk to squeeze off the lifeline of supplies from the other separatist stronghold, the city of Luhansk, and from the Russian border. On Saturday, a rebel website, citing the separatist military commander Igor Strelkov, said the Ukrainian Army had cut off resupply routes.

    The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat.

    Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.

    In pressing their advance, the fighters took their orders from a local army commander, rather than from Kiev. In the video of the attack, no restraint was evident. Gesturing toward a suspected pro-Russian position, one soldier screamed, “The bastards are right there!” Then he opened fire.

    In another development relating to the need to get humanitarian aid into Donetsk, it sounds like Angela Merkel has been in negotiations with Petro Poroshenko to get Germany to play a role in overseeing the transfer of aid from Russia to Donetsk via Ukrainian run checkpoints:

    Ukraine Demands Rebels In Donetsk Surrender
    Posted: 08/10/2014 3:41 pm EDT Updated: 08/10/2014 3:59 pm EDT

    DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Fighting raged in the city of Donetsk on Sunday, as government forces continued to close in on the rebel stronghold and pro-Russian insurgents backed away from an unconditional cease-fire offer that they announced just the day before.

    With a string of military successes and broad support for its campaign from the West and most of its domestic base, Kiev has taken a hard line against the rebel forces and promised it will only relent when the separatists surrender. Donetsk remained a ghost town on Sunday, with few civilians daring to venture outside as explosions rang out every few minutes and burnt-out buses and buildings smoldered from the night before.

    In a statement Saturday, newly elected rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko appeared to call for a cease-fire without stating any preconditions. But on Sunday, rebel spokeswoman Elena Nikitina repeated the rebels’ earlier stance, telling the Associated Press that talks on the conflict could only begin if the Ukrainian army withdrew from the region — something Kiev is unlikely to do.

    She also denounced the government as “incapable of negotiating.”

    Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that the only way for the rebels in Donetsk to save their lives would be to “lay down their arms and give up.” He said the Ukrainian side hadn’t seen the rebels show any real willingness to cooperate.

    “If white flags come up and they lay down their arms, nobody is going to shoot at them,” he said. “(But) we have not seen any practical steps yet, just a statement.”

    Lysenko added that the Ukrainian military’s recent successes in encircling Donetsk had bred “panic and chaos in the ranks of the rebels,” and said the Kiev government had information about rebels “deserting their posts en masse.”

    Conditions were clearly deteriorating in Donetsk, the largest rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine. Associated Press reporters heard 25 loud explosions in as many minutes around noon. According to city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky, at least one person was killed and 10 injured in shelling overnight, as more than 10 residential buildings, a hospital and a shop were heavily damaged in the fighting.

    Rovinsky said that he believed 100,000 people had left the city of one million in the past week alone — adding to the 300,000 who were already estimated to have fled. He said at least 10,000 people were without electricity, and that the local government was working hard to preserve access to gas, electricity, and phone service and “avoid a humanitarian crisis.” More than 1,300 people have died in the conflict since April, according to a U.N. estimate.

    Rebel leader Zakharchenko’s apparent call for a cease-fire Saturday was met with support from Russia, where Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by news agency ITAR TASS as saying a truce was “not only possible, but necessary.”

    “We believe the question is urgent and there can be no delay, and the issue is under the control of the Russian president,” he said. Lavrov said that Russia was reaching out to the Red Cross and the U.N. to discuss the possibility of delivering humanitarian aid to the region.

    However, the rebels’ request was met warily by government officials in Kiev and in the West. Those leaders expressed concern that the move could be aimed at increasing international pressure on Ukraine to allow in a Russian aid mission. The West says that could be used as a pretext to bring Russian soldiers into Ukraine — and says 20,000 of them are massed near the Russian border with Ukraine.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of providing arms and expertise to the rebels, something Russia denies.

    He issued a statement late Saturday saying that Ukraine was prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine. But he said the aid must come in without military assistance, pass through border checkpoints under Ukrainian control and be an international mission.

    Poroshenko said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed German participation in such a mission.

    On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmer expressed “great concern” that the humanitarian situation for civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk is getting worse. He said Germany is already working with the ICRC and U.N. agencies to ensure that existing aid is coordinated and gets delivered where it is needed.

    He said was “good that there seems to be basic agreement about the delivery of humanitarian goods between Ukraine and Russia,” but said that Russian aid “must only be delivered with the express agreement of the Ukrainian government” and under the supervision of international organizations.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2014, 7:00 pm
  7. And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?

    The Telegraph
    Ukraine crisis: the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists
    Kiev throws paramilitaries – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle with rebels

    By Tom Parfitt, Urzuf

    9:00AM BST 11 Aug 2014

    The fighters of the Azov battalion lined up in single file to say farewell to their fallen comrade. His pallid corpse lay under the sun in an open casket trimmed with blue velvet.

    Some of the men placed carnations by the body, others roses. Many struck their chests with a closed fist before touching their dead friend’s arm. One fighter had an SS tattoo on his neck.

    Sergiy Grek, 22, lost a leg and died from massive blood loss after a radio-controlled anti-tank mine exploded near to him.

    As Ukraine’s armed forces tighten the noose around pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, the western-backed government in Kiev is throwing militia groups – some openly neo-Nazi – into the front of the battle.

    The Azov battalion has the most chilling reputation of all. Last week, it came to the fore as it mounted a bold attack on the rebel redoubt of Donetsk, striking deep into the suburbs of a city under siege.

    In Marinka, on the western outskirts, the battalion was sent forward ahead of tanks and armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army’s 51st Mechanised Brigade. A ferocious close-quarters fight ensued as they got caught in an ambush laid by well-trained separatists, who shot from 30 yards away. The Azov irregulars replied with a squall of fire, fending off the attack and seizing a rebel checkpoint.

    Mr Grek, also known as “Balagan”, died in the battle and 14 others were wounded. Speaking after the ceremony Andriy Biletsky, the battalion’s commander, told the Telegraph the operation had been a “100% success”. “The battalion is a family and every death is painful to us but these were minimal losses,” he said. “Most important of all, we established a bridgehead for the attack on Donetsk. And when that comes we will be leading the way.”

    The military achievement is hard to dispute. By securing Marinka the battalion “widened the front and tightened the circle”, around the rebels’ capital, as another fighter put it. While Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, prevaricates about sending an invasion force into Ukraine, the rebels he backs are losing ground fast.

    But Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, proclaimed in eastern Ukraine in March, should send a shiver down Europe’s spine. Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming.

    The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.

    “Personally, I’m a Nazi,” said “Phantom”, a 23-year-old former lawyer at the ceremony wearing camouflage and holding a Kalashnikov. “I don’t hate any other nationalities but I believe each nation should have its own country.” He added: “We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists.”

    The Telegraph was invited to see some 300 Azov fighters pay respects to Mr Grek, their first comrade to die since the battalion was formed in May. An honour guard fired volleys into the air at the battalion’s headquarters on the edge of Urzuf, a small beach resort on Ukraine’s Azov Sea coast. Two more militiamen died on Sunday fighting north of Donetsk. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, called one of them a hero.

    Each new recruit receives only a couple of weeks of training before joining the battalion. The interior ministry and private donors provide weapons.

    Mr Biletsky, a muscular man in a black T-shirt and camouflage trousers, said the battalion was a light infantry unit, ideal for the urban warfare needed to take cities like Donetsk.

    The 35-year old commander began creating the battalion after he was released from pre-trial detention in February in the wake of pro-western protests in Kiev. He had denied a charge of attempted murder, claiming it was politically motivated.

    A former history student and amateur boxer, Mr Biletsky is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote in a recent commentary. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

    The battalion itself is founded on right wing views, the commander said in Urzuf, and no Nazi convictions could exclude a recruit. “The most important thing is being a good fighter and a good brother so that we can trust each other,” he said.

    Interestingly, many of the men in the battalion are Russians from eastern Ukraine who wear masks because they fear their relatives in rebel-controlled areas could be persecuted if their identities are revealed.

    Phantom said he was such a Russian but that he was opposed to Moscow supporting “terrorists” in his homeland: “I volunteered and all I demanded was a gun and the possibility to defend my country.”

    Asked about his Nazi sympathies, he said: “After the First World World War, Germany was a total mess and Hitler rebuilt it: he built houses and roads, put in telephone lines, and created jobs. I respect that.” Homosexuality is a mental illness and the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question”, he added.

    Stepan, 23, another fighter, said that if leaders of the pro-Russian separatists were captured they should be executed after a military tribunal.

    Such notions seem a far cry from the spirit of the “Maidan” protests that peaked in Kiev in February with the ousting of Mr Yanukovich, who had refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Young liberals led the way but the uprising, which ended with the president fleeing to Russia, provoked a huge patriotic awakening that sucked in hardline groups.

    Azov’s extremist profile and slick English–language pages on social media have even attracted foreign fighters. Mr Biletsky says he has men from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scandinavia. At the base in Urzuf, Mikael Skillt, 37, a former sniper with the Swedish Army and National Guard, leads and trains a reconnaissance unit.

    “When I saw the Maidan protests I recognised bravery and suffering,” he told the Telegraph. “A warrior soul was awakened. But you can only do so much, going against the enemy with sticks and stones. I had some experience and I though maybe I could help.”

    Mr Skillt says he called himself a National Socialist as a young man and more recently he was active in the extreme right wing Party of the Swedes. “Now I’m fighting for the freedom of Ukraine against Putin’s imperialist front,” he said.

    Ukraine’s government is unrepentant about using the neo-Nazis. “The most important thing is their spirit and their desire to make Ukraine free and independent,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “A person who takes a weapon in his hands and goes to defend his motherland is a hero. And his political views are his own affair.”

    Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian and Ukrainian security affairs at New York University, fears battalions like Azov are becoming “magnets to attract violent fringe elements from across Ukraine and beyond”. “The danger is that this is part of the building up of a toxic legacy for when the war ends,” he said.

    Extremist paramilitary groups who have built up “their own little Freikorps” and who are fundamentally opposed to finding consensus may demand a part in public life as victors in the conflict, Mr Galeotti added. “And what do you do when the war is over and you get veterans from Azov swaggering down your high street, and in your own lives?”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 11, 2014, 11:04 am
  8. This is somewhat fascinating: Russia has announced that it’s going to be sending in a humanitarian aid convoy to Donetsk this week in coordination with the Red Cross, but over opposition from the West and with an unclear commitment from the Red Cross. At the same time, Kiev appears to be coordinating its own humanitarian aid convoy to Donetsk with the West while NATO’s chief expressed fears that this is really a plan to set up a pretext for a Russian invasion. So there’s now a complicated international convoy competition to get aid to the people of Donetsk while preventing the other side from getting there first. Considering all of the other developments that have taken place in this crazy conflict, and assuming we’re not about to see the situation spiral out of control and into a WWIII scenario, it could be worse:

    Russia sending aid convoy to Ukraine despite Western warnings of ‘invasion pretext’

    By Adrian Croft and Sergei Karpukhin

    BRUSSELS/DONETSK Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:48pm EDT

    (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia is sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite urgent Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.

    With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, NATO said there was a “high probability” that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country’s east, where Kiev’s forces are closing in on pro-Russian separatists.

    Western countries believe that Putin – who has whipped up the passions of Russians with a nationalist campaign in state-controlled media since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March – could now send his forces into the east to head off a humiliating rebel defeat.

    Thousands of people are believed to be short of water, electricity and medical aid due to the fighting, but U.S. President Barack Obama told his Ukrainian counterpart that any Russian intervention without Kiev’s consent would be unacceptable and violate international law.

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso delivered a blunter message directly to Putin in a telephone call on Monday. “President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian,” the Commission said in a statement.

    The Kremlin, in its own account of the conversation, made clear that Moscow would indeed send help to largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

    “It was noted that the Russian side, in collaboration with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is sending an aid convoy to Ukraine,” the Kremlin statement said, without revealing when the convoy was going.

    In a cautious response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had submitted a document to Russian and Ukrainian officials on delivering aid. However, the independent agency stressed in a statement that it needed agreement from all parties as well as security guarantees to carry out the operation, as it does not use armed escorts.

    “The practical details of this operation need to be clarified before this initiative can move forward,” said Laurent Corbaz, head of ICRC operations for Europe and Central Asia.

    According to U.N. agencies, more than 1,100 people have been killed including government forces, rebels and civilians in the four months since the separatists seized territory in the east and Kiev launched its crackdown.


    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came out in support of an aid mission but made clear it had to be an international effort under the aegis of the ICRC, involving the European Union as well as Russia.

    He won Obama’s backing when they spoke by phone on Monday.

    The White House quoted Obama as saying that any Russian intervention without the Ukrainian government’s agreement would be “unacceptable” and a violation of international law.

    Earlier, Kiev said it was in the “final stages” of recapturing the eastern city of Donetsk – the main base of the separatist rebels – in a battle that could mark a turning point in a conflict that has caused the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

    An industrial metropolis with a pre-war population of nearly 1 million, Donetsk rocked to the crash of shells and gunfire over the weekend, and heavy guns boomed through the night into Monday from the outskirts of the city.

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no sign Russia had withdrawn the troops it had massed at the Ukrainian frontier. Asked in a Reuters interview how he rated the chances of Russian military intervention, Rasmussen said: “There is a high probability.”

    “We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation under the guise of a humanitarian operation, and we see a military build-up that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine,” he said.


    NATO fears Moscow would use any aid mission as a cover to save the rebels, who are fighting for control of two provinces under the banner of “New Russia”, a term Putin has used for southern and eastern Ukraine, where mostly Russian is spoken.

    Ukraine appears to be pressing ahead with its offensive, undeterred by the presence of what NATO says are about 20,000 Russian troops massed on the nearby border for a potential ground invasion.

    Lysenko said Ukrainian government forces had finally succeeded in cutting off the road between Donetsk and Luhansk, the other main rebel-held city, which is closer to the Russian border. Kiev and its Western allies say the route has been the principal means of supplying the rebels in Donetsk with weapons.

    Fighting in recent weeks has focused on the route, near where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in July, killing all 298 people on board. Washington says the plane was almost certainly shot down accidentally by rebels using an advanced Russian missile. Moscow denies this.

    “The forces of the anti-terrorist operation are preparing for the final stage of liberating Donetsk,” Lysenko told Reuters. “Our forces have completely cut Donetsk off from Luhansk. We are working to liberate both cities, but it’s better to liberate Donetsk first – it is more important.”

    The leader of the rebels in Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko, a local man who took over the leadership from a Russian citizen last week, said the fighters were considering mounting a counter-attack against government forces in the next two or three days.

    And a volunteer government fighter suggested claims that government forces were about to take Donetsk were inflated. “Taking the town is an extremely complicated business and painful … It will take, at the very least, several weeks,” said Andriy Beletsky, commander of the so-called Azov battalion.

    Municipal authorities in Donetsk said artillery shelling knocked out power stations in the city and hit a high-security prison, killing one inmate and allowing more than 100 criminals to escape.

    Note the sentiment expressed by the commander of the Azov battalion at the end: “Taking the town is an extremely complicated business and painful … It will take, at the very least, several weeks”. Also keep in mind that the neo-Nazi infested Azov battalion is tasked with clearing urban areas for Kiev. It’s a reminder that the talk by Ukraine’s government of the army being in the ‘final stages’ of recapturing Donetsk should probably not be interpreted as suggesting that this will be over quickly. When the leader of the crazy neo-Nazi death squad is saying that it will take “at the very least, several weeks”, we should probably assume that a multi-month long period of shelling and blockades is in store for Donetsk, if not worse. And since groups like the Azov battalion are leading the charge in the urban combat, that means that in addition to all the shelling there could be several months of neo-Nazi death squads fighting across Donetsk in intense urban combat in a city still filled with civilians. The ‘convoy competition’ between Moscow and the West could grow quite a bit more complicated going forward.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 11, 2014, 7:40 pm
  9. The convoy competition is turning into a convoy showdown:

    Ukraine says may block Russian aid convoy

    By Pavel Polityuk and Dmitry Zhdannikov

    KIEV/MOSCOW Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:57pm EDT

    (Reuters) – A Russian convoy of trucks carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid left on Tuesday for eastern Ukraine, where government forces are closing in on pro-Russian rebels, but Kiev said it would not allow the vehicles to cross onto its territory.

    Kiev and Western governments warned Moscow against any attempt to turn the operation into a military intervention by stealth in a region facing a humanitarian crisis after four months of warfare.

    “This cargo will be reloaded onto other transport vehicles (at the border) by the Red Cross,” Ukrainian presidential aide Valery Chaly told journalists.

    “We will not allow any escort by the emergencies ministry of Russia or by the military (onto Ukrainian territory). Everything will be under the control of the Ukrainian side,” he said.

    Russia said it would transfer the convoy to the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross, but made no reference to the demand the goods be reloaded. The European Union said the aid would have to be verified.

    “No political or any other objectives must be pursued,” EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told a news conference. “The content of humanitarian aid must be exactly that, humanitarian aid, and obviously cannot be taken on face value.”

    Russian media said the column of 280 trucks had left from near Moscow and it would take a couple of days for it to make the 1,000 km (620 mile) journey to Ukraine’s eastern regions where rebel fighters seek union with Russia.

    Western countries believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has whipped up nationalist fervor in Russia through the state-controlled media since annexing Crimea in March, might be spurred to fresh action since separatists in their main redoubt of Donetsk are now encircled by Kiev government forces.

    Rossiya 24 TV showed a 3-km long line of containers and trucks loaded with crates of drinking water and other products stretched along a road with workers loading sacks of aid. A Russian orthodox priest marched across a line of trucks, spraying them with holy water before they left.

    “It has all been agreed with Ukraine,” Business FM radio quoted Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying of an operation publicized with fanfare on Russian TV channels.

    The U.S., French and Australian governments voiced concern that Russia, sole international supporter of rebels in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, could use the humanitarian deliveries to carry out a covert operation to help fighters who appear to be on the verge of defeat.


    With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, NATO said on Monday that there was a “high probability” Moscow might now intervene militarily in Ukraine.[ID:nL6N0QH2YV]

    Itar-Tass news agency said the convoy carried 2,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid. It included 400 tonnes of cereals, 100 tonnes of sugar, 62 tonnes of baby food, 54 tonnes of medical equipment and medicine, 12,000 sleeping bags and 69 generators.

    Thousands of people are believed to be short of water, electricity and medical aid in Donetsk and in the border town of Luhansk due to bitter fighting, involving air strikes and missile attacks.

    U.N. agencies say well over 1,000 people have been killed, including government forces, rebels and civilians, in the conflict in which a Malaysian airliner was downed on July 17 with the deaths of all 298 people on board.

    A further six Ukrainian soldiers were killed in action overnight, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, bringing to more than 570 the number of government forces killed since conflict erupted in April.

    Kiev and its Western allies say Russia, which opposes the new leadership’s pro-Western policies, has been funneling tanks, missiles and other heavy weapons to the rebels for months. Moscow denies this.

    Now that the convoy showdown is poised to heat tensions up even more, it might be a good time to recall that even if the crisis in Ukraine is miraculously resolved tomorrow, the crisis in Ukraine is far from the only unresolved conflict currently pushing Russia and the West towards some sort of larger conflict. Especially if the ‘Russian Aggression Act’ becomes US law:

    The Nation
    The GOP’s Utterly Reckless ‘Russian Aggression Act’ Will Only Worsen the Ukrainian Crisis

    The bill reads like a wish list for NATO and Kiev.
    James Carden
    August 12, 2014

    If there was any doubt that the war hawks in Congress are itching to take flight over Moscow, they need only page through Senator Bob Corker’s Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 (S.2277). Submitted to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations just as the number of civilian casualties and refugees in eastern Ukraine began to tick ever higher in mid-May, the bill is, in essence, a GOP wish list not only for their new friends in Kiev but for both NATO and the entire former Soviet space as well.

    Some of the bill’s proposed measures are fairly anodyne, if only because they are so completely unrealistic. One section seeks to promote ‘Strengthened US-German Cooperation on Global and European Security Issues’ and would allocate $5 million annually to go towards a US-German Security Working Group. I would estimate that, given the continued revelations of US intelligence activities in Germany that there’s exactly zero-appetite for a ‘working group’ of this nature in Berlin at the present time.

    A number of the bill’s sections are taken up with satiating the depressingly familiar Congressional mania for democracy promotion abroad. The State Department is directed to increase its efforts “directly or through nongovernmental organizations” to improve democracy and civil society in Russia. This provision would seem, given the fact that the Russian government expelled the USAID Mission in the latter half of 2012, to be little more than a ploy with which to aggravate Vladimir Putin than a serious attempt to spread “our values”. Worse, it never seems to occur to our political establishment that funding pro-democracy organizations during times of heightened US-Russia tensions may put the very organizations they wish to assist in danger given the Foreign Agents registration law that was passed by the Duma last year. Lest you think the bill would confine its “pro-democracy” agenda to Russia, several sections later we are informed that the State Department would be directed to expand their crusade to “the countries of the former Soviet Union” at the cost of $25 million annually over the next three years.

    As counterproductive as the aforementioned proposals would be; the majority of the act is taken up with responding to the current crisis in Ukraine, and in the worst possible way. It would impose “immediate new sanctions” which would target major Russian banks, energy companies and arms manufacturers, along with their “Russian-owned subsidiaries and senior Russian executives.” That sanctions may have the opposite of their intended effect seems to have dawned on even some of the shriller members of Washington’s pundit class, but Congress, if this bill is anything to go by, is sticking to what it thinks it knows.

    The bill also seeks to further “strengthen” what is, by common consensus, by far the world’s most powerful military alliance: NATO. The call to accelerate the deployment of missile defense systems to East-Central Europe, for instance, was, given the bill’s provenance, entirely expected; the proposal to treat Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as “major non-NATO allies”, however, is cause for alarm. As of today, these three countries, along with nineteen others, are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP), a program begun under the Clinton administration to encourage bilateral relations with NATO, but really not much more. Even Russia is a member of the PfP. But the designation of “major non-NATO ally” is something altogether different; this would give Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, three countries with unresolved territorial disputes with Russia, the same status vis à vis the alliance as Australia, South Korea, Japan and Israel. It would, among other things, exempt these countries from any of the provisions of the Arms Control Export Act and allow for access to American financing for weapons purchases.

    Almost as reckless as the aforementioned section, other parts of the act would compel the administration to “use all appropriate elements of United States national power…to protect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial and economic integrity of Ukraine and other sovereign nations in Europe and Eurasia from Russian aggression.” (Italics mine). In other words, Congress would authorize the administration to make NATO-like security guarantees to dozens of countries throughout Eurasia with whom we previously had not had any alliance commitments with whatever. The bill would authorize the secretary of State to spend up to $100 million “to provide direct military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and small arms.” In essence, Corker and his twenty-six co-sponsors are urging the United States to wade ever deeper (we are already sending military advisers to Kiev) into a proxy war with Russia.

    What this bill exemplifies is Congress’s chronic inability to either address a foreign policy problem without turning first to a military solution or to consider whether past American policies have in any way contributed to the current crises. Further, the bill, in its urging for closer integration of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova with NATO, signally fails to distinguish between core and peripheral American interests abroad.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 12, 2014, 12:02 pm
  10. With a dozen people reportedly killed from a Right Sector battalion and Dmytro Yarosh vowing revenge, here’s another article indicating that the plan is for these “volunteer battalions” to play a key, front-line role in executing the street-to-street fighting in the urban areas following shelling by Kiev’s artillery:

    Wall Street Journal
    Ukraine’s Motley Volunteers Blend Patriotism With Bravado
    Ragtag Battalions Include Some With Checkered Pasts

    By Philip Shishkin

    Aug. 13, 2014 4:05 p.m. ET

    MARIUPOL, Ukraine— Ruslan Abalmaz, a martial-arts enthusiast with intricate tattoos running down his arms, spent seven years in jail on extortion charges. He’s now a police officer, a switch that would have seemed laughable to him just months ago.

    “It’s a paradox,” Mr. Abalmaz said as he raced a green-and-black van filled with men carrying automatic weapons through the streets of this seaside town, on their way to battle with pro-Russia insurgents.

    The rebellion that began last spring initially made Ukraine look helpless on the battlefield. As rebels took over eastern cities, some opponents of separatism were kidnapped, tortured, and killed.

    Ukraine responded in part with volunteer battalions, tapping into patriotism and anger unleashed by what many saw as foreign aggression.

    Fighting alongside regular troops and heavy artillery, these battalions are a cross-section of Ukrainian society. But they also include extreme nationalists and people like Mr. Abalmaz, who aren’t prone to showing restraint.

    On a recent day, Mr. Abalmaz showed a municipal ID from a small town where his men had just fought. The card pictured a gray-haired man who looked to be in his 60s.

    “He’s lying somewhere rotting,” Mr. Abalmaz said, describing the man as a separatist. “We don’t need him alive.”

    Asked if the man had been armed, Mr. Abalmaz said, “No, he had no weapon, but they get their weapons at night.” Later, Mr. Abalmaz said the man did have a pistol in his car and was trying to escape.

    As Kiev presses its military offensive against the separatists, these volunteers are playing a key role. They go into insurgent territory softened up by Ukrainian artillery and conduct block-by-block clearance operations, which bring them into contact with the civilian population as well.

    Any retribution against those deemed to have collaborated with the insurgents would risk undermining the broader battle for hearts and minds in eastern Ukraine, an industrial region where many people are leery of the rebels yet worried about Kiev’s military campaign.

    After a particularly disastrous insurgent attack this summer, Mr. Abalmaz’s crew fled to Dnipropetrovsk, the capital of a neighboring region. There, they presented themselves to Gennady Korban, an aide to Ihor Kolomoisky, a wealthy banking tycoon and now regional governor, who has been financing Ukrainian volunteer battalions.

    Mr. Abalmaz’s criminal past didn’t spook Mr. Korban, who says the coal merchant is just one of many people who had problems with the police under the previous, allegedly corrupt regime, often in trumped-up cases. Mr. Abalmaz’s recently formed Miner Battalion is financed partly through Mr. Kolomoisky’s largess.

    The volunteers are integrated into the Ministry of Interior, which makes them police officers. Mr. Abalmaz says he ran into resistance from the regular police. “They said, ‘He was dangerous in peacetime, don’t give him weapons now,’ ” Mr. Abalmaz recalls. He was eventually cleared though, and became a police sergeant.

    Viktor Chelovan, who supervises the battalions at the Ministry of Interior, notes that at the outset of the separatist uprising, regular police, though unblemished by criminal records, refused to fight and many collaborated with the insurgents. So new kinds of people were needed. Despite his past, Mr. Abalmaz “proved himself to be a patriot and a good commander,” he said.

    Mr. Chelovan said he had no evidence of illegal activities or abuses by the volunteers in territories retaken from the separatists.

    Given the outsized role the far right groups were given in new Kiev government as a sort of reward for their outsized role in the Maidan Square protests, what kind of perks will this kind of role win them?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 13, 2014, 12:34 pm
  11. The convoy showdown just got violent: Kiev announced that it destroyed most of a column of Russian military vehicles that reportedly cross into Ukraine last night. Russia claims this is a fantasy and that the vehicles weren’t from the Russian military but hired by private businessmen. Meanwhile, the Russian aid convoy is reportedly still stuck at the border with Kiev’s military first claiming it has begun inspections but later denying that, saying they did not have the proper paperwork detailing the trucks’ contents. Additionally, Kiev’s military spokesman claimed that it wasn’t Kiev’s artillery that shelled downtown Donetsk. It was the rebels that did it. No explanation for that was given. So the situation continues to become violently surreal in Ukraine while the aid convoys remain in place and the shelling of Donetsk continues:

    The New York Times
    Ukraine Says It Destroyed Military Vehicles Crossing Border From Russia


    KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russia — NATO and Ukraine said that a column of military vehicles crossed into Ukraine from Russia last night and that most of them had been destroyed by Ukrainian artillery fire. It was not clear whether Russian soldiers or rebel separatists were driving the vehicles.

    President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said in a statement on his website that he could confirm some Western news reports that the column had crossed into Ukraine last night.

    “The president informed that the given information was trustworthy and confirmed because the majority of the machines had been eliminated by Ukrainian artillery at night,” the statement said.

    In Copenhagen, the secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said that the alliance had detected an “incursion” of vehicles from Russia last night, adding: “What we have seen last night is the continuation of what we have seen for some time.”

    Meanwhile, the convoy of more than 260 trucks that Russia says are filled with food and other aid for civilians caught up in the fighting in eastern Ukraine remained stalled inside Russia on Friday amid confusion over when inspections would start. Ukraine and its Western allies want to ensure that the cargo contains only relief supplies and not items that could help pro-Russian fighters battling to survive a Ukrainian offensive.

    A statement early Friday by the Ukrainian military said border guards had started examining the trucks, but the military’s spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, later denied this and said inspections could not begin until the Ukrainian authorities received documents detailing the trucks’ contents.

    Mr. Lysenko said Ukraine had sent border guards and customs officials to a Russian border town to examine the trucks but was still waiting for the necessary documentation from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross, for its part, said Russia had yet to provide a detailed inventory and called for a speedy resolution of the problem.

    In the interim, Red Cross staff members, representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and more than 50 Ukrainian border guards already on site had nothing to do.

    In a statement issued in Geneva, the Red Cross said swift action was need to allow “confirmation of the strictly humanitarian nature of the cargo.”

    The trucks were in a border zone close to several military bases, where columns of armored military vehicles driving in the direction of the Ukrainian border are a common sight. Two Western journalists reported seeing 23 armored vehicles crossing a border post into Ukraine on Thursday evening.

    Ukraine and the United States have accused Russia of covertly arming pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

    Russian news agencies quoted an unidentified spokesman for the border guard service as saying that the service, run by the F.S.B. — the successor agency to the K.G.B. — had deployed more mobile teams near the border. The spokesman said this was a response to increased infiltration by Ukrainian servicemen into Russia and more frequent shelling across the border. He denied that any vehicles had crossed the border, calling such reports “completely untrue.”

    Sergey Karavaytsev of Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations denied that the trucks in the convoy were from the military and said they were hired through private businesses. Masked guards who said they were military police officers also appeared at the camp site late Thursday evening. Members of the Red Cross were also at the convoy’s field camp on Friday, Mr. Karavaytsev said.

    In Kiev, Mr. Lysenko said that an agreement had been reached to allow the inspection of the convoy, and the searches would start once the dispute over paperwork was resolved. “Help is needed and we accepted it,” he said, adding that Ukrainian inspectors had already traveled to Donetsk, a small Russian town that has the same name as a separatist stronghold in eastern Ukraine, to begin their work. “But we can’t start the procedure because we don’t have documents.”

    While backing away from the angry denunciations that characterized Ukraine’s initial response to Moscow’s relief effort, Mr. Lysenko repeated earlier Ukrainian accusations that Russia was sending military assistance across the border to pro-Russian rebels. He said unspecified military equipment had been moved into Ukraine from Russia through a border area controlled by the pro-Russian separatists.

    Stung by accusations that it is stalling the delivery of Russian relief supplies to the eastern city of Luhansk and is not doing enough to improve the plight of residents caught up in the fighting, Ukraine is sending its own aid convoys to the besieged city. Mr. Lysenko said 71 Ukrainian trucks had been sent to the conflict zone with food, water, tea, soap and other supplies. He said 390 tons of Ukrainian aid had already arrived in Luhansk.

    He denied rebel claims that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the shelling on Thursday of downtown Donetsk. Mr. Lysenko blamed rebels for the shelling, accusing them of firing into the city from positions near the Donetsk train station, but did not explain why the rebels would fire into a city they control.

    Russia announced that Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister, had spoken by telephone with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, about speeding the passage of the convoy. Aside from the urgent need to get the supplies across the border, the two men also agreed to work toward establishing a cease-fire while the aid is delivered, the Foreign Ministry statement said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 15, 2014, 10:18 am
  12. Dmytro Yarosh is threatening to “campaign in Kiev” if the government doesn’t give in to his demands:

    17 August 2014 Last updated at 10:19 ET
    Ukraine crisis: Russian aid convoy arrives at border

    Lorries from a Russian convoy carrying aid to eastern Ukraine have reached a border post controlled by separatists.

    But they seem unlikely to cross into Ukraine immediately as the Red Cross said it had still not received security guarantees for the convoy to continue.

    Earlier Ukraine’s military said that separatists had shot down a government fighter jet near the rebel-held city of Luhansk in the east of the country.

    A military spokesman said the pilot had ejected and was safe.

    In other developments:

    * Ukrainian Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko says government forces have taken a rebel-controlled police station in Luhansk and raised the Ukrainian flag “after a battle for… a residential district”. If confirmed, this would be the first time government forces have entered the city since the rebels seized control
    * Rebel sources say 10 civilians had been killed in the city of Donetsk over the past 24 hours as government forces continue an offensive
    * Mr Lysenko says a convoy of rocket launchers has been seen crossing from Russia into Ukraine, days after two Western journalists reported seeing military hardware entering from Russia. Russia has denied sending any weapons
    * German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says a new political impetus is needed to resolve the crisis and to avoid further escalation
    * The Russian, Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks on the eastern Ukraine crisis in Berlin later on Sunday

    More than 2,000 civilians and combatants have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine’s government sent troops to put down an uprising by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    But it faced a new challenge on Sunday as the leader of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector threatened to withdraw volunteers fighting on the government side.

    Dmytro Yarosh said Right Sector would launch a “campaign in Kiev” if its demands, including the release of detained members, were not met within 48 hours.

    He called on President Petro Poroshenko to “immediately bring order” to the Interior Ministry, which he accused of harbouring “revanchist forces”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 17, 2014, 6:58 pm
  13. Here’s a good article on the ongoing hush-hushing of extremely relevant history:

    Consortium News
    The Hushed-Up Hitler Factor in Ukraine
    August 16, 2014

    Behind the Ukraine crisis is a revision of World War II history that seeks to honor eastern European collaborators with Hitler and the Holocaust by repackaging these rightists as anti-Soviet heroes, a reality shielded from the U.S. public, as Dovid Katz explains.

    By Dovid Katz

    Would America support any type of Hitlerism in the course of the State Department’s effort to turn the anti-Russian political classes of Eastern Europe into paragons of PR perfection that may not be criticized, howsoever mildly?

    It was frankly disconcerting to see Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, embracing the leader of Ukraine’s far right, anti-Semitic, pro-fascist Svoboda party last December. It was disturbing to learn of the neo-Nazi elements that provided the “muscle” for the actual Maidan takeover last February (BBC’s Newsnight was among the few major Western outlets to dare cover that openly).

    Most disturbing of all has been the mainstream Western media’s almost Soviet-grade wall somehow erected against critical mention of the far-right component of Ukraine’s 2014 history, rendering any such thought as worthy of ridicule on New York Times opinion pages last spring.

    Most hilarious was the Times’s May 2014 publication of an (obviously ghost-written, State Department-scripted) op-ed by Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia V. Tymoshenko which quotes Churchill writing to Roosevelt, “Give us the tools, as we will finish the job,” rumbling on about “the just and open democracy that is America’s greatest bequest to the world.”

    This, from the far right politician who had shortly before that expressed genocidal musings for the millions of Russian-speaking citizens of her country, and who was, during her tenure as prime minister, a prime devotee of the wartime fascist leader Stepan Bandera, whose organization slaughtered tens of thousands (many historians put it at hundreds of thousands) of Polish and Jewish civilians based on ethnicity, in the Aryanist drive for an ethnically pure state precisely on the Nazi model.

    It was therefore refreshing to read in last Saturday’s Times a report that had, albeit buried near the end, a single line informing readers that “One [militia active in the Kiev government’s military campaign] known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” By contrast, London’s right-of-center Daily Telegraph ran a whole report Monday titled “The neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists,” rightly including the observation that the neo-Nazi forces being used by the Ukrainian government to do military heavy lifting “should send a shiver down Europe’s spine.”

    This goes to the heart of what is being kept from so many Western, and especially American readers. Putin — for all his authoritarianism, anti-democratic bent and revanchism — is not the cause of the Ukrainian conundrum (though he is certainly exploiting it). There is a genuine divide in Ukraine between a nationalist-dominated west and a Russian-speaking east.

    Anybody who has traveled the country will tell you that these “Russians” in the east, and wherever else they are to be found, would much rather be living in a European Union-type country than in a Russia-type country. What then is the problem? They do not want to live in an ultranationalist-dominated state that is anti-Russian in a 1930s Aryanesque sense of ethnically and linguistically pure Ukrainism. They much prefer the Russia-model state to that.

    Now those anti-racist values, including the revering of the Anglo-American-Soviet alliance that brought down Hitler, and the disdain of societies founded on models of racist purity, are in fact also American values. But that affinity between Western values and the easterners would never even be guessed at in the avalanche of Cold War II newsfeed coming our way.

    Incidentally, some Western reports that caricature the Putinist press’s use of the word “fascists” for Ukrainian nationalists don’t appreciate the colloquial Russian usage where it refers not necessarily to swastika-wielding thugs but even to high society that holds in esteem the likes of Bandera and other World War II-era Nazist fascists as supposed mythical “freedom fighters” to be revered today by the state, in street names, statues, museums, and more.

    That is not to say that America’s allies among the western Ukrainian nationalists are all pro-fascist. They are not. But there are two salient issues that go beyond Ukraine and cover all of “anti-Russian” Eastern Europe, particularly the new member states of NATO and the EU.

    The first is casual acceptance of neo-Nazi elements, symbolism and ideology as part of any kind of supposedly centrist mainstream. In Latvia and Estonia, this is exemplified by tacit (or not so tacit) state support for honors for those countries’ Waffen SS divisions. In Lithuania, it can be manifest in state-sponsored shrines to the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) killers who unleashed the Holocaust on Jewish neighbors before the first German soldiers had quite arrived.

    But there is a second issue that is much deeper, and has nothing to do with these more ostentatious kinds of Nazi worship. That issue is history.

    ‘History’ Alive

    While World War II is indeed “history” for the West, it is very much part of Now in Eastern Europe. State-sponsored institutions in the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, especially, and also at times in Croatia, Romania and elsewhere have invested a fortune in a kind of Holocaust revisionism that would whitewash their own nationalists’ collaboration with Hitler and turn the Soviet Union into the real Hitler.

    Known as “Double Genocide,” it posits the absolute theoretical equality of Nazi and Soviet crimes. Its constitution is the 2008 “Prague Declaration,” which most Americans have never heard of, that sports the word “same” five times in reference to Nazi and Soviet crimes. Even fewer Americans know that one of its demands, that the world accept a unitary mix-and-match day of remembrance for Nazi and Soviet victims, was snuck under the radar into last June’s congressional military appropriations bill.

    The issue across the board is the choice made by nationalist elites in Eastern Europe to construct national myths not on the merits of a country’s great artists, poets, thinkers and genuine freedom fighters, but all too often, on the basis of Nazi collaborators whose claim to fame is that they were also “anti-Soviet patriots.”

    The fact of the matter is that virtually all of Hitler’s collaborators in Eastern Europe were “anti-Soviet.” In fact, the Soviet Union was the only power putting up resistance to Hitler in Eastern Europe. If the Soviets had not pushed the Nazi armies back by the spring of 1944, at huge sacrifice to all the Soviet peoples, there would have been no D-Day or opening of a Western front.

    Whether it is hero-worship of Hungary’s Miklós Horthy, leaders of Croatia’s Hitlerist Ustasha, the Nazis’ Waffen SS divisions in Latvia and Estonia, or the likes of Ukraine’s Bandera and his OUN and UPA, and the Waffen SS, it is an offense to Western values that a NATO or EU state, or NATO/EU-aspiring state, would disburse state funds on the distortion of history, obfuscation of the Holocaust and construction of societies that admire the worst of history’s racists.

    To do so quite simply implies that all the minority citizens they butchered, or whose butchering they supported, were quite unworthy of continued existence. Incidentally, all these countries have real heroes from that darkest moment in their history: those (often the simplest of people) who just did the right thing and risked all to rescue a neighbor from the Nazist establishment collaborationist leadership of their own nationalists.

    Any viable solution needs to take into account that it is a deeply divided country even in the absence of (ever-present) Putinist mischief. It therefore needs to also take into account the many millions of Russian speakers who oppose the racial chauvinism of some of the nationalist elite now in or close to the government, and who have very different ideas about Twentieth Century history.

    That is the way forward, not the Cold War II nonsense of spreading the word that the westerners are pure angels and the easterners pure demons, not the neocon nonsense that America’s greatness depends on endless foreign military misadventures in regime change that lead to long , unpredictable, and uncontrollable cycles of violence.

    That America shares with Russia the magnificent legacy of having in tandem brought down Hitler’s empire is a heritage worth invoking for building better understanding, not a fact to be buried in deference to the far-right revision of Holocaust history with which much of nationalist Eastern Europe is so obsessed.

    Also: Shhhhh….

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 18, 2014, 9:05 am
  14. With neither side showing an interest in negotiations the street to street fighting and urban warfare rages on:


    Dozens killed in Ukraine as army battles to break rebels
    By Nicolas Gaudichet with Dmytro Gorshkov in Kiev

    Fierce fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left dozens of civilians dead on Wednesday with artillery pounding central Donetsk as Ukrainian troops pushed on with a bloody offensive.

    Deadly battles to crush the ailing rebellion appeared to intensify ahead of a fresh round of diplomacy that will see the presidents of Russia and Ukraine meet next week for the first time in months.

    Clashes in and around the besieged main rebel stronghold of Donetsk killed 43 civilians in the past 24 hours, local authorities said.

    AFP journalists saw fierce mortar fire tear through the centre of the city close to the state-of-the-art stadium of football team Shakhtar Donetsk, as Ukrainian troops tightened the vice on insurgents holed up in the mining hub.

    Street battles were raging in Ilovaysk, a key railway hub some 45 kilometres (30 miles) east of Donetsk, with authorities saying nine soldiers died in the area in the last 24 hours, including a US national who fought for a Ukrainian volunteer battalion.

    In the city of Makiyivka, adjoining Donetsk, residents were woken up by shelling in the early hours of Wednesday.

    “What bastards,” said local 81-year-old Maria Semyonovna, who said she was planning to go out in the morning but was stopped by sounds of explosions.

    “We are at home here and they are bombing us,” she told AFP. “When is it going to stop? Where can one go?”

    The renewed offensive comes as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gears up for a meeting in Minsk with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the heads of Belarus and Kazakhstan, and EU officials next week.

    That encounter will come after German Chancellor Angela Merkel jets in to Kiev on Saturday for her first visit to Ukraine in a show of support for the country’s pro-Western leadership.

    Poroshenko this week said the army was regrouping to continue its push on the separatist hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk and to fragment the rebel-held territory to stop the flow of weapons from Russia.

    “Both (Kiev and Moscow) are trying to improve their starting positions” ahead of their Minsk encounter, said political analyst Oleksiy Golubutskyi. “If Ukraine manages to gain control over Lugansk or even Donetsk before these talks, then the issue of demilitarising them disappears.”

    – Russian arms flowing? –

    Kiev has accused Moscow of ratcheting up arms flows to help bolster the separatists as Ukrainian forces have pushed deeper into dwindling rebel territory with clashes killing around 2,200 people since April.

    Western powers also fear Putin could be preparing to send in the 20,000 troops NATO says he has massed on the border as a last roll of the dice.

    A Ukrainian military spokesman could not confirm claims from a commander in the field that a massive convoy of Russian armoured vehicles had entered the second-largest insurgent city of Lugansk.

    Igor Voronchenko, head of military operations around the city, told local television on Tuesday that tanks, Grad rocket launchers, artillery and over 1,200 fighters were seen entering the city after crossing over from Russia.

    Ukrainian forces say they have wrested back control over “a significant part” of Lugansk over the past few days. Residents have endured over two weeks without water and food and authorities have warned of possible infectuous epidemics.

    – Aid still stuck –

    There seemed to be some signs of progress in the week-long saga that has seen some 300 Russian lorries with humanitarian aid parked up at the border with Ukriane’s Lugansk region.

    Kiev fears that the convoy may be attacked if allowed to cross into rebel territory and could give the Kremlin a pretext to invade.

    Russia said on Wednesday that it had agreed with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to “begin movement” of the convoy despite worries over safety guarantees.

    An ICRC spokeswoman in Moscow Viktoria Zotikova confirmed a “very small” advance group of Red Cross officials had driven into eastern Ukraine to test the route.

    “They have to check road and security conditions to prepare the convoy’s movement” before deciding on its departure time, she said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2014, 12:55 pm
  15. Here’s some background on Mark “Franko” Paslawsky, the Ukrainian-American member of the Donbas Battalion that died yesterday while trying to capture the town if Ilovaysk. In addition to an intense hatred of the Russians, Pawlawsky was reportedly motivated by a deep opposition to endemic corruption, and predicted that, once the war is over, the volunteer Battalions will set their sights on the authorities in Kiev with a “Maidan 3.0”:

    The Only American Fighting For Ukraine Dies in Battle

    By Simon Ostrovsky
    August 20, 2014 | 2:20 pm

    Mark Gregory Paslawsky, the sole American fighting on the Ukrainian side of the war in the east of the country, died from injuries sustained in battle in the town of Ilovaysk on Tuesday.

    Known by the codename “Franko,” the 55-year-old investment banker was a Manhattan native, and had a slight limp and a pronounced New York accent, making him seem an unlikely candidate for a soldier in an eastern European war that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives.

    VICE News interviewed Paslawsky in early August in the Luhansk region where he had been deployed with the volunteer Donbas Battalion. He said he decided to take up arms against the separatist Russia-backed rebellion because of his family’s Ukrainian background, as well as the frustration and helplessness that came with watching news reports on Ukraine’s deteriorating situation after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

    Paslawsky worked in the financial sector and was based out of Kiev, Kharkiv, and Moscow for many years before he joined the Euromaidan protests that gripped the Ukrainian capital last winter. Most recently, he was an independent investment advisor.

    “Given what I saw, the level of incompetence, the corruption, the lack of activity — I just decided that I needed to go and participate. If there was ever a time to help Ukraine this was the time to do it,” he told VICE News.

    After graduating from West Point, Paslawsky served in the US Army Rangers until he was 32 years old.

    Paslawsky could also be merciless, however. Lex explained that after capturing eight separatists, half of whom were Russian, a Ukrainian soldier gave one of the prisoners a drag from a cigarette and Paslawsky burst into a rage. “He said, ‘Why don’t you pour him a shot of vodka as well. These are the guys trying to kill us!'” Lex recalled. “He really hated the Russians. We all hate the Russians.”

    However, Paslawsky and the other members of the Donbas Battalion weren’t just motivated to take up arms by events in the east, which have resulted in chunks of Ukrainian territory being declared independent statelets by armed men from both Russia and Ukraine. Many see another enemy in the culture of corruption among Ukraine’s elite.

    “When you hear the discussion among the guys — extremely passionate — and it all boils down to this whole thing of corruption and the fact that we’ve not seen change for 20 years,” Paslawsky told VICE News.

    He predicted that the volunteer battalions — which have emerged as a formidable force alongside regular Ukrainian troops — would set their sights on the Kiev authorities with a “Maidan 3.0,” as he called it, to push for reforms after the war was over.

    In a pre-interview before going on camera, Paslawsky also warned that the volunteer battalions could emerge as a dangerous, uncontrollable force that ought to be disbanded and replaced with regular army soldiers mobilized from the general population.

    He also added a quick, “Man, I don’t know,” a deep sigh, and “I hope this whole thing can be over before the end of August.” For Franko at least, it now is.

    “He predicted that the volunteer battalions — which have emerged as a formidable force alongside regular Ukrainian troops — would set their sights on the Kiev authorities with a “Maidan 3.0,” as he called it, to push for reforms after the war was over.” Now where did he get that idea…:

    Kiev Post
    Right Sector and interior minister make up after publicly trading threats, accusations
    Aug. 18, 2014, 7:49 p.m. | Oleg Sukhov

    The Right Sector ultranationalist party on Aug. 18 resolved its disagreements with the Interior Ministry after the group’s leader Dmytro Yarosh backed down on his threat to march on Kyiv on the previous day.

    The Right Sector, a major group behind the uprising that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych in February, threatened on Aug. 16 to withdraw its fighters from the war zone in eastern Ukraine. The party said it would bring them to Kyiv to attack the Interior Ministry after members of the group were arrested for illegal possession of arms.

    The statement highlighted the Right Sector’s long-running conflict with Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and its unhappiness with what it deems as a lack of progress on lustration and anti-corruption efforts – key demands of last winter’s EuroMaidan revolution.

    Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Avakov, wrote on Facebook on Aug. 18 that Avakov and Borislav Beryoza, head of the Right Sector’s information department, had held a meeting and discussed “illegal arms traffic” from the war zone and cooperation between the Interior Ministry and the nationalist group.

    “Avakov respects Right Sector activists’ contribution to the war on terrorism,” Gerashchenko wrote.

    But Avakov also said that the Right Sector should legalize its military arm as a unit within the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry or State Security Service. Until now, the unit has operated in the war zone illegally, and without any formal coordination with the official Anti-Terrorist Operation run by the government.

    The Right Sector set up the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps, headed by Andrei Stempitsky, in July.

    Yarosh said in a YouTube video published on Aug. 17 that all Right Sector detainees had been released, and that First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Yevdokimov would be fired – a key demand by the right-wing party. Yarosh called this a “small victory” of the Right Sector.

    He said that 15 members of the party had been detained in Kyiv, and some activists had also been arrested in Dnipropetrovsk. Yarosh claimed that some of them had been tortured.

    Yarosh also wrote on Facebook that Right Sector fighters had been prohibited from bringing weapons, ammunition and explosives from the war zone.

    Avakov confirmed on the same day that a request for Yevdokimov’s resignation had been sent to the Cabinet for approval two weeks ago but denied that it was his concession to the Right Sector’s demands.

    The Right Sector has also demanded Avakov’s resignation since Oleksandr Muzychko, a prominent activist of the group, was killed in March. The Interior Ministry has stated that Muzychko committed suicide when he was chased by police officers, while the Right Sector says he was shot by police.

    Earlier this month police also clashed with the group near the city of Stryi in the Lviv region, where police officers shot at the wheels of a vehicle carrying Right Sector activists. Six members of the party were arrested, and grenade launchers, machine guns and assault rifles were confiscated from the vehicle.

    Yarosh has been very outspoken in his criticism of the government.

    “Currently, in addition to Russia’s open aggression, internal counterrevolution has also been stepped up,” the Right Sector said on Aug. 16, before threatening to march into Kyiv. “Its avant-garde is the revanchist forces in the Interior Ministry, including high-ranking officials.”

    The party pointed the finger at Police Colonel General Yevdokimov.

    “This group of policemen and bandits is headed by General Yevdokimov, an accomplice of separatists and a puppet of Moscow,” the party said. “It is he and his henchmen who are doing everything to destroy the achievements of our revolution and pave the way to Kyiv for separatist and terrorist groups.”

    The group said that “those who stood against us on Hrushevsky and Institutska streets” during the revolution had started a counterattack against the Right Sector, using the fact that its fighters were on the frontline.

    “If our demands are not met, within 48 hours we will have to withdraw all our units from the frontline, announce total mobilization of our reserve battalions and start a march on Kyiv in order to carry out “speedy reforms” at the Interior Ministry,” the Right Sector said. “The Right Sector’s columns will be fully armed during the march.”

    The Right Sector’s announcement echoes a statement by Valentin Likholit, chief of staff of the Aidar volunteer battalion, made in early August. He said then that the Aidar, Azov and Donbass volunteer battalions, which comprise mostly Euromaidan supporters, would come back to Kyiv with arms and help President Petro Poroshenko fight corruption

    Reacting to the group’s statement, Avakov harshly criticized Yarosh in a Facebook post dated Aug. 17.

    “His PR is larger than life, his pose is even bigger,” he said. “Yarosh, your problem is that, thanks to your buffoonery of a brutal patriot, you deceive many people who have joined your effectively illegal armed groups – without any rules or principles, without law and order,” he said.

    He also blamed Yarosh for the 32 people who were either killed or taken prisoner near Donetsk on Aug. 12, saying that this happened because of his “incompetent command.”

    Avakov also said he doubted that the Right Sector had actually participated in any military operations.

    “Maybe (Yarosh) should say where his ‘units on the frontline’ are and by what logic and plan they operate in the war?” he wrote, adding that “nobody had really seen them, other than on photos and videos.”

    The Right Sector’s spokesman Artyom Skoropadsky dismissed Avakov’s claims as “nonsense” and said by phone that the minister would be “held responsible for each word.” He said that the government was to blame for the death of the Right Sector activists because they were traveling by bus and were not provided by the army with necessary protection.

    “Let Avakov remember that we have not hidden our revolutionary red and black flag,” he said. “And if (ex-President Viktor) Yanukovych-style corruption remains, the Right Sector might come back to Kyiv.”

    Yes, one of Right Sector’s main demands is that it be allowed to keep the weapons it captures in the battlefield, and if those demands aren’t met, Dmytro Yarosh threatens to make an armed march of Kiev. He’s quite a negotiator.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2014, 5:19 pm
  16. @Pterrafractyl–

    The relationship between the Ukrainian government and Pravy Sektor’s “Maidan Battalions” sounds somewhat similar to that of the German fascists who sponsored Hitler and the SA of Ernst Rohm.

    Whether there is some sort of “Ukrainian Night of the Long Knives,” or some kind of accommodation can be effected between the austerity oligarchs in Kiev and their EU/German allies/controllers remains to be seen.



    Posted by Dave Emory | August 20, 2014, 6:04 pm
  17. @Dave: Part of what make a future showdown between the oligarchs and the neo-Nazi components of the “volunteer battalions” seem so likely is that if the rebels manage to withstand the assaults on Luhansk and Donestsk long enough to force a negotiated peace the entire “anti-terrorism” campaign is possibly going to be viewed as a massive bloody failure by the populace at large. And that could empower groups like Right Sector, especially if the the fighting goes on for an extended period and the civilian casualties keep building. But if they succeed at quelling the rebels, jubilant battalions of neo-Nazis are probably still going to converge on Kiev for “anti-corruption” campaigns and transition into a “Maidan 3.0“-mode anyways. What’s going to stop them at that point? Maybe more high level government appointments could halt their ambitions, but for how long? It’s another situational parallel with the rise of the Nazis: a thorough grassroots rejection of the far-right by the Ukrainian populace at large is, at this point, probably the best hope going forward. Once the elites start trying to use and profit from the craziest far-right elements of society, any institution mechanisms that might have previously prevented a Nazi-like takeover have already been compromised.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2014, 7:19 pm
  18. The convoy showdown has entered a new stage: the “get it out or there will be consequences” stage:

    U.S. says Russia must pull convoy from Ukraine or face more sanctions

    By Natalia Zinets and Dmitry Madorsky


    (Reuters) – The United States demanded Moscow remove an aid convoy it sent into rebel-held eastern Ukraine without permission on Friday, accusing Russia of a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of its former Soviet neighbor and threatening more sanctions.

    Moscow, which has thousands of troops close to the Russian side of the border, warned against any attempt to “disrupt” the convoy, which it said was purely humanitarian. It did not say what action it might take if the Ukrainian military intervened.

    NATO’s top military commander said the movement of trucks looked like a disguised attempt to reinforce separatist forces.

    The Western defense alliance said Russian troops had been firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels since mid-August, a defacto charge that Russia was already waging war.

    White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Washington planned to discuss the situation with the U.N. Security Council on Friday and that if the convoy was not pulled out, the Russians would face “additional costs”.

    “We have seen the use of Russian artillery in Ukraine in the past days,” he said, when asked about the NATO statement.

    Moscow denies backing the rebels militarily but the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions and the Kremlin has retaliated, renewing some of the chill of the Cold War. NATO has deployed extra troops in member states bordering Russia, including former Soviet Baltic states and ex-communist Poland.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the entry of the trucks without Kiev’s permission as a “flagrant violation of international law”. But a senior security chief said Ukrainian forces would let them pass to avoid “provocations”.

    Kiev called on international allies to unite in “a decisive condemnation of illegal and aggressive actions” by Russia.

    NATO also said Russia risked further international isolation. It has ruled out intervening militarily on behalf of Ukraine, which is not a member, and Europe has been reluctant to step up sanctions due to trade ties and its need for Russian gas.

    Russia said it was not breaching international law and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call Moscow had been unable to wait any longer for Kiev’s green light to help people in distress.

    Merkel, who also spoke to Poroshenko, expressed her great concern, praising the Ukrainians for a “prudent” reaction and calling for a speedy ceasefire and shoring up of the frontier.


    The largely Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions both declared independence after a plebiscite deemed illegal by Kiev. The regions have seen intense fighting in recent weeks as rebels have been driven back into pockets.

    Moscow, at odds with Ukraine since pro-Western protests overthrew a pro-Russian president in February, had earlier expressed impatience with delays with the convoy, which left the Moscow region around Aug. 13.

    “We warn against any attempts to disrupt this purely humanitarian mission,” the Russian foreign ministry said. “Responsibility for any possible consequences of provocations … will lie, completely and entirely, with those who are prepared to further sacrifice human lives for the sake of their ambitions and geo-political ploys.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross, which both Moscow and Kiev had agreed should supervise the convoy, said it was not escorting it “due to the volatile security situation”.

    The entry of the trucks ran counter to the arrangement agreed with the ICRC and was a clear violation of the border, said Sebastien Brabant, spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

    NATO went a step further. “These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

    NATO Military Commander General Philip Breedlove compared the convoy to Russian humanitarian and peacekeeping moves in Georgia, Moldova and Crimea. “We have seen how they proved to be deceptions,” he said.

    Kiev has been using troops, artillery and air power to try to quell a separatist rebellion that broke out soon after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

    The last few weeks have seen a string of rebel defeats in a conflict that has killed more than 2,000 people.

    A Reuters cameraman said it had been possible to see inside some of the vehicles on Friday. The cargoes visible consisted of cardboard boxes with tinned food, pallets of bottled water, generators and other supplies.

    Poroshenko said on Thursday he would call on Putin to rein in pro-Russian separatists when the two meet next week and told the Kremlin chief he had “a strong country, a strong army”.

    Merkel is scheduled to visit Kiev on Saturday to show her support for Poroshenko – but diplomats say she is also bearing a message that he should consider calling a ceasefire so as not to incur a backlash from Putin.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2014, 2:26 pm
  19. With a military parade in Kiev showing off the military hardware about to head east and a parallel prisoner march in Donetsk following the surprise convoy run to Luhansk, it can be hard to imagine the tensions getting much higher in Ukraine any time soon. The 50% increase in defense spending over the next three years that was just announced by President Poroshenko makes it much less hard to imagine those tensions rising:

    Rebels parade captured Ukrainian soldiers in east
    PETER LEONARD and LAURA MILLS, Associated Press | August 24, 2014 | Updated: August 24, 2014 10:47am

    DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian insurgents on Sunday paraded captured Ukrainian soldiers through the streets of the rebel stronghold Donetsk as bystanders shouted abusive slurs and tossed eggs, bottles, and tomatoes at them.

    The display came as President Petro Poroshenko vowed to raise defense spending to defeat the rebels during an ostentatious procession of tanks and weaponry through downtown Kiev, meant to mark Ukraine’s 23rd anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union.

    The developments underscore the increasing divisions in Ukraine as it gears up for what could be many more months of conflict. While support and mobilization for Kiev’s campaign against the separatists has only grown in many parts of the country, resentments fester in much of the east, where civilian casualties and shelling have become a part of daily life.

    Resentment has grown in the east as residential areas have increasingly come under fire in recent weeks, with the civilian death toll rising to at least 2,000 since April, according to a United Nations report. In Donetsk, an estimated 300,000 of the city’s population of 1 million have fled the fighting, and many of those who remain have gone weeks without electricity or running water and spent days staked out in bomb shelters.

    Early Sunday, artillery shells struck several residential buildings as well as a major hospital and morgue in downtown Donetsk, although nobody was reported killed. The government has denied that Ukraine’s forces were responsible for the shelling of any residential buildings or hospitals.

    The situation is even direr in Luhansk, a city closer to the Russian border whose war-reduced population of a quarter-million people has suffered under constant fighting in recent weeks. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, told journalists Sunday said 68 civilians had been wounded there in the past 24 hours, but could not confirm whether anyone had been killed.

    The scene in Donetsk proved a striking contrast to the fanfare in Kiev, where more than 20,000 people, many waving the country’s blue and yellow flags or donning traditional embroidered shirts, watched the parade on Kiev’s Independence Square, where months of protests earlier this year ended in the ouster of the country’s former pro-Russian president.

    Poroshenko announced he would raise military spending by 40 billion hryvnia ($3 billion) through 2017, an effective 50 percent increase from current budget targets.

    “It is clear that in the foreseeable future there will always, unfortunately, be the threat of war,” he said in an address to the highly militarized independence rally. “And we not only have to learn to live with that. We must always be prepared to defend our independence.”

    Ukrainian military leaders have pleaded for extra resources as they face a potentially protracted fight against separatists. In recent weeks, Kiev’s troops have scored heavy gains in territory and encircled the east’s regional capitals of Luhansk and Donetsk.

    Lysenko said Sunday that 722 members of Ukraine’s armed forces have died in the fighting, with five killed and eight wounded in the past day alone.

    In another symbolic move, Poroshenko traveled south to the predominantly Russian-speaking port city of Odessa to give a second speech on Sunday. Ukrainian television showed footage of navy ships bobbing by the shore on a stormy, turbulent sea. Ukraine lost much of its coastline when the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia in March, and the loyalty of local authorities in Odessa to Kiev has been a top priority for the new government.

    Even more alarmingly, as the article below suggests, the capture of Donetsk and Luhansk is turning out to be far more difficult than Kiev’s military planners were predicting several weeks ago. It’s now looking like the cities are either going to have to be leveled to the ground with artillery or a lot more street-to-street fighting using with light infantry units like the Azov Battalion is going to be required. Or maybe both:

    Wall Street Journal
    Ukraine Showcases Military Might in Independence Day Celebration
    Parade Draws Mixed Reaction as Conflict Continues in East

    By Anton Troianovski in Kiev And
    Alan Cullison in Moscow

    Updated Aug. 24, 2014 11:20 a.m. ET

    Soldiers, rockets and armored vehicles paraded through central Kiev on Sunday, some of them on their way to the front lines in the east, as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day with a crisp display of military might that stood in contrast to a grinding conflict in which the Ukrainian offensive appears to be losing momentum.

    Meanwhile, separatists marched Ukrainian prisoners of war at bayonet-point through their stronghold of Donetsk, as both sides girded for a continuing battle despite Western efforts at diplomacy.

    While the fall of rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk were thought to be imminent a few weeks ago, progress has appeared to stall.

    After rebels fled their stronghold of Slovyansk at the start of July, Mr. Poroshenko hailed a turning point in the battle to flush separatists out of the east. Since then, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens more towns, and have shrunk the territory controlled by the rebels to half its original size.

    At the same time, their attempts to close the border and shut off what Ukrainian and Western officials say is a steady flow of arms and fighters from Russia have failed. At least 100 kilometers of the border remains out of Kiev’s control, and several Ukrainian units sustained heavy losses after getting cut off along the border and taking mortar and rocket fire from rebels and the Russian side of the border, officials said

    The porous border has allowed Moscow to intensify deliveries of armor and artillery into the country amid growing indications that Russian military units are also in the fight, according to Western officials. Russia has dismissed those allegations and noted Western officials have presented little hard evidence to back up their claims.

    The task of taking the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk may also be far bigger than some Ukrainian military planners had expected, requiring more manpower and a different kind of fighting than Kiev has faced so far.

    Until recently, the Ukrainians enjoyed an immense advantage over separatists because of Kiev’s superiority in artillery and aircraft, pulverizing entrenched rebel positions in any pitched battle. But those advantages aren’t available in any fight for a city, unless Kiev is willing to reduce Donetsk and Luhansk to rubble, as the Russians did in the capture of Grozny when it was fighting Chechen rebels in the 1990s.

    A massive loss of civilian life in eastern Ukraine would erode delicate support in the West and could also give excuse for an outright intervention to Moscow, whose state-controlled media already pounces on any loss of civilian life as evidence that the Ukrainians are committing genocide in eastern Ukraine. To retake the cities, Ukraine will have to summon a large number of troops for bloody house-to-house fighting without the support of much heavy weaponry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 24, 2014, 6:17 pm
  20. Along with Kiev declaring that Russia sent a column of tanks into the Ukraine today but were stopped by Kiev’s military, new elections were just announced with an eye on replacing any MPs that backed former president Yanukovych:

    Ukraine crisis: President calls snap vote amid fighting
    25 August 2014 Last updated at 15:30 ET

    Ukraine’s president has dissolved parliament and called snap elections, as government forces continue to fight pro-Russian rebel forces in the east.

    Petro Poroshenko said many current MPs were backers of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and that the majority of Ukrainians wanted a new parliament.

    Elections would be held on 26 October, he said in a TV address.

    Separately, Ukraine’s military says it clashed with rebel armoured vehicles that entered the country from Russia.

    It said a column of 10 tanks and two armoured personnel carriers was heading towards the south-eastern port of Mariupol but was stopped. Two tanks were reportedly destroyed.

    To use Poroshenko’s language, the parliament needs a “cleansing”:

    Ukrainian President signs decree to dissolve parliament

    Kiev — Reuters

    Published Monday, Aug. 25 2014, 3:06 PM EDT

    Last updated Monday, Aug. 25 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Ukraine’s president on Monday dissolved parliament and called for early elections in October as his country continues to battle a pro-Russian insurgency in its eastern regions.

    In a statement on his website, President Petro Poroshenko said snap elections would be held Oct. 26.

    Poroshenko said the dissolution, which was prefigured by the breakup of the majority coalition last month, was in line with “the expectations of the vast majority of the citizens of Ukraine” and called it a move toward “cleansing” the parliament.

    Many members of parliament “are allies of the militants-separatists,” Poroshenko said, referring to the pro-Russian rebels who have battled government troops in the country’s east since April.

    The Party of Regions, which is backed by much of the country’s industrial, Russian-speaking east and was supported by pro-Russian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, was the largest party in parliament before Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of massive protests in February, and still has a substantial presence.

    Most of these members “accepted dictatorial laws that took the lives of the Heaven’s Hundred,” he said, using the common term for those killed during the protests against Yanukovych, many by sniper fire.

    He emphasized the need to elect new leaders from the war-torn areas of east Ukraine in order to represent the region in the new government. It wasn’t clear how it would be possible to conduct elections at such short notice in Donetsk and Luhansk, where hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and shelling between rebel and government forces continues daily.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2014, 2:08 pm
  21. Given the earlier threats of Dmytro Yarosh to “campaign in Kiev”, and with the volunteer battalions’ fortunes rapidly reversing this week, one of the open questions going forward is what’s going to happen to those battalions if retreat becomes the only viable option? Are they going to disband or will retreat, itself, become the justification for a far right “campaign in Kiev”? If this article from earlier in the week is any indication of what to expect, with the commander of the Donbas battalion publicly pleading for more support from Kiev on Facebook, any retreat back to Kiev on Facebook, followed by claims of Kiev’s betrayal. It’s a tension worth keeping in mind if a permanent retreat becomes a reality:

    Pro-Russia Forces Gain Ground as Ukraine’s Volunteer Battalions Decry Kiev Leaders

    By Harriet Salem
    August 27, 2014 | 5:20 pm

    As Russia forces push forward towards the southeastern Ukraine coastal city of Mariupol and evidence mounts of direct Russian military support to the insurgent fighters, besieged volunteer units of “patriots” leading the way in the country’s fight back say they are not receiving enough support from Kiev to win the war.

    “We have reinforcements, but it’s not enough, it’s like a drop in the sea,” Alexey, a commander of the Dnipro Battalion, told VICE News this evening. “We need armament, what we have is not enough. We need anti-tanks artillery to hold the city.”

    Today, the fierce battle for Novoazovsk raged for a third consecutive day as a fresh bombardment of artillery fire hit the eastern outskirts of the town just 25 miles from Mariupol, a strategically important port city on Ukraine’s southeast Azov coast.

    By the afternoon, however, Ukrainian forces appeared to have retreated again, this time decisively, as reports came in on social media that a column of tanks belonging to the pro-Russia forces had entered the town on the eastern road. Members of pushed back volunteer battalions told VICE News that the enemy fighters were digging in artillery positions, and they feared a further advance overnight.

    At a newly established Ukrainian road blockade in the village of Bezimenne, halfway along the western road back to Mariupol, a fighter in the Dnipro Battalion going by the nom de guerre “Kamil” said that they could not hold their posts.

    “We were told to hold Novoazovsk at all costs but were unable to do so,” he told VICE News. “We only have small arms and a few RPGs [rocket propelled grenade launchers] but nothing substantial — we can’t fire back at the artillery so we keep getting pushed back.”

    “This big military parade in Kiev is like a slap in the face when we have nothing,” he added, in reference to the procession of 145 military vehicles and 2,500 servicemen that marched through the capital in celebration of the country’s Independence Day on Sunday.

    Andrei Lysenko, spokesperson for the Kiev backed anti-terror operation in the country’s east this afternoon claimed Ukrainian forces still controlled Novoazovsk, but admitted that all the villages to the north had been lost.

    Speaking by telephone, Konstantin Batozsky, an advisor to governor of Donetsk Sergey Taruta — who has been based in Mariupol since the rebels took the region’s administrative capital — told VICE News that port city of 460,000 remained “calm,” despite the encroaching fighting. But Batozsky admitted that there was little that could be done in the face of a full-scale Russian invasion.

    “The objective is to further open our border, and to expose us on another front,” he added.

    If inside the limits of Novoazovsk, pro-Russia forces are now within artillery firing range of Mariupol.

    Back in May, the city witnessed heavy clashes inside its limits. In one of the first serious actions of the Kiev-backed anti-terror operation, Ukrainian armored personnel carriers roared through the streets of the coastal city and snipers opened fire, in a battle that ousted the pro-Russia separatists, who had seized the city’s administration and police buildings. At least seven civilians were killed in the clashes.

    Meanwhile the rebels also appeared to be making other crucial gains across Ukraine’s war-torn east. This morning in Iloviask, where a fierce battle has been raging for days, Donbas Battalion Commander Semyon Semyonchenko posted desperate pleas for support from Kiev on Facebook, saying that today would be a decisive moment in who controls town, 47 miles east of the rebels’ capital in Donetsk, would be “decisive.”

    But by afternoon, any hope for the encircled Ukrainians fighting inside the town seemed to have all but vanished, as the commander made another post stating that the battalion had been “betrayed” by the “many-starred generals in Kiev,” and could “wait no longer.”

    “The responsibility for this lies with the minister of defense and the ATO [anti-terror operation] command,” he added, warning that Iloviask would become a “mass grave” for Ukrainian forces.

    In a final post, Semyonchenko said that the claims of ATO spokesperson Andrei Lysenko that reinforcements had been sent to Iloviask were untrue.

    “This is a fairytale [that is] more like a horror film,” he wrote.

    Authorities in Kiev have, however, conceded that they today lost Starobesheve, a village south of rebel-held Donetsk, after several days of clashes in the area. Rebels claimed to have overrun nearby Olenivka as well.

    The rippling advance of pro-Russia forces comes just three days after Ukraine’s Independence Day, when the newly appointed rebel prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic thanked Russia for its support, and warned that fighters had been preparing special units of tanks, artillery, and snipers for a fresh offensive.

    And here’s a piece from today updating the situation: it’s still a growing disaster for the volunteers and they appear to still feel very betrayed:

    The Washington Post
    28 volunteer soldiers trapped in Ukrainian town by separatists escape, officials say
    By Annie Gowen August 30 at 1:25 PM

    MARIUPOL, Ukraine — A group of Ukrainian volunteer soldiers managed to escape Saturday from Ilovaysk, a southeastern town that has been besieged by pro-Russian separatists for almost a week, Ukrainian officials said.

    Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, announced that 28 of the more than 200 fighters trapped in the town had escaped, but the military did not explain how that had been accomplished — or offer details about plans to evacuate the rest of the troops.

    “There’s an operation to withdraw our military from there,” spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko said Saturday. “The major task now is to evacuate our military with the least losses.”

    The soldiers have been cornered in the town since Monday, surrounded by separatists they say have been freshly supplied with troops and high-tech weapons from Russia. Food and ammunition have dwindled, and the death toll has been mounting.

    The soldiers’ plight and their apparent dispatch into battle with little training and inadequate equipment has sparked scorn across Ukraine in recent days. Volunteer commanders venting on Facebook have denounced what they say is the government’s neglect, and protesters have gathered in the capital, Kiev, chanting “Weapons for patriots.”

    The episode is significant because it exposes the weakness of Ukraine’s armed forces — the result of years of neglect — as the country pivots from a civil conflict to face a far more formidable foe, its neighbor to the east.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin focused international attention Friday on the soldiers trapped in Ilovaysk by calling in a statement for a protected route to allow them to retreat, even as evidence mounted of a broad incursion into Ukraine by Russian troops and military vehicles.

    “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.

    The statement opened a day on which Ukraine raised the prospect of joining NATO in hopes of deterring an outright Russian invasion and Putin likened the separatists’ Ukrainian antagonists to the Nazi forces that invaded Russia in World War II.

    By Friday evening, Lysenko said no corridor had materialized near Ilovaysk, and the spokesman for one of the largest militia battalions said the fighters had come under heavy fire throughout the day as they tried to break through a double ring of rebels. The day’s death toll was not known.

    “Fights are being conducted. There are dead people. There are wounded. But there is hope,” said Vasilisa Trofimovich, the battalion spokesman.
    ‘Now I understand’

    One volunteer soldier, who gave his name only as Vladimir for safety reasons, said he and other members of his unit had been hunkered down in a basement, rationing the bullets for their aging assault rifles and killing farm chickens to survive. Meanwhile, he said, they were being attacked from all sides by separatists and Russians armed with sophisticated guns and tanks.

    “For a while, I thought they wouldn’t abandon us,” he said of Ukraine’s government, speaking by telephone. “But now I understand what’s really going on.”

    The battalions were launched in spring after the onset of tensions between Russian-backed separatists, largely based in the east, and Ukrainians who want the country to ally itself with Europe and the West.

    As fighting began, citizens scrambled to defend the country against the separatist uprising after it became apparent that the armed forces had been enfeebled by years of cost-cutting and neglect. A text-message campaign seeking funds for military defense brought in millions.

    Willing but ill-prepared

    At the same time, former protesters who had helped oust a president in February hungered to join the fight. The national government established volunteer battalions as a way to help would-be fighters get to the front under some form of government auspices. More than 7,000 volunteer soldiers now serve in 10 battalions under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. By contrast, rebel forces say they have about 12,000 volunteer soldiers.

    One former small-business owner from the southeastern city of Donetsk, who said he had never picked up a gun, said he joined up to fight after his city descended into chaos and he was forced to close his business.

    “I realized it had to be me who was going to defend my city,” said the businessman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

    He found himself in a one-month training course with lawyers, doctors and other professionals, including a chef from one of Kiev’s finest hotels. At the end of training, he was given a Soviet-era Kalashnikov assault rifle. But the snipers in his unit fared worse: They left training with cartridges that dated to World War II.

    The volunteers were told their role was to secure cities in the wake of the country’s regular armed forces, but they quickly realized they were going to be involved in full-scale combat.

    A spokesman for the military’s National Security and Defense Council, Bogdan Voron, rejected the idea that the volunteer brigades were unprepared.

    “A lot of these volunteers had [mandatory] military service. They are policemen, former servicemen,” he said. “They have a really good background to serve their country.”

    And here’s a peak at what we might expect for Ukraine if the volunteer battalions end up successfully “campaigning in Kiev”:

    Foreign Policy
    Preparing for War with Ukraine’s Fascist Defenders of Freedom
    On the frontlines of the new offensive in eastern Ukraine, the hardcore Azov Battalion is ready for battle with Russia. But they’re not fighting for Europe, either.

    BY Alec Luhn
    AUGUST 30, 2014

    MARIUPOL, Ukraine – Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags fly over Mariupol’s burned-out city administration building and at military checkpoints around the city, but at a sport school near a huge metallurgical plant, another symbol is just as prominent: the wolfsangel (“wolf trap”) symbol that was widely used in the Third Reich and has been adopted by neo-Nazi groups.

    The Azov Battalion — so named for the Sea of Azov on which this industrial city is located — is one of dozens of volunteer battalions fighting alongside pro-government forces in eastern Ukraine. After separatist troops and armor attacked from the nearby Russian border and took the neighboring town of Novoazovsk, this openly neo-Nazi unit has suddenly found itself defending the city against what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called a Russian invasion.

    Pro-Russian forces have said they are fighting against Ukrainian nationalists and “fascists” in the conflict, and in the case of Azov and other battalions, these claims are essentially true.

    With the incursion from the Russian border, Mariupol, which had been peaceful since pro-Russian protestors were forced out in May, has become a third theater in the eastern Ukrainian conflict along with the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. Pro-Russian forces claim this week’s advance along the coast has been made by separatist rebels, but Oleh Odnorozhenko, deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, comprised of some 500 men, said the Ukrainians are facing thousands of regular Russian Army troops. He claimed that his men have captured dozens of Russian soldiers over the past week and destroyed a Russian fighting infantry vehicle.

    Odnorozhenko said the city’s defenders are “first and foremost volunteer battalions,” with numbers of National Guard and regular Ukrainian Army troops playing a smaller role. Overall, there are more than 50 volunteer battalions fighting in eastern Ukraine, he said. The pervasiveness of these paramilitary units has raised concerns about their influence over the government. National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk said the volunteer battalions play a role in the city’s defense but insisted that “all the battalions in the anti-terrorist operation cooperate according to the military chain of command.”

    The conflict in eastern Ukraine has come, in some ways, to resemble a battle between Ukrainian and Russian nationalists. Volunteers from the nationalist groups who clashed with riot police on Kiev’s Independence Square this past winter have filled out the ranks of the many battalions fighting alongside Ukraine’s small, dilapidated regular army in the east, including Azov.

    Meanwhile, the pro-Russian forces are striving to reunite what they say are historically Russian lands to create Novorossiya (“New Russia”). Each side refuses to see anything of itself in the other. The pro-Russians call the Ukrainians fascists, who in turn portray their opponents as imperialists. Odnorozhenko said the conflict involved “people with a European identity fighting with Sovietness.”

    But the “European identity” to which Odnorozhenko aspires is one estranged from mainstream European and American liberalism. The Azov Battalion, whose emblem also includes the “Black Sun” occult symbol used by the Nazi SS, was founded by Andriy Biletsky, head of the neo-Nazi groups Social-National Assembly and Patriots of Ukraine. Although the Social-National Assembly website linked to by the Azov Battalion’s social network pages said its program was undergoing “development and modernization,” other materials on the site give a clear idea of the group’s political leanings.

    “Unfortunately, among the Ukrainian people today there are a lot of ‘Russians’ (by their mentality, not their blood), ‘kikes,’ ‘Americans,’ ‘Europeans’ (of the democratic-liberal European Union), ‘Arabs,’ ‘Chinese’ and so forth, but there is not much specifically Ukrainian,” read one text. “The reason for this situation is the mass propaganda of trans-myths that are foreign to us through advertising, television, laws and education. It’s unclear how much time and effort will be needed to eradicate these dangerous viruses from our people.”

    According to Odnorozhenko, the battalion’s political platform supports the natsiokratiya, a system of government devised by the Ukrainian nationalists of the 1930s and 1940s, who fought Soviet forces but were also guilty of atrocities such as the murder of thousands of Jews and Poles. It supports a national government based on syndicates representing different classes of the population, as well as a strong foreign policy including the nuclear re-armament of Ukraine, he said.

    The battalion has a number of foreign volunteers, including numerous Russians, four Swedes and one Canadian, but no Americans, Odnorozhenko said — as two jeeps full of tanned fighters in sunglasses and bandannas rolled into base, a wolfsangel painted on each side.

    Although he declined to provide details, Odnorozhenko said the Ukrainian forces are deploying armor, building fortifications, and “activating different military groups” in the Mariupol area. Local activists have been digging trenches in some places outside the city and organizing “civil defense” forces.

    Ukrainian forces have been falling back in the face of the Russian advance. According to various reports, they had retreated to the west of the town of Bezimenne (“No Name”), which would put them within 20 miles of Mariupol itself.

    Besides a strong defense, Ukraine needs the support of the West to defeat the invaders, Odnorozhenko argued. He called for the Europe and the United States to take a more aggressive stance on Russia and begin shipping weapons to Ukrainian pro-government forces. Oddly enough, he compared the conflict to World War II, when his battalion’s ideological forebears were fighting Soviet and Western troops.

    Yes, it was rather odd to hear the head of the Azov battalion likening the conflict to WWII given the obvious historical connotations associated with that analogy. Far less surprising was Vladimir Putin’s use of the same analogy on Friday, although the global reminder that Russia has nukes and shouldn’t be “messed with” was somewhat alarming:

    The Los Angeles Times
    Putin, defiant toward West, likens Ukraine conflict to WWII
    By Carol J. Williams, Paul Richter, Isabel Gorst
    August 29,2014, 6:57 PM

    Evoking startling images of siege and empire, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday struck a defiant pose over the deployment of troops and tanks in eastern Ukraine, declaring that Russia has no plans for “large-scale conflicts” but reminding the world that he presides over a nuclear-armed state.

    “It’s best not to mess with us,” Putin said, referring to Russian separatist fighters in Ukraine with a term that dates back to the era of the Russian empire — “New Russia militia” — and likening their battle with Ukrainian army forces to Soviet citizens’ heroic resistance during the German Nazi siege of Leningrad.

    His comments, designed to cast the Ukraine conflict as a World War II-like aggression inspired by the West, came a day after President Obama warned of the mounting costs to Russians as their government deepens its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

    The Obama administration’s new appeal to Russian public opinion probably reflects growing doubt that the U.S. can bring Putin to the negotiating table over Ukraine, as the Kremlin leader wages his own campaign designed to stoke Russians’ nationalist pride and nostalgia for its the lost superpower status.

    Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” Putin said during a visit to a Kremlin-sponsored youth camp, clearly aiming to marshal public support for a military campaign that has brought international isolation and increasingly stringent economic sanctions.

    Obama on Thursday warned that stricter sanctions would be forthcoming after NATO released satellite surveillance images showing Russian armored columns crossing into southeastern Ukraine.

    nd the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called up images of the human cost likely to be borne by the Russian military south of its borders. “In Russia, family members of Russian soldiers are holding funerals for their loved ones who have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine,” she told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

    In the Kremlin view, Russia is a brave force willing to stand up to the West to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine from repression and to withstand the unjust sanctions imposed on it for its noble actions, Oliker said.

    Putin clearly sought to reinforce that narrative Friday as state television cameras captured his choreographed exchange with the young campers.

    “Small villages and large cities are surrounded by the Ukrainian army, which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure,” he said. “It sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist … occupiers surrounded our cities.”

    EU foreign ministers meeting Friday in Milan debated calls for stepping up economic sanctions on Moscow, which to date have targeted a few dozen Kremlin officials and tightened Russia’s access to international financial institutions.

    “We have to be aware of what we are facing: We are now in the midst of a second Russian invasion of Ukraine within a year,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, referring to Russia’s seizure of Crimea. Citing the Russian forces’ opening of a new front along Ukraine’s Sea of Azov this week, Bildt said Russia’s hand in the Ukraine violence was indisputable and that it was time “to call a spade a spade.”

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called Putin on Friday to condemn the “significant incursions into and operations on Ukrainian soil by Russian military units” and warned that further intrusions would “carry high costs,” his office reported.

    But there is division among the 28 EU member states on the extent to which sanctions can succeed in changing Russia’s behavior, and resistance on the part of those heavily dependent on energy supplies from Russia. The EU diplomats were to discuss tightening sanctions at a meeting Saturday in Brussels, but they disclosed no specifics of which additional economic sectors might be targeted.

    So we have Kiev clamoring to be let in to NATO, which would basically guarantee WWIII at this point, Russia threatening “don’t mess with us”, and volunteer battalions that are poised to turn on Kiev if the conflict end. As far as nightmare scenarios go, that’s pretty nightmarish. And yet, if the conflicts aren’t ended soon, the nightmares for the civilians in the east will just go on and on. If we see peace in the east under rebel rule, we might see the volunteer battalions wage a war on Kiev (and possibly a far right pro-Russian government in the east too). But if we see Kiev taking the east, the security of that ethnic Russian population is very unclear given the overtly anti-Russian nature of the volunteer. Yep, a nightmare scenario.

    Part of what makes this situation so dire is the fact that if Ukraine joins the EU, NATO membership will eventually follow and NATO and, at this point, NATO is basically an anti-Russian alliance. So here’s a thought that might be a little too outlandish, but whatever: Let eastern Ukraine become a separate, independent buffer state, and then make a joint offer to Russia, West Ukraine and East Ukraine to all join NATO together. All at once or none at all. Yes, Russia can join NATO. Two retired German generals (including a former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee) made just such a proposal back in 2010 which would include the withdrawal of both US and Russian tactical nukes and development of a join missile shield, so it’s not an unthinkable idea. There could be lots of political reform strings attached and getting currently warring parties to sign onto a mutually defense-pact could be a big step towards creating the kind of global NATO humanity needs to end all war in an age of super-weapons. After all, there’s already a global war against humanity and most life on earth currently being waged by ourselves via climate change and eco-collapse. Maybe we should all be focusing on that war instead?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 30, 2014, 6:31 pm
  22. Andrei Beletsky, leader of Avoz Battalion, just made an announcement on Facebook that should surprise no one:

    Oh, good, neo-Nazi Andrei Beletsky, leader of Azov Battalion, is going to run for parliament https://t.co/VzSvfUw6s7 pic.twitter.com/eRmI8xIRHj— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) September 13, 2014

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 13, 2014, 6:17 pm
  23. So this just happened:

    This is fucking crazy: Ukraine's president just hailed fascist UPA— mass-murderers of Jews in Holocaust—as "heroes" https://t.co/Bpv6B8MB8y— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) September 25, 2014

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 25, 2014, 8:25 am
  24. #Pterrafractyl–

    No surprise, here. Poroshenko’s advisory team were Yuschenko’s old cronies.

    Roman Svarych, Jaroslav Stetsko’s personal secretary in the early 1980’s, is one of his top advisers.

    Check out FTR #800:




    Posted by Dave Emory | September 25, 2014, 3:10 pm
  25. The BBC has quite an update on the investigation into the Maidan square sniper mystery and the differing accounts of Andre Parubiy, then the head of security for the Maidan protestors, a one of the snipers:

    The untold story of the Maidan massacre
    By Gabriel Gatehouse BBC News

    A day of bloodshed on Kiev’s main square, nearly a year ago, marked the end of a winter of protest against the government of president Viktor Yanukovych, who soon afterwards fled the country. More than 50 protesters and three policemen died. But how did the shooting begin? Protest organisers have always denied any involvement – but one man told the BBC a different story.

    11 February 2015 Last updated at 19:51 ET

    It’s early in the morning, 20 February, 2014. Kiev’s Maidan square is divided – on one side the riot police, the protesters on the other.

    This has been going on for more than two months now. But events are about to come to a head. By the end of the day, more than 50 people will be dead, many of them gunned down in the street by security forces.

    The violence will lead to the downfall of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Moscow will call 20 February an armed coup, and use it to justify the annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    The protest leaders, some of whom now hold positions of power in the new Ukraine, insist full responsibility for the shootings lies with the security forces, acting on behalf of the previous government.

    But one year on, some witnesses are beginning to paint a different picture.

    “I didn’t shoot to kill”

    “I was shooting downwards at their feet,” says a man we will call Sergei, who tells me he took up position in the Kiev Conservatory, a music academy on the south-west corner of the square.

    “Of course, I could have hit them in the arm or anywhere. But I didn’t shoot to kill.”

    Sergei says he had been a regular protester on the Maidan for more than a month, and that his shots at police on the square and on the roof of an underground shopping mall, caused them to retreat.

    There had been shooting two days earlier, on 18 February. The 19th, a Wednesday, had been quieter, but in the evening, Sergei says, he was put in contact with a man who offered him two guns: one a 12-gauge shotgun, the other a hunting rifle, a Saiga that fired high-velocity rounds.

    He chose the latter, he says, and stashed it in the Post Office building, a few yards from the Conservatory. Both buildings were under the control of the protesters.

    When the shooting started early on the morning of the 20th, Sergei says, he was escorted to the Conservatory, and spent some 20 minutes before 07:00 firing on police, alongside a second gunman.

    His account is partially corroborated by other witnesses. That morning, Andriy Shevchenko, then an opposition MP and part of the Maidan movement, had received a phone call from the head of the riot police on the square.

    “He calls me and says, ‘Andriy, somebody is shooting at my guys.’ And he said that the shooting was from the Conservatory.”

    Shevchenko contacted the man in charge of security for the protesters, Andriy Parubiy, known as the Commandant of the Maidan.

    “I sent a group of my best men to go through the entire Conservatory building and determine whether there were any firing positions,” Parubiy says.

    Meanwhile the MP, Andriy Shevchenko, was getting increasingly panicked phone calls.

    “I kept getting calls from the police officer, who said: ‘I have three people wounded, I have five people wounded, I have one person dead.’ And at some point he says, ‘I am pulling out.’ And he says, ‘Andriy I do not know what will be next.’ But I clearly felt that something really bad was about to happen.”

    Andriy Parubiy, now deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, says his men found no gunmen in the Conservatory building.

    But a photographer who gained access to the Conservatory later in the morning – shortly after 08:00 – took pictures there of men with guns, although he did not see them fire.

    What happened in Maidan Square: A photographer’s story

    Sergei’s account also differs from Parubiy’s.

    “I was just reloading,” he told me. “They ran up to me and one put his foot on top of me, and said, ‘They want a word with you, everything is OK, but stop doing what you’re doing.'”

    Sergei says he is convinced the men who dragged him away were from Parubiy’s security unit, though he didn’t recognise their faces. He was escorted out of the Conservatory building, taken out of Kiev by car, and left to make his own way home.

    By that time three policemen had been fatally wounded and the mass killings of protesters had begun.

    Kiev’s official investigation has focused on what happened afterwards – after the riot police began to retreat from the square. In video footage, they are clearly seen firing towards protesters as they pull back.

    Only three people have been arrested, all of them members of a special unit of riot police. And of these three, only two – the lower-ranking officers – remain in custody. The unit’s commanding officer, Dmitry Sadovnik, was granted bail and has now disappeared.

    Some of the dead were almost certainly shot by snipers, who seemed to be shooting from some of the taller buildings surrounding the square.

    Lawyers for the victims and sources in the general prosecutor’s office have told the BBC that when it comes to investigating deaths that could not have been caused by the riot police, they have found their efforts blocked by the courts.

    “If you think of Yanukovych’s time, it was like a Bermuda triangle: the prosecutor’s office, the police and the courts,” says Andriy Shevchenko. “Everyone knew that they co-operated, they covered each other and that was the basis of the massive corruption in the country. Those connections still exists.”

    Conspiracy theories abound

    Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Vitaly Yarema, was dismissed this week, amid harsh criticism of his handling of the investigation.

    The leaders of the Maidan have always maintained they did their best to keep guns away from the square.

    “We knew that our strength was not to use force, and our weakness would be if we start shooting,” says Andriy Shevchenko.

    Parubiy says it is possible that a handful of protesters with weapons may have come to the Maidan as part of a spontaneous, unorganised response to violence from the security forces in the days running up to 20 February.

    “I did hear that, after the shootings on 18 February, there were guys who came to Maidan with hunting rifles. I was told that sometimes they were the relatives or parents of those people who were killed on the 18th. So I concede that it’s possible there were people with hunting rifles on Maidan. When the snipers began to kill our guys, one after another, I can imagine that those with the hunting rifles returned fire.”

    Sergei, again, tells a different story. He says he was recruited as a potential shooter in late-January, by a man he describes only as a retired military officer. Sergei himself was a former soldier.

    “We got chatting, and he took me under his wing. He saw something in me that he liked. Officers are like psychologists, they can see who is capable. He kept me close.”

    The former officer dissuaded him from joining any of the more militant groups active on the Maidan.

    “‘Your time will come,’ he said.”

    Was he being prepared, psychologically, to take up arms?

    “Not that we sat down and worked out a plan. But we talked about it privately and he prepared me for it.”

    It is not clear who the man who apparently recruited Sergei was, or whether he belonged to any of the recognised groups active on the Maidan.

    And there is much else that we still do not know, such as who fired the first shots on 20 February.

    As for conspiracy theories, it is possible that Sergei was manipulated, played like a pawn in a bigger game. But that is not the way he sees it. He was a simple protester, he says, who took up arms in self-defence.

    “I didn’t want to shoot anyone or kill anyone. But that was the situation. I don’t feel like some kind of hero. The opposite: I have trouble sleeping, bad premonitions. I’m trying to control myself. But I just get nervous all the time. I have nothing to be proud of. It’s easy to shoot. Living afterwards, that’s the hard thing. But you have to defend your country.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 12, 2015, 11:02 pm
  26. @Pterrafractyl–

    Of course, NEVER lose sight of the fact that Parubiy is not only from the Svoboda party of OUN/B heirs, but is the former defense minister under the provisional government that came to power during the Maidan coup.

    He is now deputy speaker of the Ukraine parliament.



    Posted by Dave Emory | February 13, 2015, 7:48 pm

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