Ukrainian minister: 3 tanks cross from Russia
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s interior minister says that three tanks have crossed into Ukrainian territory from Russia and were attacked by his country’s forces.Related Stories
The Interfax news agency quoted Arsen Avakov as saying that a „column” with armored vehicles crossed from Russia through border control points controlled by pro-Russian separatists near the Dyakove village in eastern Ukraine.He said vehicles including automobiles and armored personnel carriers crossed the border. He said that three tanks went to the town of Snizhne about 40 kilometers (24.86 miles) from Dyakove. One remained there while two others left in the direction of the town of Horlivka and were engaged by the Ukrainian military.Avakov said that „part of this column has been destroyed” by Ukrainian forces.Russia has denied sending troops or equipment into Ukraine and no independent confirmation was immediately available.Avakov said the incursion took place despite Russian statements of interest in a peaceful solution and intent to increase border controls.View galleryA woman from Ukraine cries at a meeting with OSCE’s secretary-general Lamberto Zannier at a camp …The reports followed statements earlier Thursday by Russia’s foreign minister that the pro-Moscow separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine are ready for a cease-fire but that Kiev has to initiate the process.Sergey Lavrov also was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Moscow will introduce a resolution in the United Nations on the Ukrainian crisis, but that Russia was not seeking authorization to send in peacekeeping troops. The Ukrainian rebels have suggested that Russia should send peacekeepers, but Moscow says that could only be done with UN authorization.Ukraine’s government and Western countries allege that Russia is fomenting or supporting the uprising in the east, where insurgents have declared two regions independent and are seeking annexation by Russia. Moscow denies it has agents in eastern Ukraine, but it is unclear to what extent it has contacts or influence with the rebels.Lavrov said that „We know that the rebels in the southeast are ready to hold fire, but the first step by all rights should be made by the Kiev authorities.”He said the proposed UN resolution would concentrate on demanding fulfillment of proposals set forth in a so-called „road map” for resolving the conflict developed by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.View galleryOSCE’s secretary-general Lamberto Zannier, right, visits a camp for refugees from the conflict i …The OSCE’s secretary-general on Thursday visited a camp in Russia for refugees from the conflict in Ukraine’s east and called for the fighting to end.According to the Interfax news agency, Lamberto Zannier said Thursday that the conflict in the east „is craziness which must be stopped.”Russia says some 30,000 people have fled the fighting.Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, this week called for establishing safe-passage corridors for civilians who want to escape the violence in the east, but no visible steps toward creating them have been seen._Heintz contributed from Moscow.
Ukraine rebel leader’s minibus blown up in Donetsk killing two
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – A minibus belonging to Donetsk rebel leader Denis Pushilin was blown up in the restive eastern Ukrainian city on Thursday, killing two of his entourage and wounding two, the rebel government said.Pushilin, who was not in the car when the explosion hit, is one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed „Donetsk People’s Republic”, heading its Supreme Soviet.”One of those wounded in the explosion in front of the Donetsk People’s Republic’s building died in hospital,” the rebels’ press service wrote on Twitter.It then updated its Twitter feed: „One more has died in hospital from the terrorist attack outside the Donetsk People’s Republic government building. May the heroes be remembered forever!”The explosion late Thursday took place outside the headquarters of the separatist rebel movement in the former regional government building in the heart of the coal mining city.The rebel authorities had said in earlier statements on Twitter that four people were wounded in the attack which happened as the minibus drove away from the building.”Pushilin was not in the vehicle,” the rebel authorities said.The rebel leader earlier survived an apparent assassination attempt on Saturday when his assistant was shot dead in central Donetsk.
Ukraine accuses Russia of letting rebels bring in tanks
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of allowing separatist rebels to bring three tanks and other military vehicles across the border into the east of the country to fight the Ukrainian army.Evidence that Russia is sending in weapons or assisting the rebels militarily would implicate Moscow in the uprising against Kiev’s pro-Western leaders, making a mockery of its denials that it has played a role in weeks of fighting.Interior Minister Arseny Avakov stopped short of directly accusing Russia of sending the tanks but made clear he held President Vladimir Putin responsible for failing to carry out a promise to tighten controls at the border.In a sign of his concern, President Petro Poroshenko discussed the situation with his defence and security chiefs and then told Putin by phone that the situation was „unacceptable”, his spokesman said.Reuters correspondents saw two tanks in the border town of Snizhnye in east Ukraine but said it was not clear where they had come from or whether they had previously been used by the Russian or Ukrainian army. They had no identifying markings to show whether they were Russian army tanks.Leaving it all behind in Ukraine Play Video„We have observed columns passing with armoured personnel carriers, other armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, and tanks which, according to our information, came across the border and this morning were in Snizhnye,” Avakov told reporters in Kiev.He said the columns had come across the border at a checkpoint or checkpoints seized by rebels „despite the Russian Federation’s statements that it welcomes the peace process and that the order has been given to strengthen border controls”.One column, Avakov said, had entered Ukraine in the Dyakove area of the Luhansk region before moving into the neighbouring Donetsk region. Ukrainian forces had confronted the column.”There is fighting going on,” he said. „Part of the column has been destroyed.”HIGH STAKES NATO Commander says Russia has changed paradigm in … Play VideoRussia did not immediately respond to the accusations and it was not clear how Putin reacted to Poroshenko by phone. His country has already been hit by U.S. and European Union sanctions over events in Ukraine and could face more.Confirmation of direct Russian involvement in the rebels’ uprising would raise the stakes in Moscow’s worst standoff with the West since the Cold war ended more than two decades ago.The separatists, who rose up after Poroshenko’s predecessor was toppled and fled to Russia in February, deny receiving anything but medical supplies, food and clothing from Russia. „Russia is helping, of course, with humanitarian aid, food, things, medicine, gear. We won’t refuse that,” a rebel said. Russia has repeatedly denied providing military support to the rebels who have taken control of several towns and cities in east Ukraine and hope that Russia will annexe the region, as it did the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had earlier on Thursday repeated Moscow’s view that the onus for ending violence lay with Ukraine because it has launched a military operation against the rebels.But he backed Poroshenko’s efforts to push through a peace plan the president has drawn up and discussed with Putin.”So far, hope remains that President Poroshenko’s statements about the end of violence will be implemented and the talks start,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.Few details of the phone call between Putin and Poroshenko were available but the latter’s spokesman wrote on Facebook that the Ukrainian leader put a heavy emphasis on the tank movements.The presidents met for 15 minutes during World War Two anniversary events in France last week, but it was their first known conversation since Poroshenko was sworn in on Saturday.Poroshenko has also been having meetings with a Russian envoy in Kiev and his aides say progress has been made, but talks on a long-running gas-pricing dispute have stalled.Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, made clear the state-run natural gas exporter would not extend a deadline for Kiev to pay its huge has debts for a third time to allow more time to reach a deal at talks.He said a Monday deadline would stand, and Gazprom would cut supplies to Ukraine if it did not to pay off $1.95 billion of its gas debts by then. Cutting supplies to Kiev could disrupt deliveries to the European Union, which gets about a third of its gas imports from Russia, half of them via Ukraine.(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Thomas Grove in Snizhnye, and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage; editing by Janet McBride)
Blast rocks center of breakaway town in E. Ukraine
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Ukraine rejects Putin’s offer of gas discounts
Speaking in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was offering the discount as a „partnership deal.” Russia’s energy minister, Alexander Novak, specified the price offered as $385 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.”We believe that our offer is more than in a partnership spirit, aimed to support the Ukrainian economy at a rather difficult time,” Putin said in televised remarks. „But if our offers are rejected it means we will enter another stage. This is not our choice. We do not want it.”Russia and Ukraine have been locked for months in a dispute over the price of Russian gas supplies and Ukraine’s debt for previous deliveries. Moscow has threatened to turn off the tap if Ukraine fails to settle the multibillion-dollar debt, but has repeatedly pushed back the deadline after Ukraine paid off part of the sum.European Union-brokered talks between the two countries in Brussels on Wednesday failed to reach a compromise over the price.The bruising gas dispute comes amid continuing fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled pro-Russian rebels for two months. The insurgents have pushed for joining Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March, but Putin has ignored their appeal in an apparent bid to avoid another round of crippling Western sanctions.View galleryRussian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting that focused on economic and social iss …Putin also seemed eager to avoid cutting off gas to Ukraine, a move that would likely disrupt shipments to European customers via pipelines crossing Ukrainian territory.He emphasized Wednesday that the latest offer would restore the price Ukraine had under pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.In December, Russia offered Ukraine an even lower price of $268 as it sought to give a financial lifeline to Yanukovych, who was facing massive protests triggered by his decision to ditch a pact with the European Union and opt for closer ties with Moscow.After Yanukovych was chased from power in February, Russia denounced his ouster as a „coup” and annulled all gas discounts, bringing the price back to $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, in line with a 2009 contract.Ukraine has refused to pay for Russian gas, calling the price politically motivated and demanding that Moscow lower it.View galleryRussian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting focused on economic and social issues i …Ukraine’s Energy Minister Yuri Prodan told reporters after the talks in Brussels that the price discount offered by Russia isn’t enough and demanded an even lower price. He said the Ukrainian government now believes that arbitration is the best option to solve the dispute.Prodan, however, added that Ukraine is open to talks to hammer out a temporary price while arbitration is proceeding.Despite the sharp disagreements, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who is involved in the talks, said he hopes the parties will make progress in the next 48 hours.”I can see movement on both sides, and both sides will need to continue to move,” he told reporters. „There are differences of opinion … and we’re talking about billions.”Oettinger said that he has drawn up a draft agreement on the EU’s behalf that he hopes both Russia and Ukraine can ultimately agree to, including a temporary „$385 minus” price tag.View galleryEuropean Commissioner for Energy Guenther Oettinger walks past Ukraine Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan …He said the final price will depend on two factors: the volume of Russian gas purchased by Ukraine, and the length of the agreement, which he has suggested should be 15 months. That would be enough for Ukraine to see through the winter of 2014-2015 and allow it to build up its reserves for another winter.Oettinger said that Putin and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko are to discuss the issue, but the Kremlin said there is no immediate plan for such talks.Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier Wednesday said that Kiev initially rejected the Russian offer because there was no guarantee that it would last. Putin and Novak responded by saying that Russia was ready to guarantee the discounts would remain in place for one yearGazprom, Russia’s gas giant, gave Ukraine a few more days to settle its gas debt before it would start demanding prepayment for gas, without which it has threatened to cut off supplies. Gazprom’s CEO Alexei Miller said the deadline would be pushed forward to next Monday.Georg Zachmann, a research fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank that specializes in economic affairs, said that despite the impasse, Russia and Ukraine will likely finally come to agreement.”There are large sums of money involved so they are fighting hard for that,” Zachmann said. But in the end, he said, „everybody would lose” from a cutoff of Russian gas to Ukraine that could also disrupt supplies to the EU._Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
Russia Holds Military Exercises In Baltic In Response To NATO
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he introduced the draft at closed-door consultations that focused on Iraq, adding that it had been met with „some support” and „some suggestions.”He said it „updated” a June 2 measure — that received a cool response from the Security Council — and called for an immediate end to the violence, a sustained ceasefire and greater UN involvement in efforts to broker a solution.Currently chaired by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been at the forefront of attempts to try to resolve the crisis.In May, the OSCE drew up a plan to help bring the pro-Western Kiev authorities and pro-Moscow militants in the southeast to the negotiating table but no progress has been made in several rounds of dialogue that excluded the armed separatists.Russia wants UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support OSCE efforts to implement the road map and launch dialogue „involving all political forces and regions of the country,” Churkin said.It is „important for the Security Council to play a role and for the United Nations to increase its role in trying to settle the situation in Ukraine and to stop violence,” he said.Diplomats say Russia’s earlier Ukraine draft was at least partly partly a bargaining chip as the West scrambles to avoid Moscow vetoing a resolution on enforcing humanitarian access in Syria.Churkin denied there was any relation when questioned Thursday.Moscow has accused Kiev of using prohibited munitions, but Churkin said there were „reports” for the first time that Ukraine was using white phosphorus munition in the fighting.”We are very disturbed about it,” he said.Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying there had been attempts from Ukraine to depart from the principles stipulated in the roadmap.”The lack of any progress whatsoever in efforts to stop the violence and halt military operations… is causing increasing concern,” he told reporters.Lavrov also called for a probe into allegations that the ex-Soviet country was using banned weapons.”Reports about the use by Ukraine’s armed forces of incendiary bombs and other banned non-selective weapons are a cause for special concern,” he added. „These reports should be verified as soon as possible.”
Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have taken full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk as the army flees before an Islamist offensive nearby.”The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. „No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”Kurdish fighters are seen as a bulwark against Sunni Muslim insurgents.Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament has postponed a vote on a call by PM Nouri Maliki for a state of emergency.The fall of Mosul, the country’s second city, to the Islamists sent shockwaves across the Middle East.Kirkuk and the surrounding province of Tamim are at the heart of a political and economic dispute between Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds.Kirkuk disputeKurdish fighters outside Kirkuk on Wednesday• Under Saddam Hussein’s programme of „Arabisation”, Kurds were driven from Kirkuk and replaced with settlers from the south, and the Iraqi government continues to assert control over nearby oilfields, with the backing from the local Turkmen community• The Kurdistan Regional Government, which administers three provinces to the north-east, is pushing for Arabisation to be reversed• In May 2013, Kurdish fighters took up positions on the outskirts of Kirkuk after Iraqi security forces were redeployed to deal with Sunni militants elsewhere• A census and referendum on the affiliation of the province has been repeatedly delayed by the broader political crisis in IraqSunni-Shia divide bodes ill for Middle East
- The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has 3,000 to 5,000 fighters, and grew out of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq
- ISIS has exploited the standoff between the Iraqi government and the minority Sunni Arab community, which complains that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is monopolising power
- It has already taken over Ramadi and Falluja, but taking over Mosul is a far greater feat than anything the movement has achieved so far
- The organisation is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – an obscure figure regarded as a battlefield commander and tactician. He was once the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that later became ISIS.