World War 3: FearsOverVladimirPutinBuilding a Buffer State Increase as Germany Considers Sending Troops to Ukraine-By Zachary Stieber, Epoch Times | October 6, 2014A world war 3 type atmosphere is increasingly being attached to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which NATO member states fear could lead to incursions into other countries in addition to creating a buffer zone–„New Russia”–for Russia. Here, a Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a road during prisoner exchange near the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)Germany is set to deploy troops to the Ukraine for the first time since the Nazi invasion of the then-Soviet territory more than 60 years ago.Chancellor Angela Merkel and high-level officials were considering the historic move to send 200 peacekeepers–including 50 paratroopers–recently.Sources in Germany told the Daily Mail that the country is in “exploratory discussions” about taking part in an international force on the ground in Ukraine.A ceasefire between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government is holding back much of the fighting for now but there is widespread concern that the rampant violence and incursions will start again soon. Despite the ceasefire, Russia is building up troop numbers on its borders, according to Ukraine.“The West fears Vladimir Putin is determined to build an unofficial buffer state called Novorossiya – or New Russia – in eastern Ukraine,” the Mail revealed.Meanwhile, the new chief of an alliance in charge of boosting NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe said that the plan doesn’t violate the post-Cold War deal struck with Russia. Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to an air force base in Poland that he’s committed to the plan for a “spearhead” rapid reaction force, created by NATO member states in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomes Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, right, prior talks in Moscow on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Monday for abiding to the truce in Ukraine and warned against blaming all violations on rebels. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)Russia claims that the increased military presence could violate the 1997 agreement on troop levels that NATO can station in former Soviet states, but Stoltenberg told Reuters that it falls in line with the agreement.“There is no contradiction between more military presence in this area and also respecting the rule-based international order,” said Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister.He added that NATO needs to remain a strong military alliance that has “a rock-solid bond” with the United States, but that also approaches Russia with plans to solve problems without fighting. NATO won’t interfere directly in Ukraine, since it isn’t an alliance member as of yet, but is aiming to reassure member states bordering Ukraine which fear Russia will target them next.Still, Stoltenberg said that Russia needs to step back.“Russia has violated international law and has violated its international commitment and violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said.“We call on Russia to respect international law and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to use their influence on separatists to make them respect the ceasefire. Russia has to change their actions, their behavior.”
Europe sends in drones to save Ukraine truce By Dmitry Zaks8 hours ago Kiev (AFP) – The first European drones landed Monday in Ukraine and a top US envoy visited Kiev in an urgent bid to bolster its crumbling truce with pro-Russian fighters.Related Stories
Ukraine also announced the arrival of winter supplies from Germany for towns and cities devastated by nearly six months of warfare that has killed nearly 3,300 people across the separatist east.The Western rush in support of Ukraine came one month into a ceasefire that has done little to resolve Europe’s worst crisis in decades and still threatens to break the ex-Soviet country apart.Hundreds of guerrillas — backed by tanks and missile systems — have been tightening the noose around an airport near their stronghold city of Donetsk, whose capture is vital to their independence drive.The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin told a top security meeting the ceasefire had become „extremely fragile”.The Ukrainian military said one soldier was killed and 13 wounded in the past day of fighting.Kiev has reported the death of 81 government troops and civilians since the warring sides signed the Moscow-backed peace plan on September 5.A serviceman of the pro-Ukrainian St. Maria battalion observes from a control tower at their base ne …The rebels do not reveal their own losses and Ukraine’s claims of heavy casualties in their ranks have been impossible to confirm.- Watching Russia’s border -The first two Austrian unarmed aerial vehicles that cleared customs in Ukraine will be part of a four-drone contingent deployed by European monitors along the Russian border and across the war zone.NATO believes that Russia has withdrawn a „significant” number of the special forces it allegedly snuck into eastern Ukraine to help insurgents set up their own state.Moscow denies involvement and rejects trying to seize its neighbour’s most economically important industrial region in retaliation for the February ouster of a Russian-backed president.But thousands of Kremlin troops still deployed along Ukraine’s eastern frontier have unnerved both Kiev and ex-Soviet satellite nations that are watching Putin with growing mistrust.A photo taken on October 6, 2014, by the Ukrainian presidential press office shows Ukraine President …The drones will be operated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Cold War-era security group that backed the peace agreement and is charged with making sure it works.Paris said Sunday that France and Germany also intend to send drones to Ukraine in the coming days.An OSCE spokesman said it was still unclear if those unmanned vehicles would be part of the organisation’s mission or flying separately.- US show of support -The private meeting between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland — a hate figure in Moscow for her open backing of Kiev’s Western aspirations — and Petro Poroshenko came with the Ukrainian president facing tough parliamentary elections at the end of the month.The truce and his subsequent offer of partial self-rule for the five million people believed to be living in rebel-run regions have been brushed off by insurgents as too limited.The separatists now intend to keep Kiev from opening eastern polling stations for the October 26 ballot and to hold their own independent polls in early November.Both dates will be vital for Poroshenko — a 49-year-old business baron who was elected in May on a vow to crush the uprising.He has denounced the rebel vote and promised to make sure that — unlike the presidential ballot — these elections are staged across the nation of about 45 million.The State Department said Nuland intended to discuss „US support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity” and attempts to eliminate decades of state corruption and waste.Poroshenko’s office said he thanked the State Department’s top diplomat for European affairs for Washington’s „strong show of support for Ukraine’s journey toward freedom and democracy”.But US President Barack Obama — vocal in his criticism of Putin — has ruled out any military involvement in the conflict and flatly rejected Poroshenko’s request for weapons during their White House talks last month.
MOSCOW/DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – After weeks of defying international pleas to free eight European officials they had captured in May, pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine released them unexpectedly in June following a public appeal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
The role Kirill’s resurgent church played in the release of the monitors, who were from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), sheds light on how a close cooperation between the state and the church in Russia is now playing out in Ukraine.What the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) presents as its humanitarian mission in east Ukraine, Western diplomats see as a pattern of cooperation in which the church is acting as a „soft power” ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.During the OSCE monitors’ captivity, Moscow gave no public indication that it was heeding calls to help their release by using its influence with the rebels fighting to split east Ukraine from Kiev.But what looked like a solo venture by Kirill was the culmination of a flurry of diplomatic contacts that, behind closed doors, involved the OSCE, Russian and church officials, separatist leaders and a rebel Cossack unit, according to interviews with parties to the talks.With questions lingering over Moscow’s role in the turmoil in east Ukraine that has killed more than 3,500 people, European diplomats say the ROC was used to strike a deal and conceal Moscow’s influence with the rebels.The ROC, which claims jurisdiction in most of the former Soviet world, used its leverage beyond Russia’s borders merely to mediate, it said.”(The church) was asked to take part. Why shouldn’t it help?” Metropolitan Merkury, Kirill’s contact man for the OSCE release, told Reuters. The crisis in east Ukraine, which followed Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, threw ties between the Kremlin and the West deep into disarray. The West responded with sanctions to what it says is Moscow arming the rebels and reinforcing them with Russian troops. Moscow denies taking part in the armed conflict in spite of growing evidence to the contrary.Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) kisses Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, during an Or …”Russia does not fully control the rebels but it does exercise influence over them,” said a Western diplomat in Moscow closely following the crisis. „The Church is put in between the two to blur that link and avoid having any direct lines between them.”A European diplomat in eastern Ukraine said the ROC had acted as Moscow’s „front organization” in the release of the OSCE captives, allowing the Russian state to continue denying it had any direct involvement.The OSCE said it was a mix of interventions that made the release possible. A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the OSCE case. The person said the ministry does not favor the ROC over other creeds it works with. The Kremlin was not available for comment.THE RUSSIAN WORLD The ROC says it is not the state church of Russia. But it has cooperated closely with the Kremlin under Putin, who helped it make a striking comeback from heavy oppression in the Soviet era.The ROC and Kirill, who once famously likened Putin’s long rule to „a miracle of God,” are active in promoting Russia’s culture abroad and strengthening ties with compatriots around the world, helping the Kremlin boost its leverage on the global stage.Putin and Kirill share a vision of „the Russian world” based on common ideological values, a belief driving their mutually-beneficial cooperation and crusade against a common threat they see in the West.The ROC has built or restored about 25,000 churches in the past quarter-century, most of them in its traditional territory of the former Soviet Union. But it has also reclaimed churches in countries from France and Italy to Cuba and North Korea. With about 200 million members worldwide, the ROC is now the second-largest single church in Christianity after Roman Catholicism.Russian President Vladmir Putin (R) visits the Trinity Lavra monastery with Kirill, Patriarch of Mos …The ROC’s Department of External Church Relations has a working group with Russia’s Foreign Ministry that meets regularly for what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called „active and constructive” cooperation. Senior officials in the ROC, still dogged by rumors of Soviet-era collaboration with the KGB secret police, are used to being asked whether they are too close to Putin.”To people who, in a certain manner, ask me if our relationship with the state is good today, I say: ‘Do you want it to be bad?’,” said a senior ROC spokesman, Vladimir Legoyda.that? No.”OLIGARCH CONNECTIONSUnder Putin, the ROC gets support from the state and powerful oligarchs allied to the Kremlin, while Moscow benefits from its public blessing. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Russians approve of the ROC and more than half value its close ties with the state.One influential financier is Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian Orthodox businessman and philanthropist whose St. Basil the Great Foundation paid for the renovation of the Moscow headquarters of the ROC’s Department of External Church Relations.The foundation’s board includes Igor Shchyogolev, one of Putin’s aides at the Kremlin. The fund says it offers humanitarian aid for the rebel-held east Ukraine under an agreement signed with Aleksander Borodai, formerly the top separatist leader.In July, Kiev opened an investigation into Malofeev, alleging that he was financing armed rebels in east Ukraine. The European Union sanctioned Malofeev soon afterwards, saying he used to employ Borodai and was destabilizing Ukraine. Malofeev did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on that.
He has previously dismissed Kiev’s investigation as „ridiculous,” saying he sent only humanitarian aid and had sent no funding to pro-Russian separatists.Another powerful figure in the Orthodox world is Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways and a long-standing ally of Putin. Yakunin, sanctioned by Washington over Ukraine, heads the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which helped reunite Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which separated from the ROC in the 1920s.At the 2007 Moscow ceremony marking the reunification, Putin called the merger „an event of truly nationwide, historic importance and great moral significance.” He added: „The revival of the church unity is a crucial condition for revival of lost unity of the whole ‘Russian world’, which has always had the Orthodox faith as one of its foundations.”CHURCH AT CROSSROADS The ROC’s close ties to the state were on display early in the Ukraine crisis when Kirill and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued nearly identical statements, warning against a confrontation and speaking of the larger Russia’s „brotherly” Ukraine.When Russia sent its troops to Crimea, one of the justifications it used was an alleged threat to parishes there linked to Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate. Kirill’s full title is „Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus,” a reference to a medieval state in Kiev to which modern Russia traces its roots.In Ukraine, Kirill oversees the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. It competes against a smaller church of the Kiev Patriarchate that split from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union.Winning applause from those Ukrainians who seek Western integration and scorn Moscow’s efforts to undermine it, the Kiev Patriarchate has strongly backed Ukraine’s national cause in the current conflict. Its head, Patriarch Filaret, blamed Putin squarely for the violence and said he was possessed by Satan.The conflict in Ukraine has put strains on the ties between the ROC and the state in Russia; and Kirill, wary of alienating worshippers in Ukraine by being too closely associated with the Kremlin, has increasingly hedged his bets.He was conspicuously absent from a March ceremony where Putin sealed the annexation of Crimea, and he has not taken over two dioceses from the Ukrainian church in the peninsula even though they sit on territory now controlled by Russia.Late last month, Kirill told a meeting with Orthodox media that it was “fundamentally wrong” to view the ROC as a vehicle of Russian state policy. But to many in Ukraine that sounded unconvincing, and controversy over the ROC’s role in the OSCE monitors’ case adds to that scepticism.Back in May, the OSCE, through the Russian Foreign Ministry, got in touch with Russian lawmaker and senior Cossack leader, Viktor Vodolatsky, according to his account.Vodolatsky, a member of Putin’s ruling United Russia parliamentary faction, said he contacted the head of Cossack forces in east Ukraine, Nikolay Kozitsyn. He said ROC’s Metropolitan Merkury also talked to Kozitsyn.”He (Merkury) knows every ataman (Cossack leader) among us,” Vodolatsky told Reuters. „It was no problem for him to take his phone, call Kozitsyn and solve all the problems with him.”Merkury declined to specify his or the church’s role in the OSCE case.Kirill’s appeal for the monitor’s release was the clincher, said Vodolatsky, whom the EU sanctioned over the Cossacks fighting on the rebel side in east Ukraine.”For any Cossack the Orthodox faith is predominant. The Patriarch is our spiritual leader,” he said. „After the Patriarch statement everyone stood at attention and did everything that the Patriarch ordered.”(Editing By Simon Robinson and Richard Woods)
Turkey: NATO has plan to defend the country By SUZAN FRASER6 hours agoView photoTurkish forces on armoured vehicles at the outskirts of Suruc, secure the border area with Syria, background, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. The flag is indicating that the jihadists may have regrouped and broken through the Kurdish lines. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)Related Stories
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The NATO alliance has drawn up a strategy to defend Turkey if it is attacked along its border with Syria, a Turkish official said Monday.Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, whose country is a NATO member, said the alliance did that at his government’s request as Islamic State militants, who have captured a large swath of Iraq and Syria, are trying to take the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border.”If there is an attack, NATO’s joint defense mechanisms will be activated,” Yilmaz told reporters. „From the moment the incidents relating to Syria first started, we asked NATO to prepare for possibilities to make plans. NATO prepared a plan taking various alternatives into account.””Therefore,” he said, „if there is an attack on Turkey, NATO will bring about the provisions of Article 5 of the Washington Convention.” Article 5 states that an attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against all members.NATO’s new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, appeared to confirm what Turkey was saying during a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday.After expressing concern about the violence in Syria and the fact that it has spilled over into Iraq, he said: „The main responsibility for NATO is to protect all allied countries. Turkey is a NATO ally and our main responsibility is to protect the integrity, the borders of Turkey, and that’s the reason why we have deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey to enhance, to strengthen their air defense of Turkey. And Turkey should know that NATO will be there if there is any spillover, any attacks on Turkey as a consequence of the violence we see in Syria.”Kurdish forces are defending Kobani, but two banners of the Islamic State group were raised over a building and a nearby hill on Monday, suggesting that the militants may have broken through the Kurdish perimeter._AP correspondents Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed.
IS jihadists seize parts of key Syrian town By Fulya Ozerkan with Sara Hussein in Beirut1 hour ago Suruc (Turkey) (AFP) – Islamic State jihadists pushed into the key Syrian town of Kobane on the Turkish border Monday, seizing three districts in the city’s east after fierce street fighting with its Kurdish defenders.Related Stories
Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, has become a strategic battleground between the IS group and its opponents, who include the United States and its Western and Arab allies.Taking Kobane would give the IS organisation control of a long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border.The jihadists launched their latest assault on Kobane after a three-week siege with a wave of suicide bomb attacks, Mustefa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from the town, said on his Facebook page.After penetrating the city, they waged street battles against Kurdish defenders, sending hundreds of civilians fleeing towards the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.”They have taken the industrial zone, Maqtala al-Jadida and Kani Arabane in eastern Kobane after violent combat with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters” who had far fewer men and arms, said the Observatory.Kurdish fighters meanwhile ordered all civilians to evacuate Kobane, Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for Kurds in the city, told AFP, adding that some 2,000 people had left the city.The IS advances came after an AFP photographer saw two black flags of the jihadist group flying on Kobane’s eastern side.In a sign of mounting desperation, a Kurdish female fighter blew herself up at an IS position east of Kobane on Sunday, the Observatory said.Alleged Islamic State (IS) militants stand next to an IS flag atop a hill in the Syrian town of Ain …It was the first reported instance of a female Kurdish fighter employing a tactic often used by the jihadists, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside war-ravaged Syria for its reports.- Suicide bombers -The bomber, in her 20s, was a full-time YPG fighter identified as Dilar Gencxemis, alias Arin Mirkan, from Kurdish-controlled Afrin in northwestern Syria.”She killed dozens of gang members and demonstrated the YPG fighters’ determined resistance,” her group said.On another front, twin IS suicide truck bombings killed at least 30 YPG fighters and security officers on Monday in the Kurdish town of Hasakeh, northeast Syria, the Observatory said.The jihadists had sparked further outrage at the weekend with the release of a video showing the beheading of Briton Alan Henning.The video — the latest in a series of on-camera beheadings of Western hostages — also included a threat to another hostage, US aid worker Peter Kassig.His parents have issued a video plea for their son’s release, urging his captors to show mercy towards the 26-year-old former US soldier who has converted to Islam.Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, on the Turkish-Syrian …They also revealed Kassig had sent them a letter in June.”I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping and wondering if I should even hope at all,” Kassig wrote.- ‘NATO to protect Turkey’ -IS began advancing on Kobane on September 16, seeking to cement its grip over a long stretch of the border. The offensive prompted a mass exodus, with some 186,000 people fleeing into Turkey.The Turkish security forces used tear gas Monday to push dozens of reporters and Kurdish civilians away from the border zone, which has become increasingly dangerous because of stray mortar fire.Parliament in Ankara last week authorised the government to join a US-led campaign against IS, but so far no plans for military action have been announced.The new head of NATO on Monday vowed to protect member Turkey against any IS attack.”Turkey is a NATO ally and our main responsibility is to protect the integrity, the borders of Turkey,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.British media, meanwhile, reported that Turkish hostages freed by IS last month may have been released as part of a prisoner exchange for up to 180 jihadist fighters.The Times newspaper cited a list it had received saying that among them were three French nationals, two British, two Swedes, two Macedonians, one Swiss and one Belgian.Extremist Sunni Muslim group IS has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, where it has been accused of carrying out widespread atrocities, including mass executions, abductions, torture and forcing women into slavery.After first launching strikes against IS in Iraq in August, Washington has built a coalition of allies to wage an air campaign against the group.In Syria, the coalition carried out anti-IS strikes on Sunday and Monday near Raqa, Deir Ezzor and Kobane, where two jihadist „fighting positions” were destroyed, said US Central Command.In Iraq, they also launched three raids, targeting the jihadists near Fallujah and Ramadi, it said, adding Belgium and Britain took part in the strikes.On Monday, officials said the US military has started flying attack helicopters against the jihadists in Iraq for the first time, marking an escalation in the air war that puts American troops at higher risk.In all, nearly 2,000 air raids had been launched by the coalition in both Iraq and Syria, US defence officials said.Some 1,768 air strikes were carried out by US warplanes while other coalition aircraft were responsible for 195 others, or about 10 percent of the total.
Bulgaria’s center-right GERB party wins election By VESELIN TOSHKOV15 hours agoBoyko Borissov, former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of centre-right GERB party, holds his voting papers in Sofia, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. Opinion surveys predict the biggest vote winner will be center-right GERB party led by a former prime minister, Borisov, who says he would only continue building Bulgaria’s part of the South Stream pipeline if the EU approved. Bulgarians are voting in a parliamentary election hoping a new government will end the political stalemate, revive the economy, solve a severe banking crisis, and find ways to ease Moscow’s grip on the country’s energy supplies. (AP Photo/STR)Related Stories
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is returning to power after his center-right GERB party won most seats in parliamentary elections but fell short of a majority to govern alone.With 99 percent of the votes counted from Sunday’s election, the GERB party led with 32.7 percent and the Socialists came second with 15.4 percent, the Central Election Commission announced Monday.GERB officials said Monday their party was ready to form a minority government and was seeking the support of other parties but not the Socialists.Borisov said he was prepared to govern the country and left the door open for talks with possible coalition partners. He said the alternative was holding a new election that would cause political uncertainty and financial turmoil for the European Union’s poorest nation.Borisov, 55, headed a minority government between 2009, when his party took nearly 40 percent of the vote, until 2013, when he resigned amid sometimes violent protests against poverty, high utility bills and corruption.The nation of 7.3 million is struggling with corruption and a widespread disillusionment with the governing elite. A weak economic recovery is now threatened by a Russian ban on European food imports and a major crisis in the country’s fourth-largest bank.Bulgaria belongs to NATO and the 28-nation European Union but many residents feel a strong kinship to Russia.It has been building part of the South Stream pipeline that aims to transport gas from Russia through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and other European countries, bypassing Ukraine’s pipelines. But for anti-monopoly reasons, the EU has pressured Bulgaria to withdraw from the South Stream pipeline project and the work has stalled.Borisov has said previously he would continue building South Stream only if the EU approved. Many Bulgarians, however, are eager for the jobs they hope it can bring.
Egypt jihadist group releases video of beheadings 16 hours agoCairo (AFP) – An Egyptian jihadist group has released a video showing the execution of four men, including three being beheaded, accused of spying for the army and for Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.Related Stories
It is the second time such gruesome footage has been released by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), the deadliest militant group based in Egypt’s insurgency-hit Sinai region.A similar video of beheadings was released by the group on August 28, showing the decapitation of four men also accused of being „Israeli informants”.Ansar Beit al-Maqdis says it supports the Islamic State (IS) group which has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, but has not pledged formal allegiance to it.Sunday’s video, released on Twitter, features parts of a September speech by IS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani directed at Sinai jihadists, urging them to kill Egyptian security personnel.The footage then shows the execution of four men after their recorded „confessions”.