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  #1  
Old 08-10-2016, 10:45 AM
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Default Will Putin again use the Olympics as cover for new aggression, this time in Ukraine?

Eight years ago today, when the world was focusing on the Olympics in Beijing, Vladimir Putin used this distraction as the occasion to launch his invasion of Georgia. Now, there are both indications and fears that he may use the world’s focus on the Olympiad in Rio to reignite Russian aggression in Ukraine.

http://www.kyivpost.com/article/opin...ne-420541.html
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All battles do culminate in ending a war;
A war generating battles is ‘curse’ not ‘mirth’.

At that time, I will search out and destroy all of the nations who have come against Jerusalem - Zechariah 12:9
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:58 AM
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Default Tensions High Amid Russian Military Buildup In Crimea

http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine.../27909236.html

Quote:
By RFE/RL
August 08, 2016

Tensions are reportedly high among residents of northern Crimea as long convoys of heavy Russian weaponry continue to be sighted not far from the occupied peninsula's border with the Ukrainian mainland.

Crimean Tatar activists have reported armed checkpoints being erected at scattered sites around the peninsula, and unusually large concentrations of Russian hardware in northern regions.

The border crossing between Ukraine proper and the Russian-annexed peninsula had been shut for several hours on August 7, causing long backups of traffic.

Photos and videos posted on the website of the Crimean Human Rights Group, a local nongovernmental organization, showed Russian military trucks being transported on trains on August 6 near Kerch, an eastern port town that is opposite Russia's Stavropol territory.

Vadim Skibitsky, a representative of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's military intelligence division, told the online news portal Ukrayinska Pravda that the movement of troops and equipment appeared related to upcoming a major Russian military exercise called Kavkaz 2016 slated to begin next month.

He also tried to play down any immediate danger to local inhabitants.

Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 in the aftermath of the so-called Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, that forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee.

Moscow later declared it had annexed the peninsula, a move that has been rejected across the globe. Its naval base at Sevastopol is the home for the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Krym.Realii and Ukrayinska Pravda
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All battles do culminate in ending a war;
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:03 AM
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Default Guns Of August: Fears Of Full-Scale War Return As Casualties Mount In Ukraine

http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine.../27910909.html

Quote:
By Christopher Miller
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 10.08.2016 07:48

MARYINKA, Ukraine -- Framed by a tiny cutout in the fortified bunker, this particular piece of no-man's land is tinted a blood-reddish orange by the setting summer sun.

It's hot as hell, and it's about to get hotter. When the sun goes down, the guns start blazing. And all that separates the men at their triggers is a grassy patch of land the size of a soccer field that is heavily mined. If you're a Ukrainian soldier here, you don't need binoculars to observe the enemy -- you just look in his direction.

It starts with a single shot from a Kalashnikov: Ziiip. Then another: Ziiip. And three more: Ziiip. Ziiip. Ziiip. Each shot whizzes dangerously closer. In the time it takes to boil an egg, the situation escalates as the rifles are joined by .50-caliber machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades that explode with hollow thuds against the earth or cottages where the soldiers eat and sleep, showering everything with shrapnel. Within an hour, shells from howitzers and tanks -- and eventually surface-to-surface Grad missiles, whose name is Russian for "hail" -- begin pummeling the scarred steppe.

Reload. Fire. Repeat

The "disco," as the soldiers and the few residents left in this forsaken town call it, is in full effect. The relative calm that dawn brings seems a lifetime away. All are at the mercy of the darkness.

This is eastern Ukraine 28 months after the start of a conflict that once seemed unthinkable, and a year and a half after the signing of a second cease-fire deal, known as Minsk 2, that was supposed to bring lasting peace to this war-torn edge of Europe and reintegrate it with the rest of Ukraine.

But the armistice is unraveling fast as fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has escalated to levels not seen since more furious phases of the conflict in the Donbas -- where the separatists hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- in 2014 and 2015. Casualties, both civilian and military, are mounting.



The number of civilian casualties recorded by the United Nations nearly doubled in June to 69, including 12 deaths, and rose again in July, when eight civilians were killed and 65 wounded.

"The escalation of hostilities and the accompanying civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine over the last two months are very worrying," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on August 3. "Civilians are once again having to flee to improvised bomb shelters in their basements, sometimes overnight, with increasing frequency -- the price of the cease-fire violations is too high for the women, men, and children in eastern Ukraine."

The UN said that 57 percent of those casualties were the result of "mortar fire, cannons, howitzers, and tanks" -- weapons banned under the Minsk deal.

When combatants and civilians are included, the toll of deaths documented by the UN Human Rights Office since the outbreak of war in April 2014 had reached 9,553 by July 31.

But the UN says the real number of casualties may be higher, and the International Crisis Group said in a July report that "there is little doubt that the death toll is significantly higher than either side admits."

The UN has urged all sides to respect the cease-fire provisions, to remove combatants and weapons from civilian areas, and to scrupulously implement the Minsk agreements -- successive cease-fire and settlement deals signed in September 2014 and February 2015.

But there are signs of both sides going back to a war footing: Kyiv is on high alert and has deployed special-forces units and battle-hardened battalions to the front, while Russia has reportedly amassed large amounts of military hardware in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula it seized from Ukraine in March 2014.

Two women examine their destroyed flat after fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops in the town of Yasinovataya in the eastern Donetsk region on August 1.
Two women examine their destroyed flat after fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops in the town of Yasinovataya in the eastern Donetsk region on August 1.
After the leader of separatists in the Luhansk region, Igor Plotnitsky, was injured in an apparent assassination attempt on August 6, separatists were ordered to be on full combat readiness.

Peace Deal In Jeopardy

"The Minsk agreements have met their end," Vyacheslav Vlasenko, a commander of government forces who is known as "the Owl," told RFE/RL. Soldiers in his Donbas Ukraine unit, a volunteer battalion that split off and was brought under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces, nodded in agreement.

They are preparing for what they see as an imminent return to full-scale war -- something that is seen as a distinct possibility on both sides of the "demarcation line" in the Donbas.

"The situation remains tense, and at any moment it could break out and escalate into full-fledged clashes," Denis Pushilin, the leader of separatists in the Donetsk region, warned last week.


Puffing on a cigarette inside his Maryinka operating base, the raspy-voiced Vlasenko leaned over a situation map marked with blue and black ink and traces his finger over the locations where fighting is the heaviest -- these days, pretty much everywhere along the narrow frontier that separates his men from the Russia-backed fighters. In Maryinka, it is especially heavy near the bases of two old coal-mine slag heaps nicknamed "crocodile" and "tits" because of their shapes.

To highlight the recent escalation of violence, Vlasenko slid a casualty list for the past 49 days beneath a flickering lamp. It listed: 112 firefights; 45 wounded soldiers, including 19 from shrapnel and three from bullets; 18 troops with contusions; two with traumatic amputations; two with bone fractures; and one crushed to death by debris.

For the Ukrainian Army, July was the deadliest month since August 2015. At least 42 servicemen were killed and 181 wounded, according to statistics provided by Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for President Petro Poroshenko's administration.

Some days the casualties were particularly bad. On July 19, Ukraine reported seven soldiers had been killed and 14 injured. On July 24, the military said six more died in clashes. On August 6, three servicemen died and four were wounded.

On the Internet, the Ukrainian military's daily situation map is lit up by explosion markers up and down the snaking 500-kilometer contact line, indicating pitched battles.

Crimean Tatar activists have reported a massive Russian military buildup in Crimea near mainland Ukraine.
Crimean Tatar activists have reported a massive Russian military buildup in Crimea near mainland Ukraine.
On the ground, unarmed monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) say both sides are violating the cease-fire on a regular basis. The group's nonpartisan, no-nonsense reports have shown that a steady increase in fighting began in June, with the number of cease-fire violations rising from dozens to hundreds daily and the use of heavy weapons on the front lines becoming more frequent.

The reports also paint a picture of a growing hostility toward members of the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) on the part of government troops and separatist fighters. In a July 30 report, the OSCE described members being surrounded by Donetsk separatist fighters who trained their rifles at them while one "made a 'cut throat' sign" and took photographs of their vehicles and the drivers. On August 2, a fighter in an unmarked uniform at a known Ukrainian military position chambered a round into his submachine gun, flicked off its safety, put his finger on the trigger, and aimed it at a monitor.

The OSCE mission has faced threats before, and has even had its members kidnapped. It has also faced criticism from both warring sides for not doing more.

The monitors acknowledge substantial limits to the effectiveness of their mission: They do not operate at night, meaning that much of the fighting is heard but not seen, and it is all but impossible to determine whether Russian soldiers and arms are crossing into Ukraine because they only have a mandate to observe at two border crossings.

At this point in the conflict, Vlasenko said, the OSCE was "useless."

A Deadly 'Game'

Before the war, Maryinka -- like many towns that have found themselves on the front line -- was a sleepy, rural collection of cottages. It lies just 28 kilometers west of Donetsk, the regional capital that is now a separatist stronghold. People like Alina Kosse, 58, raised their children and tended their gardens here, most living modest but unruffled lives.

"It was so peaceful and everyone was friendly," Kosse said while cooking a pot of borscht and a cabbage-wrapped meat-and-rice mixture to feed to Ukrainian soldiers passing through on their way to their forward positions.

For the past two years, Maryinka has been caught in the war's crossfire. The first heavy battles were fought here in July 2014, and the separatists controlled the town before the Ukrainian Army managed to regain its footing.

Much of the heart of the town was destroyed in the fighting.

The front line cuts right up against Maryinka's northern edge. On the other side is separatist-held Donetsk's Petrovskiy district.

Neighbors whose homes are a few minutes' walk apart haven't seen each other in more than two years: It can take as long as a transcontinental flight to cross a heavily guarded makeshift frontier bristling with fighters, checkpoints, tank traps, and land mines.

And the war remains so fluid here that sometimes it's hard to know which road belongs to whom. Possession of them can change daily, and one wrong turn can land you in enemy territory.

There is one road in Maryinka that nobody dares to tread. Dubbed the "road of death" and "snipers' alley," it dips and winds into a shallow valley overlooked by separatist positions perched atop slag heaps and on the upper stories of a line of buildings, making it easy to gun down anyone or anything that tries to pass.

Natasha, a friend of Kosse's who came over for a chat and a bite to eat, said the separatist snipers do not discriminate. "They assume whoever uses that road is a combatant, so they shoot to kill everything," she said. "It's like a game for them, to shoot at us like we're rats."

Fight And Sacrifice

Among some in Ukraine's government and many on the front line, the spike in fighting has fed a growing desire -- driven by anxiety about what Russia's military might do next, frustration over the failure of the Minsk deal to end the conflict, and anger at the mounting battlefield deaths -- to wrest back control of separatist-held territory by force rather than diplomacy.

"My soul hurts for each of the lives of our soldiers sacrificed for Ukraine," Viktor Muzhenko, the commander of Ukraine's armed forces, said after seven soldiers were killed on July 19. "There will be an adequate response."

Oleksandr Turchynov, chief of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said the same day that if the situation continued to deteriorate he would consider imposing martial law.

President Poroshenko has since poured cold water on the idea, warning that international financial backers would freeze much-needed assistance for Ukraine -- which is struggling with economic troubles in addition to the war in the east and the aftermath of Russia's armed takeover of Crimea. But not since the conflict began in spring 2014 has the issue of martial law and greater security measures been so seriously discussed.

"This war is a bulls**t," one soldier, who asked that his name not be used because he did not want his commander to view him as insubordinate, said in English.

Switching to Russian, he said: "The Ukrainian Army is stronger than it was [at the start of the war], and we are ready to die if it is necessary. I say, let's make this sacrifice for our country, for its future."

Kyiv appears to be listening, at least with one ear.

In June, it put its strongest volunteer fighting battalions on a war footing, sending them back to the front lines to repulse separatist attacks.

Among them -- and deployed for the first time since its inception a year ago -- was Ukraine's 10th Brigade, which is comprised of a few thousand highly skilled soldiers from three units: Donbas Ukraine, the Aidar Battalion, and the 8th Battalion. All are positioned around Donetsk.

While they haven't made a big collective move, dozens of Ukrainian soldiers I spoke with said their commanders had been more aggressive than in recent months.

The Russia Factor

Inside the Donbas Ukraine post, a fly buzzed by the flickering light before getting stuck in dangling fly paper, a soldier with a boyish face and a Cossack-style Mohawk haircut scanned live cameras trained on separatist positions. Lighting up another cigarette, Vlasenko explained that he had been a more permissive commander as of late.

"If it's just small arms, like rifles, we don't shoot back [at the separatists]," he said. "But if it's rockets or something heavier, we respond with our own artillery. Or when I see that they are shooting at the homes of noncombatants, then I give the order to shoot at them. When they have killed or wounded one of our guys, I give the command to open fire with everything we've got."

Vlasenko added that his soldiers were allowed, in some cases, to take the first shot. "When we see them bring new equipment to the front, like they brought a tank yesterday, we open fire" to prevent them from using it, he said.

"We are not ruled by a desire to kill everyone standing on the other side of the line. Our aim is to stabilize the situation in Maryinka," he continued. But like the troops he commands, he is growing exasperated by the daily skirmishes that don't bring the end of the war any closer.

"Show [the journalists] our recent work," Vlasenko said to the soldier with the Mohawk, who switched from the live feed to a video shot on July 16 that shows Ukrainian artillery pounding what is said to be separatist positions.

When he closes his eyes, Vlasenko said, he daydreams about being given the order for all 69,000 Ukrainian troops Kyiv says are currently in the eastern war zone to push east to Donetsk and Luhansk -- and beyond. "I would like to see a parade of Ukrainian troops marching on Red Square," he says in deadpan tone.

Only then, he said, could Ukraine live in peace and he go back to what he was doing before the war: "lying on the sofa."

Dreams of Red Square aside, a major deterrent to any notion of a new Ukrainian offensive in the Donbas is the possibility that it would spur President Vladimir Putin's Russia -- which Kyiv and NATO say has poured money, soldiers, and weapons into Ukraine during the conflict and has a large force stationed just across -- to intervene with devastating effect.

Even without provocation from Kyiv, there are concerns in Ukraine that Russia could be gearing up for a new offensive. Crimean Tatar activists reported on August 7 that armed checkpoints were being hastily erected on the annexed peninsula and large concentrations of Russian hardware massed in northern Crimea, near mainland Ukraine. On the same day, Ukraine's border-guard service said that Russian authorities had blocked all entry to Crimea by road for several hours.

Ukraine got a deadly taste of what Russia's forces could do in the Donetsk region town of Ilovaysk in August 2014, when hundreds of Ukrainian troops were massacred after being surrounded, and again in February 2015 in Debaltseve, on a key highway between Donetsk and Luhansk. The battles dealt devastating blows to the Ukrainian military, in terms of human lives and morale, and bolstered the confidence of the Russia-backed separatists.

Russia and the separatists, meanwhile, may have their own motives for escalating the fighting now -- and their own reasons not to take it too far. In 2014, there were strong signs that Putin hoped to take control of a huge swath of southern Ukraine from the Donbas to Crimea and the Black Sea port city of Odesa -- an area that Russian leaders began to call Novorossia, or "New Russia" -- but that plan unraveled after it failed to catch on beyond Donetsk and Luhansk.

For Moscow today, disincentives for a major new offensive by the Russia-backed separatists include the prospect of stepped-up Western sanctions, fears of overstretching the military, and the ire Putin would face across much of the world if he ignited a full-scale war in Europe. Many analysts say that for now, at least, the Kremlin wants to use the conflict it helped whip up in the Donbas to destabilize Ukraine, bleed its economy, and keep it from getting too close to NATO and the European Union.

'Just Give The Order'

While Vlasenko holds the line in Maryinka and awaits orders, some are taking it upon themselves to push, ever so slowly, forward.

About 25 kilometers south of Maryinka, in sprawling field of wild grass outside the village of Solodke, the Aidar Battalion is now dug in just 300 meters from separatist positions after making a rare forward push eastward 1 kilometer in May.

They paid a steep price for the advance, as separatists pounded them with mortars and heavy artillery, destroying several vehicles and other equipment, as well as the warehouse that stored them. Commanders say they also lost soldiers in the push and in battles since, but they will not disclose how many for fear of appearing weak to their enemy.

A muscular middle-aged fighter who goes by the nom de guerre Musician -- a reference not to proficiency with an instrument but to his use of a grenade launcher beneath the barrel of his rifle -- said that those sacrifices would not be in vain, and that he and his comrades were eager to retake the separatist-held section of the Donbas by force.

"Just give the order," he said.
__________________
All our wars in air or in water are of NO worth;
if we haven’t so far learnt to live on earth.
All battles do culminate in ending a war;
A war generating battles is ‘curse’ not ‘mirth’.

At that time, I will search out and destroy all of the nations who have come against Jerusalem - Zechariah 12:9
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Old 08-12-2016, 09:56 AM
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Default Putin: Foiled Attack in Crimea Worrying, Ukraine Starts to Resort to Terror

http://sputniknews.com/politics/2016...ne-crimea.html

Quote:
Ukraine's authorities have resorted to terrorism instead of looking for peaceful solutions to the conflict in the east of the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said earlier on Wednesday it had dismantled a spy ring organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in Crimea, detaining both Russian and Ukrainian nationals involved in preparing terrorist attacks on the peninsula.

"It looks like the people who have seized power in Kiev and continue to hold on to it, instead of looking for the compromises that we have talked about in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, instead of looking for ways to reconcile peacefully, they have resorted to terrorist practices," Putin told reporters.

Russian regions. Crimea
© SPUTNIK/ VLADIMIR ASTAPKOVICH
Crimean Leader Vows to Meet Attempts to Destabilize Peninsula With Tough Response
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Crimea is a "dangerous game" and Moscow will take additional security measures after an attack was foiled.
Two Russian servicemen died while thwarting the allegedly Ukrainian-led terror plots in Crimea, this will not be ignored, Putin said.

"I want to note and I think this has already been reported in the media, that two servicemen were killed. We shall not ignore this."

FSB
© SPUTNIK/ IGOR ZAREMBO
Two Russian Officers Die Preventing Kiev-Prepared Terrorist Attacks in Crimea
He added that Russia views the assassination attempt against Igor Plotnitsky, the head of east Ukraine's self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, as well as the Crimean sabotage attempt, in the context of terrorism.
Earlier this month, a bomb exploded on a road near Plotnitsky's car. He sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Holding a Normandy Four meeting with Ukraine, Germany and France on settling the Ukrainian conflict at the upcoming G20 summit in China would be futile given the uncovering of a spy ring organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in Crimea, the Russian president said.

"This is very worrying information. Security services have, in fact, prevented the intrusion of a Ukrainian Defense Ministry sabotage and reconnaissance mission from Ukrainian territory. And, of course, holding a meeting in the Normandy format in China given these conditions is pointless," Putin said.

According to the Russian president, the plot was an attempt to distract the Ukrainian people’s attention from the country’s leadership.

"An attempt to provoke an outbreak of violence, to provoke a conflict is nothing else but a desire to divert attention of the country’s society from the people who have taken over the power in Kiev, who continue robbing their own people to remain in power for as long as possible and to continue robbing its own people," he stressed.

"There is no point to carry out such campaigns other than to divert attention of its own people from the dire situation of the [Ukrainian] economy, of the dire situation of a significant number of people," Putin told reporters.
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All battles do culminate in ending a war;
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Old 08-13-2016, 01:23 PM
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Default Kyiv Accuses Russia Of Provocations As Moscow Deploys Missiles

http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine.../27916808.html

Quote:
By RFE/RL
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 12.08.2016 14:42

Kyiv accused Russia of seeking to provoke an escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow has bolstered separatist forces in the region with fresh deliveries of ammunition and military hardware.

The assertion came as tensions between Moscow and Kyiv continued to rise after Russia claimed that Ukraine had tried to send “saboteurs” into Crimea to carry out “terrorist” attacks against infrastructure on the Russian-annexed peninsula -- an allegation Kyiv says is “preposterous.”

Russia's Defense Ministry on August 12 announced the deployment of S-400 air-defense missile systems -- which Moscow has touted as state-of-the art weapons -- in Crimea. The military had pledged last month to deploy the system on the peninsula. And Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev raised the prospect of severing diplomatic relations with Kyiv in order to “sober up” Ukraine.

“I would not want that to happen, but if there is no other option left to impact the situation, the president [Vladimir Putin] could make such a decision,” Medvedev said in response to a question. He noted that diplomatic ties between Russia and Georgia were cut off when they fought a brief war in 2008.

Russia’s accusation of a Ukrainian plot to destabilize Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in March 2014, added to tension following weeks of increased fighting between government forces and the Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Each side is blaming the other for the increased tension.

Ukraine's military intelligence service, which has categorically denied Russia’s claims, alleged on August 12 that Russia was planning "large-scale provocative actions through the contact line in Ukraine’s east” -- a reference to the line separating government and separatist forces.

Russia “will then accuse Ukraine of not complying" with the Minsk agreement, a Western-brokered peace deal for eastern Ukraine.

The S-400 air-defense missile system (file photo)
The S-400 air-defense missile system (file photo)
The accusation came a day after President Petro Poroshenko put Ukraine’s forces on the highest alert level in both eastern Ukraine and along the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and Crimea.

The Foreign Ministry in Kyiv on August 12 demanded that Russia give monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) access to Crimea as well as greater access to separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, saying that Moscow is obliged to do so under existing agreements.

It also called for monitors from the International Red Cross and the United Nations' human rights monitoring mission to be given access to Ukrainian detainees who are in the custody of Russian authorities.

Also on August 12, Russian lawmaker Olga Kovitidi said the Russia-installed government in Crimea has cut off Internet access in the northern part of Crimea, which is closer to the mainland, "for security reasons."

Evidence pointing to a buildup of Russian military equipment in northern Crimea in the past week emerged on social media both before and after Russia made its claim about a Ukrainian plot in Crimea on August 10.

A report by the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based think tank, said that a “deluge of photographs and videos" had appeared online since August 7 that indicate a “mass mobilization” of Russian military equipment throughout Crimea. It said the deployments include the movement of truck-mounted Bastion-P coastal missile-defense systems.

At the same time, the report cast doubts on claims by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) that artillery positioned in Ukraine's Kherson region had shelled Russian positions in northern Crimea on August 8, killing one Russian soldier.

It said that there were few reliable local witness accounts of a Ukrainian artillery attack on Russian forces in Crimea on VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, Twitter, or other social media -- and that no photographs or video of gunfire and shelling had emerged.

Russia said on August 11 that it was stepping up security in Crimea and also announced a three-day naval exercise to practice repelling underwater attacks on the Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The FSB says it thwarted an incursion by Ukrainian “saboteurs” between August 6 and August 8 and that it detained several suspects, including both Ukrainian and Russian citizens.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said on Twitter on August 11 that the U.S. government "has seen nothing so far that corroborates” the Russian allegations. European Union officials have also cast doubt on the Russian claims.

Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk says Russia’s actions and statements are aimed at stalling the peace process under the Minsk agreements, discrediting Ukraine, and escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Volodymyr Velchenko, charged on August 11 that some 40,000 Russian troops are now amassed in Crimea and along Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, TASS, and Interfax
__________________
All our wars in air or in water are of NO worth;
if we haven’t so far learnt to live on earth.
All battles do culminate in ending a war;
A war generating battles is ‘curse’ not ‘mirth’.

At that time, I will search out and destroy all of the nations who have come against Jerusalem - Zechariah 12:9
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Old 08-13-2016, 01:29 PM
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Default Russia Holds War Games, Ukraine Troops Go On Alert, U.S. Calls For Restraint

http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-.../27914563.html

Quote:
By RFE/RL
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 11.08.2016 20:10

Russia has announced naval war games in the Black Sea and Ukraine has put its troops on combat alert, as the United States called on both sides to show restraint amid dramatic new tensions over the Crimea Peninsula.

The moves on August 11, coming one day after Moscow claimed it thwarted an incursion into Russian-held Crimea by Ukrainian saboteurs, stoked fears that in Ukraine and elsewhere Moscow may be planning to ramp up fighting in a war between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used some of his most aggressive rhetoric since the height of the war two years ago, pledging to take countermeasures against Ukraine, which he accused of sending saboteurs into Crimea to carry out terrorist acts.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau called for the avoidance of any actions that would escalate an already "very dangerous situation."

"We continue to remain in close touch with international partners on this," she said. "But we believe now it's the time to reduce the tensions, to reduce the rhetoric and get back to talks."

"Crimea is part of Ukraine and is recognized as such by the international community," she said.

Earlier, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said Washington has seen no evidence supporting the incursion claim by Russia, which accused Kyiv of plotting "terror" in Crimea and reported that two members of its security forces were killed in clashes last weekend with the alleged assailants.

"Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions," Geoffrey Pyatt said.

​Following a request from Kyiv, the United Nations Security Council discussed the rising tensions in Crimea during a closed-door meeting in New York.

After the meeting, Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said Russia had amassed more than 40,000 troops in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, meanwhile, described the Security Council meeting as "useful" to explain the situation and dismissed concerns about a Russian military build-up.

"Instead of counting our military they should be bringing an end to the conflict [in eastern Ukraine]" he said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he wants to speak directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin and several Western leaders amid the spike in tensions.

Russia's lead security agency, the Federal Security Service, said on August 10 that an agency employee and a soldier were killed over the weekend while repelling what it described as attempts to get Ukrainian "saboteurs" onto the peninsula.

Russia seized and annexed Crimea in 2014 after deploying troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by Kyiv, Western governments, and a total of 100 countries.

The agency, known as the FSB, also said it had detained several men -- both Ukrainian and Russian citizens -- and confiscated weapons.

Putin accused Ukraine's pro-Western government in Kyiv of using terror tactics to seek to ignite a new conflict and destabilize Crimea, something the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, called preposterous fantasies and a pretext for Moscow to make more military threats.

In Moscow, Putin held a meeting of his Security Council and discussed “additional measures to provide for the security of the citizens and vital infrastructure facilities of Crimea in connection with the prevention by the [Russian] special services of a terrorist act on the peninsula,” the Kremlin said on its website.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council to discuss additional security measures for Crimea on August 11.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council to discuss additional security measures for Crimea on August 11.
On August 11, Poroshenko said he had instructed all military units near Crimea and in eastern regions near separatist-held territory to be at their highest level of combat readiness.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the deaths of two of its security forces would have consequences, and the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, would conduct exercises on August 11-13 to practice "repelling an attack by underwater saboteurs."

The Russian claims came amid reports of an unusual increase in Russian military activity in the northern part of Crimea, near the administrative border with mainland Ukraine, over the past several days.

That activity, as well as the Russian allegations and the upsurge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, has stoked concerns in Ukraine that the Kremlin may seek to take control of more of its territory.

After annexing Crimea in March 2014, Russia threw its support behind separatists who seized territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, leading to a war that has killed more than 9,500 combatants and civilians since that April. The current tension in Crimea follows weeks of increased fighting in eastern Ukraine.

A NATO official was quoted as saying the military alliance was monitoring the heightened Crimea tensions with concern. The official, who asked not to be named, told the AFP news agency that "Russia's recent military activity in Crimea is not helpful for easing tensions" and called on Moscow "to work for calm and de-escalation."

In Russia, the daily Kommersant cited unnamed sources as saying that two of seven suspects in one group had been killed and the other five captured. Most of them were Crimea residents and some had Russian passports, the report said.

Kommersant also cited the sources as saying the detainees' objective had been to spread panic to destroy the tourist industry, but not to kill anyone.

Ukraine quickly denied the allegations, with military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk saying Moscow's claims "do not correspond to reality. Ukraine did not commit any armed provocations in [Crimea] or any other area. None of [Ukraine's] Defense Ministry intelligence staff was detained in occupied Crimea."

There was no way to check the veracity of the reports.

Russian authorities frequently report that suspects have confessed, and human rights activists say confessions are often extracted through pressure or torture.

Sergei Aksyonov, the head of the Russian-imposed government in Crimea, told state TV channel Rossia-24 on August 11 that "saboteurs" should be hanged.

"Saboteurs should be treated exactly the same way as farmers treat crows who rob them of their harvest -- they ought to be killed and hanged at the border so the others get the message," he said.

The Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based think tank, cast doubt on the circumstances of the incident, saying in a report on August 10 that there were no published photographs or videos of these incidents of gunfire and shelling.

Among those Russia says it has detained is Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian truck driver who previously volunteered in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Russian state TV published a photograph of a man who appears to be a handcuffed Panov.
Among those Russia says it has detained is Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian truck driver who previously volunteered in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Russian state TV published a photograph of a man who appears to be a handcuffed Panov.
Among those Russia says it has detained is Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian truck driver who previously volunteered in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Moscow claims Panov worked as a Ukrainian military intelligence officer, and Russian television showed footage of Panov being questioned, with several cuts and bruises visible on his face and arm.

TASS reported that a court in Crimea arrested Panov for two months on suspicion of organizing terror attacks on the peninsula.

Kyiv, however, called him a hostage and Panov’s half-brother, Ihor Kotelyanets, told RFE/RL’s Current Time TV that Panov was not a member of Ukraine’s armed services and that he had been abducted.

Kotelyanets said Panov had left his hometown of Energodar on August 6 to visit friends over the weekend and had been due back on August 8.

WATCH: Brother Of Ukrainian Held By Russia Appeals To Kyiv For Help

▶0:00:00⇱

Another statement questioning the Russian accounts came from the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, who said an armed skirmish had taken place in Crimea between the Russian military and Russian FSB border guards.

Valeriy Kondratyuk did not say when or exactly where the alleged shoot-out took place. He made the comments at a meeting with Poroshenko earlier on August 11 to discuss the crisis.

Other media outlets tried to puzzle out Putin’s motives for the Russian claims.

The independent Russian daily Vedomosti said that Russia may be intentionally increasing tensions and putting pressure on Kyiv and the West ahead of a possible new round of talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine scheduled for next month.

In an op-ed article titled A New Old Enemy, Vedomosti wrote that Moscow had a habit of ramping up tensions ahead of negotiations with Ukraine.

"The main political question now is what is the future of the Minsk process," the paper wrote, referring to a cease-fire and peace plan that was hammered out in the Belarusian capital in February 2015 but has not been implemented. "Will Russia bring an end to it or demand new concessions?"

Motuzyanyk, the Ukrainian military spokesman, said Russia's actions and statements were intended "to discredit Ukraine, to stall the Minsk agreements, and to escalate conflict in eastern Ukraine which was caused by the Russian aggression."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, Kommersant, and Vedomost
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Default Russia: Preparing an Offensive or Maneuvering for Easing of Sanctions?

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