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Ukraine Blog

Follow the latest developments as Ukraine attempts to deal with pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

    NATO's top official has bluntly accused Moscow on Thursday of attacking Ukraine as allied leaders began a summit set to support Kiev and buttress defences against a Russia they now see as an adversary for the first time since the Cold War.

    [Source: Reuters]

    Key NATO leaders agreed during a summit meeting on Thursday that Russia should faced
    increased sanctions for its actions in eastern Ukraine, the White House said.

    "The leaders reiterated their condemnation of Russia's continued flagrant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and agreed on the need for Russia to face increased costs for its actions," a White House statement said.


    Read Al Jazeera's report here

    Poroshenko says Ukraine signs 'preliminary' truce deal with rebels

    In a statement released by the Press service of the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko says he has agreed to a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

    The world wants peace, all Ukraine wants peace, including millions of citizens of Donbas.  

    Based on the appeal from President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to the leaders of unlawful armed groups in Donbas to ceasefire... I gave an order to the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to a ceasefire, starting at 18:00 PM on September 5.

    I expect that these agreements, including the ceasefire and liberation of hostages, will be clearly upheld.

    Russia says planned NATO exercises in Ukraine threaten peace moves

    Joint military exercises planned by Kiev and NATO in Ukraine and rhetoric from NATO leaders at a summit could undermine peace moves in the former Soviet republic, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

    In a statement issued after Kiev and pro-Russian rebels agreed a ceasefire, it said the military exercises - planned for Sept. 16-26 - would cause "increased tensions, threaten the tentative progress in the peace process in Ukraine, contribute to the aggravation of a split in the Ukraine society.
    Al Jazeera's Peter Sharp, reporting from Moscow, said the fighting was looking increasing unwinnable for Kiev, but its still unclear who gave up what to make the ceasefire work.
    Rebel leader says he still seeks to break away from Kiev despite ceasefire

    A senior rebel leader said a ceasefire deal reached with Kiev on Friday did not change the desire of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine to break away from Kiev.

    "The ceasefire does not mean the end of (our) policy to split (from Ukraine)," Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, told reporters.
    Armed forces to remain in current positions in Ukraine after ceasefire deal-source

    The ceasefire deal in Ukraine includes a prisoner exchange, while armed forces on both sides will remain in their current positions, a source close to talks said on Friday.

    The source also said the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will monitor the implementation of the ceasefire.
    Russia says it welcomes the ceasefire deal with Ukraine 

    Russia say it has welcomed the ceasefire reached by Kiev and pro-Russian rebels and urged all sides to observe it closely.

    "The Russian presidential office welcomes the signing of the protocol in Minsk," Interfax news agency quoted President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying.

    He noted the agreement followed initiatives by Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and added: "Moscow hopes all the provisions of the document and the agreements reached will be thoroughly observed by the parties and that the negotiating process will continue until the crisis in Ukraine is fully resolved."
    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told reporters on Friday that he prepared 12 practical steps to establish peace in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

    Poroshenko said it was important that we continue with negotiations with Russia and expected prisoners held by rebels to be released on Saturday.

    He said the ceasfire was based on conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    He added that Ukrainians will do everything possible to maintain peace in the country's east, and what happened before was truly unacceptable.
    EU agrees new sanctions on Russia

    The European Union has agreed on a new package of economic sanctions against Russia on Friday, despite a ceasefire between government forces and pro-Kremlin rebels in Ukraine, diplomats said.

    A EU diplomat said there was "agreement in principle on new sanctions" and that they would be officially implemented in writing on Monday.

    Pro-Russian separatists have continued to stand guard hours after a ceasefire came into effect [Reuters] 

    Ukraine and pro-Kremlin insurgents appeared to be observing a truce on Saturday that could stem five months of bloodshed, but failed to head off fresh Western sanctions against Russia and is unlikely to quell the separatist drive in the east.

    The 12-point pact signed on Friday in the Belarussian capital Minsk is the first to be backed by both the Kremlin and Kiev since bands of Russian-speaking militias seized a string of government buildings across Ukraine's industrial heartland in early April.
    Ukraine's truce deal has been shaken by an artillery attack on government forces near Mariupol. You can read Al Jazeera's latest story here.

    Amnesty International has said that Russia could no longer deny its active involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukrainian and that both sides "can be accused of war crimes" based on evidence the London-based human rights group has collated.

    Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said:

    "What we have is new satellite images which we've acquired and it's quite clear that there's direct and active influence of Russia. Russia can't deny not being a party to the conflict anymore. Very systematic, well-organised mobile artillery and armoured units in place - there's no way the separatist forces could have organised that themselves. On top of that we also have eyewitness accounts of movement of Russian tanks across the border. So I think really that it's not deniable anymore. As far as we are concerned, it's an international conflict."

    He added:

    "The Russian authorities will be accountable both for supporting the separatist forces but also for their own actions. So it doesn't mean that they have to be directly involved, but if they are supporting others, if they are looking the other way, if they are giving orders I think there will be direct accountability for that."


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    Ukraine civilians say ceasefire won't hold

    Ukraine ceasefire has been repeatedly violated by shelling from both sides.
    "It was like an atom bomb. I only just made it into the cellar when the shell landed," said Olga Vasilyevska, a pensioner living in a small, well-kept house near the sea in Shyrokyne, between Ukrainian-controlled Mariupol and Novoazovsk, now in the hands of pro-Russian rebels.
    Pro-Russian separatists have released 648 Ukrainian prisoners of war so far under the terms of a ceasefire struck with government forces that came into effect last Friday, a Ukrainian military spokesman has said.

    Andriy Lysenko told a daily briefing the Ukrainian side was working to secure the release of about 500 more prisoners. He did not comment immediately on how many rebel prisoners of war the government side would hand over under the ceasefire deal.

    President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday the rebels had handed over about 1,200 prisoners. Lysenko said the president's figure had referred to the total number of prisoners and others believed to be held by the separatists.

    Lysenko also said five Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 33 had been wounded since the ceasefire began. Earlier, a defence ministry official had put the death toll among Ukrainian servicemen during the ceasefire at four.

    President Vladimir Putin told his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, that Moscow remained committed to "further assist" the Ukraine peace process, the Kremlin said in a statement on Tuesday.

    "V.V. Putin confirmed commitment of the Russian Federation to further assist the peace resolution of the (Ukraine) crisis," the Kremlin said in a report on a phone conversation.

    In the course of the conversation, "the importance of maintaining steady a ceasefire regime in the south-east of Ukraine was stressed", according to the statement, but it was not immediately clear whether this was the position of the two leaders.

    Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko has called for a referendum in the country on joining the NATO.

    Batkivshchyna Party leader presented documents to the Central Electoral Commission in Kiev asking for a nationwide referendum on NATO membership.

    Tymoshenko said that despite some obstacles, her team managed to fulfill all the legal requirements for starting the referendum process. 

    She called for the referendum on NATO to be held at the same time as Ukraine's upcoming parliamentary elections in October. 


    A convoy of more than 200 white trucks returned to Russia on Saturday after delivering humanitarian aid to the battered Ukrainian city of Luhansk, a move made without Kiev's consent yet met with silence by Ukraine's top leaders.

    Fresh US and EU sanctions imposed on Moscow will bring an abrupt halt to exploration of
    Russia's huge Arctic and shale oil reserves and complicate financing of existing Russian projects from the Caspian Sea to Iraq and Ghana.

    On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil Surgutneftegas and Rosneft, banning Western firms from supporting their
    activities in exploration or production from deep water, Arctic offshore or
    shale projects.

    Eckard Cordes, chairman of Germany's Committee on Eastern European Economic relations, said his group, which represents the interests of about 200 companies with investments in Russia, had wanted sanctions to be delayed to help bolster the ceasefire.

    "The European Union's new economic sanctions against Russia are a "mistake" because they
    were imposed just as a week-old ceasefire was bringing calm to the embattled east of Ukraine"

    The Ukrainian government accused pro-Russian separatists on Sunday of threatening a tenuous push for peace as booming rounds of heavy artillery fire echoed across the insurgent stronghold of Donetsk.

    It said the rebels had been intensifying their attacks on government positions in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire backed by Kiev and Moscow nine days ago.

    Reports of shelling of neighborhoods near in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Sunday , jeopardizing the cease fire agreement.

    The city council of Donetsk said Sunday that two neighborhoods in the north
    of the city had been repeatedly hit by shelling.

    That part of the city is closest to the government-held airport, which has become the site of
    increasingly intense fighting between the pro-Russian 
    separatists and Kiev's

    Volodymyr Polyovyi, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and
    Defense Council, told journalists Sunday that Ukrainian 
    troops had repelled
    an attack at the airport by about 200 fighters during the 
    night. He said
    there were no military casualties.


    Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Heletey says that NATO weapons are on the way to Ukraine after agreements about weapons delivery were reached at the NATO summit in Wales. 

    The pro-Russian party that ruled Ukraine under ousted president Viktor Yanukovych said Sunday it would boycott next month's parliamentary polls and form an "opposition government" to fight for regional powers and against Kiev's westward course.

    The decision by the once-dominant Regions Party came as top politicians formed leadership lists for the October 26 election that was called early to regain people's trust after two decades of post-Soviet corruption and economic malaise.


    Luhansk civilian airport is completely destroyed in fighting between Ukrainian
    army and pro-Russian separatists.


    Six people were killed in shelling in the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Sunday, municipal authorities said on Monday, putting further strain on a 10-day ceasefire between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

    A monitoring team from the OSCE said it was also shelled twice in the city on Sunday despite the ceasefire.

    Separately, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kiev there had been some deaths among Ukrainian troops over the weekend, although he did not provide details, and said 73 soldiers had been freed in an exchange with the rebels.

    The truce started on Sept. 5 and has been broadly holding despite sporadic violations which both sides blame on the other.

    Three civilians has been killed in renewed shelling in the Ukrainian rebel-held city of Donetsk on Monday despite a ceasefire, the local authority has said.

    Another five people were injured, city hall said in a statement, without giving further details. Another six civilians were killed in heavy fighting in Donetsk on Sunday.

    Members of the Ukrainian parliament has ratified a landmark agreement with the EU, pivoting their country towards the West over half a year after its pro-Russian leader was overthrown from power as a result of mass anti-government protests.

    The development comes as a ceasefire agreement with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, signed earlier this month in the Belarusian capital Minsk, has been riddled with violations from the start.


    Ukraine ratifies key EU association deal

    Ukrainian and European parliaments pass the political and economic association agreement, despite Russia's objections.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a tweet on Friday that the United States had promised $1bn in financial guarantees for Kiev to raise funds on the capital markets.

    "Agreed with @BarackObama that Ukraine will receive $1 billion in financial guarantees," he said after visiting Washington where he secured $53bn in assistance but failed to win the argument for the United States to provide Ukraine weapons to fight pro-Russian separatists in its east. 

    In the first half of this year, Ukraine borrowed $1bn on capital markets under a similar US guarantee. [Reuters]

    Deal reached on Ukraine ceasefire

    Agreement reached for creation of buffer zone and withdrawal of foreign fighters from conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.
    The city of Donetsk was rocked by blasts on Saturday, even as government forces and pro-Russian separatists prepared to create a buffer zone to separate the warring sides.

    A Reuters correspondent in Donetsk said several powerful explosions were heard in the morning. A plant producing munitions and industrial explosives had been hit, municipal authorities said.

    by Diana.AlRifai edited by Rahul Radhakrishnan 9/20/2014 1:45:36 PM

    In Pictures: Destruction in Ukraine's Luhansk

    More than 500 people have been killed in the contested city, where a shaky ceasefire holds.
    Ukrainian officials say government troops have begun withdrawing heavy artillery in the east of the country, as have pro-Russian rebels in the region.

    Colonel Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, said on Monday that Kiev's forces had started withdrawing from frontline positions.

    He said the rebels had also begun their withdrawal of heavy artillery, although it was "not as massive as we expected". [AP]
    NATO member Poland is ready to sell arms to Ukraine if there is demand, Polish Defence Minister
    Tomasz Siemoniak said on Monday.

    "I confirm that the Polish defence industry is interested in this direction," Siemoniak told private radio station Zet.

    "There are several products that may be interesting for Ukraine."


    Donetsk People's Republic seeking gas deal with Russia

    "It's technically feasible. If we make an agreement with Russia, we will be able to receive gas and not pass it on to Ukraine. So we will be provided for."

    Alexei Granovsky, Donetsk People's Republic Energy Minister.

    Eastern Ukraine is in a serious economic recession due to the protracted conflicts between government troops and separatists in the region.

    Many shops and banks in Donetsk have closed, municipal employees haven't been paid in months, and hundreds of thousands have fled the region to safer places.


    Ukrainian servicemen drive on a road near Debaltseve city on Tuesday [EPA

    Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels were battling around the airport near the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Tuesday, sending flames and clouds of black smoke into the sky, the AFP news agency journalists said.

    The fighting erupted despite a new truce agreement reached on Saturday which calls for forces on both sides to cease fire and pull back from the frontline to create a buffer zone.

    The airport, which was severely damaged in a fierce battle in May, was hit by heavy artillery and the rattle of automatic weapons fire could also be heard, the journalists said. [AFP]
    Japan slaps more sanctions in Russia

    Japan has hit Russia with further sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. The latest oblige the Japanese government to enforce curbs on exports of weapons and other military equipment, as well as restricting the provision of arms technology.

    The sanctions come a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly dropped plans to host President Vladimir Putin later this year due to tensions over the conflict.

    [Source: AFP]
    The Ukrainian prime minister has accused Russia of attempting to freeze Ukraine in the coming winter by using natural gas as a weapon to subjugate the former Soviet Republic.

    "They want us to freeze. This is the aim and this is another trump card in Russian hands. So, except military offense, except military operation against Ukraine, they have another trump card, which is energy," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

    "The ultimate goal of Russia is to organize, to orchestrate another frozen conflict in Ukraine."

    Russia's state-controlled energy company Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June because of a row over Kiev's unpaid gas bill, raising concerns that the country may not be able to cover the peak-demand winter season.

    President Petro Poroshenko has proclaimed an end to the "most dangerous" part of Ukraine's pro-Russian uprising and the start of a post-war recovery that would lead to an EU membership bid in 2020.

    The pro-Western leader told the first press conference since his June inauguration that he would never allow a resurgent Kremlin and gunmen entrenched in Ukraine's eastern rust belt to halt Kiev's ambition to break out of Russia's embrace.

    The five-month conflict has killed more than 3,200 people and driven 650,000 from their homes across a bomb-scarred region that once served as the country's economic driving engine.

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