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Ukraine Blog

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

  • The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over war-torn eastern Ukraine will be discussed by the UN Security Council on Friday after Russia requested a meeting on a Dutch finding that a large number of fragments hit the plane and tore it apart.

    Several foreign ministers are expected to attend the meeting to take place in the morning, diplomats said, since they were already scheduled to attend a Security Council debate on Iraq on Friday afternoon, chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    The jetliner crashed in Ukraine in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, killing 298 people, two-thirds of them from the Netherlands. Ukraine and Western countries accuse the rebels of shooting it down with an advanced, Russian-made missile.

    Russia has rejected accusations that it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.


  • Ukraine leader appeals to US for lethal aid

    President Petro Poroshenko tells US congress he needs lethal military aid as "war cannot be won with blankets."

  • Anti-Russia demonstrators gathered outside the White House while President Poroshenko met Obama [Reuters]
  • 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]
  • Warring parties in Ukraine meet on Friday to try to find a lasting solution to a brutal conflict that has killed around 3,000 people and stoked Western alarm about Russia's territorial ambitions.

    The talks take place in Minsk two weeks since a European-brokered ceasefire aimed at halting five months of bloodshed was agreed in the Belarussian capital with Moscow, Kiev and pro-Russian separatist leaders.

    Overall, the truce has dramatically lowered the scale of the fighting across industrial eastern Ukraine, although sometimes deadly shelling and gunfire is reported almost daily around the flashpoint city of Donetsk. [AFP]
  • Deal reached on Ukraine ceasefire

    Agreement reached for creation of buffer zone and withdrawal of foreign fighters from conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russia has delivered a third shipment of aid to rebel-controlled Ukraine, sending trucks carrying water and food across the border, a spokesman for Russia's emergencies ministry said on Saturday.

    "The convoy has arrived and is being unloaded" in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky told the AFP news agency. 

    He said the convoy - the first aid shipment to the flashpoint city of Donetsk - had been sent across the state border unaccompanied by any international or Kiev government monitors. [AFP]
  • Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine on Friday signed an agreement to form a joint brigade intended to modernise the Ukrainian army confronting pro-Kremlin separatists in the country's east.

    "This shows our deep commitment to boosting the security and defence capabilities of our region, where the situation has become dangerous," Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said after defence ministers from the three countries inked the accord in Warsaw.

    The so-called Litpolukrbrig brigade of several thousand troops has been in the works since 2007, but the signing of the agreement comes at a time of anxiety among Eastern European states once controlled by Moscow. [AFP]
  • 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
  • NATO's top military commander on Saturday said Russian forces were still operating in Ukraine and that a ceasefire was not working, but he expressed hope a new peace plan could bring progress.

  • Ukrainian national security council spokesman Volodymyr Polyoviy said Saturday that about 20 rebels and one soldier had been killed in clashes.

  • NATO chief: Ukraine has ceasefire 'in name only'

    NATO's top general has called the two-week-old truce between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels fighting in the country's east is a "ceasefire in name only," and said that by enabling a free flow of weapons and fighters across the border Russia has made it nearly impossible to determine how many of its troops are operating inside Ukraine.

    US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said violence levels in Ukraine, including the number of artillery rounds fired in the past few days, were as high as prior to the ceasefire.

    "So the situation in Ukraine is not good right now," he said.

    "Basically we have a cease-fire in name only."
    [Associated Press]

  • A Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a road during a prisoner exchange near the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday [AP]  

  • Al Jazeera's James Bays talks to Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin about the likelihood of a planned buffer zone between conflicting sides turning into borders.

    by Tamila Varshalomidze via YouTube

  • Heavy gunfire erupted around the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Sunday, just hours after NATO's top military commander said there was a ceasefire "in name only" on the ground.

    The violence flared on the day Ukrainian forces and pro-Kremlin insurgents are required to pull back from the frontline and create a buffer zone under a new peace plan hammered out in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Saturday.

    AFP correspondents heard explosions and shelling around Donetsk airport, a key battleground in the five-month separatist uprising against Kiev's rule. [AFP]

  • Ukraine's military said on Sunday it would not pull back its troops from the frontline until all sides abide by a ceasefire under the terms of a new peace plan.

    National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said: 

    One of the main points (of the Minsk agreement) is the principle concerning the ceasefire. The other points follow that. But the first point has not yet been fulfilled, so we cannot speak about the other points.

    He added: "If (Ukrainian forces) are withdrawn, it will be done simultaneously with the Russian troop withdrawal."


    A firefighter observes a damaged office building after shelling in Donetsk city, eastern Ukraine on Sunday [AP] 

  • Our latest video report from Russia on how sanctions imposed on the country by the West over it's involvement in the Ukraine crisis: 

    by Tamila Varshalomidze via YouTube

  • Police line to separate opposing demonstrators at the anti-war rally in Moscow, Russia.


  • Thousands of Russians on Sunday marched through Moscow to protest against the Kremlin's involvement in the Ukraine crisis, in the country's first major anti-war rally since fighting erupted in April.

  • 80 observers from the pan-European security group have been sent to key flashpoints after the signing of a new peace deal Saturday to reinforce the truce.

    The members of the so-called Special Monitoring Mission are mostly former military officers or from non-governmental organisations.

    Wearing bullet proof vests but unarmed, they patrol in convoys of lightly armoured vehicles, reporting back to base on the day's violence, the damage caused.

  • Poroshenko says Ukraine ready to defend itself if peace plan fails

    President Petro Poroshenko has said that Ukraine must be ready to defend itself should a peace deal with pro-Russian rebels fail.

    "We must be ready to protect our country if the peace plan does not work," Poroshenko said in a nationally televised interview on Sunday.

    "We must strengthen our defensive frontiers, strengthen our army," he said, adding that he had acquired new military equipment from the West during his trip to the United States and Canada last week.

    He said 65 percent of Ukraine's military hardware had been destroyed during the five-month conflict.

    Poroshenko said it was only through his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the warring sides had been able to reach an accord.

    "Without these discussions there would be no (peace) process now," he said, adding that there has been a "deescalation" of the crisis.
  • Ukraine’s prosecution of former Slovyansk mayor alarms rights groups | Al Jazeera America

    In worrying trend, former mayor of Ukraine city charged with colluding with rebels; she says they held her hostage
  • 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]

  • The prime minister of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk said Tuesday that the pro-Russian rebels have removed artillery from frontline areas where Ukraine had also withdrawn, in line with a peace plan signed on Saturday.

    "We have withdrawn artillery but only in those areas where the Ukrainian regular units have done the same. Where Ukraine hasn't withdrawn artillery, we also haven't done so," the rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko told the Interfax news agency. 

    He said that the rebels were only withdrawing heavy artillery: "This all only concerns artillery with calibre greater than 100 mm." [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]

  • NATO sees significant pullback of Russian troops from Ukraine

    NATO has observed a significant withdrawal of Russian forces from inside Ukraine, but many Russian troops remain stationed near the border, an alliance military spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Janzen said in an e-mailed response to a request from Reuters for comment:

    There has been a significant pullback of Russian conventional forces from inside Ukraine, but many thousands are still deployed in the vicinity of the border

    [Source: Reuters]
  • US President Barack Obama's comments on Ukraine at UNGA

    Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order. 

    After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt President fled.  

    Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into Eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands. 

    When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.

  • Ukraine's sovereign dollar bonds bounced by about two cents across the curve after NATO said a "significant" withdrawal of Russian forces from inside Ukraine had been observed.

    The bonds had fallen sharply as Ukraine's dire economic position prompted investors to start pricing in restructuring of the debt.

    But markets were heartened by news of the troop withdrawal and by a finance ministry announcement that it planned to repay a maturing bond from state energy firm Naftogaz in full.

  • Ukraine's prime minister has urged countries not to lift sanctions against Russia until his country regains control over its entire territory, including Crimea.

    Ending a day of intense discussions over the growing global threat of extremist groups, Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the annual UN General Assembly of world leaders that "we know what terrorism means".

    He demanded that Russia pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine, "stop the supply of Russian-led terrorists'' and start "real talks, peace talks."'

    The months-long fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces has been another major theme of speeches at the global assembly this week.


  • 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.


  • Ukraine energy minister: No deal yet with Russia on gas price

    Ukraine Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said after gas talks with Russia and the European Commission in Berlin that the two countries had not reached a final agreement on the price of gas.

    There were differences with Russia over payment of old debts, he said, but added Ukraine was prepared to compromise and he expected open questions over the proposed deal to be settled by next Tuesday.

    [Source: AFP]
  • EU energy chief: Russia and Ukraine agree on interim gas deal 

    Russia is ready to resume gas deliveries to Ukraine if Kiev pays its energy giant Gazprom back debts worth $3.1bn by late December, European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.

    According to the interim agreement, which has to be approved by the governments in Moscow and Kiev, Gazprom is ready to deliver at least five billion cubic metres of gas in the coming months, Oettinger said after he met with both energy ministers in Berlin.

    Gazprom will also want advance payments for the new gas at $385 per 1,000 cubic metres - less than the $485 that Gazprom had earlier demanded but  more than the price of around $268 it had charged before the change of government in Ukraine.

    [Source: AFP]
  • Russia has accused the US and its Western allies of bossing the world around, saying that they were attempting to dictate to everyone "what is good and evil."

    The speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the UN General Assembly on Saturday to to the 193-nation assembly was the latest example of the deteriorating relations between Moscow and Western powers, which have imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

    "The US-led Western alliance that portrays itself as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights within individual countries ... (is) rejecting the democratic principle of sovereign equality of states enshrined in the U.N. Charter and trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil," he said.

    "Washington has openly declared its right to unilateral use of force anywhere to uphold its own interests," Lavrov added. 

    "Military interference has become a norm - even despite the dismal outcome of all power operations that the US has carried out over the recent years."

    Lavrov cited the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya that led to the toppling and death of longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as examples of US failures.


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