Tag Archives: Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Putin’s Trump Card In Ukraine: Winter Is Coming

As Putin pushes Ukraine to bend to his will and allow greater independence to Russian-backed separatists in the country’s southeast, the Russian president holds a trump card: Winter is coming.

“I think that nobody thinks of [winter] anymore, except Russia,” Putin said on Sunday, according to The New York Times. “There are ways of helping resolve the issue. First, to immediately stop hostilities and start restoring the necessary infrastructure. To start replenishing reserves, conducting the necessary repair operations and preparing for the cold season.”

Geysar Gurbanov, a Rotary international world peace fellow currently at Harvard, recently explained the leverage that Putin has over Ukraine as the temperature drops.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, [Ukraine’s] primary energy consumption is fueled by natural gas (40%) and coal (28%),” Gurbanov writes in The Duke Chronicle. “With winter coming to Ukraine in less than four months and the coal mines located in the easternmost part of the country ravaged by conflict, Ukrainians will freeze in their homes as their gas supplies from Russia are depleted. Therefore, if the rebels fail to achieve their goal, Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant, will help Putin to win the war eventually.”

So Putin’s remark could be interpreted as a veiled threat signaling that if Ukraine’s army doesn’t back down against the separatists (and embedded Russian soldiers), then Moscow will use gas as a weapon.

In 2013, Russian gas accounted for half of the total gas consumed in Ukraine. On June 16, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine over unpaid bills. Earlier this month, Gazprom said that Ukraine’s outstanding debt for gas supplies stood at $5.3 billion as of Aug. 1.

Russia has already said that Ukraine would have to prepay for future gas shipments unless Kiev begins payments on accumulated debts.

The EU is currently trying to broker a deal that would allow shipments to resume temporarily.

In any case, Putin has the upper hand as Ukraine’s gas reserves run out as winter sets in.

“Can Ukraine now survive without Russian gas? No, it can’t,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said earlier this month, according to RIA Novosti. “How much Russian gas do we need to buy? About 5 billion cubic meters.”

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​Poroshenko: Ukraine will retake Crimea, strengthen its border with Russia

Ukrainian Prsident Petro Poroshenko gastures as he speaks during the press-conference for domestic and foreign media in Kiev on June 5, 2015. 

Unlike the June 4 state of the nation address, Petro Poroshenko put Crimea front and center at his third news conference as president today on June 5.

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv outdoors during a breezy, sunny afternoon – ex-President Viktor Yushchenko was last president to venture outside to speak to journalists in 2009 – he said Ukraine will maintain diplomatic pressure to keep sanctions imposed on Russia.

Crimea is a “key priority” and making it a part of Ukraine is an “unbelievably difficult task,” he said, explaining its importance and why he didn’t want to “briefly” mention the peninsula during the state of the nation speech.

“We will do everything to return Crimea to Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.

He stressed that the country will continue working with international allies to maintain sanctions on Russia for taking over the peninsula in March 2014. “It is important not to give Russia a chance to break the world’s pro-Ukrainian coalition,” Poroshenko said.

Repeating what he told parliament the previous day, Poroshenko outlined his goal of distributing administrative powers and functions to regional and local governments, the priority of removing prosecutorial immunity from judges and lawmakers, and having open party lists during elections.

Scheduled for Oct. 25, the local elections would be another test for Ukraine’s democracy. They should stabilize the situation in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, he added. The easternmost region, known as Donbas, will remain a part of Ukraine, he said.

Poroshenko also warned that the number Russian troops positioned in Ukraine and near the country’s border is the highest since August 2014, when one of the bloodiest battles for the strategic city of Ilovaisk took place.

Ukraine’s army was defeated while advancing on the Donetsk Oblast city last summer when thousands of Russian troops, backed by advanced armor and artillery, joined the battle, leading to the first peace agreement in September. Although the Defense Ministry said 108 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, a Newsweek report on the battle stated “hundreds” had died.

Russia started another military offensive two days ago with an assault on the western Donetsk suburb of Maryinka.

At least four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the battle. Poroshenko cited the attack –complete with Russians using banned tanks, artillery and multiple-rocket launch systems, as additional evidence that Russia is violating the second peace deal brokered in February.

The president said he would do everything possible to accelerate the process of deploying peacekeepers to Donbas.

“A United Nations support office will be opened in Ukraine and their first task will be to study the possibility of deploying peacekeepers,” Poroshenko said.

He also addressed his critics.

He continues to own the Roshen confectionary factory, his largest asset, and a number of other companies in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. Poroshenko said he will transfer his share in Roshen to a trust with Rothschild, a private financial advisory group.

He hired Rothschild to search for potential buyers as well, and the group conducting legal and financial due diligence on his assets. There are obstacles to selling his assets in Russia as the country seized the property of his confectionary factory in Lipetsk.

Poroshenko brushed off the accusations on existing agreements with businessman Dmytro Firtash after he met him and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko in Vienna before the presidential election in 2014.

As reported, Firtash said during a court hearing in Vienna on April 30 on his extradition to the U.S. that he met with Poroshenko and Vitali Klitschko on the eve of the 2014 presidential election, and that the meeting was his idea and was aimed at preventing the presidency of Batkivschyna Party Leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

“I never denied a brief meeting with Firtash during the presidential election campaign,” Poroshenko says. “But I absolutely deny that there are any confidential agreements disclosed by Firtash. They does not exist,” he said.

Poroshenko also promised to monitor an ambitious construction project started in early September that aims to tighten security along the Russian border, which stretches along 2,295 kilometers.

Dmitry Firtash

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said defensive structures will include ditches, test-track lanes, vehicle-barrier trenches and optical surveillance towers to detect troop and vehicle movement from the Russian side.

The results so far of the construction weren’t “satisfactory,” according to Poroshenko. However, he said that the project was revised and the problems have been taken into account.

Kyiv Post staff writer Olena Goncharova can be reached at goncharova@kyivpost.com.

The Great Wall of Ukraine

The project may sound fanciful, but Ukraine’s politicians, and the European Union, seem quite serious about walling off the Russians.

KIEV, Ukraine — Pushed against the wall by Russia’s naked aggression, a wounded nation now wants to seal itself off completely from its jingoistic neighbor.Behind the electoral gambit played out at the polls on Sunday, meant to draw a philosophical and political line against the neo-imperialism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, there’s also a construction project.Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced plans in early September to build an extensive wall—called, well, “The Wall”—on the country’s border with Russia that, theoretically at least, would keep Moscow out and secessionists in.

The defenses would include an actual steel wall, in addition to watchtowers, trenches for soldiers, and a barbed no-man’s land running contiguous to the countries’ massive shared border. These miles-long fortifications will include 4,000 army dugouts, tank detachments, and sophisticated surveillance equipment to detect troop movements across the frontier.

Although the thousand-mile-long project (1200 miles to be exact) seems improbable in scope and almost as Quixotic as the Maginot Line, the government already has earmarked funds for the project, and work has begun on the border near the northern city of Kharkiv, away from the conflict zone.

During a high-profie visit to the wall site on October 15, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the project demonstrates that Ukraine and Russia are “not one nation, as Putin says, and the Kremlin thinks,” an rattled off a list of reasons it is supposed to make sense: stopping illegal immigration, stopping subversive, stopping smuggling, stopping the movement of weapons, stopping the movement of radioactive materials and, last but certainly not least, opening the door wider o the European Union by slamming the door in Russia’s face. “No one will provide us the visa-free regime with the E.U. if there is no border,” he said.

Yatsenyuk claimed that the E.U. already has set aside $20 million for the wall construction, and suggested it is important for eventual NATO membership as well.

Never mind that Ukraine is on the brink of default, and that the estimated cost of the wall would be €100 million , more than 10 times Ukraine’s current defense budget. Or, that the rebels—and Russia for that matter—would potentially attack those building the wall, and fire at its defenses.

That also didn’t stop Kiev’s Mayor Vladimir Klitschko from asking for German help and expertise in building the wall while in Berlin earlier this month. His unusual request raised eyebrows in Germany, where dark memories of the Berlin Wall linger on.

“Instead of building a wall, Ukraine should be mending fences with Russia.”

The hubristic wall project is the brainchild of Igor Kolomoisky, the feisty governor of Dnipropetrovsk, famous for having called Putin a “mad dwarf.” The owner of Privatbank, the nation’s largest, he also offered to put €10 million of his own monies towards the wall’s construction.

He has also spun the wall to the nation as a massive “public works” project that would provide employment to those displaced by the war. Not surprisingly, a construction company in his region has already submitted a tender to build the project.

Although the whimsical wall project seems outlandish to most outsiders, it began to gain mainstream acceptance in late August as Russian forces made forays into Ukrainian territory to help the rebels.

With its eastern borders under siege from Russia, Ukrainians feel cornered and insecure. The idea of a strong, German-built wall to keep the Russian bear at bay is appealing in its brutal simplicity. The president rightly compares it to Finland’s Mannerheim line of fortifications against the Soviet Union.

Though many have scoffed at the idea, the wall project gained momentum going into Sunday parliamentary elections, and tensions with Russia remain high. Ukrainian social media have embraced the wall project, and the prime minister’s recent visit to the construction site was widely applauded.

Some mainstream politicians, notably ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have spoken out against the wall, but most have come out in favor.

“Instead of building a wall, Ukraine should be mending fences with Russia,” quipped a commentator on Russia Today, the Kremlin’s English-language TV network. RT also reported that former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has advised Kiev against building a wall with Russia.

Gorbachev is unlikely to deter the Ukrainians. In practical terms, it won’t be easy extending the wall to the border with the rebel territories’ borders with Russia. They’re likely to sabotage the project from the start, and it might even goad them into further aggression.

But as anti-Russian rhetoric reaches a boiling point in the rest of the country, it looks like the grand plan for a great wall is going to be part of the national discourse for quite some time to come.

Ukraine Rebels Vow to Retake Cities as Vote Nears

Pro-Russian insurgents vowed to keep battling Ukrainian forces and retake eastern cities, including the port of Mariupol as general elections near.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned today of Russian provocations ahead of the Oct. 26 ballot. Ukraine, the European Union and the U.S. say President Vladimir Putin has backed the rebels with arms and troops, charges Russiadenies.

Ensuring security for Ukraine’s more than 40 million citizens is the government’s main concern before the vote, the first time lawmakers will be picked since Russia annexed Crimea in March. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has left at least 3,660 dead, according to United Nations estimates. A Sept. 5 truce has been violated almost daily.

“It’s difficult to conduct elections in a country that is subject to Russian aggression,” Yatsenyuk told a government meeting in Kiev. “It’s clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will be continued.”

Standoff in Ukraine

Even with skirmishes, Yatsenyuk said he expects voters in at least half of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two regions where the rebels have set up their own governments, to go to the polls.

President Petro Poroshenko said a new, powerful pro-European coalition will be formed within days of the vote, according to a statement on his website.

Russian Recognition

Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia will recognize the results of the nationwide polls, the Interfax news service reported.

While the truce has decreased the intensity of fighting in the east, rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko in Donetsk said “heavy military action can still not be ruled out,” Interfax reported. “Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Slovyansk — they’ll be ours,” he was cited as saying. “We intend to take them.”

Billionaire George Soros urged Europe to “get its act together” to prevent Ukraine’s economic collapse, something Putin “is waiting for,” Soros said at a conference in Brussels today. The geopolitical consequences of such a failure “would be far-reaching,” Soros said.

In an article published on the website of The New York Review of Books before he spoke in Brussels, Soros said it’s “high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war.”

‘Full-Scale Assault’

While Putin has “so far abided” by the truce agreement, it’s the Russian leader who “retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault,” Soros said.

The International Monetary Fund should give Ukraine $20 billion immediately and the country’s partners should provide further financing “conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice,” Soros said.

Ukraine’s government today said it filed a complaint against the World Trade Organization over Russia’s decision to ban its fruit and vegetables this week.

“By taking such measures, the Russian side is failing to comply with provisions of a bilateral agreement and international standards for phytosanitary measures,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine forces ‘repel rebels in Donetsk airport’

Ukraine

Ukrainian government troops say they have repelled an attack by pro-Russian rebels on Donetsk airport.

All Saturday morning gunfire was heard from the area, controlled by government forces despite rebel victories in the rest of the eastern city.

Correspondents say the fresh violence is a big challenge to a fragile ceasefire agreed on 5 September.

Meanwhile Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has accused Russia of wanting to “eliminate” his country.

A Ukrainian army helicopter flies over their positions in Debaltsevo, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The cease-fire between the separatists and the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine has largely held. (Source: AP)

He said Ukraine was “in a stage of war”, with the “key aggressor” being Russia.

Mr Yatsenyuk said the goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin “is to take the entire Ukraine”, adding that Nato was the “only vehicle” that could protect his country.

Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk: “Russia is a threat to the global order”

Ukraine and Western countries accuse Russia of intervening on the side of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies this.

On Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described as “nonsense” reports that Russia was intent on creating a buffer zone in eastern Ukraine.

Russia, he said, wanted Ukraine to be a “prosperous, neutral and friendly country”.

And he accused the US of “trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to break economic ties between the EU and Russia and force Europe to buy US gas at much higher prices”.

Russian convoy

The BBC’s Paul Adams, in Donetsk, says most of the gunfire around the airport sounded like artillery, but that multiple rocket launchers have also been in use.

On Friday night, he also heard a volley fired from somewhere much closer to the centre of the city.

There are additional reports of plumes of black smoke rising above the airport.

A couple of hundred Ukrainian army troops have been holed up at the airport since June – but our correspondent says that something more concerted now appears to be going on there.

The BBC’s Paul Adams: “People in Donetsk do not stray far from the bunkers – no one trusts the ceasefire”

Unknown convoy

Also on Saturday morning, Russian customs officials said that a Russian aid convoy had crossed into eastern Ukraine.

A spokesman for the European security watchdog, the OSCE, told our correspondent that 220 Russian lorries had passed the border overnight and on Saturday morning – the majority of which were not inspected by either Ukraine or international observers.

Kiev and Western officials fear such convoys may contain military equipment to help the rebels, but Russia insists they contain essential humanitarian supplies such as generators, food and drink.

Lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy, cross the Ukrainian border The convoy entered Ukraine from the Izvarino customs control checkpoint

A similar convoy entered the country last month without Ukraine’s permission, sparking condemnation from the US and the EU.

Nato says Russia still has about 1,000 heavily armed troops in eastern Ukraine and about 20,000 more near the border.

Russia denies sending direct military help to the rebels, insisting that any Russian soldiers there are “volunteers”.

New sanctions

Mr Yatsenyuk’s comments come after the US government imposed new sanctions on major Russian banks, defence and energy companies.

An armed pro-Russian militant stands guard in front of the destroyed Lugansk International Airport, eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions, announced on Friday, mean that US citizens will not be able to provide loans lasting longer than 30 days to Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank.

The measures are part of a joint effort between Ukraine and the European Union, aimed at punishing Russia for what they say is its military intervention in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry denounced the new sanctions as “another hostile step in line with the confrontational course” taken by the US, and promised retaliatory measures.

Map of rebel forces in Ukraine, 4 September 2014

The US sanctions block support or technology for Arctic and offshore exploration by five Russian energy firms – Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz and Transneft.

Rosneft was already listed under a previous round of sanctions and is included in the EU sanctions list.

Russia has ambitious plans for Arctic oil exploration. Western partners including ExxonMobil and BP are already involved in multi-billion-dollar projects in Siberia.

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

The EU sanctions also block the export of oil services and deep-water technology. Transneft is also on the EU list, along with Gazprom Neft, the oil unit of gas giant Gazprom.

Their access to financial markets will be restricted – a serious matter for Rosneft, which last month asked the Russian government for a $42bn (£25.2bn) loan.

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

In the EU and US, big Russian state-owned banks are now barred from getting loans with a maturity longer than one month.

More than 100 top Russian officials and rebel leaders in Ukraine are also subject to EU and US visa bans and asset freezes.

Ukraine’s PM Says Putin’s Goal Is To ‘Take The Entire Ukraine’

Vladimir Putin

KIEV (AFP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to wipe out Ukraine as an independent country despite a truce deal.

“His aim is not just to take Donetsk and Lugansk,” Yatsenyuk said at a conference in Kiev, referring to the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine where fighting has been raging for five months.

“His goal is to take the entire Ukraine… he wants to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country,” Yatsenyuk said in English.

He described the truce signed on September 5 in Minsk between Kiev, pro-Russian rebels, Moscow and the European security body the OSCE as just a “first step” to “stop a massacre” in eastern Ukraine.

He said that having a bilateral accord with Russia was “not the best” idea and called on the United States and the European Union to play a direct role in peace talks, and to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

Ukraine map Sept. 8

“They (the Russians) will outplay us,” he said. “Putin wants to get another frozen conflict and get his hands on our belly fat.”

He said the conflict had made it impossible for the Kiev authorities to embark on real change, to tackle political reforms, the economic crisis and endemic corruption.

He denied however that the unrest in the east, which erupted after pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising against Kiev’s rule, was a “civil conflict.”

“The only person who is destabilising the situation is Putin,” he said. “We are in a state of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation.”

Ukraine's new Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk

Yatsenyuk’s warning came amid reports that Russia had sent another convoy of what it said was humanitarian “aid” into the war-torn city of Luhansk. Russia refused to have most of convoy inspected by Ukraine’s border services or by the Red Cross, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.

“The first group of 40 trucks were quickly checked by the Russian border guard and customs services,” the OSCE said in a statement.

“The 180 other vehicles were not inspected. All vehicles crossed into Ukraine without being inspected by Ukrainian border guard and customs officers or the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

The U.S. and European Union on Friday leveled a new round of sanctionstargeted at Moscow’s energy, defense, and financial sectors. Among the new targets is Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank of Russia, as well as the major defense conglomerate Rostec.

The sanctions prohibit US and EU citizens or companies from providing new financing to Sberbank, thereby cutting off its access to US capital markets.

The sanctions also shorten the maturity threshold for the debt prohibition to 30 days from 90 days — meaning US and EU persons cannot provide equity or debt financing of longer than 30 days.

The new measures “will significantly increase the pressure on these institutions by constraining the financing options available to them,” a senior Obama administration official said Friday.

NATO summit to highlight unity against Russia

Rasmussen, right, warned Russian intervention in Ukraine is the most serious security threat since Cold War

Leaders of military alliance to meet with Ukraine president in UK, as NATO chief warns of biggest threat since Cold War.

NATO leaders are holding a summit in the UK in a bid to show unity against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, after France suspended delivery of a warship to Moscow despite a surprise peace plan put forward by the Kremlin.

Ukraine and the new threats posed by the Islamic State group in Iraq, Syria and beyond are expected to dominate the two-day summit that begins on Thursday in Newport in Wales.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has warned that Russian intervention in Ukraine is the most serious security threat since the Cold War, one which the 28 member-states ignore at their peril.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to stand together in support of Ukraine against Russia in a joint statement in the Times newspaper on Thursday.

“Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening and undermining a sovereign nation state,” the two leaders wrote in an op-ed piece.

“We should support Ukraine’s right to determine its own democratic future and continue our efforts to enhance Ukrainian capabilities.”

To highlight support for Kiev, leaders will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for a session of the NATO-Ukraine Council, set up after the country became an alliance partner in 1997, the AFP news agency reported.

The meeting will “send a clear signal of their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and that the onus is on Russia to de-escalate the situation,” a British government source said.

Al Jazeeera’s James Bays, reporting from Newport, said that the discussions will aim to develop a way to fund the enhanced support for Kiev.

“The US is certainly pushing its other NATO partners to increase their defence budgets,” he added.

Peace plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday pre-empted the NATO summit, unveiling a seven-point Ukraine peace plan to produce a ceasefire on Friday, the day when the European Union is expected to announce additional tough economic sanctions against Moscow.

Putin appealed for both sides to lay down their weapons after nearly five months of fighting that has killed 2,600 people and been blamed by both Kiev and its Western allies on Putin’s attempts to seize back former Soviet and Tsarist lands.

However, Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk swiftly rejected Putin’s plan as just the latest “attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community”.

The rebels may also take some convincing to lay down their weapons after scoring a resounding string of successes with the alleged support of Russian soldiers that has seen Ukrainian forces lose effective control over most of the separatist east.

Against this troubled backdrop, the summit centre-piece will be approval of a new NATO rapid reaction force comprising “several thousand troops” that can be deployed within “very few days” to meet any new threats, Rasmussen said.

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