Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly afraid of the Ukrainian army as it is getting stronger. This opinion was expressed by the former Commander of the Polish Land Forces and Deputy Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland, Waldemar Skrzypczak, in the commentary section of Ukrinform.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has compared the April 26, 1986, Chernobyl nuclear disaster with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine’s east, adding that “Russia is conducting an undeclared war against his country.”
Speaking at Chernobyl nuclear plant site on April 26, where he and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka commemorated victims of the nuclear disaster on its 31st anniversary, Poroshenko said:
So here we go again. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka seems to be doing what he does best: flirting with the West, antagonizing Russia, and implicitly threatening to stray from Moscow’s orbit.
It’s the Lukashenka two-step. And it seems we’ve seen this movie before.
And every time the Belarusian strongman has tried this trick in the past, it’s worked like a charm. He gets some concessions from the West and Russia keeps feeding him subsidies.
But if Lukashenka has been a master gamer in the past, this time the game feels different.
With Minsk and Moscow at odds over gas prices, oil deliveries, food exports, Belarus granting visa-free travel to Westerners, Russia imposing border controls, and the Kremlin’s push for a new air base, this time it all feels much more dangerous.
Ukrainian border guards detained a soldier suspected of being a Russian army officer who was picked up while riding in a military truck packed with ammunition at the Berezove checkpoint, about 28 miles southwest of the militant-held city of Donetsk.
Guards found nearly 200 cases containing grenades and ammunition, including rocket-propelled shells, inside the military truck.
“He (the Russian officer) had no documents. But he admitted that he was a chief of an RAO (rocket-artillery weapons unit). He is responsible for ammunition supply.
He said that while delivering the ammunition they had got lost,” Oleksandr Tomchyshyn, a border-guards spokesman said. Another man who was detained identified himself as a pro-Russian separatist fighter.
If he is confirmed as a Russian soldier, Ukraine is likely to use the case to bolster its charges that Russia is continuing direct involvement in the 15-month-long conflict and failing to honor a peace agreement worked out in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Western countries contend that Russia is providing troops and weaponry to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Since April 2014, at least 6,400 people have been killed in the region while Russia continues to deny such allegations, the Associated Press reports.
A spokesman said the two men may have taken a wrong direction and driven toward Ukrainian forces manning a checkpoint southwest of the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk by mistake.
“We can assume that they took a wrong direction while driving, got lost, and came on our checkpoint,” military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanuk told a briefing.
The two men wore military uniforms without insignia and carried no identity documents, he said.
In the face of what Kiev and Western governments say is undeniable proof, Moscow denies its regular forces are engaged actively in the conflict on behalf of the separatists.
Though a fragile ceasefire seems to be holding, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine’s industrialized Russian-speaking east.
Ukraine is still holding two Russian soldiers who were captured in May and have been charged with terrorism. Russia says the two men had quit their special-forces unit to go to Ukraine on their own.
Here is a video of the truck found at the Berezove checkpoint:
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report has been released which details the levels of alcohol consumption across the world, revealing an interesting order of countries in the top-ten heaviest drinkers.
All of the countries topping the list are in Europe, according to the “Global status report on alcohol and health 2014.”
Belarus, in eastern Europe, proved to be the world’s biggest lovers of alcohol, downing 17.5 litres of beverages on average per year.
Surprisingly, the United Kingdom and Ireland do not make the top ten. The report revealed that Britons over 15 years old drink 11.6 litres on average every year, making it joint 17th with Slovenia.
Australia and Canada also failed to meet the top 10 but maintain high levels of drinking at 12.2 and 10.2 litres a year respectively.
The global average figure is 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per person every year, taking into account that the majority of the world’s population (61.7%) does not drink at all.
“More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,” said Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general for non-communicable diseases and mental health.
“The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.”
Dr Shekhar Saxena, director for mental health and substance abuse at WHO, said: “We found that worldwide about 16 per cent of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking – often referred to as ‘binge-drinking’ – which is the most harmful to health.
“Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks.”
Scroll below to see which countries made the top 10 heaviest-drinkers. Top 10:
10th: Portugal – 12.9 litres
Joint 9th: Czech Republic – 13 litres
Joint 9th: Slovakia – 13 litres
8th: Hungary – 13.3 litres
7th: Andorra – 13.8 litres
6th: Ukraine – 13.9 litres
5th: Romania – 14.4 litres
4th: Russia – 15.1 litres
3rd: Lithuania – 15.4 litres
2nd: Moldova – 16.8 litres
Bottles of vintage wine are seen in the world’s largest Cricova wine cellar, located outside Moldova’s capital Chisinau
1st: Belarus – 17.5 litres
Ukraine’s MPs have approved changes to the “special status” law for parts of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.
The law will now come into force only after local elections monitored by international observers are held in the areas according to Ukrainian law.
The amendments also envisage the pullout of “all illegal armed groups” from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Pro-Russian rebels and Moscow accuse Ukraine of introducing new terms that threaten last month’s ceasefire deal.
Following the agreement in Minsk, Belarus, the ceasefire took effect on 15 February and has largely held despite sporadic shelling.
Both Ukraine and the rebels claim to have withdrawn heavy weapons from the line of contact.
‘Temporarily occupied territories’
The changes to the “special order of self-government” in parts of the two eastern regions were adopted after heated discussion in parliament in Kiev on Tuesday.
The law itself was approved last year.
Self-government for the pro-Russian rebel areas is a key part of the Minsk deal, and Mr Poroshenko’s new legislative proposals are aimed at furthering that agreement.
But a Russian Foreign Ministry statement (in Russian) said the proposals put before Ukrainian MPs included “additional terms never previously discussed”.
The ministry said President Poroshenko had “totally ignored” Minsk provisionscalling for dialogue with the pro-Russian rebels on arrangements for local elections and the regions’ future status.
A statement from a Donetsk rebel leader, Denis Pushilin, also castigated Mr Poroshenko over the “non-agreed amendments”, which he said “breach the spirit and letter of the Minsk accords”.
Mr Pushilin said “the Minsk process is in fact interrupted” because Mr Poroshenko “does not respect the Donbas [Donetsk and Luhansk] people, he does not want peace”.
Mr Poroshenko’s bill says special status would have to follow local elections held in accordance with Ukrainian law and under international observation.
In addition, he says the elections would have to take place without any presence of “mercenaries” and with open access for Ukrainian media.
Separately, Ukrainian MPs adopted a resolution describing as “temporarily occupied territories” parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Kiev government, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia has helped the rebels with troops and heavy weapons. Russia denies that, insisting that any Russians on the rebel side are “volunteers”.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in clashes since the rebels seized large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions last April – a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula.