Ukrainian troops have launched a massive assault on militia-held areas Sunday morning after an order from Kiev, a presidential aide said. The self-proclaimed Donetsk republic’s leader accused Kiev of trying to restart the war.
The order to launch the offensive was issued early approximately at 6:00 am, according to Yury Biryukov, an aide to President Petro Poroshenko.
“Today we will show HOW good we are at jabbing in the teeth,” he wrote on his Facebook page, a mode of conveying information favored by many Ukrainian officials.
In a later post he said: “They are now striking a dot. Uuu…” in a reference to Tochka-U (‘tochka’ means ‘dot’ in Russian), a tactical ballistic missile, one of the most powerful weapons Ukraine so far deployed against rebel forces.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko today said he is ready for ‘total war’ against Russia as he claimed the crisis in eastern Europe is more serious than the threat from Islamic State.
Kiev is convinced that Moscow is strengthening its troop presence on its borders and inside rebel-held areas, which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
As Putin returned from the G20 in Brisbane where he was under siege from Western leaders, Poroshenko claimed his army is now better prepared to fight to defend its territory than when the conflict began.
‘I am not afraid of a war with Russian troops,’ he said.
‘We are prepared for a scenario of total war.
‘We don’t want war, we want peace and we are fighting for European values.’
A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday would authorize the Obama administration to send $350 million dollars worth of sophisticated weapons technology to Ukraine despite the fact that neo-nazi militants are openly fighting alongside Kiev forces.
The bipartisan Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), is set to be discussed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later today.
Despite attempts to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine after a shaky cease fire was called, the legislation would intensify sanctions against Russia, forcing Moscow to “pay an increasingly heavy price” for its “aggression” in the region. The bill would also authorize President Obama to provide military assistance to Ukraine to the tune of $350 million dollars.
From the bill;
Providing defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment. It authorizes $350 million in fiscal year 2015 to carry out these activities.
Germans were confronted with images of their country’s dark past on Monday night, when German public broadcaster ZDF showed video of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets in its evening newscast. In a report on the fragile cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, Moscow correspondent Bernhard Lichte used pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the “SS runes” of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps. A second soldier was seen with a swastika on his gear. “Volunteer battalions from nearly every political spectrum are reinforcing the government side,” the ZDF correspondent said in his report.
The video was shot last week in Ukraine by a camera team from Norwegian broadcaster TV2. “We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,” Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the private television station, told NBC News. Minutes before the images were taped, Bogen said he had asked a spokesperson whether the battalion had fascist tendencies. “The reply was: absolutely not, we are just Ukrainian nationalists,” Bogen said.
A column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles has crossed into southeastern Ukraine, away from where most of the intense fighting has been taking place, a top Ukrainian official said Monday.
Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters that the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near Shcherbak and that the nearby city of Novoazovsk was shelled during the night from Russia. He said they were Russian military vehicles bearing the flags of the separatist Donetsk rebels.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday he had no information about the column.
The reported incursion and shelling could indicate an attempt to move on Mariupol, a major port on the Azov Sea, an arm of the Black Sea. Mariupol lies on the main road between Russia and Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in March. Capturing Mariupol could be the first step in building a slice of territory that links Russia with Crimea.
Ukraine declared on Friday that Russia had launched a “direct invasion” of its territory after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.
Moscow, which has thousands of troops close to the Russian side of the border, warned against any attempt to “disrupt” the convoy it said was a purely humanitarian operation; but it did not say what action it might take if Kiev’s military intervened.
The European Union urged Russia to reverse what it called a clear violation of the Ukrainian border.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the entry of the trucks without Kiev’s permission as a “flagrant violation of international law.”
Russia has massed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s border and could use the pretext of a humanitarian mission to invade, NATO said on Wednesday, its starkest warning yet that Moscow could soon mount a ground assault against its neighbour.
With fighting escalating and rebels losing ground in the weeks since a Malaysian airliner was shot down over separatist-held territory, Russia has announced military exercises this week in the border region.
“We’re not going to guess what’s on Russia’s mind, but we can see what Russia is doing on the ground — and that is of great concern. Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s eastern border,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in an emailed statement.
The United States released a series of satellite images Sunday that appear to support its claims that Russian forces have fired across the border into Ukraine to support rebels there, suggesting a new level of direct Russian involvement in the conflict.
The images show artillery and rocket-blast signatures inside Russia and craters formed by the artillery strikes in Ukraine.
Washington has accused Russia of arming, training and financing separatists in Ukraine.
The images were provided by a senior intelligence official who asked not to be named in order to discuss intelligence issues. The images were also distributed by State Department officials.
The images were dated in recent days, though it was not clear when the artillery strikes were launched.
A celebrated Ukrainian bomber pilot who faces murder charges in Moscow has become a new, high-profile flash point between Ukraine and Russia as they clash over deadly fighting along their border.
First Lt. Nadiya Savchenko, 33, Ukraine’s first female military pilot, is accused of complicity in the June 17 killing of two Russian journalists during a mortar attack on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists outside Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. She was captured the next day by the separatists and surfaced this month in Voronezh, southwestern Russia, where she is to go on trial.
The case is stoking new tension between Ukraine and Russia because Ukraine contends Savchenko was taken to Russia against her will.
For the second time in a week Ukraine has fired artillery rounds into Russia.
On Wednesday a border crossing at Kuibyshoveo was hit by two artillery shells, according to the chief press officer in the Southern Customs Department.
“The personnel of the customs house were evacuated at 7.50 am Moscow time after blasts of shells fired from the Ukrainian customs checkpoint Marinovka. Shells exploded outside a border checkpoint in Russia. No one was hurt in the incident,” Rayan Farukshin told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.
The border station at Novoshakhtinsk, a mining town in the Russian Oblast of Rostov, was evacuated after gunfire was reported at the Ukrainian border crossing in Dolzhansky.
Shootings and evacuations at Russian border stations have increased over the last few days. On Monday Russia’s Donetsk checkpoint in the Rostov Region was closed following a shooting on at the adjoining Ukrainian Izvarino customs station border station, according to RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
The Donetsk station was closed after a 120-mm artillery shell hit a house in the Rostov region on Sunday and killed a 47-year old Russian civilian. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the shelling and said that the provocation might have “irreversible consequences.”
No less than seven artillery shells fell on the Russian side of the border on Sunday. In addition to the death of the Russian man, two women were wounded.
Moscow is considering “surgical retaliatory strikes” on the Ukrainian territory after the standoff has led to first civilian victims among Russians on Russia’s territory, a Kremlin source told Kommersant Monday.
“Our patience is not boundless,” the source told the newspaper, stressing that “this means not a massive action but exclusively targeted single strikes on positions from which the Russian territory is fired at.”
The Russian side “knows for sure the site where the fire comes from,” the source said.
The proposed plan echoes a statement by a deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house, Yevgeniy Bushmin, who told RIA Novosti Sunday that using precision weapons in response to Ukraine’s shelling would prevent further Kiev’s attacks of Russia’s territory.
Russia threatened Ukraine on Sunday with “irreversible consequences” after a Russian man was killed by a shell fired across the border, while Kiev said Ukrainian warplanes struck again at separatist positions in the east of the country, inflicting big losses.
Although both sides have reported cross-border shootings in the past, it appears to be the first time Moscow has reported fatalities on its side of the border in the three-month conflict which has killed hundreds of people in Ukraine.
Kiev called the accusation its forces had fired across the border “total nonsense” and suggested the attack could have been the work of rebels trying to provoke Moscow to intervene on their behalf. The rebels denied they were responsible.
As government forces sought to crush an insurgency in eastern Ukraine Wednesday, the country’s foreign minister agreed to a second cease-fire after four-way talks that included Russia, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The report, by Russia-owned news site RT.com, comes as Ukrainian government and media sources reported that five Ukrainian troops and hundreds of separatists were killed as government forces engaged in more than 100 clashes with pro-Russia forces in the country’s east. The government’s new offensive comes a day after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ended a 10-day cease-fire Tuesday after insurgents failed to meet his demand that they disarm.
Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France gathered in Berlin to discuss the worsening crisis. In a joint statement, the ministers announced a plan to meet by Saturday “with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable cease-fire.”