Timothy Heritage / Reuters & Michael R. Gordon / The New York Times & Reuters & BBC News – 2014-04-03 02:00:10
Russia Says NATO Reverts to Cold War-era Mindset
Timothy Heritage / Reuters
MOSCOW (April 2, 2014) — Russia accused NATO on Wednesday of reverting to the “verbal jousting” of the Cold War by suspending cooperation with Moscow over its annexation of Crimea.
NATO foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia, draft measures to strengthen defenses and reassure nervous eastern European countries in the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War ended in 1991.
Moscow did not announce any measures to retaliate, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern over the moves in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
“The language of the statements rather resembles the verbal jousting of the ‘Cold War’ era,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
He noted that the last time NATO took such a decision, over Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in 2008, the defense alliance later resumed cooperation of its own accord.
“It is not hard to imagine who will gain from the suspension of cooperation between Russia and NATO on countering modern threats and challenges to international and European security, in particular in areas such as the fight against terrorism, piracy and natural and man-made disasters,” Lukashevich said.
“In any case, it will certainly not be Russia or NATO member states.”
Russian forces took control of Crimea, a Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula, which then voted to unite with Russia in a March 16 referendum seen as a sham in the West. Moscow formally annexed Crimea on March 21.
The suspension of NATO cooperation with Moscow means Russia cannot participate in joint exercises, although the alliance says joint work in Afghanistan — on training counter-narcotics personnel, maintaining Afghan air force helicopters and providing a transit route out of the country — could continue.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday NATO’s future relationship with Russia would depend, among other things, on whether Russia started withdrawing troops massed near Ukraine’s eastern border.
“The statements about Moscow’s allegedly aggressive intentions posing a threat to NATO member states are absolutely groundless,” said Alexander Grushko, Russia’s permanent representative at NATO, according to Interfax news agency.
(c) Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved.
NATO Commander Says He
Sees Potent Threat From Russia
Michael R. Gordon / The New York Times
BRUSSELS (April 2, 2014) — NATOâ€™s top commander said on Wednesday that the 40,000 troops Russia has within striking distance of Ukraine are poised to attack on 12 hoursâ€™ notice and could accomplish their military objectives within three to five days.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia told Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Monday that the Kremlin was beginning to withdraw troops from the border area near Ukraine.
But the NATO commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, said in an interview with The New York Times that so far only a single battalion, a force of 400 to 500 troops, was on the move and that NATO intelligence could not say whether it was actually being withdrawn.
“What we can say now is that we do see a battalion-size unit moving, but what we canâ€™t confirm is that it is leaving the battlefield,” said General Breedlove, of the United States Air Force. “Whether that movement is aft to a less belligerent configuration or returning to barracks, we do not see that.”
General Breedlove said that the Russian force that remained was a potent mix of warplanes, helicopter units, artillery, infantry, and commandos with field hospitals and sufficient logistics to sustain an incursion into Ukraine.
“We believe that it can move within 12 hours,” he said. “Essentially, the force is ready to go. We believe it could accomplish its objective between three to five days.”
General Breedlove said the Russian presence might be intended as a “coercive force” during the Westâ€™s talks with Russia about Ukraineâ€™s future and as Ukraine prepares for a presidential election in late May.
If the Kremlin decides to intervene militarily, General Breedlove added, the force could be used to establish a land link to Crimea, the peninsula in southern Ukraine that Russia annexed last month, so that it does not have to supply it by sea. The Russian force is also capable, he said, of carrying out a thrust to Odessa; moving to Transnistria, the Russian enclave in Moldova; or intervening in areas in eastern Ukraine.
“I think they have all the opportunities and they can make whatever decision they want,” General Breedlove added. “This is a very large, very well-equipped force to be called an exercise.”
In January, the United States informed NATO allies that Russia had tested a ground-launched cruise missile, raising serious questions about Moscowâ€™s compliance with its arms control obligations.
American officials have sought without success to resolve the issue with the Russians, and the Obama administration is reviewing whether to formally declare the test to be a violation of a 1987 treaty that bans medium-range missiles.
While making it clear that he was not prejudging the outcome of that review, General Breedlove described the Russian missile test as a militarily significant development.
“A weapon capability that violates the I.N.F., that is introduced into the greater European land mass is absolutely a tool that will have to be dealt with,” he said, using the initials of the I ntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
“I would not judge how the alliance will choose to react, but I would say they will have to consider what to do about it,” he said. “It canâ€™t go unanswered.”
General Breedlove said that he did not know if the Russians had deployed the cruise missile, adding that this would be hard to determine since it resembles permitted short-range systems.
A former F-16 pilot, General Breedlove commanded Air Force units in Europe before he was named the NATO commander in the spring of 2013.
Discussing the Russian intervention in Crimea, General Breedlove said Russia had used a military exercise to mask its preparations. Once its intervention was underway, he said, Russian forces moved swiftly to cut telephone cables, jam communications and engage in cyberwarfare to isolate the Ukrainian military on the peninsula.
“They disconnected the Ukrainian forces in Crimea from their command and control,” he said.
The bigger challenge the alliance faces, he said, is the Russian militaryâ€™s use of “snap” exercises to rehearse its ability to assemble substantial combat power in a short period of time.
“They are absolutely able to bring great force to a position of readiness,” General Breedlove said. “That is something that we have to think about: What does that mean geo-strategically that we now have a nation that can produce this ready force and now has demonstrated that it will use that ready force to go across a sovereign boundary?”
On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers directed General Breedlove to develop a plan to strengthen the allianceâ€™s military ties with its Eastern European members by mid-April.
General Breedlove said that he planned to present options, along with his own recommendations, for strengthening the allianceâ€™s air, sea and land abilities to defend those nations without being provocative.
The air-power options, he said, include aircraft that could protect the airspace of NATO nations that border Russia as well as planes that could attack forces on the ground. Naval options include increasing the allianceâ€™s presence in the Baltic Sea and establishing a NATO presence in the Black Sea.
General Breedlove said that he would not exclude the continuous deployment of land forces, a step that Baltic and East European members would welcome. One possibility may be moving a roughly 4,500-member American combat brigade from Fort Hood, Tex., to Europe.
“It is an option,” he said.
Russia Steps Up Pressure on Ukraine
To Disarm Far-right
MOSCOW (April 2, 2014) — Russia increased pressure on Ukraine on Wednesday to disarm paramilitary groups, urging it to go beyond “sham” promises to crack down on the far-right and protect Russian speakers.
Moscow also expressed concern that the Ukrainian government was not holding a public debate on plans to reform the constitution, making clear it fears the interests of the Russian-speaking community will not be taken into account.
Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday ordered security forces to disarm illegal armed groups and police shut down the Kiev base of a far-right nationalist group, Right Sector, after a shooting incident in which three people were wounded.
“The fact that gunmen from the Right Sector have, so to say, vacated their headquarters in central Kiev has received a lot of comment in Kiev over the recent days,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
It urged the Ukrainian authorities “not to confine themselves to ‘sham’ statements to fight radical forces in Ukraine but to take resolute measures to disarm gunmen”.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been in crisis since the Ukrainian parliament deposed Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich on February 22 and Russia seized control of the Crimea region from Ukraine before annexing it on March 21.
Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s eastern border and says it reserves the right to protect compatriots if they are in danger.
Moscow wants the Ukrainian authorities to carry out an agreement signed by Yanukovich and his opponents on February 21 which included a call for groups involved in the protests to hand over illegal weapons.
Another clause of the February 21 deal was a call for constitutional reform.
The Foreign Ministry said it was “disturbing” that the constitutional reform was being conducted without media coverage or public debate. Underlining its importance, it said the lack of a balanced constitution was a cause of “the political cataclysms” it said we shaking the Ukrainian state.
(c) Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved.
Ukraine Far-right Leader Sashko Bily ‘Shot Himself’
(April 2, 2014) — A Ukrainian far-right leader accidentally shot and killed himself during a shoot-out with police last month, an investigation has concluded.
The inquiry by the interior ministry said Oleksandr Muzychko, aka Sashko Bily, had shot himself in the heart as police tried to wrestle him to the ground during the chase. He was a member of the Right Sector — a key player in Ukraine’s mass protests.
The group had threatened revenge for the death, blaming the police. However, group members have so far made no public comments on the inquiry’s findings.
The Right Sector played a prominent role in the Kiev protests — and the clashes with police — that led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
The results of the inquiry into the 24 March shoot-out in the western Rivne region were published on the interior ministry’s official website.
The investigators determined that Mr Muzychko, 51, had shot twice as police were trying to arrest and handcuff him.
The first shot scratched his skin, they said, but the second proved fatal. The policemen tried to treat him at the scene and called an ambulance.
Earlier, one of the police officers was shot and injured by Mr Muzychko during the chase. The inquiry concluded that the police had acted lawfully. Right Sector activists have been furious over the death of Mr Myzuchko.
“We will avenge ourselves on [Interior Minister] Arsen Avakov for the death of our brother. The shooting of Sashko Bily is a contract killing ordered by the minister,” member Roman Koval was quoted as saying by the Ukrayinska Pravda website after the shoot-out.
The minister has denied the allegation.
On 28 March, Right Sector activists blocked the parliament building in the capital Kiev and smashed windows.
The Right Sector’s continued presence on the streets has complicated the work of Ukraine’s new leaders, who have struggled to demonstrate they are fully in control after Russia’s disputed annexation of Crimea and violent pro-Russian protests in eastern parts of the country, the BBC’s David Stern in Kiev reports.
What is more, Right Sector has bolstered the Kremlin’s seemingly exaggerated claims that “fascists” have taken over Ukraine’s government and are roaming the capital’s streets, threatening minorities and Russian-speakers, our correspondent adds.
However, the Right Sector has been trying to turn itself into a mainstream party. Its leader Dmytro Yarosh has already been registered as a presidential candidate in 25 May elections.
Far-right group that played key role in protests and clashes with police in Ukraine.
Has well-organised armed units.
Believed to have hundreds of members across Ukraine.
Unofficial leader is Dmytro Yarosh, who is running for presidency in May.
Has been trying to transform itself into mainstream political party.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.