Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Carol J. Williams / The Los Angeles Times – 2014-06-06 00:26:26
Ukraine Goverment Ready to Declare Martial Law in East
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 5, 2014) — The loss of several key military/national guard bases in the northeastern Luhansk Oblast has Ukraine’s interim government on edge about their ongoing military invasion of the east of the country, and has several leaders pushing for an immediate declaration of martial law throughout the region.
Outgoing Interim President Oleksandr Turchinov, who will be replaced on Saturday with the inauguration of President Petro Porchenko, urged the leaders of all security-related agencies and ministries to begin “urgently” to consider the declaration.
A statement from Turchinov’s office said martial law was needed to “stop the further spread of and put an end to an armed conflict in Ukrainian territory,” and could cover both Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
Shortly after Turchinov’s interim government took power, protests against their rule erupted in the eastern oblasts, where the majority is ethnic Russian and supported the ousted elected government. Eventually, this has resulted in a full-scale separatist movement, which the interim government dubbed “terrorists,” and a military invasion of the regions to bring them back under the control of Kiev’s central government.
The fighting has mostly centered around the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk in the northern portion of Donetsk Oblast, and yesterday the military claimed to have killed “more than 300” rebels in Slovyansk alone in 24 hours. The mayor of Slovyansk denies the claim, and said only 12 fighters were lost.
While the military’s offensive centers of northern Donetsk, the rebels seem to be gaining a lot of ground in Luhansk, where they have taken several military bases in recent days, conducting protracted gun battles until the troops therein were forced to flee.
Kiev Imposes a Police State: Calls for Martial Law in East Ukraine as Fighting Intensifies
Carol J. Williams / The Los Angeles Times
(June 4, 2014) — Pro-Russia gunmen overran three eastern Ukrainian military bases on Wednesday, making off with weapons and armored vehicles after ill-equipped government forces ran out of ammunition and fled, Kiev officials and media reported.
The setbacks in the Ukrainian government’s campaign to retake key facilities seized by the militants two months ago prompted acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to appeal to the nation’s security agencies to consider imposing martial law.
Fighting between the Russia-allied separatists and Ukrainians trying to thwart further territorial losses has intensified in the days leading up to President-elect Petro Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday. The initial response among security officials in Kiev to Turchynov’s call for a martial law debate was that the step would be considered only after Poroshenko has been sworn in as head of state.
Each side claimed to have inflicted massive losses on the other as fighting around the front-line town of Slovyansk continued for a second day Wednesday, as did a siege of a Ukrainian border guards base and National Guard compound near Luhansk. International and domestic media reported both bases overrun by militants early Wednesday, and the Associated Press said a third military unit was ousted from its compound in Sverdlovsk, near the Russian border.
At least 300 separatists were killed in the two days of fighting around the border guards base in Mirny, on the outskirts of Luhansk, Vladyslav Selezniov, spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s “anti-terrorist operation,” said via telephone hookup with journalists in Kiev from his position near Donetsk.
Separatists, whom Kiev authorities accuse of being armed and instigated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, seized regional government headquarters in Donetsk and Luhansk regions two months ago and proclaimed the territory they hold independent from Kiev’s rule after staging dubious referendums on May 11.
The casualty toll reported by Selezniov, who said two Ukrainian soldiers were killed, could not be independently confirmed amid the exchanges of gunfire that have kept journalists, and noncombatant officers such as Selezniov, away from the scene of the fighting in the wooded surroundings of Slovyansk, a town of 125,000.
The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, told Russia’s Interfax news agency in the besieged town that his forces had suffered 10 fatalities and shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet and a helicopter. He said they also seized “several tanks and one armored personnel carrier” from the government forces in the latest fighting. Like the Kiev government’s accounts of the fighting, the rebel leader’s claims couldn’t be verified.
Russian state television reported that more than 9,000 refugees from eastern Ukraine have crossed into Russia to escape the fighting, and that 2,000 of them were moved to Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula seized by Russian troops in February and annexed by the Kremlin in March. The rest have taken refuge in the Rostov-on-Don region, prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency, Russia-24 TV said.
The Ukrainian News agency quoted border guards as denying reports that Ukrainians were seeking refuge in Russia.
Reports from both Kiev and Russia painted a bleak picture of the state of the Ukrainian border guards trying to fend off pro-Russia gunmen for a second day at the base in Mirny. After the border guards and National Guard troops backing them at the base ran out of ammunition, they retreated from the compound, the National Guard said in a statement.
Separatist gunmen who entered the base after its defenders fled were seen hauling away crates of munitions in vehicles also looted from the base, the Associated Press reported from the scene.
Poroshenko vowed the day after his May 25 landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election to immediately shore up the beleaguered armed forces so they can bring an end to the separatist violence in a matter of days.
President Obama promised in a meeting with Poroshenko in Warsaw on Wednesday to provide $5 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine’s military to equip soldiers with body armor and secure communications.
Ukraine’s interim leaders blame former President Viktor Yanukovich for neglecting the military during his four years in office. The Kremlin-allied leader was driven out of Kiev in February by a three-month rebellion against his decision to scrap a trade and political alliance with the European Union, an association agreement that Poroshenko has said he will sign as soon as he becomes president.
Times staff writer Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow contributed to this report.
Obama, Cameron Issue Demands,
Give Russia One Month Ultimatum
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 5, 2014) — Continuing to escalate tensions with Russia, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron today laid out an ultimatum, giving Russia’s President Putin a series of demands he has to meet by the end of a month or face major sanctions.
The new “thresholds” are familiar demands, including blocking all arms from crossing the border into Ukraine, ending all public support for the ethnic Russian protesters in the eastern portion of Ukraine, and “recognizing Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Ukraine.”
The last demand is particularly bizarre, because Russia already recognized the election virtually as soon as the results came in, and has been pushing for talks with Poroshenko on ending the violence in the east.
The State Department has made clear that the current sanctions will remain in case no matter what Russia does, and that there isn’t even a consideration of a deal to end the growing sanctions war. Rather, the ultimatum offers a choice between the status quo of sanctions or further escalation at a faster pace
On a rhetorical front, the State Department also made clear that under no circumstances would the US ever consider the situation in Ukraine a “civil war,” arguing that they believe the whole eastern situation is Russia’s fault and that therefore it can’t be an internal conflict.
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