Friday, August 29, 2014

Independent Journalists Probe Russian Soldiers’ Deaths in Ukraine

Russia This Week: Independent Journalists Probe Russian Soldiers’ Deaths in Ukraine

This website currently (August 29) has a series of reports of the problems families seeking news of their loved ones and of journalists seeking answers. At the beginning of a new week it is moved to an archive but there are links.

It is worth reading to see how the Russian military treats their soldiers and their families.   I wrote about  Kichatkin in the previous post whose "wife" claimed he was still alive and standing beside her, after which a man claiming to be Kirchatkin spoke.  The number was disconnected shortly thereafter.

25 August. Funeral of Leonid Kichatkin. Photo by Nina Petlyanova/Novaya Gazeta.

Novorossiya again

Putin is losing his plausible deniability cover.  He can still lie through his teeth as he did in Minsk earlier this week but even the Russian people are starting to learn the truth. It is coming home to them in coffins (code: Cargo 200).  The white trucks of the "AID" convoy took home not only arms manufacturing machinery but also the bodies of Russian soldiers killed fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The secret military funerals in Moscow or Pskov cannot be kept hidden for ever though the families are threatened to keep them silent and the Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee has just been declared a foreign agency.  The wife of a dead soldier was phoned by journalists.  the woman who answered said her husband was standing beside her and he spoke to them on the phone, yet his funeral was held the day before and his name and date of death were on a wooden cross.  Journalists managed to get a picture before they were driven off by thugs.  Later the name was removed from the cross.

But perhaps he no longer cares to hide the casualties.  If he is getting ready for a major war he needs to get people used to the idea that their husbands and sons are now cannon fodder. During the first and second Chechen war there were officially 10,000 Russian military casualties.  Since the Kremlin consistantly lies about casualties, possibly double that?

The large convoy of Russian equipment and troops that crossed the border and are headed for Mariupol constitute an open invasion and war, though no one officially calls it that as it would require action. The question is where are they going to stop.  Luhansk and Donetsk together call themselves Novorossiya, however when Putin used the term first he was referring to a much larger area, based on historical conquests by Catherine the Great in the mid-late 18th century.
So when he used the term again, praising the Russian-led terrorists (and Russian military) of Luhansk and Donetsk for their "major successes", which vision of Novorossiya was he thinking of? His current infested oblasts? A land bridge to Crimea?  The whole kit and kaboodle?

According to Paul Goble's blog, the Moscow Military Review Voyennoye Obozreniye, an online Moscow journal directed at the Russian military and military analysts, has published a list of seven targets Russian forces are likely to attack in the course of what it describes as “the probable future of the war for Novorossiya.”

Whether the Russian military could invade and HOLD even a portion of the area with the troops available is a debate that is ongoing though most think it is far too few.  Partisan warfare is something Ukrainians know all about and more fanatical groups like Right Sector would come into their own, following in teh footsteps of the OUN-UPA.

Major sources of articles continue to be
Kyiv Post site links to some international stories and also sends a daily email with more complete links to stories in the international press

Monday, August 25, 2014

Keurig Coffee Makers

Just to change the pace from constant bad news, some thoughts on the seemingly ubiquitous Keurig single cup coffee maker. They come in all sizes and shapes, including some you can hard wire into the water system so you never need to refill the reservoir

Almost every home and some offices I visited in Canada had one of these coffee makers.  How handy can life be - drop in a little sealed cup prefilled with any number of different coffees, push a button and voila a cup of very good coffee. They call them K-cups, however that conjures up an interesting visual image I would rather not dwell on so I will just call them cups. Throw away the used cup and you are ready to start over. No fuss, no muss, no feathers.

Ay, there's the rub.  According to a recent article in the Grope and Maul, some 10 billion of these little non-degradable cups are filling nations' refuse heaps annually.  Fortunately the article goes on to announce a company has begun making biodegradable cups.

The second rub is the cost of these little cups.  Best deal seems to be fifty cents per.  Which is fine for one person drinking one cup per day.  However if you are a multi-person household, drinking multi-cups per day, it adds up. Keeping costs down while maintaining convenience becomes an earnest objective.

There is lots of "coffee" left in the cup after only one use.  The recommendation is to shake it before using it again to loosen the grounds.  Let me know if that works.

There are also all kinds of ways of reusing the cups with replacement lids or filling your own disposable cups.  Amazon carries a number of these here. A second rubber seal is recommended so there is no leakage around the flimsy replacement tops.  

There are refillable K-Cups complete with filter but there goes convenience.  You could buy a couple dozen, fill them and keep them in the freezer but at $16 to $20 per, the initial investment might be a bit steep.

Then there is something called the EZ-Cup which used a disposable filter.  Only $35 on Amazon with filters available from Wal-Mart at $5 for 50.

These coffee makers may be available in Ukraine in Kyiv where people might have the money to afford the little cups but it will be a very long time before they hit the small towns and villages.  I will stick to my 12 cup coffee maker with paper-towel filters that makes four mugs of good coffee.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

White trucks come and go

Well, the Great White Aid Convoy entered Ukraine on Friday after a mere 34 trucks had been inspected at the Ukrainian border.  Russian soldiers pushed the Ukrainians aside and all the trucks crossed the borders.  Sans ICRC people, as they could not get guarantees of safe passage from the Terrorists.  Russia claims they could not wait any longer to deliver bottled water and 30 tonnes of salt as well as 800 kg of tea to the suffering civilians in Luhansk and Donetsk.  

No one has yet seen a complete manifest of the contents of the trucks, though Russia of course says they "met all requirements".  The truth was they never met any and never intended to.  The Russians kept announcing agreements though neither the Red Cross nor the Ukrainian government really agreed to anything other than Thursday to begin inspections of the trucks.  Which agreement the Russians promptly broke.

What ever was in the other trucks has been safely delivered to "those for whom it was intended" in Luhansk and Donetsk.  And the trucks left on Saturday.  Carrying the contents of two munitions factories, one in Luhansk and one in Donetsk  The equipment had already been packed and was waiting to be loaded.  There is some historical precedent for this as the Soviet Union packed and moved dozens of factories in front of the advancing German Army, reassembling them on the other side or the Urals. The factories apparently made radar equipment and small arms magazines or something like that.

Reuters, WaPo (best story), EuroMaidanPress,

Not sure what it will take to "prove" to the world that the terrorists are strengthened by Russian military personnel as well as Russian supplied heavy arms and equipment.  Russia is also shelling and firing rockets from the Russian side of the border. Russia keeps claiming that any Russian military people found among the terrorist fighters (eg the Chechens and Cossacks) are purely volunteers.  Right.

So why did Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a ceremony on the 22nd to give the Suvorov award for valour in battle to the 76th Guards Air Assault Division of Russian Airborne Troops from Pskov?  Any number of clues seem to point their active engagement in Ukraine, including the alleged recent capture by the ATO of  Russian paratroops complete with documents.  The story is here on the Russia Today blog of The Interpreter Magazine.  REad it and decide for yourself if the documents are real or "part of the ongoing information war". reports that in Moscow there was a secret funeral service for 14 members of the 45th Regiment of Special Purpose Airborne Troops, all of whom "died by accident while on vacation".  No one was talking to reporters at the funeral, especially other members of the 45th. The article goes on to say (Google translated from the original):

It is worth noting that at the time of the mysterious death of 14 soldiers from Special Forces Russian airborne troops are no military operations involving airborne forces in this country have been conducted. There was no major military exercises, during which theoretically could occur group accident. Of course, the fact that the Russian military under the guise of alleged local "militias" are engaged in armed terrorism in the territory of Ukrainian Donbass, official Moscow media did not say. But at the same time, say numerous witnesses in Russia in recent days in a strange funeral frequent various so-called "Cossacks", military special forces and other fortune seekers.
Recall that in the course of anti-terrorist operations in the Donbass Ukrainian Army and National Guard are increasingly unable to destroy large groups of militants who have seized several towns of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. In particular, only the first day after the end of the allotted President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko term unilateral ceasefire, which the terrorists and did not get to add weapons, force headquarters ATO has reported on the elimination of more than 1,000 armed bandits . The same information is confirmed and have been so-called "militia". A few weeks earlier from Ukraine was organized delivery in Russia on the refrigerator corpses of Russian citizens , who fought on the side of terrorists and were killed during the battle for the airport in Donetsk. How and where was the funeral of those killed, none of the Russian media did not tell you suggesting a complete secrecy of mourning ceremonies. Recall, the Russian authorities have repeatedly officially stated that "there are no Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine."
Ferguson Police must be taking a leaf from the Russian propaganda machine.  They allegedly doctored the tape of the convenience store robbery to remove the bits where Michael Brown paid for the cigars.  Russian news is famous not only for using actors in various "on the spot interviews" but also for videos of incidents which occurred in other countries and pretending they were "live" from Ukraine.  The Polish border, Syria and Chechnya and all served as proxies for footage from Ukraine.  Add Kazakhstan to that.  

The explosion on the right took place in Kazakhstan in 2013 during a failed rocket launce at Baikonur but was doctored into a news item allegedly showing Ukrainians attacking a village with rockets.
It is already Sunday 24th August in Ukraine. The 23rd anniversary of Ukrainian independence.  On Tuesday, Proroshenko will meet with Putin in Minsk.  He had hoped to retake both Luhansk and Donetsk cities from the terrorists by Sunday but the white trucks put paid to that.  I do not hold out any hope for Minsk, I am afraid.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Use for the Empty White "Aid" Trucks

Ukraine has still received no documents regarding the contents of the mostly empty white trucks of "humanitarian aid" parked by the Ukrainian border.  A commenter said that the real purpose of the trucks was to remove all equipment from a Luhansk factory and take it back to Russia.  The factory produces systems for the Russian military and is already packed to go.

If you read John J. Mearsheimer's article, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, you can rightly be excused for wondering when that august publication became a mouthpiece for the Kremlin's useful idiots.  Best read this rebuttal from Anders Aslund in Peterson Institute for International Economics

A great deal has been written about why Russia has mounted an undeclared war on Ukraine. Certainly Putin wants to maintain his hold on power and protect his $40 billions and the $billions of his cronies.  He wants to be the Tsar who rebuilt the Russian Empire.  But it is not JUST LilliPutin.  Russians by and large, have never accepted Ukraine as a separate nation nor Ukrainians as a separate people. Russians tend to see political movements as conspiracy.  If there is an uprising over unfair elections (2004) or a mafia run state (2014) it MUST be the fault of the CIA.  The notion that people might actually rise up of their own accord in Kyiv or Moscow is not in their world view.

So as this writer put it, the conflict is between opposing world views,
(The inheritance of Kyivian) Rus is the domination of individualistic values. They demand the right to participate in making the decisions that influence their lives. Therefore, they build collective forms of government organization: Viche-Maidan, the Rada, a parliamentary republic.
(The inheritance of the Mongolian) Horde is domination of collectivist values. They do not participate in making societal decisions, but entrust themselves and accept the will of the higher ‘deity,’ which expresses the interests of this collective. Therefore, they build authoritarian forms of government organization: the Khan, the Tzar, the Leader. Collectivism is the base communism, socialism, fascism are built on.
Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine as the ATO attempts to wrest territory back from the recently reinforced terrorists.  The Ukrainian military is also under attack from artillery and rockets fired from inside the Russian border which makes it very dangerous within 40 km of the border. Terrorists are also deliberately destroying infrastructure - roads, bridges, power stations, well over and above losses normal to war.  The terrorists do not have to live there and are tasked with destabilizing the economy of the country.

In other news, Moscow has closed three McDonalds.  And some people have no sense of humour:

Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Vandalizing Soviet Monuments

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No respite for Ukrainian Army

The following is from Ukraine Liveblog Day 183: Ukraine Fights to Retake Ilovaisk.

Hromadske TV reports that 150 pieces of Russian military hardware, including tanks, and 1200 troops with Russian uniforms (but lacking chevrons) have broken through to Lugansk today.
Dmitry Tymchuk reports that Unfortunately, the fact is confirmed that today, a convoy of military vehicles has broken through to Lugansk to aid the local fighters. Some of it had come from Russia earlier, and some from RF territory today into Donbass. According to our information, several dozen vehicles have come into the outskirts of Lugansk, of which up to 40 are heavy armored vehicles. Some of this convoy has entered the city.

Dmitry Tymchuk also reported that During a withdrawal of refugees from the settlements of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka near Luhansk, insurgents struck the convoy with a massive attack of mortars and “Grads.” The convoy was moving under white flags, but this did not save it from almost total destruction. Dozens of civilians, many [of them] children were killed. 
Terrorists from the LPR claim that the convoy of refugees from Lugansk shelled yesterday was not done by them. I. Polotnitsky, one of the leaders of the fighters, has made this statement. This statement could possibly confuse the outside observer who could regrettably surmise that the ATO forces could commit this monstrous act by shelling the convoy by mistake. If it were not for one thing. The leader of the terrorists immediately began swearing that the armaments had not been transferred to the fighters from Russia, that supposedly "all the military vehicles are trophies and have been taken in battles." ...The lie about the arms proves the lie about shelling the convoy as well.  But the leader of the fighters is so tangled up in lies that he doesn't even turn on his brains when he sticks his lying on the public.

Earlier today there were reports that Russian-backed separatist artillery opened heavy barrages of outgoing fire from the center of Donetsk, Ukraine's fifth largest city. There is an interesting theory being circulated at the moment. Earlier, there were a series of reports, all posted at the same time and coming from multiple sources, which suggested that it was separatists who were firing artillery rockets, probably Grads, out of the center of Donetsk. But artillery rounds and rockets have also fallen in the city. But we have not seen signs that the Ukrainian military has moved on Donetsk today, and Reuters saw no evidence of Ukrainian soldiers in the area. Are the separatists shelling the city themselves to blame the crisis on the Ukrainian military?

Ukraine has banned 14 Russian television channels accusing them of spreading war propaganda.  While the Ukrainian crackdown on Russian media outlets has been widely condemned, it is also important to remember the context. When Russian troops began to take over Crimea, one of the first things they did was arrest Ukrainian journalists and raid television and radio broadcast centers. The signals of independent Ukrainian news outlets were then replaced with those of Russian state media.

EuroMaidanPress reports a new tactic on the part of the terrorists who are preparing military bases "strengthening the mining belt: Stakhanov, Alchevsk, Kramatorsk, Sniznhe, Torez, Krasnyi Luch. This is an attempt to create supporting bases in the event that Russia invades.”

In other news Paul Goble's blog has an item regarding the revival of Soviet style anti-Semitism. Russia is becoming increasingly Nationalistic, almost virulently so. An instructor at the Russian foreign ministry’s training academy told participants at a government-sponsored youth camp that “Zionism is a movement for the establishment of the world rule of Jewish bankers,” that it “finances pagans to destroy Orthodoxy,” and that it has so “Judaicized” Catholicism that “almost nothing remains” of that faith. ... What makes these words so disturbing is that they remind us of the ugly Soviet-style anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. This may be a result of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian and imperialist rhetoric and the Russian government’s media outlets ever more virulent attacks on ethnic Ukrainians and others. 

There were a great many warnings posted about the potential for Putin's independence referendums and promotion of federalism to backfire. There are demands beginning in Siberia that Moscow respect the Russian Federation Constitution and allow true federalism in other parts of the country.  The authorities came down hard, blocking a march in Novosibirsk and arresting the leaders on trumped up charges.  The notion however has spread to several other parts of Russia according to Paul Goble's blog.  Ain't Karma a sweetheart?  Stay tuned for more excitement on the home front.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Empty trucks, full APCs, fleeing Russian terrorists and

The Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) is closing the circle in Luhansk and is reported fighting their way into the city.  Donetsk is also supposed to be almost cut off but the battle is going back and forth.  The new head of the DPR terrorists says they are getting reinforcements. Above link and here and here

According to him, the reserves showed up at the most crucial moment. They were made up of 1200 personnel, who had been trained for four months in the Russian Federation. In addition to the troops, the reinforcements, according to Zakharchenko, included 30 tanks and 120 armoured vehicles.

The APCs and other heavy Russian military equipment, including tanks is reportedly moving along highways from the Russian border.
Which is probably agreeable to the Kremlin because the escort has gotten a head-start on the aid anyway. Yesterday, nine Russian tanks wererecorded rolling along the H21 highway in Donetsk, deep inside separatist-held Ukraine. Moreover, helicopters, military vehicles (some of them marked with the emblem of "peacekeeping forces"), self-propelled guns, the 9K22 Tunguska anti-aircraft system, and what looks to be radar components for more advanced surface-to-air weapons (such as the Buk), were all identified by journalists and plenty of Russian observers moving alongside or above the aid convoy while it rolled from Moscow to the border. The Estonian newspaper Postimees also published photographs of Russian BMD-2s lining up along the M4 highway, about 6 miles from the Izvarino border crossing. This is the infantry fighting vehicle used to great effect by the Russian Airborne forces (VDV) -- camouflaged as the now-infamous "little green men" -- in the March seizure of Crimea.

Ukraine claims to have destroyed a number of them but this has not been confirmed yet by USA and of course Russia claims they don't exist.

As to the "Aid" convoy, the NY Times says some of the 280 trucks are nearly empty. Russia has "promised" that the "Aid" convoy will not be used for "direct" invasion.  However they are certainly setting the stage for something, whether attacks by terrorists which they can blame on Ukraine or as they have been doing already making statements that all is agreed to, then saying that Ukraine is breaking the agreements.  All this will sell well to the folks in Russia.

If you want a map to follow the locations etc of the conflict, this one is certainly big enough. Details will change from day to day but the place names will help orient those of you who are map inclined.

A conversation between a Russian Terrorist in Donetsk and his handler in Crimea is worth reading as he pleads for a hole to escape back across the border into Russia and wonders what the fighting is all about as no one seems to wnat to be liberated.

In other news, Crimea's only market appears to be Russia.

In April-May of 2014 the volume of goods supplied from Crimea to EU countries constituted $113,4 thousand, meanwhile in 2013 this number constituted about $171 million, so the volume of export last year is on average 251 times bigger. This was stated to newspaper “Week mirror. Ukraine” by scientific consultant with Razumkov Center Volodymyr Sidenko citing Crimea Statistics data.

Friday, August 15, 2014

And Closer

According to the most recent reports I have seen the "Aid" convoy is being inspected by Ukrainian border guards on the Russian side.  Some of the commenters noted that some of the trucks seemed to be relatively empty, though I have found no English language news reports of this.

The exact purpose of the "Aid" convey is yet to be revealed. The cottage industry of pundits has many hypotheses, of course.  I am reminded of the guy who crossed the border every day pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with sand.  The sand was searched thoroughly every day but nothing was found.  Finally they gave up and "We know you are smuggling something and if we leave you alone, will you tell us what it is".  "Simple.  Wheelbarrows."

Two Guardian reporters who accompanied the convoy stated they saw a number (20+) of armed personnel carriers with Russian insignia on them cross into Ukraine Thursday night, and Ukrainian news reports that the Ukrainian army clashed with them and destroyed some. Russia of course denies this, for what that is worth. Russian military equipment seems to cross the border quite freely and frequently.

In spite of the claim by Putin et al that Russia is not involved and has no control of the situation Lavrov said he spoke to the terrorists and they would allow the "Aid" convoy to proceed.  No doubt.  Although the journalist suggests that it will come under fire from the terrorists anyway, as they are already shelling the corridor to prevent civilians from leaving Luhansk. (Use Google Translate)

One thing sure, Putin is not going to back off.  However, on  lighter note, we do have allies.  A friend of Andrei's just got back from Turkey.  At the resort, Ukrainians and Russians got into a discussion and eventually into a brawl.  Polish and German guests came in on the Ukraine side. The Turkish staff stayed out of it but were definitely sympathetic to Ukraine.

You may have also heard, Putin has banned all food imports from any countries which have applied sanctions against Russia. Since Russia imports some 30% of its food, there are fears that this presages a return to Soviet bread lines.

Articles worth reading:

Hot Issue – Lies, Damned Lies and Russian Disinformation

Ukraine's Oligarchs are still calling the shots

What Canadians really think about Harper, Obama and Putin

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

War seems ever closer

The last post on this blog was June 6.  Tanya and I went to Canada and reading the depressing news from Ukraine did not seem a good way to spend one's holidays.  Tanya has returned home.  I am stuck in Canada until Sept 8th.  I lost/misplaced my Permanent Residency document so must stay out 90 days and return as a visitor when I can get a replacement.  I said to Tanya that I was so sorry I was so stupid.  She said she was sorry too.

The ATO (anti-terrorist operation) in eastern Ukraine continues and the Ukrainian military is slowly getting the best of it, recovering territory formerly held the the terrorists and slowly encircling Donetsk city.

The accidental shooting down of the Malaysian airliner by the pro-Russian terrorists on July 17 was a criminal act, the more so because the intended target MAY have been a Russian airliner filled with tourists.  It would have fallen on Ukrainian controlled territory and been blamed on the ATO, giving the Russian military the excuse they needed to invade, which they were apparently set to do July 18, to "keep the peace".

Killing your own people to score political and military points is not unknown. The FSB blew up Moscow apartment buildings to provide an excuse to start the second Chechen war that brought Putin to power. They were caught in the act of setting charges to blow up another. (There is some suggestion that other nations may also be guilty of allowing military or terrorist actions which proved advantageous in starting "desireable" wars.)

With his proxy warriors facing defeat, Putin must act.  Plan B seems to be humanitarian aid. They already tried to run a "humanitarian aid" convoy heavily guarded by Russian troops across the line by were stopped by some frantic diplomatic activity on the part of Proroshenko and others. No a convoy of white painted military trucks filled with "humanitarian aid" has left Moscow enroute to Ukraine.

Russia is telling its people that the convoy has the agreement of Ukraine and the Red Cross.  The Red Cross says they were never consulted and have no idea what is in the trucks.  Ukraine says the Russian trucks are welcome to offload their cargo on the Russian side of the border and reload it onto Red Cross trucks.

The Russian side does not have its story straight as the Emergency Measures people who are supposed to be in charge of the convoy disclaim all knowledge of it too.  If this ploy succeeds, Homer may well have material for two new epic poems.  For full details, see below: