Tag Archives: Kiev

As Ukraine Spirals Again into Violence, US Contemplates Pouring Fuel on Fire

Published on Monday, February 02, 2015 by Common Dreams
Donetsk airport, once the pride of the city, has been completely demolished. Image via Twitter.

Donetsk airport, once the pride of the city, has been completely demolished. Image via Twitter.

With reporting from the New York Times revealing new consideration by the Obama administration to send $3 billion worth of weaponry and military equipment to Ukraine, concerns over a deepening civil war between the Ukraine Army and the eastern rebel factions who reject the authority of the government in Kiev are rising rapidly.

On Monday, Alexander Zakharchenko, president of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in the east, has reportedly announced plans to recruit 100,000 men to fuel the eastern region’s ongoing battle with the Ukraine Army, which receives backing from both the U.S. and the NATO alliance.

As fighting intensifed in Donetsk, Vuhlehirsk, Debaltseve and other eastern cities on Sunday and into Monday, the Times reported that NATO’s high commander as well as top members of Obama’s national security team are again discussing plans to send more weapons to the war-torn and divided nation.

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Ukraine’s Unity Day

Every January 22 marks Unity Day in Ukraine. How did the country celebrate this year?

In Kiev, the Ukraine government is calling for a truce. The prime minister, Arseniy Yatsunyuk, laid wreaths at a ceremonial rally and called attention to the continuing turmoil.

“I believe that the Unity, reunification of Ukrainian lands, which took place in 1919, will have its future – we will return Crimea, and control over Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian military aggression, which is supervised by the Kremlin, won’t be successful and it will fail, like all the past occupations and aggressions against Ukraine,” stressed the Head of Government. Continue reading

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News From The Eastern Front

Ukrainian pipelines. Map by Victor Korniyenko (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Ukrainian pipelines. Map by Victor Korniyenko (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve written about Ukraine on numerous occasions; the most recent being about reports claiming Academi mercenaries are operating in east Ukraine. However, we haven’t written about the situation there recently, and there’s been lots going on.

There was a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine at the end of June, which led to the Russian parliament revoking its ruling from March permitting the use of Russian troops in Ukrainian territory  The ceasefire ended, as these things tend to do, with both sides blaming the other for an attack on a village in the Luthansk region in which nine civilians were reported dead.

On Thursday of last week, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian President Vladmir Putin to encourage pro-Russian separatists to accept a new ceasefire deal negotiated by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. But, on Saturday, Ukrainian troops retook the city of Slavyansk; their biggest tactical victory in a “anti-terrorist operation” that’s done little more in three months than shelling separatist strongholds while inflicting large numbers of civilian casualties.

The separatists for their part vowed to keep on fighting. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said purging the city of the insurgents had “incredible symbolic importance,” while Igor Girken, defense minister of what separatists call the Donetsk People’s Republic, said: “We will continue the combat operations and will try not to make the same mistakes that we made in the past.” 

The U.S. has been silent for the most part, which is troubling considering the actions of neo-fascist supporters armed by the Ukraine government in Odessa and other places in southeast Ukraine. Svoboda and Right Sector, the two main neo-fascist organizations, call for an ethnically pure nation purged of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum,” including homosexuals, feminists and political leftists. The U.S. government and media’s official stance is that the neo-fascists are merely agitated nationalists and “garden-variety Euro-populists,” without enough popular support to be consequential. They tend to place all the blame at the feet of Vladmir Putin and former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, while neglecting the fact that the EU trade accord that started the whole independence movement was filled with austerity measures which would be even more punishment for the common Ukranian economically while the oligarchs would barely be touched. Sound familiar?

Or, perhaps this tells us all we need to know: In May, Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, was named to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings Ltd, the largest private gas producer in Ukraine. When asked about the appointment during a White House press conference, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary at the time, said that where Hunter Biden works “does not reflect an endorsement by the administration, by the president or vice president.” Burisma’s chairman, Alan Apter, said:  “This is totally based on merit,”

If you’re thinking that Alan Apter doesn’t sound like a Ukrainian name, you’d be right. He’s an American, as is Hunter Biden (of course) and a man named Devon Archer who’s also on the board. Devon Archer’s place in this is interesting; not only does he work with Hunter Biden at Rosemount Seneca partners, but Rosemount Seneca is half owned by Rosemount Capital, which is a private equity firm founded by Archer and Christopher Heinz, who happens to be Secretary of State John Kerry’s stepson.

This really doesn’t surprise us that much. We discussed back in April how the U.S. policy in Syria is more about oil than any humanitarian instinct; why should we think Ukraine would be any different?

As always, follow the money…


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Academi Studies

A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq, 2004. Photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best (Public Domain)

A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq, 2004. Photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best (Public Domain)

On Sunday, May 11, there were a series of referendums held in  Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions over secession from the rest of Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatists claimed overwhelming public support for secession. The United States said today that it doesn’t recognize the results, and called them “a transparent attempt to create disorder.” 

Also on May 11, the German daily Die Welt reported that according to information leaked by sources in the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND, the German foreign intelligence agency), there are over 100 American mercenaries operating in east Ukraine, and maybe as many as 400. Supposedly brought in by the current Ukrainian regime, these mercenaries are employees of the company named Academi. While you might not know the company under that name, you might recognize one of its previous names; Blackwater or Xe. Why should we be concerned about this?

Academi was founded under the name of Blackwater USA by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL. Its stated purpose was to provide training and support to military and law enforcement organizations. In a Congressional hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2007, Prince stated  “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.” After working with various SEAL and SWAT teams, Blackstone received their first government contract in October of 2000.

In 2002, Blackwater Security Company (BSC) was formed. BSC was a private “security” firm whose first contract was to provide 20 men with top security clearances to protect CIA headquarters and a base involved with the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

There’s always been deep ties between the CIA and BSC; the founding Director of BSC (and Vice President of Blackwater USA at the time), Jamie Smith, was a former CIA agent, and the Vice Chairman from 2006 to 2008, Cofer Black, was the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The vice chairman of intelligence for BSC until 2007 was Robert Richer, the former head of the CIA’s Near East Division. When Richer quit, he and Black started Total Intelligence Solutions, another Erik Prince company with deep links to BSC dealing with risk management and threat evaluation.

BSC received over $1 billion in government contracts that we know about (unclassified), dealing with providing “security” in places as widespread as Iraq, Afghanistan and, here at home, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Where you’ve probably heard of them was from their actions in Iraq. In 2007, BSC’s name was changed to Blackwater International,

On September 17, 2007, the Iraqi government revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in the country after 17 Iraqi citizens were killed by Blackwater operatives, which prompted the Congressional hearing I referred to earlier. Four former Blackwater guards go on trial for first degree murder in June. Blackwater was also under investigation for arms smuggling, among other things. However, during this time, Blackwater was hired by the Department of Defense Counter-Narcotics Technology Program Office to provide support for counter-narcotics activities at a cost of up to $15 billion over five years. And, on August 19, 2009, Mark Manzetti reported in the New York Times that Blackwater had been hired by the CIA “as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda.” In January 2009, the State Department told Blackwater Worldwide that it would not renew its contract in Iraq, yet the CIA gave them a $100 million contract the next year. 

In 2009, Blackwater changed their name yet again; to Xe Services LLC. In 2010, Erik Prince stepped down from the day to day management and moved to Abu Dhabi. Later that year, a group of private investors bought Blackwater/Xe’s training grounds and formed a new company named Academi. While supposedly having oversight and having new compliance rules, the board of directors lead us to believe it’s more of the same. Among the members are John Ashcroft, the Attorney General during George W. Bush’s first term and Bobby Ray Inman, who was the head of the NSA during the Carter administration and Deputy Director of the CIA for the first year of Ronald Reagan’s first term.

Academi has denied that they have contractors on the ground in Ukraine. But, going by past history, it’d be almost surprising if they didn’t, due to the deniability factor. The real question if they are there has to be who hired them. We the world’s people have the right to know.



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Condemning “Provacative”

The guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) underway. Donald Cook was the first surface combatant to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) in the liberation of Iraq. Photo By U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Alan J. Baribeau. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) underway. Donald Cook was the first surface combatant to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) in the liberation of Iraq. Photo By U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Alan J. Baribeau. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A 90-minute encounter between the USS Donald Cook and a Russian SU-24 fighter aircraft, making 12 low-altitude, close-range passes near the ship in the Black Sea over the weekend, brought some excitment to the crew of the guided missle destroyer.

The passes — ranging from sea level to several thousand feet — did not place the US destroyer in danger, according to Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren. Attempts to communicate with the Russian aircraft to inquire as to its intentions were met with radio silence.

“This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with their national protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries,”  Warren said.

At Putin’s request, Obama and Putin spoke by phone on Monday evening. Described as “frank and direct,” the conversation reportedly did not go well. This is the coolest the relationship with Russia has been in decades.

This comes following a heightened tension in the Ukraine crisis as more government buildings were seized in various eastern Ukraine cities over the past few days. Tactics, equipment and unidentified provocateurs operating under the exact same methods as we saw in Crimea. Yet Russia wants us to believe there is no connection, while their media reports how Yanukovich is still the legitimate ruler of Ukraine.

Russian Air Force Jet SU-24. Photo By Alex Beltyukov - RuSpotters Team [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Russian Air Force Jet SU-24. Photo By Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team [CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

How do we know about the connection with sure confidence? Activists that are homegrown movements bent on democratic change do not take over government buildings sporting automatic, military grade weaponry and maneuvers. The protest in Kiev began as a peaceful group in Independence Square – it did not turn violent until provoked by the riot police, under Yanukovich acting on Putin’s advice, attacked the protestors.

As we continue to hold our breath and pray that Ukraine does not escalate into the next World War, we also hold firm on our opinion and belief that true oppression, as seen in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and in Kiev, represents the fact that THE PEOPLE WILL ONLY TAKE SO MUCH!

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There Will Be Costs

As President Obama spoke these words in reference to Russia’s decision to ramp up their presence in the Crimea, “There will be costs,” we could not help but note this to be perhaps the understatement of the day.

Image By Peter Fitzgerald (:Image:Ukraine regions map.svg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By Peter Fitzgerald (:Image:Ukraine regions map.svg) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Our assessment comes not necessarily through agreement with the US stance on the Ukraine matter, but rather in observation of the fact that the costs the Ukraine has before it now are staggering in both complexity and implementation. As the new government moves through its parliament to set the course for the future, the choice they make will come with costs to them.

Crimea has had a sense of autonomy prior to these developments in Kiev. A home for a Russian naval base, Crimea’s population is over 60% ethnic Russian. Many do not speak the Ukraine language, but hold roots to their history of when the Ukraine, and Crimea in particular, were part of the U.S.S.R. They do not wish any of this to change. They view the developments in Kiev as negative, and fear the changes will result in policies that will change their way of life against their will.

United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to the G8 Summit dinner following their bilateral meeting in Ireland on 17 June 2013. Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to the G8 Summit dinner following their bilateral meeting in Ireland on 17 June 2013. Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Russia has always viewed the Crimea as “theirs” and has continued to hold this position since the 1994 Budapest Agreement they signed with the Ukraine. The Budapest Memorandum is a treaty concerning the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine and its security relationship with the US, the UK and Russia. In return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons to Russia, the signatories agreed to respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty, among other things. Russia now views the protection of the Black Sea Fleet, their naval unit located in Crimea, as both a responsibility and a right. It is highly unlikely this attitude will change. They have now authorized military action in Ukraine, not limiting actions to the Crimea region.

Former Ukraine President Yanukovich has surfaced in a press conference from within Russia, stating that he has not relinquished power and is still the legitimate ruler of Ukraine. The international community has not responded to his claims, but he has turned to his friend, Putin, asking for Russian support in overthrowing the “bandits” that have seized control of the parliament in Kiev. Arrest warrants have been issued for both Yanukovich and his son,  Oleksandr, by the Ukraine government after documents found trace nearly $67 billion in assets stolen from the country while in power.

At this time, assets in foreign banks have either already been frozen or in the process of being frozen, as the international community responds to these serious charges based on clear evidence. The Guardian reports this is “in response to a request from Kiev targeting the fortunes of up to 20 of the Yanukovych clique. Yanukovych’s family, his former prime minister and former chief of staff all have substantial properties, businesses, and bank accounts in Austria. The foreign ministry in Vienna said assets were being frozen. But the details were leaked to the Viennese press before being implemented, leaving it unclear whether the assets had already been shifted.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine is challenged with finding a way to move forward that allows acceptance by the international community as well as the diverse population within the country. Most observers, including the EU, are encouraging ties be made with the west, meaning the EU and the US. Crimea and Russia see ties to the east as the only correct path forward. Ukraine’s military has been placed on high alert and the new president has stated that military action from Russia would force the Ukraine to sever ties with them. Ukraine has appealed to NATO and the UN for assistance.

Events in Kiev on 2-18-14. Photo By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Events in Kiev on 2-18-14. Photo By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We tend to agree with those who say it might be possible for the Ukraine government to accomplish ties to both, in the interest of maintaining the country’s unity and to stabilize the geopolitical climate in the region. This does not need to be an “either-or” decision.

We want to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin, who states his action are not a violation of any law or agreement but are being taken to bring calm to the Crimea at their request. Russian citizens and troops threatened in Ukraine (Crimea region), need armed forces’ protection, he claims. We also can not ignore the similarities in language and in action taken now to those taken prior to the war with Georgia not that long ago.

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Deadly, Violent Struggle for Peace

By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/photographers/102-mstyslav-chernov.html (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/photographers/102-mstyslav-chernov.html (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Independence Square in Kiev had a few days of peace, but then saw a resurgence of violent clashes with police, resulting in at least 25 deaths and over 240 seriously injured, according to the Health Ministry. The clashes began escalation Monday as parliament tried to table debate regarding reform and changes to the constitution, an agreed upon condition that had led to a compromise of sorts between the opposition and the government of Ukraine, erupting into even more deadly clashes on Wednesday morning as police attempted to clear the tightly held encampment.

A crowd of over 10,000 protestors moved from Independence Square toward parliament to pressure the government to include their proposals in the discussion, as was previously agreed to by both sides. Police blocked the opposition from submitting their proposal for debate, with demonstrators accusing the government of not meeting the agreed upon compromise as a result. Inside, some members of parliament could be heard decrying the maneuver as illegal and calling for reasonable debate. By Tuesday evening, the crowd had grown to 20,000.

It is unclear who started the violence on Tuesday, with both sides blaming the other for the escalations. Talks are to resume on Wednesday between the opposition leaders and the president, according to a statement from the speaker from parliament, Volodymyr Rybak.

BBC reports “The entire Kiev metro has been shut down, and police have converged on the edges of Independence Square, the site of the main protest camp since November. Protest leader Vitaly Klitschko urged women and children to leave the square, saying they could not ‘exclude the possibility of use of force’.” Al Jazeera reports the demonstrators have been given a deadline of 11 am Wednesday to clear the square.

The draft for changes to the constitution proposed by the opposition calls for a return to the 2004 constitution that would shift key powers from the president to parliament, stripping President Yanukovych of his ability to appoint the PM, cabinet members and regional governors. The 2004 constitution was repealed in 2010, shortly after Yanukovych came to power.

Sanctions are being threatened from the European community, as well as Vice President Biden, Secretatary of State John Kerry, , UN Security Advisor Catherine Ashton and German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier have all contacted Yanukovych and cautioned restraint and a political/peaceful resolution to the protests.

Meanwhile, Moscow has issued another $2 billion tranche payment to the Ukraine, and Putkin greatly influenced Yanukovych toward clamping down on the protestors when he was visiting Putkin in Sochi. Perhaps the vested interest in influencing Yanukovych comes from the fact that the country purchases its oil and gas from Russia, while Russia imports the majority of Ukraine’s major commodity: food. A rather convenient arrangement Moscow would like to see continue while the PEOPLE of Ukraine would like to see other options considered.

Move pawn to king’s rook. Checkmate.

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How’s That Globalization Working For You?

Syrian Za'atri Refugee Camp. Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Syrian Za’atri Refugee Camp. Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Is the world really globalized? For the most part, it seems so. Until it comes to the Americans.

We have talked about the problem with the media in a previous post. No clearer example can be used to illustrate this problem than with the events since the grinding halt of real news in this country after the breaking story of a governor’s alleged involvement in a traffic jam.

This has obsessed the news media to the saturation level equal to that of Super Storm Sandy.

Meanwhile, most Americans do not know that a state of emergency has been declared in Thailand, which allows the government to use military forces to defeat the peaceful protestors in Bangkok.

In Kiev, warnings have been issued by the government that it is perfectly legal to replace the rubber bullets they have been using against the protestors with live ammunition.

Geneva II talks have convened for discussion regarding Syria. On the eve of those talks, the UN and several Human Rights organizations are reviewing a War Crimes Report proving the Assad regime’s atrocities unequaled in horror since 1945.

The released War Crimes Report appeared in an article in The New York Times with a report from Robert Mackey, presenting evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out in Syria by the Assad regime in a systematic campaign of torture and carnage.

If America wants to grow up and play ball with the rest of the world by talking about “globalization,” may we suggest starting with finding out what is going on?

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US Uses Double Standard for Occupy

On January 16th, the Ukraine Parliament passed a new law that allows the encampment at Independence Square in Kiev to be dismantled and outlaws demonstrations. The measure follows a month-long occupation of the Square by protestors urging the government to consider trade agreements with the EU, a process that has been ongoing for years. The government had decided to reject the EU agreement in support of the agenda promoted through trade with Russia.

In the response following the passing of the law, the United States joined other nations in  accusing lawmakers “of circumventing normal legislative procedures in a bid to suppress dissent by restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” according to a report in the New York Times.

One is reminded of the struggles in the US during the time the Occupy movement had encampments in many major US cities and college campuses. Remember Seattle, UC-Davis, Oakland, New York and all the other places the encampments were violently dismantled, people arrested and voices silenced.

One has to wonder how the US government can suppress voices of dissent within our cities while decrying other world governments for doing the very same thing. With the US Constitution giving all Americans these rights, it is reprehensible to see the hypocrisy.

Occupy World Writes stands in Solidarity with those in Independence Square, the city of Kiev, the people of Ukraine and all other voices who Occupy public space to exercise the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.

We ARE the 99%.

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Ukraine Protestors Call for IM Resignation

Protestors in Kiev in November. Photo by Ivan Bandura (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Protestors in Kiev in November. Photo by Ivan Bandura (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Objecting to the government’s decision to back away from free trade and association agreements with the European Union in favor of economic interests with Russia, protestors on Monday, January 12, called for the resignation of the Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko along with several top security officials, according to UPI news sources.

In November of 2013, several protestors were killed and many more were injured during a crackdown on demonstrations in Kiev. This past weekend’s actions were the first in a resurgence of demonstrations and rallies in the nation’s capitol since encampments were closed in December and smaller protests had resumed since that time.

Protesters blocked the entrance to the building housing the ministry, RIA Novosti said.

Law enforcement officials were criticized by members of the European Union for using force against demonstrators in November.

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