Tag Archives: Ukraine

US delivers anti-mortar radars to Ukraine: Pentagon

The US military has delivered three radars to Ukraine designed to detect incoming mortar fire, the Pentagon said Friday, amid appeals from Kiev for Washington to send weapons to help fight pro-Russian rebels.

The counter-mortar radar systems were flown to Ukraine in a C-17 cargo plane that accompanied US Vice President Joe Biden, who paid a visit to Kiev on the first anniversary of protests that unleashed a year of upheaval.

A total of 20 counter-mortar radar systems were due to be delivered over the next several weeks, and Ukrainian troops would undergo training on the radars starting in mid-December, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.

The radars detect incoming mortar rounds and then calculate the origin of the mortar fire. The systems can be hooked up to mortar or artillery batteries which then return fire.

“It will be up to the Ukrainians how, when and where they deploy these systems,” Warren said.

President Barack Obama has so far ruled out providing weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, and instead approved the delivery of “non-lethal” assistance such as radars, night vision goggles, radios, rations, body armor and other items.

But at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this week, Tony Blinken, who is nominated for a senior diplomatic post, said the United States should consider providing Ukraine with “defensive” weapons.

“I think it is something that we should be looking at,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian leaders and some US lawmakers have repeatedly urged Obama to send arms to the Kiev government but the Pentagon said there had been no change in the current approach.

“To my knowledge, there is no new policy decision to announce,” Warren told reporters.

Russia, which denies Western accusations it is supplying and advising rebels in eastern Ukraine, has warned the Americans against arming Ukrainian government troops.

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Poland to buy armed drones amid Ukraine crisis

By on Thursday, November 6th, 2014

NATO member Poland said Tuesday it will acquire combat drones as part of a multi-billion-euro revamp of its armed forces amid heightened tensions with Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

“We will use these drones to defend our territory,” Deputy Defence Minister Czeslaw Mroczek told AFP.

“My Ukrainian counterpart informed me that one of their main problems was the fact that Russian drones were operating in Ukrainian air space to scope out artillery targets.

“The Ukrainians were helpless in this situation, and so this is our answer,” Mroczek said.

Warsaw will begin acquiring reconnaissance drones in 2017 and attack models in 2018-2019, he added, revealing that talks are underway with US manufacturers, among others, for combat unmanned aerial vehicles or CUAVs.

Poland has earmarked 33.6 billion euros ($42 billion) to upgrade its military equipment over a decade, including acquiring a missile shield and anti-aircraft systems, armoured personnel carriers and submarines in addition to the drones.

The escalation of tensions with Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis has sounded the alarm on NATO’s eastern flank in countries that were once under Moscow’s thumb.

Tensions have mounted further as NATO intercepted nuclear-capable Russian bombers and other warplanes in European airspace on more than 100 occasions so far this year, three times more than in all of 2013.

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Putin orders troop pullback from Ukraine border: Kremlin

By on Monday, October 13th, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defence minister to pull thousands of troops from the border with Ukraine, the Kremlin said ahead of key talks on a fragile truce in the ex-Soviet country.

“The head of state has tasked the defence minister with beginning to bring troops back to their permanent bases,” the Kremlin said late Saturday evening.

The Kremlin said the order meant that 17,600 servicemen, who had in the summer participated in military drills in the southern Rostov region on the border with Ukraine, would be pulled back.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu received the order after reporting that “summertime training on military ranges of the Southern military district is over,” the Kremlin said.

The late Saturday meeting between Putin and his defence minister took place after the president chaired a meeting of his national security council, said the Kremlin, without providing further details.

Putin is expected to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for key talks on the sidelines of a Asia-Europe forum in Milan on Friday.

Kiev reported that pro-Moscow rebel attacks had subsided and Poroshenko said for his part the two would discuss the fragile truce agreed last month.

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Pentagon: Russia Intensifies Efforts Inside Ukraine

Russia continues to build up along its border with Ukraine and has moved sophisticated weapons systems into the country, the Pentagon press secretary said here today.

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Russian military forces are part of those movements. Russian forces are, “facilitating the movement and then helping the separatists use the systems, if not using it themselves in support of separatists,” he said.

NATO has released surveillance photos showing these assets inside Ukraine. Kirby tied the Russian movements to the success that Ukraine has had against Russian-backed separatists in the country. “We believe that that has helped foster Moscow’s intention to intensify these efforts,” he said.

Kirby called Russian actions an “intensification” of the behaviors the Kremlin has exhibited for months.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” he said. “We continue to look for ways to support the Ukrainian armed forces and the border guards. We continue to look for ways to reassure our NATO allies and partners, and we continue to call for Russia to pull its forces back and to stop escalating the tension there.”

President Barack Obama addressed the issue yesterday during a White House news conference. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the president said. He called on nations of the world to impose new sanctions against Russia.

“As a result of the actions Russia has already taken and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the president said.

Obama said he would reaffirm U.S. commitment to the defense of NATO allies and said he would speak with fellow NATO leaders at the summit in the United Kingdom next week.

“We’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the alliance remains prepared for any challenge,” he said.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, but the United States does “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them,” the president said.

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Rebels seize ground as West claims Russia army is in Ukraine

Rebels in east Ukraine appear to have seized swathes of territory from retreating government forces, while Western intelligence says Russian army units are operating inside the country.

After weeks of government offensives that have seen troops push deep into the last rebel bastions, the tide appeared to be turning once again in the four-month conflict, prompting a nervous government in Kiev to call on NATO for help.

AFP journalists saw no signs of government troops south of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, with road blocks on the entire 100-kilometre (60-mile) stretch to the Azov Sea manned by pro-Russian rebels.

A volunteer commander posted on Facebook that government forces were surrounded in the key transport hub of Ilovaysk and reinforcements were desperately needed.

Evidence of the deteriorating situation emerged just hours after the first meeting in three months between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, which failed to achieve any concrete breakthrough.

There is increasing concern in Kiev and the West that Russia is intervening directly in the conflict — a charge that Moscow has repeatedly denied.

Ukraine’s government claimed on Wednesday that a battalion of Russian soldiers had set up a military headquarters near the village of Pobeda, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Donetsk.

Meanwhile, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said NATO and Polish intelligence have evidence of regular Russian army units operating in Ukraine.

A NATO diplomat also told AFP on condition of anonymity that a new Russian anti-aircraft missile system had been detected in a rebel-held area.

The SA-22 air defence system, which has a range of up to 20 kilometers, was “now in the zone”, said the official, adding that Russian support for the rebels had become “more open” recently.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin was “not interested in breaking up” Ukraine, but said Russia will send more aid convoys to Ukraine “in the nearest future”, despite complaints from Kiev they breach its sovereignty.

Government troops surrounded
In the town of Starobesheve, about 30 kilometers southeast of Donetsk, there were signs of a hasty departure by Ukraine’s army.

A Ukrainian tank sat parked on the roadside as villagers poked around cases of abandoned ammunition, while rebels held all checkpoints in the town.

Locals told AFP the troops left on Monday after shelling from the direction of the Russian border about 30 kilometers away.

Ukraine’s military conceded that “militants together with Russian occupants” had taken control of Starobesheve, as well as a string of villages near Novoazovsk, a town on the Azov Sea where clashes had been raging for days.

Meanwhile, Commander Semen Semenchenko, head of the “Donbass battalion” which was the first fully volunteer contingent to fight in the east, posted angry Facebook messages denouncing the government’s failure to help forces in the transport hub of Ilovaysk.

He said the troops were surrounded by rebels, running out of ammunition and unable to evacuate the injured, and that two regiments of Russian airborne troops were “digging in” with tanks surrounding the town, 10 kilometers east of Donetsk.

Kiev said on Wednesday that 13 soldiers had died in the past 24 hours. AFP reporters saw the charred remains of three civilians whose car was hit by a shell in Donetsk, adding to another three civilians reported killed earlier in the day.

A UN rights report said fighting over the past month had sent the death toll soaring, with at least 36 people killed every day.

More than 2,200 people have lost their lives since the conflict began in April, according to the UN.

Call for NATO aid
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said it was time for NATO to act when the alliance holds a summit in Wales next week.

“We expect our Western partners and the alliance to provide practical help and take crucial decisions at the summit in September,” he said.

Russia vehemently opposes closer ties between Ukraine and NATO. Concerns that Kiev could be drawn closer into the Western security alliance are seen as the main motivation behind Russia’s actions in recent months.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview published on Wednesday that the alliance was preparing a rapid response unit to deploy troops swiftly in eastern Europe.

Poroshenko and Putin held marathon talks in Belarus’s capital Minsk on Tuesday alongside top EU officials to try to find ways to end the conflict.

The Ukrainian president said all sides had “without exception” agreed to his peace plan, and that he and Putin had discussed the “necessity of closing Ukraine’s borders” to prevent the movement of “equipment, mercenaries, and ammunition”.

Putin again insisted Russia had no role in the fighting, saying: “We cannot discuss any ceasefire conditions. It’s not our business.”

He played down reports that 10 Russian paratroopers had been captured inside Ukrainian territory, backing his military’s claims that they had strayed across the border by accident.

But opposition media in Russia reported on hushed-up funerals for two elite unit paratroopers, suggesting they had been killed in action in Ukraine.

Novaya Gazeta quoted a relative of one of the paratroopers, Leonid Kichatkin, as saying the family was told he was killed outside the rebel-held city of Lugansk.

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Fighter jet shot down over rebel-held east Ukraine

A Ukrainian fighter jet tumbled to earth in a fireball Thursday after it was blasted out of the air while flying low over rebel-held territory in the east of the country.

An AFP crew saw the Sukhoi warplane explode in mid-air and the parachute of at least one pilot opening up in the clear blue sky.

Explosions and flashes erupted from the wreckage as it continued to burn on the ground, sending up clouds of acrid smoke.

Two armed rebels ran around the blackened field close to the flaming debris as the sound of shooting rang out nearby.

Another plane could be heard flying high overhead and the insurgents shouted at the AFP team to leave the scene.

A local resident told AFP that he had seen at least two parachutes appear after the aircraft was hit.

“It flew past us and there was an explosion. Two pilots ejected out,” said Danil, 17.

A Ukrainian military spokesman confirmed that rebels had shot down a jet some 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the northeast of the rebel stronghold Donetsk.

“The pilot managed to steer the craft away from a residential area,” spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov told AFP.

A search-and-rescue mission was currently underway for the pilot, he said.

The location was also some 40 kilometers west of the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down at an altitude of some 10,000 meters on July 17 killing all 298 people on board.

The Ukrainian military has lost a string of aircraft during almost four months of fierce fighting against pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine that has claimed over 1,300 lives.

Two Ukrainian Sukhoi jets were shot down on July 23, with Kiev alleging the missiles that hit them had come from Russian territory.

On Thursday the Ukrainian army announced it was scrapping a ceasefire around the MH17 crash site after international investigators decided to suspend their probe there due to ongoing fighting.

Sustained shelling pounded the center of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk for the first time in the conflict, with at least 11 civilians killed by clashes around the region.

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Ukraine rebels ‘shoot down two fighter jets’

By on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets in eastern Ukraine just days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Ukrainian military spokesman told AFP.

“Two Sukhoi Ukrainian fighter jets have been shot down. The fate of the pilots is not known,” spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky said, adding the planes were brought down some 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the crash site of MH17.

But a second military spokesman said the jets had been downed at a different location by rockets fired by insurgents. The two pilots managed to parachute out, he said.

“Today in the south of the Lugansk region close to the village of Dmytrivka, pro-Russian fighters shot two Su-25 jets from a missile system,” spokesman Vladislav Seleznev said.

“The pilots took evasive action … but the planes were hit,” he said.

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