Archive for August, 2014

US AIRSTRIKES, HUMANITARIAN AID FOR IRAQI CITY UNDER ISIS SIEGE

August 31, 2014

FoxNews on August 31, 2014, reported that U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes and dropped humanitarian aid on August 30 to Shia Turkmen who have been trapped and besieged by Islamic State militants for two months in the town of Amirli, a U.S. senior defense official confirmed to Fox News.

Aircraft from Australia, France and Britain joined the U.S. in delivering the aid to the farming community about 105 miles north of Baghdad, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. The aid came at the request of the Iraqi government, he said.

“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the Commander-in-Chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an ISIL attack on the civilians of Amirli,” Kirby said. “The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.”

A statement from U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said the airstrikes and aid drop took place at approximately 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday. The aid drop consisted of 109 bundles containing approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat (MRE). Centcom said the airstrikes destroyed three ISIS Humvees, one ISIS armed vehicle, one ISIS checkpoint and one ISIS tank. The attacks bring the total number of airstrikes in Iraq to 118 since August 8.

Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State drive across northern Iraq, the Shiite Turkmens have stayed and fortified their town of 15,000 with trenches and armed positions.

Iraqi troops began a coordinated push to retake the town from ISIS on August 30. Its water and electricity have been cut off since June and surrounded by militants since mid-July.

The Turkmen are Iraq’s third largest ethnic group after Arabs and Kurds. They make up about 4 percent of Iraq’s population. Iraqi forces were airlifted into the area on August 30.

Earlier on August 30, U.S. Central Command said five more airstrikes carried out by fighter aircraft and unmanned drones had taken place against Islamic State militants near Mosul Dam.

The Associated Press and Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

‘IT’S BETTER NOT TO MESS WITH RUSSIA’: PUTIN’S NUCLEAR WARNING TO WEST ON UKRAINE

August 30, 2014

• He said Russia’s nuclear programme means ‘nobody would think of conflict’
• He also tells rebels to release trapped enemy to ‘avoid senseless deaths’
• He compares Ukraine’s sieges of two cities to Nazis’ siege of Leningrad
• He referred to ‘Novorossiya’ – or ‘New Russia’ – as he praised rebel ‘success’
• Kiev said the edict proved that separatists were under Kremlin control
• Ukrainian PM announced that country will seek to become member of Nato
• Putin spoke as Obama said it is ‘plain to see’ Russian forces are in Ukraine

Daily Mail, United Kingdom, on August 30, 2014, reported that Vladimir Putin last night pointed to Russia’s nuclear arsenal and warned the West: ‘It’s best not to mess with us’ on Ukraine.

In a menacing intervention, the Russian president denied Nato, British and American reports that Russian forces are operating in eastern Ukraine.

And he warned the West against any attempt to support Ukraine in its efforts to defeat Russian separatists. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin youth camp near Moscow, he said: ‘Russia’s partners… should understand it’s best not to mess with us.

UKRAINE CRISIS: RUSSIAN ‘DIRECT AGGRESSION’ CONCERNS EU

August 30, 2014

BBC News on August 30, 2014, reported that European Union foreign ministers have expressed “deep concern” at Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine”, as the bloc’s leaders prepare to consider new sanctions on the Moscow government. Excerpts below:

Speaking after the ministerial meeting in Milan, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Aston urged Russia to “withdraw its forces from Ukraine”.

…Ms Ashton said there was “deep concern” over “direct aggression by Russian forces”. She called on Russia to stop the flow of arms, equipment and personnel into Ukraine.

In Brussels European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Russia that the EU was ready to “stand by its principles” and called for a political solution before the crisis reached a “point of no return”.

He was speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is due to attend the EU leaders’ summit later on Saturday.

Mr Poroshenko said Ukraine was a victim of “military aggression and terror” involving “thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks”.

EU TO DEBATE TOUGHER RUSSIAN SANCTIONS

August 30, 2014

Radio Free Europe on August 30, 2014, reported that EU leaders meet in Brussels will meet to discuss firmer action against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Excerpts below:

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko is also due to attend.

The meeting comes after NATO said Russia had sent well over 1,000 troops and heavy weaponry into Ukraine.

On August 29, several EU foreign ministers voiced support for fresh sanctions.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Russian “aggression” had created the most serious security crisis in Europe for decades and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of a possible broader conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on August 29 that “we have to be aware of what we are facing: We are now in the midst of the second Russian invasion of Ukraine within a year.”
In Bucharest on August 29, Romanian President Traian Basescu said that in addition to new sanctions, NATO members should arm Ukraine’s army.

Earlier, Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk called for full membership in NATO, scrapping the country’s non-aligned status.

NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he respected Ukraine’s right to seek alliances.

Pro-Russia separatists held firm control on August 29 of the strategic coastal town of Novoazovsk, a day after Ukraine claimed tanks and armored vehicles had invaded from Russia.
A spokesman for the rebels in Novoazovsk, who identified himself only as Alexander, said their plan was to try to eventually push westward to the major port city of Mariupol, about 35 kilometers away.

There are fears the rebels’ eventual aim is to establish a land bridge between Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimea peninsula further to the west.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

CHINA TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH INDIA GOES UNNOTICED

August 30, 2014

FoxNews on August 30, 2014, reported that for more than 50 years, it has pitted India against China — a smoldering dispute over who should control a swath of land larger than Austria. Two militaries have skirmished. A brief, bloody war has been fought. And today, thousands of soldiers from both countries sit deployed along their shared frontier, doing little but watching each other. Excerpts below:

But as Beijing confronts countries across the South China and East China seas, displaying its diplomatic and strategic strength in a series of increasingly dangerous territorial disputes, the India-China standoff results in almost nothing beyond regular diplomatic talks and professions of international friendship.

“The territorial issues and the sovereignty issues have not gone away,” said Sujit Dutta, a China scholar at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University. “But the Chinese are not pushing further (into the disputed regions) and neither are the Indians.”

“Today, India and China have a new context for their relationship,” he said.

That context comes down to two key components: An understanding that the disputed land has lost its strategic luster. And money.

Today, China has the world’s second-largest economy, an immense, well-equipped military, an increasingly educated population and a vision for itself as one of the leading nations on earth. India, while economically far behind China, has become a global center for information technology and sees itself as a major player in Asia and elsewhere.

When it comes to turf wars, Beijing today is largely focused on expanding its maritime influence in East Asia and Southeast Asia, with its vast untapped mineral reserves and importance to global trade.

So in the East China Sea, China created an air defense perimeter to back up its claims to a speckling of uninhabited islands also claimed by Japan. In the South China Sea, Beijing temporarily moved an oil rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam, setting off a series of naval confrontations.

At first glance, the Himalayan border that India and China share seems ideal for similar clashes. China says the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an immense territory of nearly 84,000 square kilometers (more than 32,000 square miles), is part of China. India, meanwhile, insists China is illegally occupying the region of Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty 37,000-square-kilometer (14,000-square-mile) region far to the east.

The two fought a monthlong border war in 1962 that left some 2,000 soldiers dead following a surprise Chinese attack that still embarrasses India, and skirmishes along the frontier continued into the 1970s.

Today, cross-border cooperation is far more common than frontier standoffs. India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, spoke repeatedly to top Chinese officials in the first weeks of his administration. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently called the potential for India-China ties “the emerging tip of a massive buried treasure.”

Underlying everything else, the Himalayan border region doesn’t have the strategic importance it once did.

The 1950s and 1960s were a time when tensions regularly erupted in the region: the Dalai Lama fled across the Himalayas into India after a failed uprising in Tibet in 1959; American-supported Tibetan rebels made small-scale raids into China from secret bases in Nepal; China secretly built a strategically important road linking two of its most restive regions — Tibet and Xinjiang — through a deeply isolated part of India.

Over the past few years, however, Beijing has pressed ahead with its territorial claims elsewhere, expanding coral outcroppings, constructing schools on rocky shoals and dispatching the occasional fighter jet. It has argued territorial rights with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. It has urged the United States to stay out of the disagreements, and made clear to all the countries involved that it sees the region as its own sphere of influence.

But if things are peaceful now along the Indo-Chinese border, plenty on both sides believe trouble could flare anew.

Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, noted India has become the world’s largest arms buyer as it tries to catch up to China’s growing military might.

“Although both sides have been very scrupulous and careful not to produce new incidents, the prospects for a solution are nowhere in sight,” Lam said. “The arms race is going on despite the obvious improvement of economic and financial relations between the two countries.”

China’s military presence along the border with India has been growing for years, and India has recently rushed to catch up: refurbishing air strips, deploying more armored units and frantically constructing new roads high in the Himalayas.

If politics and trade mean they’re getting along now, that will almost certainly not last forever, said T.C.A. Rangachari, a former Indian ambassador and longtime China expert.
And the land that doesn’t matter today could very well matter tomorrow.

“In 20 years, maybe 30 years,” said Rangachari, “things could all be very different.”

Associated Press writer Jack Chang in Beijing contributed to this report.

WAR IN EASTERN UKRAINE: THE HUMAN COST

August 29, 2014

BBC News on August 29, 2014, reported on the human costs of the war in eastern Ukraine. Excerpts below:

At least 2,119 people had been killed and 5,043 wounded since mid-April, a UN report on 7 August said

951 civilians have been killed in Donetsk region alone, the official regional authorities said on 20 August

Official casualty counts only record certified deaths while in some particularly dangerous parts of the war zone, such as Luhansk region, victims are said to have been buried informally, for instance in gardens

Rebels (and some military sources) accuse the government of concealing the true numbers of soldiers killed

155,800 people have fled elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia.

THE WEST CRITICAL OF NEW RUSSIAN AGGRESSION

August 29, 2014

BBC News on August 29, 2014, reported of Russian troops fighting with rebels prompted renewed Western criticism of Moscow’s role in the conflict. Excerpts below:

US President Barack Obama blamed Russia for the escalation…

“There is no doubt that this is not a home-grown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

“The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia.”

Mr Obama is due to discuss the crisis with European leaders at a Nato summit in the UK next week.

UKRAINE TO SEEK NATO MEMBERSHIP, SAYS PM YATSENYUK

August 29, 2014

BBC News on August 29, 2014, reported that Ukraine’s prime minister has said he will ask parliament to put the country on a path towards Nato membership. Excerpts below:

Arseny Yatsenyuk said the government was sending a bill to MPs urging that Ukraine’s non-bloc status be cancelled.

The remarks come as Nato holds an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
The West has stepped up its accusations of direct Russian involvement in the conflict, following advances by pro-Russian rebels.

On November 28 Nato released satellite images it said showed Russian forces inside Ukraine. and said more than 1,000 troops were operating there.

Russia denies sending troops.

Nearly 2,600 people have been killed since April, the UN says, when Russia’s annexation of Crimea prompted the rebels to take control of large parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the far east of the country.

“The government is entering a bill to Verkhovna Rada [parliament] about the cancellation of Ukraine’s non-bloc status and resumption of Ukraine’s course for Nato membership,” Mr Yatsenyuk said.

At a government meeting, Mr Yatsenyuk said Ukraine’s main aim remained membership of the European Union.

UKRAINE PM: PUTIN HAS STARTED A WAR

August 28, 2014

CNN News on August 28, 2014, reported Ukrainian Premier Yatsenyuk suggesting tougher measures may be needed to curb Russia’s support for the rebels. Excerpts below:

“Unfortunately, the sanctions were unhelpful as to deescalating the situation in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the economic sanctions already imposed by the United States and European Union against Russian individuals and companies.

Yatsenyuk suggested one way to halt “Russian aggression” could be to freeze all assets and ban all Russian bank transactions until Russia “pulls out all its military, equipment and agents” from Ukraine.

“Vladimir Putin has purposely started a war in Europe. It is impossible to hide from the fact,” he said.

In a foreign policy address in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said that if there’s evidence that Russian soldiers are on Ukrainian soil “it would be intolerable and unacceptable.”
NATO officials are due to give a briefing on August 28 on the situation in Ukraine.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday highlighted the latest reports of heavy fighting around Novoazovsk and Donetsk airport, as well as of”additional columns of Russian tanks, multiple rocket launchers and armored vehicles” heading for communities in southeastern Ukraine.

“These incursions indict a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk,” she said. “Clearly that is of deep concern to us.”

She accused Moscow of not acting in a transparent manner when it came to the Russian people, as well as Ukraine and the rest of the world.

“We’re also concerned by the Russian government’s unwillingness to tell the truth even as its soldiers are found 30 miles inside Ukraine,” she said.

“Russia is sending its young men into Ukraine but are not telling them where they’re going or telling their parents what they’re doing.”

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: ‘RUSSIAN TROOPS DEPLOYED’ IN UKRAINE

August 28, 2014

BBC News on August 28, 2014, reported that Mr Poroshenko has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council because Russian troops are deployed in Ukraine. Excerpts below:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has cancelled a visit to Turkey, citing “Russian troop deployments” in the east of the country.

Mr Poroshenko said his place was in Kiev in view of a sharp deterioration in the situation in Donetsk region.

His announcement came as pro-Russian rebels captured the seaside town of Novoazovsk and threatened to take the strategic port city of Mariupol.

The rebel successes constitute the opening of a new front in the conflict.

Mr Poroshenko said he was calling a meeting of the Ukrainian security council.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that Russia has been sending troops and equipment to the rebels, but Russia has denied arming or covertly supporting them.