Posts Tagged ‘eastern Ukraine’


September 8, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2015, reported that the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will make his first visit to Ukraine later this month, as that country enters a critical period which is supposed to see Russia and Ukraine fully implement February’s cease-fire agreement. Excerpts below:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit was announced by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, during his visit to the alliance’s Brussels headquarters. The visit was confirmed by NATO, although no other details were provided.

Mr. Klimkin said Mr. Stoltenberg is expected to sign an agreement that would allow the alliance to set up an office in Ukraine and increase cooperation on strategic communications, demining, naval issues and special operations.

“It should be a symbolic visit in our relations,” he said.

The visit comes ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline for the full implementation of February’scease-fire agreement between Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russian separatists, signed in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

In his remarks in Brussels on September 7, Mr. Klimkin said he could meet with his German, French and Russian counterparts as early as the end of the week, but only if there is progress with ongoing lower-level negotiations over the Minsk accords.

“It doesn’t make sense to get together just for the sake of getting together,” said Pavlo Klimkin, the foreign minister.

He said he wanted to see progress on agreement to allow for an exchange of hostages, access for humanitarian assistance and an agreement on local elections in eastern Ukraine.

Separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region have threatened to hold local elections on Oct. 18 and Nov 1. Ukraine is holding local elections on Oct. 25, but has said it would not hold the ballot in some areas in the east because of ongoing hostilities.

Mr. Klimkin also urged Russia to allow election monitors into the Donbas.

Comment: Opening of a NATO office in Ukraine is an important step forward towards Ukraine membership in the organization. It is crucial the the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe does not overshadow the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russia must withdraw its troops from eastern Ukraine and stop supporting separatist groups in the region. Ukraine should be on the top of the agenda of the European Union. Lethal defensive weapons must be provided to the government in Kyiv. Ukraine needs continuing support for integration into the European Union and it also needs weapon deliveries from the United States.


August 3, 2015

AFP on August 3, 2015, reported that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of wanting to take over the “whole of Europe” and potentially aiming his sights next at Finland and the Baltics. Excerpts below:

“Putin wants to go as far as we allow him — not only Ukraine, but the whole of Europe,” Poroshenko said in an interview with French radio station RFI.

“…if you asked me today… unfortunately everything is possible because the annexation of Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine… shows we can break the global security system.”

He said the ongoing fighting against Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine should be seen as a fight for all of Europe.

“Is an attack on Finland possible? Yes, and Finland knows that. Is an attack on the Baltic states possible? Yes,” he said.

“When we’re talking about the fighting in the east of my country… we’re fighting not only for the independence and sovereignty of my country, we’re fighting for democracy, we’re fighting for freedom and the security of the whole European continent.”


July 31, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 30, 2015, in a commentary reported on how Jews from eastern Ukraine seek refuge further west in Ukraine from the Russian invasion. Among the justifications Vladimir Putin has offered for his hostility to the democratic government of Ukraine is that it is led and supported by “anti-Semitic forces.” But sit down with some of the Jews who have fled Russian-instigated violence in the east to find refuge in the capital of this supposedly neo-fascist state, and another story emerges. Excerpts below:

Consider the Kvasha family, among several thousand Jews uprooted by Mr. Putin’s invasion. You enter the family’s building on the outskirts of Kiev through a dim reception, where the walls have long turned a dark gray and a dank stench hovers. The Kvashas—dad Sergey, mom Valeria and their two boys Nikita, 17, and Arseny, 8—are crammed into a one-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor.

Inside the neatly kept apartment, a menorah sits atop a piano that has seen better days. It’s all a far cry from the Kvashas’ happy former lives in eastern Ukraine.

When I visited on Tuesday, Mr. Kvasha was at work at a printing business, where he’s a manager. Back in Luhansk, the family had its own printing firm, while Mrs. Kvasha worked as a general engineer at the local college. In addition to their apartment, the Kvashas owned a dacha, or vacation home. They were prominent and successful members of a vibrant Jewish community existing within what they describe as a tolerant Donbass society.

Then Mr. Putin launched his invasion. “When the fighting started a missile hit our building,” Mrs. Kvasha recalls. Five of their friends and neighbors were killed in attacks. Having already sent the kids to Kiev in early June 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Kvasha caught the last train out of Luhansk a few weeks later. Two bags stuffed with summer clothes were all they managed to take with them, and by August they had depleted their savings.

Building new lives in Kiev hasn’t been easy. Finding a permanent apartment was the first challenge. Landlords are reluctant to rent to refugees, seen as itinerant and unreliable.

In dire straits, the Kvashas turned to the Joint Distribution Committee, an American-Jewish organization. While the parents were still unemployed, the JDC provided the family with some $142 in monthly food assistance as well as blankets and other winter relief—crucial assistance, since their flat, once they’d secured one, cost about $165 a month. The organization continues to help the family pay rent.

The JDC also helped the Kvashas find a sense of belonging. Like many of Ukraine’s 350,000 Jews, the family’s connection to Judaism is more cultural than religious. At a Jewish community center in Kiev called Beiteinu, or Our Home, they found new friends. The JDC supports 21 such centers across Ukraine, and Mrs. Kvasha now works at Beitanu, helping other refugees find their footing.

I sat down on Tuesday with Ms. Brook, Mr. Fireman and four other elderly displaced Jews at one of the 32 social-welfare centers, or Heseds, the JDC runs across Ukraine, normally serving some 65,000 elderly and impoverished Jews, to which 5,200 have been added since the war began. Most escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs,…

Such Jewish charities operate openly here, under a government that frequently describes all Ukrainians displaced by the fighting, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, as compatriots. Ukraine, far from being the anti-Semitic nation of Putinist fantasies, has given them refuge. As one of the Hesed clients told me: “Write in your paper, we people from Donetsk and Luhansk love our country. We are patriotic. We don’t want to leave Ukraine.”


July 29, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 28, 2015, published an interview with President Poroshenko in Kiev. Excerpts below:

As befits a head of state managing a war, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is blunt in an interview at the presidential-administration building here. Asked about the kind of weapons his armed forces would need to deter further aggression by Russia and its separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko gets specific: “We’re looking for just 1,240 Javelin missiles, and this is absolutely fair.”

The number 1,240 has special significance for Mr. Poroshenko. He says that was the number of nuclear warheads Ukraine gave up under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, jointly signed by the U.S., Britain and Russia. “Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “and in exchange for that the United States of America and Great Britain . . . promised to guarantee our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Compared with strategic weapons, 1,240 Javelin missiles are small beer. Yet the Obama administration has thus far refused to transfer to Kiev the antitank system—or any other form of lethal aid. Mr. Poroshenko is thankful for American political support, loan guarantees and nonlethal assistance, including Humvees, night-vision goggles, military-to-military training and artillery computers that allow Ukrainian troops to better protect themselves against shelling. Yet such assistance has so far failed to change Russian supreme leader Vladimir Putin’s calculus in the war.

Rather than helping Kiev impose real costs on the aggressor, Washington and the European powers are pushing both sides to work through the Minsk process, a series of accords negotiated in the Belarussian capital and aimed at de-escalating the conflict.

Russian forces and proxies in the east violate the letter and spirit of Minsk II on a daily basis. The latest evidence: Ukrainian forces over the weekend apprehended a Russian officer transferring a truck loaded with ammunition to a separatist position near Donetsk. “Today he gave up his full name,” Mr. Poroshenko says, for the first time confirming the officer’s rank and home base. “He is a major of regular forces who comes here to kill my people.” The officer’s home base is in Russia’s Rostov region.

Then there is the constant shelling. On Sunday there were 70 instances of shelling from separatist positions. The daily average during the past two months was 100.

Nor does Minsk II address Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The concern in Kiev is that the West would be willing to trade away the peninsula in exchange for calm in eastern Ukraine. “If anybody proposed to the U.S. to give up the Florida Peninsula,” the Ukrainian president says, “something like that would not work. This is our land. . . . Whether it’s Donetsk, Luhansk or Crimea, at the end of the day, they will be freed.”

“We aren’t demanding that British, American or French soldiers come here and fight for us,” Mr. Poroshenko says. “We’re doing this ourselves, paying the most difficult price”—here his voice breaks momentarily—“the lives of my soldiers. We need just solidarity.”

The West would ultimately pay the price for appeasement and myopia. “If we do not stop the aggressor,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “that means global security doesn’t exist. Anytime, any plane or submarine can make a missile attack, including against the U.S.”

As Mr. Poroshenko puts it, the question the Ukrainian people are posing to the world is: “Are you together with the barbarian or together with the free world?” How is the leader of the free world doing on that front? Mr. Poroshenko’s response is marked by subtle elisions: “I think the most important, we feel the support of the people of the United States—very, very strong support—no matter if they’re Republicans or Democrats.”

He never mentions President Barack Obama by name during our interview.