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Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 24.11.2017 
 
 
Russia at war has caused another death of an innocent. On November 23, the Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine conducted a series of violent raids on the homes and businesses of Crimean Tatars. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers burst into a restaurant, and seized 83-year-old Vedzhie Kashka. She had been suffering from heart problems, and she died under the stress of the arrest.
 
Vedzhie Kashka was a victim of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944, inflicted upon Ukrainians of Tatar heritage by Stalin and the Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine of that era. She was a life-long campaigner for the self-determination of her people, the Crimean Tatars, and of their right of return to their home on the southern peninsula of Ukraine. Her struggle was always one of peaceful, non-violent resistance and advocacy. This frail, elderly woman was beloved by her community. She was also hated and feared by Putin and his regime. She had been arrested and harassed by the Russians from the time of their invasion of Europe in Ukraine in February 2014. Now she is dead.
 
The Russians tried to put a veneer of lawfulness on the raids which they conducted across temporarily occupied Crimea. They said that they were targeting the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, which they have banned as a “terrorist organization.” But this a propaganda lie, bereft of meaning. The Mejlis is and always has been a mechanism for the self-determination of the Crimean Tatars. It has always advocated and practiced peaceful and non-violent resistance and advocacy – even when foreign Russian invaders occupied their homeland and acted violently against them. The United Nations, the Ukrainian government, and most other governments in the world recognize the Mejlis as the representative body of the Crimean Tatars. The United Nations further has condemned Russia’s ban of the Mejlis, and demanded in its resolutions that Russia restore the self-governing body of the autochthonous people of Crimea to its rightful place. The International Court of Justice in the Hague has ordered Russia to revoke its ban on the Mejlis. In response, Russia ignores international human rights law, violates it repeatedly, and increases the violence of its criminality.
 
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report excoriating Russia for its grave violations of human rights and complete failure to fulfil its responsibilities as the de facto occupying power in Crimea. Included in the report were numerous accounts of the Putin regime’s brutality against the leadership of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. When leaders, including Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, said that Russia should respect resolutions of the United Nations, and when they advocated diplomatic means for the return of Crimea to Ukraine, they were arrested and tortured by the occupation regime. Far from respecting its obligations under international human rights law, Russia has increased its assaults against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian patriots in temporarily occupied Crimea. Vedzhie Kashka was caught up in Putin’s reign of terror, and died. The international community can ignore her death and the circumstances of it, and Putin will increase his aggression. Or the world can call Russia to account, increase sanctions against the Putin regime, and stand true the highest principles of respect for the dignity and worth of the human person. Russia cannot get away with its deliberate failure in its duty of care.
 
 
Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 23.11.2017 
 
 
The Ukrainian armed forces have taken full control of some villages in the “grey zone” on the battlefront of Russia’s invasion of Europe in Donbas. Ukraine has also been able to establish new positions to rationalize the defence. It appears that Europe’s defenders were able to exploit the opportunity created by large numbers of Russian troops vacating their front line positions to go to the city of Luhansk, where they were taking part in the power struggle amongst Russian occupation regime figures.
 
The reports of these small advances are still awaiting official confirmation. Most prominent are the reports that the Ukrainian armed forces were received as liberators in the “grey zone” villages of Hladosove and Travneve, which are north of  the city of Horlivka in Donetsk region. Units of the 54th Mechanized Brigade, Bakhmut (who are veterans of the Battle of Svitlodarsk) and the 24th Separate Assault Battalion, “Aidar” carried out the operation to take full control of Hladosove and Travneve. In December 2016, the nearby town of Novoluhanske was liberated. Sometime later the village of Dolomitne to the west of Novoluhanske was freed of Russian control. Now, the village of Travneve to the west of Dolomitne and the village of Hladosove to the west of Travneve are said to be solidly in free Ukraine. The Russians were no longer present at their positions (presumably they were in Luhansk), and the 54th Brigade and the Aidar Battalion entered the two villages unopposed.
 
It is possible that the village of Lozove, north-west of the city of Debaltseve, is either contested or partially liberated. Reports from the Ukrainian armed forces Anti-Terrorist Operation have recently been mentioning Russian ceasefire violations against Ukraine’s defensive positions in or near Lozove. On social media, one of the ATO fighters said that because of heavy shelling by the Russians with Minsk-banned weapons the Ukrainian armed forces created new positions a few kilometres in size and took under control of several strategic heights in the Svitlodarsk bulge.
 
Ukraine should be exploiting the under-manned trenches on the Russian side of the battlefront, due to the operation the Russians are conducting in the city of Luhansk they occupy. The Russians have been shelling Ukrainian defenders and civilians very heavily from occupied Pervomaisk, occupied Horlivka, occupied Makiivka, and occupied Dokuchaivsk in particular. The Ukrainian armed forces can and should make advances against all these firing positions of the Russian invaders, to safe life and property of Ukrainians in Ukraine.
 
 

 

Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 22.11.2017 
 
 
Internecine strife has broken out in the Kremlin, and it is playing out in Russia-invaded and occupied Ukraine. A coup that is not yet ready to break out in Moscow broke out as naked invasion of Luhansk instead. Putin’s hold on power is not as monolithic as it may appear, and his faction lost a battle today. Putin’s defeat may bring evil consequences to how Russia further prosecutes its war on the West. The suffering of that evil will fall most heavily on the defender of Europe, Ukraine. 
 
From the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 up to 21 November 2017, Putin’s favourite to be his proxy in Russia-occupied Luhansk has been Igor Plotnitsky. Putin needed a figurehead for the Russian occupation regime in Luhansk region, and he preferred the minor gangster Plotnitsky to other, more ambitious men. Putin used his agents of the Russian intelligence services to create a fake republic called the “Luhansk People’s Republic” and gave Plotnitsky unlimited TV airtime to be the public face of the Russian occupation regime. Putin allowed Plotnitsky to be the head of the local crime syndicate, which makes money by stealing coal, stealing factories, robbing banks, kidnapping Ukrainians and holding them captive for slave labour, and other criminal enterprises. To support Plotnitsky's rise to power, Putin’s agents assassinated rivals to Plotnitsky, including Oleg Anashenko, Valery Bolotov, Hennadiy Tsyplakov, Pavel Dryomov, and Aleksey Mozgovoi. Putin uses Vladislav Surkov as his "grey cardinal" to manage Igor Plotnitsky. Plotnitsky doesn't say or do anything unless Surkov says so. Plotnitsky is an arm’s length agent of Putin. Recently, though, Putin had the first direct contact with his terrorist-criminal proxy, and held a phone conversation with Igor Plotnitsky on November 15 for “consultations.” It was clear to everyone in Russia and in Russia-occupied Donbas that Igor Plotnitsky was Vladimir Putin’s man. 
 
In recent days, Plotnitsky sacked a rival, Igor Kornet as a 'minister' in the fake "LPR" statelet. With the backing of Surkov, and implicitly Putin, it was assumed that Kornet would retreat quietly and avoid the fate of other Plotnitsky-Surkov-Putin rivals. Instead, shockingly, Igor Kornet stayed in place in Luhansk, and a large invasion of Russian troops and armour backed him up on November 21. Military columns came from Rostov region in Russia proper, from other parts of Russia-occupied Luhansk region, and even from the fake “DPR” statelet in Russia-occupied Donetsk region. The Russian soldiers invading Luhansk city on November 21 were “Spetsnaz” special operations forces from Russia proper, and Russian soldiers of the 1st Army Corps (so-called "DPR") from Russia-occupied Donetsk. Whatever Kremlin faction it is that chose Kornet as a proxy (and it isn’t the Surkov-Putin one) controls powerful military forces. The Kremlin faction that controls puppet Igor Kornet seized control of a TV station in Russia-occupied Luhansk. The faction propping up puppet Igor Plotnitsky retained control of another station, and there was a battle of competing on-air statements at the start of the day. 
 
What is the nature of the coup in the Kremlin projected onto Luhansk? Rumours are that since Plotnitsky is directly guided by Surkov, it is a Putin-Surkov-Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) faction that uses him as a proxy. If that is so, then the opposing faction using Kornet as a proxy would consist of figures in the Russian armed forces and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). 
 
The Putin-backed terrorist Plotnitsky has fled to Russia, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs. Kornet remains in Luhansk. Surkov made a hasty statement saying that a "coup" had been averted in the "LPR" – but he was putting lipstick on a pig. Plotnitsky’s defeat is Surkov’s failure, and this is not good news for Putin.
 
Ukraine convened an emergency meeting of the 'military cabinet' to assess Russia's expanded invasion of eastern Ukraine. Russia's expanded invasion of Europe in Ukraine today will probably end any UN peacekeeping initiative and cancel the Minsk Agreements. Many Ukrainians fear that the massive influx of troops and armour means that Russia will try to defeat Ukraine in battle, perhaps at Stanytsia Luhanska to achieve a breakthrough and a crossing of the Siverskiy Donets River. Without any shadow of a doubt, Russia is invading Europe in Ukraine. Putin cannot deny the war that he started – nor can Western leaders. The battlefield of Russia’s war on the West is eastern Ukraine, and it just got a lot hotter.
 
Luhansk was quiet by nightfall on November 21. The Russian soldiers in the streets, speaking with Moscow accents, said they didn’t take orders from Plotnitsky. There was no indication that Igor Kornet was out as a ‘minister’ of the fake “LPR” or that he had vacated the Russia-seized Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Luhansk. The Kremlin faction that used Kornet as a proxy in Luhansk had won the day. The Kremlin faction that used Plotnitsky as a proxy had lost.
 
The massive numbers of Russian troops that invaded Luhansk, Ukraine on November 21 cannot be explained as having much at all to do with two crime underworld nobodies such as Igor Plotnitsky and Igor Kornet. Only something that touches the heart of power in the Kremlin could lead to such a massive escalation of military aggression. There was a coup, but it wasn’t happening in Luhansk, it was happening in Moscow. In fact, nothing of what happened in Luhansk on November 21 had anything to do with Ukraine or Ukrainians. Putin lost a big internal battle in the Kremlin, and this is the first time such a thing has happened since Russia invaded Europe in Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Putin was allowed to save face by having his “grey cardinal” Surkov be the propaganda voice that the world heard. But the resentful ex-KGB man will not suffer his defeat lightly. To cover for the exposed weakness at the heart of Russian power, it is very likely that Putin will reject UN peacekeeping for Ukraine and tear up the Minsk Agreements. It is now more likely that Putin will expand Russian aggression against Ukraine. On November 21 Russia was seen by the world to be openly invading Ukraine with three columns of troops and armour. Putin will never stop until he is stopped, and now Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine will get a whole lot worse.
 

 

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