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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ukraine: anti-terrorist operation resumed after Easter truce amid Russian continuous aggression and threats of military invasion

Ukrainian acting President Oleksandr Turchinov
(Image: Kyiv Post)
After two days of truce on the Orthodox Easter Ukrainian acting President Oleksandr Turchinov ordered the massive anti-terrorist operation launched in eastern Ukraine to resume. Ukrainian Armed Forces, police and security forces, forces of SBU (Intelligence Service) and recently formed National Guard have continued their anti-terrorist operation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions aimed to eliminate terrorist activity on the region and prevent its spread in the country and to restore stability and security in the restive region.

Despite the recent talks held between Ukraine, US, EU and Russia in Geneva and finished with signing of the joint Geneva Declaration calling for all the sides to show restrain and to take all the measures in order to de-escalate the deepening crisis, the aggression and separatist activity backed by Russia and supported and coordinated by Russian Security Forces and military continues in Eastern Ukrainian cities, as many administrative buildings in Donetsk region are still being seized by separatists and pro-Russian forces. The city of Slovyansk, located in Donetsk region, is still under almost total control of the separatists and terrorists.

EU and US are calling Russia to de-escalate the situation and to withdraw its troops from the borders with Ukraine and stop interfering in Ukrainian internal affairs, though Russia refuses to recognize its involvement and accuses Ukrainian government, which is being called by Russian officials as “junta” and being considered as totally illegitimate, of violating the terms of Geneva accords. Western countries though have stated that Russia is acting as a side violating the agreement, while Ukrainian interim government and security and Special Forces are making everything possible in order to resolve the crisis and to defend the country and its sovereignty and integrity. US supported Ukrainians anti-terrorist operation, declaring that Ukraine has the right to defend its territories and people. Recent visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Ukraine has shown US support as well, as the issue of the unrest in eastern Ukraine, Russian aggression and the ongoing anti-terrorist operations were on the table among the other issues being discussed, along with the issues of economic and social reforms necessary for improving democracy in Ukraine and restoring the country’s economy.

Ukrainian Armed Forces in Eastern Ukraine
(Image: Kyiv Post)
EU in its turn has also officially supported Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation and readiness to resolve the crisis as peaceful as possible, according to the recent statements of EU Catherine Ashton. Russia in its turn continues to threat Ukraine with the possible military invasion and claims the upcoming presidential elections planned for 25 May could be considered as being illegitimate by the Russian side.

Thus, despite the widening sanctions against Russia imposed by USA, Canada, EU and other countries and deepening political, diplomatic and economic isolation of Russia due to the crisis in Ukraine, Russian officials continue to threat Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has stated in his interview on 23 April, that Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation being launched in Eastern Ukraine is unacceptable and shows unprecedented level of violence, being nothing more as a “punitive operation” against Ukrainian citizens of Eastern Ukraine. Putin also added that in case Ukrainian current government won’t withdraw its troops and National Guard from the Eastern Ukrainian cities and won’t halt this operation, Russia will be forces to interfere, and it will have the consequences for Ukraine, Putin though didn’t mention what consequences exactly it will have.

Though the threatening was supported by the speeches and statements of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Minister of the Armed Forces Sergey Shoigu, as both of them accused Ukraine of violating the terms of Geneva accords and stated that Russia could take the measures in order to prevent “Russians and Russian speaking people” in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine
(Image: Business Insider)
Ukrainian government though remains determined on the issue of the anti-terrorist operation and fight with the terrorism and Russian backed separatist movements in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian acting President Oleksandr Turchinov has declared in his addressing the nation that the operation is ongoing and it has successes, as several administrative buildings have been freed and terrorists’ bases and checkpoints have been destroyed as well. SBU continues arresting dozens of separatists and their organizers and coordinators, among them many Russian officers. In addition to that SBU has intercepted several talks held between Russian officers of Special Forces and local Donetsk and Luhansk separatist leaders regarding the ongoing events, including the abduction, torturing and killing of the prominent Ukrainian lawyer and activist Volodymyr Rybak and a young student,  both found dead several days ago. This case was also highlighted in the recent statement of Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official Yevgen Perebyjinis, who declared that Russia continues to back aggression on the territory of Ukraine, killing and torturing Ukrainian citizens and destabilizing situation in the country, threatening integrity of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, anti-terrorist operation was successfully enough, as more than 7 terrorists have been killed during the operation, many of them have been arrested, and several separatist and terrorist checkpoints and bases have been destroyed or taken. Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation is being conducted according to the SBU plan, stated Ukrainian officials, and the goal of the operation is to take the separatist and terrorist forces in circle and prevent them to spread in the region. Thus, this circle is becoming tighter. Though Ukrainian side had some losses as well, as at least one military helicopter and one airplane were destroyed on Friday during an attack against Ukrainian military base in Donetsk region.

Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation in Eastern Ukraine
(Image: Kyiv Post)
Russia in its turn has started massive military trainings on its borders with Ukraine, in the visibility of Ukrainian border guards, and threat of Russian military invasion is extremely high nowadays, according to Ukrainians politicians, military experts and international diplomats and experts as well. Thus, Dmytro Tymchuk, prominent Ukrainian military observer and head of the group “Information Resistance” has stated recently that Russian military invasion could be possible in the frameworks of the “referendum” in Eastern Ukraine, as Russian backed separatist leaders in Eastern Ukraine demand holding referendum about the constitutional status of the region. The Crimean scenario is still possible for Eastern Ukraine as well.

Russian side has declared that it start its military trainings due to Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation and fearing the possibility of infiltration of Ukrainian forces, such as nationalist groups radical Right Sector, which was demonized by the Russian media, on the Russian territory, the claim which is totally false. Ukrainian acting President Mr. Turchinov has called on Russian side to show restrain and to avoid confrontation.

Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation in Slovyansk, Eastern Ukraine
(Image: Kyiv Post)
Meanwhile, Russia insisted on sending the special OSCE mission to the restive regions in order to study the situation, and the mission has arrived in the region at the beginning of this week. OSCE representatives had the chance to meet with several representatives of the local separatist groups and self-proclaimed government, but on Friday, 25 April, the bus with the representatives of the OSCE mission was stopped by the armed men from the pro-Russian forces, and the representatives of the mission were kidnapped and they remain being held captive as hostages by the separatists. Ukrainian spokesperson of the National Security and Defense Council stated that the talks over their release are ongoing, but it is really hard to deal with “these people”.

Thus, the situation remains extremely tense, as the ongoing crisis threatens to turn into a civil war, if Russian side will continue to interfere and support the terrorists, destabilizing the situation in Ukraine and trying to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections. Russia in its turn seems to refuse to resolve the crisis peacefully, as it refused to participate in the second round of Geneva talks between Ukraine, US, EU and Russia, planned to be held on 25 April, on Friday. All the sides of the negotiations confirmed their participation, while Russia announced that it halts the talks over Ukraine, making the possibility of the peaceful resolving of the current deepening crisis almost impossible. In addition to that, Russia has declared also about halting all talks with US White House due to the Ukrainian crisis and the wide and harsh sanctions imposed on Russia.