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BBC: Ukraine sanctions imposed amid Kiev clashes


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Russia cuts off gas supply to Ukraine as deadline passes


Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine after a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal with Russia on gas prices and unpaid bills.


Gazprom's spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that since Ukraine had not paid for the gas by Monday Moscow, had no legal grounds to carry on supplying it to Ukraine.


However, Kupriyanov added that the supply to Europe was continuing as planned and Ukraine was obliged to make sure gas reached its European customers.


Russian wanted payment of $1.95bn (£1.15bn) for past due bills by 9am Kiev time on Monday. As the deadline passed Gazprom issued a statement that it would start demanding payment in advance for gas.


The European commission said in a statement that Ukraine was ready to accept a compromise under which it would pay $1bn now and more later, but Russia was not in agreement.


European Union energy official Günther Oettinger said he was "not pessimistic" that agreement could be reached.



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Ukraine's Poroshenko declares week-long ceasefire, warns rebels


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists, but also warned them they could face death if they did not use the time to put down their guns.


In Moscow, the Kremlin, whose support Poroshenko needs for his plan to end the insurgency in the rebellious east, denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum to separatists rather than a peace offering.


Poroshenko, installed only three weeks ago as president after seven months of turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered government forces to cease firing to allow his peace plan for the region to take root.


But after fierce fighting on Thursday about 100 km (60 miles) from the Russian border that apparently caused heavy losses for separatists and some deaths on the Ukrainian side, Poroshenko backed his declaration with a warning to the rebels.


Interfax news agency quoted him as telling military officers in the east that the temporary ceasefire would give the rebels just one week to lay down their arms, after which "they will have to be eliminated."


The ceasefire "does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything we can to defend the territory of our state," his website quoted him separately as saying.



U.S., France, Germany say Russia faces costs over Ukraine


The leaders of the United States, France and Germany agreed on Friday that Russia faces the risk of new sanctions from the West if it fails to defuse tensions on the Ukraine border, the White House said.


As Ukraine's new president sought to end an insurgency in the country's east, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke separately with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the White House said.


"They agreed that should Russia fail to take immediate, concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union would coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia," the White House said in a statement.

Obama, Hollande and Merkel welcomed Poroshenko's cease-fire and urged Russia to pull back its military presence on the border, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the boundary and use its clout to persuade separatists to stand down.


The U.S. State Department separately said it had information that Russia had gathered tanks and artillery at deployment sites that may be provided to separatist fighters in Ukraine.


Spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said the United States had its own information that Russia had redeployed military forces on its border with Ukraine. NATO said on Thursday at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at the frontier.

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Separatist rebels 'defy Ukraine cease-fire'


Pro-Russian separatists have attacked several Ukrainian army posts on the border with Russia, government forces said, putting a Ukrainian unilateral cease-fire under pressure.


The action came just hours after the start of a temporary cease-fire, which was declared by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at 10pm on Friday as part of his plan to end the rebellion in the east of the country.


A government forces spokesman said the separatists used mortars and sniper fire to attack army posts at Izvareno and Uspenka on the border, wounding nine Ukrainian officers. 


Rebels with big calibre machine guns and grenade-launchers also attacked a Ukrainian position at Avdiyivka, near the main regional town of Donetsk, and a Ukrainian post at Kreminna, the army said.


Separatists controlling Slaviansk also attacked Ukrainian forces on Karachun hill overlooking the town with mortars and grenade-launchers, the spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, said.


"In all these episodes, the attacks of the (rebel) fighters were deflected" without loss, Seleznyov said.


Poroshenko announced the week-long cease-fire on Friday night, urging the rebels to lay down their arms and warning that Ukrainian forces would hit back if attacked. 


Ukrainian forces also repelled two attacks by around 50 heavily-armed fighters in the early morning on an air defence base at Avdiyivka, which houses surface-to-air missiles, the defence ministry said.

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, told a news conference the cease-fire was not working and appealed to Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.


"Since last evening, combat activities are continuing. Poroshenko's artillery is bombing Slaviansk and the air force has made several raids. Words about a cease-fire as always were just that - words," Borodai said.


"The anti-terrorist operation against the people of the Donbass is in full swing," he said.


Pavel Gubarev, a prominent rebel leader, told Rossiya-24 TV channel that either Ukrainian troops were not obeying orders or Poroshenko "is lying", adding: "There is no ceasefire at all."




Russian President Putin says he supports Ukrainian President Poroshenko's ceasefire decision, per Kremlin statement - @Reuters


More: Putin says Poroshenko's plan will not be viable without 'practical actions' to start negotiation process - @Reuters


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Sounds like things are getting better, there. 


I like the "rebels attacked several Army positions, and failed".  Note to Iraqi Army:  That's what's supposed to happen, when a bunch of guys with AKs attack one of your positions. 

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Ukrainian helicopter shot down by rebels in Slaviansk


Pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter carrying nine people outside the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk, killing everyone on board, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Tuesday.


"There was a three-man crew, in all nine people [on board]," Ukrainian defence spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov told Reuters.


Dmytro Tymchuk, a military analyst with good sources in the armed forces, said the helicopter had been brought down by a shoulder-to-air missile launcher.


He confirmed that preliminary information indicated nine people had been killed.




Putin asks parliament to revoke approval for using force in Ukraine


Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Tuesday to cancel a resolution sanctioning the use of military force in Ukraine – but he cautioned that the Kremlin will continue to protect Russians and their allies in the country if necessary.


"We will always protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, as well as the part of Ukrainian people who ... feel part of the wider Russian world, and we will not only monitor this but also react,” he said. “I hope that armed forces will not be necessary for this," Putin said during negotiations in Vienna on Tuesday. 


The reversal comes as pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine announced that they would respect a cease-fire declared by the Ukrainian president last week, raising hopes for an end to months of fighting that have killed hundreds of people and driven thousands from their homes. The turmoil has also brought relations between the Kremlin and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War a quarter century ago.


Putin’s stern but apparently conciliatory remarks about efforts to forge a lasting peace between Ukrainians came just hours before pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter, killing nine technicians.


It was the second time a helicopter has been brought down by rebel fire from Slovyansk, a separatist stronghold. On May 30, rebels there downed a Ukrainian military chopper killing 14 servicemen, including one general.

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The United States and its European allies are finalizing a package of sanctions on Russia's key economic sectors that could be levied as early as this week, though the package might be delayed because of positive signals from Russian President Vladimir Putin, administration officials and others close to the decision-making said Tuesday.


Penalizing large swaths of the Russian economy, including its lucrative energy industry, would ratchet up the West's punishments against Moscow over its threatening moves in Ukraine. The U.S. and Europe have already sanctioned Russian individuals and entities, including some with close ties to Putin, but have so far stayed away from the broader penalties, in part because of concern from European countries that have close economic ties with Russia.


But with the crisis in Ukraine stretching on, a senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Europe are moving forward on "common sanctions options" that would affect several areas of the Russian economy. A Western diplomat said those options included Russia's energy industry, as well as Moscow's access to world financial markets.


The U.S. and Europe have been eyeing a European Council meeting in Brussels later this week as an opportunity to announce the coordinated sanctions. However, the enthusiasm for new sanctions, particularly among European leaders, appears to have waned in recent days as countries evaluate whether Putin plans to follow through on a series of promises that could ease the crisis, officials said.


The Russian leader acted Tuesday to rescind a parliamentary resolution authorizing him to use the Russian military in Ukraine. He also urged the new Ukrainian government to extend a weeklong cease-fire and called for talks between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels that are widely believed to be backed by the Kremlin.


Putin's moves came one day after he talked by phone with President Barack Obama, their first known conversation in more than two weeks.

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EU signs trade pact with Ukraine, ceasefire extended by 72 hours


The European Union signed an historic free-trade pact with Ukraine on Friday and warned it could impose more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels act to wind down the crisis in the east of the country by Monday.


Shortly after returning to Kiev from Brussels where he signed the pact, Poroshenko announced on his website that Ukraine had extended a ceasefire by government forces against pro-Russian separatist rebels by 72 hours until 10 p.m. on Monday.


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to Brussels to sign a far-reaching trade and political cooperation agreement with the EU that has been at the heart of months of deadly violence and upheaval in his country, drawing an immediate threat of "grave consequences" from Russia.


Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals, holding out the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU's 500 million citizens, but alarming Moscow, which is concerned about losing influence over former Soviet republics.


The week-long ceasefire had been due to expire on Friday.


The extension was made, Poroshenko's website said, in line with a Monday deadline set by EU leaders for the rebels to agree to ceasefire verification arrangements, return border checkpoints to Kiev authorities and free hostages including detained monitors of the OSCE rights and security watchdog.


"We expect progress in the next hours," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "If we don't see any steps forward on any of the points, then we are also prepared to take drastic measures."

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Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine release last OSCE observers


 Pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine on Saturday afternoon released a second team of observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), nearly a full month after the team of four was taken captive, officials said.


The organization said the team, comprised of people from Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, and Spain, arrived in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk after their release from their location of captivity in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic. The freed monitors were said to be in good condition.


“It is with great relief and happiness that we greet news of the release of our colleagues after a month in captivity,” said chief monitor Ertugrul Apakan. “Their families, friends and colleagues are waiting for them. We appreciate the efforts undertaken by all the parties towards their release.”

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Ukraine's forces attack rebel positions; Putin growls


Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of "parasites".


His decision quickly drew fire from Russian President Vladimir Putin who said Poroshenko had disregarded the advice of himself and German and French leaders. Putin said Poroshenko would now have to bear full responsibility for veering off the road to peace.


Repeating a threat he made in March when Russia annexed Crimea, Putin said Moscow would continue to defend the interests of ethnic Russians abroad - up to 3 million of whom live in the east of Ukraine, which has been in separatist ferment since April.


The United States said the separatists had not abided by the ceasefire and Poroshenko had "a right to defend his country".


Within hours of Poroshenko's early morning announcement, his military went into action against rebel bases and checkpoints, bombarding them from the air and with artillery.

Showing impatience at what he had heard from Putin, Poroshenko said in his early morning statement that Ukraine had not seen "concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border".


Poroshenko, just over three weeks in office, faces a possible popular backlash at home over military losses during the ceasefire and was under pressure to switch to more forceful action against the rebels.


A French diplomatic source said the Russian, Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers would meet in Berlin on Wednesday to try to push forward peace initiatives to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.



U.S. Presses Russia to Stop Backing Ukraine Separatists


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday pushed Russia to stop backing pro-Moscow insurgents in Ukraine, as the West mulled further sanctions against the government of Vladimir Putin.


In a call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry "expressed strong concern about the refusal of Russian-supported separatists to take the necessary steps" to enable the extension of a shaky 10-day ceasefire.


Kerry "stressed the importance of taking steps to de-escalate," and reiterated Washington's support for Kiev, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.


He "also made clear that we and our European and international partners will continue to press Russia to end all support and weapons flowing to separatists," and do more to police the porous border, the statement said.


Washington also wants Moscow to "call on separatists to lay down their arms, to return the border checkpoints they hold to Ukrainian government control, and to release all remaining hostages."

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Ukraine hoists flag over pro-Russian bastion


Resurgent government forces hoisted the Ukrainian flag over pro-Russian rebels' main stronghold Slavyansk after a shelling onslaught levelled much of the city but delivered Kiev the biggest success of its campaign.


The self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk confirmed to AFP Saturday that insurgents had abandoned the rustbelt city of 120,000. A local resident said by phone that barricades once manned by the camouflage-clad gunmen stood abandoned since the early morning.


Images posted on YouTube showed helmeted troops carrying dozens of grenade launchers out of the barricaded Slavyansk city hall building as the blue-and-yellow national banner streamed under a blazing blue sky.


Kiev's ability to win back Slavyansk - home to one of the country's biggest weapons storage facilities that fell to the insurgents in early April - marks a key turning point in three months of low-scale warfare that has threatened the very survival of the ex-Soviet state.


Rebel fighters apparently withdrew to nearby Kramatorsk, but did not stop there. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said late Saturday "the military operation to liberate Slavyansk and Kramatorsk is over", also ordering all administrations to resume normal business.


Rebels also withdrew to Gorlivka, a city of 260,000, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Slavyansk, according to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.


A large number of them were seen arriving from the north in half a dozen lorries and dozens of cars in the industrial city of Donetsk in the afternoon.


The armed passengers of about 20 vehicles then entered a scientific institute, with five armored vehicles and several military trucks later passing by the city's main hotel.


The self-styled deputy prime minister of the separatist Donetsk Republic, Andrei Purgin, said about 150 wounded rebels from Slavyansk would be treated at Donetsk hospitals, Interfax-Ukraine agency said.

I hate to think what the city looks like now.  Not exactly sure I'd call this winning back the city, if they had to shell it to pieces.

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  • 2 weeks later...


U.S. imposes toughest sanctions yet on Russia over Ukraine


 The United States on Wednesday imposed its most wide-ranging sanctions yet on Russia's economy, including Gazprombank and the Rosneft Oil Co, and other major banks and energy and defense companies.


Washington has steadily escalated its financial sanctions on Russia over what it views as Moscow's interference in its neighbor Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea region.


The targeted companies also include Russia's second-largest gas producer, Novatek, Vnesheconombank, or VEB, a state-owned bank that acts as payment agent for the Russian government, and eight arms firms.


The U.S. Treasury Department, which posted the sanctions on its website, said the measures effectively closed medium- and long-term dollar funding to the two banks and energy companies. But the sanctions did not freeze these four companies' assets.


The sanctions stopped short of targeting Russia's Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas producer and provider of much of Europe's energy supplies. Gazprombank is 36 percent-owned by Gazprom.


The new measures were announced on the same day that European Union leaders met in Brussels and agreed to expand their own sanctions on Russia.

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Oh **** I just saw that update.. not a good year to fly Malaysian Airlines. 


Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.


BREAKING: Adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister says passenger plane carrying 295 shot down.

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They say Russians shot it down, or Ukrainian rebels? It's unclear. But it is a brazen attack that in flames tensions in the region significantly

Edit Ukrainian rebels shot it down? ****.


Wouldn't imagine the Russians would be that stupid. But this kind of things begs for international intervention, and telling the Russians to go sit in their corner and shut up about it. 

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What could anyone hope to gain by this sort of action?  Especially considering that they were only on the way through.

There are no Ukranian separatists. They are Russians.... wearing Russian uniforms and Russian equipment.

What could they hope to gain from this sort of action... destabilizing Ukraine so they can call it a failed state and carve it up... Thats the largest most populous country in Europe other than Russia.. If Russia can get their hooks back into it they've gone a long way to nearly doubling their population...

Also they are sending us a message Russian style.. It's no cooincidence that the United States and EU anounced another round of Sanctions yesterday; and Russia shoots down this airplane today... The sanctions we are imposing don't hurt Russia much... But they are cummulitive and escalating; and Russia wants to demonstrate they can hit us too.

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Some background info on the two main areas run by separatists in Ukraine:

Keep in mind that these may not take into account some loss of territory over the last few days in both areas.



Border With Russia Helps Luhansk Republic Hang On


Since the Ukrainian government reestablished control over the eastern city of Slovyansk on July 5, the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic has been on the defensive.


Ukrainian forces have been pushing to isolate the city of Luhansk and to cut the insurgents off from access to the border with Russia. But the going has been slow, the authorities say, because of increased supplies of weapons and volunteers coming across the frontier.


In the middle of June, Ukrainian government forces entered the city of Shchastya and established control over part of the border with Russia. On July 14, the army took control over Metalist, Oleksandrivsk, and other towns in the vicinity of Luhansk.


At present, the separatists control only the southern part of Luhansk Oblast, including the city of Luhansk.



(Hmm, actually this second article is more recent than I realized)


Was I a wanted man in the Donetsk People’s Republic?


My friend Vlad met me just as my train pulled into Donetsk station this spring. He’d called ahead and wanted to know not just what time I was arriving, but which car of the train I was on.


Vlad grabbed me by the elbow as soon as I stepped off and walked me briskly toward the parking lot. “Don’t speak English!” he whispered in Russian with uncharacteristic fierceness. “There are people looking for you.”


Thus began my most recent trip to the Donetsk People’s Republic, which has been thrust to the front pages this week by suspicions the Russian-backed rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.


Vlad told me that my name and photograph – borrowed from my Twitter profile – had been posted on the Russian social network VKontakte, on a members-only page affiliated with one of the angrier wings of the Moscow-backed separatists controlling the region. Along with several other foreign journalists, I was named as a kidnapping target, someone the rebels hoped to snatch, hold and later exchange for comrades who had been captured by the Ukrainian army.


I believed Vlad because he had fear in his eyes (which are normally mirthful, even while living amid the absurdity of the Donetsk People’s Republic), and because he himself had been held as a prisoner for three days and two nights inside the city’s regional administration building, which since April had been repurposed as the nerve centre of the armed pro-Russian uprising.


But when we reached my hotel, there was an envelope waiting for me at the front desk. Inside was a flimsy piece of paper with “Donetsk People’s Republic Accreditation Certificate” written across the top in bold type. The rebels’ official stamp – a rising blue sun over crossed mining hammers – had been applied that morning.


So was I a wanted man, or a reporter who was officially welcomed by the Donetsk People’s Republic?

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