News / Europe

    NATO Chief to Russia: ‘Step Back from the Brink’

    Fears Growing of Russian Invasion of Ukrainei
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    August 08, 2014 2:12 AM
    Fears are growing that Moscow may be ready to invade Ukraine. The top U.S. defense official this week said the action is "absolutely" a possibility. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports from the Pentagon.
    Watch related video report from VOA's Jeff Seldin.
    VOA News

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is calling on Russia to "step back from the brink" of war in Ukraine by withdrawing thousands of combat troops massed on its border.

    “Step back from the brink, step back from the border and [do] not use peacekeeping as an excuse for war-making,” said Rasmussen during a visit to Kyiv Thursday referring to reports that Moscow may send in troops into eastern Ukraine as “peacekeeping forces.”

    Speaking before reporters in Ukraine's capital, he said that Russia, instead of de-escalating the conflict, continues to destabilize Ukraine, and that its support for pro-Russian separatists fighting government forces in the east was growing "in scale and sophistication."

    Western analysts say about 20,000 Russian troops have redeployed near the border in recent days, along with armor, infantry, special forces and aircraft.

    NATO support for Kyiv

    The NATO chief spoke after discussing with Ukrainian officials, including President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, possible support the Western alliance could offer to bolster Kyiv’s defense capabilities.

    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during their meeting in Kyiv, August 7, 2014.Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during their meeting in Kyiv, August 7, 2014.
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    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during their meeting in Kyiv, August 7, 2014.
    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during their meeting in Kyiv, August 7, 2014.


    In particular, Rasmussen discussed the creation of a NATO trust fund to help boost Kyiv’s defenses in such areas as command and control, communications and cyber defense, Ukraine’s government said in a statement after a meeting between the NATO chief and Ukrainian officials.

    The provision of lethal aid by the alliance to Ukrainian armed forces battling pro-Moscow separatists in the country’s east does not appear to have been discussed.

    Rasmussen arrived in Kyiv as NATO said Russia had again increased troop levels on its borders with Ukraine to 20,000 and as both the alliance and the United States expressed concern over a possible ground invasion of eastern Ukraine by Moscow in support of pro-Russia rebels. Some sources have suggested that Moscow could send in troops under the guise of “peacekeepers.”

    Aeroflot plane instead of MH17?

    The head of Ukraine’s Security Service says pro-Moscow rebels had planned to shoot down a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane the day of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 to create a pretext for a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

    The separatists’ intention was to down Aeroflot flight AFL-2074 which was en route from Moscow to Larnaca, Cyprus, at approximately the same time and in the same air space as flight MH17, which passed over eastern Ukraine June 17, Interfax-Ukraine quoted Valentyn Nalyvaichenko as saying.

    Wreckage lies near a pro-Russian separatist checkpoint at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne in Ukraine's Donetsk region August 4, 2014.Wreckage lies near a pro-Russian separatist checkpoint at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne in Ukraine's Donetsk region August 4, 2014.
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    Wreckage lies near a pro-Russian separatist checkpoint at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne in Ukraine's Donetsk region August 4, 2014.
    Wreckage lies near a pro-Russian separatist checkpoint at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17 near the village of Rozsypne in Ukraine's Donetsk region August 4, 2014.


    Nalyvaichenko said his agency reached the conclusion during the course of its own investigation into the downing of MH17.

    He said that the Russian-provided Buk anti-air missile battery which was used to down MH17 had been transferred to Ukraine for that purpose, and that the Aeroflot plane with Russian passengers on board was supposed to have been shot down over territory controlled by Ukrainian government troops.

    “This terrorist act, cynically, was planned as a pretext for the launch of an all-out aggression [into Ukraine] in response to the mass killing of innocent Russians,” Nalyvaichenko said.

    There has been no immediate reaction from Moscow to the claim.

    Rebel leader replaced

    One of eastern Ukraine’s rebel leaders, Russian national Aleksander Borodai, announced that a top local separatist will take his place.

    Borodai, one of many Russian citizens running the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, told a news conference Thursday that he is appointing Aleksander Zakharchenko as head of the “Donetsk People's Republic,” one of two territorial entities proclaimed by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. Borodai said he would now serve as deputy.

    Aleksander Borodai (L), leader of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" shakes hands with rebel leader Aleksander Zakharchenko, during their news conference in Donetsk August 7, 2014.Aleksander Borodai (L), leader of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" shakes hands with rebel leader Aleksander Zakharchenko, during their news conference in Donetsk August 7, 2014.
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    Aleksander Borodai (L), leader of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" shakes hands with rebel leader Aleksander Zakharchenko, during their news conference in Donetsk August 7, 2014.
    Aleksander Borodai (L), leader of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" shakes hands with rebel leader Aleksander Zakharchenko, during their news conference in Donetsk August 7, 2014.


    A native of Donetsk thought to be in his late 30s, Zakharchenko commands a heavily armed rebel unit called “Oplot” (bastion). He was among the first separatists to occupy the regional administration building in Donetsk when pro-Russian crowds captured it in March.

    Zakharchenko’s appointment is widely seen as an effort to discredit Western accusations that the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is being run by Moscow.

    The Kremlin has been denying involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, laying blame on Kyiv's new government instead.

    More fighting

    Fighting continued in eastern Ukraine Thursday.  Officials in the city of Donetsk said one person was killed and at least two injured when a city hospital was shelled.  It was not clear who was responsible for the shelling. 

    City officials said shelling overnight killed three people and wounded five in another part of the city.  Also Thursday, Ukraine's border guard service reported that Russian forces had fired 46 howitzer rounds at Ukrainian positions across the border the previous day, and that an undisclosed number of border guards were injured.

    Additionally, rebel fire downed a Ukrainian fighter jet and a medical helicopter in the same area.  Local reports say the helicopter crew survived and was rescued, while Russia's Interfax news agency said the crew of the fighter jet was later captured.

    Some information provided by RFE/RL and Reuters.

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    Comments page of 4
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    by: rodger olsen from: usa
    August 08, 2014 1:43 PM
    "Russia's violation of Ukrainian sovereignty" is none of our business. We have not been voted Masters Of the World in a secret UN meeting. We have no right to determine who administers the Crimea and no right to butt in on the political process in Ukraine. We share no borders with either country and our obligation to control them exists only in the imagination of our politicians.
    NATO is also not the elected Umpire of the Universe and has no business in Ukraine. Russia has not invaded, threatened or attacked any NATO country and there is no chance that Russia will be rolling tanks on the road to Berlin in our lifetimes.
    Anderson is simply the chief of an expensive and useless antique holdover from the cold war who is trying to drum up hysteria so that we will continue to pay his salary and give him expensive toys.

    by: JOHN from: PA
    August 08, 2014 1:18 PM
    The rebels in eastern Ukraine are not Ukrainian - they are rossiyane placed there by Moscow during the Stalinist times after so many ppl were strategically starved to death. They were planted or seeded into eastern Ukraine so that eventually they will assimilate the land into the crushing grip of Moscow and the Ukrainian ppl in that area would all be assimilated into russification and of course, they are doing what they are ordered to do - create division and upheaval. Eastern Ukraine is serving the purposes of the moscow oligarchy.

    by: USACitizen from: Utah
    August 08, 2014 12:53 PM
    Mr. Nato - should the heck up. NATO has never ever been in any military action that counts for anything. This guy is a loser for sure.

    by: William Cavico from: Chicago, Ill
    August 08, 2014 12:06 PM
    Russia and Ukraine had a nice peaceful deal fro 13 billion dollars and 33% REDUETION IN GAS PRICES !!! But Obama and NATO didn't like that deala so Obama adn NATO initiated a violent revolution in Ukraine and hvae been attempting to use Russia as the fall guy. In fact Russia shoud take the U.S. NATO and the EU to court and sue for damages due to losses incurred by the breech of contact - not to mention loss of life.

    Bill C

    by: Concernedglobalcitizen from: Southeastasia
    August 08, 2014 11:31 AM
    Life in this world has become more and more complicated since the 2009 global financial crisis. It is a legitimate concern that this world, 100 years after the First World War, may be heading towards, God forbid, another world war if leaders of big countries have forgotten the sacred dignity of human life.

    Please remember that God himself, exeedingly mightier than all the forces on this planet and the whole universe, honors the dignity of human life higher than the human race themselves.
    What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:4-5).

    Leaders, please imitate God in this essential matter.


    by: Jerry Phillips from: Porter Indiana
    August 08, 2014 10:35 AM
    Russia has absolutely no claim on Ukraine . Ukraine is a sovereign country and Ras-Putin must be stopped before more people are murdered and he will not stop his land grabbing until he is put in prison or stands before a firing squad

    by: Qwert from: Trewq
    August 08, 2014 9:43 AM
    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is calling on Russia to "step back from the brink" of war in Ukraine by withdrawing thousands of combat troops massed on its border.

    Remember what happened to Yanukovich when he followed the Western order - not to use force against "peaceful" protesters (those who were throwing Molotov kacktail into police)? Disaster for the whole Ukraine where the economy plunged, that was left without money, gas supplies froom Russia, where one area (Krymea) voted overwhemingly to leave the country - and left almost peacefully - and where the other part (East) is currently figthing for its independence from Ukraine. Supported by referendum of its citizens, by the way.
    I am calling Mr. Rasmussen to leave Ukraine and stop telling Russia what to do: following those advices is a sure way to disaster.
    In Response

    by: devendra panchakoti from: nepal
    August 08, 2014 11:41 AM
    who are you to tell the NATO Secretary General to leave Ukraine. it is NATO's duty to protect its members and help the Ukrainians to crush the ungrateful separatist rebels. the Russians should get out from Ukraine if they don't wish to live in peace and the disgusting Russians and Putin should withdraw Russian forces from the Ukrainian border, its just the right thing to do. The Russians should remember what the Germans did to them during the 2nd world war.

    by: Tony from: USA
    August 08, 2014 9:22 AM
    We should stop this madness. Why would we care who's fall it was Putin, US, NATO, Ukraine...when our family will die. Can we just stop this hysteria and blame each other. Can we just set down and talk. Can we find a common ground ? We act like spoiled kids, but we are playing with global distraction. Don't we have any more common sense ?
    In Response

    by: rodger olsen from: usa
    August 08, 2014 1:35 PM
    Hate to mention this, fellows, but Ukraine is not a NATO country and the NATO secretary general has absolutely no right, no authority, and no business butting in between Russia and the Ukraine.

    by: Peace from: US
    August 08, 2014 9:20 AM
    All of you should just shut up. In war, there are victims on both sides. Your brothers, my brothers, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers. War creates a cycle of hatred, and there are no winners. Just read your comments for example. Lets talk peace so we could all live our already shortened lives a little longer.
    In Response

    by: Ivan
    August 08, 2014 11:48 AM
    I'm afraid, your comment is a voice in the wilderness. But thank you, Peace, for that much. Really, thank you.

    by: Vainqueur from: Hom.U.S.A.
    August 08, 2014 8:43 AM
    Europe's security must be respected and NATO simply must protect Ukraine from interfering aggression.Enemy will build the capacity of military force to attack a sovereign state, as happened with the intervention of the Crimea.
    Comments page of 4
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