News / Europe

Ukraine Rebel Leaders Quit; Russian Convoy Stops

A Russian convoy of trucks said to be carrying humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine is seen parked near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov Region, August 14, 2014.
A Russian convoy of trucks said to be carrying humanitarian aid for eastern Ukraine is seen parked near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov Region, August 14, 2014.
VOA News

Two of the most senior pro-Russian separatists battling Ukraine forces near the Russian border quit Thursday, as Ukrainian troops pummeled locations near the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Artillery shells struck the center of Donetsk for the first time since rebels launched their rebellion against Ukrainian rule in April.  Western news reports say at least 25 people were killed in the Donetsk shelling, while Ukraine reported nine troops killed.

The departures of Russian nationals Igor Strelkov and Valery Bolotov also came as a huge Russian aid convoy remained parked on the Russian side of the border, with its destination unknown and its cargo manifest unclear.

According to Ukrainian media, the convoy of nearly 300 trucks on Thursday was heading towards Izvaryne, a border crossing controlled by pro-Russian separatists, but has stopped and is currently parked in Russia's Rostov region in an area some 40 kilometers away from the frontier. It is not clear how long the convoy will remain there.

Moscow insisted it coordinated the dispatch with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but on Wednesday representatives of the ICRC said they were still in the dark about the final destination of the convoy.

The Kyiv government, which accuses Russia of arming and otherwise supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, has called the convoy a "Trojan horse" and repeatedly voiced suspicions that Moscow is using it as part of a plan for a full-scale incursion. Western governments have expressed similar fears.

Moscow on Wednesday called the accusations "absurd."

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it is continuing negotiations with the Ukrainian government and the ICRC to get the trucks cleared into Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government has dispatched some of its own trucks with supplies for people in eastern Ukraine affected by the conflict.

Three separate convoys left Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv Thurday heading toward Donetsk and Luhansk with 800 tons of food and sanitary products, Ukraine’s Emergencies Ministry said. Additioonal convoys will be organized in the coming days, it added.

Mixed messages

Earlier this week, Ukraine officials said the convoy's contents could be allowed entry if they were inspected by the International Red Cross first. Kyiv also has said the convoy could transfer its cargo at the border to trucks leased by the relief agency.

However, the Red Cross said Wednesday it was still awaiting a detailed inventory of the shipment before it will take custody of the goods.

International relief officials said much of eastern Ukraine, including the hub cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, lack medical supplies, water and electricity, as Ukrainian government forces press their offensive aimed at ending the rebellion by pro-Russian separatists.

The United Nations human rights office said Wednesday that the death toll from the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which began in mid-April, appears to have doubled in the past two weeks, climbing to nearly 2,100 fatalities as of August 10.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Wednesday in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in March.

He addressed Russian ministers and lawmakers traveling with him in Yalta on Thursday, the second day of his visit.

Sanctions remorse?

Putin on Thursday also said he believed many European leaders were eager to end the standoff over sanctions with Russia, which he said was “damaging our cooperation.”

Putin made the remark in Crimea after meeting with a French businessman who said he was interested in developing an entertainment complex on the peninsula.

Putin added that, based on a recent conversation he had with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, he felt that this also reflected the French president's mood.

Separately, Slovakia's prime minister criticized the European Union sanctions against Russia over Ukraine on Thursday, saying they would only threaten economic growth in the 28-member bloc.

“Why should we jeopardize the EU economy that is beginning to grow?” Robert Fico told a news conference.

Ukraine to impose own sanctions

Also on Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament approved a law to impose sanctions on Russian companies and individuals supporting and financing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The government has already prepared a list of 172 citizens of Russia and other countries, and of 65 Russian companies, including gas export giant Gazprom, on whom they could impose sanctions “for financing terrorism.”

After Thursday's vote, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament that Ukraine had taken a historic step.

“By approving the law on sanctions, we showed that the country is able to protect itself,” Yatsenyuk said. "The law should give a clear answer to any aggressor or terrorist who threatens our national security, our government and our citizens."

Finnish diplomacy

Finland's president says he plans to discuss Ukraine with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in southern Russia Friday.

The meeting, to be held at Putin’s residence in Sochi, would be the Russian president’s first encounter with a leader of a European Union country on Russian soil since the conclusion in February of the 2014 Winter Olympics he hosted in the same city.

Sauli Niinisto, Finland’s president, played down prospects for any breakthrough, but said his meeting with Putin would focus on finding ways to defuse tensions over Ukraine.

“I do not want to present myself as a great peace mediator,” Niinisto told a news conference. But he stressed a need for “open communication channels,” expressing hope that his initiative would bring a “small step forward.”

Quoting a Kremlin source, Reuters is reporting that the agenda for the Sochi meeting would focus on bilateral issues, primarily trade.

Finland is among EU countries hit hard by food import restrictions Moscow imposed last week in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Donetsk fighting

Heavy shelling has been reported in rebel-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine Thursday.

The Donetsk city council reported that two people were killed, and two shopping centers and a residential building damaged, in shelling that, for the first time, hit near the city's center. It also reported a fire on the grounds of an oil storage facility.

It was not clear who fired the shells but separatist online news outlets said Ukrainian government forces hit targets inside Donetsk and have struck regions to the east and southwest of the city in previous days.

Separately, the Donetsk regional health department reported that 74 civilians had been killed and 116 wounded in fighting throughout the region over the past three days.  The health authorities said 839 residents of the Donetsk region have been killed and 1,623 wounded since March 1.

Ukrainian troops have been slowly tightening the noose on rebels in Donetsk, a regional hub with a peace-time population of nearly a million.

Shelling has also been reported in Luhansk, another rebel stronghold.

Rebels in disarray?

Meanwhile, two senior rebel commanders have announced that they are leaving their posts, deepening the disarray among separatist forces.

The defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic Igor Strelkov, whom Kyiv accused of being a Russian intelligence officer, is reportedly moving to a less senior post.

Valery Bolotov, head of the self-proclaimed rebel government in Luhansk region, said he was injured and could no longer carry out his duties.

A week ago Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, also quit.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.
 

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: YaPiDo from: US
August 15, 2014 6:25 PM
If not Trojan Horse, then Red Herring.


by: Jake the Snake from: usa
August 15, 2014 11:12 AM
The hastily voted on it, without international approval or transparency.. Here's an idea lets Build a base on Russian soil and lease it and let all of our US Military oersonnel vote to see if they want the USA to annex them too.. I think i would expect 100% for annexation too...


by: GarryGR from: USA
August 15, 2014 2:37 AM
Well, I guess we know now what happened to Bagdad Bob. He's now Russia's official Information Minister! ;-)


by: Dmytro from: Ukraine
August 15, 2014 1:03 AM
I think our western friends are naive. I can tell you one thing: you have nothing to threaten Russia (especially Europe). And all that sanctions... Do you realize how former Soviet Union counties suffered all over the history? You think that a lack of European cheese and meat can make Russia give up? It makes me laugh when I watch American or British news about how Russia cannot live without western products. I am from Ukraine, and the last time I ate some of those banned products was... maybe several years ago. We are not used to luxury as you are so we can endure much more than you can imagine. To disrupt Russian economy you've got to impose sanctions for tens of years.
Of course I want this embarrassing war to be over. But what I see is just a political game while people are being killed in my country. When we overthrew our former president no one expected to be involved in the conflict that took so much. Europe, Russia - it does not matter, no one will help us to build more prosperous country unless we stop listening to wretched politics and start to rely only on our own.

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 16, 2014 9:18 AM
Hey Dmytro from Ukraine... I agree with you 100%..... The US and western European countries would miss all those banned goods, but they don't understand, that most people in the rest of the world never could afford those products, or they're in need other things more....


by: alo from: canada
August 14, 2014 3:20 PM
Could this be a distraction tactic? Everyone is concentrating at those white trucks while Putin is shipping weapons or digging tunnels somewhere else?

In Response

by: Jacques from: France
August 14, 2014 10:35 PM
Communist KGB said something but doing an other thing. Liar, killer and thieves.

In Response

by: Truth_Hammer from: America
August 14, 2014 10:18 PM
Putin started this whole mess. Now he wants to sweep in and act like a savior?

ROFL

Does anyone else see this as a problem?


by: David Winfrey from: Chicago
August 14, 2014 2:50 PM
Putin is a liar and a scoundrel, not to be trusted. Check every truck, every glove box. He is no good.

In Response

by: Robert H.
August 14, 2014 10:23 PM
It isn't his fault a Western backed coup threw out the Democratically elected Ukrainian leader

In Response

by: john from: sydney
August 14, 2014 10:17 PM
Inside the trucks are gun, ammo , + Russian solders


by: bob swede from: USA
August 14, 2014 10:41 AM
Diplomacy is the only way, and Finland understands the political dynamics in Russia.
The bullying approach sanctions the typical United States approach to international relations. Their interventions in other countries did not go so well: Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, ...

In Response

by: Anonymous
August 15, 2014 3:50 AM
Appreciate your comment, among the irrational bilge spewed around this comments section.

In Response

by: DellStator from: US
August 14, 2014 2:28 PM
Finland knows Russia, you bet.
They know Russia stole land from them, expending over a half million men in the process, and they know Russia will be happy to do it again.
The Fins made Russia pay for the land grab in blood, but in the end, and lacking ANY international support, they had to cave in.
So I'm pretty sure the Fins would just advise the Ukraine to accept whatever Russia wants, since it's obvious your're Western allies are just as spineless as ours were, oh they are the same. Yeah, then definitely, don't count on them.


by: Michael from: New Guinea
August 14, 2014 9:30 AM
Shocking situation. Blatant Russia agression n propaganda brainwashing its citizens but also US geopolitical tit for tat goin on here. Feel for innocent ukraine people


by: Patrick from: Ca
August 14, 2014 4:32 AM
Did Russia "seize it, or did they vote to join Russia?

In Response

by: Charles from: USA
August 15, 2014 1:04 PM
That depends on your perspective. Masked men wearing military uniforms without insignia driving Russian plated trucks set up road blocks and seized key buildings. The elected officials in Crimea were replaced by the masked unmarked gunmen. Russian soldiers surrounded and took Ukrainian military bases and equipment. Then there was a hasty referendum with no real international oversight with only 2 options available join Russia or be autonomous. With unmarked Russian soldiers occupying Crimea and Russia promising higher pensions, tourism, and many other things in addition to allowing Russian citizens living and working in Crimea to vote.

Sounds like it was occupied and seized to me. But to some people the lack of bloodshed means it was the will of the people.

In Response

by: Matt from: STL
August 15, 2014 7:00 AM
They were voting to leave their central government, so why would they need its approval? It was legitimate because they have the right to govern themsleves. I've also yet to see any images or video of "masked men" forcing the Crimeans to vote a certain way. That is nonsense. The video of troops standing around doesn't cut it because there is no context.

In Response

by: Anonymous
August 15, 2014 3:57 AM
Maidan wasn't a vote. Crimea is finally free of Ukraine, as should much if not all of so-called east Ukraine. What was good for Bosnians should be good for separatist "Ukrainians"!

In Response

by: ron from: vegas
August 14, 2014 9:56 PM
So if we follow your logic,if folks in los Angeles vote to join Mexico then US goverment should allow it ?

In Response

by: Hal from: Canada
August 14, 2014 4:30 PM
Technically they voted, however the choices were as follows;

1.) lets leave the ukraine and join russia now
2.) lets leave the ukraine and join russia at some point in the future

In Response

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 14, 2014 3:58 PM
Russia seize it forcefully to make them vote for Russia ,elections under masked men not from the country is a Joke.

In Response

by: raf delm from: USA
August 14, 2014 3:03 PM
Yes Russia seized Crimea. Which central govt of any country approved the voting?

In Response

by: Ivan from: Brooklyn
August 14, 2014 7:48 AM
Not a legitimate vote.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid