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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs