News / Europe

    US Airborne Lands in Eastern Europe as Ukraine Tensions Rise

    First company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, Poland, April 23, 2014.
    First company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, Poland, April 23, 2014.
    VOA News
    U.S. Army paratroopers landed Wednesday in Poland, at the start of military maneuvers aimed at easing anxieties in allied eastern European countries alarmed at Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

    The Pentagon said the exercises, slated to last about a month, initially involve about 600 troops, including 150 members of an airborne combat team based in Italy. Additional units are set for deployment in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    The troop landing comes one day after Ukraine scrapped a truce and resumed its push against armed pro-Russian separatists occupying buildings in several Ukrainian cities near the Russian border.  Moscow responded to the move with a warning that it will retaliate, if the interests of Russian-speaking citizens in the region come under attack.

    Ukraine's decision to resume what it calls "anti-terrorist" operations came after the discovery of two bodies near the rebel-controlled city of Slovyansk.  

    One of the victims was identified Tuesday as a local member of acting Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov’s political party whose body was said to show signs of torture.

    Truce ended

    Ukraine has formally called off an Easter truce with pro-Russian separatists in the country's east and announced "anti-terrorist operations" are on again.

    First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema told reporters during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that "appropriate steps" will be taken and that results will be seen shortly.

    Yarema said Ukraine has received assurances from the United States that it would not be left alone to face Russian aggression. He expressed hope that the U.S. support will be more substantive.

    Ukraine's interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has already ordered security forces to resume "anti-terrorist" operations in eastern Ukraine. His order came just hours after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden ended a two-day trip to Kiyv Tuesday.

    Watch related video report by VOA's Jeff Custer
     
    Ukraine Resumes Operations Against Pro-Russian Separatistsi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    April 23, 2014 4:43 PM
    Tensions in Ukraine continue to build as the government in Kyiv resumes what it calls "anti-terror" operations against pro-Russian separatists in the east, for which Russia warns it could retaliate, and U.S. troops begin joint exercises in Baltic states. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.

    Moscow threatens retaliation

    In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state television that Russia would retaliate if its legitimate interests or Russians are attacked. He said Moscow's response would be the same as it was in South Ossetia in 2008, which led to a brief war with Georgia.

    Meanwhile, Russian military units on Wednesday conducted drills to rehearse for a parade in the southwestern Rostov region, which borders Ukraine, a spokesman for Russia's southern military district said.

    The spokesman had earlier said that the units in Rostovregion were conducting exercises. Reuters Television footage from the drill showed columns of military vehicles, including jeeps, armored personnel carriers, mobile multiple rocket launchers, and mobile surface-to-airmissile launchers, driving in formation at a military aerodrome.

    Separately, Russia accused Kyiv and the U.S. of distorting an agreement reached in Geneva last week to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and of ignoring what it said were provocative actions by Ukrainian nationalists.
     
    Russia still believes the West is serious about seeking peace in Ukraine but “the facts speak of the opposite,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued Wednesday.

    It repeated Moscow's calls for the immediate withdrawal of Ukrainian military units from southeastern Ukraine and the start of an inclusive dialogue in the former Soviet republic.

    Ukraine says, and many in the West agree, that the separatist unrest is being staged in large part by undercover Russian special forces with the aim of destabilizing Ukraine and creating a pretext for a possible military intervention.

    Ukrainian military moves last week to drive separatists from government buildings they have seized in about a dozen cities and towns failed.

    Pro-Russian gunmen are demanding the right to hold referendums on seceeding from Ukraine and joining Russia. A vote last month in Crimea, which Kyiv and many in West condemned as illegitimate, led to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

    US counters
     
    Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby does not deny the move is the result of what he called "Russia's aggression in Ukraine."
     
    "If there is a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very seriously on the continent of Europe," said Kirby
     
    The bilateral exercises will last about a month. Kirby said new troops will then rotate in for fresh exercises throughout the rest of the year or longer.
     
    Kirby said placing troops on the ground is more than a symbolic gesture. He called for Russia to remove its forces from the border with Ukraine and respect Ukrainian sovereignty.

    Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday conducted military exercises in its south-western Rostov region, which borders Ukraine, a spokesman for Russia's southern military district said.

    The spokesman declined to give details on the drills. However, Reuters Television footage from the exercises showed columns of military vehicles, including jeeps, armored personnel carriers, mobile multiple rocket launchers, and mobile surface-to-air missile launchers, driving in formation at a military aerodrome.
     
    By Western estimates, Russia has about 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. 

    Politician killed

    The resumption of “anti-terrorist” operations by Kyiv was triggered in part by the apparent killing by a pro-Russian mob of a politician of the same party affiliation as Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov.

    Video footage from last Thursday on local news site gorlovka.ua shows angry scenes outside the town hall of Horlivka, between the separatist flashpoint cities of Donetsk and Slovyansk, as town councilman Volodymyr Rybak is manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse.

    Rybak had tried to remove a flag of the separatist Donetsk Republic, the website said.

    Ukraine's Interior Ministry said that after the confrontation Rybak was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage. His body was found on Saturday near Slovyansk.

    He and another, unidentified, man appeared to have been tortured and dumped alive in a river to drown, police concluded.

    Turchynov said that such crimes are being committed "with the full support and connivance of the Russian Federation."

    Gas talks scheduled

    The European Commission said on Wednesday that Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger will meet Slovakian and Ukrainian ministers on Thursday in Bratislava to discuss the possibility of reverse flows to pump gas back to Kyiv.

    The discussions between Oettinger, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan and Slovakian Economy Minister Tomas Malatinsky will take place before another meeting between the Commission, Ukraine and Russia due on Monday on Moscow.

    Russian gas giant Gazprom has said it will turn off supplies to Ukraine next month unless Kyiv pays its outstanding debts.

    Meanwhile, Austria says more sanctions on Russia would only inflame tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.

    ”I would fundamentally support what the German foreign minister [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier made clear again today: that conflict between Russia and Ukraine should not be inflamed by additional sanctions, but on the contrary, that de-escalation is what is required,” chancellor Werner Faymann told reporters after the Austrian government's weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

    Both the EU and the U.S. are considering a third round of sanctions against Russia if it escalates tensions in Ukraine.

    Front-runner crystallizing

    Ukrainian confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko has a chance of winning the May 25 presidential election in the first round, an opinion poll indicated on Wednesday.

    It found 48.4 percent of Ukrainians who planned to vote favored Poroshenko. That is just short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff against the second-placed candidate, who the survey found would be former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 14.0 percent.

    Poroshenko, who sits in parliament as an independent and whose worth is estimated at about $1.3 billion, supported the pro-European uprising which ousted Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February. He served as foreign minister and economy minister in previous governments.

    The new poll of 6,200 people was taken from April 9-16 by four agencies led by the SOCIS Institute in Kyiv. It was conducted in all of Ukraine’s regions, except Crimea.

    Some reporting for this report was contributed by Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Igor from: Russia
    April 24, 2014 9:16 PM
    To Kevin from New York:
    Be careful when dealing with Russia. Instead of slaughtering someone, your whole country may get slaughtered because you are facing a nuclear power, not Iraq or Afganistan.
    In Response

    by: NN
    April 25, 2014 3:09 PM
    I heard that you Russian folks tried to replicate Western society a lot, and that after failure of the Soviet socialist system it has become desirable and prestigious to be "western-like". I believe that's why your oligarchs preferred to send their money and kids to the West too, which you can't probably deny. So why there is so much hatred towards the West now, just because your president told you so?..

    by: Igor from: Russia
    April 24, 2014 12:57 AM
    The US has made a stupid mistake. Do you think that Russia will be afraid of your actions? Never. You only want to turn Ukraine into a second Afganistan, Iraq or Lybia where the whole nation will be in the endless violence.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
    April 24, 2014 11:49 PM
    Do Russia's "interests" in Ukraine include the torture and murder of Ukrainian political figures? Just as Russia is conducting military maneuvers on the border of Ukraine, Poland and its American guests can conduct maneuvers in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. There are many Polish-Americans in the US Army and they bring their historical understanding of the political dynamics of the region. I understand that Polish people have long memories.
    In Response

    by: Kevin from: New York
    April 24, 2014 7:39 PM
    Like it or not, America is coming & we will slaughter many if needed. We are used to it & we will get it done.

    by: gen from: Japan
    April 23, 2014 11:58 PM
    Sorry.Russia has only to help the eastern pro russian ordinary people.

    by: gen from: Japan
    April 23, 2014 11:49 PM
    The separatists seems to change The extremist.They seems to be a extremist like Ukraine nationalists.
    Ukraine interim government ,USA,
    the easten separatists and the ukraine right secters,everybody seems to want Russia to come over the boder of Ukraine.Everybody calls for Russia army.
    But I think Russia don' need use their forces.Both The western and eastern sepratists are terrorists. They will have no
    choice but bloodshed civil war between the twe.The Ukraine would collapse on their way.Russia would not help the extremists and criminals and Ukraine kiev begger govenment.Russia is one of superpowers in the world.They would not touch childish skirmishs in Ukraine. All I think that Russia have to do is to help the western pro-ruusian ordinary people after the collapse of Ukraine.

    by: Joseph Effiong from: uyo - nigeria
    April 23, 2014 10:03 PM
    Russia think it is possible to annex other parts of Ukraine as done to cremia . If all those criminals called pro russia are arrested and unmasked , everyone will know they are all Russia's army but not Ukrainians. USA and EU should stand with Ukraine and give maximum co-operation please. EU should also make u-turn from russian's gas.

    by: daniel from: nigeria
    April 23, 2014 8:59 PM
    my advice to ukrainians and their leaders is that they should only hope in themselves and their millitary capabilities and not in obama because he's simply a sinking sand. they should take syria as an example of obama's sinking nature.

    by: Lazio from: USA
    April 23, 2014 12:37 PM
    Ukrainians want to be a part of EU and friend of USA,but we betrayed them. We just talk imposing ridiculous sanctions on Russia and obviously,Russia doesn't fear it.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 23, 2014 5:02 PM
    They should use the same gas as Putin used in the moscow siege to evict these criminals from Government buildings. If Putin is not backing them he should announce it now... He can not complain either if gas is used to evict them because he used the same gas on civilians in the Moscow Siege which Putin claims was a "Victory". Putin should be telling the Russians in Ukraine that if they don't abide by Ukrainian Laws, to leave Ukraine and go back to Russia, it is NOT Russia's business to enforce Ukrainian laws, or Russias own laws. Russian speaking people in Ukraine are IN UKRAINE so abide by their laws. If they want more from their government do it democratically and diplomatic methods, guns do not sign paperwork.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 23, 2014 4:58 PM
    They most certainly do fear it, but will not show it, it isn't in their interest to show it. Their gas to europe should be cut off effective immediately and that would make their eyes pop out. But europe needs another gas supply... This needs to be done. Put putins money where his mouth is.

    by: KevUSA07 from: Goshen,Ohio
    April 23, 2014 12:03 PM
    Lets not forget communist ate attempting to re-write borders,not America....
    In Response

    by: Lindsey from: US
    April 23, 2014 10:24 PM
    let me guess... you are the beneficiary of some "affirmative action" aren't you..??

    by: david1221
    April 23, 2014 7:26 AM
    United States as always escalate the situation and endangers Poland, where he will be deployed 600 U.S. troops. new Kiev government completely gone mad on U.S. support.

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