Cyclone threatens to disrupt search for missing MH370
April 21, 2014
Australian Navy officer Morgan Macdonald stands in a rigid hull inflatable boat as he observes markers dropped from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion, after an object was sighted in the southern Indian Ocean. – Reuters pic, April 21, 2014.A tropical cyclone was threatening to hamper the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight today, as a submarine drone neared the end of its mission scouring the southern Indian Ocean sea bed with still no sign of wreckage.
The search for flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, has narrowed to a 10 sq km patch of sea floor about 2,000 km west of the Australian city of Perth.
Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments have said a series of sonar signals, or “pings”, traced to the area may have emanated from the plane’s “black box” and present the most credible lead as to its whereabouts.
However no pings have been detected in almost two weeks and authorities now fear that, with the flight data recorder’s battery several weeks past its expected expiry date, the black box may not emit further signals.
A US Navy remote controlled submarine, the Bluefin-21, was on its ninth mission scanning the largely unmapped stretch of sea bed where the pings are believed to have come from, with still no trace found, Australian search officials said today.
“Bluefin-21 has searched approximately two-thirds of the focused underwater search area to date. No contacts of interest have been found to date,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.
MH370 search to be most costly ever at $100 mln: analysts
by Staff Writers Sydney (AFP) April 18, 2014
Malaysia warns of ‘huge’ cost in MH370 search Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 17, 2014 – Malaysia warned Thursday that the cost of the search for flight MH370′s wreckage in the vast depths of the Indian Ocean will be “huge”, the latest sobering assessment by authorities involved in the challenging effort.“When we look at salvaging (wreckage) at a depth of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles), no military out there has the capacity to do it,” Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.”We have to look at contractors, and the cost of that will be huge.”
The search in a remote stretch of ocean far off western Australia was enlivened in the past two weeks by the detection of signals believed to be from the Malaysia Airlines plane’s flight data recorders on the seabed.
But the transmissions have gone silent before they could be pinpointed, raising the spectre of a costly and extensive search of a large swathe of ocean floor at extreme depths.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, which is leading the multi-national search, had earlier warned in an interview published Thursday that an autonomous US Navy sonar device that began scanning the seabed for wreckage on Monday would be given one more week.
If nothing is found, authorities would reassess how next to proceed in the unprecedented mission to find the plane, Abbott said in the Wall Street Journal.
The Bluefin-21 completed its first full scanning mission early Thursday.
An initial attempt was aborted when the sub hit its maximum depth at 4.5 kilometres. A second was cut short by unspecified “technical” troubles.
Hishammuddin said he agreed with Abbott, saying “there will come a time when we need to regroup and reconsider”.
“But in any event, the search will always continue. It’s just a matter of approach,” said Hishammuddin, who did not specify what any alternative approach would be.
Australia’s search chief Angus Houston said earlier this week that authorities already were looking at possible alternative methods, including undersea devices that can go deeper than the Bluefin-21, but he also gave no specifics.
The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people aboard inexplicably veered off its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing course on March 8, and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.
The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is set to be the most expensive in aviation history, analysts say, as efforts to find the aircraft deep under the Indian Ocean show no signs of slowing.
The Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, after veering dramatically off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the sea off Australia.
Australia, which is leading the search in a remote patch of water described as “unknown to man”, has not put a figure on spending, but Malaysia has warned that costs will be “huge”.
“When we look at salvaging (wreckage) at a depth of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles), no military out there has the capacity to do it,” Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Thursday.
“We have to look at contractors, and the cost of that will be huge.”
Ravikumar Madavaram, an aviation expert at Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, said Malaysia, Australia and China, which had the most nationals onboard the flight, were the biggest spenders and estimated the total cost up to now at about US$100 million (72 million euros).
“It’s difficult to say how much is the cost of this operation … but, yes, this is definitely the biggest operation ever (in aviation history).
“In terms of costs this would be the highest,” he told AFP.
- Hopes rest on submersible -
In the first month of the search — in which the South China Sea and Malacca Strait were also scoured by the US, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam — the Pentagon said the United States military had committed US$7.3 million to efforts to find the plane.
Meanwhile the Indian Ocean search, in which assets have also been deployed by Australia, Britain, China, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand, has failed to find anything conclusive.
Hopes rest on a torpedo-shaped US Navy submersible, which is searching the ocean floor at depths of more than 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) in the vicinity of where four signals believed to have come from black box recorders were detected.
David Gleave, an aviation safety researcher at Britain’s Loughborough University, said the costs “will be of the order of a hundred million dollars by the time we’re finished, if we have found it (the plane) now”.
But he said the longer it took to find any wreckage, the more costs would mount because scanning the vast ocean floor “will take a lot of money because you can only search about 50 square kilometres (19 square miles) a day”.
by Staff Writers Perth, Australia (AFP) April 18, 2014
The mini-sub searching for missing flight MH370 has reached record depths well beyond its normal operating limits, officials said Friday as it dived on its fifth seabed mission.
With no results to show since the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people disappeared on March 8, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has set a one-week deadline to locate the plane which is believed to have crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Perth.
Searchers have extended the hunt beyond the normal 4,500 metre (15,000 feet) depth range of the US Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Bluefin-21.
“The AUV reached a record depth of 4,695 meters during mission four,” the US Navy said. “This is the first time the Bluefin-21 has descended to this depth.
“Diving to such depths does carry with it some residual risk to the equipment and this is being carefully monitored,” a statement said.
Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) announced that the mini-sub had been deployed on a new mission as operations run round the clock.
“Data analysis from the fourth mission did not provide any contacts of interest,” it added.
The unmanned Bluefin-21 which maps the seafloor by sonar, has searched 110 square kilometres (43 square miles) to date, JACC said.
The UAV, which hit a technical snag on Tuesday had also re-surfaced Monday after breaching a pre-programmed maximum depth of 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles).
JACC said Thursday night that the US manufacturer of the UAV, Phoenix International, had advised the risk was “acceptable”.
“This expansion of the operating parameters allows the Bluefin-21 to search the sea floor within the predicted limits of the current search area,” it said.
The Malaysia Airlines jet is believed to have crashed in the ocean after mysteriously vanishing while en route between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
Hopes for finding the plane have focused on the Bluefin-21 after signals believed to be from the plane’s flight data recorders on the seabed fell silent in recent days.
The submersible is being deployed from an Australian vessel to scan an uncharted seafloor at extreme depths, but Abbott said the Bluefin-21 would be given about a week as questions are asked about the massive costs.
FAMILY members of passengers lost on missing Malaysia Airlines 370 have criticised the Malaysian government for an investigation they say has been mismanaged.
Appearing on US morning television, Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of Flight 370 American passenger Philip Wood, told Today host Matt Lauer passengers’ loved ones all just “wanted to go back to square one”.
“We just don’t believe they’re using proper evaluative techniques to check the data,” she said. “It’s day 45 and we’re basically on the same position we were on on the first day.”
We don’t know anything for sure,” she said. “We want to go back and start over again, but with new people looking at the information.”
Ms Bajc sent an email to the media, on behalf of “the united families of MH370”, detailing their complaints and concerns.
Despair … Sarah Bajc with her boyfriend Philip Wood, who was a passenger on missing Malaysian flight MH370. Picture: FacebookSource: Supplied
Among their grievances is the suggestion by the government it issues death certificates or pay compensation before the plane is found.
“Until they have proof, they have an obligation to make regular prepayments to the families in need, and they have an obligation to exert themselves beyond dozing and snickering in resolving this case,” the email says.
The families say they are gaining strength and prepared to get noisier in their criticisms. The letter signs of “WE ARE IN UTTER OUTRAGE, DESPAIR AND SHOCK!”
The Acting Minister of Transport in Malaysia has posted a comment to Twitter that he hopes to discuss with Angus Houston the status of the remaining third of the search area being combed by the Bluefin-21 unmanned submersible.
I personally hope 2 discuss with Angus Houston on status of remaining 1/3 of area covered by the Blue Fin 21 soon @aikmalismail@mykamarul
Japan said Friday it would redesign its controversial Antarctic whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific, after a United Nations court ruled it was a commercial hunt masquerading as research.
The bullish response, which could see harpoon ships back in the Southern Ocean next year, sets Tokyo back on a collision course with environmentalists.
Campaigners had hailed the decision by the International Court of Justice, with hopes that it might herald the end of a practice they view as barbaric.
“We will carry out extensive studies in cooperation with ministries concerned to submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict,” said Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
Japan, a member of the IWC, has hunted whales under a loophole allowing for lethal research. It has always maintained that it was intending to prove the whale population was large enough to sustain commercial hunting.
But it never hid the fact that the by-product of whale meat made its way onto menus.
“The verdict confirmed that the (IWC moratorium) is partly aimed at sustainable use of whale resources.
“Following this, our country will firmly maintain its basic policy of conducting whaling for research, on the basis of international law and scientific foundations, to collect scientific data necessary for the regulation of whale resources, and aim for resumption of commercial whaling.”
Hayashi, who had met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier in the day, confirmed a previous announcement that the 2014-15 hunt in the Southern Ocean would not go ahead.
Last month’s court ruling does not apply to Japan’s two other whaling programmes: a “research” hunt in coastal waters and in the northwestern Pacific, and a much smaller programme that operates along the coast, which is not subject to the international ban.
Japanese officials dine on whale in protest against court ruling
Hundreds of Japanese officials and pro-whaling lobbyists have eaten whale in defiance of a international court ruling that ordered the country to stop its Antarctic whaling program.
SBS with AAP
UPDATED 2:05 PM – 16 Apr 2014
The 26th whale meat tasting event in Tokyo was hosted near the nation’s parliament and was attended by lawmakers, officials and pro-whaling lobbyists.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told attendees that the country must protect its whale-eating culture.
“[Japan] has a policy of harvesting and sustainably using the protein source from the ocean, and that is unshakable,” Associated Press quoted Mr Hayashi as saying.
Meanwhile, a lower house MP criticised the arguments against whaling as emotional and not based on reason.
“Japan’s whaling is based on scientific reasons, while counterarguments by anti-whaling groups are emotional, saying they are against the hunts because whales are cute or smart,” the Japan Times reported Shunichi Suzuki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as saying.
Japan has decided to continue its whaling program in the Pacific Ocean, reports say, despite losing a United Nations court case on its other “research” hunt in the Antarctic.
If confirmed, the move will likely spark anger among environmentalists who hailed a ruling in March by the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Tokyo’s hunt in the Southern Ocean was a commercial activity disguised as science.
Japan has exploited a loophole in a 1986 moratorium that allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals, but has openly admitted their meat makes its way onto dinner tables.
Campaigners urged Tokyo to follow the spirit of the ruling, and not just its letter, which specifically referred to Japan’s hunt in the Antarctic, not its other research scheme in the northwest Pacific or its smaller coastal program.
But after the ICJ verdict, a government review has said the Pacific hunt should press ahead, public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News Agency reported on Friday.
The review suggests the Pacific mission should reduce its catch and focus more on carrying out research that does not involve catching whales.
A spokesman for the fisheries agency said he was unable to comment.
Employees stand near pipes made for the South Stream pipeline at the OMK metal works in Vyksa in the Nizhny Novgorod region, April 15, 2014.
April 16, 2014
ISTANBUL — Russia’s controversial South Stream pipeline, which would transport gas via the Black Sea into Europe towards the end of the decade, received support from Turkey on Wednesday when Ankara said it may let the conduit pass through its territory.
Turkey would consider granting access for the line if Moscow made such a request, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.
The subject is one of a series of issues including increased gas supply, gas price revisions and nuclear power that Turkey and Russia are set to discuss during talks in Ankara next week, according to Turkish officials.
The future of the 2,400-km (1,490-mile) line from Russia via the Black Sea to Bulgaria and from there further into the European Union, avoiding Ukraine, has been cast into doubt because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis has intensified EU efforts to reduce energy dependence on Russia, while Moscow has long sought to curb its reliance on Ukraine as the main pipeline route for sending Russian gas to Europe, its biggest market.
The European commissioner for energy, Guenther Oettinger, said in March that discussions with Russia over South Stream’s regulatory approval in the European Union were on hold.
The EU delay could offer an opportunity to Turkey, where gas demand is rising fast.
“We are open to assessing any request for the line to pass through Turkey’s territory,” Yildiz told reporters when asked about South Stream.
“It is said that there could be such a demand. If there is a request, we will consider it,” said Yildiz, due to hold talks with Alexander Medvedev, deputy head of Russian state-controlled Gazprom, in Ankara on Monday.
South Stream would carry around 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to Europe towards the end of the decade, enough to meet more than 10 percent of its annual demand.
Officials said Russia’s annexation of Crimea created a risk for Turkey, noting 12.5 percent of its gas supplies passed through Ukraine, and that steps to prevent a supply problem could be on the agenda next week.
In a letter to European leaders last week, President Vladimir Putin warned Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.
To eliminate such transit risk for Turkey, Ankara proposes to have South Stream enter land in the Thrace region of northwest Turkey rather than Bulgaria, to avoid routing it directly from Russia into an EU country.
“That way Russia will be able to feed directly with the line the Marmara region of Turkey, which has the highest level of consumption,” said an analyst, who declined to be identified.
The construction of a second Blue Stream pipeline, complementing an existing one that runs under the Black Sea from Russia to central Turkey, could also come onto the agenda soon, sources close to the matter said.
by Staff Writers Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 18, 2014
Malaysia and Australia will sign a deal specifying who handles any wreckage from missing flight MH370 that may be recovered, including the crucial “black box” flight data recorders, local media reported Friday.
Malaysia is drafting the agreement “to safeguard both nations from any legal pitfalls that may surface during that (recovery) phase,” the New Straits Times reported.
The government hopes the deal can be finalised soon and endorsed in a Cabinet meeting next week. Canberra is studying the memorandum of understanding, it said.
“The MoU spells out exactly who does what and the areas of responsibility,” civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying.
Azharuddin added that Malaysia would lead most of the investigation, with Australia and others helping. Details of the MoU will not be made public, the report said.
Azharuddin and other officials could not immediately be reached by AFP.
The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people inexplicably veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean far off western Australia.
But a massive international search has failed to turn up any wreckage so far.
The United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union together called on Thursday for an immediate halt to violence in Ukraine, where Western powers believe Russia is fomenting a pro-Russian separatist movement.
Washington immediately warned Moscow that it would face further sanctions if it did not carry out the agreement, reached in four-party crisis talks in Geneva.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in Moscow, accused Ukraine’s leaders of committing a “grave crime” by using the army to try to quell unrest in the east of the country, and did not rule out sending in Russian troops.
Putin said he hoped he would not need to take such a step, and that diplomacy could succeed in resolving the standoff, the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.
The comments came hours after separatists attacked a Ukrainian national guard base overnight and Kiev said three of them were killed in the worst bloodshed yet in a 10-day pro-Russian uprising.
Ukrainian, Russian and Western diplomats held emergency talks seeking to resolve a confrontation that has seen pro-Russian fighters seize official buildings across eastern Ukraine while Moscow masses tens of thousands of troops on the frontier.
“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions,” a joint statement issued after the Geneva talks said.
“All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated,” it added.
“It will be a test for Russia, if Russia wants really to show willing to have stability in these regions,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia.
It was unclear if Russia would meet Western demands for it to stop stirring unrest in the east and withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. Moscow denies it is active in Ukraine.
There was scepticism over whether the agreement could work.
“Diplomacy cannot succeed if there is no room for compromise,” said Ulrich Speck, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The Kremlin is dedicated to get Ukraine under its control, one way or another. It feels that it has well advanced on that goal, and is not ready to back down. The West simply cannot agree to those conditions.”
US Secretary of States John Kerry said there would be additional sanctions on Russia if it did not act to calm tensions in Ukraine.
“If there is not progress over the course of these next days, and we don’t see a movement in the right direction, then there will be additional sanctions, additional costs as a consequence,” Kerry told reporters.
The United States and European Union have so far imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a small number of Russian individuals, a response that Moscow has openly mocked. However, the Western states say they are now contemplating measures that could hurt Russia’s economy more broadly.
KIEV, Ukraine — An American-backed deal to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine fell flat on Friday as pro-Russian militants vowed to stay in occupied government buildings, dashing hopes of a swift end to an insurgency that the authorities in Kiev portray as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to put Ukraine’s industrial heartland under Russian control.
But the agreement, reached in Geneva on Thursday by diplomats from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, appeared to arrest, at least temporarily, the momentum of separatist unrest in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Armed pro-Russian militants, who have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6, paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the populous Donetsk region.
It was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to leave the buildings they had seized. So far, it has shown no inclination to do so, blaming the Ukrainian government for the turmoil and denying that Russia has any ties to the rebels.
With militants vowing to ignore the agreement but halting what had been a daily expansion of territory under their control, officials in Kiev, the capital, voiced some hope that a settlement was still possible. They were skeptical, however, about Russia’s willingness to push the separatists to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.
“If Russia is responsible before not just Ukraine but the world community, it should prove it,” said Andrii Deshchytsia, the acting Ukrainian foreign minister, who took part in the Geneva talks.
Western officials said the United States planned to reassure Eastern European members of NATO by conducting company-size — about 150 soldiers — ground force exercises in Estonia and Poland. The exercises would last a couple of weeks and would most likely be followed by other troop rotations in the region.
In a sign of the chasm separating Russian and Ukrainian views, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday that made no mention of the pro-Russian militants driving the unrest. It said the call for militants to disarm “meant in the first place” the disarming of Ukrainian nationalist groups hostile to Russia, like Right Sector “and other pro-fascist groups which took part in the February coup in Kiev.”
The state-run Russian television channel, Rossiya, reporting from an occupied building in Horlivka in the Donetsk region, featured a masked gunman who pledged to “fight to the end for his convictions.” He displayed an armband emblazoned with a swastika-like symbol, which he said had been seized from supporters of the Ukrainian government.
Doubts about the Kremlin’s readiness to push pro-Russian militants to surrender their guns have been strengthened by its insistence that it has no hand in or control over the separatist unrest, which Washington and Kiev believe is the result of a covert Russian operation involving, in some places, the direct action of special forces.
“I don’t know Russia’s intentions,” Mr. Deshchytsia said, noting that during the negotiations, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had repeatedly asserted “that Russia was not involved.” He said Mr. Lavrov had been “cooperative and aggressive at the same time.”
Russia’s denials have stirred concerns that it went along with the agreement not to curb the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, but to blunt American and European calls for tougher sanctions that could severely damage Russia’s already sickly economy. Western sanctions have so far been limited to a travel ban and asset freeze on a few dozen individuals and a Russian bank.
Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Lavrov on Friday and urged Russia to ensure “full and immediate compliance” with the agreement, a senior State Department official said. Mr. Kerry, the official added, “made clear that the next few days would be a pivotal period for all sides to implement the statement’s provisions, particularly that all illegal armed groups must be disarmed and all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners.”
In Ukraine, Pro-Russia Radicals Reject Call To Leave Occupied Buildings
April 18, 2014
Pro-Russia radicals occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine say they will only leave if the pro-Western government in Kyiv resigns.
Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the radicals in Donetsk, told reporters on April 18 that he did not consider his men bound by a compromise agreement between Russia and Ukraine to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.
The agreement was reached at four-party talks on April 17 in Geneva also involving the United States and the European Union.
Pushilin said the government in Kyiv was illegitimate and also must vacate public buildings that he said it was occupying illegally.
Local media reports on April 18 said none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine had yet been vacated.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament on April 18 that the government had drafted a law that would offer an amnesty to insurgents who would lay down their arms and leave the occupied buildings.
EU spy chief rules out Russian military presence in Ukraine
Published time: April 16, 2014 13:27
Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)
There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.
In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.
“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.
Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.
Anti-Kiev activists in the southeast of Ukraine have seized local government buildings as a mark of protest against the coup-appointed Ukrainian government. In response to the unrest, Ukraine’s interim President Aleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine.
Dozens of Ukrainian troops surrender APCs in Slavyansk, refuse to ‘shoot at own people’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Published time: April 16, 2014 14:21
Edited time: April 16, 2014 20:18
Men wearing military fatigues sit by a Russian flag and a white flag reading “People’s volunteer corps of Donetsk” as they ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)
Dozens of army troops sent to the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk for an “anti-terrorist operation” refused to follow orders and surrendered their weapons and armored vehicles. Some troops openly voiced support for the eastern Ukrainians.
Meanwhile, the anti-government activists guarding the armored vehicles have said that they did not “seize” them as the media claimed, and that the troops “switched sides” peacefully.
“They were not seized by the self-defense forces. In fact, the Ukrainian troops arrived here flying a Russian flag. In this way, they have taken the side of the people,” a Slavyansk activist told Russia-24 TV.
Photos from the scene now show women and children climbing onto the APCs and taking photos with the armed men in camouflage with St. George ribbons.
A Ukrainian soldier interviewed by RIA Novosti in Slavyansk said the troops were told they are being sent against “Russian invaders who have taken the local population hostage and are waging war at us,” and that they must “free Donbas from occupants.”
“This morning, we started our attack, but the picture we saw in Kramatorsk turned out to be completely different. We saw in front of us a crowd of locals, mostly adults, women and men. They explained to us that there are no occupants here and there is no one to fight. Instead, they gave us food and talked to us,” the soldier was quoted as saying.
He added that the troops vowed “not to follow orders to shoot at these people.” Some soldiers chose to take the side of the locals, some decided to stay “neutral.” They are now “waiting what comes next.”
Photo from Twitter/@oivshina
Similar developments were also seen in another Donetsk region city, Kramatorsk, where Ukrainian troops began entering Tuesday after taking a nearby airfield by force, captured a day earlier by armed self-defense activists.
As Ukrainian armored vehicles rolled into the city’s center Wednesday, they were surrounded by locals and surrendered. Some of the APCs were filmed flying Russian flags in support of the locals. Kiev eventually confirmed that six APCs were taken away in Kramatorsk but claimed that they were “captured by the extremists.” Earlier, coup-imposed Kiev officials dismissed the news as “fake” and even claimed that by raising Russian flags the troops “infiltrated” the areas “controlled by Russian Army units and separatists.”
In the village of Pchyolkino, south of Kramatorsk, locals blocked part of a large convoy of armored vehicles. The people are demanding that the troops turn back their vehicles and leave for Dnepropetrovsk, where they are stationed.
Local residents trying to block troops on APCs in the same region were filmed showing bullets that they say were fired by the Ukrainian military as warning shots but in the direction of the people. At least one person was injured by such warning shots, according to reports.
Kyiv,April15. /ITAR-TASS/. Fighter shot downover Kramatorsk Airport . Reported byeyewitnesses on the scene.
In particular, they report thatfourfighter jets flew overKramatorskom, the Su-27, allegedlyopened fire overthe localairfield.Whose aircraftand whois responsible for the fighter jet is still unknown.Witnessesnoted that an ambulance arrived on the scene to tend to victims on the airfield.
Newspaper,“Newsof Kramatorsk”, reports that three were circlingover the airfield. According to information, a group ofpeople had gathered nearthe aerodrome, someof them incamouflage uniforms, manylocal residentswith children.According to preliminary data, shootinginthe aerodrome areawoundedone person.
About500troops with military equipment entered Slavyansk
Witnesses reportthattroopshad landedin the terminal area, there are no more details available at this time.
The situationin Ukraine.Chronicle of events. 15April
DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian militants attacked police stations and other security facilities in the most populous part of eastern Ukraine on Saturday, in a brush fire of violent unrest that the government in Kiev immediately denounced as Russian “aggression.”
The attacks on the Police Headquarters here and on a police station and a state security branch in Slovyansk about 60 miles away, along with reports of shooting in several other towns, suggested a coordinated campaign to destabilize the Donetsk region, a vitally important industrial and coal-mining area that borders Russia.
A local journalist on the scene said the raid on the police station appeared to be the work of local pro-Russian militants rather than a repeat of the scenario in Crimea, where heavily armed Russian soldiers without markings on their uniforms seized control of airports and other vital installations in late February at the start of a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to annex the region.
In Donetsk, the regional capital, a group of unarmed pro-Moscow activists tried to storm a prosecutor’s office, but were beaten back by riot police. A few blocks away, several hundred people gathered outside the headquarters of the regional administration to cheer pro-Russian groups that seized the building last Sunday and declared an independent state, the People’s Republic of Donetsk. Ukrainian authorities vowed on Wednesday to end the occupation, by force if necessary, by Friday but later backed away from this threat, hoping that government promises of more local autonomy for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions might resolve the standoff.
But there was no sign Saturday of the protesters ending their occupation. Instead, they reinforced their defensive barricades and welcomed several dozen Cossacks in military uniforms to their ranks.
Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, called an emergency meeting late Saturday of the country’s national security council to discuss the escalating crisis in the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country. Fears that the government is losing control have been fueled by the militants’ seizing of a large number of weapons over the last week. Some 300 automatic rifles were taken from the Donetsk offices of the state security service after it was briefly taken over by pro-Russian protesters last weekend, and according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, 400 Makarov handguns and 20 automatic weapons were looted on Saturday from the police station in Slovyansk, which had been seized. “The goal of the takeover was the guns,” the ministry said.
The demands of the pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine keep shifting between outright secession and greater autonomy within Ukraine. But calls for unity with Russia now seem to predominate, heightening concerns in the West that Moscow is orchestrating the disorder to create a pretext for an invasion. Russian troops have been massed for weeks near the Ukrainian border.
Kiev government to deploy troops in Ukraine’s east
4:01 PM Monday Apr 14, 2014
Armed pro-Russian activist stands at a makeshift checkpoint at the entrance into the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk. Photo / AP
Turning to force to try to restore its authority in the vital industrial east, Ukraine’s government announced it was sending in troops to try to quash an increasingly brazen pro-Russian insurgency, despite repeated warnings from the Kremlin.
Accusing Moscow of fomenting the unrest, Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a televised address that such a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” would ensure Russia did not “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” Turchynov pledged to offer amnesty to anyone surrendering their weapons by Monday morning (local time).
Reliance on the military is a response that hints at concerns over the reliability of the police, who have often proven unable or unwilling to repel pro-Russian gunmen and other Moscow loyalists from seizing key state facilities.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s eastern border, there are fears that Moscow might use unrest in the mainly Russian-speaking region as a pretext for an invasion.
Speaking late Sunday on Russian state television, ousted president Viktor Yanukovych accused the CIA of being behind the new government’s decision to turn to force, a claim the CIA denied as “completely false.”
Yanukovych claimed that CIA director John Brennan met with Ukraine’s new leadership and “in fact sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed.”
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said that while the agency doesn’t comment on Brennan’s travel itinerary, the “claim that director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false.”
Ukraine now has “one foot into a civil war,” Yanukovych declared, flanked by his former prosecutor general and interior minister, the two associates most despised by the protesters whose monthslong demonstrations were ignited by Yanukovych’s decision to back away from closer relations with the European Union and turn toward Russia. Yanukovych fled to Russia in February, saying he feared for his life.
Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia outside the eastern city of Slovyansk – the first reported gunbattle in the east, where armed pro-Russian men have seized a number of key government buildings to press their demands for referendums on autonomy and possible annexation by Russia, following the pattern set by the vote in Crimea last month. A Ukrainian security officer was killed and at least two others wounded.
Calling such attacks a “Russian aggression,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post Sunday that special forces of up to 12,000 people will be drawn from volunteers who will be tasked with resisting attacks from pro-Russian forces in their local areas.
A prolonged and increasingly vicious confrontation in eastern Ukraine has turned into armed conflict as Ukrainian troops used helicopter gunships to seize back an airport that had been held by pro-Russian militiamen.
The attack at Kramatorsk came as ground forces with armour gathered around Slovyansk, which had become a symbolic stronghold for well-armed separatists.
At Kramatorsk, two of the aircraft carried out strafing runs, before two others landed troops. Four people were believed to have been injured, but claims of people killed, some of them civilians, could not be verified.
A stand-off developed afterwards, when protesters unfurled a banner saying “Shame on you! Go back home” and shouting while the soldiers fired in the air. Eight miles away the residents of Slovyansk marched towards their own small airstrip. They were, they stated, doing so to protect it from “fascists and Nazis” being flown in from the west of the country.
The outbreak of fighting raised deep trepidation that Ukraine, which has already lost Crimea to the Kremlin, could be entering into a civil war which may lead to the intervention of Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly declared that he was prepared to act to protect ethnic Russians across the border.
The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, warned “Ukraine is on the brink of civil war”, adding that he hoped the Kiev administration had “enough brains” to avoid a catastrophic escalation. He blamed the government in Kiev for creating a situation where people felt they had no choice but to rise up for their rights.
Key installations in 10 cities have now slipped out of the control of Kiev and into the hands of protesters who are demanding a referendum on the future of the country. Repeated ultimatums for the gunmen to surrender have been ignored, severely damaging the credibility of the government.
As evening fell the office of Ukraine’s acting President, Olexander Turchynov, announced that the airfield had been captured in an “anti-terrorist operation”. There were also claims that a number of public buildings in the region had been retaken; but there was no immediate verification of that on the ground.
The operation at Kramatorsk appeared to be aimed at providing a landing site for positioning forces on one approach to Slovyansk.
Airborne forces, along with Ministry of Interior police units, were at Kamianka, near Izyum, south east of Kiev, with armoured personnel carriers, light artillery and transport helicopters. Further back, an armoured bulldozer for clearing barricades had been parked near a hotel. General Vasily Krutov, commander of Ukraine’s security service, SBU, was in no doubt about the need for action or the identity of the enemy.
Russia came under heavy criticism from world powers at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council Sunday, as violent clashes flared between pro-Russia separatists and Kyiv government supporters in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant accused Russia of orchestrating the violence.
Power said the instability in Ukraine was “completely man-made.” She said it was “written and choreographed” by Russia. Grant called on the Security Council to warn Russia against “further military escalation.”
Russia, which called the meeting, rejected the charges.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on the international community to demand that those who are in power in Kyiv stop war on their own citizens, referring to a warning by Ukraine’s government that it will use force against pro-Russia activists in the eastern part of Ukraine if they do not disarm.
In a televised speech Sunday, Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, vowed Kyiv will not let Russia take over eastern Ukraine after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula last month.
He said he will grant amnesty to any pro-Russian separatists who lay down their weapons by Monday but vowed to use force against those who don’t.
Turchynov accused Moscow of carrying out a war against Ukraine, once part of its Soviet empire.
“Blood has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation unleashed against Ukraine. The aggressor has not stopped but continues to incite unrest in Ukraine’s east. It’s not a war between Ukrainians; it’s an artificially created confrontation, whose goal is to see Ukraine weakened and destroyed as a country. But in the end it will weaken our enemies. Russia today has drawn condemnation from the entire civilized world,” said Turchynov.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry immediately dismissed Turchynov’s order to launch the operation as “criminal” and called for its immediate review by the U.N. Security Council. A meeting is set for Sunday night.
Pro-Russia demonstrators on Monday defied a government deadline to vacate occupied buildings in exchange for amnesty, as Ukraine’s interim president threatened a military crackdown.
Dozens of protesters smashed windows of the police headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka and scuffled with police as they took control of the facility.
Obama, Putin to continue diplomacy
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged U.S. President Barack Obama to discourage the Ukrainian government from using force against protesters.
During a phone conversation Monday with Obama, the Russian leader denied claims of Russian agents’ involvement in the protests as “speculations based on unreliable information.” Putin said the protests vented public anger about the Ukrainian government’s reluctance to recognize the interests of Russian speakers in the east.
The Kremlin said it had requested the call. The White House said the call was frank and direct.
The White House said Obama urged Russia to use its influence to get separatists in the country to stand down.
“The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized,” the White House said in a statement.
The two sides agreed to continue efforts to seek diplomatic cooperation in the context of the Ukrainian situation ahead of a four-party meeting (EU, Russia, U.S. and Ukraine) scheduled to take place in Geneva on April 17.
Demanding a referendum
The demonstrators are demanding a referendum on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia – similar to last month’s vote in Crimea.
Donetsk, a province with 4.3 million people – 10 percent of Ukraine’s population – and much of its heavy industry, is the biggest prize of the eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have captured government buildings in the past week.
Ukrainian leader Oleksandr Turchynov said he is not against a national referendum on what kind of country Ukraine should be. He said he is certain a majority would support a united and independent Ukraine, possibly giving broader localized rights to the east. He said such a vote could be held at the same time as the May 25 presidential election.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday he believes Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country should be part of drafting a new constitution.
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