Category: Ukraine
By indulging Ukraine’s claims to Crimea, West is encouraging country’s ‘neo-Nazi’ government policy, thunders Russian FM Lavrov
worker | August 13, 2021 | 6:44 pm | Fascist terrorism, Russia, Ukraine | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/531866-lavrov-zelensky-summit-control-crimea/

By indulging Ukraine’s claims to Crimea, West is encouraging country’s ‘neo-Nazi’ government policy, thunders Russian FM Lavrov

By indulging Ukraine's claims to Crimea, West is encouraging country's ‘neo-Nazi’ government policy, thunders Russian FM Lavrov
Moscow’s top diplomat has reacted angrily to news that representatives of more than two dozen nations will attend a summit called by Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to discuss how Kiev can now reassert control over Crimea.

Speaking to a group of young people involved with an art collective based on the disputed peninsula on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the West’s support was pushing Zelensky to be more and more extreme in pursuit of his policy goals. The ‘Crimean Platform’ forum, he said, “will continue to nurture the neo-Nazi and racist mentality of the current Ukrainian government.”

Blasting the participation of foreign attendees, he said that the US, EU and other supporters of Kiev’s claims were behaving “shamefully.” At least 37 states are expected to send delegates to the event, which will be timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union on August 24.

ALSO ON RT.COMEXCLUSIVE: Ultranationalist organizations are radicalizing Ukraine’s young people, and the Kiev government is paying them for itIn April, Lavrov’s official spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, argued that Ukraine was recklessly indulging far-right sentiments to prop up its government and strengthen anti-Russian feeling. Speaking after demonstrators at a march in Kiev raised banners and carried flowers to commemorate the SS Galicia division, raised from Ukrainian levies to fight alongside Nazi Germany, Zakharova said government policy was an “insult” to those who had died in World War II.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed concern at the time over the celebration of a unit that had been, it said, “involved in some of the worst crimes that took place during the Holocaust.”

In December, an RT investigation found that Kiev’s Ministry of Youth and Sports was handing over cash to far-right groups to run children’s camps, in which young people could be at risk of indoctrination. Annual military-style camps see teenagers fighting hand-to-hand, lighting flares and marching in formation. The organizers of one camp, linked to Nazi-sympathizing political organizations, said that the participation of their graduates in fighting in eastern Ukraine was proof their method was working to engender a sense of “patriotism.”

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On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians
worker | July 19, 2021 | 6:29 pm | Russia, Ukraine, USSR, Vladimir Putin | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202107121083375385-on-the-historical-unity-of-russians-and-ukrainians/

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During the recent Direct Line, when I was asked about Russian-Ukrainian relations, I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole.

These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe. I therefore feel it necessary to explain my position in detail and share my assessments of today’s situation.

First of all, I would like to emphasize that the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy. These are, first and foremost, the consequences of our own mistakes made at different periods of time.

But these are also the result of deliberate efforts by those forces that have always sought to undermine our unity. The formula they apply has been known from time immemorial – divide and rule. There is nothing new here. Hence the attempts to play on the “national question” and sow discord among people, the overarching goal being to divide and then to pit the parts of a single people against one another.

Russia Putin Direct Line
© SPUTNIK / SERGEI SAVOSTYANOV
Russia Putin Direct Line

To have a better understanding of the present and look into the future, we need to turn to history. Certainly, it is impossible to cover in this article all the developments that have taken place over more than a thousand years. But I will focus on the key, pivotal moments that are important for us to remember, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe. Slavic and other tribes across the vast territory – from Ladoga, Novgorod, and Pskov to Kiev and Chernigov – were bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox faith. The spiritual choice made by St. Vladimir, who was both Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, still largely determines our affinity today.

The throne of Kiev held a dominant position in Ancient Rus. This had been the custom since the late 9th century. The Tale of Bygone Years captured for posterity the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kiev, “Let it be the mother of all Russian cities”.

Kiev-Pechora Monastery
© SPUTNIK / SERGEY PYATAKOV
Kiev-Pechora Monastery

Later, like other European states of that time, Ancient Rus faced a decline of central rule and fragmentation. At the same time, both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a common territory, as their homeland.

The fragmentation intensified after Batu Khan’s devastating invasion, which ravaged many cities, including Kiev. The northeastern part of Rus fell under the control of the Golden Horde but retained limited sovereignty. The southern and western Russian lands largely became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which – most significantly – was referred to in historical records as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia.

Members of the princely and “boyar” clans would change service from one prince to another, feuding with each other but also making friendships and alliances. Voivode Bobrok of Volyn and the sons of Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas – Andrey of Polotsk and Dmitry of Bryansk – fought next to Grand Duke Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow on the Kulikovo field. At the same time, Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila – son of the Princess of Tver – led his troops to join with Mamai. These are all pages of our shared history, reflecting its complex and multi-dimensional nature.

Most importantly, people both in the western and eastern Russian lands spoke the same language. Their faith was Orthodox. Up to the middle of the 15th century, the unified church government remained in place.

At a new stage of historical development, both Lithuanian Rus and Moscow Rus could have become the points of attraction and consolidation of the territories of Ancient Rus. It so happened that Moscow became the center of reunification, continuing the tradition of ancient Russian statehood. Moscow princes – the descendants of Prince Alexander Nevsky – cast off the foreign yoke and began gathering the Russian lands.

Monument chapel near church of Alexander Nevsky in Ust-Izhora (fragment)
Monument chapel near church of Alexander Nevsky in Ust-Izhora (fragment)

In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, other processes were unfolding. In the 14th century, Lithuania’s ruling elite converted to Catholicism. In the 16th century, it signed the Union of Lublin with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Polish Catholic nobility received considerable land holdings and privileges in the territory of Rus. In accordance with the 1596 Union of Brest, part of the western Russian Orthodox clergy submitted to the authority of the Pope. The process of Polonization and Latinization began, ousting Orthodoxy.

As a consequence, in the 16–17th centuries, the liberation movement of the Orthodox population was gaining strength in the Dnieper region. The events during the times of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky became a turning point. His supporters struggled for autonomy from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In its 1649 appeal to the king of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Zaporizhian Host demanded that the rights of the Russian Orthodox population be respected, that the voivode of Kiev be Russian and of Greek faith, and that the persecution of the churches of God be stopped. But the Cossacks were not heard.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky then made appeals to Moscow, which were considered by the Zemsky Sobor. On 1 October 1653, members of the supreme representative body of the Russian state decided to support their brothers in faith and take them under patronage. In January 1654, the Pereyaslav Council confirmed that decision. Subsequently, the ambassadors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Moscow visited dozens of cities, including Kiev, whose populations swore allegiance to the Russian tsar. Incidentally, nothing of the kind happened at the conclusion of the Union of Lublin.

In a letter to Moscow in 1654, Bohdan Khmelnytsky thanked Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich for taking “the whole Zaporizhian Host and the whole Russian Orthodox world under the strong and high hand of the Tsar”. It means that, in their appeals to both the Polish king and the Russian tsar, the Cossacks referred to and defined themselves as Russian Orthodox people.

Entrance of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Kyiv
Entrance of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Kyiv

Over the course of the protracted war between the Russian state and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, some of the hetmans, successors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, would “detach themselves” from Moscow or seek support from Sweden, Poland, or Turkey. But, again, for the people, that was a war of liberation. It ended with the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667.

The final outcome was sealed by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1686. The Russian state incorporated the city of Kiev and the lands on the left bank of the Dnieper River, including Poltava region, Chernigov region, and Zaporozhye. Their inhabitants were reunited with the main part of the Russian Orthodox people. These territories were referred to as “Malorossia” (Little Russia).

The name “Ukraine” was used more often in the meaning of the Old Russian word “okraina” (periphery), which is found in written sources from the 12th century, referring to various border territories. And the word “Ukrainian”, judging by archival documents, originally referred to frontier guards who protected the external borders.

On the right bank, which remained under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the old orders were restored, and social and religious oppression intensified. On the contrary, the lands on the left bank, taken under the protection of the unified state, saw rapid development. People from the other bank of the Dnieper moved here en masse. They sought support from people who spoke the same language and had the same faith.

During the Great Northern War with Sweden, the people in Malorossia were not faced with a choice of whom to side with. Only a small portion of the Cossacks supported Mazepa’s rebellion. People of all orders and degrees considered themselves Russian and Orthodox.

Cossack senior officers belonging to the nobility would reach the heights of political, diplomatic, and military careers in Russia. Graduates of Kiev-Mohyla Academy played a leading role in church life.

Kiev-Mohyla Academy and its pupils. Engraving of the XVIII century
© CC0
Kiev-Mohyla Academy and its pupils. Engraving of the XVIII century

This was also the case during the Hetmanate – an essentially autonomous state formation with a special internal structure – and later in the Russian Empire. Malorussians in many ways helped build a big common country – its statehood, culture, and science. They participated in the exploration and development of the Urals, Siberia, the Caucasus, and the Far East. Incidentally, during the Soviet period, natives of Ukraine held major, including the highest, posts in the leadership of the unified state. Suffice it to say that Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, whose party biography was most closely associated with Ukraine, led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for almost 30 years.

In the second half of the 18th century, following the wars with the Ottoman Empire, Russia incorporated Crimea and the lands of the Black Sea region, which became known as Novorossiya. They were populated by people from all of the Russian provinces. After the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire regained the western Old Russian lands, with the exception of Galicia and Transcarpathia, which became part of the Austrian – and later Austro-Hungarian – Empire.

The incorporation of the western Russian lands into the single state was not merely the result of political and diplomatic decisions. It was underlain by the common faith, shared cultural traditions, and – I would like to emphasize it once again – language similarity. Thus, as early as the beginning of the 17th century, one of the hierarchs of the Uniate Church, Joseph Rutsky, communicated to Rome that people in Moscovia called Russians from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth their brothers, that their written language was absolutely identical, and differences in the vernacular were insignificant.

He drew an analogy with the residents of Rome and Bergamo. These are, as we know, the center and the north of modern Italy.

Many centuries of fragmentation and living within different states naturally brought about regional language peculiarities, resulting in the emergence of dialects. The vernacular enriched the literary language. Ivan Kotlyarevsky, Grigory Skovoroda, and Taras Shevchenko played a huge role here.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky with Tugay Bey at Lviv by Jan Matejko (1885)
© CC0
Bohdan Khmelnytsky with Tugay Bey at Lviv by Jan Matejko (1885)

Their works are our common literary and cultural heritage. Taras Shevchenko wrote poetry in the Ukrainian language, and prose mainly in Russian. The books of Nikolay Gogol, a Russian patriot and native of Poltavshchyna, are written in Russian, bristling with Malorussian folk sayings and motifs. How can this heritage be divided between Russia and Ukraine? And why do it?

The south-western lands of the Russian Empire, Malorussia and Novorossiya, and the Crimea developed as ethnically and religiously diverse entities. Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Karaites, Krymchaks, Bulgarians, Poles, Serbs, Germans, and other peoples lived here. They all preserved their faith, traditions, and customs.

I am not going to idealise anything. We do know there were the Valuev Circular of 1863 an then the Ems Ukaz of 1872, which restricted the publication and importation of religious and socio-political literature in the Ukrainian language. But it is important to be mindful of the historical context.

These decisions were taken against the backdrop of dramatic events in Poland and the desire of the leaders of the Polish national movement to exploit the “Ukrainian issue” to their own advantage.

I should add that works of fiction, books of Ukrainian poetry and folk songs continued to be published. There is objective evidence that the Russian Empire was witnessing an active process of development of the Malorussian cultural identity within the greater Russian nation, which united the Velikorussians, the Malorussians and the Belorussians.

At the same time, the idea of Ukrainian people as a nation separate from the Russians started to form and gain ground among the Polish elite and a part of the Malorussian intelligentsia. Since there was no historical basis – and could not have been any, conclusions were substantiated by all sorts of concoctions, which went as far as to claim that the Ukrainians are the true Slavs and the Russians, the Muscovites, are not.

Such “hypotheses” became increasingly used for political purposes as a tool of rivalry between European states.

Since the late 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had latched onto this narrative, using it as a counterbalance to the Polish national movement and pro-Muscovite sentiments in Galicia. During World War I, Vienna played a role in the formation of the so-called Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Galicians suspected of sympathies with Orthodox Christianity and Russia were subjected to brutal repression and thrown into the concentration camps of Thalerhof and Terezin.

Thalerhof internment camp
© CC0
Thalerhof internment camp

Further developments had to do with the collapse of European empires, the fierce civil war that broke out across the vast territory of the former Russian Empire, and foreign intervention.

After the February Revolution, in March 1917, the Central Rada was established in Kiev, intended to become the organ of supreme power. In November 1917, in its Third Universal, it declared the creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) as part of Russia.

In December 1917, UPR representatives arrived in Brest-Litovsk, where Soviet Russia was negotiating with Germany and its allies. At a meeting on 10 January 1918, the head of the Ukrainian delegation read out a note proclaiming the independence of Ukraine. Subsequently, the Central Rada proclaimed Ukraine independent in its Fourth Universal.

The declared sovereignty did not last long. Just a few weeks later, Rada delegates signed a separate treaty with the German bloc countries. Germany and Austria-Hungary were at the time in a dire situation and needed Ukrainian bread and raw materials. In order to secure large-scale supplies, they obtained consent for sending their troops and technical staff to the UPR. In fact, this was used as a pretext for occupation.

For those who have today given up the full control of Ukraine to external forces, it would be instructive to remember that, back in 1918, such a decision proved fatal for the ruling regime in Kiev. With the direct involvement of the occupying forces, the Central Rada was overthrown and Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi was brought to power, proclaiming instead of the UPR the Ukrainian State, which was essentially under German protectorate.

In November 1918 – following the revolutionary events in Germany and Austria-Hungary – Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who had lost the support of German bayonets, took a different course, declaring that “Ukraine is to take the lead in the formation of an All-Russian Federation”. However, the regime was soon changed again. It was now the time of the so-called Directorate.

Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp

In autumn 1918, Ukrainian nationalists proclaimed the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (WUPR) and, in January 1919, announced its unification with the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In July 1919, Ukrainian forces were crushed by Polish troops, and the territory of the former WUPR came under the Polish rule.

In April 1920, Symon Petliura (portrayed as one of the “heroes” in today’s Ukraine) concluded secret conventions on behalf of the UPR Directorate, giving up – in exchange for military support – Galicia and Western Volhynia lands to Poland. In May 1920, Petliurites entered Kiev in a convoy of Polish military units. But not for long.

As early as November 1920, following a truce between Poland and Soviet Russia, the remnants of Petliura’s forces surrendered to those same Poles.

The example of the UPR shows that different kinds of quasi-state formations that emerged across the former Russian Empire at the time of the Civil War and turbulence were inherently unstable. Nationalists sought to create their own independent states, while leaders of the White movement advocated indivisible Russia. Many of the republics established by the Bolsheviks’ supporters did not see themselves outside Russia either. Nevertheless, Bolshevik Party leaders sometimes basically drove them out of Soviet Russia for various reasons.

Thus, in early 1918, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was proclaimed and asked Moscow to incorporate it into Soviet Russia. This was met with a refusal. During a meeting with the republic’s leaders, Vladimir Lenin insisted that they act as part of Soviet Ukraine. On 15 March 1918, the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) directly ordered that delegates be sent to the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, including from the Donetsk Basin, and that “one government for all of Ukraine” be created at the congress. The territories of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic later formed most of the regions of south-eastern Ukraine.

Under the 1921 Treaty of Riga, concluded between the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and Poland, the western lands of the former Russian Empire were ceded to Poland. In the interwar period, the Polish government pursued an active resettlement policy, seeking to change the ethnic composition of the Eastern Borderlands – the Polish name for what is now Western Ukraine, Western Belarus and parts of Lithuania.

The areas were subjected to harsh Polonisation, local culture and traditions suppressed. Later, during World War II, radical groups of Ukrainian nationalists used this as a pretext for terror not only against Polish, but also against Jewish and Russian populations.

In 1922, when the USSR was created, with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic becoming one of its founders, a rather fierce debate among the Bolshevik leaders resulted in the implementation of Lenin’s plan to form a union state as a federation of equal republics. The right for the republics to freely secede from the Union was included in the text of the Declaration on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, subsequently, in the 1924 USSR Constitution.

The USSR state flag and coat of arms at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses
© SPUTNIK / VLADIMIR RODIONOV
The USSR state flag and coat of arms at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses

By doing so, the authors planted in the foundation of our statehood the most dangerous time bomb, which exploded the moment the safety mechanism provided by the leading role of the CPSU was gone, the party itself collapsing from within. A “parade of sovereignties” followed. On 8 December 1991, the so-called Belovezh Agreement on the Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was signed, stating that “the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality no longer existed”. By the way, Ukraine never signed or ratified the CIS Charter adopted back in 1993.

In the 1920’s-1930’s, the Bolsheviks actively promoted the “localization policy”, which took the form of Ukrainization in the Ukrainian SSR. Symbolically, as part of this policy and with consent of the Soviet authorities, Mikhail Grushevskiy, former chairman of Central Rada, one of the ideologists of Ukrainian nationalism, who at a certain period of time had been supported by Austria-Hungary, was returned to the USSR and was elected member of the Academy of Sciences.

The localization policy undoubtedly played a major role in the development and consolidation of the Ukrainian culture, language and identity. At the same time, under the guise of combating the so-called Russian great-power chauvinism, Ukrainization was often imposed on those who did not see themselves as Ukrainians. This Soviet national policy secured at the state level the provision on three separate Slavic peoples: Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian, instead of the large Russian nation, a triune people comprising Velikorussians, Malorussians and Belorussians.

In 1939, the USSR regained the lands earlier seized by Poland. A major portion of these became part of the Soviet Ukraine. In 1940, the Ukrainian SSR incorporated part of Bessarabia, which had been occupied by Romania since 1918, as well as Northern Bukovina. In 1948, Zmeyiniy Island (Snake Island) in the Black Sea became part of Ukraine. In 1954, the Crimean Region of the RSFSR was given to the Ukrainian SSR, in gross violation of legal norms that were in force at the time.

Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky during Victory Parade
© SPUTNIK / LOSKUTOV
Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky during Victory Parade

I would like to dwell on the destiny of Carpathian Ruthenia, which became part of Czechoslovakia following the breakup of Austria-Hungary. Rusins made up a considerable share of local population. While this is hardly mentioned any longer, after the liberation of Transcarpathia by Soviet troops the congress of the Orthodox population of the region voted for the inclusion of Carpathian Ruthenia in the RSFSR or, as a separate Carpathian republic, in the USSR proper. Yet the choice of people was ignored. In summer 1945, the historical act of the reunification of Carpathian Ukraine “with its ancient motherland, Ukraine” – as The Pravda newspaper put it – was announced.

Therefore, modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era. We know and remember well that it was shaped – for a significant part – on the lands of historical Russia. To make sure of that, it is enough to look at the boundaries of the lands reunited with the Russian state in the 17th century and the territory of the Ukrainian SSR when it left the Soviet Union.

The Bolsheviks treated the Russian people as inexhaustible material for their social experiments. They dreamt of a world revolution that would wipe out national states. That is why they were so generous in drawing borders and bestowing territorial gifts. It is no longer important what exactly the idea of the Bolshevik leaders who were chopping the country into pieces was. We can disagree about minor details, background and logics behind certain decisions. One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed.

When working on this article, I relied on open-source documents that contain well-known facts rather than on some secret records. The leaders of modern Ukraine and their external “patrons” prefer to overlook these facts. They do not miss a chance, however, both inside the country and abroad, to condemn “the crimes of the Soviet regime”, listing among them events with which neither the CPSU, nor the USSR, let alone modern Russia, have anything to do.

Poland border
© AP PHOTO / ALIK KEPLICZ
Poland border

At the same time, the Bolsheviks’ efforts to detach from Russia its historical territories are not considered a crime. And we know why: if they brought about the weakening of Russia, our ill-wishes are happy with that.

Of course, inside the USSR, borders between republics were never seen as state borders; they were nominal within a single country, which, while featuring all the attributes of a federation, was highly centralized – this, again, was secured by the CPSU’s leading role. But in 1991, all those territories, and, which is more important, people, found themselves abroad overnight, taken away, this time indeed, from their historical motherland.

What can be said to this? Things change: countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect!

You want to establish a state of your own: you are welcome! But what are the terms? I will recall the assessment given by one of the most prominent political figures of new Russia, first mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. As a legal expert who believed that every decision must be legitimate, in 1992, he shared the following opinion: the republics that were founders of the Union, having denounced the 1922 Union Treaty, must return to the boundaries they had had before joining the Soviet Union. All other territorial acquisitions are subject to discussion, negotiations, given that the ground has been revoked.

In other words, when you leave, take what you brought with you. This logic is hard to refute. I will just say that the Bolsheviks had embarked on reshaping boundaries even before the Soviet Union, manipulating with territories to their liking, in disregard of people’s views.

detail of rare historic poster accredited to Lenin announcing birth of Soviet Union
YOUTUBE CAPTURE
detail of rare historic poster accredited to Lenin announcing birth of Soviet Union

The Russian Federation recognized the new geopolitical realities: and not only recognized, but, indeed, did a lot for Ukraine to establish itself as an independent country. Throughout the difficult 1990’s and in the new millennium, we have provided considerable support to Ukraine. Whatever “political arithmetic” of its own Kiev may wish to apply, in 1991–2013, Ukraine’s budget savings amounted to more than USD 82 billion, while today, it holds on to the mere USD 1.5 billion of Russian payments for gas transit to Europe. If economic ties between our countries had been retained, Ukraine would enjoy the benefit of tens of billions of dollars.

Ukraine and Russia have developed as a single economic system over decades and centuries. The profound cooperation we had 30 years ago is an example for the European Union to look up to. We are natural complementary economic partners. Such a close relationship can strengthen competitive advantages, increasing the potential of both countries.

Ukraine used to possess great potential, which included powerful infrastructure, gas transportation system, advanced shipbuilding, aviation, rocket and instrument engineering industries, as well as world-class scientific, design and engineering schools. Taking over this legacy and declaring independence, Ukrainian leaders promised that the Ukrainian economy would be one of the leading ones and the standard of living would be among the best in Europe.

Today, high-tech industrial giants that were once the pride of Ukraine and the entire Union, are sinking. Engineering output has dropped by 42 per cent over ten years. The scale of deindustrialization and overall economic degradation is visible in Ukraine’s electricity production, which has seen a nearly two-time decrease in 30 years.

Finally, according to IMF reports, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Ukraine’s GDP per capita had been below USD 4 thousand. This is less than in the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Moldova, or unrecognized Kosovo. Nowadays, Ukraine is Europe’s poorest country.

Who is to blame for this? Is it the people of Ukraine’s fault? Certainly not. It was the Ukrainian authorities who waisted and frittered away the achievements of many generations. We know how hardworking and talented the people of Ukraine are. They can achieve success and outstanding results with perseverance and determination. And these qualities, as well as their openness, innate optimism and hospitality have not gone. The feelings of millions of people who treat Russia not just well but with great affection, just as we feel about Ukraine, remain the same.

Until 2014, hundreds of agreements and joint projects were aimed at developing our economies, business and cultural ties, strengthening security, and solving common social and environmental problems. They brought tangible benefits to people – both in Russia and Ukraine. This is what we believed to be most important. And that is why we had a fruitful interaction with all, I emphasize, with all the leaders of Ukraine.

Even after the events in Kiev of 2014, I charged the Russian government to elaborate options for preserving and maintaining our economic ties within relevant ministries and agencies. However, there was and is still no mutual will to do the same. Nevertheless, Russia is still one of Ukraine’s top three trading partners, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are coming to us to work, and they find a welcome reception and support. So that what the “aggressor state” is.

Police officers and opposition supporters are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)
© SPUTNIK / ANDREY STENIN
Police officers and opposition supporters are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)

When the USSR collapsed, many people in Russia and Ukraine sincerely believed and assumed that our close cultural, spiritual and economic ties would certainly last, as would the commonality of our people, who had always had a sense of unity at their core. However, events – at first gradually, and then more rapidly – started to move in a different direction.

In essence, Ukraine’s ruling circles decided to justify their country’s independence through the denial of its past, however, except for border issues. They began to mythologize and rewrite history, edit out everything that united us, and refer to the period when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as an occupation. The common tragedy of collectivization and famine of the early 1930s was portrayed as the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Radicals and neo-Nazis were open and more and more insolent about their ambitions. They were indulged by both the official authorities and local oligarchs, who robbed the people of Ukraine and kept their stolen money in Western banks, ready to sell their motherland for the sake of preserving their capital. To this should be added the persistent weakness of state institutions and the position of a willing hostage to someone else’s geopolitical will.

I recall that long ago, well before 2014, the U.S. and EU countries systematically and consistently pushed Ukraine to curtail and limit economic cooperation with Russia. We, as the largest trade and economic partner of Ukraine, suggested discussing the emerging problems in the Ukraine-Russia-EU format. But every time we were told that Russia had nothing to do with it and that the issue concerned only the EU and Ukraine. De facto Western countries rejected Russia’s repeated calls for dialogue.

Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia. Inevitably, there came a time when the concept of “Ukraine is not Russia” was no longer an option. There was a need for the “anti-Russia” concept which we will never accept.

Ukrainian Azov Batallion members participate in SS veterans' march in Riga, file photo.
© SPUTNIK / OXANA DZHADAN
Ukrainian Azov Batallion members participate in SS veterans’ march in Riga, file photo.

The owners of this project took as a basis the old groundwork of the Polish-Austrian ideologists to create an “anti-Moscow Russia”. And there is no need to deceive anyone that this is being done in the interests of the people of Ukraine.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth never needed Ukrainian culture, much less Cossack autonomy. In Austria-Hungary, historical Russian lands were mercilessly exploited and remained the poorest.

The Nazis, abetted by collaborators from the OUN-UPA, did not need Ukraine, but a living space and slaves for Aryan overlords.

Nor were the interests of the Ukrainian people thought of in February 2014. The legitimate public discontent, caused by acute socio-economic problems, mistakes, and inconsistent actions of the authorities of the time, was simply cynically exploited. Western countries directly interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs and supported the coup. Radical nationalist groups served as its battering ram. Their slogans, ideology, and blatant aggressive Russophobia have to a large extent become defining elements of state policy in Ukraine.

All the things that united us and bring us together so far came under attack. First and foremost, the Russian language. Let me remind you that the new “Maidan” authorities first tried to repeal the law on state language policy. Then there was the law on the “purification of power”, the law on education that virtually cut the Russian language out of the educational process.

Lastly, as early as May of this year, the current president introduced a bill on “indigenous peoples” to the Rada. Only those who constitute an ethnic minority and do not have their own state entity outside Ukraine are recognized as indigenous. The law has been passed. New seeds of discord have been sown. And this is happening in a country, as I have already noted, that is very complex in terms of its territorial, national and linguistic composition, and its history of formation.

Ukrainian nationalists and servicemen of the Azov battalion demonstrate in Kiev. File photo
© AFP 2021 / GENYA SAVILOV
Ukrainian nationalists and servicemen of the Azov battalion demonstrate in Kiev. File photo

There may be an argument: if you are talking about a single large nation, a triune nation, then what difference does it make who people consider themselves to be – Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians. I completely agree with this. Especially since the determination of nationality, particularly in mixed families, is the right of every individual, free to make his or her own choice.

But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity. And the most despicable thing is that the Russians in Ukraine are being forced not only to deny their roots, generations of their ancestors but also to believe that Russia is their enemy.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us. As a result of such a harsh and artificial division of Russians and Ukrainians, the Russian people in all may decrease by hundreds of thousands or even millions.

Our spiritual unity has also been attacked. As in the days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a new ecclesiastical has been initiated. The secular authorities, making no secret of their political aims, have blatantly interfered in church life and brought things to a split, to the seizure of churches, the beating of priests and monks. Even extensive autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church while maintaining spiritual unity with the Moscow Patriarchate strongly displeases them. They have to destroy this prominent and centuries-old symbol of our kinship at all costs.

I think it is also natural that the representatives of Ukraine over and over again vote against the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism. Marches and torchlit processions in honor of remaining war criminals from the SS units take place under the protection of the official authorities. Mazepa, who betrayed everyone, Petliura, who paid for Polish patronage with Ukrainian lands, and Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis, are ranked as national heroes. Everything is being done to erase from the memory of young generations the names of genuine patriots and victors, who have always been the pride of Ukraine.

Troops from the 1st Ukrainian Front in Krakow, Poland, February 1945.
© SPUTNIK / РИА НОВОСТИ
Troops from the 1st Ukrainian Front in Krakow, Poland, February 1945.

For the Ukrainians who fought in the Red Army, in partisan units, the Great Patriotic War was indeed a patriotic war because they were defending their home, their great common Motherland. Over two thousand soldiers became Heroes of the Soviet Union. Among them are legendary pilot Ivan Kozhedub, fearless sniper, defender of Odessa and Sevastopol Lyudmila Pavlichenko, valiant guerrilla commander Sidor Kovpak. This indomitable generation fought, those people gave their lives for our future, for us. To forget their feat is to betray our grandfathers, mothers and fathers.

The anti-Russia project has been rejected by millions of Ukrainians. The people of Crimea and residents of Sevastopol made their historic choice. And people in the southeast peacefully tried to defend their stance. Yet, all of them, including children, were labeled as separatists and terrorists. They were threatened with ethnic cleansing and the use of military force. And the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms to defend their home, their language and their lives.

Were they left any other choice after the riots that swept through the cities of Ukraine, after the horror and tragedy of 2 May 2014 in Odessa where Ukrainian neo-Nazis burned people alive making a new Khatyn out of it? The same massacre was ready to be carried out by the followers of Bandera in Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Lugansk. Even now they do not abandon such plans. They are biding their time. But their time will not come.

The coup d’état and the subsequent actions of the Kiev authorities inevitably provoked confrontation and civil war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that the total number of victims in the conflict in Donbas has exceeded 13,000. Among them are the elderly and children. These are terrible, irreparable losses.

Ruins of the Saur-Mogila (Saur Grave) Memorial in Donetsk Region where festive events were held to celebrate the Day of Donbass Liberation from Nazi Invaders.
© SPUTNIK / VALERIY MELNIKOV
Ruins of the Saur-Mogila (Saur Grave) Memorial in Donetsk Region where festive events were held to celebrate the Day of Donbass Liberation from Nazi Invaders.

Russia has done everything to stop fratricide. The Minsk agreements aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas have been concluded. I am convinced that they still have no alternative. In any case, no one has withdrawn their signatures from the Minsk Package of Measures or from the relevant statements by the leaders of the Normandy format countries. No one has initiated a review of the United Nations Security Council resolution of 17 February 2015.

During official negotiations, especially after being reined in by Western partners, Ukraine’s representatives regularly declare their “full adherence” to the Minsk agreements, but are in fact guided by a position of “unacceptability”. They do not intend to seriously discuss either the special status of Donbas or safeguards for the people living there. They prefer to exploit the image of the “victim of external aggression” and peddle Russophobia. They arrange bloody provocations in Donbas. In short, they attract the attention of external patrons and masters by all means.

Apparently, and I am becoming more and more convinced of this: Kiev simply does not need Donbas. Why? Because, firstly, the inhabitants of these regions will never accept the order that they have tried and are trying to impose by force, blockade and threats.

And secondly, the outcome of both Minsk‑1 and Minsk‑2 which give a real chance to peacefully restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine by coming to an agreement directly with the DPR and LPR with Russia, Germany and France as mediators, contradicts the entire logic of the anti-Russia project. And it can only be sustained by the constant cultivation of the image of an internal and external enemy. And I would add – under the protection and control of the Western powers.

This is what is actually happening. First of all, we are facing the creation of a climate of fear in Ukrainian society, aggressive rhetoric, indulging neo-Nazis and militarising the country.

Along with that we are witnessing not just complete dependence but direct external control, including the supervision of the Ukrainian authorities, security services and armed forces by foreign advisers, military “development” of the territory of Ukraine and deployment of NATO infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the aforementioned flagrant law on “indigenous peoples” was adopted under the cover of large-scale NATO exercises in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a joint news conference following a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, July 10, 2017.
© REUTERS / VALENTYN OGIRENKO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a joint news conference following a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, July 10, 2017.

This is also a disguise for the takeover of the rest of the Ukrainian economy and the exploitation of its natural resources. The sale of agricultural land is not far off, and it is obvious who will buy it up.

From time to time, Ukraine is indeed given financial resources and loans, but under their own conditions and pursuing their own interests, with preferences and benefits for Western companies. By the way, who will pay these debts back? Apparently, it is assumed that this will have to be done not only by today’s generation of Ukrainians but also by their children, grandchildren and probably great-grandchildren.

The Western authors of the anti-Russia project set up the Ukrainian political system in such a way that presidents, members of parliament and ministers would change but the attitude of separation from and enmity with Russia would remain. Reaching peace was the main election slogan of the incumbent president. He came to power with this. The promises turned out to be lies. Nothing has changed. And in some ways the situation in Ukraine and around Donbas has even degenerated.

Activists warm themselves at a fire in a camp at Kryvyi Torets station as they take part in a rail blockade that has halted coal supplies in the village of Shcherbivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 14, 2017. Picture taken February 14, 2017
© REUTERS / KONSTANTIN CHERNICHKIN
Activists warm themselves at a fire in a camp at Kryvyi Torets station as they take part in a rail blockade that has halted coal supplies in the village of Shcherbivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 14, 2017. Picture taken February 14, 2017

In the anti-Russia project, there is no place either for a sovereign Ukraine or for the political forces that are trying to defend its real independence. Those who talk about reconciliation in Ukrainian society, about dialogue, about finding a way out of the current impasse are labelled as “pro-Russian” agents.

Again, for many people in Ukraine, the anti-Russia project is simply unacceptable. And there are millions of such people. But they are not allowed to raise their heads. They have had their legal opportunity to defend their point of view in fact taken away from them. They are intimidated, driven underground. Not only are they persecuted for their convictions, for the spoken word, for the open expression of their position, but they are also killed. Murderers, as a rule, go unpunished.

Today, the “right” patriot of Ukraine is only the one who hates Russia. Moreover, the entire Ukrainian statehood, as we understand it, is proposed to be further built exclusively on this idea. Hate and anger, as world history has repeatedly proved this, are a very shaky foundation for sovereignty, fraught with many serious risks and dire consequences.

All the subterfuges associated with the anti-Russia project are clear to us. And we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country.

Opposition supporters on Maidan Square in Kiev where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)
© SPUTNIK / ANDREY STENIN
Opposition supporters on Maidan Square in Kiev where clashes began between protesters and the police. (File)

The incumbent authorities in Ukraine like to refer to Western experience, seeing it as a model to follow. Just have a look at how Austria and Germany, the USA and Canada live next to each other. Close in ethnic composition, culture, in fact sharing one language, they remain sovereign states with their own interests, with their own foreign policy. But this does not prevent them from the closest integration or allied relations. They have very conditional, transparent borders. And when crossing them the citizens feel at home. They create families, study, work, do business. Incidentally, so do millions of those born in Ukraine who now live in Russia. We see them as our own close people.

Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine and ready to discuss the most complex issues. But it is important for us to understand that our partner is defending its national interests but not serving someone else’s, and is not a tool in someone else’s hands to fight against us.

We respect the Ukrainian language and traditions. We respect Ukrainians’ desire to see their country free, safe and prosperous.

I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia. Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories.

Our kinship has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is in the hearts and the memory of people living in modern Russia and Ukraine, in the blood ties that unite millions of our families. Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people.

Today, these words may be perceived by some people with hostility. They can be interpreted in many possible ways. Yet, many people will hear me. And I will say one thing – Russia has never been and will never be “anti-Ukraine”. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

80 years after Nazi invasion of USSR, Ukraine’s main opposition party asks Kiev to finally clamp down on neo-Nazi organizations
worker | June 23, 2021 | 8:26 pm | Fascist terrorism, Ukraine | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/527250-opposition-party-neo-nazi-organizations/

80 years after Nazi invasion of USSR, Ukraine’s main opposition party asks Kiev to finally clamp down on neo-Nazi organizations

80 years after Nazi invasion of USSR, Ukraine's main opposition party asks Kiev to finally clamp down on neo-Nazi organizations
On the 80th anniversary of the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German-led WW2 military invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s leading opposition party has demanded that authorities in Kiev finally ban neo-Nazi organizations.

In a statement published on its website on Tuesday, the Opposition Platform – For Life party also asked the Ukrainian government to stop “rewriting history.”

Back in April, Ukrainian nationalists held a march in the center of Kiev to mark the anniversary of the creation of the SS Galicia during World War II. The SS division was made up predominantly of Ukrainian volunteers who took up arms for Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, and who mainly fought against local partisans. The unit was almost wiped out in the 1944 Battle of Lvov–Sandomierz, and later saw action in Slovakia and Austria. In 1945, it rebranded as the Ukrainian National Army and lasted until the end of the war in May that year.

ALSO ON RT.COMUkrainian far-right nationalists stage march in center of Kiev to mark 77th anniversary of WWII Nazi military division SS GaliciaThe march in Kiev was condemned by officials from Russia, Germany, and Israel, amongst others.

At the time, Opposition Platform asked the government for a “tough reaction,” noting that the traditional WWII Victory Day parade was banned, due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the SS Galicia parade wasn’t.

“On this Day of Mourning and Remembrance of Victims of War, we do not expect fake lamentations from the authorities,” the Opposition Platform statement explains. “We demand prohibition and persecution for all neo-Nazi organizations, an end to the glorification of Nazi collaborators and an end to the rewriting of history. An end to the policy of ethnic and cultural discrimination.”

In Ukraine, as well as in Russia and other former Soviet states, June 22 is considered a Memorial Day. On this date in 1941, a coalition led by Nazi Germany began attacking the Soviet Union, in a five-month-long offensive that saw millions of Soviet citizens killed. By the end of the Second World War, in 1945, the country had lost an estimated 27 million people.

The Germans were joined in the invasion by their Italian, Hungarian, Slovak, Finnish and Romanian allies.

“The crimes of the Nazis cost the world tens of millions of lives and broken lives. Ukraine lost one out of every five inhabitants,” the statement adds.

“The Nazi tumor was cut from the body of humanity. It seemed to everyone to be forever. Never again will we hear nonsense about the superiority of certain nations over others,” it continues. “[However], the metastases remained.”

Opposition Platform – For Life is Ukraine’s largest opposition party. In recent months, the country’s authorities have cracked down on the faction, which draws much of its support from Russian speakers in the east and south of the country and has advocated a less confrontational approach to Moscow than the one pursued by authorities in Kiev since the Maidan.

In May, the party’s leader Viktor Medvedchuk was charged with “high treason” and stands accused of handing over classified information to Moscow. Prosecutors also say he has colluded with the Russian government to steal natural resources from Crimea. He denies all charges, calling them politically motivated. He is currently under house arrest.

 

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Glory to Ukraine Zeros!
worker | June 8, 2021 | 7:58 pm | Fascist terrorism, Ukraine | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202106071083092154-glory-to-ukraine-zeros/

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The clowns in the Western-backed Kiev regime excel at least at one thing. Political slapstick. Every time President Volodymyr Zelensky – a former TV comedian – and his regime make an announcement it’s like watching clowns slapping cream cakes into their own faces.

The latest gaffe is the unveiling of Ukraine’s national football kit for the UEFA European Championship, which is emblazoned with a Nazi-era slogan: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes!”

The soccer tournament kicks off this week and lasts for a month drawing in global TV audiences who will no doubt be given something to think about regarding Ukraine’s dark and dirty past as a Nazi accomplice. And that past is very much alive in the present as demonstrated by the new football kit and its “Glory to Heroes” slogan. How the Western supporters of the Kiev regime must be cringing.

This was the rallying call of the Ukrainian paramilitaries led by Stepan Bandera who collaborated with the Nazi SS during to the Second World War to exterminate millions of their compatriots as well as Russian people.

The slogan was revived by the Neo-Nazi militants who seized power in Kiev in 2014 after a violent coup d’état against an elected president who had maintained friendly relations with Russia. The coup was crucially backed by the United States and European Union. Indeed, the CIA is implicated in the false-flag sniper shootings against scores of protesters and police officers in Maidan Square on February 20, 2014, which were blamed on the incumbent government, and the event as falsely reported by Western media was pivotal in overthrowing the existing authorities.

 

Thus the Western powers, who constantly proclaim to uphold democracy and rule of law, helped bring back fascism to the European continent through their support for the Kiev regime.

And no wonder the ethnic Russian people of Crimea subsequently voted to secede and join the Russian Federation in the weeks after the coup that brought Banderites to power. Crimean people suffered terribly under the Nazis and their Ukrainian death squads. The same goes for the people of Ukraine’s southeast Donbas region around Donetsk and Luhansk who have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Kiev imposters and have established their own autonomous republics. The breakaway republics are constantly shelled by Kiev’s military in violation of a supposed ceasefire.

Western governments turn reality on its head and accuse Moscow of “annexing” Crimea – an ancient part of Russia that voted democratically in a referendum to join the Russian Federation. The West also accuses Russia of covertly invading and destabilizing Ukraine when it is Washington that has supplied the Kiev regime with over $2 billion in arms since 2014 and NATO troops are actively collaborating on the ground with Ukrainian forces in their offensive against the people of Donbas.

The Western media have assiduously avoided reporting on the stark reality of Neo-Nazi ideology popular among Kiev’s politicians and its various military formations. The Azov Battalion is openly a modern-day reincarnation of the Ukrainian fascists who glory in Nazi past crimes. But Western media never report on these sordid links of a regime supported by the United States, the EU and NATO.

However, embarrassingly for the Western patrons, the Kiev clowns just put their faces into foam cake by unveiling a football kit that makes the Nazi legacy explicit to a global audience.

This is just the latest example of how the bozos in Kiev can’t help falling over themselves with their own stupid logic and arrogance.

Take another: the reason why Kiev says the Nord Stream 2 project should be stopped. This is the pipeline under the Baltic Sea supplying natural gas from Russia directly to Germany, thereby reducing the dependence on Ukraine as a transit route for the fuel.

A road sign directs traffic towards the Nord Stream 2 gas line landfall facility entrance in Lubmin, north eastern Germany, on September 7, 2020.
© AFP 2021 / ODD ANDERSEN
A road sign directs traffic towards the Nord Stream 2 gas line landfall facility entrance in Lubmin, north eastern Germany, on September 7, 2020.

President Zelensky made the absurd remark recently with a straight face that reduced transit fees paid by Russia would prevent the Kiev regime from maintaining its armed forces. The intended implication being that Ukraine would be under-defended against alleged “Russian aggression”.

It doesn’t get more ludicrous than that. The Kiev regime that the West installed in 2014 has done everything to impede the regular flow of gas from Russia to Europe. That’s because of its monopolistic position of having pipelines across its territory to Europe and also because of its anti-Russian hostile ideology. Now that Russia has legitimately reduced its dependence on the Ukrainian land route by opening up the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the Kiev regime is complaining about losing out on billions of dollars worth of transit fees.

And then, twisting the cream cake on his face, Zelensky is further claiming that the financial loss will curtail spending on Ukraine’s army and Neo-Nazi paramilitaries who are relentlessly shelling the Donbas region and thwarting any possibility of finding a peaceful settlement to the seven-year civil war.

Kiev’s comedian-turned-president wants Russian money to fund aggression against ethnic Russian people, and to continue a conflict that is endangering peace in Europe.

Who needs smart Russian “propaganda”, when the West and its circus troupe is so self-indicting?

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Russia is Not the Aggressor in Ukraine, Ambassador to UK Says
worker | April 18, 2021 | 7:05 pm | Russia, Ukraine | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/russia/202104181082662314-russia-is-not-the-aggressor-in-ukraine-ambassador-to-uk-says/

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Kiev has been massing troops, armour, and artillery on the contact line with the self-declared, majority Russian-speaking Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, which broke away following a 2014 coup that also saw the Crimea vote to reunite with Russia.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has insisted his country is not menacing Ukraine — amid soaring tensions  in the east of the country.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr broadcast on Sunday, Ambassador Andrei Kelin said: “We have no intention at all to be aggressive” or threaten any country “including Ukraine”.

Marr seized on “ominous, menacing” comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak last week that he agreed with the assessment of some in Kiev that “the beginning of hostilities is the beginning of the end of Ukraine”.

The diplomat replied that Russia was “fully committed” to the Minsk peace agreements between the US-backed regime in Kiev and the self-declared breakaway, Russian-speaking Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, mediated by Russia, France and Germany.

But Kelin cautioned: “If [the] Ukrainian government decides to move troops in[to] Donbass and to make a bloodbath over there, to kill people, to kill Russians, of course we are going to respond”.

Marr asked bluntly if “we are quite close to war on this border”, to which the ambassador replied directly: “No, I don’t think so”.

Kelin also rebuffed Marr’s questioning of why anti-government blogger Alexei Navalny, who has begun on a hunger strike, had not been allowed to be treated by his private doctor. The ambassador asked if prisoners in British gaols were allowed to see their personal physicians.

“How about British prisoners? Do British prisoners request personal doctors?”, Kelin asked, after explaining that Navalny was already being treated at a hospital near the prison.

 

Marr also asked Kelin about Moscow’s relations with Washington in light of US President Joe Biden’s ordering of new sanctions on Russia — following his recent personal insults towards Putin

The diplomat denied US claims that Russian intelligence agencies had staged a cyberattack on US software firm SolarWinds that had compromised government agencies including the Department of Defence.

Kiev accuses Russia of closing Black Sea strait to its warships, blocking Ukrainian navy from port while sailors carry out drills
worker | April 16, 2021 | 6:45 pm | Russia, Ukraine | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/521167-kiev-accuse-block-black-sea/

Kiev accuses Russia of closing Black Sea strait to its warships, blocking Ukrainian navy from port while sailors carry out drills

Kiev accuses Russia of closing Black Sea strait to its warships, blocking Ukrainian navy from port while sailors carry out drills
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has lodged a complaint with its counterparts in Moscow, claiming that its sailors are being banned from the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait, which divides the east coast of the country from the west.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Kiev’s diplomats said that Russia has “announced the closure of a part of the Black Sea in the direction of the Kerch Strait for warships and vessels of foreign governments from next week until October 2021.”

The move, they say, comes “under the pretext of military exercises,” and the officials “express a strong protest in connection with these actions of the Russian Federation and demand to immediately cancel the decision on the illegal closure of certain waters of the Black Sea.”

According to the Ukrainian government, this would constitute “a gross violation of the right to freedom of navigation” and falls foul of Russia’s obligations not to “impede or interfere with transit passage through the international strait to ports in the Sea of ​​Azov.”

ALSO ON RT.COMRussian politicians slam Ukrainian defense minister after ‘unsubstantiated’ claims Crimea will be used to house Moscow’s nukesOn Wednesday, the Russian Navy revealed that it would stage a series of exercises in the Black Sea, involving a frigate, corvettes, a missile-wielding hovercraft, a minesweeper, landing craft, helicopters, and warplanes. They will rehearse firing on surface-level enemies, as well as taking out air support. “The role of a mock enemy will be played by maritime targets,” defense chiefs said.

At the same time, commanders of the Southern Russian Military District confirmed that vessels from the Caspian Flotilla were en route to the Black Sea, where they would rendezvous with a fleet already based in the region.

The drills come amid confusion over whether the US had dispatched two of its own warships to the region. Turkish diplomats initially reported they had received notification that the vessels would pass into the Black Sea, in a move widely interpreted as a show of support for Ukraine amid an increasingly tense stand-off with Russia.

However, on Thursday, Reuters reported that Ankara’s officials were claiming the US had cancelled its deployment. Unnamed American sources, however, were quoted as saying that Turkey may have misunderstood the communiques, and that the movements were never confirmed.

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US Committed to ‘Assisting Ukraine With Its Self-Defense Needs’, Pentagon Chief Says
worker | April 14, 2021 | 8:47 pm | Ukraine | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/military/202104141082632872-us-committed-to-assisting-ukraine-with-its-self-defense-needs-pentagon-chief-says/

MILITARY & INTELLIGENCE

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States is committed to assisting Ukraine with its defense needs, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels this week to discuss matters on Afghanistan and Russian troop movements near eastern Ukraine’s border.

“We are committed to assisting Ukraine with its self-defense needs,” Austin said during a press conference in Brussels.

Austin said the United States will continue to provide material support to Ukraine but he did not get into specifics.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde during a phone conversation on Wednesday that Moscow is interested in a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

On Monday, the G7 foreign ministers and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, expressed concerns over the Russian armed forces’ movement on the border with Ukraine and in Crimea, and called for de-escalation.

Russian officials have described the situation on the border with Ukraine as “frightening” and vowed to bolster security in response to an increased NATO presence. Despite the Minsk peace agreements, ceasefire violations continue in southeastern Ukraine. According to UN data, about 13,000 people have fallen in the Donbas conflict since its inception in 2014. On April 2, a four-year-old boy was killed in what locals said was an attack by a Ukrainian drone.