The Times West Virginian

World News

June 29, 2014

Pro-Russian rebels free observers

MOSCOW — Pro-Russian insurgents on Saturday released a second team of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who had been held captive since the end of May, the organization said.   

OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said that the four observers were released and met by an OSCE official in the eastern city of Donetsk.

“They’re in good health, they’re in good spirits,” he said.

OSCE lost contact with four monitors from its Donetsk team and four monitors from its Luhansk team in late May. The members of the Donetsk team were freed earlier this week.

The second release followed a European Union summit Friday, where leaders decided not to immediately impose new sanctions on Russia for destabilizing eastern Ukraine, but gave the Russian government and pro-Russian insurgents until Monday to take steps to improve the situation. The EU leaders said Russia and the rebels should work to release all captives, retreat from border checkpoints, agree on a way to verify the cease-fire and launch “substantial negotiations” on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan.

“We have fulfilled our obligations before the Ukrainian side. All eight observers have been released,” Alexander Borodai, one of the leaders of the insurgents, said after the release, according to news agency Interfax.

Ukraine on Friday signed a free-trade pact with the EU, the very deal that a former Ukrainian president dumped under pressure from Moscow in November, fueling huge protests that eventually drove him from power. Moscow responded to those events by annexing the mainly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula in March, and a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine erupted the month after, leading to the developments that have brought Russia-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War times.

The United States and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and threatened to impose more crippling sanctions against entire sectors of Russia’s economy if the Kremlin fails to de-escalate the crisis.

Earlier Saturday, Russia’s foreign minister accused the U.S. of encouraging Ukraine to challenge Moscow and heavily weighing in on the European Union. In televised remarks, Sergey Lavrov said that “our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path.”

He added that chances for settling the Ukrainian crisis would have been higher if it only depended on Russia and Europe.

The weeklong cease-fire, which both sides have been accused of violating, expired at 10 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Friday, but Poroshenko quickly declared its extension until 10 p.m. local time Monday. He warned, however, that the cease-fire could be terminated in areas where rebels violate it.

Borodai promised to abide by the extended cease-fire after Friday’s troika talks that included a former Ukrainian president who represented the Kiev government, the Russian ambassador and an OSCE envoy.

He rejected the EU leaders’ demand to retreat from three checkpoints on the border with Russia captured by the rebels, but invited OSCE to send its monitors to the border crossings and any other areas in the east.

Borodai also demanded that the Ukrainian government pull back its forces as a condition for holding meaningful talks to settle the crisis.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, said in a statement he hopes the release of the observers will give the organization’s special monitoring mission in Ukraine the opportunity to carry out its mandate “to the maximum extent possible and strengthen its role as international presence in the country.”

He also said he hopes that the release will “mark the beginning of an improving security situation in the eastern region of Ukraine.”

Ukrainian military spokesman Olexiy Dmitrashkovskiy said Saturday that three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in a rebel shelling near Slovyansk, a key flashpoint in the insurgency, Interfax reported.  

Rebels, in turn, claimed that Ukrainian troops tried to capture one of the checkpoints on the Russian border, which they control, but were rebuffed.

Russian officials said that several Ukrainian shells landed on Russian territory early Saturday, and one shell fragment hit the border checkpoint on the Russian side of the border, but there were no injuries.

The insurgents also descended on a Ukrainian National Guards unit in Donetsk, demanding that the troops leave or join the rebels’ ranks. None of the troops voiced a desire to switch sides. There was no fighting there.

As part of his peace plan, Poroshenko this week submitted a set of constitutional amendments that would give broader powers to the regions and allow local authorities to have more say on such issues as language and culture. In an address to the nation Saturday, he voiced hope that the move would strengthen the country’s unity.

Lavrov acknowledged that Russia has some leverage with the rebels, but claimed that Moscow’s influence is limited.

“There are reasons to believe that they hear us on other aspects of Russian position regarding the crisis in Ukraine, but that doesn’t mean that they immediately move to heed our calls,” he said. “These people have their own vision, it’s their land and they want to be its masters, they want to negotiate with the central government on what terms it can be done.”

——

David McHugh in Kiev and Balint Szlanko in Donetsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
World News
  • Hamas resumes rocket fire on Israel

    Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.
    Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel’s Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday.

    July 27, 2014

  • Gaza sides agree to lull; truce stalled

    Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead in Taiwan plane crash

    Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

    July 24, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads