Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine as of 11 June 2015

The level of violence in and around Donetsk airport (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 12km north-west of Donetsk) remained high.  From the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at the Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), over a five hour period, the SMM heard over 250 bursts of small arms and light weapons fire, heavy machinegun, automatic grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns as well as 134 explosions, both incoming and outgoing at one to eight kilometres north, north-west, north-east and west of its location.

U.S. House Passes 3 Amendments By Rep. Conyers To Defense Spending Bill To Protect Civilians From Dangers Of Arming and Training Foreign Forces

WASHINGTON— Late yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives considered H.R. 2685, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015.”  During consideration of the legislation, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congressman Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) offered bipartisan amendments to block the training of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary militia “Azov Battalion,” and to prevent the transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles—otherwise known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS)—to Iraq or Ukraine.

Pope Francis Must Pressure Putin On Ukraine Crisis, Says US Official Urging Pontiff To Side With West Against Russia

A top American diplomat has urged Pope Francis to take a hard line with Russian President Vladimir Putin in regards to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict when the two meet Wednesday, according tthe Guardian. Francis, who has often said he opposes war, has not joined the West in condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine since the country annexed Crimea in March 2014, sparking continued unrest in the region.

NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid

Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.

NATO and Russia aren’t talking to each other. Cold war lessons forgotten?

Military machines on both sides are engaged in nearly non-stop war games aimed at displaying their readiness to their jittery publics, and scary near-misses between warplanes are multiplying as Russia‘s Air Force tries to return to its Soviet-era pattern of global patrolling. All this is happening at a time when dialogue, even at the highest levels, is almost nonexistent.

Obama lambasts Putin: you’re wrecking Russia to recreate Soviet empire

Barack Obama has used the close of the G7 summit in Germany to deliver his strongest criticism yet of Vladimir Putin, lambasting the Russian president’s isolationist approach as the seven leaders signalled their readiness to tighten sanctions against Russia if the conflict in Ukraine escalates.

Transnistria shapes up as next Ukraine-Russia flashpoint

Keep an eye on Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. On Monday, Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s best-known foreign policy analysts and a man with good Kremlin antennae, tweeted: “Growing concern in Moscow that Ukraine and Moldova will seek to squeeze Transnistria hard, provoking conflict with Russia.

West must consider arming Ukraine: Ex-NATO head

The Russia-Ukraine crisis could last decades, the former secretary general of NATO has warned, telling CNBC that the West should consider arming the Ukrainians in a fight that is “part of a bigger Russian master plan.” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who led the international military alliance of NATO between 2009 and 2014, said that Russia continued to destabilize Ukraine, with “tens of thousands” of troops amassed along the Russian-Ukrainian border and “actively operating” within the country.

Russia, Iraq dominate Obama’s agenda at G-7

For two days here in the German Alps, President Obama has struggled with many of the issues — Russian aggression, the Islamic State, climate change and sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran — that will define his legacy. The meetings of the leaders of the seven largest industrialized democracies have been dominated by the fighting in Ukraine and the need to maintain tough sanctions designed to punish Russia for its backing of separatist fighters there.

U.S. Trains Ukrainian Forces on Russia’s Doorstep — And Moscow Isn’t Happy

American troops are training Ukrainian forces on Russia’s doorstep, a move seen as a major provocation by Vladimir Putin’s regime. The live-fire drills and counter-insurgency exercises involving about 300 U.S. paratroopers are a key bone of contention for the Moscow, which the West accuses of helping to arm pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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