MOSCOW, July 23 -- Russia’s emergencies ministry has sent yet anouther, the 33rd, humanitarian convoy to Donbass, the ministry’s press service said on Thursday.
"More than 100 trucks set off from the emergencies ministry’s Don rescue centre at 04:00 Moscow time and are now heading for the state border," the press service said.
The trucks are carrying more than 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian cargoes, including medicines, foods and articles of daily necessity, to Donetsk and Lugansk. Before the border, the convoy will break in two - one will drive towards the Donetsk border crossing point to further head for Lugansk, and the other will go to Donetsk vie the Matveyev Kurga border crossing point.
Since mid-August 2014, Russia’s emergencies ministry has delivered more than 40,000 tonnes of humanitarian cargoes to Donbass.
KIEV, February 10 -- Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine say they have completely surrounded the strategic town of Debaltseve, a claim denied by the Ukrainian army who insist the fighting is ongoing.
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) on Tuesday said its fighters have cut off the main supply road into the government-held town - which is in between the separatist hubs of Luhansk and Donetsk. The route had also been used as a humanitarian corridor in recent weeks, allowing civilians to flee the fighting.
"We have just spoken to a rebel separatist commander who tells us Debaltseve is completely surrounded by separatists. As he understands it the separatists are not in the town, the Ukrainian military are still inside," he said.
"The military are denying this, saying there are ongoing battles on the main supply route out of the city. We were on that supply route yesterday and the Ukrainian military we saw were in a state of disarray. "They wanted us out immediately and were pulling back their heavy weaponry. "The situation is very fluid and there is no direct contact with the separatist fighters."
Major rail hub
Debaltseve is of great strategic importance to both sides in the conflict as it is the site of a major rail hub that connects the rebel-controlled DPR with Russia.
"We have spoken to separatist commanders in recent weeks and they have said they are not interested in pushing for peace until they have taken the town," correspondents say. "There is a greater sense of confidence now among the separatists, whereas the general atmosphere among the Ukrainian troops is one of panic, especially on that main supply route."
Separatist fighters from the DPR urged Ukrainian forces to surrender and leave the Debaltseve trap peacefully, said spokesman Eduard Basurin.
"We guarantee security to all who lay down their arms. The others will be eliminated. If the enemy attempts to attack in another place, the strike will be repelled. Some 5,000 - 6,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been trapped in Debaltseve," Basurin said.
Ukraine's military said no reports had confirmed the rebels' claims that the town was encircled. "Fighting is on to control the Artemnivsk-Debaltseve motorway, where a military confrontation continues," military operation spokesman Andriy Lysenko told Interfax on Monday evening.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday that Russian-backed fighters had launched an artillery strike on the town of Kramatorsk, which is more than 50km (30 miles) away from the front line.
Poroshenko said the first round of rocket fire hit the headquarters of the Ukrainian command in eastern Ukraine and the second landed in a residential area. The government-controlled Donetsk regional administration said seven people were killed, while 16 people were injured in the residential area and 10 more at the military headquarters.
MOSCOW, February 8 -- The leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine are expected to hold telephone negotiations on Sunday that will culminate the shuttle efforts to find a way out the Ukraine crisis that were taken at the very top level this weekend.
"Work (on the Ukraine crisis) will continue and its preliminary results will be summed up next Sunday during a summit-level telephone conversation to be held in the "Normandy format", the Russian president’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said at night after the five-hour talks in the Kremlin last Friday between Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The European leaders arrived in Moscow last Thursday, February 5, after consultations with Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko whom they had met in Kiev.
"Judging from proposals formulated by the French president and German chancellor, the text of a possible joint document on implementation of the Minsk agreements is being in the making. The document is supposed to include proposals made by the Ukrainian president and initiatives formulated today (on Friday) and added by Russian President Vladimir Putin," the Kremlin spokesperson said adding the text and the proposals would be submitted for approval to all the sides in the Ukraine conflict.
The participants in the negotiations preferred not to elaborate on the essence of the talks or the initiatives under discussion. The Russian president also refrained from making any public assessment of the Friday consultations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who is also in Munich held a series of consultations on the Ukraine crisis, including with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German counterpart Frank Walter Steinmeier.
In his speech at the conference, Lavrov said that Russia was ready to act as a guarantor of the future agreements between Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk. Russia confirmed its stance that the sides in conflict should establish a direct dialogue with each other.
MOSCOW, February 8 -- The Russian Emergencies Ministry relief convoy bound for Donbas has arrived at the Russian state border in the Rostov region, Oleg Voronov, the deputy head of the ministry’s national crisis management center says.
"The customs formalities at the Donetsk and Matveyev Kurgan border crossing posts are over and now head for Donetsk and Lugansk," he said.
Representatives of Ukraine’s customs and border services and OSCE monitors are helping to inspect the vehicles. More than 170 trucks will deliver over 1,800 tonnes of relief cargoes such as food, sanitary essentials, building materials and other life necessities for the population of the conflict-stricken Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
"The relief convoy was formed in the territory of the Rostov region over the past week. Cargoes were delivered from various parts of Russia," Voronov said adding that the Russian Emergencies Ministry had practiced to perfection all the mechanisms of dispatching aid to Donbas from the convoy’s formation to the aid’s delivery to the final destination in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
"The aid convoy is going to split in two parts: more than a hundred vehicles will deliver over 1,100 tonnes of relief aid to Donetsk; the other 70 trucks with more than 700 tonnes of relief cargoes will head for Lugansk," Voronov clarified. "The drivers know the route very well. They have already delivered aid to the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, sometimes in harsh weather conditions in which they had to display self-possession and concentrate attention," the Emergencies Ministry representative said.
On February 7, the Emergencies Ministry staff working at the Donskoy rescue center allowed journalists to look inside the trucks, which the latter chose to their own discretion. Correspondents say that some trucks contained canned food and sacks with rice and flour; others were loaded with building materials, which the people of Donbas needed urgently to restore and repair buildings damaged by shells.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry leadership has said many times that the ministry will continue sending relief aid to Donbas so long as the region needs it. Another aid convoy will head for Donbas on February 15.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry truck convoys have delivered more than 16,000 tonnes of relief cargoes to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since August last year.
DONETSK, January 23 -- A main leader of the Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine said on Friday that his soldiers were “on the offensive” in several sectors, building on their success in capturing a long-contested airport the day before.
“We will attack” until the Ukrainian Army is driven from the borders of the Donetsk region, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic rebel group, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies. Referring to the Ukrainian government, he said, “Kiev doesn’t understand now that we can attack in three directions simultaneously.”
Tanks rumbled down the snowy roads of rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine on Friday, with soldiers in green and unmarked uniforms sitting on their turrets, waving at bystanders.
Mr. Zakharchenko did not detail the rebels’ intentions, but any major offensive would clearly be a repudiation of the cease-fire signed on Sept. 5 and endorsed by the group’s main sponsor, Russia. That agreement had set the de facto borders of the rebel republic to encompass about one-third of the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
MOSCOW, December 5 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized the necessity to continue work to ensure a comprehensive investigation of the Malaysian Boeing’s crash at a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders on the sidelines of the OSCE foreign ministerial meeting in Basel.
“The sides discussed the state and prospects of further development of the Russian-Dutch bilateral cooperation, as well as the most urgent issues on the international agenda,” the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.
“The ministers exchanged opinions on the course of international investigation of the circumstances of and reasons for the crash on July 17 of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft in the sky above Ukraine,” the ministry said. “Lavrov stressed the necessity to continue systemic work to ensure a comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation of the air crash in strict accordance with Resolution 2166 of the UN Security Council and rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” it said.
On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 passenger airliner on flight MH17 from the Dutch city of Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur crashed in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Most passengers — over 190 people — were Dutch nationals.
The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the probe and coordinating the international team of investigators, said in its preliminary report published September 9 that “Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”
UN Security Council Resolution 2166 in particular says that the SC “condemns in the strongest terms the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives” and “supports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”
It also says the Council “demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site” and “demands that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.”.
BRISBANE, November 16 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has left the G20 summit in Australia early, live footage showed, after he came under intense pressure from the West over Moscow's alleged support for separatist fights in eastern Ukraine.
But Putin said his decision to leave early had nothing to do with tensions over Ukraine. Instead, he said he had a long flight and wanted to catch up on some sleep ahead of a full day's work back home on Monday.
"We need nine hours to fly from here to Vladivostok and another nine hours from Vladivostok to Moscow," he said in comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency. "Then we need to get home and return to work on Monday. There's a need to sleep at least four to five hours."
The two-day summit in Brisbane, which gathered leaders of the world's most powerful economies, was focused on economic growth but was to some extent overshadowed by the tension over Ukraine. Leaders at the event, who included US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, committed to reform measures aimed at lifting their collective growth by an extra 2.1 percent by 2018.
"This will add more than $2 trillion to the global economy and create millions of jobs," the leaders said in the summit communique. The fact that the Russian President left before the official communique announcement could be seen as a snub, Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Brisbane, said.
"But it has been the case that he himself was snubbed by Western leaders," Thomas said.
In unusually frank language between two leaders, Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, was reported to have told Putin as they shook hands to "get out of Ukraine".
According to Jason MacDonald, Harper's spokesman, the prime minister told the Russian leader: "I guess I will shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine."
Russia accused of bullying
British Prime Minister David Cameron was among other leaders who publicly criticised Russia, accusing it of "bullying a smaller state in Europe" and warning that Moscow would face further sanctions if it continues "destabilising Ukraine".
"I think what has been good about this G20 is that a very clear message has been delivered by the countries of the European Union and America to Russia about how we're going to approach this in the months and years ahead," Cameron told a news conference after the summit.
Putin, in remarks made before he left, thanked Tony Abbott for hosting the event, despite the Australian prime minister threatening to confront him over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July. The West says the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed by pro-Russian rebels, using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges. The plane was carrying 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. The announcement of Sunday's communique was delayed about an hour after Putin left.
"These events usually take place on time. It could be that Western leaders were still trying to formulate their response to his early departure,"
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