MOSCOW—James Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.
In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.
“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”
Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 29, 2014
Aid Trucks to Ukraine? Almost Empty
A convoy of Russian trucks carrying aid for eastern Ukraine has been opened up to journalists at the border. The Ukrainian government had insisted that inspectors checked the trucks’ cargo, amid fears that they could be carrying military supplies for the rebels – an accusation Russia has rejected. The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg noted that many of the trucks were “almost empty”.
“He’s relying on the Europeans. The Europeans will never act. They never act on anything unless they’re led by the U.S.”
On Friday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer slammed Obama for the “unbelievable, passive nature” of his speech, which addressed the Malaysian airliner catastrophe in Eastern Ukraine. Reacting to yesterday’s news of the shooting down of the civilian plane – almost certainly at the hands of Russian-armed rebels – the president appeared disinterested, and ”practically half asleep.”
That response makes sense only if Obama believes that the events will necessarily go badly for Russia. However, Krauthammer contended, there is no reason to think that is true in the absence of American leadership….(read more) The Corner
WASHINGTON —For the NY Times, MICHAEL D. SHEAR, SOMINI SENGUPTA and SABRINA TAVERNISE reporting: President Obama said Friday that the United States believed the Malaysia Airlines jetliner felled over eastern Ukraine was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area inside Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House were the strongest public suggestions yet from the United States over who was responsible for the downing of the jetliner, which exploded, crashed and burned on Thursday on farmland in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.
Mr. Obama said the loss of life was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and a “global tragedy.” He vowed to investigate exactly what happened to end the lives of “men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis” in that region. Mr. Obama also said that at least one American was among the dead.
“We are going to make sure the truth is out,” Mr. Obama said, referring to what he described as a trove of misinformation that has already shrouded the plane crash. Read the rest of this entry »
— MH17 Crash News (@Planesonearth) July 17, 2014
“We have no leadership from the United States. All we get from this administration is air,” he said. “The real problem is that the next step would be, can be, might be, attack on the rest of Eastern Ukraine and there is nothing that Obama has done that would in any way dissuade Putin.”
Charles Krauthammer thinks that American sanctions on several Russian individuals have done nothing to effect Russia’s economy or punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.