UkraineAlert

Separatists Show No Unity Under New Donetsk ‘Prime Minister,’ Kremlin Paper Says


The Kremlin and its proxy rebellion in southeastern Ukraine seemed to recognize last week that as a supposedly Ukrainian uprising, it should have a titular Ukrainian leader, rather than a Moscow-based Russian ultra-nationalist with ties to the Kremlin. So after three months as “prime minister” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” the Russian, Alexander Borodai, resigned in favor of a local militia leader, Alexander Zakharchenko.

But as the rebels fight an escalating battle against the Ukrainian army’s siege of the city of Donetsk, it was unclear this weekend just what loyalty Zakharchenko commands. The rebels’ two most powerful militia leaders have failed to publicly recognize him as their commander, and their willingness to do so is “an open question,” the Kremlin-controlled Russian daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, said Sunday. Tensions among the separatists, and changes in their leadership, have increased in the five weeks since a re-invigorated Ukrainian military has seized the majority of the territory once held by the rebels and encircled the city of Donetsk.

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Nadiya Savchenko's Trial is Political, Not Legal, Says Human Rights Attorney Mark Feygin


Although a Russian court is preparing to try Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko on war-related charges, it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who will decide her fate, said Savchenko's defense attorney, Russian human rights lawyer Mark Feygin.

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Shutdown Virtually Completes Muffling of Crimean Media


On August 1, police in Crimea entered the headquarters of the Chornomorska Television Company to shut it down, virtually completing Russia’s silencing of all Ukrainian and independent media on the peninsula five months after its invasion. The Moscow-backed authorities had already halted other Ukrainian broadcasts and have progressively been constricting Chornomorska (“Black Sea”) since shortly after the invasion, in early March.

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Russian Fighters’ Thuggishness Eroded Germany’s Putin-Verstehen


‪Last week was a good one for both the transatlantic relationship and the cause of freedom in Ukraine. It followed weeks in which Moscow had escalated its war in southeast Ukraine, sending advanced weaponry and more fighters, and directly shelling Ukrainian forces. On Tuesday, after a month of dawdling, the EU joined the United States in imposing major sanctions on the Russian economy. What, finally, led Brussels to act?

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How a Ukrainian Boss and His Political Machine Have Helped Russia’s Attack on Ukraine


Oleksander Yefremov, a boyish-looking sixty-year-old, is one of eastern Ukraine’s most prominent politicians and businessmen. For over a decade, he has been the corrupt strongman of Lugansk, one of the two provinces where Russia’s government and military have been sponsoring the war in Ukraine.

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Vasyl Budik has spent eighty-six days as the hostage of Russian Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler, a rebel commander in southeast Ukraine. But not just any hostage. Budik has at times been Bezler’s intermediary with Ukrainian authorities and his spokesman to local media. He has the freedom to make a Skype call to a reporter – but no guarantee that he will get out of his predicament alive.

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Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler Leaves as Ukrainian Troops Advance, His Hostage Says


As Ukraine’s army advances against the Russian proxy forces in southeast Ukraine, it has forced one of the rebels’ most prominent and brutal commanders, former Russian army Lieutenant Colonel Igor Bezler, out of his headquarters. Ukrainian troops and Bezler’s rebels fought battles at Horlivka yesterday, and Bezler left the city, turning his command over to one of his lieutenants, said Vasyl Budik, a local businessman who has spent the past three months as Bezler’s hostage – and, at times, his spokesman.

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As Ukrainian Army Weakens Kremlin’s Proxy Forces, Putin Steps Up War to Avoid Defeat


The war in Ukraine has heated up significantly in the ten days since the Russian-led and supplied insurgents shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Ukrainian forces retook the city of Lysychansk from the rebels late last week and have established control over most of their border with Russia. They are advancing on the city of Horlivka, a stronghold of the rebels and a gateway to Donetsk, the principal city of the Donbas region.

The Ukrainians’ steady advance, and the prospect that they might seal the border and cut insurgent supply lines, have led the government of President Vladimir Putin to again escalate its intervention in Ukraine. In addition to keeping up a steady flow of armored vehicles, missile systems and fighters to its agents in southeastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has sent heavy artillery. Russian forces along the Ukrainian border are directly attacking the Ukrainian military with artillery fire. In some locations, Ukrainian forces are under fire by the separatists to their west and the Russians to their east.

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Alternate Reality Presented to the Russian Public by its Media


Four days after the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, Russia’s state-dominated news media are bending fact and credulity in an effort to blame Ukraine for the disaster. Within hours of the crash, Russia’s second largest news agency, RIA Novosti, announced that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian military. Citing the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic press service as their source, RIA reported that “eyewitnesses reported that the Malaysian jet was attacked by a Ukrainian fighter plane, after which the plane broke in midair into two sections and crashed on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. After the attack the Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down and crashed. ”

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Calls for Probe of Flight MH17 Will Disturb Back-Room Policymaking


The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner by the Russian-led insurgents in southeastern Ukraine appears to have awakened Europe’s conscience. The principal powers in the EU had been able thus far in the Ukraine crisis to avoid directly accusing the Kremlin of responsibility for the disorder in Ukraine’s southeast. They had sanctioned Moscow three times for failing to rein in “the pro-Russian separatists,” but those measures were notably weaker than the sanctions issued from Washington. This encouraged Mr. Putin to believe that, due to its economic interests in Russia, the EU would not act decisively against Kremlin aggression in Ukraine.

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