Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reuters: Ukraine says EU reverse gas flows lower after Gazprom's 'threats'

 July 29  2014 (Reuters) Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said on Wednesday reverse gas flows from the European Union to Ukraine had fallen because of opposition from Russian gas producer Gazprom . Ukraine - which consumes around 50 billion cubic metres of gas annually - has increased its efforts to secure more gas from the European Union after Gazprom raised prices for its supplies in a dispute. "Reverse gas supplies are reduced at present. This is linked to certain actions by Gazprom," Prodan told reporters, adding Ukraine first saw a decrease two weeks ago. Gazprom declined to comment on Wednesday. The company said on Apr.5 the possibility of importing gas from the West to substitute for Russian supplies raised questions about the legality of such a move. Gazprom head Alexei Miller has also called the reverse of gas flows from Slovakia to Ukraine "semi-fraudulent". "You heard the threats Gazprom made to European energy companies that this reverse is illegal." He said reverse supplies stood at 7 million cubic metres daily on Wednesday versus a possible 18 million. He did not say by how much supplies had fallen in the past two weeks. On April 28 Bratislava and Ukraine signed a deal allowing the EU to send a limited amount of gas to Ukraine. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said combined reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland could reach up to around 16-17 bcm annually.
A manometer of the gas pressure and a valve at the East Poltava gas booster compressor station not far from Ukrainian city of Poltava on June 27, 2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

777 Malaysia Airlines flight crashes in Ukraine

July 17 2014(CNN)  A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashed -- and was possibly shot down -- in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. The plane had 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board, read a Facebook post from Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. The Boeing 777 was "shot down" over Ukraine by "terrorists" operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system, the post said. The plane was shot down near the town on Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, according to the post, as it flew at about 10,000 meters (32,000 feet).
"We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, according to his website. Details of the incident are quickly pouring in during the same week that Ukrainian officials said a Russian fighter shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane while the aircraft was in in Ukrainian airspace. Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that it lost contact with Flight 17 and that the jet's last known position was over Ukrainian airspace, the airline said on Twitter. Reacting to the breaking story, CNN's Richard Quest, an aviation expert, said that it would "extremely unusual" for an airliner at 32,000 feet to be shot down. From the ground, one could simply look up and tell whether a plane was a commercial aircraft.
"It looks like a commercial aircraft, it squawks a commercial aircraft. So something is absolutely appalling that's gone on here," he said. FlightRadar24 showed the plane disappearing near Kremenchuk (100 km. south from Poltava), Ukraine.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted that an investigation will be launched immediately. "I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed," he posted. And Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk ordered that a government commission investigate the crash, a statement from his office said. Russian President Vladimir Putin "expressed deep condolences" to Malaysia's Prime Minister over the crash, a post Thursday on the Kremlin's website said. He "asked to pass the most sincere word of condolences and support to families and relatives of (the crash) victims," the post said. President Obama has directed his staff to be in touch with senior Ukrainian officials, Earnest said.
People inspect a piece of wreckage beleived to be from Malasia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine. This image was posted to Twitter.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ukraine army still far from victory over rebels in east

8 July 2014 (BBC News Ukraine) Ukrainian government troops have made significant gains in recent days, pushing pro-Russian rebels out of a string of towns in the east. The rebels have retreated to Donetsk from Sloviansk, for weeks a powerful symbol of their resistance to Kiev.
Ukrainian politicians say a fundamental turning point has been reached in the conflict. But the experience of similar conflicts elsewhere - with a regular army confronting paramilitary units - provides no basis for such claims. Nobody has succeeded in defeating paramilitaries who are embedded in a city, virtually turning its residents into a human shield - the Americans did not win such a conflict in Mogadishu, Somalia, nor did the Russians win in the Chechen capital Grozny. In such a situation a regular army cannot use its superiority in heavy weapons over rebels - weapons such as armoured vehicles, aircraft and artillery.
The army may manage - after huge efforts - to capture one town, destroying it with heavy artillery, only to find that the rebels have simply moved to another town. That town in turn has to be taken by storm, and then the same thing happens in a third town. It appears that the same thing has happened now in the Ukraine conflict.
  A bridge destroyed in the village of Novobakhmutivka

The pro-Russian separatists cannot continue the fight without support from outside. Their ammunition is running out, they constantly need new weapons. And they need an inflow of so-called "volunteers" - and we know where they come from. The fighters also need training - and somewhere to train. So in theory sealing the border with Russia could end the conflict - but in reality Ukraine does not have sufficient forces to do that. Whether or not Donetsk can be taken without large-scale damage depends directly on the strength of the defending rebels.We do not know exactly what numbers and equipment the rebels have managed to concentrate in Donetsk. But fighting in a modern city is always an army's nightmare. In 2003 the Americans were so daunted by the task of assaulting Baghdad that they studied how the Russians stormed Grozny - and that attack on the Chechen rebels was certainly no great success.

  The rebels have set up defensive positions around Donetsk

The Ukrainian army will probably try to use its numerical superiority - experts reckon that 30,000 regular troops are facing a maximum of 10,000 separatists. The logical tactic in conducting such a siege of Donetsk and Luhansk would be to put the rebels under pressure simultaneously in several places, forcing them to dissipate their energies. Igor Strelkov's response might well be to create mobile groups of 200 to 300 fighters, equipped with mobile rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons. The rebels will try to cut communications links to Donetsk, to block the deployment of some 6,000 Ukrainian troops freed up by the seizure of Sloviansk. Three bridges have been blown up on roads leading to Donetsk, and Ukrainian troops will doubtless run the risk of rebel ambushes on major roads. So far there is no clear answer to the question: which side will be first to incur the local residents' hostility? The rebels, whose appearance will be a signal of impending clashes? Or the regular troops, whose use of heavy weapons will cause civilian casualties and destroy homes? Either way, there is no early end in sight.

  Sloviansk: Ukraine has reasserted control in what was a rebel stronghold

The Kremlin's position is of course crucial in this situation. Under the threat of more serious Western sanctions it appears that President Vladimir Putin has rejected the idea of direct military intervention disguised as a peacekeeping operation. Most likely the secret support for the rebels, through supplies of volunteers and arms, will continue. That support does not go far enough for those fighters who want to attach south-eastern Ukraine to Russia - a part of Ukraine already described by Kremlin propagandists as "Novorossiya" (New Russia). The Kremlin will try to keep Mr Strelkov in Ukraine with his followers, armed with Kalashnikovs. Otherwise they would stir up trouble for Russia, armed and angry. So for now Moscow's goal will be to maintain controllable chaos in Ukraine. That policy will also serve to show the Russian people that any attempt at a Ukraine-style "colour revolution", any attempt to get rid of the authoritarian state, will result in chaos and civil war.