Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pentagon Readies More Robust U.S. Military Presence in Eastern Europe

March 31, 2016 (The Wall Street Journal) The Pentagon has drawn up plans to position American troops, tanks and other armored vehicles full time along NATO’s eastern borders to deter Russian aggression, in what would be the first such deployment since the end of the Cold War. The Pentagon intends the plans as an escalation of a proposal it announced last year, when it said it was looking at ways to increase U.S. military deterrence in Eastern Europe, such as prepositioning older materiel in the region. Some countries on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastern flank have expressed concern about the depth of the U.S. commitment to their defense - especially in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said the new plan should allay such worries because it would position more of the U.S. Army’s best and most-modern equipment in the area, while rotating in a brigade’s worth of U.S. Army troops. The new gear includes 250 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin self-propelled howitzers as well as more than 1,700 additional wheeled vehicles and trucks. Combined with equipment already in Europe, “there will be a division’s worth of stuff to fight if something happens,” Mr. Work told The Wall Street Journal. “If push came to shove, they’d be able to come together as a cohesive unit that has trained together, with all their organic equipment, and fight. That’s a lot better than what we have right now.

Lithuanian and U.S. troops taking part in military training in Rukla, Lithuania, last week.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Russian-backed militants continue shelling in Donbas, storming Ukrainian stronghold near Avdiyivka

March 28, 2016 (REUTERS) The combined Russian-separatist forces attempted to storm one of the Ukrainian army strongholds near Avdiyivka, the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) press center reported. It is noted that the situation in the ATO zone remains tense, with pro-Russian mercenaries having attacked Ukrainian forces 18 times during the day. "Shelling does not cease near Avdiyivka. During the reported period, the enemy has launched fire six times using mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns and large-caliber firearms," a statement reads. Also, illegal armed groups tried to storm one of the strongholds of the ATO forces near Avdiyivka. Ukrainian servicemen had to open retaliation fire, forcing a sabotage and reconnaissance group of six militants to retreat. No casualties among Ukrainian forces have been reported, information on enemy casualties is being clarified, the press center said. According to the ATO headquarters, in the Mariupol direction, militants used anti-tank guided missiles and 120mm caliber mortars to shell the ATO forces near Novotroitske. In addition, the pro-Russian gangs were also firing at Ukrainian positions near the villages of Shyrokyne and Taramchuk using small arms. Ukrainian servicemen have opened fire several times in response to militant aimed attacks, but solely from the weapons not prohibited by the Minsk agreements, the ATO headquarters emphasized.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Journalist Gongadze buried in Kyiv 15 years after his murder

March 25, 2016 (KyivPost) Several hundred people came to pay their respects to Georgiy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist killed in 2000, at the funeral in Kyiv on March 22. Gongadze was buried in the yard of the Mykola Naberezhny Church in Kyiv's Podil district. The journalist who founded online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda was kidnapped and murdered on Sept. 16, 2000. His decapitated body was discovered on Nov. 2 in the forest in Kyiv Oblast. In 2008, the court convicted three police officers to various prison terms. In 2013, ex-police top official Oleksiy Pukach was convicted, too. He admitted to be the main executor of the murder.

The investigation never found who ordered the murder. The court verdict in 2013 said it was former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, who killed himself in 2005 on the day he was supposed to be questioned about the Gongadze case. Mayor Mykola Melnychenko who worked in the security service for ex-President Leonid Kuchma, released the tapes of the phone calls that have a person with a voice resembling Kuchma's ordering to "deal with Gongadze." Gongadze's widow Myroslava Gongadze, head of Voice of America's Ukrainian service, visited the funeral along with her two daughters. After the murder, the family relocated to the U.S.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

President Poroshenko says decisions on Savchenko's return to Ukraine to be made after sentence takes effect

March 24, 2016 (UNIAN) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko believes a decision on the release of Ukrainian military pilot and parliamentarian Nadiya Savchenko and her return home can be made only after the sentence handed down on her by a Russian court takes legal effect.
"I do not expect any decisions before the so-called court judgment takes effect," Poroshenko told journalists in Kharkiv, pointing out that the sentence should come into effect in early April. "As soon as this happens, Nadia should be immediately returned to Ukraine," he said.

 Russian riot police officers and cossacks patrol next to a courthouse in the southern Russian town of Donetsk on March 22, ahead of the verdict announcement in the murder trial of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Britain has signed 15-Year Defense Deal With Ukraine

March 23, 2016 (Sputnik News) Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak and UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt signed a new defense agreement. According to Mordaunt, the UK agreed to double its assistance to the Ukrainian defense ministry. In the past year, about 2,000 members of the Ukrainian army has been trained by the UK military instructors. Ukraine also received over $1.4 million worth of equipment from the UK. The agreement provides for an increase in the number of joint training missions, the British military experts, along with enhanced sharing of intelligence data and expertise. Britain will also supply Ukraine's army with new military equipment to help Kiev's forces in its conflict with separatist groups in the country's east. The equipment, which consists of $1.3 million (£850,000) in non-lethal military aid, comes as on the back of a request from Kiev officials. The package includes first aid kits, night vision goggles, laptops, helmets and GPS units. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the latest announcement was in reaction to what he perceived as "Russia's aggression" in the Ukrainian conflict.

"The UK is committed to supporting Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the face of Russia's aggression." Britain, along with the US and EU, has accused Russia of interfering with the Ukrainian conflict, and providing military assistance to separatist groups in the country's east. However Moscow has continually denied these claims. The latest delivery of non-lethal military equipment follows last week's announcement that the UK will send 75 military advisors and trainers to Ukraine to provide assistance to local forces. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed the forces would not be engaging in military combat but would be providing military assistance and logistical advice to Kiev government forces. "We are providing non-lethal assistance that has been requested by the Ukrainian Government to enhance the capability of their armed forces and to attempt to reduce the number of fatalities and casualties that they have suffered," said Fallon.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ukraine's new sniper rifles: Deadly weapons to fight Russia's war in Donbas

March 21, 2016 These National Guard troops are on a firing range, testing new sniper rifles. These weapons are advanced compared to equipment currently used by the military in eastern Ukraine. For example, the rifles have advanced scopes with an option of a thermal or laser telescopic sight – ideal for round the clock operations. Perhaps most importantly though – the majority come with the label ‘Made in Ukraine' – something the military leadership hope to see more of in the future.
Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council Secretary: "We have set targets for our (weapons) producers to be a world class example and step-by-step, gradually abandon Soviet weapons and move towards Ukrainian-made ones." The new weapons have a firing range of up to 1,200 meters, weight around 4.5kg and use 7.62 caliber cartridges. Oleksandr Turchynov announced the establishment of a new ammunition production plant. The only one Ukraine had in Luhansk region is now within the territory controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. 
Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council Secretary: "In the near future a scientific research laboratory will be set up in the sniper training center that will explore and produce special ammunition for sniper weapons to help hit the enemy at long distances." Snipers have played a major role since the war in Donbas broke out in April 2014. But even still, Ukrainian soldiers at the front complain of a shortage of advanced gear and training. The lack of these elements prove a distinct disadvantage on the battlefield, against better-armed Russian-backed separatist forces. 
Yuriy Alerov, Ukrainian National Guard Commander: "Most of the casualties we receive today come from injuries or deaths from enemy artillery and snipers. We have great experience with our anti-sniper work." After the trial of these rifles, its hoped production of the weapons in Ukraine will be expanded - so more snipers can keep the enemy in their crosshairs and the rest of the country safe.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Amid growing military tensions, Russian spies infiltrate Sweden

March 19, 2016 (IB Times) Amid growing tensions between the two nations, Russian spies pose a significant risk to Sweden, according to an annual report from the Swedish security service. Russia’s aggressive spying tactics include various forms of psychological warfare via “extreme movements, information operations and misinformation campaigns” designed to target both policymakers and the general public, the report warns. This is the second consecutive year that the report singled out Russian spies as Sweden’s biggest intelligence threat. The 2016 report found that about a dozen diplomats are operating as spies, despite Stockholm asking some Russian Embassy staff to leave in 2015. Other spies reportedly worked for airlines and businesses operating in Sweden. “We see intelligence activities in all these different areas. In the political, economic, military, and so on. The overall picture is very disturbing,” Wilhelm Unge, one of the counterespionage researchers who worked on the report, told local media. Sweden is not a NATO member, but in its role in the European Union, it participates in economic sanctions imposed by the 28-nation bloc against Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. Sweden has also called out Russia in recent years for allegedly sending a submarine into the Stockholm archipelago and its increased military activity in the Baltic Sea, including bombers rehearsing an attack on Sweden. It’s moved to increase defense spending and military co-operation with neighboring Finland, also a non-NATO EU member. Iran and China also represent intelligence threats to Sweden, the report found. Among terrorist groups, the Islamic State has increasingly become a potential danger, with growing efforts to radicalize young people, the report concluded. More than 300 people have traveled from Sweden to fight in Syria and Iraq with the militants also known as ISIS. Of these, 135 have since returned, while 44 are dead.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sweden-Ukraine IT Connection: Developing business ties for tech innovation

March 19, 2016 (Ukraine Digital News) On April 6 in Kyiv (Kiev), the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine and Business Sweden, the Swedish trade and invest council, will hold “Sweden-Ukraine IT Connection,” an event to link the Swedish IT sector with its Ukrainian counterparts. “Ukraine is an attractive destination for many Swedish companies willing to expand businesses,” the organizers believe, citing the fact that today Sweden is among the top 20 countries that invest the most in Ukraine. “The Ukrainian IT industry is one of the most promising sectors, due to strong scientific legacy and growing pool of qualified and motivated human resources. Furthermore, Ukraine is a close, competent, innovative and reliable partner for Swedish businesses,” Business Sweden says. Oscar Stenström, the Swedish State Secretary for Economic Development and Innovations, will open and take part in the event. The following topics will be in focus:
1.  Business partnership opportunities between the two countries
2.  IT consulting possibilities in Ukraine for Swedish companies
3.  Ukraine as an investment destination: how to establish and develop an IT company in Ukraine
4.  Start-up alley: presentation and matching of Swedish and Ukrainian IT startups

Friday, March 18, 2016

Floor statement by Senator John McCain on Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko

March 18, 2016 U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was smuggled across the border to Russia where she faces false charges and illegal imprisonment:

“Mr. President: It has been nearly two years since Nadiya Savchenko, the first female military pilot in post-Soviet Ukraine and an Iraq War veteran, was abducted from Ukrainian territory by pro-Russian separatists and smuggled across the border to Russia where she faces false charges and illegal imprisonment. She is accused by Russia of having directed artillery fire that killed two Russian state-television journalists in eastern Ukraine in June 2014, and then illegally crossing into Russian territory without proper paperwork. This is despite clear evidence provided by her lawyers that she was captured by separatists before this incident occurred, and then hauled across the border in handcuffs with a sack over her head. Following her capture, Nadiya has reportedly endured interrogations, solitary confinement, and was subjected to a psychiatric evaluation at the infamous Russian Serbsky Institute, where Soviet authorities were once known to torture political dissidents. Further media reports suggest that she is gravely ill and near death.
                                                        Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko
 There are international laws that govern the treatment of prisoners of war. But Russia continues to deny that it is fighting a war in Ukraine, and is therefore treating Nadiya as a common criminal. While there are also international laws that govern the treatment of common criminals, Russia has shown as much regard for those laws as Ukraine’s sovereignty or the rights of Russians like Boris Nemtsov. From her prison cell in Russia, Nadiya said, ‘If I am found guilty, I will not appeal. I want the entire democratic world to understand that Russia is a Third World country with a totalitarian regime and a petty tyrant for a dictator and it spits on international law and human rights.
And in her last appearance in court, Ms. Savchenko said, ‘The trial proves the guilt of Russian authorities; they are to blame for seizing Ukrainian lands, capturing Crimea and starting a war in the Donbas region. They are to blame for trying to establish – through their foul undeclared wars all over the world – a totalitarian regime dominated by Russia.

She ended her court appearance by saying, ‘Russia will return me to Ukraine yet. Whether I am dead or alive. It will return me.
The full video of U.S. Senator John McCain’s speech is available at:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Defense Chief Says Ukraine Still Needs Weapons

March 16, 2016 (Voice of America) Two years into a war that has been largely forgotten, Ukraine’s defense minister says his country still needs lethal assistance to stop further Russian aggression while the Ukrainian military continues to modernize. General Stepan Poltorak sat down with VOA recently to discuss the challenges Ukrainian armed forces face. He said his military has come a long way from the corrupt, hollowed out force it was in 2014 when he took over as defense chief, but said it still needs much help as Russia shows no sign of ending its intervention in the east of his country. VOA Europe Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Kyiv.

See video (english language) at:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Police revolution has reached Poltava

March 11, 2016 The revolution in Ukrainian policing is continuing to spread across the country. At least 245 new patrol police officers have been sworn in at a ceremony in Poltava. Among the new recruits there are more than 30 men who've served in eastern Ukraine fighting Russian-backed separatist forces. 50 recruits are female. The presentation of the new police structure was attended by the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk. 22 new police patrol cars are equipped with modern means of communication, including tablet PCs, through which policemen have the opportunity to immediately receive information from an appropriate electronic databases.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What Georgian doctors can do besides treating people

March 5, 2016 Have you ever heard a famous song "Comme d'habitude" perfomed by the great Claude François, an Egyptian-born French pop singer, songwriter and dancer. Even if you have not, you definitely have heard the same song but under the name “My way” performed by another great singer Francis Sinatra. But I bet you have never heard this song perfomed in Georgian by vocal octet of Georgian doctors – vocal amateurs

On my understanding its so beautiful! Just think it out: if this song was performed so amazing by amateurs, how it could be performed by professionals? Watch this video at

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ukraine will not join EU, NATO for another 20-25 years – Juncker

March 4, 2016 (UNIAN News Agency) It will take Ukraine at least another 20 years to join the European Union or NATO, a top EU official predicted Thursday, dashing hopes in the country for quick accessions to the bloc and the military alliance, Ukraine's weekly newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli with reference to Europe Online Magazine. The push for closer ties between Ukraine and the EU lies at the heart of the current crisis in the former Soviet country, which was triggered by protests in 2013 over a failed attempt to finalize an EU-Ukraine free trade deal, the report notes. The agreement has since been signed and implemented, while the EU is paving the way for Ukrainian citizens to be able to visit the bloc without visas. Top officials in Ukraine have also repeatedly expressed the wish to join the EU.

But European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said during a speech in The Hague on Thursday that "Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the EU in the next 20-25 years, and not of NATO either," according to the report. Juncker made his comments in the context of a referendum that the Netherlands will hold in April on the EU-Ukraine free trade deal. The commission president said that some Dutch voters have misunderstood that agreement as the first step towards membership. It is noted that the commission, the EU's executive, plays a leading role in accession negotiations between the bloc and aspiring members.
Read more on UNIAN: