Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ukraine conflict: Daily reality of east's 'frozen war'

July 31, 2016 (BBC News Europe) War in eastern Ukraine is now routine for the people still living there, and there is little cause for optimism, despite a ceasefire and a strong desire for peace. Outbreaks of fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian army frequently violate the truce and lives are still being lost, two years after the conflict broke out.
The front line is just 800m from the school at Oleksandrivka, a village controlled by the pro-Russian self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR). Its soldiers are in trenches close-by, and not visible. On the school's main door is a chilling reminder of daily reality: a piece of white paper that reads: "Weapons banned inside." Head teacher Valentina Cherkas's booming voice offers a reassuring welcome to the children as they arrive. Image caption Head teacher Valentina Cherkas describes the situation as 'madness'.
Outside, by the playground, are blue flak-jacketed ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE). "Madness" is the one word Valentina uses to sum up the war.
"You see I'm Ukrainian, and the Donbass (eastern regions of Ukraine) is my land. So it's like cutting me in half." And that is the reality. The very eastern fringe of Ukraine has been sliced in two. 
Read the whole article and see video at

Monday, July 18, 2016

Farnborough 2016: An-178 makes Farnborough debut

 July 11, 2016 (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly) The Antonov An-178 has made its first appearance at the Farnborough International Airshow 2016, as efforts by the manufacturer increase to broaden the aircraft's international market appeal. The aircraft made its first debut at a Western airshow at the 2015 Paris Air Show, and was also displayed at the ILA show in Berlin in June 2016.
First revealed in 2010, the An-178 is a variant of the company's An-158 regional jet which features a rear-loading ramp. According to IHS Jane's All The World's Aircraft: Development & Production , the An-178's cargo hold measures 16.65 m including ramp, or 12.85 m excluding ramp; 2.745 m width at the floor and a height of 2.75 m; and a floor area of 40 m 2 and a hold volume of 125 m 3 (both including the ramp). Its wingspan is 28.84 m, it is 32.95 m in length, and 10.14 m tall. The aircraft has a maximum payload of 18 tonnes and a range of 1,000 km fully loaded. Its cruise speed is 445 kt and the aircraft requires a 2,500 m runway for operations.
The aircraft's launch customer is Azerbaijani cargo carrier Silkway Airlines, with the Azerbaijani government reportedly paying advances for two aircraft in July. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2018, with a further eight on order. In early June, the Azerbaijani government announced that it intended to undertake some assembly work in-country on the aircraft. Saudi Arabia has also signed a Memorandum of Delivery with Antonov for 30 An-178 aircraft, as part of the growing links between Saudi Arabia and Ukraine. In addition to the aircraft purchase, Saudi Arabia's Taqnia and Antonov are developing a modernised An-32 'Curl', known as the An-132D. The An-132D is to feature a number of Western systems, including Pratt & Whitney engines, avionics, and propellers.
See video showing An-178 at Farnborough International Airshow 2016 at

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Canadian troops in Ukraine

July 12, 2016 (Canadian Press) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Canadian soldiers on Tuesday for their role in training the Ukrainian army, before getting a demonstration of their work firsthand. Speaking to some of the 200 soldiers who have been based near the western city of Lviv since January, Trudeau emphasized the importance of continuing to support Ukraine in its struggle with Russia. "It has been a long time since Canada had to defend our valour and defend our territory," he said in French to the soldiers, who are members of the Valcartier-based Royal 22e Regiment, better known as the Vandoos. "But we need to continue to work with those who are fighting for democracy and their territorial integrity. It is essential." Trudeau didn't say anything, however, about whether the training mission will be extended. It is due to end next March, though Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made a personal request to Trudeau on Monday to extend it.

The previous Conservative government sent the Canadian military trainers to Ukraine last year in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Canadians, alongside British and American troops, have been teaching the Ukrainian army the basics of soldiering, such as how to use weapons and move as a unit, as well as more advanced skills such bomb disposal and medical training. "You are really a source of extraordinary pride for all Canadians," Trudeau said. "And this is an opportunity for me to thank you in person."

After speaking to the troops, Trudeau was joined by his son Xavier and defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance to watch a military exercise involving a group of Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers. As the Trudeaus and Vance watched through binoculars, a Soviet-era armoured personnel carrier led the soldiers toward a wooden building. The air shook as its cannon fired several rounds in quick succession.

The troops then moved away from the vehicle and spread out in a line facing the building. Four Canadians followed close behind as the eight Ukrainians slowly closed on the building, firing all the way, before placing an explosive inside and setting it off. The exercise was designed to show how Canadian troops have been helping bring the Ukrainians up to a level where they can push back against Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. It came at the end of a six-day trip through Eastern Europe for Trudeau in which Russia loomed large. Trudeau flies home from Lviv later today after having pledged troops to Latvia while attending the NATO summit in Poland, paying an emotional visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and signing a free trade agreement in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.
The video is available at

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Warsaw Summit Communiqué

Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw 8-9 July 2016

 1. We, the Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, have gathered in Warsaw at a defining moment for the security of our nations and populations.  We are pleased to have been joined by Montenegro, which we have invited to become the 29th member of our Alliance.

 10.         Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace.  In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.

16.         An independent, sovereign, and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security.  We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and Ukraine’s right to decide its own future and foreign policy course free from outside interference, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act.   We strongly condemn Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine and its continued violation of international law and its international obligations, which have serious implications for the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
17.         Russia bears full responsibility for the serious deterioration of the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula, in particular the discrimination against the Crimean Tatars and other members of local communities.  We demand that the Russian de facto authorities take the necessary measures to ensure the safety, rights, and freedoms of everyone living on the peninsula.  International monitoring structures must be allowed to carry out their essential work in view of the protection of human rights.  We condemn Russia’s ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea, and are concerned by Russia’s efforts and stated plans for further military build-up in the Black Sea region.
18.         We are committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed nearly 10 000 lives, and reintegration of the areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by the Russian-backed militants.  This will require full implementation of the Minsk Agreements based on a comprehensive ceasefire and an internationally verified withdrawal of weapons.  We urge all signatories to fully comply with the commitments they signed up to. 

19.         Russia, as a signatory to the Minsk Agreements, bears significant responsibility in this regard.  Despite its declared commitment to the Minsk Agreements, Russia continues its deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, in violation of international law.  Russia continues to provide weapons, equipment, and personnel, as well as financial and other assistance to militant groups, and to intervene militarily in the conflict.  We are extremely concerned by the destabilisation and deteriorating security situation in eastern Ukraine.  We call on Russia to desist from aggressive actions and to use its considerable influence over the militants to meet their commitments in full, especially to allow for the observation of the ceasefire regime, implementation of confidence-building measures, and disarmament.