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US again pledges support for Ukrainian Army
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 22:00:57 GMT

Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and Donald Winter, a strategic adviser on the improvement of the Ukrainian military-industrial sector, discussed the Ukrainian Army's priority needs for armaments and military equipment, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote on Facebook.

Muzhenko thanked Americans for “constant and informative consultation, advisory, as well as material and technical assistance”. Winter confirmed Washington’s intention to continue supporting Kyiv.

US President Donald Trump recently signed a package of legislative acts approved by Congress. The United States pledges assistance of almost $700 million to Ukraine in 2019. $115 million is intended for the military-technical support of Ukraine under the International Military Financing program.

Former NATO Secretary-General: Belarus faces annexation by Russia
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 21:00:49 GMT

The former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in an interview with LIGA.net, stated that Belarus faces the threat of annexation by Russia.

“The key risk is a repeat of what happened in Ukraine after the war and the annexation. Belarus can expect the same scenario if it does not begin reforms,” he said.

Rasmussen called on Belarus to begin reforms which would lead to democracy and freedom before it's too late.

“We heard Vladimir Putin’s statement where he said that Belarus must be integrated as a part of Russia like the Crimean Peninsula. I would like Belarus to receive more help from the West. However, we need to see that Belarus has positioned itself towards freedom and democracy,” he said.

The former NATO-Secretary-General suggests that President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko must choose: “either reform or continuous oppression by the Russians.”

Estonia prepares to introduce sanctions against Russia because of Kerch Strait incident
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 20:00:48 GMT

The Estonian parliament will appeal to the government with a proposal to introduce individual sanctions against four high-ranking Russian officials who are deemed responsible for Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. Among them are Senator Aleksey Pushkov, Vladimir Kulishov, Sergei Stankevich and Vasily Piskarev. The decision was adopted by the Estonian MPs on Wednesday, February 20.

Fifty-six deputies voted to impose sanctions on the four officials. The sanctions prohibit entry to Estonia and countries of the Schengen Agreement. Deputies Henn Polluaas of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Mart Nutt of Pro Patria (Isamaa) joined this initiative.

Vasily Piskarev is Head of the Russian State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption. Aleksey Pushkov is Chairman of the Information Policy Committee of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. General Vladimir Kulishov is First Deputy Head of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation or FSB and Head of the Border Guard Service of the FSB. Rear Admiral Sergei Stankevich is Head of the Border Department of the Federal Security Service of Crimea and Sevastopol.

On 25 November last year, Russia attacked and captured the Ukrainian military boats Berdyansk and Nikopol and the tugboat Yany Kapu in neutral waters. All 24 Ukrainians on board were accused of violating the Russian state border, arrested, and transferred from Kerch to Moscow. Ukraine considered this an act of military aggression, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized the captured sailors as prisoners of war.

US President Donald Trump canceled his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of the Kerch Strait incident. US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker similarly called off his scheduled negotiation session with Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov.

Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in December that Ukraine had invited its international partners to take part in a passage of naval ships from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait. The Russian media warned that this could “aggravate the situation”.

Warsaw: Russia foments feud between Poland and Israel
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 19:00:45 GMT

The Russian “troll brigades” that are active in the Polish segment of social networks have been deliberately spreading anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda, reported Israel Hayom, citing sources in the Polish government administration. “We have no doubt that this is Russian activity,” the anonymous sources said.

Warsaw is apparently inclined to resolve the Holocaust-related conflict with Israel, because, first and foremost, it does not benefit Poland, drawing increased attention to a topic that is painful to the Poles.

According to the sources, “the severe criticism expressed in the US and in Poland concerning the words of Israel’s acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz plays an important role in settling the crisis in relations with Israel.”

The Polish diplomats say said the condemnation of Katz expressed by the US government, the Hebrew community of Poland and the major Hebrew organizations in the US have helped to remove some of the intensity of the conflict.

Poland is hoping for an apology from Yisrael Katz, a source in the Polish Foreign Ministry observed, even something as simple as “I was wrong, I apologize,” will do. Poland has also heard the statement by Katz’s fellow party member Tzachi Hanegbi, who said that what Katz said was “stupid” and “factually incorrect”.

During an interview on the Israeli TV channel i24, Katz had cited former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said that “Poles suck up antisemitism with their mothers’ milk”.

Wojciech Kolarski, official spokesperson for the Polish president, declared: “What Minister Katz said was harmful and painful, but this is the problem of one politician and his utterances. We cannot allow one person to become the cause of strife between countries and nations.”

The political conflict between Poland and Israel is apparently drawing to a close, although, in light of the Poles’ resentment and the Israelis’ implacability on matters of the Holocaust, its echo could make bilateral relations more difficult for a long time.

Ukrainian President suggests sending UN evaluation group to the Donbas to prepare for deployment of peacekeepers
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 18:00:44 GMT

Sending the UN evaluation group to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions can be an important step preceding the deployment of the international peacekeeping forces, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated. He stressed that Ukraine is ready to discuss the mission's mandate.

"A technical assessment mission that Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres could send to the Donbas for the development of the relevant scenarious would definitely contribute to this discussion,” Poroshenko said during a UN General Assembly debate on "The Situation in The Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine" in New York on Wednesday, February 20.

The President expressed confidence that the deployment of the Peacekeeping contingent and the withdrawal of Russian forces from certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (ORDLO) would contribute to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

"The multinational peacekeeping operation under United Nation auspices with the clear objective to stop Russia's aggression and restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine can be a determining factor to establish peace,” Poroshenko said.

He recalled that Ukraine insists that the mission's mandate should be applied to the entire territory of the Donbas, including the border area with Russia which is not controlled by Ukraine, and that all Russian separatist formations should leave Ukrainian territory. Given these conditions, Poroshenko assured that Kyiv would be ready for a constructive dialogue regarding the format of the peacekeeping mission.

"Any peacekeeping operation is based on the UN key peacekeeping principles. First, it should be unbiased, impartial and neutral,” the President concluded.

Earlier, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko stated that the UN technical mission could analyze military and technical aspects of the peacekeeping mission and determine the number of servicemen that should be sent to the region.


Putin: Russia could be disconnected from world wide web, we must be ready
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 17:00:46 GMT

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at a meeting with representatives of Russian news agencies and print media, that there is a threat that Russia would be disconnected from the world wide web, the Kremlin press service reported.

Putin said that he could not speak about what’s on the mind “of our partners.”

“I think that they will think one hundred times before doing this. However, theoretically, anything is possible. Therefore, we, of course, have to create such [internet] segments that do not depend on anyone,” he noted.

Putin warned that, in event of such a scenario, this could have more than just economic and political repercussions. According to him, the interests of the special services will also suffer.

“They [ foreign countries] sit there; it’s their invention. Everyone is listening, watching and reading what you say, and they are collecting defense information, but this will not happen,” he continued.

“However, we must bear in mind that theoretically, it is possible, and to be ready for this, prepare for any situation,” the president summed up, adding that Russia will not disconnect itself from the world wide web.

Earlier, the State Duma adopted in the first reading a bill on the creation of an autonomous segment of Russian internet (RuNet). The bill was prepared taking into account the “aggressive nature” of US national cybersecurity agencies adopted in September 2018.

Poroshenko: Russia preparing to attack Ukraine
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 16:00:41 GMT

During debates in the UN General Assembly on “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and the environment in New York”, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia is preparing for a military attack against Ukraine, and that future escalation to the level of full-scale war is no longer unrealistic, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

“Military experts unambiguously find that the armed group on the Russian border with Ukraine is an offensive assault group. It has nothing to do with defense. They are designed for a military attack. That is what the Kremlin is preparing for, which is why future escalation to the level of full-scale war is no longer an unrealistic prospect,” Poroshenko said.

He emphasized that this is why constant real-time monitoring of the situation along Ukraine’s border with Russia is necessary.

“The total number of troops in the illegal armed formations is currently around 35,000, as well as 2,100 soldiers from Russia’s regular armed forces. The total number of troops in the Russian armed forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border is more than 87,000,” the president remarked.

Poroshenko also informed the UN General Assembly that the Russian armed groups in the occupied Donbas have 496 tanks, 938 armored military vehicles, 128 multiple launch rocket systems, and 776 artillery systems, including self-propelled guns.

“Ukraine has essentially become the real eastern flank of NATO in the defense of transatlantic freedom and democracy,” he added.

The Ukrainian president recalled that last year the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to the Donbas repeatedly caught on video convoys of Russian military vehicles illegally crossing the parts of the Russian-Ukrainian border that are not controlled by the Ukrainian government. According to Poroshenko, the observers have detected the presence of the latest Russian electronic warfare, reconnaissance and drone suppression systems in the occupied territory.

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces never had these systems at their disposal. There is only one country capable of producing and supplying them – Russia!” Poroshenko emphasized.

The president also pointed out that Russia has been obstructing the monitoring activity of the OSCE SMM in the regions close to the border in order to conceal its illegal arms shipments to the Donbas. The SMM is also frequently restricted in its day to day activities in the occupied territory.

Previously US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker remarked that Russia is not interested in resolving the conflict in the Donbas.

At the same time, US intelligence considers it highly unlikely that Russia will launch a full-scale attack against Ukraine in 2019.

Swedish Swedbank suspected of laundering billions of euros including from Russia
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 15:00:37 GMT

Swedish Swedbank is suspected of systematic money laundering, which lasted for about a decade, and was associated with the Baltic branches of Danske Bank, reports Delfi news portal with reference to the Swedish broadcasting corporation (SVT).

According to the "Uppdrag Granskning" program, the cash flow between Swedbank and the Baltic branches of Danske Bank was at least 40 billion Swedish krona (5.8 billion euros). Among them, there are transfers from companies that became known due to large scandals, such as the Russian “case of Sergei Magnitsky” and stories about Azerbaijan’s money laundering system, which laundered money illegally obtained by Azerbaijan’s elite.

According to SVT, remittances, during which money was allegedly laundered, were made between 2007-2015.

Latvia’s center for Investigative journalism, Re: Baltica participated in the investigation, which confirmed that among the clients of the Swedbank Latvian unit were companies whose money or true owners’ identities should have raised questions within the supervising institutions and the bank.

Estonian newspaper Postimees has obtained data on the suspicious cash flows to more than ten Estonian clients’ of Swedbank. The amounts of transactions related to their current accounts exceed millions and at times tens of millions of dollars.

“News about the Swedbank’s possible involvement in money laundering is a “thing of the past”, the bank has already been punished for this,” said the head of the Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC), Peters Putnins.

Putnins said that the FCMC will discuss the published information with the bank, however, according to his data, this is a “thing of the past.”

"The FCMC has already punished Swedbank for the internal control shortcomings, and now the bank has eliminated all previously identified issues. In addition, Swedbank has completed the process of closing all non-resident accounts. If it turns out that part of the Danske Bank funds is related to money laundering, we will study how many more banks are involved in this, "he said.

Putin: Russia is ready to aim missiles at US
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 14:00:35 GMT

Commenting on the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty during a speech to the Federal Assembly of the State Duma, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready to aim missiles at the US in the event of a threat.

According to Putin, Russia will aim its weapons not only against the European countries where the US deploys its intermediate and short-range missiles, but also against the US itself in the event of a threat.

“If they really are produced and shipped to the European continent, and the US does have such plans, at least we haven’t heard any statements to the contrary, then it will severely exacerbate the situation in the area of international security and create serious threats for Russia, since the flight time to Moscow for certain classes of these missiles is 10-12 minutes. And this is an extremely serious threat to us,” Putin said.

In such a scenario, Russia will take “mirror and asymmetric action”.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons that could be used not only with respect to the territories from which such a threat will come to us, but also the territories where the centers for making decisions concerning the use of the missile systems that threaten us are located,” Putin remarked.

“Let them consider the range and speed of our prospective weapons systems. All we ask is for this: let them first consider, and only afterwards make decisions that could create additional serious threats to our country, and, of course, lead to response measures from Russia,” he said.

Putin did, however, say that Russia would like amicable relations with the US.

Washington and NATO believe that Russia has violated the INF Treaty by developing and testing the 9M729 missile, which can fly more than 500 km. The Russian military denies that the missile is capable of exceeding the 500 km limit. In December 2018, the US threatened to withdraw from the agreement unless Russia returned to compliance with the treaty within 60 days. Two months later, Washington officially suspended its participation in the INF Treaty.

The following day, Putin announced Moscow’s “mirror response” and instructed the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry to stop attempting to initiate any new disarmament negotiations.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by Soviet Union leader Mihkail Gorbachev and then US President Ronald Reagan. Intermediate and short range missiles constitute the greatest threat to the world, because they can reach their targets in a matter of minutes, and do not give the enemy any time to prepare for the attack or to repel it.

Netanyahu cancels meeting with Putin
Published: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 13:00:33 GMT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the last minute, The Jerusalem Post reported.

It became known earlier that the head of the Israeli government will visit the capital of Russia on a working visit on Thursday to have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s press service announced that Netanyahu and Putin would “exchange views” on the situation in the Middle East and discuss issues of Russian-Israeli bilateral cooperation.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister's office sent a message on the cancellation of Netanyahu's visit to Moscow today. Although the exact reason for this decision remains unknown, the Jerusalem Post assumes that it could be caused by the internal political situation in Israel.

It was stated in the report of the office that the cancellation of the visit was agreed with the Russian side, and Putin and Netanyahu will have a telephone call tomorrow morning to discuss a new date for a visit.


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