Category : Ukraine

(PRC FactTank) Split between Ukrainian, Russian churches shows political importance of Orthodox Christianity

The recent decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to split from its Russian counterpart after more than 300 years of being linked reflects not only the continuing military conflict between the two countries in recent years, but also the important political role Orthodox Christianity plays in the region.

Ukraine is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation, with nearly eight-in-ten adults (78%) identifying as Orthodox (compared with 71% in Russia), according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey of much of the country (some contested areas in eastern Ukraine were not surveyed). This is up from 39% who said they were Orthodox Christian in 1991 – the year the officially atheist Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine gained its independence. With roughly 35 million Orthodox Christians, Ukraine now has the third-largest Orthodox population in the world, after Russia and Ethiopia.

In addition, Orthodox Christianity is closely tied to Ukraine’s national and political life. Roughly half of all Ukrainians (51%) say it is at least somewhat important for someone to be Orthodox to be truly Ukrainian. The same is true for Russia, where 57% say being Orthodox is important to being truly Russian. In both countries, about half (48% in each) say religious leaders have at least some influence in political matters, although most Ukrainians (61%) and roughly half of Russians (52%) would prefer if this were not the case.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT) As Ukraine and Russia Battle Over Orthodoxy, Schism Looms

Ukraine is on the verge of opening the biggest schism in Christianity in centuries, as it breaks from the authority of a Moscow-based patriarch and this week expects to formally gain recognition for its own church, taking tens of millions of followers.

Intensifying a millennium-old religious struggle freighted with 21st-century geopolitical baggage, Ukraine’s security services have in recent weeks interrogated priests loyal to Moscow, searched church properties and enraged their Russian rivals.

“They just want to frighten us,” said the Rev. Vasily Nachev, one of more than a dozen priests loyal to the Moscow patriarch who were called in for questioning.

The new Ukrainian church is expected to be granted legitimacy on Jan. 6, the eve of the Orthodox Christmas, when its newly elected head, Metropolitan Epiphanius, travels to Istanbul to receive an official charter from the Constantinople patriarchate, a longtime rival power center to Moscow.

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Posted in Church History, History, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(BBC) Orthodox Church split: Five reasons why it matters

There are fears that, with a full-blown dispute between Church authorities, congregations could be shut out of certain churches.

President Poroshenko accuses the Kremlin of trying to foment a religious war, and he has warned that Russian agents could try to seize church property.

The Moscow Patriarchate says its worshippers should no longer attend any services conducted by clergy loyal to Constantinople. From now on it will also boycott joint Orthodox Church ceremonies.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin would defend “the interests of Russians and Russian speakers and the interests of the Orthodox”, but only by using “political and diplomatic measures”.

Russia also said it had to protect ethnic Russians ahead of its military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

So there is potential for serious conflict, not least because Ukraine’s Orthodox believers are divided among three Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Theology, Turkey, Ukraine

(Guardian) Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople

The Russian Orthodox Church has announced it will break off relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople in a religious schism driven by political friction between Russia and Ukraine.

The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church elected on Monday to cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is viewed as the leading authority for the world’s 300 million Orthodox worshippers.

The split is a show of force by Russia after a Ukrainian church was granted independence.

Last week Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the “first among equals” of eastern Orthodox clerics, granted autocephaly (independence) to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which previously answered to Moscow.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine

(NYT) In Ukraine, Could a Malware Expert Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking?

The hacker, known only by his online alias “Profexer,” kept a low profile. He wrote computer code alone in an apartment and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the dark web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely.

Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in Russian hacking in the United States. American intelligence agencies have determined Russian hackers were behind the electronic break-in of the Democratic National Committee.

But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.

“I don’t know what will happen,” he wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Europe, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government, Ukraine

(The Hill) Russian-made missile downed jet over Ukraine, according to MH17 report

The Malaysian passenger plane that went down over eastern Ukraine last year was downed by a Russian-developed Buk missile, the Dutch Safety Board says in a long-awaited report.

The surface-to-air missile detonated outside the front, left part of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 cockpit and caused other parts of the Boeing 777 to break off, according to the report released Tuesday.

The report does not say who fired the missile that brought down the plane, but suggests it should not have been flying in the area due to the risk from armed conflict there.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Malaysia, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Travel, Ukraine

(Time) Ian Bremmer–These 5 Facts Explain Putin’s War in Syria

You have to give Vladimir Putin credit””he has a special talent for changing facts on the ground and daring others to do something about it. Russian bombs are now falling on Syria, though Putin’s intentions remain a subject of debate. But here’s the bottom line: Russia’s strongman has restored his country’s status as a major international player. These 5 facts explain Putin’s calculations for joining the fight for Syria.

1. Putin’s Popularity

Putin has used tough foreign policy words and deeds to boost his popularity at home from the very start.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Psychology, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(FP) Paul McCraery–The Cold War in Europe is back, but the borders have moved

“Anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD, is a growing problem,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, supreme allied commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told an audience in Washington on Monday. Kaliningrad has given Moscow the ability to better defend the Baltic, while the annexation of Crimea has done the same on the Black Sea, he said.

“The geography of Europe has changed” since the end of the Cold War, Benitez said. “The geography of NATO has changed. In the Cold War NATO’s borders were in the center of the continent, but now the front lines are the Baltics, and you’re drawn to that small land bridge [near Suwalki].”

“The Russians have chosen to make this the new zone of friction, that’s where you’re seeing the air provocations,” such as Russian warplanes flying with transponders off, said Benitez.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, The U.S. Government, Theology, Ukraine

(AP) Ukraine urges EU to keep up sanctions pressure on Russia

Ukraine urged the European Union on Thursday to stay united in keeping up sanctions pressure on Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as EU leaders gathered for a two-day summit.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to divide Europe over Ukraine and that this would be a “disaster for the free world.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(FT) Wolfgang Münchau–Europe puts future at risk by playing it safe

…look where Greece has ended up after five years of crisis resolution. It has had one of the worst performances in economic history; yet we have just concluded an extension of the same policy.

Can this be sustainable? The pragmatists in Europe’s chancelleries say they can roll over loans indefinitely at very low interest rates. Economically, this is the equivalent of a debt writedown; yet politically it is easier to deliver because you do not need to recognise losses. The equivalent statement in a military conflict would be: if you renew a ceasefire often enough, you end up with peace.

This type of argument is not only immoral and dishonest. It also does not work. While you play this game of ex­tend-and-pretend, the real economy implodes: austerity has caused a meltdown in income and employment. Monetary policy mistakes caused a fall in eurozone-wide inflation rates that made it impossible for Greece and other periphery countries to improve the competitiveness they lost in the early years of monetary union.

If the EU deals with Ukraine in the same way it dealt with Greece, you can expect to see a parallel development in a few years.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, Russia, The Banking System/Sector, Ukraine

(Spectator) Anne Applebaum–How Vladimir Putin is waging war on the West ”“ and winning

Last month, the speaker of the Russian parliament solemnly instructed his foreign affairs committee to launch a historical investigation: was West Germany’s ”˜annexation’ of East Germany really legal? Should it be condemned? Ought it to be reversed? Last week, the Russian foreign minister, speaking at a security conference in Munich, hinted that he might have similar doubts. ”˜Germany’s reunification was conducted without any referendum,’ he declared, ominously.

At this, the normally staid audience burst out laughing. The Germans in the room found the Russian statements particularly hilarious. Undo German unification? Why, that would require undoing the whole post-Cold War settlement!

Which is indeed a very amusing notion ”” unless you think that this is exactly what the Russian speaker, the Russian foreign minister, and indeed the Russian President, a man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union ”˜the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’, are in fact trying to achieve.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(BBC) Ukraine crisis: 'Last chance' for peace says Hollande

A peace plan drawn up by France and Germany is “one of the last chances” to end the conflict in east Ukraine, French leader Francois Hollande says.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was unclear if the plan would succeed, but it was “definitely worth trying”.

Mr Hollande said the plan would include a demilitarised zone of 50-70km (31-44 miles) around the current front line.

The leaders are attempting to end the fighting in Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russia rebels.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Germany, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(Foreign Affairs) Ukraine Reignites-Why Russia Should be Added to the State Sponsors of Terrorism L

Now, with the new offensive in the Dontesk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Moscow is looking to decisively win the battle in the Donbas (the name for these two regions) by propagating terrorism and political instability across Ukraine. The terrorists’ training takes place at Novaya Rus (New Russia) coordinating centres in the Russian cities of Belgorod, Tambov, Taganrog, and Rostov; in Moldova’s frozen conflict zone of Transdniestr; and in Crimea’s port of Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea Fleet. Captured terrorists from the Svat group, who were active in the Mariupol region, have testified to attending training camps in Sevastopol. There, they say, they were taught how to build bombs, wage guerrilla urban warfare, and conduct reconnaissance and intelligence operations behind enemy lines. The Russian military intelligence service (GRU) and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) lead the training.

At their training, the terrorists are given five strategic goals. First, blow up train lines and key government buildings, launch small-scale hit-and-run attacks on offices at military”“industrial plants, and bomb pro-Ukraine rallies, military recruiting centres, and National Guard training facilities. Second, destabilize the country and provoke panic using whatever means at hand. The third goal is to collect intelligence on the movements of Ukrainian armed forces and National Guard battalions to help plan future terrorist attacks. Fourth, terrorists are supposed to establish underground print shops to publish pro-Russian separatist leaflets and newspapers. And finally, they are told to infiltrate Ukrainian National Guard battalions.

The training, to some degree, is working. …

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Terrorism, Theology, Ukraine

USA Today–2014 was a devastating year for children

This year recorded the highest number of children caught in conflict zones who were directly and deliberately attacked. The targeting of children in conflict is not new, but it’s rising at an alarming rate. In 2014, more children were killed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups and even sold as slaves than at any time in recent history.

The numbers are grim. In Pakistan, over 130 students ”” most of them 12 to 16 years old””were slaughtered in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar earlier this month. In the Central African Republic, where 2.3 million children are entangled in a long-running sectarian conflict, as many as 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited as child soldiers, and more than 430 children were killed and maimed this year ”” three times as many as in 2013. When violence erupted in Israel and Gaza last summer, more than 530 children were killed, at least 3,370 children injured, and 54,000 children were left homeless, while countless others hid in fear from rockets, artillery and air strikes.

In Syria, where civil war, now approaching its fifth year, has created 1.7 million child refugees, there were at least 35 attacks on schools, killing and injuring hundreds of children. In Iraq, at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In South Sudan, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited and forced to fight in an ongoing civil war that has caused more than a million children to flee their homes. In Ukraine, 128,000 children have been displaced by violence.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Iraq, Middle East, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Syria, Theology, Ukraine

Ukraine Crisis Risks Spinning Out of Control, Samantha Power Says

The crisis in Ukraine is at risk of spinning out of control, a top U.S. diplomat said, as European leaders remained split over imposing deeper sanctions on Russia for backing a rebellion that’s killed thousands of people.

Russia must stop violating a Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, told journalists today, citing a growing number of military convoys in Ukraine’s rebel-held regions and increased shelling of the Donetsk airport. Ukraine’s foreign minister said his country is prepared to defend itself after NATO warned Russia was sending combat troops across its border. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies military involvement.

“Is there a risk that the situation is getting out of control? Yes, there is that risk,” Power said. It’s “an extremely worrying period.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(Bloomberg) Ukraine Lurches Back Toward Open War on East Fighting

Ukraine’s east lurched back toward open war as the government in Kiev and pro-Russian rebels accused each other of starting major offensives in the region.

The Ukrainian government said there were 26 outbreaks of fighting yesterday between its forces and separatists in the east, while the rebels said the Kiev government’s troops had gone on a large-scale military push there.

The standoff is coming to a head after Ukraine and its allies accused separatists of undermining peace efforts with Nov. 2 elections in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nov. 5 that Ukraine’s “civil war” isn’t subsiding as cities continue to come under shelling and the civilian death toll rises.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

For Many, Ukraine a Nation That Seems Less Free From Moscow’s Dominance Than Ever

Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian leader, they say, got everything he wanted by attacking Ukraine overtly in Crimea and covertly in the southeast.

The vague cease-fire terms in the southeast are likely to only freeze the conflict. It could leave Russia’s thuggish proxies running the area and create a permanent geographic Taser that Moscow could use to zap Ukraine at will, leaving it unstable and less than sovereign.

The association agreement with the European Union ”” described by its advocates as the catalyst for broad reform ”” has been delayed until the beginning of 2016 because of Russian objections, leaving its fate uncertain.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Roger Cogen–Are we in the Midst of The Great Unraveling?

It was the time of unraveling. Long afterward, in the ruins, people asked: How could it happen?

It was a time of beheadings. With a left-handed sawing motion, against a desert backdrop, in bright sunlight, a Muslim with a British accent cut off the heads of two American journalists and a British aid worker. The jihadi seemed comfortable in his work, unhurried. His victims were broken. Terror is theater. Burning skyscrapers, severed heads: The terrorist takes movie images of unbearable lightness and gives them weight enough to embed themselves in the psyche.

It was a time of aggression. The leader of the largest nation on earth pronounced his country encircled, even humiliated. He annexed part of a neighboring country, the first such act in Europe since 1945, and stirred up a war on further land he coveted. His surrogates shot down a civilian passenger plane. The victims, many of them Europeans, were left to rot in the sun for days. He denied any part in the violence, like a puppeteer denying that his puppets’ movements have any connection to his. He invoked the law the better to trample on it. He invoked history the better to turn it into farce. He reminded humankind that the idiom fascism knows best is untruth so grotesque it begets unreason.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, Scotland, Theology, Ukraine

(Economist) Vladimir Putin is winning in the Ukraine; the West must steel itself for a long game

Mr Putin’s first choice was to suborn Ukraine without invading it, but by demonstrating his willingness to use force, he has sown fear””and, for Mr Putin, fear is the basic currency of politics. A puny, divided response has emasculated the West, which he thinks is bent on weakening and encircling Russia. For him, Russia’s post-Soviet history has been a catalogue of American-inflicted humiliation, which it is his mission to reverse. He wants his neighbours to be weak more than he wants Russians to be prosperous; he prefers vassals to allies.

This world view””a noxious compound of KGB cynicism and increasingly messianic Russian nationalism””propelled him into Ukraine. The idea that his adventurism will end in the Donbas is as naive as the theory that he would be satisfied when his troops wrenched Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008. This week Mr Putin rattled his sabre at Kazakhstan, still ruled by the elderly Nursultan Nazarbayev: any succession squabble would be an opportunity. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, small, ex-Soviet countries, have Russian-speaking minorities of the kind Mr Putin has undertaken to “protect”. These Baltic states joined NATO in 2004. But what if a Russian-financed separatist movement sprang up, a Baltic government claimed this amounted to an invasion and its NATO allies refused to help? The alliance’s bedrock””its commitment to mutual self-defence””would be shattered.

Mr Putin’s revanchism must therefore be stopped in Ukraine.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Wash. Post) Ukraine announces cease-fire in east; major questions remain

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday announced a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, although major questions remained about whether it would be implemented.

The surprise decision comes as Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine have made rapid strides to retake territory in the last week, after apparently receiving an infusion of support from Russia, which the Kremlin denies.

Poroshenko’s office announced the cease-fire in the eastern Donets Basin region, also known as Donbas, after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(FT) Niall Ferguson: It is dangerous to believe that Ukraine's crisis will not become a calamity

It has become a commonplace idea that today’s frothy financial markets are oblivious to the stream of bad news from eastern Europe, not to mention the Middle East. But that does not mean the news is not really bad at all. New York and London were equally blasé about the origins of the first world war. It was not until three weeks after the Sarajevo assassination that the London Times even mentioned the possibility that a European political crisis might lead to financial instability. Nine days later the stock exchange closed its doors, overwhelmed by panic selling as investors suddenly woke up to the reality of world war. Let no one reassure you that this crisis has somehow been “priced in”. No one priced in the guns of August 1914.

This should give not only historians pause. If great historical events can sometimes have causes that are too small for contemporaries to notice, might not a comparable crisis be in the making today? What exactly makes our July crisis different? Is it because we now have the UN and other international institutions? Hardly: with Russia a permanent member of the UN Security Council, that institution has been gridlocked over Ukraine. Is it because we now have the EU? Certainly, that eliminates the risk that any west European state might overtly take Russia’s side, as France and Britain did in 1914, but it has not stopped EU members with significant energy imports from Russia fighting tooth and nail against tougher sanctions.

What about the role of globalisation in diffusing international conflict? Sorry, you could have made the same argument 100 years ago (indeed, Norman Angell did, in his book The Great Illusion). Very high levels of economic interdependence do not always inoculate countries against going to war with each other.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(Gallup) Russians Back Strong Stance on Ukraine

Russians largely back their country’s tough stance on Ukraine, which earned Russia more economic sanctions from the U.S. and Europe this week. Nearly two-thirds of Russians surveyed before the latest round of sanctions believe Russia needs to have a “very strong position” in relations with its neighbor. One in five Russians still believe their country needs to have good relations with Ukraine by all means.

Russians’ attitudes could reflect the stronger position they may feel their country is already in after Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March. Although the U.S. and other Western powers largely condemned the action, imposing sanctions and other penalties against specific individuals and businesses in Russia, nearly all Russians (95%) who are following the news about Crimea say they support Crimea joining Russia.

The earlier sanctions did little to dampen the average Russian’s enthusiasm for the country’s leadership, with President Vladimir Putin’s popularity in Russia vaulting to its highest level in years, and record-level confidence in the country’s military, the national government, and the honesty of elections. The previous sanctions also did not appear to affect Russians’ views of their country’s economy, with more Russians seeing their economy as getting better now than has been the case since 2008.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(Bloomberg) Russia Sanctions Spread Pain From Putin to Halliburton

U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia’s Vladimir Putin threaten to shut off some of the world’s largest energy companies from one of the biggest untapped energy troves on the planet.

As violence escalates in eastern Ukraine between government and separatist forces, the EU yesterday sought to punish Russia for its involvement by restricting exports of deep-sea drilling and shale-fracturing technologies. The U.S. followed suit, with President Barack Obama announcing a block on specific goods and technologies exported to the Russian energy sector.

“Because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we’re announcing today will have an even bigger bite,” Obama told reporters yesterday at the White House. “Russia’s energy, financial and defense sectors are feeling the pain.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(BBC) Downing of MH17 jet in Ukraine 'may be war crime' – UN

The downing of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 in eastern Ukraine may constitute a “war crime”, the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay says.

Ukraine and Western governments believe pro-Russian rebels shot down MH17, using a missile system supplied by Russia. All 298 people on board – most of them Dutch – died on 17 July.

Moscow and the rebels have blamed Ukrainian forces for the plane crash.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Russia, Theology, Travel, Ukraine, Violence

(Globe and Mail) Stephen Harper–Our duty is to stand firm in the face of Russian aggression

Although we may refer to militants in eastern Ukraine as “pro-Russian separatists,” we are not confused by who, and what, they really are: an extension of the Russian state. They derive their material, political and logistical support from the Putin regime, and their criminal aggression and recklessness reflect the values of their Russian benefactors. Some have suggested that these agents of the Putin regime may have shot the plane down by accident. We do not, and may never, know. But accident or no accident, the blood is on the hands of the men who took such a risk and of the government that encouraged them to do so. Even if they did not intend to kill hundreds of innocent civilians, there is no denying their intent to continue waging a war on behalf of a regime that remains in violation of international law for its illegal occupation of Crimea.

Russia’s aggressive militarism and expansionism are a threat to more than just Ukraine; they are a threat to Europe, to the rule of law and to the values that bind Western nations. Canada will not stand idly by in the face of this threat.

That is why we have taken a strong stand, imposing a broad range of sanctions against those entities and individuals responsible for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, Canada has imposed sanctions on nearly 150 individuals and entities. Earlier this week we broadened our approach, announcing economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) EU chiefs back tough new curbs on Russia

Two of the EU’s most senior figures have urged the bloc’s prime ministers to approve a sweeping set of new sanctions against Russia next week.

The move marks the clearest signal to date that Europe is prepared to change its cautious approach towards the Kremlin over the Ukraine crisis.

In a letter sent late on Friday to Europe’s prime ministers, Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, said the sanctions package ”“ which is directed at Russia’s financial, energy and defence industries ”“ “strikes the right balance”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, The Banking System/Sector, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(Bloomberg) Putin Said to Press Ukraine Gambit After Malaysia Air Hit

President Vladimir Putin will resist mounting pressure to abandon pro-Russian rebels immediately while seeking to convince the world that Ukraine, not the insurgents, shot down Malaysian Air Flight MH17, according to three people familiar with Kremlin discussions.

Putin and his inner circle are nervous that the intensifying standoff with the U.S. and its allies over the insurgency in Ukraine may cripple Russia’s economy, the people said. Still, Putin won’t back down because he refuses to be seen as weak, one of the people said.

The international outrage over the attack on the Boeing Co. 777, which killed 298 people, and the sanctions imposed and threatened by the U.S. and the European Union over Russia’s policies in Ukraine have created a new reality that the leadership is struggling to adapt to, one Putin adviser said. The U.S. says the jet was probably downed by separatists using a Russian-supplied missile and launcher, which they deny.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine

(WSJ) Tragedy Fails to Quiet Ukraine

Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over separatist-held territory not far from the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as international outrage over the tragedy has done little to slow the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.

While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country’s east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course.

“The fact that you have two additional planes shot down speaks to the pattern we’ve seen over the last several weeks””which is Russian-backed separatists, armed with Russian anti-aircraft [weapons], posing risks to aircraft in Ukraine,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

(WSJ) West Raises Pressure on Russia in Downing of MH17

The U.S. leveled its most-explicit allegations yet of Russia’s involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and subsequent efforts to conceal evidence, and European leaders threatened broad new sanctions against Moscow, marking a turning point in the standoff between the West and the Kremlin.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin “for the last time” to accede to Western demands to disarm pro-Russian separatists and stabilize Ukraine.

Officials in Europe, meanwhile, departed from their initially muted reaction as anger grew across the continent over the attack that left 298 people dead and the chaos at the crash area in eastern Ukraine. Reports that bodies were being handled haphazardly and that separatist guards on the scene were drunk have caused fury in European countries where victims came from, including the Netherlands.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Travel, Ukraine, Violence

(FT) MH17 crash: Evidence mounts on how plane was downed

…in the past 48 hours, open-source intelligence ”“ and information gathered by national intelligence agencies ”“ has built up a compelling body of evidence that seems to point to what ”“ and who ”“ shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet and its 298 innocent passengers over eastern Ukraine.

It suggests pro-Russian separatists and Russian military personnel shot down MH17, by mistake, with a Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile launcher from near the towns of Snizhne and Torez, according to briefings given by Ukrainian and US intelligence officials at the weekend.

The officials say the missile system was probably supplied by Russia and smuggled across the border into eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Travel, Ukraine