Wednesday, January 21, 2015

9,000 Russians

From the BBC:
"Russia has 9,000 troops in Ukraine - President Poroshenko"

President Petro Poroshenko: "We have more than 9,000 troops of Russian Federation on my territory... if this is not aggression, what is aggression?" Russia has more than 9,000 soldiers and 500 tanks, heavy artillery and armoured personnel carriers in eastern Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko has said. He urged Russia to withdraw its troops and comply with a ceasefire plan, amid escalating fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels in the east. Russia has repeatedly denied claims its soldiers are fighting with the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Talks on de-escalating the crisis are due to begin in Berlin shortly. Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany will take part in the meeting in the German capital. More than 4,800 people have been killed and some 1.2 million have fled since rebels took control of parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in April. This followed Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March.
  Mr Poroshenko again called on Russia to comply with the ceasefire agreement reached in September in Minsk, Belarus.  That deal envisages the pullout of heavy weapons by both sides from the line of separation and the exchange of prisoners. It also stipulates that control of the Ukrainian-Russian border, parts of which are currently held by pro-Russian rebels, would be returned to Ukraine's authorities.  Mr Poroshenko is now cutting short his Davos visit and returning to Kiev in view of the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine.  Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted that the truce deal was failing because the line of separation was not being respected. Pro-Russian separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for control of the ruined airport at Donetsk and there have been fierce clashes at two checkpoints near the town of Slovyanoserbsk, north-west of Luhansk city. On Tuesday, Ukraine alleged that "regular military formations" of Russian troops had attacked the checkpoints, although there has been no independent confirmation. Ukrainian military officials also said two battalion groups, both of around 400 men, had crossed into Ukraine from Russia on Monday - a claim rejected by Moscow as "hallucinations about a Russian invasion". Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations by Ukraine and the West that it has been sending its troops into Ukraine and arming the rebels. However, Moscow acknowledges that Russian "volunteers" are fighting for the separatists. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said a new law to increase the size of Ukraine's army to 250,000 personnel had been delivered to parliament on Wednesday. This signifies a rise of some 68,000 people, according to government figures. Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis said on Wednesday that Russia had broken the Minsk agreements "the first day after they were signed". He said rebels had gained 500 sq km (193 sq miles) in territory since then, he said. "Now they want the airport, and Russian armed forces are trying to broaden that territory."

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