Russia

This image of Putin is illegal in Russia, so don’t distribute it. FUCK #PUTIN, and #RUSSIA

Since 2013, Russia has enforced “internet extremism” laws that forbid the dissemination of online content that the government finds offensive. Newly added to that list is an image that depicts Vladimir Putin as, in the words of the Washington Post, “a potentially gay clown.” As such, the above image is now illegal in Russia to share the above photo. It’s not illegal here, though.

This registry of “extremist materials” features the photo at number 4071, and the Post describes it thusly: “a picture of a Putin-like person ’with eyes and lips made up,’ captioned with an implicit anti-gay slur, implying ’the supposed nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation.’”

Here it is again, should you need a reminder:

Do not distribute it in Russia.

CNN reports that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the photo: “You know how such things might hurt somebody’s feelings, but the President is quite resistant to such obscenity and learned how to not pay attention.”

That much is obvious, what with the 15-day prison sentence and fine of 3,000 rubles that hits anyone in Russia who would venture to go so far as to even retweet the image.

The image’s origins date back to as early as 2011, though it became common among those who would protest Putin’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law, which aims to protect children from the views of those with “nontraditional sexual relations.” Protests often found those arguing in favor of gay rights to be beaten or arrested.

Of course, there are plenty of other memes out there that might offend people who can’t bear the thought of Putin being associated with “nontraditional sexual relations.” Here’s a few below:

В РФ признали экстремистским плакат с накрашенными Путиным и Медведевым http://gordonua.com/news/worldnews/v-rf-priznali-ekstremistskim-plakat-s-nakrashennymi-putinym-i-medvedevym-181824.html 

Photo published for В РФ признали экстремистским плакат с накрашенными Путиным и Медведевым

В РФ признали экстремистским плакат с накрашенными Путиным и Медведевым

Картинка, на которой были изображены люди, похожие на президента РФ Владимира Путина и премьер-министра Дмитрия…

gordonua.com

View image on Twitter

US accuses Russia of harassing, intimidating diplomats

The United States has complained to Russia about a mounting campaign of harassment and intimidation of American diplomats and their families in Moscow, the State Department said.

Among those to raise objections, US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

“Over the past two years, harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly,” she told reporters during a news conference.

US State Department says over the past two years, harassment and surveillance of American diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic po...

US State Department says over the past two years, harassment and surveillance of American diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly ©Kirill Kudryavtsev (AFP/File)

She was commenting about a report by The Washington Post on Monday that described a series of actions by Russian security and intelligence services, including following diplomats and their family members, appearing at social functions uninvited and paying for negative media stories.

Some diplomats said intruders had broken into their homes at night to rearrange furniture, turn on lights and even defecate on a living room carpet, the newspaper reported, citing officials as saying Russian intelligence officers once broke into the US defense attache’s Moscow house and killed his dog.

“We see an increase and we take it seriously,” Trudeau said on Monday.

Moscow accuses the United States of harassing its own diplomats and says it takes reciprocal measures only in response.

“We have recently felt a significant increase in pressure on the Russian embassy and consulates general of our country in the United States,” Russia’s TASS news agency reported Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying last week.

Russian diplomats “regularly become the objects of provocations by the American secret services, face obstacles in making official contacts and other restrictions,” such as travel, she added.

Trudeau denied the accusation on Monday.

“Russia’s claims of harassment are without foundation,” she said.

State Department officials say Russian harassment has increased significantly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, which prompted Western sanctions against Moscow, The Washington Post reported.

Kerry spoke to Putin about the matter during a visit to Moscow after Washington stripped five Russian honorary consuls of their credentials in January in response to the harassment of its diplomats.

TORUN, Poland (AP) — About 2,000 NATO troops from the U.S., Britain and Poland conducted an airborne training operation on Tuesday as part of the biggest exercise performed in Poland since the 1989 end of communism and amid concerns over Russia.

This should make Russia look, oh ya they talk about nukes, but even if they used a tactical nuke, it would kill there troops as well, and make a dead zone not only in Poland, but Russia too.

This is the way to make Putin look and be scared, we need to Box them in, so that if they try and use Tactical nukes, they too will be affected, i am getting sick and tiered with all this “WE HAVE NUKES ” shit coming from Moscow. They need to start looking at what the real price will be if they try to make a Crimea attack again! Their little green men without Russian badges, that only makes them look like cowards, a real military, would show who they were, not try and hide from us.

 

Scores of U.S. troops and then military vehicles parachuted into a spacious, grassy training area on the outskirts of the central city of Torun. The force’s mission was to secure a bridge on the Vistula River as part of the Polish-led Anakonda-16 exercise that involves about 31,000 troops and runs through mid-June.

Nineteen NATO member nations and five partner nations are contributing troops to the exercise that will train and test their swift joint reaction to threats on land, sea and in the air.

Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland conduct a a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 201...

Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland conduct a a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

In a complex operation that was precisely planned and timed, troops of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division flew directly from their U.S. base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Their Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft were refueled in midair. The British troops flew from a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, while the Poles arrived from their base in Krakow, in southern Poland.

The exercise “confirmed that we can count on our friends who are capable of flying over the Atlantic to be here with us in a matter of hours,” said Polish Gen. Miroslaw Rozanski, deputy commander of the exercise. “We can look into the future with calm. We have good allies and good partners.”

Russia considers NATO troops’ presence close to its border as a security threat. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Tuesday in Moscow that the military exercise in Poland “does not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and security on the continent.”

Poland and other nations in the region, as well as NATO leaders, say that any military presence or exercises are purely defensive and deterrent measures.

The drill is being held just weeks before NATO holds a crucial summit in Warsaw expected to decide that significant numbers of NATO troops and equipment will be based in Poland and in the Baltic states.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

A C-130 plane drops paratroopers from the Polish 6th Airborne Division during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain ...

A C-130 plane drops paratroopers from the Polish 6th Airborne Division during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division jump during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a design...

U.S. C-17 planes from the 82nd Airborne Division drop paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division General Richard D. Clarke, left, runs after jumping during a multi-national jump conducted by forces from the U.S., G...

Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division General Richard D. Clarke, left, runs after jumping during a multi-national jump conducted by forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

A British C-130J plane from the 16th Air Assault Brigade drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Bri...

A British C-130J plane from the 16th Air Assault Brigade drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

A U.S. C-17 plane from the 82nd Airborne Division drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain an...

A U.S. C-17 plane from the 82nd Airborne Division drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Best Of Russian Air Force destroying ISIS in Syria

Aircraft Show – Blue Angels @LA County Air Show

Russian Air Force destroying ISIS in Syria – Watch this awesome compilation of RuAF in action in Syria. Russia began a military attack in the Syrian Civil War on 30 September 2015. It comprised of air strikes by Russia against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Qaeda in the Levant, and different foes of theSyrian government, with critical ground support from Iranian ground troops working in conjunction with the Syrian Army and associates. Before the intercession, Russia’s association in the Syrian Civil War had predominantly comprised of arming and training the Syrian Army. Russia interceded after a formal solicitation from the Syrian government for military help against radical and terror groups in Syria.

 

Top Duma official: US ‘shocked’ by Russian military might in Syria

© Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation
The head of the State Duma Foreign Relations Committee believes the capabilities of the Russian Air Force demonstrated in the anti-terrorist operation in Syria have come as a shock to the US and NATO, but added that Europe should not consider Russia a threat.

It is one thing when you are informed in advance about a planned military operation, and it’s a completely different thing when you see the operation as it is unfolding. I am convinced that the combat and operational abilities demonstrated by Russia have come as a shock to the United States,” Aleksey Pushkov said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

“They used to think that only the United States and NATO could wage such a large-scale airstrike war,” he added.

The lawmaker also noted that in his opinion Turkey’s downing of the Russian Su-24 aircraft was ordered by President Tayyip Erdogan because of the “psychological breakdown” he suffered after the decline in oil supplies from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) extremists.

READ MORE: Russia-Turkey relations sour after Su-24 downed at Syria border Live updates

It was an attempt to terrorize us in order to curb our determination to continue the military operation, but the result was the opposite of what was intended,” Pushkov said.

First, we doubled the intensity of strikes on the territories that border Turkey and second, their operation had no consequences except for the fact that the attack on the Su-24 will cost Turkey several dozen billion dollars,” he elaborated.

The Russian official also mentioned the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and said that such developments benefited primarily the United States and the European Union.
Both the USA and some forces in Europe want to turn Ukraine into a strategic counterbalance of Russia. They used the crisis in Ukraine to boost NATO’s strategic potential, agree the construction of rapid response bases in Poland and speed up the deployment of missile defense system components in Eastern Europe,” he noted.

READ MORE: Top Russian MP warns West against new sanctions

At the same time, the lawmaker said European nations should not fear Russia or its allies. “The real, unimaginable threat comes from the Middle East and it is Islamic State – people in the EU are starting to understand this,” Pushkov told the newspaper.

Enough Already! It’s Time for the West to Arm Ukraine

UKRAINIAN TANK

MUNICH — It has become something of a mantra among diplomats and other foreign policy analysts that there is no military solution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The only viable path to peace and stability, observers almost unanimously proclaim, is a diplomatic one. But, despite the recent ceasefire agreement announced in Minsk, ongoing violence — reflected in the violent expulsion of Ukrainian forces from the town of Debaltseve — strongly suggests that it is time to consider what is needed to block any Kremlin-imposed military solution.

Three influential American think tanks have already done so, and arrived at the conclusion that the United States should begin supplying Ukraine not only with more non-lethal aid — such as drones, armored Humvees, and medical equipment — but also with “lethal defensive military assistance,” in the form of light anti-armor missiles. European governments, however, remain unwilling to reconsider their position on supplying defensive equipment to Ukraine, and have instead reiterated that a diplomatic solution is the only option.

Of course, from Ukraine’s perspective, a one-on-one military confrontation with Russia is not a viable option. Last year, when separatist forces in the Donbas region appeared to be crumbling under the weight of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, it seemed possible that Ukraine would be able to reassert its sovereignty over the area. But the Kremlin quickly deployed battalion-size tactical groups from the Russian army to support the rebels. Ukraine’s relatively weak forces did not stand a chance.

The move exemplifies Russia’s commitment to do whatever it takes to prevent a military defeat of the separatist entities that it has incited and forged into fighting units — a determination that has endured, even as the conflict has placed considerable strain on its armed forces. Given this, the prospects for Ukraine to reassert control over the Donbas region militarily are so slim that even trying to do so would be foolish.

If one considers the strategic ambitions of the separatists and their Russian patrons, Ukraine’s prospects are even bleaker. Beyond supplying the separatist groups with heavy and advanced weapons, and deploying special units and forces to support them, Russia now appears to be sending in “volunteers” to train a separatist army that could ultimately go on the offensive.

Such an army, separatist leaders hope, will enable them — at the very least — to secure control over the Donbas region. They would then be positioned to secure a “Novorossiya” statelet extending along the entire Black Sea coast, up to and including Odessa. And, in all likelihood, some would even dream of an eventual march into Kyiv.

To prevent this scenario from unfolding, a robust political dialogue with the Kremlin is clearly vital, as are continued economic sanctions to make clear that Russia will pay a rising price for ongoing aggression. But trusting solely in a diplomatic dialogue and sanctions to bring about a lasting peace may be excessively optimistic.

A more comprehensive approach would focus on strengthening Ukraine in every respect. To this end, political and diplomatic support is essential. But perhaps even more important is backing for reforms aimed at eliminating corruption and promoting growth. The recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund is of immediate importance in this respect, and the agreement with the European Union on a Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Area is crucial to the country’s long-term transformation.

But if separatist groups, with support from Russia, believe that they can control Donbas and the Black Sea coast, efforts to rebuild Ukraine’s society and economy will amount to little. That is why Ukraine’s external partners must also help to strengthen the country’s defensive capabilities.

In such a charged situation, there will always be hotheads, eager to pursue military options. But the greater concern is the behavior of pragmatists, who identify weaknesses that can be exploited. If the Russian-backed separatists view Ukraine’s defensive capacity as a serious weakness, there will be little to compel them not to push forward in pursuit of their ambitions. A political or diplomatic solution would be next to impossible.

Security experts should identify which actions powers like the U.S. and Europe could take to improve Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. The requests for non-lethal equipment made by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the recent Munich Security Conference could provide some guidance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others are clearly right when they say that there is no purely military solution to the conflict in Ukraine. But a year of talks and failed agreements has demonstrated that there is no purely diplomatic solution either. Only by eliminating — or at least seriously diminishing — the potential for the separatists and their Russian backers to continue their military campaign can Ukraine and its partners hope for a lasting political solution.

Russia ‘danger’ to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – Fallon | This is next, if we do nothing!

Michael Fallon

Nato must be ready for aggression in “whatever form” said Michael Fallon
here is a “real and present danger” of Russia trying to destabilise the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the UK defence secretary says.

Michael Fallon said he was worried about “pressure” from Russian President Vladimir Putin on the ex-Soviet states, which are Nato members.

Russia might use tactics there similar to those it used in Ukraine, he said.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander told the BBC he too had “very real concerns” about the situation.

Mr Fallon’s comments came after PM David Cameron called on Europe to tell Russia it faced economic and financial consequences for “many years to come” if it did not stop destabilising Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has said RAF jets were scrambled on Wednesday after two Russian military aircraft were seen off the Cornwall coast.

‘Getting ready’

Speaking to journalists from the Times and Daily Telegraph during a flight to Sierra Leone, where British troops are helping tackle the Ebola outbreak, Mr Fallon said: “I’m worried about Putin.

“I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing Nato.”

He said Nato must be prepared for aggression from Russia “in whatever form it takes” – because Russia was likely to use covert tactics such as those he said it had used to annex Crimea and during the current Ukraine conflict.

Russia has denied helping pro-Russian separatists, but it has been repeatedly accused of sending weapons and troops and using propaganda to inflame tensions.

Two tanks manned by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine

Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

The comments from Defence Secretary Michael Fallon are an indication of a fundamental shift in the Nato perception of the crisis in Ukraine.

Nato governments clearly believe that what began as a localised Ukraine problem that strained ties with Moscow has now become a Russia problem, and a Russia problem that is likely to persist for some time.

Ukraine is thus seen as a manifestation of a much broader policy shift on the part of the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Fallon’s belief that there is indeed a potential threat to Nato territory – in particular the Baltic Republics – is widely shared; hence Nato’s desire to underline in the most emphatic terms that its security guarantees to its members will be honoured in full.

line

Mr Fallon went on: “When you have jets being flown up the English Channel, when you have submarines in the North Sea, it looks to me like it’s [the situation is] warming up,” he said.

Mr Cameron warned that rebels in eastern Ukraine were using Russian military hardware, pointing out: “You can’t buy this equipment on eBay, it hasn’t come from somewhere else, it’s come from Russia and we know that.”

He added that one of the principles of Nato – which is made up of 26 European countries as well as the US and Canada – is that an “attack against one or several members is considered as an attack against all”.

The Baltic states and Russia

Elsewhere, Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord and Nato commander, said it was important Nato “stands united at this dangerous and difficult moment”.

It could not afford to let a line in the sand be crossed if Russia interfered with the Baltic states, he said.

The UK Joint Delegation to Nato tweeted that Russia had deployed the country’s “most advanced anti-aircraft artillery system” in Ukraine.

Just when you thought it was safe? Russian researchers find ‘US spy software in hard drives’

The silhouette of a man is seen typing on a laptop computer an arranged photograph taken in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. U.S. officials are discussing whether new standards should be set for government action in response to hacks like the one suffered by Sony Pictures Entertainment, such as if a certain level of monetary damage is caused or if values such as free speech are trampled, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers said in an interview with Bloomberg News. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Russia-based researchers said they have found a series of sophisticated hacking tools within the hard drives of personal computers built by some the world’s biggest manufacturers.

Kaspersky Labs, a Moscow-based cybersecurity company, said it had uncovered the spying software in computers that were used in 30 countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China, which have long been priorities for US intelligence agencies.

Without accusing the National Security Agency of being the source of the new malware, Kaspersky researchers indirectly suggested that the tools were devised by the US.

Some of the surveillance tools had been hidden deep inside the hard drives of computers made by companies such as ToshibaWestern DigitalSeagateand IBM, the Russian company said.

If a US role in developing the new cyber-tools is confirmed, it could further tarnish the reputation of US technology companies after the damaging revelations about the NSA leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013.

Publishing the technical details of the spyware on Monday, Kaspersky said that they were introduced by a group “that surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques”.

Avoiding any direct reference to the NSA, Kaspersky said the spying software had been developed by an entity it called “The Equation Group”, which it said had been operating for 20 years.

However, it said that the Equation Group had “solid links” to the creators of Stuxnet — the virus that that attacked an Iranian nuclear facility and that was developed by the US, in co-operation with Israel.

According to Kapersky, one of the surveillance tools is embedded in the computer “firmware”, code that sends messages to the rest of a computer hardware when it is switched on — a development the Russian researchers described as “an astonishing technical accomplishment” because it was so hard to detect and extract.

“To put it simply: for most hard drives there are functions to write into the hardware firmware area, but there are no functions to read it back,” said Costin Raiu, director of the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab. “It means that we are practically blind, and cannot detect hard drives that have been infected by this malware.”

The report said that the ‘Equation Group’ used the resultant capability to eavesdrop on a selective basis. The targets had included banks, governments, nuclear researchers, military facilities and Islamic activists, it said.

The Kaspersky report also discussed the attempts by the ‘Equation Group’ to map “air-gapped” networks that are not connected to the internet — as was the case for Iran’s nuclear facilities. It described a “unique USB-based command and control mechanism which allowed the attackers to pass data back and forth from air-gapped networks”.

Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of these spying programs. Toshiba and Samsung declined to comment. IBM did not respond to requests for comment.

Terrifying footage of rocket attack launched in residential area of Ukraine that has left at least six civilians dead

FuckYouPutin

  • Six civilians killed in rocket attack on Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine
  • Military headquarters also hit during two minute long bombardment 
  • Scene of the strikes is more than 30 miles from the front-lines  
  • Said the rockets had been fired from the rebel-controlled Horlivka area 
  • Increase in fighting comes ahead of peace talks in the region 

This is the terrifying moment that a rocket attack was launched on a residential area of Ukraine leaving at least six civilians dead.

More than 20 explosions were seen striking homes and buildings during the two minute attack on Kramatorsk, a town about 30 miles from the front lines.

Ukraine’s military headquarters in the east of the country, from where Kiev military directs its campaign against pro-Russian separatists, were also hit.

Local officials said at least six people were killed in the bombardment that left a further 21 injured.

Scroll down for video 

At least six civilians were killed after rockets hit the residential town of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine

At least six civilians were killed after rockets hit the residential town of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine

More than 20 strikes were carried out in Kramatorsk in a matter of minutes during the rebel attack

More than 20 strikes were carried out in Kramatorsk in a matter of minutes during the rebel attack

Photos from the scene, showing an artillery shell stuck in the ground next to a residential building and two bodies lying nearby.

In the two minute long video clip the woman filming can be heard repeatedly screaming ‘boys,’Vocativ reported.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told parliament that Russian-backed rebels launched an artillery strike on the town. 

He said: ‘Twenty-five minutes ago, the main headquarters of our anti-terrorist operation took a strike from a Tornado rocket. The headquarters took this strike, but a second strike was carried out on residential areas of Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told parliament that Russian-backed rebels launched the artillery strike on the town

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told parliament that Russian-backed rebels launched the artillery strike on the town

Kramatorsk was the site of major fighting until July when pro-Russian separatists retreated

Kramatorsk was the site of major fighting until July when pro-Russian separatists retreated

In the two minute long video clip the woman filming can be heard repeatedly screaming 'boys,'

In the two minute long video clip the woman filming can be heard repeatedly screaming ‘boys,’

‘There is information about wounded service personnel. There is information about a significant number of wounded among civilians,’ he added.

The government-controlled Donetsk regional administration said the rockets had been fired from the rebel-controlled Horlivka area, which is about 50 km away from Kramatorsk.

Kramatorsk was the site of major fighting until July when pro-Russian separatists retreated.

The fighting, which the UN says has killed more than 5,300 people since April, comes ahead of a crucial summit involving Western leaders tomorrow, as well as peace talks later today.

The volunteer Azov battalion, loyal to Kiev, said on social media that it had captured several villages north east of the strategic port of Mariupol, pushing the rebels closer to the border with Russia.

However, rebel military spokesman Eduard Basurin said in a televised news conference the rebels had not retreated.

A rocket shell in the street in the town of Kramatorsk

A rocket shell in the street in the town of Kramatorsk

The Azov said rebels shelled the village of Kominternove, east of Mariupol, causing unspecified civilian casualties.

The rebels also reported advances. Mr Basurin said they had surrounded the railway hub of Debaltseve, the focus of fierce fighting in past weeks, cutting it off from a major road.

A video posted online by a rebel-sympathisng website showed separatists moving along the route while the bloodied bodies of Ukrainian soldiers lay on the side of the road.

At least seven Ukrainian troops were killed overnight in the east, military spokesman Anatoliy Matyukhin said. In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, which comes under constant shelling, two civilians were killed and 12 injured.

The fierce fighting and a mounting death toll comes amid renewed efforts to work out a peaceful solution in a conflict that has displaced at least a million people and left the powerhouse of the Ukrainian economy in ruins.

Representatives of Ukraine, Russia, rebels and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe are meeting for long-anticipated talks later today in Minsk to lay the groundwork for a meeting tomorrow between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.

The Kremlin today warned the West ahead of the talks against sending weapons to Ukraine or putting pressure on Russia.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian News Service radio station that any talk about imposing new sanctions on Russia or arming the Ukraine government would destabilise the situation.

In Washington yesterday, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rallied behind efforts to reach a long-shot diplomatic resolution to the conflict, but they offered no clear path for how the West would proceed if talks this week fail.

Ms Merkel staunchly opposed arming Ukraine’s beleaguered military while Mr Obama dangled the prospect that the US could for the first time send weapons to Ukraine.

Relatives crying over the body of a victim of the shelling in the residential area of  Kramotorsk, Ukraine

Relatives crying over the body of a victim of the shelling in the residential area of  Kramotorsk, Ukraine

Russia’s Revised Military Doctrine Sees Major Threats from NATO, US | Putin lives in his own world.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown at a news conference, has signed a revised military doctrine listing NATO and the United States as national security threats.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown at a news conference, has signed a revised military doctrine listing NATO and the United States as national security threats.

President Vladimir Putin approved a new military doctrine Friday outlining the threat Russia says is posed by NATO’s expansion and military buildup closer to its border. NATO has boosted its military presence in Eastern Europe this year due to Russia’s support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine; the Kremlin says the western allies’ heightened activity in and near East Europe is a “violation of international law.”

Sources familiar with the text of Putin’s new doctrine appears to refer specifically to the United States when it condemns “acts contrary to international law aimed against the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of states.” It says these are threats to “international peace, security, global and regional stability.”

The new doctrine singles out as military threats the West’s new strategic antiballistic missile systems. Russia says these undermine global stability and the nuclear balance of power. The United States and some of its allies have expanded anti-missile systems in recent years, despite Moscow’s objections.

NATO’s reaction

“NATO poses no threat to Russia or to any nation,” an alliance official told VOA.  “Any steps taken by NATO to ensure the security of its members are clearly defensive in nature, proportionate and in compliance with international law.  In fact, it is Russia’s actions, including currently in Ukraine, which are breaking international law and undermining European security.”

NATO reaffirmed that it intends to continue seek a constructive relationship with Russia, “but that is only possible with a Russia that abides by international law and principles – including the right of nations to choose their future freely,” the NATO official said.

Isolated Russia a threat to Baltic states

Karl Altau, managing director of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), said that President Putin’s move is more evidence that he continues on the road to entrench and isolate himself and his regime.  “His threats against perceived enemies, particularly NATO, are surely meant to both cow the West and to ramp up chauvinism for an already propaganda-infused domestic audience in the Russian Federation,” he said.

Russia’s entrenchment is both worrisome and dangerous for Russia’s neighbors, such as the Baltic countries, Altau said. “The Baltics, and all other Central and Eastern European countries, were absolutely correct in sensing that perhaps one day, a revanchist Moscow would be back [after the collapse of the Soviet Union].”

Putin’s intransigence and aggressive military maneuvering stretch well beyond Europe, reaching as far as the Caribbean, Arctic, and the U.S. West Coast, Altau said, referring to months of increasingly far-ranging military “training” exercises that have sent Russian bombers on missions many thousands of kilometers from their home bases. “Russia’s new doctrinal willingness to consider a broad use of nuclear weapons – whether in retaliation or in the case of aggression or even as a deterrent is a new and unprecedented danger ,” the Baltic analyst said.

Political rights in Russia

Eric Shiraev is professor of international relations and political psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and the author of several publications on U.S.-Russian relations. He says Putin’s new military doctrine has been almost three years in the making and is not astonishingly new. Overall, the doctrine claims that there is a diminished threat of global nuclear war, but it states that Russia faces increased threats from other conflicts.

“Any strong government is supposed to put together quite articulate and quite precise military doctrine, but on the other hand, we know that this would be difficult to implement,” Shiraev said.

The doctrine also suggests the existence of internal threats in Russia. “This is a little bit worrying, because the government officials will consider this as another signal to tighten up the pressure on and limit the political rights in Russia,” the scholar said.

Timing of the new doctrine

Although the revised Russian military doctrine may have been yeqars in the making, veteran observers of Russia are tasking note of the decision to issue it now.

President Putin signed the revised military doctrine almost one year after conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine, which followed protests in Kyiv that forced the country’s president, an ally of Moscow, into exle in Russia. Since then, Russia has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, and Russian-backed separatists have battled Ukrainian government troops in the country’s east.

Ukraine’s pro-Western parliament overwhelmingly passed a law on Tuesday abolishing Kyiv’s neutral, non-aligned status, a step some Ukrainians hope will lead to European Union and NATO membership.

Moscow was quick to react, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the forefront, calling the law “counterproductive.”

NATO has boosted its military presence in Eastern Europe this year due to Russia’s support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine, but Moscow has continuously denied it actively supports the rebellion.