Late last week, in what should not have been a surprise to anyone (because supposedly it was announced "far in advance") but was a major shock due to its intensity and expansiveness, Russia held a massive "simulated massive nuclear attack" drill, coming at a time just ahead of the Donetsk referendum, which may have been pre-scheduled and for foreign policy reasons was hailed as a "non-event", but judging by the amount of production that went into the accompanying video clip, this particular drill was dripping with symbolism aimed squarely at NATO and the US.
So now it is America's turn to retaliate. As the U.S. Strategic Command reported earlier, the US will conduct Exercise Global Lightning 14 from May 12-16 in coordination with other combatant commands, services, and appropriate U.S. government agencies "to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies."
Stratcom was quick to point out that Exercise Global Lightning 14 has been planned for more than a year and is based on a notional scenario. It also added that the "timing of the exercise is unrelated to real-world events" but only those who believed that Russia massive nuclear drill was also unrelated to world will fall for this particular embellishment. As Defense One observes, according to Mark Schneider, a former U.S. Defense Department nuclear strategy official, told the Washington Free Beacon that Russia’s drill last week seemed aimed at sending a message of “nuclear intimidation” to the United States and NATO over Ukraine. He noted that Moscow typically stages its atomic exercises in the fall.
Meanwhile, Romania on Saturday sought clarification from Russia on its official policy following a tweet from a high-profile Russian minister that warned he might try to enter Romanian air space in a heavy bomber, Reuters reported.
After a plane he was a traveling in was blocked from entering Romanian air space, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin sent out a tweet that stated, “Upon U.S. request, Romania has closed its air space for my plane. Ukraine doesn’t allow me to pass through again. Next time I’ll fly on board Tu-160.” Rogozin, who supervises his country’s large weapons industry, is under U.S. and European Union sanctions.
The Romanian foreign ministry requested that Russia specify whether the deputy prime minister’s tweet represented “the Russian Federation’s official position.”
Romania “believes the threat of using a Russian strategic bomber plane by a Russian deputy prime minister is a very grave statement under the current regional context,”the ministry said
However, Russia was last week - now it's America's turn: the units included in the US exercise are bomber wings that will fly approximately 10 B-52 Stratofortresses and up to six B-2 Spirit bombers "to demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness in the training scenarios throughout the continental U.S."
So if you see a massive nuclear bomber flying overhead with a full nuclear armament, don't panic - tis but a drill.
“This exercise provides unique training opportunities to incorporate the most current technology and techniques in support of our mission. Continued focus and investment in our strategic capabilities allow USSTRATCOM to deter, dissuade, and defeat current and future threats to the U.S. and our allies,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command.
Those curious can find more information at USSTRATCOM Public Affairs, (402) 294-4130, or via email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
We, on the other hand, will await the YouTube clip that goes with Global Lightning 14 and grade it on content, difficulty, and artistic creativity. After all we already have the Russians as a benchmark.
Remember when Putin "de-escalated" and promised the Russian forces were being pulled back from the Ukraine border? That didn't last long. Fast forward 24 hours, when we learn that the very same Putin oversaw a military exercise involving Russia's nuclear forces.
While Putin said the exercise had been planned back in November, it comes as relations between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Ukraine.
Putin, speaking from the Defense Ministry's headquarters where he oversaw the exercise along with leaders of several ex-Soviet nations which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said that the maneuvers involved the military across the entire Russian territory, including the nation's nuclear forces.
Russian news wires said that the exercises simulated dealing a massive retaliatory nuclear strike in response to an enemy attack. The description of the exercise is unusually blunt, reflecting tensions with the West running high over Ukraine.
As part of the maneuvers, a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launched from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia successfully hit a designated target on the Kura testing range on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, the military said.
Two nuclear submarines of the Northern and Pacific Fleets, the Tula and the Podolsk, also fired intercontinental ballistic missiles.
So, what distraction will those who are selling into idiot hands to push stocks higher use today?
PM instructs Gazprom to supply gas to Ukraine on prepaid basis from May 13
May 12, 20:48UTC+4 “I think Gazprom has taken all possible steps to settle the situation: we talked with them, we consulted several times, you reported to me and to the president, but we were not heard,” Medvedev noted
GORKI, May 12. /ITAR-TASS/. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev instructed Gazprom to start supplying gas to Ukraine on a prepaid basis from May 13.
“Gazprom has a right to do what has been repeatedly discussed, namely to switch over to advance payments for Ukrainian consumers and Ukraine under the contract,” Medvedev said on Monday, May 12. “I think it’s high time we stopped dandling about. Notify them and move on to advance payments starting tomorrow,” he said at a meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
“I think Gazprom has taken all possible steps to settle the situation: we talked with them, we consulted several times, you reported to me and to the president, but we were not heard,” the prime minister said. “If this is so, we must start acting because this can’t be tolerated anymore.”
Medvedev said advance payments for Russian gas would not mean an end to supplies. “The transition to advance payments means only one thing: we will supply as much as they pay for. If they pay one euro, we will supply one euro’s worth [of gas]; if they pay a billion, we will supply a billion’s worth [of gas],” he said.
“Our Ukrainian partners have money,” Medvedev said, referring to the first portion of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He believes that Europe should send a signal to the Ukrainian leadership that they must pay the gas debts and asked Novak to make this position known to European partners during the next round of consultations and talks with EU officials.
“We have the right to expect our European partners to send a signal to the Ukrainian leadership that they must pay the debts,” he said.
He noted that Ukraine “still has the opportunity to pay everything before the end of May, to pay the whole sum or at least a part of it, thus showing its determination to pay the debt.”
“We have not seen such determination from Ukraine so far, and this is very sad,” the prime minister said.
Miller said Ukraine had to pay for Russian gas supplies before June 2.
“If Ukraine does not pay for the June supplies, Gazprom will notify Ukraine by 10 a.m. June 3 how much gas would be supplied to Ukraine in accordance with the advance payment made,” he said.
If no prepayment is made, no gas will be supplied to Ukraine in June, he added.
Miller said that Ukraine’s current debt for gas had exceeded 3.5 billion U.S. dollars, which matches 9.420 billion cubic meters of gas. This would be enough to supply gas to Poland for 12 months.
Ukraine did not make any payments for gas in March and April, he said.
Novak said Russia had not received any proposals from the European Commission or Ukraine regarding current payments for Russian gas.
“Following the talks we, unfortunately, have not received any proposals from the European Commission regarding the measures the European Commission, EU countries and Ukraine are taking to make current payments [for Russian gas],” Novak said.
Acting Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Yuri Prodan “provided alarming information that Ukraine could not guarantee the storage of gas in its underground storage facilities as part of preparations for the autumn and winter period and therefore could not guarantee the transit of gas to European countries due to the absence of resources and due to the unwillingness to solve this issue in principle,” the minister said.
“May 7 was the last day when Ukraine had to pay for the gas supplied. We have not received any payment from Naftogaz of Ukraine since March of this year. To date, Ukraine’s overall debt for gas has reached $3.508 billion,” Novak said.
In accordance with Clauses 5.1.5 and 5.8 of the contract for the supply of gas made by and between Gazprom and Naftogaz in 2009, failure to perform the obligations entails an automatic transition to gas supplies on a prepaid basis from June 1, 2014, Novak said.
On May 16, Gazprom will issue a preliminary bill for the supply of gas in June. Ukraine will have an opportunity to pay this bill by May 31, in which case the amount of gas to be supplied in June under the advance payment will not exceed the volume paid for until May 31.
“The Russian position on support for the Ukrainian economy was stated in President Vladimir Putin’s letter [to European leaders on April 10] and said that Russia could no longer and should not alone bear the burden of support for the Ukrainian economy by giving it gas price discounts and forgiving debts, thus paying with its subsidies for the trade deficit in Ukraine and EU countries,” Novak said.
Ukraine is ready to pay the debt for Russian gas within ten days if its price is set at $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters, parliament-appointed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.
“We have sent a proposal to Russia’s Gazprom to extend the contract at a price of $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters as in the first quarter of 2014. As soon as this price is set and an additional agreement is signed, Ukraine will be prepared to pay all debts within ten days, including the debts of the previous government,” Yatsenyuk said.
However, Novak said that Ukraine had no right to revise the price of gas from Russia unilaterally.
He recalled that the contract signed 2009 was still in force. “The contract has been in effect for five years and has been implemented. Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Yuri Prodan reaffirmed this yesterday,” he said.
Under the contract, the price of gas supplied to Ukraine is determined by the formula that is pegged to the price of oil. “This formula is used everywhere in the world for pipeline gas supplies. Therefore there are no grounds to discuss the price today and especially unilaterally offer the first quarter price of 268 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters as the Ukrainian authorities are doing,” Novak said.
Parliament-appointed acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on May 1 instructed the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry to secure gas supplies from Russia at the price that was in effect in February and March 2014.
If Russia disagrees to meet the demand, the relevant Ukrainian ministries and agencies have been instructed to “file a corresponding lawsuit with an international court of arbitration within a month of the receipt of the notice”.
Prodan said Ukraine was ready to pay its debt to Russia’s Gazprom for gas supplies at a price of $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters.
“Ukraine is ready to pay the debt. But we cannot pay the price Gazprom set from April 1. It is unjustifiably high and is about $500. We are ready to pay under our obligations,” the minister said.
He disagreed with price of gas set by Gazprom which put Ukraine’s debt for gas at $3.5 billion.
Yatsenyuk also reiterated that Ukraine was prepared to pay the price of $268 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas.
This is 45% below the established price of gas. If Moscow disagrees, Kiev will be prepared to contest its debt in court, he said.
Gazprom spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov said Ukraine had so far not paid the gas debt. “The deadline for payments for April has passed. Nothing was paid. Ukraine’s overdue debt for the Russian gas has increased to $3.508 billion,” he said.
Now that the debt has not been paid, Gazprom will start supplying gas to Ukraine against advance payments from June.
On April 30, the IMF authorized the disbursement of more than $17 billion loan to Ukraine over the next two years. The first tranche of $3.2 billion has already been transferred to Ukraine.
However, Kiev did not say which part of this money would be used to pay for current and previous Russian gas supplies.
Kiev said it would the first portion of IMF loan for augmenting its gold and currency reserves in order to stabilize the financial situation in the country.
“Over $1 billion from the first portion of the loan will go into the gold and currency reserves of Ukraine, which will strengthen the financial system of the country. The remainder will go to the budget to stabilize the macroeconomic and financial situation in Ukraine,” National Bank Chairman Stepan Kubiv said.
He believes that the IMF loan “will send a positive signal to foreign investors and domestic entrepreneurs, improve the investment climate in the country and stabilize the hryvnia”.
An IMF evaluation mission will arrive in Ukraine in late June or early July, IMF Resident Representative in Ukraine Jerome Vacher said last week.
He said technical assistance would be provided to the government of Ukraine within the next two months, including on matters related to public expenditures.
The aid package for Ukraine includes enough funds to cover its debt for gas supplies, the official said, adding that the package was structured in such a way as to allow Ukraine to pay its gas debts and fulfill its main obligations.
Vacher said that aid was based on the gas price of 385 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters and noted that the price should be discussed by Naftogaz of Ukraine and Russia’s Gazprom.
He admitted that it was hard to determine the market price of gas but different price levels could be found.
Medvedev: Russia has evidence Ukraine has money to pay gas debt
Medvedev called on Europe to send a message to the Ukrainian leadership to the effect Russian gas must be paid for. This is precisely the position Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked Energy Minister Alexander Novak to convey to the European partners in the course of future consultations and negotiations with the European commission.
“We have the right to expect that the European partners will send a message to the Ukrainian leadership to the effect that the debts must be paid,” he said at a meeting with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller and Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
And more tinder......
Self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic asks Russia for admission
DONETSK, May 12. /ITAR-TASS/. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has made a plea asking to be accepted into the Russian Federation, the republic’s co-leader, Denis Pushilin, told a news conference on Monday.
“We, the people of the Donetsk People’s Republic, relying on the results of the May 11, 2014 referendum and the declaration of independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic, declare that from now on the Donetsk People’s Republic is a sovereign state,” Pushilin said.
“Proceeding from the will expressed by the DPR people and for the sake of restoring historical justice we are asking Russia to consider the issue of the DPR’s admission to the Russian Federation,” Pushilin said.
May 11, Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine held referenda on their status. According to data provided by central election committees, amid the punitive operation being carried out by Kiev authorities in Ukraine’s east, about 80% of registered voters in the Donetsk region and almost the same number in the Luhansk region took part in the polls. According to preliminary reports, 89.7% voted for the independence of the Donetsk Republic. In the Luhansk region, 96.2% casted voted for the act on state independence.
Luhansk Republic declares independence from Ukraine
‘Popular governor’ Valery Bolotov stated this at a rally on Monday.
“We have chosen our path of independence from arbitrariness and bloody dictate of the Kiev clique, fascism and nationalism, the path of freedom, the path of rule of law,” Bolotov said. “From the moment of declaring its independence, a new life free from dictate of Kiev authorities will start for the Luhansk People’s Republic,” he added.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Luhansk City Council has demanded that the authorities in Kiev should ensure the process of federalization in the country.
“We demand that the current authorities follow the voice of the people and immediately make constitutional changes which should enable the federalization process,” the council’s presidium members said in a statement on Monday. “Otherwise, responsibility for breaking up the country will fall on the central authorities.”
Council deputies urged the Kiev authorities to grant Russian the official status of a second state language and to stop “the fratricidal war” in Ukraine’s eastern regions.
A total of 96.2% voted for self-rule in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, where the results of the Sunday referendum were announced on Monday.
Russia biding its time......
Moscow not in rush to respond Donetsk People's Republic’s plea of accession
Russia is taking its time before reacting to Donetsk People's Republic’s plea to consider its accession into Russia while calling for dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions.
The Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told Kommersant newspaper Russia does not yet have a response to the plea.
Earlier on Monday the Kremlin’s press service issued a statement, saying: “Moscow respects the will of the people in Donetsk and Lugansk and hopes that the practical realization of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner.”
It stressed the necessity of a “dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.”
On Monday, Donetsk People's Republic proclaimed itself a sovereign state and asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, the Republic’s council said.
Earlier in the day, the results of referendums were announced in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, showing the majority of voters support self-rule, amid an intensified military operation by Kiev which resulted in several deaths.
Experts on the issue have weighed in with their view on Russia’s response.
International legal expert Alexander Mercouris told RT that Moscow’s reaction was consistent with its previous policy on Ukraine.
“Moscow is following what has been its consistent policy right from the start, right from the moment when the coup took place in Kiev in February, which has been pressing for negotiations between Kiev and the actual true democratic representatives of the eastern regions in order to achieve constitutional change,” Mercouris told RT. “I do not think Moscow’s position has changed. But I think Moscow’s position may change in the future.”
International relations expert and senior lecturer at Moscow State University Mark Sleboda also told to RT that he does not view Moscow’s reaction as contradicting its previous stance.
“Moscow’s reaction to the referendum – they of course recommended that it be postponed, and they had a somewhat tepid reaction to it. But at the same time they did not completely disown it either,” Sleboda said.
People cast their ballots in a polling station during a so-called referendum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 11, 2014.(AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)
“The first statement out of Moscow this morning that it looked forward to a dialogue between Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev to resolve the situation and implement the people’s will was a very strong indication that Russia is still really trying for dialogue with Kiev,” Sleboda added.
Professor of History and Politics in Berlin Ronald Suni noted that Russia’s slow response will indeed provide room for international dialogue, which may help the situation.
“Vladimir Putin and his advisors decided a few days ago that we’ve got to pull back, that we’ve got to slow things down. That all these people acting in their own interest, out of their own emotions and passions could lead to some very dangerous situations - civil war or international war,” Suni told RT.
“So, why not postpone the referendum, which of course the locals did not want to do, recognize the May 25 elections, which part of Ukraine probably won’t do, and pull troops back from the frontier, which Putin did. Even so, these actions have not led to a response, on both sides it would allow for some kind of international negotiation,” he added.
Mercouris also explained the referendum results are valid statement of opinion. “Yes, they were organized in great haste, in civil war, revolutionary conditions, but even people who are present, who are hostile to these referendums, from the Western media now accept that these are in fact representative of the powerful mass movement,” he said.
Sleboda stated that when examining Donetsk and Lugansk referendums, one must pay attention to three things. “One, the extremely large turnout, which is nearly impossible to deny. The overwhelming landslide victory – since the vote was essentially public with the glass ballot boxes and the Western journalists who served in place of international monitors, we could say, who clearly informally polled on the ground the strength of support for the independence vote.”
“And three, we have to remember that this did indeed happen under the barrel of a gun – but not the barrel of the gun of the self-defense forces, but under the barrel of the gun of this Kiev regime who was actually killing voters as they tried to vote against it on the referendum day,” he argued.