Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ukraine situation Updates ( September 9 , 2014 ) -- EU adopts new sanctions against Russia to come into force in 'next few days' ...... State of play from the EU political front .... MH 17 Preliminary Report due September 9 , 2014 ..... Hagel not aware of any secret deals to arm Kiev ......Russia to test new nuclear sub ICBM September 10 , 2014 ... EU Sanctions against Russia delayed until September 11 , 2014 ......


CEASEFIRE by Alexander Mercouris
(Written 6th September 2014)

The ceasefire agreement is the subject of intense discussion and has clearly left some people unhappy.  I will make a few quick observations here before returning more fully to this subject later when I am under less time pressure than I am at present:

1. The ceasefire has been forced on Poroshenko and the junta as a result of (1) the disastrous military situation the junta now finds itself in and (2) the refusal of the NATO/EU powers to intervene militarily on his behalf to redress the balance.  The last was again clearly reiterated by Obama at the NATO summit yesterday when he publicly refused even to supply the junta with weapons (NB: we should not take that seriously - weapons have already been supplied on a significant scale but clearly even the outward appearance of involvement through token public weapons transfers is being ruled out).  Incidentally Obama's talk about the importance of Article 5 of the NATO Charter was intended to underline this point.  Obama brought up Article 5 not to  "reassure the Baltic States" - which are not being threatened and do not therefore need this reassurance- but to underline to Kiev the point that as the Ukraine is not part of NATO it is not entitled to military help from NATO.

2. The ceasefire agreement announced yesterday has not been published but it gives the strong impression of being a purely technical, temporary document for an immediate cessation of hostilities.  It is unlikely it will hold for very long.  Either it will be replaced by a more permanent agreement or the fighting will resume

3. The most important point about the ceasefire agreement is not its terms but that following Putin's refusal to "agree" a ceasefire with Poroshenko he was obliged to agree it with the NAF (see below on this Page).  This is something Poroshenko, the junta and the Maidan movement have up to now adamantly refused to do.  By negotiating with the NAF and coming to an agreement with them on a substantive issue namely a ceasefire the junta has been forced to acknowledge that the NAF are not merely "terrorists" but are parties to a conflict and therefore people the junta must negotiate with.

4. The DPR/LPR have won a decisive military victory so that their survival is no longer in doubt.  Those who worry that the junta will use the ceasefire to rebuild its army in order to resume its offensive disregard 

(1) the fact that the junta's attempt to achieve a military victory at a time when the military odds were overwhelmingly in its favour has ended in disastrous failure.  The NAF is now an immeasurably stronger and better organised force than it was in April when the "anti terrorist operation" began or in July when the junta launched its great offensive in order to destroy it.  This really has been a case of Nietzsche's famous dictum that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  If the junta could not defeat the NAF in the period April to July it cannot do so now;

(2) the junta is in no position to relaunch an offensive on anything like the scale of July any time soon.  Not only is the junta's military in no condition to resume the offensive but the catastrophic economic situation and the onset of winter absolutely precludes it.  If the ceasefire holds it is much more likely that it will be the NAF that will continue to grow in strength as it gains more recruits, has more time to train them and repairs and absorbs into its arsenal the cornucopia of weapons it has captured;

(3) Russia will not allow the DPR/LPR to be destroyed.  The junta's and NATO's claims that the Ukrainian military were defeated by the Russian army rather than the NAF are untrue but actually now benefit the NAF because they have established the perception that Russia will in any crisis intervene militarily in order to save them.  In politics perception is 90% of the battle and the perception that Russia will not let the NAF be defeated or let the DPR/LPR be destroyed will determine decision making in Washington, Brussels and Kiev from now on.    

5. Since there is no possibility now that the DPR/LPR will be destroyed the political initiative now rests with them.  They have made absolutely clear what their objectives are (1) total withdrawal of all Ukrainian troops from their territory and (2) full independence from Kiev.  As I have previously said Putin supports (1) and is slowly coming round to (2) (see below on this Page).  Poroshenko is of course rejecting both.  Days ago he was also rejecting demands for a ceasefire and talks with the NAF and he has now been forced to concede both.  It is no longer within his power to deny the NAF's further demands and the fact that he has been forced to say publicly that he rules them out shows that he knows it.

6. None of this course means that the junta will not try to use the ceasefire to improve its position on the ground.  The fact that Poroshenko has been defeated does not mean he is reconciled to the fact.  Were he to become so such authority as he still has in Kiev would melt away.  It is precisely because Poroshenko cannot bring himself to accept defeat that I expect him to do everything he can to try to reinforce his position by misusing the ceasefire for that purpose.  It is for that reason I expect the ceasefire to be only temporary and to be followed by a renewed NAF offensive before long.

7. I suspect what disappoints most people about the ceasefire (see the comments made about it for example by Gleb Bazov and Colonel Cassad) is that it appears to rule out the option of an NAF march on Kiev to overthrow the junta.  However the reality is that this option had been ruled out some time ago as was made clear by Zakharchenko at his press conference of 2 weeks ago (see my discussion at the time on this Page).  The whole tone and content of Zakharchenko's comments since he was confirmed as the DPR's leader is that the NAF is fighting a purely defensive war to defend its people and territory.  I appreciate that this is disappointing for many people but there it is.

8. Lastly and by way of postscript I would add

(1) the decision not to march on Kiev is surely the reason behind the dismissal of Strelkov who made his intention to march on Kiev clear.  It is now universally believed that Strelkov's dismissal was engineered by Moscow as part of its political strategy for the Ukraine.  Whilst this is no doubt true I suspect this underestimates the strength of feeling on this issue within the Donbas itself with many (most?) people there fighting to defend their families and homes and unwilling to march on a Kiev they no longer want to have anything to do with. I would add in passing that the extraordinary publicity Strelkov was getting cannot have failed to rile some of the other commanders who must have felt their own contribution was being overlooked.  I suspect Strelkov's panicked reaction on 9th August 2014 to the junta's attack on Krasny Luch and his unjustified criticism of the town's defenders was for these people the final straw.     

(2) the now certain secession of the Donbas is not the end of the Ukraine's crisis.  That is still in its early stages and has very far to go.  At best we are at the end of this crisis's beginning.  That however is a big issue to discuss when I have more time.


Since the ceasefire was announced criticism has mounted with more criticism from people like Gubarev.  I understand some of this criticism but I think it would help to explain some points.

Criticism is now focusing on two specific issues:

(1) The protocol of the ceasefire agreement, which is in Russian only. 


(2) Complaints that the ceasefire benefits the junta more than the NAF and is at the very least premature.

In my opinion (1) is simply wrong.  There is much more to be said for (2).  However there are points to be made even about (2).

The Protocol

Before discussing the Protocol in detail I want to say that this is in my opinion an essentially academic discussion.  The wording of the Protocol does not bear the weight people are attaching to it if only because those involved in the conflict will interpret it in their own way.  I merely discuss this issue because others do.  

1. The first point to understand about the Protocol is that it originates from a forum, the Tripartite Contact Group, that was supposedly set up to "implement" Poroshenko's (non) peace plan.  The NAF is  not formally a member of the Contact Group.  Its members are the OSCE, Russia and the Ukraine.  The Contact Group "invited" the NAF representatives to attend and provided a venue for discussions between the junta and the NAF, which was useful for agreeing a ceasefire.  However the Protocol is in no sense a final settlement agreement.  That is postponed pending the "national dialogue" the Protocol refers to.  

2. The Protocol is a technical document.  If one ignores the language of the Protocol (deriving from the Contact Group's origins as a body to "implement" Poroshenko's (non) peace plan) and focuses instead on its content it is clear that it is the NAF that has gained most from it.  Specifically

(1) It has obtained a "bilateral ceasefire" something it has been seeking since April.  Please note that the key word is "bilateral".  Poroshenko's previous ceasefire was unilateral which meant he could end it whenever he wanted to and that he did not recognise the NAF by declaring it.  What "bilateral" means is that the Ukraine now acknowledges the NAF as a party to the conflict and is negotiating with it. As I have previously argued Poroshenko did everything he could to avoid this and tried to agree a ceasefire with Putin instead of with the NAF.  Putin said no.

The word "bilateral" incidentally also means that Kuchma's status is no longer in question.  The junta had previously pretended that he was not representing it.  Since Kuchma negotiated the ceasefire, which is "bilateral", and since the junta is bound by what he agreed, the fiction that Kuchma does not represent the junta is over and he is confirmed as the junta's representative in negotiations with the NAF.

(2) the Protocol commits the junta to a total amnesty and an exchange of prisoners.   Quite apart from the obvious human considerations by definition this again recognises the NAF as a party to the conflict since the people so amnestied can no longer be criminals or "terrorists".

(3) the Protocol reproduces language drawn from the 17th April 2014 Geneva Statement about the dissolution of "illegal groups".  Note however that in light of (1) and (2) since the junta now recognises the NAF as a party to the conflict it cannot in logic any longer claim in international law that the NAF is an "illegal group".  Already the NAF leadership is treating this part of the Protocol as referring to the various paramilitary groups controlled by people like Kolomoisky and Right Sector.

(4) Russia is a signatory of the Protocol.  This is crucial.  The US and EU by contrast are not signatories to the Protocol.  They have been completely cut out of the negotiations.  The fact that the Protocol is only in Russian and that there is no official translation of it into any other language (apparently not even Ukrainian) is a significant fact in itself.  The long weeks of February to July when the Russians negotiated fruitlessly with the US and EU are over. Since Russia is a signatory of the Protocol it is a party to it.  Since the US and EU are not signatories to the Protocol they are not parties to it.  Its signature gives Russia grounds to act if the terms of the Protocol are breached.  Russia has not had clear cut grounds to act up to now,  As a party to the Protocol Russia is in effect its guarantor and it now does.

3. The part of the Protocol that is causing the most criticism are the sections that refer to "decentralisation" and to local elections happening under a Ukrainian law for "decentralisation".  

(1) The point to understand about these sections is that the Protocol does not present itself as a final political settlement of the conflict.  That in theory depends on the "inclusive national dialogue" referred to in the Protocol (wording that also ultimately originates with the 17th April 2014 Geneva Statement).  Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky immediately following their signing of the Protocol made clear that the NAF's objective remains full independence.  Zakharchenko has said the same today (8th September 2014).  

(2) The fact that Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky issued their statement immediately after the Protocol was signed (but before it was published) refutes claims by people such as Gubarev that they did not know what they were signing when they signed the Protocol but that they merely signed whatever was put in front of them.  On the contrary it is clear that they wanted to make their position unambiguously clear precisely because they did not want their intentions to be misconstrued by the language of the Protocol.

(3) The point here is that the Protocol provides for elections to local bodies of power which because they would happen in accordance with a Ukrainian law the Ukraine would be legally obliged to recognise.  It is a foregone conclusion that these elections if and when they happen will be won by the NAF.  If so since the Ukraine is legally obliged to recognise the elections it is also legally obliged to recognise their outcome (the "international community" would be as well).  

(4) What this section of the Protocol therefore means is that the Ukraine not only now recognises the NAF as a party to a conflict but once the elections are out of the way will also be legally obliged to recognise the NAF as the political leader of the Donbas.  

4. Having made these points, let me now make the key point: the Protocol is in my opinion a total red herring.  The Protocol is not a contract or a treaty.  There is no court or tribunal that will arbitrate on the meaning of its words.  All the sides will construe it as they wish.  The junta will not of course construe it as I have done and nor will its western backers even though my interpretation is undoubtedly the correct one. The junta will continue to call the NAF "terrorists" and will continue to deny they are the representatives of the Donbas whether they win an election or not.  Certainly the junta will not recognise an election the NAF wins or any declaration of independence the NAF makes.  For what it's worth in my opinion there is little chance of the terms of such an election being agreed upon or such an election taking place whilst the Donbas remains part of the Ukraine.

5. I have laboured the point about the meaning of the Protocol not because I attach the slightest importance to this question but because others do and because it is being suggested that Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky somehow signed away the NAF's position when they signed the Protocol.  In terms of what the Protocol actually says that is simply not the case.  Having said this I think the Protocol will before long be a forgotten document left to collect dust in some unvisited archive as events move beyond it.  

Ceasefire benefits the Junta

This seems to me a far more powerful criticism.  However I would make the following points:  

(1) I will say straight away that I think this criticism has merit.  The NAF would surely have been in a better position looking forward if Mariupol and Debraltsevo had been recaptured. As it is there is bound to be argument over the next few weeks and months about the status of Mariupol especially.  

(2) I cannot believe the NAF leaders did not realise this when they agreed the ceasefire.  However having demanded a ceasefire for months they obviously felt once the junta offered one that they had no realistic option but to agree.  I would rather that they had not and that things had turned out differently but then I am not in a position to second guess their decisions or to know why they made the decision that they did.  Doubtless Russian pressure played its part but one should not overlook the factor of war weariness in the Donbas itself.  Possibly the NAF leaders were concerned that the population of the Donbas and possibly some of the NAF fighters might not understand or be happy if the war was prolonged further when a ceasefire was being offered.  I would point out that there have been no mass protests from people in the Donbas opposing the ceasefire since it was declared and the NAF troops (apart from some commanders) seem to accept it.   The one possibility I do exclude is that Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky are fools or traitors.  I have watched Zakharchenko and I am sure he is neither.

(3) It is important anyway not to over dramatise the problems the arguably premature end to the fighting will cause.  Just 3 weeks ago the very existence of the NAF and of the DPR/LPR was in doubt.  Lugansk was suffering from a humanitarian crisis and both Lugansk and Donetsk were threatened with encirclement.

(4) That danger has gone.  The junta instead of achieving a military victory has suffered a decisive defeat.  NATO has refused to help the junta.  Despite desperate attempts by the junta to get at least token NATO support through publicly admitted (as opposed to covert) arms supplies even that request has been refused.  The US/EU has failed even to provide additional economic support.  For all the brave talk at the recent EU and NATO summits the reality is NATO and the EU have cut the junta off.  Meanwhile the Ukrainian economy is in freefall with Russian gas and Donbas coal no longer available, output plunging, the currency collapsing and foreign exchange reserves draining away  The vice meanwhile is tightening.  The very latest reports say the Russians are quietly telling European states thinking of sending gas to the Ukraine through the (bogus and illegal) "reverse flow" scheme that they may have their own gas supplies reduced if they do.  

(5) Any idea that the latest redeployments are going to change the situation decisively in the junta's favour look in the light of this frankly alarmist. In truth these deployments look to me like further examples of the junta's perennial tendency to reinforce failure by sending troops to places like Mariupol and Debratselvo that are no longer defendable.

(6) The NAF made absolutely clear again today that they want all the junta's military units withdrawn from their territory.  As I said previously (see below on this Page) Putin now supports this demand.  If the junta does not withdraw its troops a renewed NAF offensive to drive them out looks inevitable. Indeed the NAF said as much today. 

(7) I would repeat what I have said previously.  In my opinion in military terms a prolonged pause will strengthen the NAF militarily more than the junta.  I appreciate many others take a different view.  However the NAF now has more time to consolidate its gains (some people were worrying not so long that it was overextending itself), to attract more recruits (easier to do now it is winning) and to absorb the vast quantity of heavy weapons it has captured.  A renewed NAF offensive when it comes will be more powerful than the one we saw in August.  In its weakened state the junta's military will struggle to resist it.  Following its defeat and against the backdrop of the economic crisis and the coming of winter the junta's ability to renew the offensive on anything like the scale we saw in July is surely for the time being non existent.


The key lesson of the last few weeks is that the NAF can no longer be defeated, that Russia is now involved, that the US/EU are no longer involved in any meaningful way and that the junta having been defeated and facing an economic crisis is left facing the NAF and Russia by itself.  In the Ukraine it is unwise to count on anything but the balance in this conflict has now shifted decisively.  I do not see how that will change.  For what it's worth that is also the assessment in Britain.  The mood here  in the news media is one of humiliation and failure.


MH17 Was Struck By Multiple "High-Energy Objects From Outside The Aircraft", Crash Report Reveals

Tyler Durden's picture

Over a month after the crash of flight MH 17 over east Ukraine, and with the confiscated Air Traffic Control voice recording still kept confidential by a western-led task force for reasons unknown, overnight the Dutch Safety Board released its preliminary report on the causes of the crash. As the AP reported, it agency "stopped short of saying the Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile, but its findings appear to point to that conclusion. It also did not say who might have been responsible." Actually, what the Dutch report did say is the following: MH17 was struck by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft," causing it to break up over eastern Ukraine, a preliminary report into the deadly aviation disaster concluded Tuesday.
From the report: "The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft," the report said. "It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up."
In essence what the board "reported" is what has been widely known by now: "The initial results of the investigation point toward an external cause of the MH17 crash," the board's chairman, Tjibbe Joustra, said in a statement. "More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead.... Detailed examination of the structural damage is ongoing," the report said. "Forensic examination will be performed if the wreckage can be removed."
Not unexpectedly, by the time the Dutch conclude their report, nobody will care about MH 17 and the current Ukraine civil war foreplay will be long forgotten, having been either long since resolved or grown into something much bigger. To wit:
The board is leading the international investigation into the cause of the disaster. Its full report is expected within a year of the crash.
But while the report itself was largely neutral as expected for a preliminary report, the "experts" promptly jumped in to steer the discussion in the desired direction, starting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said, "The findings are consistent with the government's statement that MH17 was shot down by a large surface-to-air missile."
Another that saw in the report what he wanted to see was Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who "welcomed the report, saying in a written statement that its key conclusion "leads to the strong suspicion that a surface-to-air missile brought MH17 down, but further investigative work is needed before we can be certain." Well at least he covered his bases by saying his conclusion is not really based on anything in the actual report.
Yet other, supposedly credible voices also took over "concluding" what was a very inconclusive report: next cited was an "aviation safety specialist" at Yates Consulting, Christopher Yates, who told the AP the report "is extremely consistent with damage from a missile for the simple reason there are penetration marks.
"It must have been moving at very high velocity to create the damage," he said. "It could only be a missile of the type that would reach the altitude that would have struck the aircraft, potentially a Buk missile. He said the report gave no indication whether the missile had been fired from the ground or from another aircraft, but it likely came from the ground as there were no military aircraft known to have been flying at the time. The missile could not have been shoulder-fired because it would not have reached the necessary altitude, he added.
So if it is so clear that a Rebel-fired missile destroyed the airplane, we should look forward to the undoctored ATC recordings finally beings released to the public? After all, they have been held in secret custody longer even than the MH 370 ATC recordings, another plane whose fate is still a mystery.
Finally, we are stunned that nobody has observed the obvious: "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft" like for example... bullets? As in a warplane-fired volley of high-powered bullets.
Then again, one can see why this possibility was not even mentioned by the experts, the politicians and the pundits: for the simple reason that should bullets be noted as a culprit, that would immediately put all the blame on the Kiev government as only a Ukraine warplane could have shot down the Malaysian Boeing 777 over Ukraine airspace.
But we are confident this possibility will be extensively covered in the final Dutch Board report, some time in late 2015 or 2016, by which point we can only hope the ATC recording which may just reveal why the airplane was redirected, will be finally released...
* * *
Update: it appears that at least a part of the ATC transcript has been released and can be found in the report as follows:
This is the transcript immediately surrounding the crash and confirms the redirection from Dnipropetrovs’k air traffic control centre (Dnipro Radar) "due to traffic." From the report:
At the time of the occurrence flight MH17 was under control of Dnipropetrovs’k air traffic control centre (Dnipro Radar). Shortly after 13.20 hrs, both Ukraine and Russian Federation Radar lost contact with the aircraft. The last radio transmission made by the crew began at 13.19:56 hrs and ended at 13.19:59 hrs. Dnipropetrovs’k air traffic control centre made a radio transmission to flight MH17 which began at 13.20:00 hrs and ended at 13.20:05 hrs. The crew did not respond to this transmission or subsequent transmissions. No distress message was received from the aircraft at any point in time by ATC.
What is not disclosed is the actual transcript that notes the path redirection. Instead the Dutch report reveals the following in paraphrase:
According to the flight plan, flight MH17 would initially fly at Flight Level 330 (FL330)5 above Ukraine until the waypoint PEKIT, which is on the Flight Information Region (FIR) boundary between Kiev FIR (UKBV) and Dnipropetrovs’k FIR (UKDV). From waypoint PEKIT the flight plan indicates FL350 for the remaining part over Ukraine.

According to ATC data, at 12.53 hrs the aircraft was flying within the Dnipropetrovs’k FIR, Control Sector 2, at FL330, controlled by Dnipro Control. At that time, Dnipro Control asked whether MH17 was able to climb to FL350 in accordance with the flight plan of MH17 and also to clear a potential separation conflict with other traffic in the area, another Boeing 777 flying at FL330 and approaching from behind.

The crew replied they were unable to comply and requested to maintain at FL330. This was agreed by Dnipro Control. As an alternative to solve the separation conflict, the other traffic climbed to FL350. According to ATC data, at 13.00 hrs the crew of flight MH17 requested to divert the track 20 NM to the left, due to weather. This also was agreed by Dnipro Control, after which the crew requested whether FL340 was available.Dnipro control informed MH17 that FL340 was not available at that moment and instructed the flight to maintain FL330 for a while. At 13.07 hrs the flight was transferred to Dnipropetrovs’k CTA 4, also with call sign Dnipro Control.
Considering the seriousness of this redirection and the pilot's alleged "inability" to comply, it would be far more useful if the Dutch Safety Board would release this part of the transcript as it certainly will reveal much more than the part of the conversation that is already well known.


Dutch Safety Board says MH17 broke apart due to external factors

AMSTERDAM Tue Sep 9, 2014 4:12am EDT
Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine August 1, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine August 1, 2014.
(Reuters) - Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 broke apart overUkraine due to "large number of high-energy objects" from outside the aircraft, the Dutch Safety Board said in a preliminary report into the disaster that killed 298 people, two thirds of them from the Netherlands.
The preliminary report, published on Tuesday, said MH17 crashed due to external objects penetrating the fuselage and that "there are no indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew".

The findings support earlier assertions that the plane was hit by a missile.


EU adopts new sanctions against Russia to come into force in 'next few days'

Published time: September 08, 2014 19:07
Edited time: September 08, 2014 20:15

Officials and members of the European Parliament in Brussels (AFP Photo)
Officials and members of the European Parliament in Brussels (AFP Photo)
A new package of sanctions against Russia has been adopted by the EU. Previous reports said the "further restrictive measures" were aimed at targeting three major oil companies, as well as the defense sector.
According to a Monday statement by the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the new package was adopted through written procedure, "deepening the targeted measures of 31 July."
"The sanctions aim at promoting a change of course in Russia's actions destabilizing eastern Ukraine,"the statement reads.
Although it was previously reported that the new sanctions could come into force by Tuesday, the final EU decision did not specify the date when they will be applied, only saying it "will take place in the next few days," leaving time "for an assessment of the implementation of the cease-fire agreement [in Ukraine]."
"Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part," Van Rompuy's statement reads.
Over the weekend, some EU diplomats told Reuters that the sanctions could be lifted if the ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and militia forces holds. The truce was agreed last week.
"A ceasefire must hold for sanctions to be lifted," the agency quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying.
According to some EU representatives, the sanctions could "even get ridden off entirely."
Despite some shooting over the weekend, "overall the ceasefire held," an OSCE security watchdog said on Monday, adding that "it is still shaky."
The new package of sanctions is reportedly aimed at Russian state-owned oil companies, particularly Rosneft, Transneft, and Gazpromneft.
On Monday, Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia may shut its air corridors to Western airlines if the next round of European sanctions hits Russia’s energy sector.
In order to be approved, the restrictive documents needed to be signed by all 28 member states of the European Union. There were reports that the decision did not go through at once, and an EU ambassadors emergency meeting had to be called, as some governments had second thoughts on the new 'punishment' for Moscow.
"The ceasefire is an enormous step forward and with that comes the possibility of a political solution...There is quite a strong appetite across Europe for saying we want a political solution here, we don't want a ramping up of the economic pressure," British opposition MP and peace campaigner Jeremy Corbyn told RT.


Monday, September 8

19:26 GMT:
NATO’s deputy secretary-general claims the alliance has “a lot of evidence” of Russian troops crossing the border with Ukraine, including a private video “taken from a trolleybus.” Alexander Vershbow said this while answering a question asked by RT’s Roman Kosarev at a press conference, regarding the credibility of the alliance’s allegations.

We have a lot of evidence that the [Russian] forces are present there. It’s a combination of satellite imagery, some of which we’ve released, or member states have released. There is other intelligence which is not always releasable, but we have very great confidence in it. We also have on the ground images taken both by international media and private citizens. I saw a video taken from a trolleybus showing a large convoy of Russian tanks, armed personnel carriers rolling along the road between the border and Lugansk. So at the same time, Russia’s denials become more and more ridiculous by the day,” stated Vershbow.
Visiting NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow (AFP Photo)
18:46 GMT:
In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, NATO plans to reverse the decline of defense spending and to move toward two percent of GDP guideline in 10 years, Alexander Vershbow, US ambassador and deputy secretary-general of the organization, said during a press conference with Russian media.

Vershbow noted that Germany “announced a very important initiative at the summit – the framework nation concept which will promote hopefully a more efficient acquisition of defense capabilities by a group of nations that will be cooperating together multinational[ly].”

RT's Roman Kosarev reminded Vershbow that Germany's minister of defense, Ursula Gertrud Von der Leyen, said in an interview to local ARD TV channel on Monday that Berlin is not planning to increase the defense budget from the current 1.3 percent to the two percent suggested by NATO.

As I am reminded, Minister Von der Leyen also said [that] looking several years into the future, if the German army is to take on more tasks as it is going to have to do as a result of the summit, then the German parliament will have to review the defense budget,” Vershbow stated.
17:22 GMT:
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko have discussed, in a telephone conversation, steps towards the peaceful settlement of the situation in southeastern Ukraine, the Kremlin press service reports.
17:10 GMT:
President Petro Poroshenko has said that Kiev had agreed with a number of NATO member states on arms supplies to Ukraine.
We managed to agree with a range of NATO states on direct supplies of modern weapons to Ukraine, which will help us protect ourselves and win,” he said, according to the presidential website. “Even though we only count on ourselves, financial and technical military aid is vitally needed. And we will get it.
On Sunday, presidential aide Yury Lutsenko, citing Poroshenko, said on Facebook that the US, France, Italy, Poland and Norway would supply modern weapons to Ukraine. The agreements were brokered at the NATO summit in Wales, he wrote.
However, four of the five NATO states he referred to denied that any such deal had been reached.
13:45 GMT:
Rebels in eastern Ukraine have handed over 1,200 prisoners of war to Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said.
Within the past four days we managed to free 1,200 Ukrainian prisoners of war,” he said, while on a visit to the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
The exchange of captured troops was agreed upon between Kiev and rebels during a meeting in Minsk last week.
13:44 GMT:
President Petro Poroshenko is on a working visit to Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
This is our land and we won’t give it to anyone,” he said, his press-secretary Svyatoslav Tsegolko quoted him as saying on Twitter. “After our visit was announced at 13.30, shelling of our checkpoints began,” the president added.

13:22 GMT:
Ukraine has introduced passport checks at the border with Crimea, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
Crimea's acting head, Sergei Aksenov, said that by introducing passport control on the border with Crimea, Ukraine had made a step towards recognizing the peninsula as part of the Russian territory.
"If these procedures are gathering momentum, it means we are going in the right direction. It is the right decision," Aksenov said.
13:12 GMT:
The exchange of prisoners has already started, according to the representative of Ukraine’s Council for National Security and Defense, Andrey Lysenko.
“Since Ukrainian President Poroshenko received the information at the beginning of the peace process, he has taken the issue of prisoners’ exchange under his special control,” Lysenko explained.
“The process has already started, it’s underway. A center was created in Ukraine’s security service, and the data on our military men appears there daily,” Lysenko continued.
Donetsk People’s Republic has confirmed that the prisoners’ exchange has started, and 28 people have been transferred to Kiev, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
08:48 GMT:
The ceasefire in Ukraine has largely held but remains shaky, according to Ambassador Thomas Greminger of Switzerland, current chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"Overall the ceasefire held even though it is still shaky," Greminger told an extraordinary meeting of the 57-nation OSCE, Reuters reports.
The official said the next days would be crucial.
Leaders of and again re-iterate they are committed to keeping the