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By On July 19, 2018

Russia threatens 'negative consequences' over Marine exercise with Ukraine in the Black Sea

The Corps has been bouncing all over Europe the past several months, participating in exercises with allies and vowing to boost its presence in Norway to strengthen cold-weather training â€" moves that have caught the ire of Russia.

And this time, Russia is aghast over a recent U.S. land and maritime exercise in the Black Sea region that kicked off July 9, which involved roughly 50 U.S. Marines and hundreds of sailors. The training took place near Russian-annexed Crimea and contested areas in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian government since 2014.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at a July 12 Moscow briefing warned of possible “consequences” over the exercise, and described the training evolution as tension-provoking and potentially destabilizing in southeastern Ukrai ne and the Black Sea region.

“Military activities will take place in direct proximity to the conflict zone in southeastern Ukraine where Ukrainian military units continue to shell peaceful Donbass cities every day despite a ‘bread truce’ announced on July 1 by the Minsk Contact Group,” Zakharova said. “Attempts to flex muscles in these conditions will hardly help stabilize the situation in this region.”

The small Marine contingent from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, participated in the 18th iteration of exercise Sea Breeze, where they integrated with the Ukrainian military aboard the Shyrokolan Range north of Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

Training at the Shyrokolan range involved day and night live fire, small unit and company-sized attacks, and night defensive operations, according to Marine spokesman Lt. Brett Lazaroff.

“Exercise Sea Breeze 2018 offers a venue to work side-by-side with NATO allies and regional partners to enhance our ability to work together in real-world operations, reassuring our allies and deterring potential aggressors,” Lazaroff told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement Wednesday.

In total, just over 800 U.S. sailors and Marines and nearly 17 countries participated in Sea Breeze, which involved maritime interdiction, anti-submarine operations and amphibious warfare in the Black Sea region.

A U.S. Navy sub-hunting P-8A Poseidon, the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship Mount Whitney and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Porter were also involved in the training.

“We perceive the exercises as an attempt to once again provoke tension in southeastern Ukraine and in the entire Black Sea region. Countries involving Ukraine in dangerous playing with fire games and constantly accusing Russia of threatening regional stability shall be held responsible for possible nega tive consequences,” Zakharova said at the Moscow briefing.

It’s not the first time Russia has dished out threats following a movement by the Corps.

Following Norway’s decision in June to boost the Corps’ presence in the Scandinavian country to 700 for cold-weather training, Russia warned of consequences and described the move as an attack on Russia.

“But what attack is it possible to talk about today? As is known, top-level Norwegian officials have repeatedly noted that Russia presents no threat,” Zakharova said in June. “Considering the fact that U.S. Marines are deployed in Norway, perhaps it is the United States that has attacked this country?”

The Corps has been active in Europe over the past several months participating in several exercises with NATO allies and friends in the region.

In May, the Corps moved its tanks from cave complexes in Norway to Finland for the first time to participate in a lar ge-scale armor exercises known as Arrow.

And in June a small number of Marines wrapped up exercises in the Baltic Sea region known as BALTOPS and Saber Strike.

Analysts view the Corps’ presence in the region as a deterrent to any potential aggression by Russian forces.


Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine

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By On July 19, 2018

Ukrainian athlete Dayana Yastremska, 18, ranks as 100th best female tennis player

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Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska, 18, became the youngest athlete to be ranked among the world’s 100 best female tennis players. Yastremska has been ranked the 100th best female tennis player in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association.

Yastremska also became the first athlete in the WTA ranki ng born in the 2000s with such an honor making the Odesa native the best female player of her age.

This triumph became possible due to outstanding summer performances.

Yastremska won the International Tennis Federation tournament in Rome on July 8. Just a few weeks before, on June 24, she became a runner-up in the ITF competition in Ilkley.

With these results, Yastremska gained 643 points two points short of the 99th WTA place. The 101st athlete has 633 points.

This is a huge breakthrough for Yastremska, who was ranked 342nd in 2016.

The WTA has updated its ranking of female athletes after the Wimbledon â€" the most prestigious tennis tournament, held from June 25 through July 15.

Yastremska is the fifth Ukrainian on the WTA ranking.

Elina Svitolina still remains the best Ukrainian tennis player at fifth place in the WTA ranking. Ukrainian tennis players Lesia Tsurenko, Kateryna Bondarenko, and Kateryna Kozlova occupy 39th, 81st and 8 6th places, respectively.

Yastremska’s success helped Ukraine rise to the fifth place worldwide among other national teams according to the number of players ranked in the WTA’s top 100.

Yastremska refused to comment for this story, citing her agent’s policy.

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By On July 19, 2018

Putin Tells Diplomats He Made Trump a New Offer on Ukraine at Their Summit

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By On July 19, 2018

VOA: Belarus grants refugee status to ex-Ukraine official sought by Kyiv

VOA: Belarus grants refugee status to ex-Ukraine official sought by KyivAfter Yanukovych was ousted from office by a popular uprising in 2014, Ukrainian officials charged Yezhel with misuse of state funds.Photo from UNIANPhoto from UNIAN

Belarus has granted refugee status to the former defense minister of Ukraine accused of embezzling $2 million of state funds.

Mykhailo Yezhel told journalists in the Belarusian capital on Wednesday that he and his family are living in Minsk, VOA reported.

Read alsoCourt gives permission for former Defense Minister's arrest

Yezhel served as defense minister from 2010-2012 under pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. He was appointed ambassador to Belarus in 2013.

After Yanukovych was ousted from off ice by a popular uprising in 2014, Ukrainian officials charged Yezhel with misuse of state funds.

Among the specific allegations is that Yezhel stole money meant for army rations and tried to sell Russia two strategic bombers.

Ukrainian prosecutors are seeking to try Yezhel in absentia. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison.

Ukraine and Russia have been in conflict since Yanukovych fled to Moscow and Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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By On July 19, 2018

All wild on Ukraine's eastern front

Galina poses for a portrait with her grandson in front of their home on the outskirts of Urzuf, Ukraine. The family's calf was eaten by wolves in their yard | All photos by Olya Morvan for POLITICO

Galina poses for a portrait with her grandson in front of their home on the outskirts of Urzuf, Ukraine. The family's calf was eaten by wolves in their yard | All photos by Olya Morvan for POLITICO

URZUF, Ukraine â€" The two-week-old calf was, in a way, another victim of the war.

A smallholder farmer named Galina Korovaytseva had left it tethered in her yard late last month in Urzuf, a village on th e Sea of Azov about 50 kilometers west of the frontline between the government of Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

When she came home, just before dark, she found it had been killed by wolves, which had devoured its insides. “My husband was still at work,” Korovaytseva said. “We always put [the calf] inside at night. But they came and ate it.”

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the more than four years of fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. An estimated 1.6 million more have been displaced. The economy has been devastated. And there’s risk of environmental damage â€" contamination of the soil and air from destroyed factories, flooded coal mines, landmines and exploded military ordnance.

But for the country’s once beleaguered wildlife, the war has been a godsend. Because of the ongoing fighting, there’s no systematic monitoring of the region’s wild animal population. But local residents, soldiers, rangers and enviro nmentalists agree: The area is undergoing an unintended â€" and unexpected â€" rewilding.

A wolf has been kept in a cage at a gas station since his mother was killed by hunters when he was a cub.

As recently as 2014, wolves attacking domestic animals in eastern Ukraine were tales told by grandparents. Today, in part because of a hunting ban in the war zone, large, wild predators are flourishing â€" along with other rare flora and fauna â€" along the 450-kilometer frontline.

“For hundreds of years populations of big animals were controlled, and now for the first time they are uncontrolled,” said Oleksiy Vasilyuk, an ecologist from the Ukrainian NGO Environment People Law. “For us, it’s great news.”

In addition to the wolves, he cited rising numbers of wild boar, rare marbled polecats and endangered steppe marmots.

Before the war began in 2014, the Donbas region was the most populated in Ukraine except Kiev, and the most industrialized. “Nature was very degraded; there was almost nothing left,” said Vasilyuk.

Yuriy, one of the rangers patrolling the national park, poses next to his car.

Vasilyuk likened the effect of the war to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. After a nuclear reactor exploded in 1986, the area around the failed power plant became a de facto nature reserve â€" one of the richest in the region. It has since been made an official reserve.

< p>Parts of eastern Ukraine are “now experiencing an effect like Chernobyl,” Vasilyuk said. “The area is polluted not by radiation but by industry. The air and water quality is bad. The ground soil is contaminated. But the most important thing is that there are fewer people now, along with less industry and agriculture. Yes, there’s a war going on, and animals migrate from noise and activity. But their populations are really growing.”

The cost of war

Not everyone is as pleased as Vasilyuk, whose attempts to get wolves into the “Red Book” of endangered species in Ukraine have been met with less than enthusiasm from hunters and smallholders around Urzuf. Unlike Chernobyl, the war zone in eastern Ukraine is still inhabited.

The war makes itself felt daily in Urzuf, in the shots and explosions from the nearby military training ground, in the increased numbers of armed men, in the absence of holidaymakers who used to come from what is now occupied territory and from Russia, and in the wolves, jackals and foxes that roam with impunity, snapping up unguarded pets and livestock.

“They’re not afraid anymore of people, they’re not afraid of lights,” said Semyon Goliyollu, who lives on the same street as Korovaytseva, the woman who lost her calf to wolves. “Everyone’s scared of these wolves.”

Local residents rely on livestock to supplement their livelihoods. A bull calf a few weeks older than Korovaytseva’s sells for 5,000 hryvnias (about €160) â€" a significant sum for a couple living on a monthly salary of half that.

A dog helps to guard goats where others have been eaten. Hunters say that the dog will fall prey as well and hunting is the only solution.

Hunters around Urzuf are desperate for the hunting ban to be lifted. They talk of “a piece missing from our so uls” and hunting dogs getting fat. They have petitioned both the army and local authorities to allow at least a cull of predators to protect livestock and prevent outbreaks of disease. Four people in the district were infected with rabies from a fox this winter, said Vasily Sagarits, director of the district’s hunting association.

As well as contributing to the local budget with permit fees, the association’s 700 hunters used to participate in a rabies control program, in which oral vaccines in bait were dropped for wild animals. The program ended in 2013 with the last hunting season before the war.

Ukraine has been hit by a shortage of rabies vaccines, after their import from Russia was banned because of the conflict. “It might be an emergency situation soon,” said Sagarits.

A park divided

Before the fighting began, several nature reserves were responsible for protecting Donbas’ remaining steppe, chalk hills, wetlands and coast. One of thes e was Meotida National Park, in the south Donetsk region.

The war has cut the park in half â€" and been disastrous for those who manage it. Its headquarters in Novoazovsk, now on occupied territory, was sacked in the summer of 2015. Cars, boats, computers and the fruits of 15 years of research were lost. Nadia Dolgova, the park’s director, rescued what she could in three car trips across the frontline, until she and her husband were stopped at a separatist checkpoint and detained for several hours because the salvaged items included maps, binoculars and a Ukrainian flag.

Nevertheless, said Dolgova, who is now based in Urzuf, “The war has been good for our park. No hunting. No one shoots birds. No systematic disturbance from people and dogs. Yes, there’s frequent [military] fire, but birds get used to that, just noise doesn’t scare them.”

A ranger points out footprints from a jackal in the park.

The park is known for its more than 240 bird species, including 100 breeding species. Its colony of Dalmatian pelicans â€" the only one in Ukraine â€" is now on separatist territory and was reportedly devastated by military action and fishing. But a few have been sighted on this side of the frontline, and last year Dolgova’s staff observed great white pelicans, the first recorded sighting in the area for 150 years.

The increased military presence along the coast and frontline has made a nesting colony of greater black-headed gulls inaccessible to fishers, poachers and curious tourists. It is flourishing as a result. “Now, there’s 24-hour guard and 3 to 4 kilometers under systematic patrol,” said Dolgova â€" a level of security that was impossible for the park even in the pre-war days when it had vehicles and a fuel budget.

The increased presence of armed men is a mixed blessing though. Soldie rs like to try out their rifles and night-vision goggles on wild boar and deer, said park staff and hunters who say they have found the vehicle tracks and dead animals to prove it.

Dolgova complained to a military commander: “They explained that they were practicing: ‘There’s a war on in the country and where should we practice, on people or animals?’”

‘Nature has no borders’

The most visible military presence in Urzuf belongs to the Azov battalion, which occupies a large fenced base on a prime section of coast in the village.

An Azov battalion commander who identified himself only as “Shark” insisted his soldiers do not indulge in any illicit target practice. “We see boars and hares and foxes, but in Azov we have a humane attitude to animals and no one hunts or shoots them,” he said. “I love animals more than people.”

He added that the battalion takes care of Urzuf’s stray cats and dogs. “We really love and respect them and help them, we have even built a little house for them to live in.”

Environmentalists have brought a court case against the army for turning part of the Meotida National Park into a firing range. In addition to the impact of shelling on land, they say, ordnance fired offshore is damaging the delicate ecosystems of the Sea of Azov.

The headhunter of Urzuf shows his trophies. Hunting was prohibited since the beginning of the war in 2014. Urzuf, Ukraine â€" July 5, 2018.

Many of Dolgova’s former colleagues still live on the other side of the frontline, where the Dalmatian pelicans have reportedly returned, along with scientists to monitor them. “You can’t tell birds to fly only here and not there because there’s shooting there, and it’s where separatists and occupants live,” said Dolgova. “Nature has no borde rs.”

“We still talk [to the scientists], of course there’s not always a phone connection, but when we can we exchange experience,” she said. “We still consider it our territory, and I hope we’ll be able to win it back and unite our park again.”

Where people are unable to go, nature flourishes, said Vasilyuk, the ecologist. He said he hopes one day to see Donbas as it was before centuries of hunting and industry left their mark.

“None of us can imagine what the wild nature of Donbas is like; no one has ever seen it,” he said. “Of course, the war has to end first, but I think we have the chance to get another super wild natural area that exists nowhere in Europe.”

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By On July 19, 2018

Ukraine's not a country, Putin told Bush. What'd he tell Trump about Montenegro?

July 19 at 6:00 AM Daniel Baer served as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe from 2013 to 2017. He’s a diplomatic fellow at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School.
Montenegro, a jewel of a country on the Adriatic, is the newest member of NATO. (Reuters)

Eighteen months into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to display near-complete ignorance about how NATO works and why the alliance matters. He tweets that the United States gives 4 percent of its GD P to NATO. (Not so: We spend 4 percent on defense; we actually contribute less than $500 million directly to NATO for its combined civil and military budgets, or less than one-10th of 1 percent of our defense budget.) He sees NATO as a charity project for Europeans rather than a cornerstone of U.S. national security. And, as we learned from his Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, he is willing to call into question Article 5 â€" the alliance’s mutual defense provision. He appears either unable to comprehend that an ironclad commitment to Article 5 is at the heart of NATO, or is purposefully undermining the alliance in the wake of his traitorous performance in Helsinki.

[Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit; U.S. wonders what they were]

In his interview, Carlson didn’t evoke Article 5 with respect to Germany or France. He chose to pick on tiny Montenegro. Despite Montenegro’s having joined NATO only last year, during T rump’s presidency, Trump readily agreed. He bizarrely characterized Montenegrins as “aggressive” and suggested that our commitment to defend them might ensnare us in “World War III.”

Most commentators seized on the fact that by publicly questioning Article 5, which has been invoked only once â€" in defense of the United States after the 9/11 attacks â€" Trump had done further damage to NATO and, no doubt, elicited more glee in the Kremlin. But Carlson and Trump’s example was also curious because Montenegro is exactly where Putin himself might start if he were seeking to undermine NATO solidarity. In 2008, Putin told a surprised George W. Bush that “Ukraine is not a country”; during their one-on-one meeting on Monday, did Putin tell Trump â€" in one way or another â€" that “aggressive” Montenegro shouldn’t be in NATO?

In the months preceding NATO’s invitation to Montenegro to begin the accession process in December 2015, my Russian counterparts i n Vienna at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, where I was the U.S. ambassador, grew increasingly vocal. They never talked about Montenegro’s joining NATO; instead they expounded with dramatic flourish about political divisions and unrest, painting a picture of a dysfunctional and troubled country, trying to turn NATO members against the idea. I understood what they were doing, but I remember thinking: “It’s amazing how much the Russians care about Montenegro joining NATO.”

Montenegro is a jewel of a country on the Adriatic, one of seven countries that ultimately emerged from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. It is a young democracy and, like others, continues to fight corruption. While it does have a coast, it’s hard to imagine a port in Montenegro posing a direct challenge to Russia. Its small population of around 620,000 includes a military of just under 2,000 people with a budget well under $100 million. It is good to have Montenegro in the NATO family â€" and it has contributed troops to NATO’s missions in Afghanistan for years, even before it was a member â€" but Montenegro does not dramatically change the total military capability of the alliance.

But NATO did dramatically enhance the independence and prospects of Montenegro. On the day NATO’s invitation was announced, my Montenegrin colleague in Vienna was grinning widely. She had helped negotiate Montenegro’s independence a decade earlier, and as she hugged me she declared, “It’s as if a weight that has been on my shoulders forever, for my whole life, has been lifted.”

Then I realized: The reason the Russians cared so much about blocking NATO membership is that they knew it would reduce their ability to manipulate Montenegro and would remove a chess piece from a board on which they sought to challenge Europe. Indeed, in the months after NATO’s invitation, Russia continued its attempts to stymie Montenegro’s path by stirring up internal unrest through propaganda, paid protesters and even an attempted coup. They failed.

[House Republicans refusing to renew election security funding]

Today, Russia is playing a similar game in the country soon to be called North Macedonia. A long-standing dispute between Skopje, the (North) Macedonian capital, and Athens over the name of the small country to Greece’s north has finally been resolved, and thus a major obstacle to Skopje’s accession to NATO has been removed. Cue the Russians! Greece expelled two Russian diplomats earlier this month because they were trying to stir up opposition to the name deal â€" the Russians want to restore obstacles to (North) Macedonia’s progress.

This year marks the centenary of the end of World War I. The spark that ignited that war was an assassination in Sarajevo, less than 200 miles from Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica. Perhaps we should give Trump the benefit of the doubt and assume he was drawing a lesso n from history. But if the lesson he took was that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with little countries else we risk large entanglements, then the lesson was the wrong one.

After two world wars a generation apart, the United States and its allies have built â€" imperfectly and unevenly, to be sure, but also impressively â€" an international system encoded in law and grounded in universal principles. NATO has been critical to defending the part of the world in which those rules are most firmly established and has helped create the space for a growing area of stability and prosperity. The world we inhabit today is different from the world we inhabited in 1914, and NATO is a cornerstone of our present advantage.

Little countries may be where menaces look to begin their mischief, but that’s not where they end it. Putin doesn’t want to be able to destabilize or manipulate Montenegro because of his policy toward Montenegro; he wants to use Montenegro as a pawn in a lar ger game. He wants southeast Europe as a place where he can foment unrest, dial up tensions and tie up European attention and resources. And he wants to undermine the rules of the international system by showing we lack the will to enforce them. Putin seeks to test the international community’s resolve not just once, but again and again, each time in a larger way. Russia violated the sovereignty of Moldova, then Georgia, then Ukraine. Perhaps a NATO country is the next target.

By maintaining our steadfast commitment to NATO, including to its smallest members, we reinforce the alliance’s credibility and the international system we and our allies have built. NATO’s protection makes possible a non-zero-sum mode of international politics and at the same time deters those who wish to return to a 19th-century balance-of-power approach and the wars that inevitably attend it.

If we were to give up on Montenegro (or the Baltics or any NATO member), we would give up on NA TO itself, and hasten a return to the kind of world in which two world wars emerged. The president is wrong: World War III won’t come from our standing by our pledge to Montenegro and other NATO allies, it will come from our abandoning it. Trump’s behavior in Helsinki, his kowtowing to Putin, his calling into question our NATO commitment â€" all this makes us, and the world, less safe.

Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine