Home' Greymouth Star : January 27th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 5
West Coast from above
PICTURE: John Bisset
Downtown Greymouth, taken from a drone in September 2014. It shows Tainui Street looking towards the roundabout, with Mackay Street in the foreground.
Putin not flinching on Ukraine
surge in violence in east
Ukraine is undermining
international hopes that
Russia’s financial crisis
and western sanctions will
force President Vladimir
Putin to change policy on
There is a growing sense of foreboding as
fighting between Ukrainian government
forces and separatists intensifies,
complicating efforts to arrange summit
talks involving Ukraine, Russia, France and
Each side fears the other plans a new
military offensive; Ukraine is mobilising
new troops and Russia and the pro-Russian
separatists have stepped up their rhetoric
against Kiev ’s pro-western leaders.
Even though the ruble’s decline, the fall
of oil prices and the impact of sanctions
are likely to force Russia into recession and
budget cuts, Putin has barely flinched.
“ We’re not seeking to change Russia’s
government but to change its policies,”
United States ambassador John Tefft told
the American Chamber of Commerce in
Moscow last week.
But referring to efforts to end the fighting,
he said: “I can’t tell you today that . . .
progress is being made. In fact it seems to be
going in the other direction.”
Putin appears to have abandoned any
hopes he may have had, after annexing
Crimea last March, of bringing other
Ukrainian territory into Russia.
Several weeks ago, before Russia’s
economic crisis took a firm grip, he stopped
using the term “Novorossiya” (New Russia)
in public when referring to parts of southern
and eastern Ukraine that were once part of
the Russian empire.
He has taken to referring to the areas
controlled by the separatists as the Luhansk
and Donetsk people’s republics, a move that
suggests he will settle for their autonomy
from Kiev within Ukraine’s borders — but
European Union foreign ministers
decided last Monday not to lift sanctions
on Russia and western leaders say the
main step towards ending them is full
implementation of a ceasefire deal reached
in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, last
Top of the list are an end to hostilities, a
withdrawal of troops and weapons, handing
control of Ukraine’s borders back to Kiev
and exchanges of detainees regarded as
Peace in east Ukraine might give Putin
more time to focus on Russia’s economic
crisis, reduce tension with the west and
enable him to cut the cost of backing
the separatists, although Moscow denies
supplying them with weapons or troops.
But he remains firmly behind the rebels in
public and there has been no sign of those
around him breaking ranks.
Backing down now could put at risk the
huge public support he received after the
seizure of Crimea. This could be a dangerous
step because Russia’s financial crisis could
undermine support for him.
He may also be hoping Kiev ’s own
financial crisis could hamper its war effort
and encourage it to reach a deal that is
advantageous to the rebels and Moscow.
Far from backing down, Putin is flexing
Russia’s military muscles, saying defence
spending must be excluded from budget cuts
and insisting a 20-trillion-ruble
($300 billion) plan to modernise the armed
forces is carried out.
Putin’s ability to ignore the gathering
economic storm clouds when shaping
policy on Ukraine may depend on how bad
the crisis gets. But his recent big speeches
and televised appearances signal no big
change on Ukraine and, if anything, suggest
his defiance and disdain of the west has
Putin has hit back with accusations that
mirror those against him, saying the US
has often violated international law and
Washington and the EU were behind the
overthrow of a Moscow-backed president
in Kiev last year. He is supported by most
Russian media and officials portray him as a
peacemaker defying attempts by the west to
minimise Russian influence or enact “regime
A Russian diplomatic source said
Moscow ’s view was that Kiev had stepped
up military action in east Ukraine before
Monday ’s meeting of EU foreign ministers
because a surge in violence made it harder to
lift sanctions, a charge Kiev denies.
Denying sanctions would force a policy
change, the diplomat said: “It ’s blackmail.
If you yield to it once, you will have to do it
Putin sought to burnish his peacemaking
credentials last week by proposing a ceasefire
to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
under which the sides would withdraw
The proposal was seen by Kiev as an
attempt to evade some parts of the Minsk
agreement, cement rebel territorial gains and
disguise the fact that Putin has no real peace
“If Putin really wanted peace in east
Ukraine, he would have only one ‘peace
plan’, Boris Vishnevsky, an opposition
member of the St Petersburg local assembly,
wrote in a blog.
“A peace plan is very simple. If Putin does
not propose one, it means he does not need
peace.” — Reuters
Members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) walk past a burning building after a shelling by pro-Russian rebels of a residential sector in
Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. Rebel shelling over the weekend in the strategic port city claimed 30 lives and left 83 wounded.
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