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  #211 (permalink)  
Old 9th February 2016, 04:10
Hannia Hannia is offline
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RADIO FREE EUROPE Tom Balmforth February 09, 2016
Cybersleuths: Wris****ch Given To Wounded Soldier 'Proves' Russian Role In Ukraine War

MOSCOW -- A cybersleuthing group says it has uncovered new evidence pointing to deep, direct Russian involvement in the battle of Debaltseve in early 2015, a turning point in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that weakened Kyiv’s hand at peace talks.

Using posts and photographs gleaned from the Russian social networking site VKontakte, the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) concluded that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last year personally awarded a commemorative wris****ch to a Russian soldier hospitalized in Moscow after being wounded in the battle.

A report published on February 8 by the CIT, led by Russian blogger Ruslan Leviev, focused on the battle that raged around the strategic Ukrainian railway hub of Debaltseve as peace talks loomed. Fighting continued for days after a cease-fire was signed on February 12, 2015, with critics accusing Russia-backed separatists of violating the deal in order to seize control of more territory.

The CIT asserted that its findings involving Yevgeny Usov, a soldier in the Sixth Separate Tank Brigade from Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, “prove that the decision to escalate the conflict in Ukraine and attack Debaltseve was taken in the highest ranks of the Russian authorities.”

“It is hard to believe this decision could have been taken by anyone [other] than Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin,” it said.

Putin has repeatedly denied sending regular Russian forces into eastern Ukraine, while Kyiv and NATO say there is overwhelming evidence of their presence during the war between government troops and the Russia-backed separatists, which has killed more than 9,000 civilians and combatants since April 2014.

The CIT evidence drawing largely on social-network monitoring and analysis is detailed, although some of it is circumstantial.

The group zeroes in on a blurred photograph posted on February 22 by Usov on his VKontakte profile that appears to show him lying bandaged in a hospital bed with Shoigu standing by him.

In a comment posted beneath the photograph, a VKontakte user alleged to also be a soldier from Usov’s tank brigade asks what the minister said. Usov replies: “He didn’t say anything much, just that we’d get better. He also gave a gift of a watch!”

A social-media post made by Usov a day earlier, on February 21, comprises a close-up photograph of a boxed Aviator Airacobra watch with a Defense Ministry logo printed on the watch face. The photograph appeared to remain live on VKontakte almost a year later.

CIT says it collated publicly available photographs and personal photographs posted by Usov and deduced that he was treated at a Moscow military hospital for a shrapnel wound to his leg sustained at the battle of Debaltseve. The Internet investigators traveled to the Moscow hospital to compare buildings in the area with the buildings photographed in the view from Usov’s hospital ward.

The Russian Defense Ministry declined to comment on whether Shoigu had visited the hospital in comments to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

CIT draws attention to a post dated February 19, 2015, in which Usov himself writes that he had sustained a "shrapnel" wound. He subsequently says, however, that he sustained it in Mulino in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

The CIT discounts this latter detail, reasoning that if Usov had indeed received the wound while mishandling weapons or during maneuvers, “we doubt in that case that the defense minister would have visited him in person and awarded him with a watch.”

Instead, the CIT contends that Usov was wounded at Debaltseve. The group notes that Usov was a regular user of VKontakte at the beginning of 2015 but that he made no posts from January 26 to February 14 -- a period that coincides with the Debaltseve operation, which began on January 22.

His first post after this period of absence was a photograph from a hospital ward on February 14.

The CIT alleges that tanks belonging to the Sixth Separate Tank Brigade were used in Ukraine and were identified by a white circle on their armor. The findings include photographs of tanks with these markings from the battle of Debaltseve.

The CIT report joins a large body of evidence indicating the Russian military has been deeply involved in the war in eastern Ukraine. A fragile cease-fire has been in place since last year, but there are daily violations.

Roland Oliphant, the Moscow correspondent for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, wrote on Twitter that “evidence Debaltseve was a Russian army operation is mundane (and overwhelming). Wouldn’t even be news if Russia didn’t keep on denying it.” Cybersleuths: Wris****ch Given To Wounded Soldier 'Proves' Russian Role In Ukraine War

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  #212 (permalink)  
Old 25th February 2016, 02:51
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THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL Andreas Umland February 22, 2016
Russia’s Pernicious Hybrid War Against Ukraine

In recent months, the relative calming of the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbas has led many observers to describe this confrontation as yet another “frozen conflict” in the post-Soviet space. Yet even if Russian military activities ceased completely, the analogy is misleading. It is not always understood that Ukraine’s neighbor to the east is actively using three separate approaches to keep the Ukrainian state in crisis mode.

First, Ukraine has been the victim of “traditional” (if covert) armed aggression from Russia, which has ebbed but continues. Second, it is also suffering from the severe direct economic consequences of this war. Finally, the Kremlin is also conducting a non-military, multi-vector hybrid war against Ukraine that is only partially visible to the West. This carefully concerted and partly hidden subversion of the Ukrainian state is being pursued through a wide variety of means—economic sanctions, secret intelligence operations, international propaganda campaigns, purposeful cyber attacks, diplomatic interventions, and political pressure—and has many indirect consequences for the Ukrainian economy and society at large.

In this manner, for example, Moscow has equipped its puppet governments in the Donbas with one of the Europe’s largest tank armies—larger than the fleets of heavy armored fighting vehicles owned by Ukraine or Germany, for example. The enormous military buildup of the so-called “People’s Republics” is not only about preparation for an imminent military offensive. Instead, it serves to project Moscow’s power in eastern Ukraine and to create a constant threat to a militarily overmatched Kyiv. Russia’s arming of its two satellite regimes in the Donbas and large troop deployments along the Russian-Ukrainian border prevents Ukrainian society from focusing on internal matters, and diverts resources toward strengthening defensive capabilities and away from other needs.

Possibly the most important aspect of the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare is not its immediate effects as much as the underlying socio-psychological and politico-economic calculus behind it. Ukrainians are becoming worn down by being held in a state of suspense over months and years—stuck between calm and tension, war and peace, insecurity and stability. In particular, this creates volatility and frustration in the Russian-speaking regions bordering Russia, and along the Black and Azov seas. Local entrepreneurs are discouraged, young university graduates disillusioned, civil society activists unsettled, international partners made nervous, and foreign investors scared off.

This tactic could eventually hollow out the territories of so-called “New Russia”—that is, southeastern Ukraine—to such a degree that they sink into isolation, depression, radicalization, and violence. According to the logic behind this approach, the region will sooner or later fall by itself into Moscow’s lap.

Moscow’s hybrid war also distracts Kyiv from reforms and, in a sense, makes them pointless. Of course, serious internal factors—most of all, the resilience of corrupt networks of oligarchs, compromised civil servants, and politicians for sale—share responsibility for Ukraine’s faltering reform efforts. However, the blowback effects of Russia’s multi-vector hybrid war on the Ukrainian state, economy, and civil society explain a great deal about why the country’s attempts at transformation have so far failed to bear fruit: the drafting and implementation of reforms is constantly being subverted by economic, political, psychological, military, and diplomatic harassment from Russia.

In fact, even a thoroughly reformed Ukraine would remain dysfunctional in the face of continuing Russian threats, pressure, and sabotage. Russia is too close, too powerful, too ruthless, and shares too long of a border with Ukraine to permit Kyiv to simply cut itself off from its neighbor.

In this way, the Kremlin is able to kill three birds with one stone. First, it prevents the consolidation, rebirth, and Europeanization of Ukraine—and with that, the rise of an eastern Slavic counter-model rivaling Putin’s system. Second, it weakens the project of European integration and the entire West, which will be forced to invest great sums of money for years to keep basic functions of the Ukrainian state intact. Third, the Kremlin is laying the groundwork for new territorial expansion, should its tactics of destabilization and disillusionment in southeastern Ukraine be successful. Russia’s Pernicious Hybrid War Against Ukraine


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  #213 (permalink)  
Old 20th December 2017, 12:25
Gotno Gizmo Gotno Gizmo is offline
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Ukrainian scouts say Serbian mercenary snipers join Donbas militants

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