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Fighting in Donbass, coal blockade, and infighting in Kiev, as Ukraine’s crisis deepens

Crisis deepens in Ukraine as far right militants seize and are then driven out of water filtration plant and mount coal blockade threatening country with energy emergency.

Alexander Mercouris

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The last few weeks have witnessed an acceleration of Ukraine’s downward slide.

Following the bitter fighting in and around Avdeevka and the angry telephone exchange between Russian President Putin and German Chancellor Merkel, an attempt was made to bring the fighting in the area around Avdeevka to an end and to arrange for a mutual pullback of forces to the starting lines.

As always the Ukrainians proved unwilling to comply with their commitments to do so, and yesterday the whole process was thrown into chaos when militants from the far right Azov Brigade stormed and took over a water filtration plant from the local Ukrainian authorities, seeking to cut off the water supply to Donetsk without apparently realising that large areas of Ukrainian controlled territory also depend for their water on the plant.

Latest reports say that they have been forced to withdraw from the plant, but the episode once again shows how little control the Ukrainian authorities have over those who are supposedly their most fervid supporters.

If the situation on the front line in the Donbass remains catastrophic, elsewhere in Ukraine it is becoming disastrous.

Far right groups and people who the Ukrainian and Western media euphemistically call “activists” have initiated a blockade of coal imports from the Donbass, claiming that such imports are “treasonous”.  Since the Ukrainian energy system depends heavily on Donbass coal the result is to cause an energy emergency in Ukraine, risking another downward spiral in Ukraine’s economy.  The government however appears too weak to do anything about it.

Meanwhile fresh from her meeting with Donald Trump in Washington, Ukraine’s perennial political challenger Yulia Tymoshenko sought to present to the Ukrainian parliament a no confidence vote against the Ukrainian government.  The government however used procedural methods to prevent the motion from being debated, whilst Ukraine’s Prime Minister, President Poroshenko’s long serving henchman Volodymyr Groysman, let rip at Tymoshenko at a cabinet meeting, reportedly calling her

The mother of Ukrainian economic weakness, destruction of Ukrainian independence, corruption, populism and inefficiency…

Ukraine was handed an unexpected and undeserved gift in 2014.  This was not the Minsk Protocol of 5th September 2014, which briefly ended the fighting that year, but rather the collapse in oil prices which took place in the second half of the year.  This was by far the single most important factor in my opinion in averting the Ukrainian economy’s total collapse, and gave the Ukrainian economy a further lease of life.

The Ukrainian government has however failed to use effectively the brief time window the oil price fall afforded it, and given the paralysis of Ukraine’s riven and corrupt political system it is impossible to see how it could have done.

In passing, my view is that the “help” Ukraine has received from the IMF since 2014 has made the underlying condition of its economy not better but worse, just as IMF “help” to Russia in the 1990s also only made the condition of Russia’s economy at that time not better but instead much worse.  The IMF has little understanding of either the Russian or the Ukrainian economies, and the various prescriptions it has handed out to them (in both cases taken from its standard handbook) were not only wrong ones but in my opinion actually worsened their problems.  As for the sums of money the IMF from time to time doles out to Ukraine, these in my opinion simply prolong and deepen the agony, ensuring that the underlying situation goes on getting worse for much longer.

Certainly IMF “help” to Ukraine has come nowhere close to compensating Ukraine for the loss of its long established trade links with Russia.

With oil prices now possibly creeping up again, and with the positive effect of 2014’s oil price fall anyway running out, it is likely Ukraine will face renewed economic pressure this year.  If so the political system is in no condition to deal with it.

Ukraine’s tragedy is that after repeated political crises its governmental system lacks legitimacy or authority.

The Maidan coup was the third in a succession of three unconstitutional overthrows of the government which have taken place in Ukraine since independence (the others took place in 2004 and 2007).  Independence itself seems to have been only genuinely wanted by a probably quite small minority of Ukrainians.  Moreover the form of the 2014 Maidan coup – with a constitutionally elected President violently removed from office midway through his term, and with a wholesale purge of the police and the bureaucracy happening thereafter – has demoralised further what was an already demoralised and inefficient police force and bureaucracy.

To compound the trouble the war in the Donbass has burdened Ukraine with a bloated and angry military it cannot afford, whilst adding to the already dangerously large number of violent men in Ukraine with guns.  Not only do many of these hold openly Nazi views but as the episode at the filtration plant shows they are difficult to control if only because they feel the war has given them licence to behave as they please.  As the coal blockade shows, the government seems to lack both the will and the means to control them.

There are some people in Ukraine who occasionally show some glimmers of understanding of the dead-end into which the country now finds itself.

A Ukrainian politician, Andrii Artemenko, recently tried to interest the Trump administration in a plan for ending the Ukrainian conflict through a lease by Ukraine of Crimea to Russia.  The Russians immediately rejected a plan which is completely unacceptable to them.

Though his plan was completely unrealistic and even fantastic, Artemenko was – however incompetently and even stupidly – at least trying to find some way out of Ukraine’s crisis, which is more than anyone else in Ukraine is doing.  His reward is that he now faces treason charges.

Possibly a more convincing though surprising figure who also appears to be acting as if she was looking to find some way out of Ukraine’s crisis (though she has yet to come up with any plan) is Nadiya Savchenko, the former Ukrainian pilot convicted by a Russian court of killing Russian journalists, who was then exchanged by the Russians for two of their own men.

To everyone’s surprise Savchenko – once lionised by the Ukrainian and Western media as a Ukrainian “Joan of Arc” – has metamorphosed since her return to Ukraine into a peace campaigner.  She has recently visited Donetsk where she met with Ukrainian prisoners and where she undoubtedly had at least some contacts with the militia.  Savchenko however is not a politician and even if her ‘conversion’ from warrior to peace campaigner is genuine (which many doubt) she seems altogether too marginal a figure to lead Ukraine or have impact there.

That leaves Tymoshenko who is simply too compromised to convince many people.

In 1943 the writer Gerald Brenan wrote The Spanish Labyrinth, a book about Spain’s social and political crisis which led to the civil war.  For the moment, as its crisis deepens, Ukraine’s remains trapped in its own labyrinth, and there is no visible sign of an exit.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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