The Downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 and the Aftermath

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Courtesy of PlaneTalking twitter page showing re-routing of planes to avoid Ukrainian airspace

After the allege attack on a Malaysia Airlines commercial jet flying over Ukraine, international flights are being re-routed from their usual paths to avoid the war torn country. The twitter account PlaneTalking posted the dramatic re-routing in effect, according to Benjamin Hart’s article Flight Radar Shows Planes Avoiding Ukraine In Aftermath Of Malaysia Airlines Crash. The image taken from Flight Radar 24 tracks all planes in the air at a given time with many major airlines announcing their intention to bypass the country. This is the second Boeing 777 in Malaysia Airlines arsenal of planes to meet a disastrous end in less than five months. As Chris Brummitt reports,For Malaysia Airlines, disasters strike twice, the first occurred on March 8 when a Malaysia Airlines jet vanished an hour after take off from Kuala Lumpur causing an international mystery yet to be solved. On Thursday, the airline and the nation faced a new crisis as the same type of plane was reportedly shot down over Ukraine. Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over Eastern Ukraine and further details are just beginning to emerge. Now the struggling airline and nation must grapple with another round of grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications. The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, commented, “This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia.” Flight 370 went off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the Western Australian coast. The search area has changed several times with no signs of the aircraft or the 239 people aboard. On Thursday, the wreckage of a Boeing 777-200ER plane was found in Ukraine after it went down with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Officials believe that the plane was shot down at 33,000 feet in a region where heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists has increased in recent days. Additionally, the Prime Minister of Malaysia said, “If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.” No link between the two flights have been found. According to an email, Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken.” The investigation of the downed flight will be extremely sensitive as there will be legal and diplomatic implications depending on who was responsible. The accident will definitely inflict more financial damage on Malaysia Airlines. According to Brummitt, before the March disaster, the airline reported a $370 million loss in 2012 when most airlines were posting a 4.7 percent profit. After the Flight 370 disaster, passengers canceled flights, and even though the airline is insured, it faces uncertainty over payouts to the victims’ families.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine at the wreckage sites, emergency workers, police officers and even off duty coal miners on Friday searched the fields and villages of Eastern Ukraine for wreckage. As Peter Leonard and Dmitry Lovetsky report, Putin urges Ukraine cease-fire after plane attack, the attack on Thursday killed 298 people from a dozen countries including vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia with 189 of the dead from the Netherlands. According to U.S. intelligence authorities, a surface to air missile brought down the plane, but could not say who fired it. The Ukrainian government in Kiev, the separatist pro-Russia rebels and the Russian government accused of supporting the rebels all deny responsibility. After an emergency session, the U.N. Security Council called for a full and thorough investigation by an independent group. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and insist the two sides hold peace talks as soon as possible. Access to the crash site was hard and perilous as the road into Donetsk was marked by five rebel checkpoints on Friday with document checks at each. By midday, 181 bodies had been found, according to local emergency workers. A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s emergency service, Nataliya Bystro, said the rebel militiamen were interfering with the recovery but did not elaborate. It is not known if the separatist rebels had found the black box of the plane or not. Ukraine’s state aviation service closed the airspace Friday over two border regions gripped by separatist fighting, Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine. In Hrabove, large numbers of sticks made from tree branches affixed with red or whit rags mark where body parts were found. Ukraine Foreign Ministry representative Andriy Sybiga said the bodies will be taken to Kharkiv, a government-controlled city 270 kilometers (170 miles) to the north, for identification, according to Leonard and Lovetsky. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott demanded a thorough independent inquire stating, “The initial response of the Russian ambassador was to blame Ukraine for this and I have to say that is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory. It’s very important that we don’t allow Russia to prevent an absolutely comprehensive investigation so that we can find out exactly what happened here. This is not an accident, it’s a crime.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Kiev’s accusations that Moscow was behind the attack. Among the passengers was a large group of world renowned AIDS researchers and activists traveling to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. News of their death sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community. In the Netherlands, flag flew at half staff as residents mourned the victims, while riders at the Tour de France took a minute to observe a moment of silence for victims before starting the day.

Russia Receives New Sanctions While Embattled Rebels Continue to Fight in Eastern Ukraine

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courtesy of ABC7

On Wednesday, the United States imposed comprehensive sanctions on Russia’s economy including Gazprombank and the Rosneft Oil Co and other major banks, energy and defense companies. As Anna Yukhananov, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason report, US imposes toughest sanctions yet on Russia over Ukraine, Washington has increased its financial sanctions on Russia due to Moscow’s alleged interference in its neighbor Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Other targeted companies include Russia’s second-largest gas producer, Novatek, Vnesheconombank, or VEB, a state-owned bank that acts as payment agent for the Russian government, and eight arms firms. The U.S. Treasury Department said the measures close medium and long term dollar funding to the two banks and energy companies, however, the sanctions did not freeze these four companies’ assets. The sanctions do not target Russia’s Gazprom, which owns 36 percent of Gazprombank, the world’s largest natural gas producer and provider of most of Europe’s energy supplies. On the same day, the European Union leaders met in Brussels to expand their own sanctions on Russia. The U.S. sanctions now include Feodosiva Enterprises, a shipping facility in Crimea, and senior Russian officials including the deputy head of the State Duma, or parliament, the minister of the Crimea, a commander of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and a Ukrainian separatist leader. On Wesdnesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “There are some clear steps that we’ve asked Russia to take that they haven’t taken. And that is what has elevated the risk that Russia faces right now as it relates to additional economic costs that could be imposed by the international community.” In addition, Washington said that 12,000 Russian forces were back on the border with Ukraine and weapons were crossing over to pro-Russian separatists.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday stated that the recent addition to U.S. sanctions against Russia will stalemate bilateral relations and hurt Russian and American businesses, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Putin Speaks Out Against New U.S. Sanctions. According to Vasilyeva: “Russia’s benchmark MICEX was down 2.9 percent in late afternoon trading Thursday upon news of the sanctions while Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5 percent down and second-largest oil producer was trading 9 percent lower.” Putin’s comments came hours after President Barack Obama announced border sanctions against Russia. The POTUS hopes that the increased pressure will end the insurgency in eastern Ukraine which is believed to be backed by the Kremlin. The U.S. penalties stop short of the most stringent action threatened which is to cut off key sectors of Russia’s oil dependent economy, however, those steps are on the table if Russia fails to agree to the West demands to stop supporting insurgents who have destabilized eastern Ukraine. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has gone on for four months in a conflict the U.N. says has killed over 400 people and displaced tens of thousands. The conflict began shortly after Russia annexed Crimea. Putin warned Washington that the sanctions will backlash against American companies working in Russia including Rosneft and Novatek which are both barred from getting long term loans from U.S. entities. Moscow based investment bank Sberbank-CIB said in a note to investors that Russian companies cannot replace long term loans from the U.S. immediately, while Rosneft’s multimillion dollar deal with ExxonMobil may be in jeopardy. Russia’s foreign minitry dismissed the sanctions as bullying and said it will push back. In addition, Prime Minister Dimtry Medvedev in televised remarks said the sanctions are throwing Russia’s relations with the west back to the 1980s adding that Russia “will have to pay more attention to military and security spending.” Putin did not mention the additional sanctions from the European Union which urge the European Investment Bank to sign no new financing agreements with Moscow and was suspending operations in Russia financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, according to Vasilyeva. The foreign ministry did lash out at the EU’s new sanctions by accusing Europe of “giving in to the bullying of the U.S. administration.”

While Russia got hit with sanctions from more than one governmental entity, pro-Moscow separatists battle to break through government forces near the border with Russia in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday as steps toward a ceasefire failed. Fighting has intensified since Ukrainian forces pushed rebels out of their stronghold in the town of Slaviansk 10 days ago, Richard Balmforth and Anton Zverev report (As Fighting In East Ukraine Intensifies, Hundreds Of Bodies Of Rebels Found In Shallow Graves). The Ukrainian military said 11 more troops were killed in 24 hours near the frontier. Ukraine has tried to put down a revolt of heavily armed fighters since April, many of them Russian who want independence for two eastern provinces. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March after pro-Russian president was ousted in Kiev. Moscow has denied supporting the separatist fighters, but Kiev says many of them and their leaders came from Russia and brought heavy weapons with them. Ukrainian troops are concentrating their efforts on securing the frontier to prevent more fighters and weapons from coming in.

The escalation in recent days raised the prospect that Moscow could intervene in Ukraine directly, as Kiev reports, the numbers of Russian troops have risen at the border area again. In telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy,  Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko provided evidence of fighters crossing into Ukraine from Russia with heavy military equipment. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk in a speech on his website said: “Everything which is happening in Ukraine has been planned by Russia since 2004. Putin has a clear plan and that is to destroy Ukraine and establish his influence over post-Soviet space.” Around 270 Ukrainian servicemen and hundreds of civilians and rebels have been killed since operations began in April to crush the rebels. Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said that in Slaviansk, the former rebel stronghold, “hundreds of bodies of…(rebel) fighters” had been found in shallow graves. Some of these graves have been mined by the terrorists. Efforts to forge a truce have failed after a planned video link up with separatists on Tuesday never materialized. Since losing Slaviansk, hundreds of rebel fighters moved to Donetsk vowing to make a stand. The city itself has seen a drop in its pre-conflict population of 1 million as many flee the city fearing a government offensive.

While fighting continued on the ground, a Malyasian Airlines passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, and both the government and pro-Russia separatists deny any responsibility. As Peter Leonard reports, Ukraine: Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 295 passengers shot down, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the wreckage site near rebel held Hrabove 40 kilometers from the Russian border. The village has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days. A Russian news reports said pro-Russian rebels intend to call a three day ceasefire in order to allow for investigation of the crash site and recovery efforts. The Boeing 777-200ER was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and appears to have broken up before impact spreading the wreckage over a wide area. Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that Malaysia was unable to verify “the cause of this tragedy but we must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight” and added that the plane didn’t make any distress call before it went down. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and wants an international investigation into the crash insisting that his forces did not shoot it down. According to Huib Gorter, Malaysian Airlines senior vice president in Europe, at least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians including 15 crew and 11 Indonesians. In addition, other nationalities included six from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. Unfortunately, 47 dead passengers are still unidentified. Ukraine’s security services said they intercepted two telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible. Earlier in the week, rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military plans. In a Kremlin statement issued early Friday, Putin said, “This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.” Britain has asked for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine. Within hours of Thursday’s crash, several airlines including Lufthansa, Delta and KLM released statements saying they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace. Poroshenko stated: “We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets. We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.” The White confirmed the call made by Putin to inform “the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory.” Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told the Associate Press he was certain that Ukrainian troops shot down the plane and that rebels forces if they owned Buk missile launchers were not capable of operating them. Around the time of the crash, Russian media quoted witnesses saying they saw what they thought was a rocket hit the plane. This is the second time a Malaysian Airlines plane was lost in less than six months.  In another article, Ukraine: Pro-Russia rebels downed Malaysian plane, Peter Leonard reports that American intelligence authorities allege a surface to air missile brought down the plane but still don’t know if Russia or Ukraine had fired it. The U.S. has the technology to detect missile launches including the identification of heat from rocket engines.

Ukrainian Ceasefire Ends Prompting Ukraine to Attack the Rebels

Ukrainian troops stand on top of vehicles as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces in the eastern region, with the assistance of air and artillery strikes, struck at the pro-Russian separatist bases shortly after the announcement President Petro Poroshenko made to end the ceasefire, Reuters reports (Ukraine Forces Attack Rebel Positions After Ceasefire Ends by Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets). The defense ministry, after confirming that Ukrainian forces had launched attacks from air and land, said, “The terrorists’ plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated.” The number of casualties are not immediately known. Poroshenko, who accuses Russia of aiding the rebels and prolonging the conflict, decided not to renew the 10 day unilateral ceasefire after a four way call with German and French leaders and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In an early morning statement, Poroshenko stated that Ukraine had not seen “concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border.” In a statement from Moscow, the foreign ministry stated, “There is an impression that the change in Kiev’s position … could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states.” Sergei Naryshkin, an ally of Putin and the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, commented, “We think that without a truce, without the start of dialog, it is simply impossible to restore peace, justice and law and order in Ukraine.” Poroshenko, in office only three weeks, has been dealing with increasing anger at home and from new political establishments over military losses and calling for more forceful action against the rebels. A tweet by the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Monday night confirms that, since June 20 when the ceasefire began, 27 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 69 wounded.

Pro-Russian separatism exploded in Ukraine’s east in April following street protests in Kiev that toppled Moscow backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, who refused to sign a free trade deal with the European Union that would of shifted Ukraine westwards. Russia then annexed Crimea and separatist rebels in Ukraine’s Russian speaking east seized buildings and strategic points declaring them a “people’s republic” and calling for union with Russia. Last Friday, Poroshenko signed the EU deal in defiance of threats by Russia to retaliate the trade action. While Moscow already faced asset freezes and visa bans from the EU, Moscow could face more penalties unless the Pro-Russian rebels do not wind down the crisis in the Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. On Friday, the EU leaders promised to meet again to discuss additional penalties this time on new people and companies with asset freezes as early as next week since they have already compiled a list of 60 names. Even with the promise of hard hitting economic sanctions, the EU is cautious over implementing them as Russia is a major energy supplier.

Putting An End to the Ukraine Conflict

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On Monday, as reported by the Associate Press, the Kremlin confirmed that President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama had talked on the phone agreeing that direct talks between warring parties in Ukraine is necessary to end the conflict. In addition, Putin emphasized the need to end the fighting and start direct talks between the parties involved in order to normalize the situation in eastern Ukraine. In an article entitled Obama and Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, the Associated Press explains that, “Putin has welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s declaration of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but added it can only be viable if the Ukrainian government sits down for talks with insurgents, who have declared their border regions independent and fought government troops for two months.”

On Tuesday, the day after his talk with the POTUS, Putin cancelled his resolution to sanction the use of military force in Ukraine, according to Laura Mill’s article Putin withdraws request to use force in Ukraine. The announcement came after pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine said they would respect the cease fire declared by Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko possibly ending the months of fighting that killed hundreds and driven thousands out of their homes. The Kremlin stated on their website that Putin asked the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament to cancel his March 1 request.  According to RIA Novosti, Russian parliament member Valery Shnyakin confirmed that the house would vote Wednesday on the issue. The news lead to a 1.6 percent gain for Russian markets on Tuesday reaching a four month high. The request was made, according to Mill, after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted in February after months of protest and Russia annexed the Black Sea region of Crimea. However, Putin’s latest move shows an effort to de-escalate the situation ahead of his visit to Vienna Tuesday to meet with Organization for Security and Co-operation officials who have helped broker peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. Both Kiev and western governments in the past have accused Russia of supporting eastern rebels and amassing troops at the border to invade Ukraine, but the announcement by Putin Tuesday has led to praised from Poroshenko. The cease fire in eastern Ukraine has largely held up with some fighting occurring around the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday an already shaky cease fire in Ukraine hit a snag when pro-Moscow separatists shot down a Ukrainian helicopter killing nine service men, according to the Associated Press. Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko warned he would end the truce early. The attack itself happened only a day after the rebels promised to honor the cease fire which began last Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine to extend the true and sit down for talks with rebels. However, the cease fire has been broken by sporadic attacks and violated again Tuesday when rebels fired missiles that resulted in the downing of a helicopter in Slovyansk. Poroshenko states that the insurgency had fired on Unkranina positions 35 times since the announcement of a cease fire and instructed soldiers to fire back if attacked. The Associate Press reports that Poroshenko hopes that his phone call on Wednesday with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande would lead to “practical steps by Russia to disarm and recall mercenaries from Ukraine and ensure the reliable protection of the border.” In Vienna, Putin explained that the Ukrainian demand for insurgents to lay down weapons in a week was unrealistic due to fears of government reprisal and urged Ukraine to extend the truce so that peace talks could begin. Speaking about the recent attack, Putin blamed Ukrainian forces claiming that they had launched an airborne raid in Slovyansk on Tuesday before the attack breaking the cease fire. Putin offered to facilitate peace talks with Ukraine, but added that Russia will defend and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, demands Putin take actions to de-escalate the situation citing recent contradictory behavior such as the return of troops to the border, an increase flow of weapons and military equipment to separatists and Putin’s decision to put combat forces on alert, the Associate Press reports.

Russia: Vladimir Putin Signs Bill Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children

 Russia: Vladimir Putin Signs Bill Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children.

This is what happens when we get involved in everyone’s business. Putin signed a bill banning Americans adopting Russian children stopping 52 children who already in the process of being adopted by American families. He proclaimed that the bill was a response to Obama signing a bill into law that calls for sanctions against Russians assessed to be human rights violators. Is it all about egos and not about the people nowadays. The US again is trying to dictate how the world should operate and again it backfires. Beside Putin, many Russians have taken offense to American adoptions because it makes it look like they cannot take care of their own. Well Russia, welcome to American we do the same thing to our own people unfortunately. Our government thinks we can fix other countries but we can’t seem to fix our own. Oh I forgot that is what Child Protective Services is for. We take kids out of loving homes (I like to say kidnap) then place them in an unfamiliar environment because we think that fixes the problem, but unfortunately the child ages out of the system and is left worse off. It is a sad state of affairs the world is in when all we know how to do is point fingers and never fix the problem just put a band aid on it.