Deadly clashes rage in east Ukraine after peace talks fail

admin   •   February 2, 2015   •   2507

 

Pro-Russian separatists ride on a tank in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, February 1, 2015.
CREDIT: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV

(Reuters) – Fighting raged in eastern Ukraine on Sunday as pro-Russian separatists used artillery fire to try to dislodge government forces from a strategic rail hub after peace talks collapsed.

Hopes of easing the situation evaporated on Saturday with Ukraine’s representative and separatist envoys accusing each other of sabotaging negotiations.

“Fighting continues across all sections of the frontline,” Kiev military spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy said in a briefing, noting that some 13 soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours. Other Ukrainian authorities said at least 13 civilians had also been killed in attacks.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which took part in the talks in Minsk, Belarus, along with envoys from Ukraine and Russia, said rebel delegates had not been ready to discuss crucial points of a peace plan.

“In fact, they were not even prepared to discuss implementation of a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons,” the OSCE said in a statement.

It said rebels had instead pushed for a revision of a ceasefire plan agreed on in Minsk last September.

The terms of that 12-point protocol have been repeatedly violated, but Kiev and foreign governments see it as the only viable roadmap to end the nine-month-long conflict in which more than 5,000 people have been killed.

The rebels rejected the OSCE’s assessment, saying they were ready for dialogue, but unwilling to accept an “ultimatum” from Kiev so long as government forces continued shelling civilian areas, separatist news service DAN quoted rebel envoy Denis Pushilin as saying.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held a three-way phone conversation with German and French leaders Angela Merkel Francois Hollande in which they expressed their disappointment, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

“The separatists are urged not to block the talks. Russia must, in this regard, also influence the rebels,” he said.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that President Barack Obama’s administration was taking a new look at providing Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons and equipment in the face of the rebel offensive.

HEAVY FIGHTING

In eastern Ukraine, the Kiev military reported no let-up in separatist attacks on government positions.

Clashes are intense around the town of Debaltseve, Kiev spokesman Polyovy said, referring to a Kiev-held transport hub connecting the two main rebel strongholds that separatists aim to cut off, though the situation remained “under control”.

The rebel advance has succeeded in seizing part of nearby Vuhlehirsk, he said. On Sunday, the town was being pounded by near constant shelling, a Reuters witness reported.

The Interior Ministry said seven civilians had been killed on Sunday in the shelling of Debaltseve, while the Luhansk regional administration said three civilians had been killed in shelling across the region overnight.

Residents are being encouraged to abandon the areas of fiercest fighting, where many have been living in makeshift bomb shelters, waiting for breaks in the bombardment to make quick trips for food and water.

In Kiev-controlled Slaviansk, refugees arrived in buses from Debaltseve and other frontline towns.

Pensioner Vyacheslav Gurov said half of his town of Avdiivka had been completely destroyed.

“We don’t even know who’s shooting. Both the rebels and the national guard are at it … there’s no water, no electricity, no heating, nothing,” he said.

In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, which shook with artillery fire throughout Sunday, the regional administration reported the deaths of at least three civilians, describing the situation as “extremely tense”.

A Reuters witness saw the body of a young man stretched out on a street in the city centre, killed when a shell struck a wall nearby. Nadezhda Petrovna, 68, a neighbour, said the man was trying to run away from the attack when a shell landed in front of him.

“It is like this every day, people are getting killed, we are sleeping fully dressed so we can run into the cellar, this is becoming unbearable,” she said.

Following the collapse of Saturday’s talks, there was no word on when renewed negotiations might take place.

(Additional reporting by Lina Kushch, Alexander Winning in Moscow, Paul Carrel in Berlin and Peter Cooney in Washington; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Louise Ireland and Peter Cooney)

Discrimination towards QC residents amid UK variant reports, result of fake news

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 29, 2021

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — The Quezon City Government has called out the ‘discrimination’ towards its residents after UK COVID-19 variant reports in the city, reiterating that such is a mere result of fake news.

Mayor Joy Belmonte said the first new variant case in the country did not have the chance to go to Quezon City upon his arrival from the UAE.

She reiterated that the mention of Barangay Kamuning as the individual’s residential address had somehow gone out of proportion.

“Ang residential address lang niya ang Barangay Kamuning but he never set foot in Kamuning or talk to anyone in Kamuning or went home. He was in a quarantine facility,” she said.

Belmonte also mentioned the travel restriction imposed by Arayat Mayor Emmanuel Alejandrino on Quezon City residents, saying that it has no basis.

“The news, while it is true that the residence of this man is Kamuning in a sense, it’s false news. When news is incomplete I believe it’s also false news because it is subject to misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” Belmonte added.

Alejandrino has yet to respond Mayor Belmonte’s appeal.

Meanwhile, the QC local government entered into a third-party agreement with Zuellig Pharmaceutical Company for COVID-19 vaccine storage.

Belmonte said the local government has insufficient budget to build its own facility and procure low-temperature freezers.

In the said agreement, Zuellig will provide enough storage to accommodate the COVID-19 vaccines amounting to billions of pesos. -AAC (with reports from Val Villaflor)

Fire raging near Ukraine’s Chernobyl poses radiation risk, say activists

UNTV News   •   April 14, 2020

A huge forest fire in Ukraine that has been raging for more than a week is now just one kilometer from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and poses a radiation risk, Greenpeace Russia warned on Monday (April 13), citing satellite images.

Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Service said it was still fighting the fires, but that the situation was under control.

Aerial images of the 30 km (19 mile) exclusion zone around the plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, showed scorched, blackened earth and the charred stumps of still smouldering trees.

The Emergency Situations Service said radiation levels in the exclusion zone had not changed and those in nearby Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, “did not exceed natural background levels.”

Greenpeace Russia said the situation is much worse than Ukrainian authorities believe, and that the fires cover an area one thousand times bigger than they claim.

On April 4 Ukrainian authorities said the blaze covered an area of 20 hectares, but Greenpeace cited satellite images showing it was around 12,000 hectares in size at that time.

“According to satellite images taken on Monday, the area of the largest fire has reached 34,400 hectares,” it said, adding that a second fire, stretching across 12,600 hectares, was just one kilometre away from the defunct plant.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those claims.

Rashid Alimov, head of energy projects at Greenpeace Russia, said the fires, fanned by the wind, could disperse radionuclides, atoms that emit radiation.

“A fire approaching a nuclear or hazardous radiation facility is always a risk,” Alimov said. “In this case we’re hoping for rain tomorrow.”

Chernobyl tour operator Yaroslav Yemelianenko, writing on Facebook, described the situation as critical.

He said the fire was rapidly expanding and had reached the abandoned city of Pripyat, two kilometres from where “the most highly active radiation waste of the whole Chernobyl zone is located.” He called on officials to warn people of the danger.

Satellite images taken by NASA Worldview and seen by Reuters showed the two fires had extended far into the exclusion zone.

The fires, which follow unusually dry weather, began on April 3 in the western part of the exclusion zone and spread to nearby forests.

Police say they have identified a 27-year old local resident who they accuse of deliberately starting the blaze.

It remains unclear if the person, who has reportedly confessed to starting a number of fires “for fun,” is partly or fully responsible. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Dmitriy Turlyun, Margaryta Chornokondratenko)

Ukraine dusts off Soviet-era ventilator designs to help fight coronavirus

UNTV News   •   March 30, 2020

Ukraine is dusting off Soviet-era ventilator designs that lay forgotten in a mothballed military factory for years in a bid to ramp up domestic production of equipment that could help in the fight against the coronavirus.

In response to an urgent appeal by hospitals to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for ventilators, some of the country’s wealthiest men chipped in to buy machines from abroad.

But representatives of state defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom, which runs the state-run Burevisnyk plant in Kiev, are leading an initiative for Ukraine to boost domestic output based on technology developed there long ago.

Deputy Director General of Ukroboronprom, Mustafa Nayyem, told Reuters that a computer with the relevant technical information had disappeared and the engineers that designed the ventilators were retired or dead.

Eventually, officials tracked down a man who knew where printouts for the designs were kept in the factory on yellowing paper. He was working in a local supermarket.

The plant is in no fit state to restart production, so Ukroboronprom will share the technology with interested private companies and has offered to help certify a new product quickly and provide production facilities, Nayyem said.

“We will give everyone access to this documentation because we understand that the crisis is now,” Nayyem said.

Some 20 years ago around 6,000 people worked at the Burevisnyk factory, producing hardware including radar systems for submarines. It also had a sideline making ventilators once used to treat Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan.

Falling demand since the end of the Soviet Union and a lack of state funding has pushed the plant into bankruptcy.

A handful of employees remain, including its acting director and security guards. The power and heating were cut off five years ago. The plaster on the walls is cracked and old machinery lies covered in dust.

Its last big government order for ventilators came in 2008, the plant’s Acting Director Vitaly Khodzitsky told Reuters. The plant used a bank loan to produce them, but the government money did not arrive and the plant never recouped its costs.

For a population of about 40 million people, Deputy Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said there were about 1,117 ventilators ready for coronavirus patients.

Governments around the world are scrambling to procure more of the breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs. They are crucial for the care of people with lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease coronavirus causes.

The number of coronavirus cases has reached 480 in Ukraine, with eleven deaths. The country is one of Europe’s poorest and health spending per capita is a fraction of its western peers. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Margaryta Chornokondratenko, Natalia Zinets)

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