August 2016 – CRIMEA – Russia has deployed an advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile battery to the Crimean Peninsula amid escalating tensions there, according to Russian news reports. The missile system, once operational, would be able to target aircraft deep into Ukrainian airspace. The deployment of the road-mobile missile system has been planned at least since July, but its arrival in Crimea coincides with a flurry of military activity and rhetoric following claims from the Kremlin that two Russians were killed on the Crimean-Ukrainian border last week.
The S-400 can hit targets well over 150 miles from its launch site when paired with the appropriate radar array and is billed as one of Russia’s most advanced surface-to-air defense systems. The Crimean Peninsula is currently home to the older S-300 Russian surface-to-air missiles that will probably be replaced by the arrival of the newer S-400s.
Between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, said it arrested Ukrainian saboteurs who had sneaked over the border and also recovered a large cache of explosives in the town of Armyansk. During the arrest, one FSB agent was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the Ukrainian agents, according to a statement on the FSB’s website. The FSB also claimed to have repelled Ukrainian Special Forces attempting to infiltrate Crimea and in a subsequent cross-border shelling, one Russian soldier was apparently killed.
Eyewitness accounts to the incident have been spotty, and social media reports indicate there were Internet outages in northern Crimea during the FSB operation. The Ukrainian government has denied that it condoned any type of border incursion or that it had shelled Russian forces from its territory. In 2014, Russia deployed troops to Crimea following the ousting of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. A subsequent and much-disputed referendum allowed Russia to officially seize the region, though the annexation has been deemed illegitimate by a number of countries, including Ukraine and the United States.
Since the FSB announced the arrest of the Ukrainian attackers, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainian government in Kiev of “practicing terror,” and on Thursday, parts of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet began a series of exercises off the coast of the disputed peninsula. According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s website and U.S. defense officials, the exercises had been planned for sometime.
The month of August usually coincides with an uptick in Russian military training activity. Videos on social media have shown significant amounts of armored vehicles, air defense systems and anti-ship missiles flowing into Crimea from Russia on rail cars and on highways. Ukrainian forces have also reported unusual activity along their front lines in eastern Ukraine where they have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since April 2014. The surge in activity has put Ukrainian forces on high alert for a possible offensive, though since Ukrainian lines have remained mostly unchanged since early 2015, rumors of breakthroughs and large-scale attacks have become an almost monthly occurrence. –Washington Post
Putin gets rid of his chief of Staff: Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, got a new, much less high profile job in the Russian cabinet on Friday, a move that some experts say is not entirely surprising but which is sparking speculation about what’s going on behind Kremlin walls.
“Ivanov’s removal is significant because Ivanov was seen as a rival source of power to Putin,” Ash said. “This concentration of state security and internal control by Putin is pretty incredible.” Donald Jensen, senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, called the decision to replace Ivanov a surprise; however, he said the exact circumstances surrounding his departure are still unclear.
He cited economic uncertainty — the Russian economy has been crushed by Western sanctions and the plunge in oil prices from their 2014 highs — and possibly waning trust in Ivanov as Putin’s motivations for shoring up internal control. “Putin appears to be reformatting the elite basis of the regime,” Jensen said. “He has elevated new people such as Zolotov and reorganized the security services, which Ivanov may not have supported.”
Stratfor Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich told CNBC that sidelining Ivanov does not come as a surprise, and is a sign that Putin is trying to push Russia’s most powerful officials away in order to protect himself from any threats they may pose in the political arena, especially from Russia’s Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the old KGB which goes under the Russian acronym FSB. She said the main question now is whether Putin will “go after” the most powerful leaders of the FSB. –CNBC
War footing? “Ivanov was named by Vladimir Putin, who had succeeded Yeltsin as President on 31 December 1999, as Russia’s Minister of Defense in March 2001. In October 2003, Sergei Ivanov claimed that Russia did not rule out a pre-emptive military strike anywhere in the world if the national interest demands it.” See our four-part special on Is Russia planning a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. –Wikipedia
Ukraine reports 61 attacks by Russian-backed separatists in last 24 hours: Further violations of Minsk agreements by Russian-backed forces reported. The Russian-backed separatist forces mounted 61 attacks against Ukrainian forces over the last 24 hours, Ukraine’s military headquarters report. The hostilities included use of weapons banned under Minsk agreements.
The Mariupol sector suffered the most attacks – 31, while in the Donetsk sector the militants fired 16 times, and in the Luhansk sector 14 times. Near Mariupol, Ukraine’s military reported attacks from mortars, heavy-caliber machine guns and small arms in Vodiane, Hnutove, Starohnativka, Shyrokyne and Novohryhorivka. The militants also used mortars in Krasnohorivka and Maryinka.
In Luhansk region the Russian-backed separatist forces violated the Minsk agreements by using heavy artillery and 120mm-calibre mortars. Meanwhile, Ukrainian border guard service reported two cases of shelling at checkpoints on the separation line in eastern Ukraine. “The Russian-terrorist forces have shelled the border guards’ positions in the combat zone two times over the last day using different kinds of weapons,” a statement by the State Border Guard Service reads.No Ukrainian border guards were killed or wounded in attacks. –Ukraine Today
World unraveling: One by one, nation states across the globe are collapsing. Tainted with political corruption and scandals, saddled with heavy debts, divided by ethnic and sectarian conflicts, overrun by illegal immigration, torn apart by war, violence, and crime – the bible predicts this phenomenon will spread and will soon engulf the entire world in a near holocaust.
Ukraine – the next Syria? The war in Ukraine is not over. It is, in fact, at its most intense level in a year. According to the United Nations, 73 civilians died because of the war in July, the highest monthly death toll for civilians since August 2015. According to U.N. data, 57 percent of those civilian deaths came from heavy weapons banned from the front lines as part of the terms of the Minsk II cease-fire. Another 38 percent came from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the multinational group charged with monitoring the Ukraine cease-fire, reports that cease-fire violations recently increased from dozens to hundreds daily. –Newsweek
Russia may cut diplomatic ties with Ukraine: Moscow may break off diplomatic relations with Ukraine if there are no other options left on the table, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, in commenting on the foiled terrorist attacks in Crimea that Russia blamed on Ukrainian intelligence. “I wouldn’t want such an outcome, but if there is no other way to influence the situation, the president could possibly take this decision,” Medvedev said Friday.
A full diplomatic rupture has already occurred in Russia’s recent history, Medvedev pointed out, recalling Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia in 2008. The aggressive move led to a Russian military intervention and full diplomatic break with Tbilisi. “The final decision is up to the president, who’s in charge of the national foreign policy agenda,” the PM stressed. –RT