i wonder if the CIA is supporting both haftar and the ‘islamists’ (hate that word)

Libya names anti-Islamist General Haftar as army chief
BBC, Mar 2 2015

A controversial ‘anti-Islamist’, General Khalifa Haftar, has been named head of the Libyan army. Libya’s internationally recognised government controls only a small part of the country, with Tripoli controlled by rivals Libya Dawn. The country has been blighted by fighting between the factions, as well as attacks by Jihadi groups. Gen Haftar launched Operation Dignity last year, a self-declared war on ‘Islamists’ in the city of Benghazi. On Monday there were reports of fighting between Haftar-controlled troops and ‘Islamists’ in the city. The former general is a divisive figure amongst Libyans. He has drawn praise for attempts to bring order to the chaos in the country but criticism for his aggressive use of force, including air strikes. His critics say he targeted both moderate and hardline ‘Islamist’ groups in the east, which further radicalised some people, according to BBC Libya correspondent Rana Jawad. As a young military officer, Haftar helped Gaddafi come to power, before fleeing the country in the 1990s to live in Pindostan. He returned to Libya to fight against Gaddafi in the 2011 revolution, but it was only in 2014 that he rose to prominence with a vow to rid Libya of ‘violent Islamists’. Initially the leader of a rogue militia, in recent months the government and Gen Haftar have sought to integrate their forces. As well as Libya Dawn, which has formed a rival administration, the government also faces threats from Jihadi groups including ISIS, which claims to have taken control of the city of Sirte. The group recently released a video appearing to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, leading to retaliatory airstrikes by Egypt.

Libya Names Coup General Hifter as Army Chief
Jason Ditz, AntiWar.com, Mar 2 2015

Having repeatedly launched attempted coups d’etat over the past couple of years, General Khalifa Hifter was today appointed as the nation’s army chief. He had previously run his own private army, and after that was appointed a general in Libya’s own fledgling army. Hifter had been the Libyan military chief of staff in the 1980s under Gadhafi, and after a falling-out with Gadhafi in 1987, he became the head of a CIA-backed rebel force. After that force was scrapped, he lived for decades in Virginia, not far from CIA headquarters. During the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’, Hifter returned to Libya, claiming to be doing so under the backing of the CIA. Since then, he’s run his private army, attacking various ‘Islamist’ factions in the country, and at times threatening to oust the Libyan parliament to “save democracy.” Since mid-2014, Hifter has been backed by the Egyptian military junta, which is providing him arms and air support for his offensives. There have also been rallies along the Egypt-Libya border calling for Hifter to become the ruler of a new “military council” to replace parliament. Hifter’s access to foreign aid has made him an essential ally for what remains of Libya’s struggling parliament, which holds only a small portion of the country. Yet he also poses a severe risk to parliament, having tried to depose it more than once, and giving him official control over the army, limited though it may be, seems to be tempting fate.

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the whole idea of ‘trainers’, ‘advisors’ and ‘instructors’ implies weapons too

Pindostan issues logistics support tender for 300 military personnel in Ukraine
RT.com, Mar 2 2015

Pindostan is planning to send about 300 military personnel to Ukraine from March to October to train the Ukrainian army, according to a tender on a Pindosi government website that requires logistics for the troops. The Pindosi government has published a tender, saying it’s hiring services for the movement of equipment and approximately 300 Pindosi personnel in Ukraine, according to the Federal Business Opportunities website. The tender states:

The contractor shall provide all equipment, vehicles, and personnel necessary to provide ground transportation in accordance with the ordering clause.

Transportation will be required from Mar 5 March until Oct 31 for about three return trips from Lvov International Airport to the International Peace Keeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Yavoriv. In February, Washington confirmed it will send troops to Ukraine to train Kiev troops fighting against the militias in eastern Ukraine. EUCOM Commander Ben Hodges was cited by Reuters on Feb 11 as saying:

We’ll train them in security tasks, medical, how to operate in an environment where the Russians are jamming and how to protect from Russian and rebel artillery.

The Ukrainian government requested the training as “they work to reform their police forces and establish their newly formed National Guard,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt-Col Vanessa Hillman told Defense News in January. Funding for the mission was requested by the Obama administration in the FY2015 budget and comes from the congressionally authorized Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF). Pindostan is reportedly ready to spend $19m to put the Ukrainian National Guard through its paces. The UK has followed Pindostan and is planning to send up to 75 British military personnel in March. They will offer medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training to the Ukrainian army. Cameron said in February that UK support would be given “well away from the area of conflict,” adding that the purpose of aid would be to improve Ukraine’s tactical advantage. Poland voiced support by saying that Warsaw will send military advisers to Ukraine. Defense Ministry adviser Boguslaw Pacek told Reuters in February:

The defense ministry intends to send Polish instructors to support the training of Ukrainian non-commissioned officers.

The Yavoriv operations site, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, is the largest military firing range in Europe, covering 40,000 sq km. The last international military exercises in the Lvov region took place in Sep 2014. About 1,300 servicemen from 15 countries, including Pindostan, Canada, Germany and the UK participated. Despite the Minsk-2 peace agreement brokered on Feb 12, Washington is still mulling over sending weapons to Ukraine. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in February that supplying weapons would “escalate the whole situation” in eastern Ukraine and “would be a major blow to the Minsk agreements. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon previously warned that supplying weapons to Ukraine would worsen the conflict, Reuters reported in February. The White House has also admitted that possible military assistance from the US to Ukraine could increase violence. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Feb 5:

Providing additional military assistance could and is likely to have the effect of increasing the bloodshed.

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said that Pindostan is already supplying Kiev with ammunition and weapons on a “large-scale basis.” Meanwhile, former Pindosi diplomat James Jatras told RT:

This discussion in Washington about supplying weapons has been going on for some time. Usually that indicates that some kind of a covert program is already in operation and that we already are supplying some weapons directly.

Commenting on a statement recently made by Poroshenko that the weapons are not intended for offensive use, Jatras said:

The notion that there are offensive and defensive weapons is really absurd here. This is clearly designed to give Kiev some kind of military option that Kiev does not currently have, and of course it has an offensive intent behind it.

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azov commander’s jeep ran slap-bang into this monument 2 weeks ago, killing him & driver


“Is that all you can tell us?”, I hear you cry. Well, after a bit of screwing around, I have found the story to go with the photo:

Ukraine Battalion Commander Dies After Crashing Into WW2 Memorial
Sputnik News, Mar 2 2015

On the last day before the armistice on Feb 14, the commander of the “Azov” volunteer battalion and his driver crashed to their death in an off-road car retreating from the village of Shirokyne in the Donetsk Region of East Ukraine. The car smashed into a monument built in the memory of the heroes of WW2. The memorial survived the hit and did not fall, but the two Ukrainians died on the spot. Self-defense fighters considered the accident very symbolic. Part of the village is under the control of the self-defense forces, and the other part is controlled by the Ukrainian army. As a whole, the ceasefire in the village is being observed. However, localized shooting has taken place because not all fighters of Ukraine’s National Guard have obeyed the orders of Petro Poroshenko. The “Aidar” battalion has been officially disbanded and reorganized as the 24th Separate Assault Battalion of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. (Whether this will successfully subordinate it to the command of the Army remains to be seen – RB)

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all the fault of communism (tortured pseudo reasoning omitted)

Ukraine unofficially has 272% inflation
Matt O’Brien, WaPo, Mar 1 2015


Inflation is officially 28.5%, but, according to Johns Hopkins professor Steve Hanke, it’s really more like 272%. And that’s only going to get worse as long as Ukraine’s currency does. Ukraine’s economy has actually shrunk since 1991. Or since 1992. Or even 1993. It’s not just that Ukraine has lost the factories in the rebel-held east that make up a quarter of its industrial capacity. It’s that it can’t afford to fight a war against what is still its biggest trading partner, Russia. The only way for Ukraine to pay its bills is to dip into its reserves. But those have dwindled down to $6.42b, only enough for a little more than a month of imports. So Ukraine has gone  to the IMF. It’s announced a $17.5b bailout in return for tough ‘reforms’, including cutting energy subsidies for households. But even that won’t be enough to stop Ukraine from defaulting on its debt, or if you’re feeling more polite, restructuring its bonds. Those have already fallen to less than 50 cents on the dollar in anticipation of the nonpayment to come. Ukraine’s central bank has made its capital controls even stricter, banned currency trading, then reversed the ban on currency trading but begun intervening directly. It’s worked a little. The hryvnia has rebounded from a low of 33.5 to now 27.2 per dollar. But that, as you can see above, is still a 70% fall from the start of 2014. As Hanke explains, we can use the exchange rate to figure out how much prices are really going up. This tells us that Ukraine’s annual inflation is already 272%, and picking up speed. Indeed, its monthly inflation rate is 64.5%, which translates to 39,000% inflation over a year, more than enough to qualify it for “hyperinflation” status.

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less rich bastards in 404

Ukrainian billionaires in Forbes became almost twice less compared to 2014

This is evidenced by the data of the list of the richest people in the world, published in Forbes’ Pindosi edition. The richest Ukrainians listed are as follows:

  1. Rinat Akhmetov, with $6.7b, down by $5.8b on 2014 (201 in the world list).
  2. Victor Pinchuk with $1.5b, down by $1.7b on 2014 (1250 in the world list).
  3. Igor Kolomoisky with $1.3b, down by $0.8b on 2014 (1415 in the world list).
  4. Gennadiy Bogolyubov with $1.3b, down by $1b on 2014 (1500 in the world list).
  5. Yuriy Kosyuk with $1.1b, down by $0.4 on 2014 (1638 in the world list).

For the year from Forbes dropped out Vadim Novinsky (status in 2014, $1.5b), Petro Poroshenko (previously $1.3b), Konstantin Zhevago (previously $1.2b) and Serhiy Tihipko (previously $1b). First place in the list of the richest people in the world has retained the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. His wealth Forbes estimated at $79.2b. Earlier, it was reported that the wealth of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko for the year is reduced by $300m.

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this seems a bit disingenuous, like so many articles posing as a question what is in fact a well-known and obvious given

This is obviously a completely ideological article, hence all the shoulds at the end. But it discloses an aspect of the Kiev madness that is worth bearing in mind – RB

Ukraine’s Massive Witch Hunt: tackling corruption, or an old-fashioned purge?
Mark Varga, The National Interest (Pindo’s national interest, obviously – RB), Feb 26 2015

It has become somewhat of a cliché to say that Ukraine is Europe’s most corrupt country. While the the IMF agreed on Feb 12 to extend to Kyiv a new $17.5b rescue package over four years in exchange for continued structural reforms, the real question is if staving off the country from an imminent default at the hands of international creditors (read, Russia) would be enough. Why? Because one of the unanswered questions for Kyiv’s leaders is whether they have the mettle to deal with the country’s public enemy #2: corruption. The correlation between state instability and high levels of corruption has long been established and is one of the major features behind state failure, and Ukraine’s weak state has so far been unable to stop kleptocratic elites from syphoning off public money. Nevertheless, in spite of many setbacks in Ukraine’s fight against graft, Kyiv has recently embarked on an ambitious program of lustration directed at members of the former regime. In a nutshell, lustration refers to the purging of civil servants and government officials from all levels of public administration on account of their association with the previous regime. Stemming from the Latin term lustrare, meaning purification by sacrifice, lustration is an extreme procedure that needs most of all to strike a balance between its aims and its effects. But will Ukraine’s be fair? Or will it turn into yet another example of a noble principle employed by the state not to do justice, but to enact revenge? More importantly (sic – RB), could extensive lustration hamper Ukraine’s economic growth?

The law, which passed amid fierce Parliamentary fighting in Sep 2014, is one of the most far-reaching ever to emerge out of Eastern Europe. In its current form, it subjects a whopping one million people who worked under the Yanukovych government, as well as members of the Communist nomenklatura and KGB agents, to screening processes for their involvement in the former regime. The law also applies to individuals who “carried out events aimed at sabotaging the foundations of Ukraine’s national security, defense or territorial integrity by their actions or lack thereof, made public calls for violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, or fanned ethnic feud.” Those found guilty will receive a five- to ten-year prohibition from holding public office. Conveniently, the law does not apply to elected officials, such as former Yanukovych minister and current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko or Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, a former MP. Ukraine’s Justice Minister has been a vocal critic of this loophole, claiming that subjecting all officials to lustration mechanisms is “an essential precondition for transformations in the country.” The rift deepened on Feb 10, when the prosecutor general Vitaliy Yarema resigned after opposing parts of the law.

The desire to “cleanse the government” of the remnants of the past seems to be an obvious choice for a Ukraine ridden with rampant corruption, nepotism and tax avoidance, but the government should tread carefully in the application of the law. Human Rights Watch has been quick to criticize the law, claiming that the review and dismissal of judges lacks adequate public consultation and could be subject to political bias and will essentially undermine the independence of the judiciary, “which can only deepen mistrust in an already fractured society.” Perhaps the most stringent condition in the new law refers to “property lustration,” which effectively means that transgressors and their family members “have to prove the legality of the means they used to buy property.” This latter provision could be a dangerous double-edged sword. Some 80% of Ukraine’s GDP is in the hands of 50 individuals, some of whom are suspected to have acted in support of the separatists or worked with the former government before defecting to the current government.

Could property lustration act as a catalyst, open up Ukraine’s economy and improve its overall business climate? Were property lustration applied thoroughly, individuals such as Rinat Akhmetov, Vadim Novinsky, Yuriy Ivanyushchenko, Vasily Khmelnitsky, Dmytro Firtash, Serhiy Liovochkin, Andriy and Serhiy Klyuyev and Viktor Pshonka, who obtained assets or were the recipients of “fake privatizations” during the Yanukovych era, should be investigated. Unfortunately, the early signs are not encouraging. As a report by the ECFR showed, after the Maidan the oligarchs sought to adapt or even increase their clout over the government. Ihor Kolomoisky, co-founder of Ukraine’s biggest bank, has been targeting the interests of former Yanukovych crony Serhiy Kurchenko, while Vitaliy Khomutynnik, another member of the “Yanukovych Family,” is now comfortably installed in the Parliament as deputy of the “Economic Development” faction. So far, there have been two waves of lustration that have charged 374 individuals. A third wave is set to begin in March. According to the Ukrainian Justice Ministry, almost half of the lustrated officials have already appealed against their dismissal from office, and in Nov 2014 a Kharkiv court annulled the lustration against Volodymyr Sukhodubov, an ex-deputy prosecutor in the Kharkiv oblast. The belief among former officials that one is being subject to an unjust form of political revenge, reinforced by a court decision, could spell disaster for the country’s stability.

Indeed, Ukraine has previously been the subject of much contention with regards to the unfair targeting of certain officials in Yanukovych’s former government for misappropriation of funds, many of whom later found themselves on the EU and Pindosi sanctions list, without being informed by authorities in Ukraine about their cases. One of the victims of this chaotic procedure who was accused of corruption, Oleksandr Klymenko, Ukraine’s former Income and Tax Minister, recently won a case in Kiev’s Pechersky court in which the judge ruled that false information published about Klymenko and his alleged involvement in corrupt practices while in office should be retracted. Previously, in an interview with CNN, Klymenko defended his innocence concerning the allegations against him, claiming that while his administration had certain shortcomings, including in the taxation of individuals, he felt his current situation was a “political purge” against him due to his involvement in the Yanukovych regime.

While the provision of initiatives to wipe out corruption within Ukraine’s bureaucratic ranks should certainly be encouraged both by the population and the IMF as a precursor to economic growth, careful measures must be taken to ensure these new policies do not amount to political purges and human-rights violations. Ukraine should also not rely fully on its lustration law to banish corruption from the country once and for all. The government should tread carefully on such matters, since the law in its current form has the potential to further damage the finances and the unity of the country. While cleaning the economy of corruption and venal office-holders should be an imperative, eliminating individuals from Ukraine’s economic life could actually backfire if it were to hamper its chances for recovery. Lustration is simply a stopgap measure, not a one-size-fits-all approach and should be complemented by reforms aimed at fostering good governance and rule of law. Wealthy elites should be brought in the public eye under strict taxation and oversight regimes. In this respect, the Ukrainian Finance Minister’s announcement of the creation of a “new electronic system for corporate tax filing to try to eliminate about $1b/yr in tax fraud” in order to make Ukraine’s current bureaucratic tax system more transparent and less susceptible to bribes should be welcomed as a first step to boosting the economy. To be clear, previous applications have not produced any “hard evidence that lustration laws contributed to democracy, that they improved governance, or that they curbed corruption.” As the Venice Commission argued:

Party affiliation, political and ideological reasons should not be used as grounds for lustration measures, as stigmatization and discrimination of political opponents do not represent acceptable means of political struggle in a state governed by the rule of law.

A new and just Ukraine should not be built on senseless sacrifice.

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yemen seems to be effectively divided into two states, north and south, just as it was 50 years ago

First Iran flight lands in Shi’ite-held Yemen capital
AFP, Mar 1 2015

SANAA – A first Iranian flight landed in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, a day after officials from the Shi’ite militia-controlled city signed an aviation agreement with Tehran. The Mahan Air plane arrived in Sanaa carrying a team from the Iranian Red Crescent and medical aid, an aviation official told AFP. Senior Iranian diplomats were on hand to welcome the flight, the first between the two countries in many years. Yemen’s official Saba news agency, which is controlled by the Shi’ite militiamen who overran Sanaa in September, said Mahan Air and Yemenia would each operate 14 weekly flights under the accord. Western-backed Pres Hadi, who last weekend escaped house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa, slammed the agreement as “illegal,” according to an aide. Hadi said during a meeting with tribal chiefs in the southern city of Aden, where he is now based:

Those who signed it will be held accountable.

Tehran has repeatedly been accused of backing the Houthi militia, known as Ansar’ullah. Saba reported that a Houthi delegation led by the head of the Ansar’ullah political council, Saleh al-Sammad, would travel to Tehran on Sunday for an official visit. Sammad told Saba:

The delegation, which includes an economic delegation, will hold talks with Iranian government officials to discuss means of strengthening economic, political and other means of cooperation between both countries. We intend to open new horizons in relations with countries that respect the will of the Yemeni people.

Jackass Kerry charged last week that critical support of the militia by Iran had contributed to the collapse of Yemen’s government. Iran rejected Jackass’ “blame game,” insisting that foreign intervention in Yemen would only further complicate the situation. The Houthis, who have long clashed with central authorities, descended from their power base in northern Yemen to seize Sanaa in September. After moves to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce resistance from AQ and from Sunni tribesmen, the militia grabbed the seats of power in Sanaa in February.

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