Russia Has Eastern Ukraine in its Sights

Night Watch
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Posted: Mar 14, 2014 12:01 AM
Russia Has Eastern Ukraine in its Sights

North Korea-Libya: On 12 March a spokesman for the Maritime Administration of North Korea clarified North Korea's link to the tanker Morning Glory that eluded the Libyans yesterday.

"On 8 March the government of Libya informed the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) of the fact that the DPRK-flagged oil tanker Morning Glory made an oil contract with an individual armed group in Libya and illegally entered a port under the control of the group in the eastern part of Libya, and urged the DPRK to take a necessary measure for settling it through a formal channel."

"As far as the oil tanker is concerned, it is a ship run by the Golden East Logistics Company in Alexandria, Egypt, and is allowed to temporarily use the DPRK flag for six months in accordance with the contract made by the company with the DPRK at the end of February."

"Right after being informed of the fact by the Libyan side, the DPRK strongly blamed the company side for the violation of the contract and demanded it let the ship leave the port at once without loading oil."

"In addition to it, the DPRK formally notified the Libyan government and the International Maritime Organization that it cancelled and deleted the ship's DPRK registry and invalidated all the certificates as the ship violated the DPRK's law on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo and entering warring, dispute-torn or natural disaster-affected areas."

Comment: The statement confirms that North Korea had a contractual arrangement, meaning it was earning revenue from the Morning Glory's voyages. That does not seem to have been the intent of the statement.

Golden East Logistics is a freight forwarding company based in Alexandria. It was formed in 2005. Its homepage states, "We provide worldwide ship chartrs (sic)."

The Libyans have lost contact with a ship carrying 234,000 barrels of crude. Apparently it is not burning, as reported yesterday.

Afghanistan-Canada: For the record. Canada ended military operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday, after 12 years of deployments. The Canadians formally ended their combat role in southern Afghanistan in July 2011, but maintained a small training contingent in Kabul.

At its peak the Canadian contingent was the sixth largest, behind the U.S., Britain, Germany, France and Italy. It deployed more than 40,000 service members to Afghanistan since the mission began in 2001. Canadians were responsible for the security of Kandahar Province. According to the Canadian government, 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors were killed in Afghanistan.

Russia-Ukraine: A Russian radio news station on 12 March posted on its website that a "massing of Russian military equipment was noticed on the border with Ukraine in Belgorod Oblast."

According to the post, the equipment includes military vehicles and armored vehicles and arrived at the village of Veselaya Lopan (about 30 kilometers from the border) on railroad flatbeds. A local TV station reported that these military forces are "units of airborne forces." The village is located in Russia opposite the northeast border of Ukraine, northeast of Kharkiv.

Meanwhile, Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told reporters in Kyiv that Russia has deployed more than 80,000 troops, up to 270 tanks and 140 combat planes close to the border, creating the "threat of a full-scale invasion from various directions."

Parubiy said Russian troops are positioned in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian border, some of them as close as a two- or three-hour drive from Kyiv.

Comment: Based on separate reports from Russian and Ukrainian sources, a significant buildup of Russian conventional forces opposite the northeastern border of Ukraine is taking place. The location is far from Crimea.

The use of railroads means some units are not based nearby, hence the buildup. The number of soldiers and amount of equipment cannot be confirmed, but they appear to be enough to seize eastern Ukraine. The forces are not for defense because Ukraine has deployed no forces. The tanks, in particular, portend an incursion. This is not exercise preparation.

Russian propaganda and web postings from eastern Ukraine continue to relate unconfirmed stories of provocations and harassment by ultra-nationalist Ukrainians. The Russians have already stated that protection of ethnic Russians would justify an incursion. Russian propaganda and leaders have been making the case all week.

Based on the reports from independent sources and the nature of the forces observed, NightWatch judges that the Russians intend to occupy parts or all of eastern Ukraine. However, the reports suggest the buildup is not yet complete. Thus, the timing of an incursion is not clear. The start of operations could occur with little additional warning, but the Russians do not appear to be in a hurry or to be concealing their buildup.

Right Sector. The Moscow Basmanny District Court sustained a motion to arrestin absentiaUkrainian Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh on 12 March for making extremist appeals.

Judge Natalia Dudar agreed with detectives that Yarosh "might carry on his criminal activity, pressure witnesses or hinder the inquiry into his criminal case in another way" if a measure of restraint other than arrest were chosen. The detectives accused Yarosh under Part 2 Article 205.2 and Part 2 Article 280 of the Russian Criminal Code (public appeals for terrorism and extremism made in mass media).

Comment: Yarosh posted an appeal on a social network that urged Chechen separatist leader Doku Umarov to support Ukraine's anti-Russian forces "with weapons in arms." Yarosh wrote,

"Ukrainians have always supported the liberation struggle of the Chechen and other Caucasian peoples. Now it's the time for you to support Ukraine," Yarosh wrote. "As the Right Sector leader, I urge you to step up the fight. Russia is not as strong as it seems." In the past, Yarosh fought on the side of the Chechen rebels.

The significance of this legal action is that it hardens positions and complicates resolution of the confrontation. For example, Ukraine's parliament is considering a proposal to give Right Sector legal status as an armed militia. Reportedly Prime Minister Yatsenyuk supports it. Yarosh also has a government position in national security.

The larger significance is that it is another indication that reinforces the NightWatch judgment that Russian actions are deliberate and well planned. Russian operations connected with Ukraine are not an opportunistic spasm by a hard line leader, who is taking advantage of a war weary and reluctant West. The operations show far too much planning, rehearsal and coordination.

Israel-Gaza Strip: The Israel Air Force attacked 29 targets in Gaza on Wednesday in response to a large-scale Islamic Jihad rocket attack on southern communities. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Israel will not go back to its daily routine following the barrage of rockets this evening.

"We will not allow Islamic Jihad or any other element in the Strip to disrupt life in the South," he said. "It won't be quiet in Gaza either, in a way that will cause Islamic Jihad terrorists to regret the attacks they carried out.

"Hamas is responsible for what occurs in Gaza, and it too will have to take into account the fact that we won't tolerate fire at us," he continued. "If it does not know how to enforce the quiet, it too will pay a heavy price."

Comment: The barrage of at least 30 rockets was the largest since November 2012, the Israelis said. Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza claimed the attack was in retaliation for an Israeli attack that killed three of its fighters on Tuesday. The Israelis reported no casualties today, but did mention buildings were damaged.

The Israeli Iron Dome rocket defense system destroyed three rockets. Islamic Jihad now knows what it takes to saturate and defeat the system, if it did not know before this. It also made a show of its continuing vitality, for which Palestinians will pay the price.

Israel will engage in disproportionate response operations until Hamas gets Islamic Jihad under control again, if it can. This could lead to Israeli ground operations, called for by the Foreign Minister.

End of NightWatch

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