Battle rages for town where Ukraine rebels reject ceasefire

admin   •   February 17, 2015   •   2726

Members of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic army collect parts of a destroyed Ukrainian army tank in the town of Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km (6 miles) to the west of Debaltseve, More... CREDIT: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER

Members of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic army collect parts of a destroyed Ukrainian army tank in the town of Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km (6 miles) to the west of Debaltseve, More…
CREDIT: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER

(Reuters) – Pro-Russian rebels pounded encircled Ukrainian government forces on Monday and Kiev said it would not pull back heavy guns while a truce was being violated, leaving a European-brokered peace deal on the verge of collapse.

The European Union kept pressure on Russia and the rebels by announcing a new list of separatists and Russians targeted with sanctions, to which Moscow promised an “adequate” response.

The United States said it was “gravely concerned” by the fighting in and around the town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine after a ceasefire agreement that came into force on Sunday and said it was closely monitoring reports of a new column of Russian military equipment moving toward the region.

“These aggressive actions and statements by the Russia-backed separatists threaten the most recent ceasefire,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to halt all attacks immediately.”

Fighting subsided in many parts of eastern Ukraine under a ceasefire deal reached last week in marathon talks involving the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

But the truce appears to have been stillborn in Debaltseve, where the most intensive fighting has taken place in recent weeks.

“The situation is fragile,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the driving force behind the deal reached on Thursday after all-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

“It was always clear that much remains to be done. And I have always said that there are no guarantees that what we are trying to do succeeds. It will be an extremely difficult path,” she told reporters in Berlin.

Merkel, along with the leaders of France and Ukraine, expressed concern about continued fighting in Debaltseve and said observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) must have “free access” for their work in eastern Ukraine.

Rebels said soon after the ceasefire came into effect they had no intention of observing it at Debaltseve, where they have been advancing since January and now have a Ukrainian unit all but encircled.

Washington says the rebel operation around the town, which sits on a strategic railway hub, is being assisted by the Russian armed forces, which Moscow denies.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman called on Russia and the separatists to engage with the OSCE to facilitate the cease fire.

The OSCE said on Sunday that the rebels had refused to allow its monitors to reach Debaltseve after the ceasefire took effect.

Reuters reporters near the front said Debaltseve was being relentlessly bombarded with artillery. At least six tanks as well as armoured personnel carriers and artillery could be seen in woods near Vuhlehirsk, 10 km (six miles) west of Debaltseve, which the rebels captured a week ago.

Military trucks headed along the main road in the direction of the town to regular bursts of shelling and the firing of Grad rockets and machine guns.

“You can hear there is no ceasefire,” said a rebel fighter with a black ski mask who gave his name as Scorpion, his nom de guerre, and blamed the fighting on Kiev’s forces. “Debaltseve is our land. And we will take Debaltseve.”

STALEMATE OVER WITHDRAWAL OF BIG GUNS

A rebel commander, Eduard Basurin, said Ukrainian troops had violated the ceasefire 27 times in the past 24 hours.

Kiev said its forces had been shelled more than 100 times in eastern Ukraine since the truce took effect, five of its servicemen had been killed and 25 wounded, and that it could not carry out an agreement to pull back big guns in such conditions.

“The pre-condition for withdrawal of heavy weapons is fulfilling Point One of the Minsk agreements – the ceasefire. One hundred and twelve attacks are not an indicator of a ceasefire,” said a Kiev military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko.

A rebel leader, Denis Pushilin, responded by saying his forces were “only ready for a mutual withdrawal of equipment.”

In another complication likely to set back hopes of peace, he and another separatist leader said the rebels would pull out of the Minsk agreements if Kiev made any further moves to abandon Ukraine’s neutral status — also a red line for Moscow, which fears Ukraine might seek to join the NATO alliance.

The separatists offered the Ukrainian forces a safe corridor out of Debaltseve if they gave up their weapons but a military spokesman for Kiev, Vladislav Seleznyov, ruled this out.

“There are the Minsk agreements, according to which Debaltseve is ours. We will not leave,” he said.

ONLY A GLIMMER OF HOPE

Fighting began in east Ukraine after the overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in Ukraine last February and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula a month later.

The West says Putin, who has called parts of Ukraine “New Russia,” has sent troops and weapons to back the rebels. Moscow denies this and accuses the West of waging a proxy war in Ukraine to seek “regime change” in Russia.

Hopes that Thursday’s deal will end a conflict that has killed more than 5,000 people have been dampened by the collapse of an earlier truce when rebels advanced last month.

Western countries say they reserve the option of expanding economic sanctions on Moscow over the crisis, hoping a growing financial crisis in Russia will persuade Putin to use his influence with the rebels to stop the fighting. But some fear he wants the conflict to fester for years so that Kiev cannot control east Ukraine and Russia can retain influence there.

The EU’s new list of 19 people and nine organisations hit by asset freezes and travel bans was dominated by Ukrainian separatists but also targeted popular Russian singer Iosif Kobzon, sometimes dubbed Russia’s equivalent of Frank Sinatra, and two Russian deputy defence ministers.

“One thing is clear — the decision, which will be followed by an adequate response, runs contrary to common sense and will not help efforts to find a solution to the inter-Ukrainian conflict,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Richard Balmforth and Alessandra Prentice in Kiev, Adrian Croft in Brussels, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Andy Sullivan and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Peter Graff. Giles Elgood and Chris Reese)

Philippines adds France to COVID-19 ‘red list’

Robie de Guzman   •   December 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Wednesday placed France on the Philippines’ red list or countries that are high risk for COVID-19, Malacañang said.

In a statement, acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the escalation of France to the Red list is effective 12:01 a.m. of December 10 to 15.

Travelers who have been to France within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, and who will arrive on December 10 to 12, shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with an RT-PCR test on the 7th day, with day one being the date of arrival.

“Notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result, the completion of the 14-day quarantine is required,” Nograles said.

Beginning 12:01 a.m. of December 13 until December 15, entry in any port of the Philippines shall not be allowed for passengers coming from or who have been to France within the last 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines, regardless of vaccination status.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation, and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry, subject to existing testing and quarantine protocols for Red List countries/territories/jurisdictions.

“As with all international inbound travel, the testing and quarantine protocols for minors shall follow the testing and quarantine protocols of the parent/guardian traveling with them, regardless of the minor’s vaccination status,” Nograles said.

“This notwithstanding, children 3 years old and below, regardless of country of origin, shall be exempt from the requirement of presenting a negative RT-PCR test result before boarding the flight, unless symptomatic,” he added.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Palace official said that passengers who arrived prior to December 10, 2021 and are currently undergoing quarantine shall complete the testing and quarantine protocols in effect at the time of their arrival.

All passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through France shall not be deemed as having come from or having been to said country if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into such country by its immigration authorities.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall comply with the applicable testing and quarantine protocols for passengers who have not been to any Red List country/territory/jurisdiction.

The updated Red List comes amid the looming threat of newly discovered Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Philippines gets first batch of Sputnik light COVID jabs

Robie de Guzman   •   November 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Friday received its first shipment of Sputnik Light COVID-19 vaccine doses made by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 said.

The NTF said the shipment of 5,000 Sputnik Light jabs arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 at past 2 p.m. This batch was donated by Kremlin.

Sputnik Light is the single-shot version of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. It was approved for emergency use in the Philippines in August.

Aside from this, the Philippines also received additional 2,805,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine procured by the government.

The latest shipment brings the country’s vaccine arrivals to more than 130 million, the NTF said.

 

PH expects to receive 190K doses of Sputnik V vaccine this September – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Around 190,000 doses of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine (component 2) manufactured by Russian firm Gamaleya Research Institute are expected to arrive in the country this month, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Friday.

Galvez said the additional vaccine supply may be delivered by the weekend or early next week.

“This shipment of Sputnik V vaccines shall be used for the second dose. After this, we will be receiving the single-shot Sputnik V Light as we move forward with our vaccine rollout,” he said.

Galvez, who is also the chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19, eased concerns among those who have already received their first dose of Sputnik V.

“As per our vaccine experts from the Department of Health, the gap between first and second doses of Sputnik V can be as long as six months, so no need to worry because the vaccines are arriving soon,” Galvez explained.

This month, the country expects to receive the first batch of government-procured Sputnik V Light vaccines consisting of 1 million doses.

“The Sputnik V Light is more efficient because we will be able to protect more people faster. This would eliminate the problem wherein people fail to return for their second dose,” Galvez noted.

As of September 15, the country has received a total of 57,547,610 vaccine doses from various manufacturers, of which over 36 million doses were procured by the national government.

The country has also breached the 40 million mark in terms of COVID-19 jabs administered, with 40,030,388 shots given as of September 15. Of this number, 17,675,959 were fully vaccinated and 22,354,429 received their first dose.

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.