MH17 victim found wearing oxygen mask – Dutch FM

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One of the passengers of the MH17 plane shot down over Ukraine was wearing an oxygen mask, Dutch Foreign Minister Franz Timmermans has said. This new revelation contradicts assumptions that all 298 people on board the plane died instantly.

Kiev seeks access to MH17 site to back ‘prefabricated’ crash version – Moscow

Timmermans’ comments suggest that the Boeing-777-200 shot down three months ago might not have fallen apart immediately after the aircraft was hit, killing all people aboard, if at least one passenger remained conscious and managed to pull an oxygen mask on.

“People hardly had time to notice the missile coming, but do you know that one of the victims was found with an oxygen mask over their mouth?” Timmermans said Thursday, HOC TV channel reported.

“This means that someone had time to do that,” he said. “At least, we cannot rule out this possibility.”

Dutch prosecutors have confirmed that one flight MH17 passenger, an Australian citizen, was found with the elastic strap of an oxygen mask around his neck.

It is not known “how or when the mask got around the victim’s neck,” AP quoted Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for Dutch prosecutors, as saying.

Dutch prosecutors said that no other MH17 victim was found with an oxygen mask on.

Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather and place bodies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather and place bodies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Magomed Talboev, Russia’s former top test pilot, told Slon.ru that finding one MH17 victim with an oxygen mask on does not necessarily contradict previously assumptions about the immediate death of everyone aboard.

“A couple of seconds could pass before the plane disintegrated,” Talboev said. “This is enough to grab a mask that falls automatically in front of your face and put it on – this is [survival] instinct.”

The Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down on July 17, flying from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It crashed near Torez, a settlement 60 kilometers from the Russian border, in the warzone where Ukrainian troops were fighting Donetsk self-defense forces. All 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers died.

Because most of the victims, 196 passengers, were Dutch citizens, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) is leading and coordinating the investigation of an international group of experts.

One month ago, on September 9, the DSB issued a preliminary report into the crash, saying that the plane “broke up in the air, probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”

Everyone onboard died instantly because of immediate decompression, the report said, without mentioning any use of oxygen masks.

Because active military operations were continuing near the MH17 crash site, forensic experts were unable to recover evidence on the ground, and not all the bodies have been recovered three months on. After the Sept. 5 ceasefire agreement was reached between the warring parties, investigation activities at the crash site zone resumed.

So far, the bodies of 251 MH17 victims have been identified by Dutch officials in The Hague.

Biden says US ‘embarrassed’ EU into sanctioning Russia over Ukraine

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America’s leadership had to embarrass Europe to impose economic hits on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine – even though the EU was opposed to such a motion, US Vice President Joe Biden revealed during a speech at Harvard.

“We’ve given Putin a simple choice: Respect Ukraine’s sovereignty or face increasing consequences,” Biden told a gathering at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics on Thursday.

The consequences were the sanctions which the EU imposed on Russia, first targeting individual politicians and businessmen deemed responsible for the crisis in Ukraine, then switching to the energy, defense, and economic sectors.

“It is true they did not want to do that,” Biden admitted.

“It was America’s leadership and the president of the United States insisting, oft times almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose costs,” the US vice president declared.

Those costs deemed behind the ruble’s historic plunge not only forced America’s ExxonMobil to retreat from Russia’s Arctic shelf, but also provoked counter-measures from Moscow, which suspended certain food imports from the EU.

Russia’s counter-sanctions have hit many of the EU’s agricultural states. EU members, particularly those close to Russia, were the most affected by the loss of the Russian market.

For instance, the Netherlands – the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products – is set to lose 300 million euro annually from canceled business with Russia, as it accounts for roughly 10 percent of Dutch exports of vegetables, fruit, and meat.

At the same time, Poland was hit hard by the Kremlin’s sanctions, as its food exports to Russia totaled $1.5 billion in 2013.

Spain, a large exporter of oranges to Russia, is estimated to miss out on 337 million euro ($421 million) in food and agriculture sales, while Italy has estimated its losses at nearly 1 billion euro ($1.2 billion).

Following pressure from local farmers, a 125 million euro EU Commission Common Agricultural Policy fund was established, from which the growers are expected to get some cash, while Amsterdam is willing to cover the cost of transporting excess produce to eight food banks across Holland.

Overall, Moscow’s one-year food embargo against the EU, the US, Norway, Australia, and Canada will block an estimated $9 billion worth of agricultural exports to Russia.

With European countries now at a loss with apple and dairy surplus, it is not exactly clear whether EU producers will be able to return to the Russian markets after the one-year ban expires.

However, this is no secret to the US, as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland remarked on Thursday.

“Implementing sanctions isn’t easy and many countries are paying a steep price. We know that. But history shows that the cost of inaction and disunity in the face of a determined aggressor will be higher,” Nuland said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (R) and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt (2nd R) distribute bread to riot police near Independence square in Kiev December 11, 2013. (Reuters / Andrew Kravchenko)U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (R) and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt (2nd R) distribute bread to riot police near Independence square in Kiev December 11, 2013. (Reuters / Andrew Kravchenko)

Nuland’s reference to necessary action against the “aggressor” might be taken with a grain of salt by the Europeans, as the “F**k the EU” leak is still fresh in their memory.

The four-minute video – titled ‘Maidan puppets,’ referring to Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital – was uploaded by an anonymous user to YouTube.

READ MORE: ‘F**k the EU': Snr US State Dept. official caught in alleged phone chat on Ukraine

Nuland was recorded as saying the notoriously known phrase during a phone call with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, as the two were seemingly discussing a US-preferred line-up of the Ukrainian government. It apparently referred to Washington’s policy differences with those of the EU on ways of handling the Ukrainian political crisis, with Nuland suggesting to “glue this thing” with the help of the UN and ignore Brussels.

The US State Department did not deny the authenticity of the video and stressed that Nuland had apologized for the “reported comments.”

Ukraine hosts military drills led by US and joined by NATO

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A total of 1,300 troops from 15 nations, either active NATO members or would-be members, have come together for a military exercise in western Ukraine – even as the fragile truce in the east of the country barely holds.

NATO members start supplying weapons to Kiev – Ukrainian Defense Minister

The exercise, code-named “Rapid Trident” has been an annual event since 2006, and has been organized by the Germany-based US European Command (EUCOM). It was initially planned to have this year’s drills in mid-July, but they were postponed because of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine.

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“This year’s exercise will involve command post exercises, patrolling, counter-IED training and a field training exercise,” the EUCOM Public Affairs Office said in a statement. It adds that “no live fire exercises” have been scheduled for the drills.

The exercise is being conducted near Yavoriv, 60 kilometers from the city of Lvov in north-western Ukraine, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC).

The US earlier pledged to send 200 troops to take part in the exercise.

US prepares military drill in W. Ukraine for mid-September

Earlier in September, Ukrainian and American naval forces held joint maritime drills in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.

The Russian Black Sea fleet simultaneously tested its new-generation Bastion coastal defense system, saying the test was pre-scheduled and was not a response to the US-Ukraine drills in the Black Sea.

Moscow has been particularly sensitive about NATO’s increased activity in Eastern Europe and has been thinking of reviewing its military doctrine due to this new situation.

Russia to adjust military doctrine due to NATO expansion, Ukraine crisis

Eastern Ukraine has meanwhile seen the fragile ceasefire there being put to a serious test on Sunday, when the city of Donetsk witnessed some heavy shelling.

A crew from RT’s video agency Ruptly working on the outskirts of Donetsk witnessed an episode when a family was forced to run for shelter to escape shelling.

A group of OSCE observers also came under fire near Donetsk the same day.

Ukrainian troops and the anti-government forces have blamed each other for the ceasefire violations.

US extends Russia sanctions, targets biggest lender Sberbank & gas giant Gazprom

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The US has introduced new sanctions against Russia’s biggest lenders – Sberbank, Gazprombank and Rosselkhozbank – and added some of the country’s state-owned technology firms and five energy companies, the Treasury said on Friday.

Another Russian lender, Bank of Moscow is also on the blacklist.

In the oil sector, there will be new limitations on exploration facilities for Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegaz, and Rosneft.

The US also said it would prohibit “transactions in, provision of financing for, or other dealings in new debt of greater than 90 days maturity issued by two additional Russian energy companies, Gazprom Neft and Transneft.”

The US said it was joining European allies, as Russia keeps on with“direct military intervention and blatant efforts to destabilize Ukraine,”Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a press release.

READ MORE: EU publishes Russia sanctions list: Energy, finance, defense targeted

However, the US said it was ready to withdraw some of the sanctions against Russia, if Ukraine and the militia in the east of the country fulfill the Minsk agreement sealed in early September, as ITAR–TASS quotes a US spokesman.

While on paper sanctions have become tougher, in fact little will change for Sberbank, the lender’s head Herman Gref said.

“Given the fact that the [western debt] markets are de facto closed today, the financing for three months, or for even 30 days is no longer possible. Therefore de jure sanctions worsen the situation, but de facto – nothing new has happened,” Gref said.

Sberbank has also started exploring new capital markets, Gref added.

“We are exploring all possibilities. Our objective is to explore everything that can somehow be used in such a situation,” Gref added.

However, he declined to comment on whether Sberbank will place its securities on alternative capital markets this year.

MORE EVIDENCE U.S. SUPPORTS NAZIS IN UKRAINE

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Ultranationalist Azov battalion wears the swastika and SS runes

German television ran a video Monday night showing Ukrainian government troops wearing Nazi symbols.

Azov Battalion paramilitaries wearing the swastika and the SS runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel, also known as the SS-Runen.
Azov Battalion paramilitaries wearing the swastika and the SS runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel. Image: Norwegian TV2.

The video was shot by Norwegian broadcaster TV2 last week. “We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,” Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the television station, told NBC News.

Azov is openly fascist, although this is not mentioned by NBC News.

It was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry. It is linked to Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (“The Fatherland”) party through Arsen Avakov, who became the new Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine after the U.S. State Department sponsored violent coup ousted the elected Yanukovich government.

Patrons of the paramilitary group include Oleh Lyashko, a member of Verkhovna Rada, or the Ukrainian parliament, and ultra-nationalist Dmytro Korchynsky. He is the former leader of Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defense, which merged with Right Sector, a violent ultra-nationalist group of street fighters that played in key role in the February coup.

The battalion’s commander is Andriy Biletsky, the head of the neo-nazi social-nationalist political groups Social National Assembly and Patriot of Ukraine.

The stated aim of the organization is “to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital” and “to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man,” according to the BBC.
“Azov, which has an estimated personnel of 500 people, is one of about 50 volunteer battalions formed by Maidan activists and ultranationalists of the Right Sector group,” RT reported in August. “These newly formed units have been brought to eastern Ukraine to form the backbone of the forces fighting against the local self-defense militia advocating independence from Ukraine.”

It “actively participated in Kiev’s so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ and, like most of the volunteer and National Guards units, has been accused of committing war crimes against civilians,” the Russian news agency claims.

“Azov fighters do more than wave a Swastika-like flag,” writes Robert Parry, “they favor the Wolfsangel flag of Hitler’s SS divisions, much as some of Ukraine’s neo-Nazis still honor Hitler’s Ukrainian SS auxiliary, the Galician SS. A Ukrainian hero hailed during the Maidan protests was Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera whose paramilitary forces helped exterminate Jews and Poles.”

Ukrainian ultranationalists consider Russians and Poles their primary enemies. “The Jews in the USSR constitute the most faithful support of the ruling Bolshevik regime, and the vanguard of Muscovite imperialism in Ukraine,” Ukrainian nationalists declared in 1941 during the Nazi occupation.

Considering the fact the Kiev government has actively fielded a battalion of neo-Nazi racists determined to cleanse Ukraine of what it considers untermenschen, the resistance effort by Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Donetsk and Luhansk is understandable.

MH17 broke up in mid-air due to external damage – Dutch preliminary report

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The MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside, the preliminary report into the Malaysia Airlines disaster in Ukraine said.

“Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside,” the Dutch Safety Board said in its preliminary report.

Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”
‘We need more analysis to investigate the crash” – Malaysian minister

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said on Tuesday that more analysis was needed to investigate the crash.

“We want to further analyze the data and the wreckage,” he said, adding that more details were needed so that the authorities “will bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The Malaysia Airlines plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people aboard crashed in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on July 17. The majority of those on the plane – which was allegedly shot down – were citizens of the Netherlands.
Plane was ‘split into pieces during flight’

The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until 13:20:03 GMT, after which it ended abruptly.

The cockpit crew made no emergency call, the radio communications with Ukrainian air traffic control shows.

“The final calls by Ukrainian air traffic control made between 13.20:00 and 13.22:02 [GMT] remained unanswered,” the report said.

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The plane was “split into pieces during flight,” the investigators said, based on the analysis of the pattern of wreckage on the ground.

The Dutch investigators said that “available images show that the pieces of wreckage were pierced in numerous places.”

The report emphasizes that investigators haven’t yet had the chance to recover the components for forensic investigation.

However, the photos taken from the wreckage “indicated that the material around the holes was deformed in a manner consistent with being punctured by high-energy objects,” the report said. “The characteristics of the material deformation around the puncture holes appear to indicate that the objects originated from the outside the fuselage.”

The fact that the plane was damaged from the outside “also explains the abrupt end to the data registration on the recorders, the simultaneous loss of contact with air traffic control and the aircraft’s disappearance from radar,” the report says.

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The report says that the flight recorder was “found damaged but the internal memory module was intact.”

“The external damage found on the [flight data recorder] was consistent with impact damage.”

The radar data from the aircraft shows that “three commercial aircraft were in the same Control Area” as the Malaysia Airlines plane.

“At 13.20 UTC [GMT] the distance between the closest aircraft and MH17 was approximately 30 kilometers,” the document says.

Cockpit voice recorder. (onderzoeksraad.nl)

Cockpit voice recorder. (onderzoeksraad.nl)

Dutch investigators concluded that the Malaysian airliner was flying “in unrestricted airspace above the restricted area mentioned by the latest NOTAM [Notice to Airmen].” Commercial flights were restricted in the area below the flight level of FL320, MH17 was flying at FL330.
Full report to be released ‘within a year of the crash’ – Dutch Safety Board

Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, said that the plane tragedy in eastern Ukraine “shocked the world and raised many questions.”

“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash,” he said. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead.”

Joustra said that the Dutch Safety Board’s full report will be published in summer 2015, “within one year of the date of the crash.”

In the meantime, the Russian Federal Aviation Agency said that the Dutch report marks the beginning of a thorough investigation of the plane crash.

“The investigation of the crash site and the wreckage should be an important part of this work,” said Oleg Storchevoy, the agency’s deputy head. “[We] need to investigate all the radiolocation data, perform forensic expertise…. Without this information one can’t speak of any preliminary conclusions concerning the tragedy.”