Kazakhstan Arrests Ex-Intelligence Boss On Treason

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

January 8, 2022

NUR-SULTAN – The former intelligence chief of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, has been arrested and charged with treason in efforts to quell a growing tide of protests.

The National Security Committee made the announcement that Massimov, who was fired by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was arrested for his suspected role in violent protests that erupted throughout Kazakhstan.

According to reports, thousands of people have been arrested and dozens killed in the violence, along with the torching of government buildings.  Tokayev brutally issued a “shoot-to-kill” order to government troops to act against what he claims are terrorists.

The arrest of Massimov looks to be an attempt to show that those responsible are being held accountable, though some experts suspect it could be for political reasons.  Massimov was also a two-time former prime minister with close ties to former president Nursulstan Nazarbayev who left office in 2019.

According to government officials, the violent protests were ignited by the increase in fuel prices under the Tokayev regime, which is backed by Russia.

After a brutal crackdown, security shock troops have reclaimed control of Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty, the former capital, on Friday.  The mayor of Almaty still advises citizens to remain at home as the shock troops conduct a clean-up operation.

According to reports from the interior ministry, nearly 4,400 people have been arrested, internet access has been shut down, and there are reports of Russian troops in Kazakhstan’s major cities to help snuff out the violence.  Russia and Kazakhstan are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization which stipulates mutual military support in times of war and crisis.

The Biden administration has questioned the need for inviting Russian troops into Kazakhstan and fears that the occupation might be permanent.

Russia To Hold Security Talks With US Next Month

By The Chicago Times Staff

December 28, 2021

MOSCOW – In hopes to ease tensions, Russian officials will hold talks with the United States in January to discuss possible security guarantees as tensions grow over Ukraine.

According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the talks will take place after the New Year holiday.

Over the year, Russia has been observed massing tens of thousands of troops along the Ukraine border.  The recent troop buildup has left NATO allies and Ukraine with only one conclusion, that Russia intends to invade Ukraine.  The Kremlin has stated it has no intention of invasion but is responding to the growing relationship between NATO and Ukraine.

Russia unveiled security proposals to negotiate with the west, one of which includes a demand that NATO promises to forego military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

NATO and Ukraine have warned Russia that it will face massive consequences if Ukraine is invaded.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and supported a separatist rebellion in the country’s east.  The war in Ukraine’s Donbas region has seen the deaths of over 14,000 people to, according to NATO.

Russia To Respond If Finland And Sweden Join NATO Alliance

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 26, 2021

MOSCOW — NATO’s efforts to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance has not been ignored by Russia, which has vowed to respond if the two nations join NATO.

“It’s fairly evident that Finland and Sweden joining NATO… would have severe military and political ramifications that would need a sufficient response from the Russian side,” she said.

According to Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, the neutrality of Sweden and Finland has always been “an vital aspect in keeping stability in northern Europe.”

At a June meeting, NATO pledged to strengthen ties with Sweden and Finland to support common security, crisis management planning, exercises, and information and analytic exchange.

Earlier this month, Moscow released two letters, one addressed to NATO and the other to Washington, requesting security guarantees for all parties.  The recommendations included restricting NATO’s buildup along Russia’s borders and ruling out NATO expansion.

Zakharova stated that “ruling out NATO expansion and the deployment of military systems that endanger our security near Russian borders will be the primary, essential concerns at the future negotiations with the US and NATO.”

Ceasefire Agreement Reached In Eastern Ukraine

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 23, 2021

Kiev — Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reached an agreement on Wednesday to restore a full ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“I was delighted that participants expressed their strong determination to fully adhere to the Measures to Strengthen the Ceasefire agreement of 22 July 2020,” said Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group.

Kiev and Moscow have accused each other of violating a previous ceasefire, which was signed in July 2020.

According to the special monitoring mission reports, the security situation along the contact line remained tumultuous, with about five times more ceasefire breaches documented per day in December 2021 than in December 2020.

Putin Agrees To More Talks With Biden Administration

by Bernard P. Lawson and H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 12, 2021

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Biden administration have agreed to more talks amid tensions over a Russian army buildup near Ukraine, according to the Kremlin.

The Kremlin said Putin and Biden agreed to hold more talks during a video conversation on December 7 that focused on East-West relations which are currently strained by Russia’s force buildup near Ukraine.

Biden warned Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine, the NATO will impose “severe economic and other measures,” while Putin has requested guarantees that NATO will not expand further east.

According to a senior congressional aide, the Biden administration informed members of Congress that they have reached an agreement with Germany to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Putin had no reason to be optimistic after speaking with Biden because of significant disagreements between Russia and the US over Moscow’s so-called “red lines” that it does not want the West to violate.

Aside from further NATO expansion eastward, Russia has stated that it does not want certain offensive weaponry stationed in countries bordering it, such as Ukraine.

Putin informed Biden on December 7 that Russian troops were on Russian territory and did not constitute a threat to anyone, according to the Kremlin.

Russia Awaits Biden Administration’s Next Play

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 10, 2021

MOSCOW — Russia maintained a barrage of hostile rhetoric against Ukraine on Thursday, comparing the crisis there to the most dangerous period of the Cold War, as it awaits the Biden administration’s next move via NATO.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of deploying heavy artillery to the front lines of fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the former Soviet republic’s east while failing to engage in a peace process.

The events in the Donbass, or conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, now “resemble genocide,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, according to the TASS state news agency.

The FSB, Russian intelligence service, said earlier on Thursday that a Ukrainian warship was heading towards the Kerch Strait, which separates Russia and its annexed peninsula of Crimea, and did not respond to a Russian request to change its course.

According to Ukraine’s defense minister, the ship was a search-and-rescue vessel with no weapons on board.

“Negotiations on a peaceful settlement have practically come to a halt,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters, referring to the seven-year conflict in the eastern Donbass region between Ukrainian and separatist forces.

According to the ministry’s Twitter feed, quoting Zakharova, “Kiev’s building up its contingent on the line of contact in Donbass with the support of NATO countries pumping the country with weapons.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov agreed with a reporter who suggested that East-West tensions over Ukraine could rekindle the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which the US and the Soviet Union were on the verge of nuclear war.

The remarks came two days after Biden and Putin held a video call to try to defuse the Ukraine crisis.  They suggested that Moscow wants to keep tensions high while waiting for Biden’s next move, which has stated that he intends to hold follow-up talks with Russia and NATO countries.

Ukraine, which wants to join NATO, says it is worried about an invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops stationed near its border.  Moscow claims that its stance is solely defensive.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Kiev expects to be supported by Western military allies even if the US does not send troops.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s military accused Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east of six new violations of a stalled 2020 ceasefire, three of which involved weapons prohibited under previous peace treaties that Moscow and Kiev say they are attempting to resurrect.

Biden said on Wednesday that he hoped to announce high-level meetings with Russia and major NATO allies by Friday to discuss Moscow’s concerns and the possibility of “lowering the temperature along the eastern front.”

According to Russia’s Ryabkov, this was a “unilateral” statement, implying that the US had not discussed it with Moscow.

When asked if Russia would object to other NATO members participating, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, “We cannot say because there is no understanding of how all of this will be arranged.”