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Polish ex-minister said Putin offered to divide Ukraine with Poland

Poland’s parliamentary speaker, Radoslaw Sikorski, has been quoted as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to Poland’s then leader in 2008 that they divide Ukraine between themselves. Sikorski, who until September served as Poland’s foreign minister, was quoted telling U.S. website Politico that Putin made the proposal during Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s visit to Moscow in 2008 – although he later said some of the interview had been “overinterpreted”. “He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine … This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, when he visited Moscow,” he was quoted as saying in the interview dated Oct. 19. “He (Putin) went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lwow is a Polish city and why don’t we just sort it out together,” Sikorski was quoted as saying. Before World War Two, Poland’s territory included parts of today’s western Ukraine, including some major cities such as Lwow, known as Lviv in Ukraine. Sikorski, who accompanied Tusk on his trip to Moscow, was quoted as saying Tusk did not reply to Putin’s suggestion, because he knew he was being recorded, but Poland never expressed any interest in joining the Russian operation. “We made it very, very clear to them – we wanted nothing to do with this,” Sikorski was quoted as saying. After publication of the interview, Sikorski said it was not entirely accurate. “Some of the words have been overinterpreted,” Sikorski wrote on his Twitter account late on Monday, adding that Poland does not take part in annexations (Source: Reuters).

David Cameron has now passed the point of no return on Europe

David Cameron has crossed the Rubicon. There is no going back. By proposing to limit free movement of labour from the EU he has planted himself on the side of the outs, as José Manuel Barroso made crystal clear in his Chatham House speech on Monday. The other 27 nations will never agree: if limiting national insurance numbers for EU workers is Cameron’s new red line then he has joined the Ukip wing of his party, who won’t let him renege. “I will go to Brussels, I will not take no for an answer … when it comes to free movement,” he told his conference, and now that’s confirmed. In a riposte to Barroso’s plain statement of the facts on EU law, No 10 rudely warned him that he “should be under no illusion that the status quo is not acceptable to the UK”. Cameron went one worse and told him “who is the boss” on immigration. There is no effective difference between Ukip and the Conservatives, both heading for the exit – except, as Nigel Farage says, Cameron “is deceiving the British public” with nonexistent options, breeding more political cynicism. Cameron is no Caesar. He has been dragged backwards across this Rubicon by his enemies, in the long lurch away from Europe that began when he used an anti-EU ploy to secure the Tory leadership. Leadership? Not really, he’s been trailing after the Europhobes ever since, trying to keep up. Every step since then he has conceded British interests to appease the unappeasables. He won with a promise to withdraw the Tories from the European People’s party, outraging natural conservative allies such as Angela Merkel (Source: The Guardian).

Iran's media and activists criticize Turkey's Kobani stance

As social activists in Iran gathered for a demonstration against the Turkish government’s policy toward the situation in Kobani, both Reformist and Principlist media outlets have started criticizing the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both events have highlighted the existing differences between the approaches of the Iranian government and that of Turkey regarding the crisis in Syria. Since Oct. 15, there has been an increase in the number of demonstrations by social activists in support of the people of Kobani, a northern Syrian city bordering Turkey. Al-Monitor was present at the demonstration in front of the United Nations’ office on Shahrzad’s Boulevard in Tehran and estimates that about 1,000 people were present. Well-known leftist personalities such as Fariborz Raisdana and Morad Farhadpoor were also present. These demonstrations are usually organized either by activists with socialist tendencies or by the Kurdish activists who live in Tehran. The demonstration was peaceful but radical, and violent slogans were uttered by the participants against the government of Turkey. “Down with the fascist government of Turkey” and “Down with Erdogan” were among the slogans chanted by the demonstrators. Mahsa, a woman who had taken part in the demonstration and was holding pictures of Kobani’s children, said to Al-Monitor, “Turkey’s policy is really disgusting. What Erdogan did in Kobani, or better yet what he didn’t do, badly damaged Turkey’s reputation. I’m here to ask Turkey to change its policy so Kobani can prevail” (Source: Al-Monitor).

How Russia's Putin used the Ukraine crisis to consolidate his dictatorship

The war in Ukraine is no longer only about Ukraine. The conflict has transformed Russia. This increasingly is what European leaders and diplomats believe: that Vladimir Putin and his security establishment have used the fog of war in Ukraine to shroud the final establishment of his brittle imperialist dictatorship in Moscow. Among those who believe that this is happening, and that Europe will be facing down a more menacing Russia for a long time to come, is Radek Sikorski, who was Poland’s foreign minister from 2007 until September. “I think psychologically the regime has been transformed by the annexation of Crimea,” Sikorski told Politico Magazine. “This was the moment that finally convinced all doubters and turned all heads. This was Napoleon after Austerlitz. This was Hitler after the fall of Paris. This was the moment that finally centralized everything into the hands of Vladimir Putin.” Sikorski is formerly a glamorous figure in Brussels who played a leading role in shaping the European Union strategy toward both Russia and Ukraine. European leaders, intimidated by his charisma and outspoken views on Russia, chose not to appoint him as Europe’s high representative for foreign affairs earlier this year. Today Sikorski is the hawkish speaker of the Polish parliament, and he says that the West has been so distracted by the crisis in Ukraine it has missed the more important developments further east. “What is happening now is the full embrace of neo-imperialism,” Sikorski says. “They have exploited every post-Soviet and neo-Soviet atavism and made it real because an alarming proportion of the population believes it. This is how they have refueled their regime” (Source: Politico).

Sweden Wants to Know Who Is Speaking Russian in the Baltic Sea

Last Thursday, Swedish intelligence agents intercepted an “emergency radio call” in Russian. The next day, another radio transmission was heard and a “foreign vessel” was seen in Swedish waters. Ever since, the Swedish military has been on a wild submarine chase, coordinating both naval and air forces to find this mysterious vessel in the Baltic Sea. While this only became public knowledge last week, the Swedish militaryrevealed over the weekend that it had been “monitoring suspicious activity in the area for several years.” The transmissions were reportedly sent to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania. Unsurprisingly, a Russian official says he has no idea what Sweden is so worried about; he thinks the vessel is Dutch. “On Sunday, October 19, the Russian Defense Ministry provided assistance wherever possible to the Swedes in their unsuccessful search, saying that there were no incidents with Russian warships [in the Baltic Sea], including submarines,” an anonymous Russian Defense Ministry source told ITAR-TASS. “For easing tension in the Baltic Sea and saving Swedish taxpayers’ money, we would advise [Sweden] to request explanations from the Dutch Navy command.” The Dutch have denied that they own the mystery vessel. The Swedish military plans to continue the search for several more days. It is currently looking as far away as 44 miles from Stockholm for the vessel, and all forces are armed. According to AFP, the public has been barred from coming within six miles of the search and all non-essential air-travel has been halted (Source: The Atlantic).

Turkey Isn't Abandoning the Kurds

The PKK, a Turkish affiliate of the YPG, has been fighting the Turkish state since the 1980s, and is considered to be a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the EU. The fighters are worried they will be arrested if they use the official border crossing; others have reported that medical aid has been less than forthcoming. But Sado says it is impossible that Turkish authorities are unaware of the secret field hospital — he thinks they just look the other way. Sado and his colleagues have permission from the Turkish government to go back and forth between Kobani and Turkey, and many times they go through Turkish Army checkpoints — at times with the wounded fighters in the car. “They see us every day, they know the car we use,” Sado said, referring to his old Renault 12. “So they just wave us through.” While anonymous U.S. officials have criticized Turkey for not intervening militarily against the Islamic State in Kobani, Ankara announced on Oct. 20 that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its border to defend the besieged city. It has also moved aggressively on the humanitarian front — both opening its hospitals to Kurdish fighters, and providing for the 180,000 refugees who have fled into the country since the jihadist offensive began a month ago. These efforts are part of a struggle between the government and Kurdish political parties for public support: While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan still hopes to leave behind a successful peace deal between the PKK and the government as one of his major legacies, the process has been thrown in doubt after protests in early October by Turkish Kurds, who want Ankara to do more to save Kobani, turned violent (Source: Foreign Policy).

UK steps up aid to help Sierra Leone fight Ebola

Justine Greening, the international development secretary, is joining British troops heading to Sierra Leone to help with the fight against Ebola. The cabinet minister is due to fly out on Tuesday from RAF Brize Norton with about 100 soldiers from the Catterick-based 35 Squadron, 5 Armoured Medical Regiment and Royal Army Medical Corps. They will run an Ebola training academy alongside 90 personnel from 22 Field Hospital who left for Sierra Leone last week. Greening will visit the academy, as well as the site of a 92-bed treatment facility in Kerry Town which is in the final stages of construction. She said: “Halting the disease in west Africa is the most effective way of preventing Ebola infecting people here in the UK. That is why we are providing 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, sending vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing and training hundreds of health workers. “I look forward to seeing for myself how British army medics and engineers, as well as our humanitarian and health workers, are spearheading the UK’s efforts to contain and ultimately defeat Ebola.” The UK has pledged a £125m aid package, including support for 700 treatment beds, and is deploying a total of 750 military personnel, including the navy’s RFA Argus (Source: The Guardian).

Turkey to let Iraq Kurds join Kobane fight

Turkey will allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in Kobane, its foreign minister says. Mevlut Cavusoglu added that talks on the subject were continuing, but gave no further details. Tens of thousands of people from Kobane have fled months of fighting between besieging IS forces and Syrian Kurd defenders. Until now Turkey has refused to allow Kurdish fighters to cross into Syria. Turkey has been fearful of stoking separatist sentiment among its own Kurds. The government views the PKK, which has fought a decades-long campaign for greater autonomy in Turkey and has links with the Syrian Kurds defending Kobane, as a terrorist organisation. But Turkey has come under pressure from its own Kurdish population, and more widely, to allow fighters in to help push IS out of the town, which has become highly symbolic of the wider battle against IS. Only hours before Mr Cavusoglu’s announcement, the United States military said it had carried out air drops of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. The drops of supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq were “intended to enable continued resistance against Isil’s attempts to overtake Kobane,” Centcom said in a statement. IS is also referred to as Isil and Isis. Officials said three planes – C130 Hercules – were involved and 27 bundles were dropped. The planes returned safely. CentCom says US forces have conducted more than 135 air strikes against IS in Kobane since early October. On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not allow Kurdish fighters to receive any transfers of American arms (Source: BBC).

Russia expects more refugees from Ukraine over winter

Russia’s human rights ombudswoman has said the country should expect a new wave of displaced persons from Ukraine after the onset of winter, though a previous inflow has slowed down amid hopes of a lasting cease-fire. Russia had been “unprepared for such an unprecedented wave of refugees from a neighboring country,” rights ombudswoman Ella Pamfilova said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper published Monday. But she praised the administrations of several Russian regions for their efforts to accommodate the large numbers of people heading there from Ukraine. “Now the first wave of refugees has started to decline, and because people are inspired by a possible cease-fire, many have started to return,” she was quoted as saying. “But winter is coming, which would be hard to survive in the damaged, distressed Ukrainian regions,” Pamfilova told Rossiiskaya Gazeta. “So we should be prepared for a new wave of migration, and not only from Ukraine’s southeast.” Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine this summer over unpaid bills, and its Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the Reuters news agency last month that Moscow was trying to “freeze” Ukrainians during the winter. The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated that the number of displaced Ukrainians had more than doubled to 260,000 in early September from 117,000 one month earlier. Russia’s Federal Migration Service has made a higher estimate, saying that about 1 million of eastern Ukraine’s inhabitants moved to Russia by late September, including about 201,000 who have requested temporary asylum (Source: The Moscow Times).

EU ministers meet to coordinate Ebola response

European foreign ministers gather in Luxembourg Monday to try and formulate a coordinated EU response to the spread of the Ebola virus amid warnings the crisis has reached a “tipping point”. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ahead of the talks that the bloc should consider sending “a civilian EU mission” to west Africa, the focal point of the epidemic. “This would offer a platform to member states” to send medical staff to the region, Steinmeier said at a health forum in Berlin. One EU diplomat said Britain — which already has a navy ship bound for Sierra Leone laden with medical staff and supplies — hoped to “galvanise EU action on Ebola”. “There is a real sense that this is a tipping point and we must get to grips with it now,” said the diplomat. “If we can deal with it in the country, we don’t have to deal with it at home.” Another diplomat said there are plans for three nations to share efforts to spearhead global aid to the worst-hit countries: the United States for Liberia, Britain for Sierra Leone and France for Guinea. A global UN appeal for nearly $1 billion (€785 billion) has so far fallen short, with only $385.9 million given by governments and agencies, and a further $225.8 million promised. The ministers will meet hours after it was announced that a Spanish nurse who was the first person outside Africa to be infected had tested negative for the virus. Madrid announced on Sunday that Teresa Romero, a nurse hospitalised on October 6, has tested negative for the virus. The 44-year-old will have to undergo a second test before she can officially be declared free of Ebola, the Spanish government said. Romero contracted the tropical fever after caring for two Ebola patients who died at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, in the first known case of transmission outside Africa (Source: France24).