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Putin to discuss 2014 “State Defense Order”

MOSCOW /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will chair a meeting of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission on January 20, the Kremlin press service reported on Monday.

Putin and the commission members will consider preliminary results of implementation of the 2014 “State Defense Order” and the work of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research. They will also discuss the development of the 2016-2025 state arms program.

The Russian president will visit the Central Scientific Research Institute of Precision Machine-Building to see an exhibition of the Foundation for Advanced Research.

The current Military-Industrial Commission was established by a presidential decree on September 10, 2014 after the disbandment of the previous Military-Industrial Commission that had operated under the Russian government.

The Commission is a permanently functioning body with vast responsibilities for supervising the distribution and implementation of the "State Defense Order."

Russian Defense Minister flies to Iran for signing military cooperation agreement

MOSCOW/TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has left for Iran on an official visit for signing a military cooperation agreement.

“While in Tehran Shoigu will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehgan,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

“Crucial issues of global and regional security and measures to step up military and technical cooperation will be discussed at the meeting,” he said.

A military cooperation agreement is to be signed.

Previously, Shoigu and Dehgan met on the sidelines of the third Moscow conference on international security in May 2014. They noted the need for tighter defense cooperation, which, Shoigu said, “has always been of importance” to bilateral relations.

For his part Dehgan said Iran was interested in “propelling cooperation with Russia to a new level.”

Last autumn Shoigu paid his first-ever visit to Pakistan and signed a military cooperation agreement with that country. The Russian defense minister and his Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Asif, discussed “a range of measures of specific interest.”

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Sending More Troops and Artillery to Aid Rebels

MOSCOW — In as clear a sign as any of the unraveling peace process in eastern Ukraine, the authorities in Kiev accused Russia on Monday of again sending regular army soldiers into Ukraine to prop up pro-Russian separatists who were losing a battle.

About 700 soldiers crossed Russia’s western border into the snowy war zone in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council said in a statement that was not possible to verify independently.

They came armed with a wide array of heavy weapons, Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk told journalists in Kiev, the capital. The country’s intelligence agencies “confirm that men and equipment entered from Russia,” he said. Howitzers and other artillery and antiaircraft systems were said to have crossed the border.

“These items cannot be bought in a market in Donetsk or the Russian Federation,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said. “They can only come from the stock of the Russian Defense Ministry.”

The accusation followed a weekend of escalating and bloody mayhem alarming even by the standards of eastern Ukraine.

After first being partly pushed from the ruins of the main terminal of the Donetsk airport last week, the Ukrainian military counterattacked with tanks over the weekend and claimed to have recaptured all the lost ground.

At least four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and scores wounded in the fighting, and human rights groups in Donetsk were investigating reports that up to 10 civilians had been killed by stray shells.

Beyond the immediate conflict zone, an explosion outside a courthouse in Kharkiv, another eastern city, wounded 12 people in the latest in a string of politically hued bombings and assassinations in eastern Ukraine that the authorities have labeled terrorist acts.

Bombs have detonated in centers where volunteers collect goods for the army, in bars frequented by activists who support Ukraine’s government and outside hospitals treating wounded soldiers.

On Sunday, an unexplained explosion destroyed nine parked cars in a district of Kiev.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine on Monday of making a disingenuous offer to reinstate the cease-fire negotiated on Sept. 5. The ministry said the authorities in Kiev had first ignored peace overtures in a letter from President Vladimir V. Putin that was sent late last week. Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko, proposed an immediate recommitment to a cease-fire in the east. “Ukraine is ready to sign a cease-fire agreement if the sides stick to the Minsk accords,” he said, referring to the talks in Belarus that led to the cease-fire. “Ukraine wants peace.”

Both sides in the conflict concede that what they are now fighting over is chiefly a symbol, and a battered, ugly one at that: the ruins of the airport.

For the Ukrainians, the airport forms the army’s toehold in the rebel capital city, Donetsk, illustrating to residents there that a breakaway region will never really be viable or independent.

For Russia, the continual rebel efforts to seize the ruins achieve substantially the same goal: highlighting the perpetual state of insecurity Ukraine will live in, so long as Russia’s interests are not reckoned with. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement over the weekend saying Ukraine should voluntarily hand over the airport to separatist control.

European foreign ministers meeting Monday opted to keep economic sanctions against Russia in place, despite suggestions in an internal European Union policy document leaked last week that European nations should seek to revive some cooperation with Russia.

Fighters with the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of the separatist forces, seized control of the airport’s runway and taxiways last week, according to Ukrainian accounts, while the terminal buildings were the setting of bitter, close combat. Pro-Russian groups controlled the second floor and above in the main terminal building, while the Ukrainian forces held lower floors and access tunnels. Stairwells and even holes in the floors became front lines.

In the tank assault on Sunday, Ukraine’s army claimed to have expelled the separatists from the runway, allowing the army to move new forces into the terminal and evacuate casualties.

That success soon led to a reversal. Ukrainian and separatist authorities both reported Monday that the separatists had collapsed the second floor in an explosion, wounding or killing an unknown number of Ukrainians below.

Yuri Biryukov, an adviser to Mr. Poroshenko, wrote on Facebook that “the debris fell on the fighters” and that “there are many wounded.”

Despite the Ukrainian claims, there was no indication on Monday that newly arrived Russian forces were involved in the battle for the airport.
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