Ukraine’s rebel region bids farewell to slain warlord

Servicemen walk next to the flag-draped coffin of Mikhail Tolstykh, a leading commander of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, during his funeral ceremony in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2017

Ukraine’s rebel region bids farewell to slain warlord

DONETSK: Thousands of Ukrainians stood in line with flowers on Friday in the separatist fiefdom of Donetsk to bid farewell to a field commander who was slain in a rocket attack on his office.
Kiev and the insurgents have traded blame for the death of Mikhail Tolstykh with investigators saying a portable rocket launcher was fired at his office in a suburb of Donetsk on Wednesday morning.
The 36-year-old whose nom de guerre was “Givi” was head of the powerful “Somali” battalion and a leading commander of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in the east of Ukraine.
Tolstykh’s body was laid out in the city’s opera theater with the battalion’s flag covering his closed coffin.
AFP reporters saw about 2,000 people — most of them pensioners and rebel fighters — line up with flowers and orange-and-black ribbons expressing their support for Russia to get inside the theater and say their final goodbyes.
Another well-known Donetsk military chief called Arseny Pavlov was killed in a bomb attack in October last year.
Several rebel commanders considered to be a threat to the separatist authorities — or those who have become too powerful — have been killed in car bombings and ambushes far from the scene of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Tolstykh took part in major battles with Ukrainian government forces in a conflict that has been going on for 33 months despite Western efforts to forge a truce.
He was born in eastern Ukraine and served in the army as a tank commander before working in various manual jobs and then joining the rebel cause when the war broke out in April 2014.
He and Pavlov — better known as “Motorola” — had been the most recognized faces among the rebels during the worst of the fighting.
They both starred in viral video clips from the combat zone and were often interviewed by Russian state channels.



More than 10,000 people have been killed since Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking eastern industrial regions revolted against Kiev’s pro-Western government after the ouster of the former Soviet republic’s Kremlin-backed president.


Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.

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