02 May 14. Ukrainian helicopters shot down as Kiev launches offensive. Two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down on Friday morning as government forces launched a military offensive in Slavyansk, the eastern separatist-held city where armed pro-Russia militia have taken several people hostage. Government officials, pro-Kiev and pro-separatist media, and online social networks reported that the operation got under way early in the morning. Slavgorod.com.ua, a Russian-language Ukrainian news website based in Slavyansk, said that an “active phase” of Kiev’s “antiterrorist operation” had begun at 4:30am, when automatic gunfire was heard and alarms sounded in the city, north of the regional capital Donetsk. Helicopters were seen circling over the town, and battles had broken out at several of the roadblocks pro-Russia militants have erected around the city since the outbreak of unrest last month, the site reported. Yuriy Povkh, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, said on television that the two Ukrainian helicopters had been shot down by “terrorists”. “Let’s not call them separatists any more,” he said.
The Novosti Donbassa local news site tweeted a picture that it said showed the pilot of one of the helicopters being taken away by masked men in uniforms. Photographs showed gunmen digging into their entrenched positions within Slavyansk in preparation for a possible advance by Ukrainian security forces. “There are real battles under way with professional mercenaries,” Aresen Avakov, interior minister, said in a Facebook posting. “The terrorists are hiding behind the peaceful people of Slavyansk. They are firing from residential buildings.” (Source: FT.com)
30 Apr 14. Japanese naval chief pushes for better ties with India. Japan wants closer defence ties with the new Indian government that will take power after 16 May, the chief of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) said at the recent Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) held in Qingdao, northeastern China. “The Indian Navy [IN] is keen and willing [for closer co-operation] but Indian politics is very complicated,” Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano told reporters on 22 April. He hinted that China’s concern at stronger naval ties between India and Japan had prevented the outgoing Congress Party-led federal coalition from forging a stronger military relationship with Tokyo. He added that he hoped the incoming administration would shed this diffidence. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
29 Apr 14. Russia signals Black Sea fleet expansion plans. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the country’s government and Defence Ministry to draft a development programme for the Black Sea Fleet by 1 June. A statement issued by the Russian presidential executive office read: “The government of the Russian Federation together with the Ministry of Defense are to work out a programme for the development of the Black Sea Fleet.” The latest plan follows the recent termination of pacts that were signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2010, in the wake of the current political uprisings in Ukraine and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. “The government of the Russian Federation together with the Ministry of Defense are to work out a programme for the development of the Black Sea Fleet.” The Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered in Sevastopol, Crimea. In 2010 Ukraine extended the lease of the naval base to 2042, and had agreed to modernise the fleet in October 2011. However, the 1997 lease accord does not allow Russia to increase the number of combat ships or modernise its weaponry at the base. As part of the earlier agreements, Russia had paid $530m a year to the Ukrainian Government for the base, and dismissed $100m of its debt for the right to use Ukrainian sea. Last month Russian forces reportedly took control of another Ukrainian naval base in Crimea, soon after attacking a headquarters in the port of Sevastopol. (Source: naval-technology.com)
28 Apr 14. The Washington Examiner on Friday outline