Ukraine: Archive 1

Last Updated September 18, 2016

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New York Times

Shaky Start to Ukraine’s Military Push Amid Frayed Geneva Deal

April 23, 2014

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — While Russia and the United States traded warnings and accusations over developments Wednesday in Ukraine, the promised Ukrainian military effort to reassert control over the restive eastern part of the country got off to a halting start, and the international agreement reached last week in Geneva that was meant to defuse the crisis in the country frayed even further. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry in Kiev said that it had flushed armed separatists out of Sviatogorsk, a town in the east near the stronghold of pro-Russian militants in Slovyansk, and that no one was hurt in the operation.

But a Ukrainian military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the presence of the armed anti-Kiev opposition in the city had been minimal. “You cannot say that there had been a powerful outburst of separatism there,” he said. At a Ukrainian military base near Kramatorsk, a short drive from Slovyansk, there was no sign on Wednesday that the government troops there were taking any action. The road leading to the main gate of the base was blocked by several rows of barricades constructed from tires, barbed wire and felled trees, with a small checkpoint flying a separatist flag.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

 Reuters

“Murdered” Ukraine politician faced hostile mob, video shows

April 23, 2014

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 23 (Reuters) – The Ukrainian town councillor whose apparent torture and murder helped to prompt a threatened new government offensive in the east was mobbed by a hostile, pro-Russian crowd before he disappeared, a video of the incident shows. The apparent murder of Volodymyr Rybak and a second man prompted the European Union to call on Russia to use its influence to stop kidnappings and killings in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, scene of separatist rebellions against Kiev’s leaders. Ukraine’s security service said a rogue officer and a member of Russian military intelligence were involved in Rybak’s killing.

The footage from April 17 on local news site gorlovka.ua shows angry scenes outside the town hall of Horlivka, between the separatist flashpoint cities of Donetsk and Slaviansk, as Rybak is manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse. Rybak had tried to remove the flag of the separatist Donetsk Republic, the website said. “Over my dead body will you take down that flag,” one man in plain clothes yells at Rybak as the politician tries to gain entry to the town hall. Two uniformed policemen appear in the video, though only one appears to intervene – ineffectually. After several minutes, Rybak appears able to walk away. Ukraine’s interior ministry said he was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage later that day. His body was found on Saturday near Slaviansk.

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SOURCE = Reuters

ITV

Kiev continues ‘anti-terror operations’ in eastern Ukraine

April 23, 2014

Armed pro-Russian separatists have been ‘flushed’ out of a town in eastern Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry has said. “During the anti-terrorism operation by special forces, the town was freed,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website. It said the operation took place on the outskirts of the town of Sviatogorsk and that no one was injured. There have been no previous reports of gunmen in the town, which lies just outside the stronghold of pro-Russian militants in Slaviansk.

Copyright 2014 ©: ITV News

bbc

Ukraine alert as politician killed

April 22, 2014

Ukraine’s acting president has ordered the relaunch of military operations against pro-Russian militants in the east after two men, one a local politician, were “tortured to death”. Olexander Turchynov said the body of politician Volodymyr Rybak was found near rebel-held Sloviansk. “The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far,” he said. The move came as US Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting Ukraine. As he met Ukrainian leaders in Kiev, Mr Biden called on Russia to “stop talking and start acting” to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

The US and the West accuse Russia of using undercover military to back separatists in eastern Ukraine, where public buildings are occupied in at least nine cities and towns. Russia denies involvement. Mr Biden warned Russia that further “provocative behaviour” would lead to “greater isolation” and urged Moscow to end its alleged support for pro-Russian militants. In remarks to Ukrainian MPs, Mr Biden said the US stood with Ukraine’s new leaders against “humiliating threats” – an apparent reference to Russia.

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SOURCE = BBC News

4 News

Ukraine gun battle shatters Easter truce – but who did it?

April 20, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists blamed a Ukrainian faction, which in turn pointed the finger at Moscow over the shooting. The separatists said the Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector attacked them. But the Right Sector insisted Russian special forces were behind the clash. The exact death toll also differed, with Reuters reporting two bodies were seen, while fighters claimed the numbers of dead and wounded were greater. As a result of the clash, Moscow questioned Kiev’s commitment to the Geneva deal to bring the stand-off in eastern Ukraine to an end. On Friday, the Ukrainian government threatened to move against the pro-Russian groups after the Easter weekend. But ministers promised a truce in the meantime. And there were hopes that the situation could be resolved. Regardless of who was behind it, Sunday’s fighting has made that a more remote possibility.

“People jumped out of Jeeps and started shooting at us. They threw stun grenades. Our people started running in various directions when somebody shouted ‘down’,” said one pro-Russian witness. The activist Vladimir added: “A sniper was shooting those who tried to run into the village. The first who ran was killed by a sniper right away, then there was a second dead. There was another man, he was crawling, he wouldn’t get up, he was just lying there waiting for a miracle. “I cannot imagine what would happen if those four vans would pass through (the checkpoint) when people were getting ready to go to church, when they were just about to start celebrations, when everyone was certain there would be no attack.”
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SOURCE = Channel Four News

RT

No reason why things with West can’t be normal again – Putin

April 19, 2014

Russia sees no reason why its relationship with the West can’t normalize, President Putin said amid growing tension between the opposing camps over the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine. “You know, it doesn’t depend on us, or rather on us alone. It depends on our partners. I believe there is nothing hindering normalization and normal cooperation,” the Russian president told Rossiya channel’s news show “Sergey Brilev’s News on Saturday”. Vladimir Putin added that he is on good terms with former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was selected to replace NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in October. “He is a very serious and responsible man. We’ll see how the relationship will develop in his new capacity,” Putin said, according to a pre-broadcast transcript of the interview cited by news agencies.

The comments came after interviewer, Brilev, asked Putin whether he and Stoltenberg had had any incidents in the past similar to Rasmussen’s taping of a private conversation with Putin. The Russian president shared his memories of the episode on Thursday during his annual Q&A session on TV. While NATO initially said nothing of the kind ever happened, it was revealed later that the taping actually took place in 2002, as recounted by documentary filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen, who directed a film on Rasmussen. In the Saturday interview Putin discussed the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, which he confirmed earlier on Thursday. The troops provided security as the peninsula was voting in a referendum to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Kiev calls Easter truce in east

April 19, 2014

Ukraine’s foreign minister has said that operations against pro-Russian militants in the east of the country have been suspended over Easter. Andriy Deshchytsia told the BBC the security services would resume military action if the separatists continued to occupy government offices. They are refusing to leave buildings in several cities, defying an agreement reached on Thursday to ease the crisis. The US has threatened more sanctions if Russia fails to abide by the agreement. The Kremlin responded by accusing the White House of treating Moscow like a “guilty schoolboy”. In a separate development, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would award medals to Russians who took part in the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine last month.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Deshchytsia said the aim of the military operation in the east was to “bring life back to normal and protect the population”, but it would be stopped over Easter. “The anti-terrorist operation was put on hold for the Easter time and we will be not using force against them at this moment,” he said. The Ukrainian foreign minister added that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was willing to start a negotiation process with the separatists. In response to separatist calls for pro-European protesters in Kiev to also vacate sites they were occupying, he said that those camped in the capital’s Maidan Square had “asked permission from the city council” and their camp was therefore not an “illegal occupation”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Russia Herald

Ukrainian government ready for constitutional reforms: PM

April 18, 2014

Ukraine’s government is prepared to conduct constitutional changes, granting more say to local governments on budget and tax policy and giving the Russian language a special status to overcome the current crisis in the country, Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said here Friday. “The Ukrainian government is ready to conduct comprehensive constitutional reform that will strengthen the regions’ powers,” Xinhua quoted Yatsenyuk as saying in a televised address to the nation. Within the framework of reform, he said, Kiev would give executive powers to locally elected officials in place of those currently appointed by central government.

He also promised to amend the country’s budget and tax codes in a bid to transfer economic and financial powers to the regional governments. “We will accord special status to the Russian language and protect this language.” At present, millions of Ukrainians speak Russian as a first language in regions where Russian-speakers form a majority, while some other languages are spoken in certain parts of Ukraine, notably Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak in the west. Constitutional reform on decentralisation is one of the key demands of pro-Russian protesters, who seized several government buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities.

Copyright 2014 ©: Russia Herald

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bbc

Ukraine crisis: Deal to ‘de-escalate’ agreed in Geneva

April 17, 2014

Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union have said that all sides have agreed to steps to “de-escalate” the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Their foreign ministers were speaking at the end of talks between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US in the Swiss city of Geneva. Analysts say the outline agreement could stay economic sanctions the West was preparing to impose on Russia. Ukraine has been in crisis since its pro-Moscow president was toppled. Russia then annexed the Crimean peninsula – part of Ukraine but with a Russian-speaking majority population – in a move that provoked international outrage. This was followed by the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists opposed to the new order in the capital Kiev.

Following the Geneva talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said there was agreement that all illegal military formations in Ukraine must be dissolved, and that everyone occupying buildings must be disarmed and leave them. They added that there would be an amnesty for all anti-government protesters under the agreement, and talk of “inclusivity” – possibly a suggestion that Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine might be granted more autonomy. These steps will be overseen by monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). US President Barack Obama called the deal promising, but said the question remained whether Russia would now use its influence – previously exerted “in a disruptive way” – to restore order in Ukraine. “I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” he said at a press briefing in Washington on Thursday evening.

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

Lavrov: Russia, US, EU, Ukraine agree on de-escalation roadmap

April 17, 2014

Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine have adopted a joint document on the de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, after talks in Geneva. It calls for all illegal armed groups to lay down arms and a wide amnesty. The document calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable,” Lavrov said. The most important agreement reached during the talks, according to Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start of true constitutional reform.” “Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists at the Thursday briefing. “An amnesty for all the protesters must take place, except of those who committed grave crimes,” the Foreign Minister added.

The issue of illegal armed groups and seized buildings concerns all the regions of Ukraine, Lavrov stressed. “It is impossible to solve the problem of illegally seized buildings in one region of Ukraine when the illegally seized buildings are not freed in another,” he said. “Those who took power in Kiev as a result of a coup – if they consider themselves as representing the interests of all the Ukrainians – must show the initiative, extend a friendly hand to the regions, listen to their concerns, and sit down with them at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said. Lavrov said the document does not give any guidelines on the future political system of Ukraine. “We did not use any terms… There are federations where the rights of the regions are limited, and there are unitary states in name only where the regions have broad authority,” he explained. The goal of the meeting was to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they are responsible for stability in the country and must ensure that “each region can protect its history and language,” Lavrov stressed.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

NBC News

Ukraine Invasion Unlikely as Russia Achieves Goals: General

April 17, 2014

Russia has staged tanks, fighter jets and an estimated 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. But don’t expect them to charge across and start a conventional war — Russia is already achieving what it wants by causing chaos. That’s the read from a retired Army general. “I think Putin’s smarter than to have an invasion,” Gen. Montgomery Meigs told NBC News, referring to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. “He has the whip hand with all his special-ops guys running around firing up the Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.” The Ukrainian government is trying to establish control over the east, where pro-Russian militants have seized government buildings in at least nine cities — a sort of slow-motion invasion from within. On Wednesday, Ukraine sent troops into the city of Kramatorsk, near where “Russian sabotage groups” commandeered six armored personnel carriers and flew the Russian flag from them.

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Russian, European and Ukrainian counterparts on Thursday in Geneva. Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, “We want the Russian to call for armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine to stand down and disarm,” said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman. “Any destabilization that’s going on inside Ukraine right now is a direct result of Russian action there.” Russia has already annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Putin’s goal now, according to Meigs: Further destabilize the country, making it impossible to govern and scaring Ukraine from pursuing closer ties with the West. “Why risk the negatives of a conventional military fight if he can subvert the thing?” the general said. “Everything falls his way. And he scares the willies out of all the border countries.”

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SOURCE = NBC News

Russia Herald

Diplomats agree on steps to end Ukraine violence

April 17, 2014

GENEVA, Switzerland – Crisis in Ukraine headed for a solution Thursday after top diplomats from the United States, European Union, Russia and the east European nation reached an agreement on immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions and ensure the security of all Ukrainians. The diplomats at the end of a meeting in Geneva issued a joint statement, urging all illegal armed groups to be disarmed, all illegally seized buildings to be returned to legitimate owners, and occupied public spaces to be vacated. The statement ended the emergency talks that lasted several hours between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his acting Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens,” the joint statement said.

“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions.” The joint statement calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable”, Lavrov told reporters. The sides also agreed that monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe oversee the implementation of the agreed steps in Ukraine. Kerry said the sides had worked hard to narrow the differences between them and resolve the Ukrainian crisis that has left the leaders in Kiev almost helpless in eastern towns largely controlled by pro-Russian separatists. In the southeastern city of Mariupol, a gang of 300 attacked a Ukrainian military base Thursday, leading to gunfire between the two sides. Three attackers were killed and 13 wounded as soldiers also detained 63 of them. But some soldiers surrendered.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

Mirror

Ukraine crisis: Russia President Vladimir Putin agrees to peace deal in bid to stop escalating violence

April 17, 2014

Russian and Ukrainian diplomats have thrashed out a fragile peace deal in a bid to stop escalating violence which saw three people killed today. The tentative agreement came tonight after seven hours of top-level talks in Geneva also involving officials from the US and the EU. The treaty calls for an end to violence and intimidation in Ukraine and demands an end to the illegal occupation of buildings and squares. It also urges fighters on both sides to disarm, offering an amnesty from prosecution for those who agree unless they have committed serious violent offences. Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: “We have no desire to send our troops into Ukraine. This is against our core interests.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the agreement had to be followed by concrete steps towards peace. He said: “We are the first to understand and agree that words on paper will only mean what the actions taken as a result of those words produce. “If there is not progress over the course of these next days then there will be additional sanctions, additional costs as a consequence.” However, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk admitted lack of trust between his country and Russia could scupper the deal.

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SOURCE = The Mirror

Russia Beyond the Headlines

What are the options for de-escalation in Ukraine?

April 17, 2014

“De-escalation” these days seems to be the most widely used word in international politics but concurrently the hardest to realize. It appears to mean different things to different parties to the Ukraine crisis. Possible scenarios depend on the interpretation of what de-escalation really means, say most experts. The West wants Russia to de-escalate what it sees as its encouragement of disturbances in the largely ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. To Russia these disturbances are a popular reaction to the escalation of nationalist and anti-Russian rhetoric in Kyiv, which is beginning to translate into forceful suppression of what Moscow sees as the legitimate rights of the local population.

So de-escalation, as President Putin told Chancellor Merkel over the phone, amounts to talks to return the situation to one of peaceful cooperation. But Kyiv is caught between far too many influences from all sides, says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States. “If the decisions were down just to the acting president Turchynov and acting Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, it would be easier to offer possible scenarios of future developments. But they are under pressure from Washington, Brussels, Moscow and even Maidan. It’s not easy to move in any direction in such circumstances.”

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Military column ‘seized’ in Kramatorsk

April 16, 2014

Pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine have seized six Ukrainian armoured vehicles, the defence ministry in Kiev says. Reports say the occupants were disarmed after the vehicles were blockaded by locals in the city of Kramatorsk. The incident comes a day after the military began an operation to remove pro-Russian protesters from public buildings across eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, Nato is increasing activity in member states bordering Russia. After Ukrainian forces recaptured an airfield outside Kramatorsk on Tuesday, armoured vehicles appeared in the centre of the town early on Wednesday. BBC journalists witnessed civilians, at least some of whom appeared to be local people, challenging soldiers, who were also blocked by a crowd a few kilometres outside the town.

One officer said he had not “come to fight” and would never obey orders to shoot his “own people”. “A column was blocked by a crowd of local people in Kramatorsk with members of a Russian diversionary-terrorist group among them,” the defence ministry said its statement. The military vehicles were then taken to Sloviansk where they are being held by “people in uniforms who have no relation to Ukraine’s armed forces,” the ministry said. The Ukrainian troops appear to have been disarmed before being fed by pro-Russian militants at a cafe in Sloviansk and then put on a bus back to their home city of Dnipropetrovsk.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Reuters

Russian military activity increases near Ukraine border since last week

April 16, 2014

VALUYKI, Russia, April 16 (Reuters) – Russia has increased its military activity near the border with Ukraine markedly since late last week, a Reuters reporting team said after making return visits to the frontier zone where NATO says Moscow has amassed 40,000 troops. Russia’s military moved equipment and weaponry around the border area on Wednesday but there was no clear evidence they were preparing either to pull back or advance. Russia has put thousands of troops near the border for what Moscow says are routine exercises but which NATO says is an attempt to intimidate Ukraine’s Western-backed government by holding out the threat of an incursion. U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called on Russian leader Vladimir Putin to pull back the forces, saying diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Ukraine “cannot succeed in an environment of Russian military intimidation on Ukraine’s border.”

A Reuters team went independently to three locations where Russian units are temporarily deployed, first visiting at the end of last week and again on Wednesday. On the second visit on Wednesday there was a marked increase in activity, with more military trucks on the roads in the area, and more service personnel in evidence at the deployment sites. At one location, in open country near the village of Valuyki, in Belgorod region about 20 km from the Russian-Ukrainian border, a squadron of Mi-24 attack helicopters that was there on Friday had flown away. Local people said the helicopters left on Monday evening. But at the same site new forces had arrived. The Reuters reporters saw 10 large army tents and 20 trucks, significantly more than last week. The trucks had their hoods up and soldiers were inspecting the engines.

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bbc

Ukraine says Donetsk ‘anti-terror operation’ under way

April 16, 2014

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has announced the start of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists. He told parliament it was being conducted “stage by stage, in a responsible… manner”. Hours later, gunfire was heard at an airbase which officials said had been in the hands of militants. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the escalation of the conflict had put Ukraine “on the verge of civil war”. The Kremlin said Mr Putin made the warning in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It said that both leaders “emphasised the importance” of planned talks in Geneva on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU. Mr Turchynov said the airbase at Kramatorsk had been “liberated” from “terrorists”. Pro-Russian rebels have seized buildings in about 10 towns and cities across Ukraine’s eastern provinces, its industrial heartland. Thousands of Russian troops are reported to be deployed along the border, kindling fears that any crackdown on the rebels could trigger an invasion.

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SOURCE = BBC News

New York Times

General and Former Defense Official Urge Nonlethal Military Aid for Ukraine

April 15, 2014

WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s military has an urgent need for nonlethal military assistance like body armor, night-vision goggles, communications gear and aviation fuel to defend against a potential Russian attack, according to a new analysis by a former NATO commander and a former Pentagon official. But wary of provoking Russia, the Obama administration has been reluctant to provide it, they say. “Implementation of U.S. nonlethal military aid is seriously flawed and needs immediate correction,” Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Phillip A. Karber wrote in a copy of the report that The New York Times obtained on Tuesday. General Clark, who is retired, is the former NATO commander who led the alliance’s forces during the 1998 Kosovo conflict, and Mr. Karber is a former strategy adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

The new interim government in Ukraine submitted a request to NATO nations last month for military assistance, including vehicles, mine-clearing equipment, communications gear, medical supplies, fuel and the sharing of intelligence. The United States has sent 300,000 M.R.E. — meals ready to eat — rations to Ukraine’s forces, but the Obama administration has made it clear that it is not planning to send weapons or other forms of so-called lethal aid for fear of provoking Russia.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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Russia calls on UN security council as Ukraine issues deadline to rebels

April 14, 2014

The United Nations security council held an emergency session on Sunday night to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine as the war of words between its western allies and Russia continued. Just hours before a deadline by Ukraine for pro-Russian separatists in eastern cities to disarm by Monday morning or face all-out attack, the security council convened at Russia’s request. Moscow called Kiev’s plans to mobilise the army “criminal”. Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, denied western and Ukrainian claims that Moscow was behind the violence, and told the meeting that Ukraine has been using radical neo-Nazi forces to destabilise its eastern region. “It is the west that will determine the opportunity to avoid civil war in Ukraine.

Some people, including in this chamber, do not want to see the real reasons for what is happening in Ukraine and are constantly seeing the hand of Moscow in what is going on,” Churkin said. “Enough. That is enough.” Churkin’s comments were a direct rebuke to US and its allies which continued on Sunday to link the Kremlin to the unrest in eastern Ukraine. His US counterpart Samantha Power told the meeting: “These armed units … raised Russian and separatist flags over seized buildings and have called referendums and union with Russia. We know who is behind this.” Britain’s UN ambassador said Russia had massed tens of thousands of well-equipped troops near the Ukrainian border in addition to the 25,000 troops it recently moved into Crimea, which Moscow effectively annexed last month.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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EuroNews

Key buildings in Ukraine’s eastern cities stormed by pro-Russian groups

April 13, 2014

Another official building has been seized by pro-Russian supporters in the east of Ukraine. Dressed in military fatigues the armed men seized the police headquarters in Kramatorsk on Saturday following a gun battle. Tension is rising between the new government in Kyiv and towns in the eastern region, with many buildings occupied by pro-Russian groups calling for independence from Ukraine. In Donetsk, the Ukrainian flag was taken down from the regional police headquarters and its chief forced to resign. Kyiv has blamed Moscow for the unrest, however, Russia denies any involvement.

Futher seizures of official buildings took place across the eastern region on Saturday. These small towns are strategic transport hubs. In Slovyansk just 140km from the Russian border, gunmen seized a police building and the local security service headquarters before raising the Russian flag. Ukrainian police say the men seized 400 handguns and 20 automatic weapons from the building. The occupations mark a potential flashpoint. If Ukraine uses force against them, the Kremlin could intervene to protect the Russian speaking population in the region.

Copyright 2014 ©:: Euronews

bbc

Nato alarm at east Ukraine violence

April 13, 2014

Ukraine’s president says a full-scale operation involving the army will be launched in the east after pro-Russian militants seized government buildings. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said he would not allow a repetition of what happened in Crimea which was annexed by Russia last month. His live televised address from parliament came after pro-Russian forces targeted half a dozen cities. Earlier, Nato’s secretary general voiced concern at events in the region. He drew parallels with some aspects of last month’s seizure of Crimea, saying that men reappearing with Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia was a “grave development.” Ukrainian authorities said they launched an “anti-terror operation” early on Sunday after armed men took over the city of Sloviansk. A Ukrainian officer was killed in a gun battle in the city, and there are reports the Ukrainian operation has been halted. But both sides suffered a number of casualties, interim Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said. Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of intimate involvement in the trouble, but the Kremlin denies the charge.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s statement released on Sunday notes that “the reappearance of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia, as previously worn by Russian troops during Russia’s illegal and illegitimate seizure of Crimea, is a grave development”. A Nato source told the BBC the organisation believed that “Russian forces have been involved in the seizure of some of the buildings”. And the US ambassador to the UN said the attacks on police and other buildings in eastern Ukraine had “telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement”. “It’s professional, co-ordinated. Nothing grass roots about it,” ambassador Samantha Power told ABC News. “The forces are doing in each of the six or seven cities they have been active in exactly the same thing.”

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

Ukraine’s Slavyansk under siege as Kiev orders crackdown on protests

April 13, 2014

Casualties were reported on both sides as gunfire broke out in Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, where anti-government protesters seized several buildings. The city is under siege as Kiev announced an “anti-terrorist operation” against the protesters. The shooting apparently erupted Sunday morning at a checkpoint, which was established by protesters Saturday evening on the outskirts of the city. Amid the skirmishes, Ukrainian helicopters were flying overhead. Local residents also said several transport helicopters landed at an old airfield some 5 kilometers from the town center. Troops wearing black uniforms disembarked and went toward Slavyansk. In the skirmishes, one of the troops from Kiev was killed and five others were injured, coup-appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov reported on his Facebook page, which he regularly uses to report on his ministry’s activities.

The officer killed was a member of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), he said, adding that among those injured is the commander of the SBU’s Anti-Terrorist Center. Avakov said that the protesters had also sustained casualties, but gave no further details. He accused them of using civilians as human shields. Reporters in Slavyansk said that some locals were present at the protester-held buildings and barricades, but said they were volunteers supporting the pro-independence cause. The Donetsk region health authorities said one person has been killed on a road connecting Slavyansk with Artyomovsk, and another five injured by gunshots in the city of Slavyansk. It was not immediately clear whether these casualties were the ones referred to earlier Sunday by Avakov. The protesters in Slavyansk said one person was killed and two others injured on their side. They also claimed that two of the Kiev troops were killed.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Armed pro-Russian protesters seize city in eastern Ukraine

April 13, 2014

Armed separatists took control of a city in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and Kiev prepared troops to tackle what it called an “act of aggression by Russia“, pushing the conflict between the neighbours into a dangerous new phase. Pro-Russian activists carrying automatic weapons seized government buildings in Slavyansk, a town about 90 miles from the Russian border, and set up barricades on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, the White House announced that vice president Joe Biden would travel to Kiev on 22 April to show support for the Ukrainian government. He will become the most senior US official to visit the country since the crisis began. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, spoke by telephone to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, according to the state department. An official said: “[Kerry] expressed strong concern that attacks today by armed militants in eastern Ukraine were orchestrated and synchronised, similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

“Militants were equipped with specialised Russian weapons and the same uniforms as those worn by the Russian forces that invaded Crimea. The secretary made clear that if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine’s border, there would be additional consequences.” In Kramatorsk, 80km to the north, gunmen seized the police station after a shootout with police, a Reuters witness said. An organised military unit of over 20 men wearing matching military fatigues and carrying automatic weapon took over the building at about 5pm GMT after arriving on at least two buses. Video footage showed the men taking orders from a commander and shooting from automatic rifles as they approached the building.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Kyiv says will provide evidence of Russia’s role in events in eastern Ukraine

April 13, 2014

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has pledged to provide proof of Russian special services’ involvement in the events in southeastern Ukraine at the upcoming four-party talks in Geneva between representatives of Russia, the European Union, the United States and Ukraine. “The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has ample proof of Russian special services’ role in the separatist rebellion and seizure of administrative buildings in eastern Ukraine. The relevant evidence and proof will be provided to the world community in Geneva on April 17,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said. It said the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council has made the decision to conduct an operation “against the current encroachment on our state.”

Copyright 2014 ©: Russia Beyond The Headlines

Reuters

Biden to visit Kiev to show U.S. support for Ukraine unity -White House

April 12, 2014

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kiev on April 22 to meet with government officials and civil society groups ahead of the Ukrainian presidential election in May, the White House said on Saturday. “The vice president will underscore the United States’ strong support for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path,” the White House said in a statement.

Copyright 2014 ©: Reuters

telegraph

Fears of full-scale Russian invasion as eastern Ukraine cities toppled

April 12, 2014

Fears of further Russian land-grabs in Ukraine grew on Saturday as pro-Kremlin gunmen mounted a series of co-ordinated assaults on police stations and security buildings. The operations came as Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Ukraine was “demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country”. In what many fear could be the prelude to a full invasion by Russian troops, masked men armed with Kalashnikovs and stun grenades seized two police stations and an intelligence headquarters in eastern Ukraine.

Believed to include professional soldiers in their ranks, the gunmen also set up checkpoints along local roads and began barricading the buildings. There were reports of gunfire, but no casualties. The operations followed a period of relative calm in eastern Ukraine, where the pro-Russian movement that had occupied a number of town hall buildings appeared to have lost momentum.

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SOURCE – The Telegraph

 

 

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bbc

Putin warns Europe of gas shortages over Ukraine debts

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April 10, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned European leaders that Ukraine’s delays in paying for Russian gas have created a “critical situation”. Pipelines transiting Ukraine deliver Russian gas to several EU countries and there are fears that the current tensions could trigger gas shortages. Pro-Russian separatists are holed up in official buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, a European human rights body has stripped Russia of voting rights. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitors human rights in 47 member states, including Russia and Ukraine. Protesting against Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month, PACE suspended Russia’s voting rights as well as Russian participation in election observer missions. The Russian delegation had boycotted the meeting. Its leader, Alexei Pushkov, described the proceedings as a “farce”.

Russian state gas giant Gazprom says Ukraine’s debt for supplies of Russian gas has risen above $2bn (£1.2bn; 1.4bn euros). Gazprom said on Wednesday it could demand advance payments from Kiev for gas but President Putin said the company should hold off, pending talks with “our partners” – widely believed to mean the EU. In a letter to European leaders, President Putin warned that the “critical” situation could affect deliveries of gas to Europe, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The letter released by the Kremlin says that if Ukraine does not settle its energy bill, Gazprom will be “compelled” to switch over to advance payment, and if those payments are not made, it “will completely or partially cease gas deliveries”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

The Moscow Times

Russia Warns Europe of Gas Supply Cuts Over Ukraine Debt

April 10, 2014

President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders on Thursday that Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe. In a letter to the leaders of 18 countries, he demanded urgent talks with Europe on pulling Ukraine’s economy out of crisis but made clear his patience was running out over Kiev’s $2.2 billion gas debt to its former Soviet master. His comments were Russia’s most explicit threat to cut off gas to its neighbor, a move that could worsen a dispute over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea that has resulted in the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War in 1991. “… Gazprom is compelled to switch over to advance payment for gas deliveries and in the event of further violation of the conditions of payment will completely or partially cease gas deliveries,” Putin said in the letter, sent to European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the largest consumer of Russian gas in the 28-nation European Union.

“Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure. We fully realize that this increases the risk of [Ukraine] siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine’s territory and heading to European consumers,” Putin wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters. Putin’s warning to Ukraine came as Russia was suspended from the parliamentary assembly of European human rights watchdog the Council of Europe on Thursday, in protest at Moscow’s behavior toward Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The 18 Russian parliamentarians who were suspended will not be able to vote in the 318-head assembly, have representation in its main committees or take part in its election observation missions. But the body, whose members come from 47 European states, stopped short of withdrawing their rights for good, arguing that would not help efforts to resolve the biggest crisis between the West and Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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SOURCE = The Moscow Times

bbc

У Сімферополі кримськотатарського хлопця побили за мову – (14 year old boy was beaten and had his nose broken for speaking Crimean Tatar on his phone in Simferopol)

April 9, 2014

Мешканці сімферопольського мікрорайону Ак-Мечеть зібралися з приводу побиття 14-річного кримськотатарського хлопця, якого, як стверджують його родичі, побили за те, що він розмовляв по телефону рідною мовою. Інцидент стався ще 31 березня близько п’ятої години вечора, коли хлопець повертався зі школи. Але широкому загалу про побиття стало відомо тільки після зборів у середу, 9 квітня. Мати хлопчика Асіє Муждабаєва розповіла журналістам каналу ATR, що її син перебуває у стресовому стані. Він не хоче спілкуватися з пресою. За її словами, на нього напали двоє невідомих, які спочатку ображали його через національність.

“Вони казали, що Крим – це Росія, що Крим не для кримських татар. “Вас всіх звідси гнати треба”. Коли мій син відповів, що їм треба вибирати слова, то вони вдарили і повалили його”, – розповіла мати. Лікарі діагностували у хлопця перелом носу і зробили операцію. 7 квітня його виписали. Батьки подали заяву до міліції. Мешканці мікрорайону обурені і вимагають в міліції знайти та покарати нападників. Речник кримської міліції Ольга Кондрашова сказала ВВС Україна, що поки нічого не знає про цей інцидент. Вона пообіцяла надати точну інформацію пізніше.

English

Residents Simferopol district Ak -mosque gathered about beating 14 -year-old Tatar guy , according to his family , beaten because he was talking on the phone in their native language . The incident occurred back on March 31 , about five o’clock , when the guy came back from school. But the general public about the beatings became known only after the meeting on Wednesday, April 9. The boy’s mother told reporters Asiye Muzhdabayeva channel ATR, her son is in a stressed state . He does not want to talk to the press . According to her, he was attacked by two strangers who first insulted him because of nationality .

” They said that the Crimea – a Russia that no Crimea Crimean Tatars .” All you need to drive here . ” When my son said that they have to choose words , they struck and knocked him” – said the mother. Doctors diagnosed the boy fractured nose and had surgery . April 7 he was discharged . Parents have applied to the police. Residents of the neighborhood are outraged and call the police to find and punish the attackers. Crimean police spokesman told the BBC Olga Kondrashov Ukraine that while he knew nothing about the incident. She promised to provide accurate information later.

SOURCE = BBC News

bloomberg

Putin Lacking Beachhead in East Ukraine as Stalemate Seen

April 9, 2014

It took Vladimir Putin just three weeks to annex Crimea. Figuring out what to do with eastern Ukraine might take him longer. Lacking the groundswell of support and direct military presence Russia marshaled near the base of its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, the probability of an outright invasion is below 50 percent, according to Eurasia Group and Teneo Intelligence. With Russia at risk of the full force of economic sanctions, Putin will be content to choke Ukraine’s economy and snarl its politics in the run-up to May 25 presidential elections. “An operation in eastern Ukraine would be very costly from the military point of view and its success is not guaranteed,” Ruslan Pukhov, an adviser to the Defense Ministry in Moscow and head of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said by phone yesterday. “It will be a much more complicated task than the Crimea operation. Crimea is a peninsula and almost an island which is easy to close and defend. Eastern Ukraine is a vast territory with transparent borders.”

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SOURCE = Bloomberg

RT

US destroyer Donald Cook enters Black Sea amid Ukraine tension (VIDEO)

April 10, 2014

USS Donald Cook, a destroyer equipped with the powerful Aegis missile defense system, has crossed through the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea, with Russia claiming that NATO is assembling a battle fleet in the region. Earlier, the US Defense Department said the ship’s mission was “to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners” following the events in Ukraine. “It demonstrates our commitment to our … allies to enhance security, readiness and capabilities,” spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said in a statement. But sources in the Russian military believe the move is part of a systematic build-up of naval forces.

“What we are seeing is that for the first time since 2008, NATO is creating a naval battle group outside the Russian borders,” a source told Interfax news agency, citing the entry of French reconnaissance ship Dupuy de Lome and destroyer Dupleix – both expected within the next week. The French rescue vessel Alize has been inside the Black Sea basin since late last month. “The purpose of this is to provide moral support for the regime in Kiev, but also as a demonstration of power to make Russia come to heel. But the ship will also collect information on Russian military activity in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border,” the source said. Russia’s Black Sea fleet is stationed in Sevastopol in Crimea, which was incorporated into Russia following a referendum last month.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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bbc

Ukraine in 48-hour ultimatum to east’s pro-Russia activists

April 9, 2014

Ukraine’s interior minister has warned pro-Russian activists who have taken over state buildings in eastern cities to enter talks to find a political solution or face “force”. Arsen Avakov said the situation would “be resolved in 48 hours” either way. Earlier, some of those who had been inside security service offices in Luhansk since Sunday left the building. The EU, Russia, US and Ukraine are to meet next week in the first four-way meeting since the crisis erupted. The talks are aimed at breaking the impasse since Russia annexed the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in February. Russian troops are now massed along the borders of the two countries. In another development on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested state-controlled energy company Gazprom should make Ukraine pay up front for its gas, but said there should be “additional consultations” first.

Tensions have been high since government buildings in the eastern cities of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv were taken over by pro-Russian activists on Sunday. Mr Avakov said an “anti-terrorist operation” was under way in the three regions and would be concluded within the next two days. “There are two options,” he told journalists, ” political settlement through talks or the use of force. “For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities.” The leader of the armed activists inside the state security service building in Luhansk has appealed to President Putin for help.

Calling Luhansk the “last remaining hope for all Ukraine”, the man identified only as Vitaly said: “Mr Putin, have mercy on your fighters. If you lose us then you will lose the last hope to create a good neighbour.” Earlier, Ukraine’s security service said 56 people held inside its Luhansk offices had been allowed to leave following two rounds of negotiations with local politicians. During a rally outside the building overnight, speakers condemned the interim leadership in Kiev and repeated their call for a referendum on greater regional autonomy. Ukraine’s authorities said on Tuesday they had retaken control of the government building in Kharkiv.

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

Kiev threatens force against eastern Ukraine protesters

April 9, 2014

Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister is threatening to resolve “in 48 hours” the situation in eastern regions where administrations of at least two cities are controlled by protesters demanding a nationwide referendum on the state structure. Arsen Avakov told journalists on Wednesday that the coup-imposed government is ready to use force in the mutinous eastern regions. “There are two solutions: a political one through negotiations or through force,” the minister said on the margins of a government meeting. “For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities,” he said as quoted by Reuters, adding that in his opinion a “solution to the crisis could be found within 48 hours.”

The minister informed that a special police task force from western regions of Ukraine has already arrived in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov, cities where protests against the new government in Kiev have been continuing for weeks now. On Monday, popular assemblies in Donetsk and Kharkov, where local administration headquarters were captured by protesters, declared independence from Ukraine and announced the creation of the independent Donetsk People’s Republic and Kharkov People’s Republic. Last night, the police force that arrived from Kiev managed to recapture the local administration in Kharkov, arresting approximately 60 activists and bringing them to a detention center in Kiev. Armed with automatic weapons and masked law enforcement officers stormed the building on early morning and cleared the central square of protesters. In Kharkov about 30 percent of policemen refused to storm the administration. Avakov has already announced that they will be fired.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

The Independent

Ukraine crisis: Leave or we’ll force you out, Interior Minister tells pro-Russian protesters

April 9, 2014

Ukraine’s Interior Minister has warned separatists occupying state buildings in its eastern regions to leave within two days or face forced eviction, risking the anger of Moscow which has warned against any violence towards pro-Russian protesters. Security forces have so far refrained from using force in the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, wary of warnings from Russia that military action remains on the table if ethnic Russians come under attack. But the Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, was clear that the occupations which began on Sunday would not be tolerated for much longer. “I want to repeat that there are two options: political settlement through negotiations and the use of force,” Mr Avakov told reporters. “We are ready for both options.” Ukrainian, British and American officials have blamed Russia for stoking unrest in the three cities, potentially to create a pretext for an incursion similar to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last month.

But the threat of force is not the only lever Russia wields: Ukraine is also heavily reliant on its neighbour for energy, raising fears Moscow could cut supplies as tensions escalate. Authorities in Kiev failed to meet a deadline earlier this week to start repaying a £1.3bn bill to Russian state energy firm Gazprom. The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said that there were now grounds for insisting on upfront payments – something Ukraine cannot afford. President Vladimir Putin, however, said he was willing to hold further consultations. “Taking into account the complex situation in Ukraine and the fact that we have not yet finished talks with the EU, I would ask Gazprom and the government to hold off on such a possibility,” he said.

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SOURCE = The Independent

The Mail UK

What gave her away? Russian social worker who posed with grenade launcher in floral dress is captured by Ukraine and accused of being a Moscow spy

April 9, 2014

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An 23-year-old ‘Russian spy’ has been detained in Ukraine amid claims Vladimir Putin is seeking to destabilise the country.  Ukrainian authorities say Maria Koleda was on her ninth mission to the ex-Soviet state, wounding three people with firearms and training two armed subversive groups. The detention comes on the fourth day of a stand-off in two cities, as Ukraine’s government warned it was prepared to use force against pro-Russian activists who barricaded themselves inside government buildings and begged Vladimir Putin for back-up. Authorities say Koleda, who was detained in the Kherson region bordering Crimea, was involved in a plot to ‘capture sensitive facilities’ including a hydropower plant. Photos of emerged of her in camouflage clothes stroking a kitten and in a floral dress clutching a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Russia annexed Crimea last month and the U.S. has accused the Kremlin of trying to do the same thing in eastern Ukraine by funding ‘provocateurs’ to stir unrest so it can invade.  Moscow has been accused before of using young female agents – notably the glamorous Anna Chapman, formerly married to a British man before being unmasked by the FBI in New York – in frontline intelligence operations. Koleda uses the nickname Bagheera online – thought to be based on the cunning black panther in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. She used firearms during unrest outside Mykolaiv Regional State Administration in southern Ukraine, in which she admitted ‘that she wounded three people’, said the SBU  (Ukraine’s secret service) in a lengthy statement naming Koleda. Kiev claimed she had orders from Russian intelligence to check places where Russian troops could penetrate from Crimea onto Ukraine’s mainland, ‘bypassing the checkpoints’.

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SOURCE = The Daily Mail

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telegraph

Ukraine crisis: four party talks announced

April 9, 2014

The United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine will meet at ministerial level next week to discuss Ukraine crisis, the EU said on Tuesday, offering a glimpse of possible diplomatic progress in the conflict. The meeting will involve US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. “[Baroness Ashton] continues the diplomatic efforts aiming at de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. In this context she will meet foreign ministers of the US, Russian Federation and Ukraine next week,” her spokeswoman said.

Further details of the meeting, which will be held at an unspecified location in Europe, are still being worked on. Separately, an EU diplomat said the EU plans to set up a special support group to help Ukraine stabilise its precarious economy and political situation. In a phone call on Monday, Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov had discussed convening direct talks in the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union to defuse tensions, the US State Department said. The EU’s confirmation of the meeting came soon after Kerry accused Russian agents and special forces of stirring separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow could be trying to prepare for military action as it had in Crimea.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

RT

Russian FM calls on Kiev, Washington to recognize interests of all Ukraine regions

April 8, 2014

Moscow is urging to provide for Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions to take part in the upcoming talks with Kiev, Russia, the US, and EU on the current crisis, says FM Sergey Lavrov. The project of a new constitution should be presented well before that. “We are ready for multilateral talks with the US, EU and Ukraine,” said Lavrov during a news conference in Moscow with his Angolan counterpart, Georges Rebelo Chicoti. Though the particular date of the talks has not been set up, Russia is ready to start negotiations within 10 days, Lavrov said. The southeastern regions of Ukraine should also take part in the negotiations, he said. Following the coup in Kiev, Ukraine’s southeast saw a wave of anti-Maidan, and in many cases also pro-Russian, rallies. In cities such as Kharkov and Donetsk, activists went as far as attempts to proclaim independence.

The coup-imposed government in Ukraine has not made any positive steps towards these regions, Lavrov said, saying that people there now “fear that their interests are being ignored by Kiev.” Meanwhile, the representatives from these regions should be not their governors, most of whom have been recently appointed by new authorities in Kiev, but the candidates for future presidential elections, he added. “These candidates have been approved by the political parties, they represent the legitimate power of Ukraine. They may finally start dialogue with Kiev authorities, under observation of the US, EU and Russia,” he said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

The Independent

Ukraine crisis: Nationalists dream of the Russian empire’s rebirth

April 8, 2014

Listening to the choir of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the sunshine at Yalta, Ilya Drozdov, a key figure in the Duma’s committee to “reintegrate” former Soviet states, confidently told me: “Crimea will join us within a few weeks, the east and the south within four or five months. “Remember Lenin, ‘Russia without Ukraine is like a body without a heart’. The only way those currently in power in Kiev stop this is by force and that will bring consequences.” The deputy head of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s right-wing party was wrong on the time frame: President Vladimir Putin signed the document to annex Ukraine just eight days later. In Simferopol, the Crimean capital, another Russian MP, Leonid Slutsky, was keen to quote Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter: “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, with Ukraine, it automatically turns into an empire.” The head of the committee on relations with former Soviet states said: “Some other parts of what they call Ukraine will join Russia soon, because people there want to; it is, of course, in the interest of the West to stop this happening, they will be using the so-called government in Kiev.”

These could be taken as the wishful drum-beating of ultra-nationalists. In the same speech in which he announced the annexation, Mr Putin stressed that Russian troops would not be going into other parts of Ukraine: this has been repeated since by the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. It has been repeatedly stated by Russia watchers that with the West seemingly accepting the Crimean fait accompli, it would be logical for the Kremlin to desist from further Ukrainian adventures. And yet, the latest protests in the east show far more organisation and determination compared with those of just a few weeks ago. They sing the same verses from the hymn sheet in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk; the call for a referendum and a plea for Russian “peacekeepers” to defend them. This strikes a chord with the repeated demands from Moscow that Ukraine should give a voice to the regions and adopt a federal structure and pledges that ethnic Russians will not be abandoned: the Kiev government does not need reminding that President Putin obtained authorisation from parliament to deploy troops not just for Crimea, but Ukraine.

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SOURCE = The Independent

Russia Herald

NATO tells Russia to ‘step back’ from eastern Ukraine

April 8, 2014

KIEV – NATO Tuesday warned Russia against intervening further in Ukraine, saying it would be a “historic mistake” even as Ukrainian forces said they had seized back control of the regional administration building in Kharkiv from pro-Russia separatists. In the Ukrainian parliament, a brawl erupted between lawmakers after the country’s communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine is the greatest challenge to Europe’s security in a generation.” He urged Russia to “step back and not escalate the situation in east Ukraine” while speaking to reporters in Paris, where he was attending a seminar on NATO reforms.

“If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine it would be a historic mistake. It would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia and it would further isolate Russia internationally,” Rasmussen said. “Any further move into eastern Ukraine would represent a serious escalation, rather than the de-escalation that we all seek,” he said. “We call on Russia to pull back the tens of thousands of troops it has massed on Ukraine’s borders, engage in a genuine dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities, and respect its international commitments,” he said. Reacting to Ukrainian forces clamping down on pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was concerned by reports that the protesters are facing a crackdown by Ukrainian authorities.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

CNN

Zakaria: Ukraine crisis very, very significant

April 8, 2014

Russia’s foreign ministry is now using words like civil war when talking about the possible outcome in eastern Ukraine. So what’s going on right now? Are the Russians looking for an excuse to move in? It certainly looks like they’re looking for an excuse to further destabilize Ukraine so that they can reassert their domination of their relationship with Ukraine. Remember, Crimea was never the prize. Ukraine was the prize. They took Crimea because they realized the situation was spiraling out of control. You remember what was happening in the Maidan – suddenly they found Ukraine moving very rapidly toward the West.

And Putin decided [on that] really as a last-minute maneuver, I believe, because he had been stymied during the Olympics – the minute the Olympics got done, he initiated that KGB-style operation to take Crimea. But the prize, the thing he has always cared about, was Ukraine and dominating Ukraine, influencing it. So now we move to phase two of the operation and that is, how does Russia assert some kind of control over Ukraine? And what they’re doing now is through local supporters, local sympathizers, probably a lot of money and perhaps some special ops, they are trying to destabilize the east so that they can perhaps have a pretext to move in, but certainly have a pretext to have a very tough negotiation with the Ukrainian government.

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SOURCE = CNN

Russia Beyond the Headlines

No Russian peacekeepers to Ukraine without UN resolution, says Moscow

April 8, 2014

Russian peacekeepers cannot be brought into the Donetsk region of Ukraine without the consent of the UN Security Council, said Viktor Ozerov, head of the committee on defense and security of the Federation Council (the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament). Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has warned Kyiv against using force to crack down on protests in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Commenting on the possible response to a request by the self-proclaimed Donetsk National Council for the dispatch of a Russian peacekeeping contingent to the Donetsk region, Ozerov said that Russia was not entitled unilaterally to bring troops into the territory of another state unless there was a corresponding decision made by the UN Security Council.

In this case, said Ozerov, Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council and a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, can join the peacekeeping force to ensure security. He noted that “we have had examples of sending peacekeeping forces to the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but it was within the framework of the CIS.” Ozerov admitted that in March the Federation Council, at an extraordinary meeting called by Russian President Vladimir Putin, had agreed to the president’s request to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation in Ukraine if necessary. “This was due to the situation in Crimea, but we acted on the basis of agreements on the Black Sea Fleet, and only strengthened the protection of our bases,” said Ozerov.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

telegraph

US accuses Russia of sending spies into eastern Ukraine to ‘create chaos’

April 8,2014

The United States has accused Russia of sending spies into eastern Ukraine to “create chaos” and provide a pretext for a possible Crimea style military intervention. In Washington’s strongest comments to date, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, described a series of pro-Russian building seizures in eastern cities as an “illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilise a sovereign state”, funded by the Russian special services. “Everything that we’ve seen in the last 48 hours from Russian provocateurs and agents operating in eastern Ukraine tells us that they’ve been sent there determined to create chaos,” Mr Kerry said in Washington.

“No one should be fooled – and believe me, no one is fooled by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea. It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalysts behind the chaos of the last 24 hours,” he added. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, backed America’s message by stating the flare-up bore “all the hallmarks of a Russian strategy to destabilise Ukraine”, while Nato warned Russia that any further intervention would be a “historic mistake”.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

KIEV – NATO Tuesday warned Russia against intervening further in Ukraine, saying it would be a “historic mistake” even as Ukrainian forces said they had seized back control of the regional administration building in Kharkiv from pro-Russia separatists.

In the Ukrainian parliament, a brawl erupted between lawmakers after the country’s communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine is the greatest challenge to Europe’s security in a generation.”

He urged Russia to “step back and not escalate the situation in east Ukraine” while speaking to reporters in Paris, where he was attending a seminar on NATO reforms.

“If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine it would be a historic mistake. It would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia and it would further isolate Russia internationally,” Rasmussen said.

“Any further move into eastern Ukraine would represent a serious escalation, rather than the de-escalation that we all seek,” he said.

“We call on Russia to pull back the tens of thousands of troops it has massed on Ukraine’s borders, engage in a genuine dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities, and respect its international commitments,” he said.

Reacting to Ukrainian forces clamping down on pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was concerned by reports that the protesters are facing a crackdown by Ukrainian authorities.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220934335/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/NATO-tells-Russia-to-step-back-from-eastern-Ukraine#sthash.0bwshtOr.dpuf

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Nato warns Russia against further intervention

April 8, 2014

Nato has warned Russia that further intervention in Ukraine would be a “historic mistake” with grave consequences. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Moscow must pull back troops it has massed on the Ukrainian border. Ukraine has regained control of one of the government buildings occupied by pro-Russian activists in the east of the country, in the city of Kharkiv. However, armed militants are refusing to withdraw in another city, Luhansk. Moscow has said that using force to end the protests could lead to civil war. Kiev says the unrest in the east is being fomented by Russia following its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Ukraine: Pro-Russians storm offices in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv

April 7, 2014

Pro-Russian protesters have stormed government buildings in three eastern Ukrainian cities. In Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv they clashed with police, hung Russian flags from the buildings and called for a referendum on independence. Ukraine’s acting president called an emergency security meeting in response. The unrest comes amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the removal of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow has the right to protect the Russian-speaking population there. Ukraine’s leaders deny the country’s Russian speakers are under threat and have said they will resist any intervention in their country.

Ukrainian Acting President Olexander Turchynov cancelled a planned visit to Lithuania and called a meeting of the country’s security chiefs to deal with the unrest. In Donetsk, in what was reportedly the day’s most violent protest, a large group of activists broke away from a crowd rallying in the main city square to attack and occupy the regional government seat. After clashing with riot police and breaking through their lines to enter the building, they raised the Russian flag and hung a banner from the building. Protesters outside cheered and chanted: “Russia, Russia.” Ihor Dyomin, a spokesman for Donetsk local police, said about 1,000 people had taken part in the storming of the building. “Around 100 people are now inside the building and are barricading the building,” he added.

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

Pro-Russian protesters seize govt buildings in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov

April 6, 2014

Thousands of people waving Russian flags flooded the streets of eastern Ukraine on Sunday. Demonstrators in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkov seized state offices, while in Donetsk they also demanded an independence referendum. Over 2,000 people gathered in Lenin Square in the center of Donetsk to petition for the Berkut officers, who – they believe – are falsely accused of using fire arms against the rioters during the Maidan standoff. The participants in the event called on the “illegal junta in Kiev” to end political repressions and persecution of dissidents, the Itar-Tass news agency reports.  They demanded their right for self-determination to be respected, pushing for a Crimea-style referendum on independence from Ukraine.  The protesters carried Russian national flags, chanted “Russia! Russia!” and displayed banners urging the new Donetsk Region governor, Sergey Taruta, who was recently appointed by Kiev, “to get out.”

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SOURCE = Russia Today

USA Today

After Ukraine, Russians brace for repressions

April 6, 2014

MOSCOW — Russians are facing a new wave of repressive measures in a Kremlin bid to bolster domestic control after its annexation of Ukraine’s breakaway Crimea, say human rights activists. Several bills proposed by lawmakers here this week seek to prevent the kind of street demonstrations that gripped Ukraine’s Kiev earlier this winter, leading to the ouster of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. “I don’t want for the streets of Russian cities to turn into Grushevsky Street,” lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin posted on Twitter earlier this week, referring to a Kiev street that saw deadly clashes between pro-European demonstrators and police in February.

Sidyakin was one of three lawmakers who introduced a controversial draft bill into Russia’s State Duma on March 31 that would increase penalties for violating laws on protest rallies. Under current laws, Russians need permission from city authorities to hold a public demonstration and are forbidden from holding unauthorized rallies. If passed, the new bill would introduce fines of more than $28,500 for repeat offenders and jail terms of up to five years. In another proposal in the Duma, police would be allowed to use lethal force against civilian protesters.

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SOURCE = USA Today

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Fears of gas war as Ukraine refuses to pay increased prices set by Russian firm

April 6, 2014

The prospect of a new gas war between Russia and Ukraine drew closer at the weekend as the government in Kiev said it would refuse to pay for gas at a new, inflated price set by Gazprom last week. The dispute comes as tensions in eastern Ukraine remain high, with pro-Russian protesters in two cities storming government buildings on Sunday. In Kiev, interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the cabinet over the weekend that the new price for gas was unfair and Ukraine would not pay it. “Russia has not managed to grab Ukraine through military aggression, so now they are pursuing a plan to pressure and grab Ukraine through gas and economic aggression,” said Yatsenyuk. He said that Ukraine would continue buying gas at the “acceptable market price” of $268 (£162) per 1,000 cubic metres.

Last week, Russia announced two successive price hikes in gas for Ukraine, taking it up to $485.50. It is unclear what Russia will do if Ukraine refuses to pay the new price, but in the past it has shut off the supply. Last week, Gazprom’s CEO, Alexei Miller, gave televised comments explaining why Russia was raising the gas price, noting that part of the discount had come when Russia extended credit to Ukraine last December as part of a package that was given to the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, for turning his back on an association agreement with the European Union. “The discount was given on the condition that Ukraine would pay all its gas debts and pay 100% for the current deliveries, and it was clearly indicated that if this did not happen, the discount would be annulled in the second quarter of 2014,” said Miller. He said that Gazprom had “not received a single dollar” in payment for March deliveries, and thus the discount had automatically been annulled.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Reuters

Ukraine Interior Minister says Putin behind seizure of state buildings

 

April 6, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine, April 6 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the seizure of state buildings by pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine on Sunday and promised that police would restore order peacefully. He also accused Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich of conspiring with Putin to fuel tensions in the region. Earlier, pro-Russian protesters demanding a referendum on whether to join Russia seized a regional government building in the city of Donetsk and the offices of security services in nearby Luhansk.

“Putin and Yanukovich ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country. The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive,” Avakov said in a statement on his Facebook page. “The situation will come back under control without bloodshed. That is the order to law enforcement officers, it’s true. But the truth is that no one will peacefully tolerate the lawlessness of provocateurs,” he said. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Copyright 2014 ©: Reuters

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Moscow demands an answer from NATO on troop reinforcements

April 4, 2014

Russia has demanded that NATO explain its plans for increasing the numbers of alliance troops in Eastern Europe. According to statements made by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on April 2, Russia believes its relations with NATO stipulate that there should be no additional permanent military presence in Eastern Europe. “We are not only expecting answers from NATO, but answers that will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed upon,” said the minister. A little earlier, at a meeting in Brussels on April 1, the foreign ministers of 28 NATO countries decided to “raise the level of defense of Eastern European allies in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.” Allied Commander of NATO General Philip Breedlove confirmed that the alliance is already working on a plan to reinforce the defenses of these countries by April 15.

In response to NATO’s growing eastern flank, Russia is forced to take security measures, said Russia’s permanent representative to NATO Alexander Grushko at a meeting with Russian media representatives at his residence in Brussels in the evening of April 2. Whatever NATO does to reinforce its eastern borders, “on our side, we will do everything necessary both politically and militarily to reliably ensure our safety,” he said. According to Grushko, NATO has basically completed its militarily assimilation of the territories neighboring Russia. “In particular, airfields and the network of ports have been modernized. In 2009, the Baltic States and Poland were fully integrated into NATO defense plans, said Grushko.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

 

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Nasa cuts ties with Russia over Ukraine crisis, except for space station

April 3, 2014

After insisting that space relations would not be altered by earthly politics, Nasa on Wednesday said it was severing ties with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, except for the International Space Station. Nasa employees cannot travel to Russia or host visitors until further notice. They are also barred from emailing or holding teleconferences with their Russian counterparts because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, according to a memo sent to workers. Activities related to the space station are exempt. Nasa and Russia’s space agency will “continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation” of the space station, Nasa said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

Since the retirement of the space shuttle, Nasa has depended on Russia to hitch rides to the giant orbiting outpost, paying nearly $71m for a seat on the Soyuz. A Russian rocket last week delivered three astronauts, including American Steve Swanson. The laboratory is a partnership of the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. US astronauts train in Russia before flying to the space station and the new directive was not expected to affect that. Previously Nasa had insisted US-Russia space relations were fine despite the tensions over Ukraine.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

NBC News

U.S. Navy Sending Destroyer to Black Sea to Support Ukraine

April 3, 2014

The U.S. Navy is sending a destroyer into the Black Sea in the coming days as a symbolic gesture of support for Ukraine and other allies in the region, according to two senior defense officials. The USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer based in Rota, Spain, and will travel to the Black Sea “in the next week or so,” according to one senior defense official. The ship will take part in to-be-scheduled exercises with allies in the region — most likely pass exercises, where ships from different nations pass one another while at sea — and the Donald Cook will make several to-be-scheduled port calls.

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SOURCE = NBC News

The Mail UK

Russia could seize Ukraine in just three days, Nato warns: Supreme military commander says Putin has built up force on border big enough for full-blown invasion

April 3, 2014

Russia could seize the whole of Ukraine in three days, Nato’s supreme military commander warned yesterday. US Air Force General Philip Breedlove said Vladimir Putin has built up a force on Ukraine’s borders that is big enough for a full-blown invasion and ‘ready to go’. He spoke as diplomatic concerns grew over the Russian strongman’s failure to pull his forces back after seizing Crimea – despite pledging to do so. General Breedlove said: ‘This is a very large and very capable and very ready force.’ He said it had aircraft and helicopter support, field hospitals and electronic warfare capabilities – ‘the entire suite that would be required to successfully have an incursion into Ukraine, should the decision be made’.

He added: ‘We think it is ready to go and we think it could accomplish its objectives in between three and five days.’ Russia said it regretted the tone of Nato’s comments as a throwback to the Cold War. ‘The language . . . rather resembles the verbal jousting of the Cold War era,’ foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. Russia has said it will not invade Ukraine, but Mr Putin sent troops into Crimea after Moscow-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in February. He has said he will protect ethnic Russians in nearby countries.

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SOURCE = The Daily Mail

RT

Crimea leaving Ukraine a tragedy – ousted president Yanukovich

April 2, 2014

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has said that if he had had such an opportunity, he would never have allowed the Crimea referendum and the region’s subsequent separation from Ukraine. In an interview with the media on Wednesday, he called the events in Crimea a painful tragedy which was “very difficult to agree with today.” Yanukovich blamed Crimea’s separation from Ukraine on the current government in Kiev, adding that he, personally, and Russia had no influence there. “It is their radical position towards the Russian language and territories with a Russian-speaking population. [The new government’s] attempt to dictate to them how they should live has resulted in protests by people on those territories,” Yanukovich said. The March-16 referendum, where residents decided to join Russia rather than stay with Ukraine, was a way to lodge their protest against the new authorities, Yanukovich said.

“I personally cannot accept this,” the overthrown president added.

Asked about his personal feelings regarding Crimea’s reunion with Russia, Yanukovich noted: “How can I – as a president of the country – feel when the country is falling apart?” “Processes that are now taking place in the east and south of Ukraine should also be taken very seriously,” he added. He referred to mass anti-Maidan protests that swept through these regions following the February coup. Yanukovich also said he hopes that Crimea will return to Ukraine. “We should set this as a goal and look for possibilities to return Crimea on any terms, so that Crimea can enjoy independence, while still remaining part of Ukraine,” Yanukovich said, as cited by RIA Novosti. His statements came in an interview in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don with the Associated Press and Russian NTV channel.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Ukraine’s ousted president Yanukovych says loss of Crimea is ‘major tragedy’

April 2, 2014

Ukraine‘s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, admitted on Wednesday that he had been wrong to invite Russian troops into Crimea and described Ukraine’s loss of the Black Sea peninsula as a “major tragedy”. In his first comments since Russia formally annexed Crimea last month, following a referendum not recognised by the west, Yanukovych said he still hoped to negotiate with Vladimir Putin to get the region back. Yanukovych said he had met the Russian president and hoped to hold negotiations with him over Crimea’s return. “Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy,” he told the Associated Press. “We must search for a way to return Crimea on any conditions, so that Crimea has the maximum degree of independence possible … but be part of Ukraine.” His conversation with Putin had been calm but difficult, he said.

Yanukovych was speaking in Rostov-on-Don, the city in southern Russia where he fled to six weeks ago after mass anti-government protests. He declined to condemn the Kremlin for invading Crimea and sending in thousands of undercover soldiers to capture its parliament and airports. Instead he blamed Kiev’s new interim government. According to Yanukovych, “bandits” and radical nationalists had grabbed power in the capital, Kiev. They had then tried to “dictate how people should live” and threatened the Russian language – setting off a disastrous counter-reaction and Crimea’s referendum to join the Russian Federation. “If I had been president I would have tried to stop this from happening,” he declared. The comments came as Nato’s top military commander said it was entirely feasible Russia could stage a further invasion. Philip Breedlove, Nato’s supreme allied commander in Europe, said Russia had amassed so many troops on Ukraine’s border it could comfortably carry out another “incursion” in three to five days.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Reuters

U.S. House backs Ukraine aid, sanctions

April 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, April 1 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kiev government and impose sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The 378-34 vote was in support of a package approved by the U.S. Senate, meaning it will be sent to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law, ending weeks of haggling in Congress over how best to support Ukraine. Besides the loan guarantee, the legislation provides $150 million in aid to Ukraine and surrounding countries and requires the State and Justice Departments to help the Kiev government recover assets amassed by corrupt Ukraine officials. It also imposes mandatory sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against Russians and Ukrainians determined to have engaged in violence or human rights abuses in Ukraine, undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty or participated in “significant” corruption in Ukraine.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly has ambitions that

lie far beyond Crimea, a former adviser of the president has claimed.

Andrej Illarionov, who served as Putin’s chief economic counsellor from 2000 to 2005, said that Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors.

Illarionov said that parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220693695/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Former-adviser-to-Putin-says-Russian-presidents-ambitions-lie-far-beyond-Crimea#sthash.Q2XX5Cl6.dpuf

Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly has ambitions that

lie far beyond Crimea, a former adviser of the president has claimed.

Andrej Illarionov, who served as Putin’s chief economic counsellor from 2000 to 2005, said that Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors.

Illarionov said that parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220693695/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Former-adviser-to-Putin-says-Russian-presidents-ambitions-lie-far-beyond-Crimea#sthash.Q2XX5Cl6.dpuf

Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly has ambitions that

lie far beyond Crimea, a former adviser of the president has claimed.

Andrej Illarionov, who served as Putin’s chief economic counsellor from 2000 to 2005, said that Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors.

Illarionov said that parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220693695/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Former-adviser-to-Putin-says-Russian-presidents-ambitions-lie-far-beyond-Crimea#sthash.Q2XX5Cl6.dpuf

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Putin ‘orders partial withdrawal’

March 31, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “partial withdrawal” of troops from the border with Ukraine, the German government has said. Mr Putin informed Chancellor Angela Merkel of the move in a telephone conversation, according to her office. Thousands of Russian soldiers are still said to be deployed along the border. Earlier, Ukraine condemned a visit to Crimea by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and a delegation of government ministers. A foreign ministry spokesman in Kiev said the highest-level trip to the Black Sea peninsula by officials from Moscow since its annexation by Russia was a “crude violation” of international rules.

A note protesting against the presence of an official in “the territory of another state without preliminary agreement” had been sent, he added. Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine for Russia on 16 March, in a referendum condemned as illegal by the UN General Assembly. Mr Medvedev announced that he would make Crimea a special economic zone, with tax breaks and reduced bureaucracy to attract investors. He also vowed to quickly boost salaries and pensions, and to improve education, healthcare and local infrastructure.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Russia Herald

Former adviser to Putin says Russian president’s ambitions lie far beyond Crimea

March 31, 2014

Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly has ambitions that lie far beyond Crimea, a former adviser of the president has claimed. Andrej Illarionov, who served as Putin’s chief economic counsellor from 2000 to 2005, said that Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors. Illarionov said that parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.

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SOURCE = Russian Herald

Russia Herald

Putin Informs Merkel of “Partial Withdrawal” of Troops from Ukrainian Border

March 31, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has ordered the withdrawal of some Russian troops from the border with Ukraine. A Merkel spokesman said Mr. Putin ordered a “partial withdrawal” of troops from Ukraine’s eastern border. The United States estimates Russia has 40,000 troops along the border, while Kyiv says the number is closer to 100,000. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday that a motorized infantry battalion was withdrawing from the region.

The French News Agency Monday quoted a spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry’s general staff as saying Russian forces have been “gradually withdrawing” from the border region in recent days — adding that this could be linked either to a “a regular rotation” or to “the Russian-US negotiations.” The State Department said that if true, Washington would welcome the movement of troops away from the border — and that the process should be accelerated. Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said she and President Putin also discussed “possible further steps to stabilize the situation” in Ukraine and in Transdniestria, a breakaway ethnic Russian enclave in Moldova.

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SOURCE = Russian Herald

Washington post

Russian government advocates “federal system” for Ukraine

March 31, 2014

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov recently advocated a “federal system of government” for Ukraine:

Lavrov said he hopes “all political forces in Ukraine will have an equal voice and can agree on which kind of concrete political, economic, financial, social, religious traditions will be respected in different parts of the country….”

Lavrov called on Western powers to back a proposal for a “federal” structure in Ukraine.

“If our Western partners are prepared, Russia, the U.S. and the EU will be able to set up a group of support to Ukraine and to formulate general appeals to those who rule in Ukraine now,” Lavrov told Russian state television, according to state news agency ITAR-Tass.

This would lead to talks between “all political forces without exception, naturally not armed radicals” and would result in a new constitution allowing for a “federal system of government,” he said.

Russia’s advocacy of federalism in Ukraine is deeply hypocritical, since the Putin regime has greatly undermined federalism within Russia itself, stripping regional governments of much of their autonomy and increasingly centralizing power in the Kremlin. This, despite the fact that Russia – like Ukraine – is a large and diverse nation that has numerous ethnic minorities, including many that have a long history of oppression at the hands of the ethnic Russian majority. In addition, it is difficult to see how a “federal system” in Ukraine can work if Russia reserves the right to occupy and annex parts of Ukraine at will, as it did in the case of Crimea.

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SOURCE = Washington Post

RT

Russian Duma denounces Black Sea Fleet deal with Ukraine

March 31, 2014

Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, has voted to denounce the Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet. The MPs voted to halt the rent payments to Kiev for Sevastopol naval base and to cease writing off Ukraine’s debt. The State Duma censured a total of four agreements on the status of the naval base in Sevastopol on Monday. These include the 1997 agreements between Moscow and Kiev, according to which Russia officially received a part of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and started renting the naval base of Sevastopol from Ukraine, as well as the 2010 agreement prolonging the rent of the naval base till 2042, with an option of extending it by a further five years.

As part of the agreements, Russia annually paid the Ukrainian government $526.5 million for the base, as well as writing off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequencies, and to compensate for the Black Sea Fleet’s environmental impact. The Russian Navy was allowed to station up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the territory of Crimea in addition to the vessels. Crimea’s accession into Russia de facto terminated the deal, with Russia no longer obliged to pay the rent, the MPs decided.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Ukraine: how to lose a country

March 31, 2014

When Vladimir Putin seized Crimea, he lost Ukraine. He had slandered the Ukrainian protest movement as variously fascist, decadent, and gay. Then he went beyond that, to claim that the interim government that the protesters had helped bring into being was planning to persecute Russian speakers in Crimea and elsewhere. Finally he insulted a neighbouring country that had no way of defending itself by seizing its land. He thereby confirmed the alienation of people in the western part of the country from their historic Russian connection. He enraged the liberals, both Ukrainian and Russian in background, who valued the relative freedoms that Ukraine had raggedly preserved even as those freedoms dwindled in the Russian Federation.

He divided and confused people in the centre and east who preferred the ambiguity, and the sophistication, on the issue of identity that enabled them to live together. When Crimea was separated from Ukraine, Ukraine was separated from Russia, not for ever, because certain deep links remain, but for the foreseeable future. This is the dominant fact that the United States and European countries must keep in mind as they shape their policies on the crisis that the Russian leader created by his action on Crimea.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

The Daily Beast

Exclusive Interview: The ‘Chocolate King’ Who Might Save Ukraine

March 31, 2014

According to opinion polls, the most popular leader in Ukraine and very possibly its next president is Petro Poroshenko. To be sure, he’s less well known abroad than the mediagenic Yulia Tymoshenko—she of the blond braids—or the towering former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko. But the square-faced 48-year-old Poroshenko is famous inside the country for his confident character, his aura of calm, and the fortune he made making chocolate before he went into politics. (His little gold-foil-wrapped bonbons called “Kyiv Vechirniy,” or Kiev in the evening, bring a hint of luxury to daily life in a near-bankrupt nation.) In the last decade, Poroshenko held several government posts, perhaps most importantly the position of foreign minister for a critical five months in 2009 and 2010 when he managed to complete the text of the now-famous “association agreement” with the European Union.

In 2012 he even served as minister of trade and economic development under Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, trying to shepherd the accords toward implementation. It was the decision by Yanukovych to walk away from the EU association agreement in November 2013 that started the protests that became a revolution and resulted Yanukovych’s overthrow at the end of February. Russia then retaliated by amputating and annexing Ukrainian Crimea and deploying combat troops on the Ukrainian border, bringing on the most dangerous European crisis confronting NATO and the United States in more than a generation.

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SOURCE = The Daily Beast

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has ordered the withdrawal of some Russian troops from the border with Ukraine.

A Merkel spokesman said Mr. Putin ordered a “partial withdrawal” of troops from Ukraine’s eastern border.

The United States estimates Russia has 40,000 troops along the border, while Kyiv says the number is closer to 100,000.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday that a motorized infantry battalion was withdrawing from the region.

The French News Agency Monday quoted a spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry’s general staff as saying Russian forces have been “gradually withdrawing” from the border region in recent days — adding that this could be linked either to a “a regular rotation” or to “the Russian-US negotiations.”

The State Department said that if true, Washington would welcome the movement of troops away from the border — and that the process should be accelerated.

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said she and President Putin also discussed “possible further steps to stabilize the situation” in Ukraine and in Transdniestria, a breakaway ethnic Russian enclave in Moldova.

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wall street journal

Russian Buildup Stokes Worries

March 27, 2014

WASHINGTON—Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions.

The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions. Still unknown, however, is Mr. Putin’s plan, or whether he has one. The Kremlin has defended the deployments as a legitimate military exercise on Russian soil. “It’s really a question of leadership intentions. Who does Putin tell, if anyone, what his plans are?” a senior Obama administration official said. “He’s obviously putting things in place in case he wants to go in.

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SOURCE = The Wall Street Journal

Russia Herald

Backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, UN Assembly declares Crimea referendum invalid

March 27, 2014

27 March 2014 150 In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly today adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.”

By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

Action in the Assembly follows months of ratcheting tensions in Ukraine triggered by the Government’s decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration. The capital, Kiev, erupted in violent demonstrations and street clashes in late January, culminating in the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Tensions continued to mount in the Crimea region, where Russian troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in February and a secession referendum was later held, in which, according to the UN, Crimean authorities announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of the region joining Russia.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220583781/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Backing-Ukraines-territorial-integrity-UN-Assembly-declares-Crimea-referendum-invalid#sthash.i2seew45.dpuf

27 March 2014 150 In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly today adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.” By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

Action in the Assembly follows months of ratcheting tensions in Ukraine triggered by the Government’s decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration. The capital, Kiev, erupted in violent demonstrations and street clashes in late January, culminating in the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych. Tensions continued to mount in the Crimea region, where Russian troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in February and a secession referendum was later held, in which, according to the UN, Crimean authorities announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of the region joining Russia.

Visit the Source for more on this story

SOURCE = Russia Herald

27 March 2014 150 In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly today adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.”

By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

Action in the Assembly follows months of ratcheting tensions in Ukraine triggered by the Government’s decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration. The capital, Kiev, erupted in violent demonstrations and street clashes in late January, culminating in the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Tensions continued to mount in the Crimea region, where Russian troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in February and a secession referendum was later held, in which, according to the UN, Crimean authorities announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of the region joining Russia.

– See more at: http://www.russiaherald.com/index.php/sid/220583781/scat/723971d98160d438/ht/Backing-Ukraines-territorial-integrity-UN-Assembly-declares-Crimea-referendum-invalid#sthash.i2seew45.dpuf

27 March 2014 150 In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly today adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.”

By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

Action in the Assembly follows months of ratcheting tensions in Ukraine triggered by the Government’s decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration. The capital, Kiev, erupted in violent demonstrations and street clashes in late January, culminating in the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Tensions continued to mount in the Crimea region, where Russian troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in February and a secession referendum was later held, in which, according to the UN, Crimean authorities announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of the region joining Russia.

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CBS News

U.N. General Assembly condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine

March 27, 2014

NEW YORK — The U.N. General Assembly voted 100 to 11 with 58 abstentions to call the mid-March referendum in Crimea illegal, to support Ukraine sovereignty and independence, and to reject Russia’s use of force to alter its borders. But the Russian Federation is only mentioned in the resolution with regard to the international agreements between the former Soviet Union (the Helsinki Final Act) to refrain from the use of force, and the Russian Federation (the Budapest Memorandum) to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for its surrender of its nuclear weapons.

Unable to get the U.N. Security Council to condemn the use of force in Crimea because of Russia’s sole veto, Ukraine brought the General Assembly resolution to a vote. The resolution, in addition to its condemnation of Russia’s actions in Crimea, calls for negotiations to end the dispute with Russia and it reminds the world that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons with a commitment by Russia to respect its borders. “We have always said that Russia had legitimate interests in Ukraine,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. “It has been disheartening in the extreme to see Russia carry on as if Ukrainians have no legitimate interests in Crimea, when Crimea is a part of Ukraine.”

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SOURCE = CBS News

RT

UN vote shows Russia far from being isolated – Churkin

March 28, 2014

Despite strong pressure by the US on other countries to support a resolution declaring Crimea’s referendum invalid, the results of the UN General Assembly vote show Russia is not isolated in its stance on Ukraine crisis, envoy Vitaly Churkin said. “Very many countries complained that they were undergoing colossal pressure on the part of Western powers to vote in support of that resolution,” Churkin told journalists after the vote, adding that he believes the pressure “produced a certain effect.” “Some countries voted grudgingly, shall I say, and complained to us about the strong pressure they had experienced,” Churkin told Itar-Tass.

Despite General Assembly’s approval of the non-binding resolution 11 votes against and 58 abstentions in the process showed that Russia is not isolated. Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe have all voted against the resolution against the secession referendum in Crimea. “Many have abstained, some have sided with Russia in voting against the resolution. But the trend is evident. Following the vote in the Security Council, some of our Western partners rushed to declare Russia ‘isolated’,” Churkin said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

Reuters

U.S. Congress passes aid for Ukraine, sanctions on Russia

 

March 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives easily passed bills on Thursday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kiev government and impose sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Senate passed its legislation by voice vote and the House voted for its legislation by 399-19, two days after Senate Democrats ended a weeks-long standoff by agreeing to remove from the legislation reforms to the International Monetary Fund urged by the White House but opposed by many Republicans. Lawmakers said they wanted to send a unified message to Russian President Vladimir Putin – and the rest of the world – as Ukraine and neighboring states worry about more aggression from Russia.

“I believe we are in a dangerous moment in history with global consequences and the world is watching,” Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a news conference shortly after the Senate vote. President Barack Obama has been in Europe this week urging U.S. allies to stand together to counterbalance Moscow. The Senate and House will have to agree on how to handle differences between the two pieces of legislation before a final bill can be sent to Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said congressional leaders had reached an agreement under which the House will vote on the Senate bill and it would get to Obama by the end of the week.

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SOURCE = Reuters

 

ABC News

Ukraine Finds New Hero in Besieged Base Commander

March 27, 2014

After Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia, a man in a black raincoat turned up at the gate of the Belbek Air Base to demand that Ukrainian forces holed up inside surrender to Russia. The Ukrainian commander of the base came out wearing his cap decorated with gold wings — and refused. The Russian visitor persisted: “From yesterday, you are located on the territory of a foreign state. So I’m giving you your chance to keep your honor as an officer.” “As an officer with honor, I tell you I will stay,” retorted Air Force Col. Yuliy Mamchur. That act of defiance against the overwhelming force of Russian troops that had put Belbek under siege created a new Ukrainian national hero. Today, Mamchur is hailed as an officer who stood up to the Russian juggernaut, remained true to his oath as a soldier and held out with his beleaguered unit in Crimea for as long as he could.

After Mamchur refused to cave, Russian forces overran Belbek with irresistible force and numbers. Mamchur stood calmly with his men. He led them in singing the Ukrainian national anthem, which begins with the lyrics “Ukraine’s glory and freedom are not yet dead.” Russian forces then arrested Mamchur and took him away for questioning. He withstood five days of sustained intimidation and pressure to defect from his captors — and he was released on Wednesday after that pressure proved futile. “They tried to get me to renounce my military oath to Ukraine and switch to the Russian army,” Mamchur said in a televised interview shortly after his release. “Then they applied psychological pressure, they didn’t let me sleep, banging with their rifle-butts on the door.” Mamchur is now heading to a hero’s welcome in the capital, Kiev.

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SOURCE = ABC News

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bbc

EU and US consider ‘deeper sanctions’ against Russia

March 26, 2014

The US and EU are discussing “deeper sanctions” against Russia if there are “further incursions into Ukraine”. US President Barack Obama said “energy is obviously a central focus of our efforts”, acknowledging it “will have some impact on the global economy”. He was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders. In a keynote speech later, he said Russians “will recognise that they cannot achieve security, prosperity and status… through brute force”. “That’s why, throughout this crisis, we will combine our substantial pressure on Russia with an open door for diplomacy,” he told an audience at the end of his visit to Brussels. Tensions are high between the West and Russia after Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russian forces earlier this month after a referendum which Kiev and its Western allies considered illegal. Mr Obama, along with EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso, stressed EU and US unity on the issue of Ukraine.

“The world is safer and more just when Europe and America stand as one,” Mr Obama said. Mr Van Rompuy called it a “crucial” relationship. Mr Obama praised the 28-nation EU bloc for the steps it had already taken – along with the US – to penalise Russia. These have included visa bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian officials. He said those actions were taken after Russian forces moved in to annex Crimea, and they now must consider “the potential for additional, deeper sanctions” should Moscow attempt to do the same in other parts of Ukraine. “We recognise that in order for Russia to feel the impact of these sanctions, it will have some impact on the global economy as well as on all the countries represented here today,” Mr Obama said. Acknowledging that some EU countries were more dependent than others on Russia for energy, he said “this entire event has pointed to the need for Europe to look at how it can further diversify its energy sources”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

telegraph

Ukraine: Barack Obama says Europe must defend its hard-won freedoms again

March 26, 2014

President Barack Obama has called on European countries to meet a “moment of testing” by stepping up their commitment to Nato against the threat to democracy and international law posed by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. In a passionate speech delivered in Brussels, the American president warned that indifference to Vladimir Putin’s attempt to redraw Ukraine’s borders by force risked undermining the sacrifices of those who had died in two world wars. “Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident: that in the 21st century the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future,” he warned.

Mr Obama rebuked European Union countries, such as Germany, that have held back from hitting the Russian president, his inner circle and powerful oligarchs with tough sanctions for the seizure of Crimea because their economies are dependent on Russian energy or trade – in implicit contrast with the US. “To be honest, if we define our interests narrowly, if we applied a cold-hearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way,” he said. “Our economy is not deeply integrated with Ukraine’s. Our people and our homeland face no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea. Our own borders are not threatened by Russia’s annexation.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

RT

Obama lashes out at Russia over Crimea during Brussels speech

March 26, 2014

United States President Barack Obama spoke for more than half-an-hour on Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, and the biggest part of his speech was dedicated to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict over the strategic Crimean peninsula. The president, who has spent this week touring Europe to discuss the situation in Ukraine with America’s NATO partners, evoked two world wars and other international crises during a 30-minute speech that culminated in a passionate plea for allied nations to, as Mr. Obama said, “meet the challenge to our ideals” being presented by the situation in Crimea. Pres. Obama stopped short of saying he was ready to up the ante as a standoff between Russia and the West continues with regards to the Crimean peninsula. He did, however, insist that America and its partners were prepared to together widen sanctions against Russia and further attempt to remove it from international discussions if that country continues its involvement in Ukrainian affairs.

Together we have isolated Russia politically, suspending it from the G8 nations and downgrading our bilateral ties,” Obama said. “Together we are imposing costs through sanctions that have left a mark . . . And if the Russian leadership stays on its current course, together we will ensure that this isolation deepens.” The president’s remarks came ten days after residents in Crimea — then an autonomous republic in southern Ukraine — overwhelmingly voted to sever ties and align with Russia. Moscow soon after accepted the results of that referendum, but the White House remains adamant that it not be recognized by the West.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

Reuters

In mirror-image speech, Obama rebuts Putin over Ukraine

March 26, 2014

BRUSSELS, March 26 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama jousted rhetorically with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday with a point-by-point rebuttal of the Russian president’s rationale for his incursion into Ukraine. Without mentioning Putin’s name, Obama used a keynote speech in Brussels on U.S.-European relations to push back against many of the justifications, grievances and accusations used by the Russian leader for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Obama offered advice for Americans sceptical about why they should care about what happens in a distant part of the world. And he told NATO allies it was time to bolster an alliance many of whose members have cut defence spending since the Cold War ended, in the face of what he called Russia’s “brute force”. To Republican critics who want him to be tougher, Obama said this: Now is not the time for bluster, this is not a Cold war rerun, and there are no easy answers nor a military solution.

His speech looked and felt at times like a mirror image of Putin’s March 18 oration in the Kremlin’s gilded St George’s Hall announcing the annexation of Crimea. The U.S. president spoke in Brussels’ art deco Beaux-Arts concert hall in front of the grand organ. “Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. No amount of propaganda can make right something that the world knows is wrong,” he said. bama, who has had hours of frustrating private phone calls with Putin during the crisis, rejected several arguments the Russian president has made about Ukraine.

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SOURCE = Reuters

IWPR

Ukraine’s Social Media Revolution

March 26, 2014

How did social media shape events before and during the revolution?

Social media played a crucial role in the Euromaidan protests. Beyond providing information on what was happening in Ukraine, they were a place where people could ask for help and organise actions. In fact, everything started due to a Facebook post by TV journalist Mustafa Nayem on November 21 in which he called on people to go to Maidan Square. Social media were a powerful tool during the Euromaidan movement both for organising protests and exchanging information. Up to that point, there had been a lack of information for most Ukrainian people, because the authorities controlled most major radio, television and print news sources. The only way to learn the truth about [President Viktor] Yanukovich was through internet and social media.

Ukrainska Pravda became the most commonly used news site. In February, 2.5 million people visited the site on one day alone, and now it has around 1.5 million visitors daily. It is very independent and really popular. Twitter also became very popular in Ukraine. Before November it wasn’t so widespread; just something for geeks or IT professionals. Now a lot of Ukrainians are using it, with about a million accounts as compared with 100,000 or 150,000 six months ago. Twitter became the third most popular route for traffic from social media to news sites, after Facebook at number one and VKontakte in second place.


Have social media sites faced censorship, or been used to spread misinformation?

Russia blocked some Ukrainian groups on VKontakte about a month ago, making them unavailable for people in Russia itself. VKontakte is very popular in Ukraine, the second most popular site after Google. But as far as political activity is concerned, most Euromaidan activists used Facebook. Crimea gets its internet connection via Ukraine, so the Russian authorities can’t switch it off, although they are now building a cable from Russia so they can control the internet in Crimea.

Russia also tried to spread misinformation via social media, and it is still doing so. They paid bloggers and the owners of popular VKontakte groups to spread fake news, including stories about rising taxes in Ukraine and problems with the Kiev authorities. This happens on a daily basis. Ukrainians are aware of it, but sometimes false news plays a real role in changing people’s views. But social media was just a tool that helped the people organise and spread the truth. The revolution was caused by the Yanukovich regime. If we hadn’t had social media, the revolution would still have happened, although maybe it would have taken three or six months longer. The situation was near to exploding. Social media helped it erupt more quickly.

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SOURCE = Institute For War and Peace Reporting

Russia Herald

Russia not to deploy helicopter carriers in Black Sea

March 26, 2014

Russia does not plan to deploy Mistral-class helicopter carriers in the Black Sea, Russian Navy said Wednesday, Xinhua reported. “There are no corrections to the earlier plans to deploy the Mistral-class helicopter carriers with the Pacific Fleet. No decisions to deploy these vessels in Black Sea have been made,” Interfax news agency quoted a navy representative as saying. Earlier, some media reports said that the French-made Mistral-class ship will be assigned to the Black Sea fleet in 2017. The Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles and 450 personnel.

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SOURCE = Russia Herald

Russia does not plan to deploy Mistral-class helicopter carriers in the Black Sea, Russian Navy said Wednesday, Xinhua reported.

“There are no corrections to the earlier plans to deploy the Mistral-class helicopter carriers with the Pacific Fleet. No decisions to deploy these vessels in Black Sea have been made,” Interfax news agency quoted a navy representative as saying.

Earlier, some media reports said that the French-made Mistral-class ship will be assigned to the Black Sea fleet in 2017.

The Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles and 450 personnel.

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Russia does not plan to deploy Mistral-class helicopter carriers in the Black Sea, Russian Navy said Wednesday, Xinhua reported.

“There are no corrections to the earlier plans to deploy the Mistral-class helicopter carriers with the Pacific Fleet. No decisions to deploy these vessels in Black Sea have been made,” Interfax news agency quoted a navy representative as saying.

Earlier, some media reports said that the French-made Mistral-class ship will be assigned to the Black Sea fleet in 2017.

The Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles and 450 personnel.

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Washington post

Fear grips village divided between Russia, Ukraine

March 26, 2014

VYSELKI, Ukraine — The prospect of Russian troops marching into eastern Ukraine is accomplishing what a national border could not: dividing the villagers of Vyselki. Ever since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, when Vyselki was split between Ukraine and Russia, its residents have lived together peacefully, doing most of their shopping in one country and paying their electricity bills in another. Then came political upheaval in Ukraine, the flight of its pro-Russian president, and the Russian annexation of the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Suddenly, Vyselki is divided. The Ukrainian residents here worry that Russian troops might march across the border, while Russian villagers fear harassment from the pro-Western government in Kiev.

“I didn’t believe that the Russians would come in, but after Crimea anything is possible,” said Ukrainian farmer Andrei Mikhalev, 32, whose vegetable fields straddle both sides of the border. “I have something to lose! I certainly don’t need any Russian tanks in my fields.” The Russians worry that Ukraine might make them get visas to cross the border. If residents are no longer able to travel freely from one side of the village to the other, their way of life would be upended. “Visas would be a catastrophe,” said Lidia Yevseyeva, 77, who lives on the Russian side of the village and regularly travels by bicycle to the Ukrainian side to visit her ailing 90-year-old sister.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

ABC News

US to Commit More Forces to NATO Efforts

March 26, 2014

The United States plans to join with other NATO nations in increasing ground and naval forces in Eastern Europe as part of the military alliance’s response to Russia’s incursion in Ukraine, the White House said Wednesday. The specifics of the NATO plan were still being finalized, including the size of the force increase. Rather than significantly boosting U.S. military presence in the region, the move seemed aimed instead at showing symbolic support for NATO members near Russia’s borders. President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said NATO was aiming to provide “a continuous presence to reassure our allies.” While he would not detail specific countries where the additional resources would be sent, he noted that the U.S. was particularly focused on efforts to bolster Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Rhodes briefed reporters as Obama traveled to Rome from Brussels, where he met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as well as European Union leaders. In a speech from the heart of Europe, Obama declared the crisis in Ukraine a global “moment of testing.” Obama appealed to Europeans to retrench behind the war-won ideals of freedom and human dignity, declaring that people voicing those values will ultimately triumph in Ukraine. Painting a historical arc across the major global clashes of the last century and beyond, he said young people born today come into a world more devoid of conflict and replete with freedom than at any time in history, even if that providence isn’t fully appreciated. The president also urged the 28-nation NATO alliance to make good on its commitment to the collective security that has fostered prosperity in the decades since the Cold War concluded.

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SOURCE = ABC News

Russia Beyond the Headlines

World Bank cuts Russian growth forecast, sees GDP decline in ‘shock’ scenario

March 26, 2014

The World Bank forecasts that Russian GDP will contract 1.8 percent in 2014 under its scenario for a severe shock to the economy resulting from the Crimea crisis, the bank said in its 31-page Russian Economic Report, subtitled: Confidence crisis exposes economic weakness. If the “shock” scenario does not materialize, but Russia fails to alter economic policy to stimulate growth in investment activity, GDP growth will slow to 1.1 percent in 2014, down from already low GDP growth of 1.3 percent in 2013. As recently as December the World Bank had forecast that the Russian economy would expand 2.2 percent in 2014.

The World Bank developed two alternative scenarios for Russia’s 2014-2015 growth outlook in response to the higher-risk environment since political uncertainties around the Crimean crisis in early March 2014 led to increased market volatility. Both scenarios forecast slowing growth. The low-risk scenario projects growth to slow to 1.1 percent in 2014, slightly picking up to 1.3 percent in 2015, it says.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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Ukraine crisis: EU is drafting powerful sanctions against Russia, says Cameron

March 26, 2014

A “strong, robust and powerful” package of trade, financial and economic sanctions is being drawn up by the European Union for use if Russia intervenes in eastern Ukraine, David Cameron told MPs. The prime minister was reporting back to the Commons on meetings over the past four days with his EU colleagues and the US president, Barack Obama, in The Hague. Cameron said the agreement to prepare additional sanctions ahead of any further Russian move was the most significant achievement of the meetings. But while he won broad support from the Labour frontbench, he again faced criticisms from backbench MPs on both sides of the house for failing to take tougher action in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind described the EU response as “very timid and hesitant”. He added: “There are no financial sanctions that might influence future Russian behaviour.” The former Labour cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw also criticised the limited EU response in contrast with decisions taken by the US, pointing out that the Americans have targeted a wider group of Vladimir Putin‘s inner-circle, including “those that have dirty money in London”.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

New York Times

Obama Deplores Russia’s ‘Brute Force’ in Ukraine

March 26, 2014

BRUSSELS — President Obama offered a sustained and forceful rejoinder against Russia on Wednesday, denouncing the “brute force” he said it has used to intimidate neighbors like Ukraine and vowing that the United States “will never waver” in standing up for its NATO allies against aggression by Moscow. In a speech meant as a capstone to his trip to Europe in the midst of an East-West confrontation with Russia, Mr. Obama addressed Moscow’s justifications for its intervention in Ukraine point by point, dismissing them as “absurd” or unmerited. He even defended the Iraq war, which he had opposed as a senator, as a stark contrast to the way Russia has seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

“America and the world and Europe has an interest in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one,” Mr. Obama told an audience of leading figures here in the capital of the European Union. “But that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors. Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. No amount of propaganda can make right something the world knows is wrong.”

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SOURCE = The New York Times

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The Independent

Ukraine crisis: Killing of ultra-nationalist leader causes more problems for new government in Kiev

March 25, 2014

A leader of the hard-right movement in Ukraine, charged by the Russians of committing war crimes, has been shot dead by security forces. The killing of Oleksandr Muzychko brought immediate claims of a cover up and demands for retribution by his followers, adding fuel to an already combustible situation. Sashko Bily, as he was better known, a prominent leader of the Right Sector group, died at Rivne, in the west of the country. The government in Kiev announced that he had opened fire first on ‘Special Forces’ who had tracked him down to a café. But an MP gave a very different account, claiming that Mr Muzychko been dragged into a car after being stopped on the road; his body found dumped later with his hands tied, ‘executed’ with two bullets to the heart. Mr Muzychko was pictured in the Maidan, the centre of protests in the Ukrainian capital, brandishing a Kalashnikov last month.

The Kremlin used the images as an example of how “fascists” had taken over the opposition to Viktor Yanukovych before his overthrow. A warrant had been issued for his arrest by authorities in Moscow for alleged torture of captive Russian soldiers during the Chechnya conflict in the 1990s. The presence of Right Sector members in the Maidan demonstrations, often engaged in acts of violence, had been heavily publicised and the supposed threat they posed to ethnic Russians in the east and south of the country was one of the key reasons used by President Vladimir Putin for military intervention in Crimea. Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector, has declared that he will be running in the Ukrainian presidential elections on 25 May. He remains, however, an outsider in the race and the acting government in Kiev had repeatedly denied that the group exerted any significant influence in the new political set up.

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SOURCE = The Independent

Kyiv Post

The last Ukrainian flag flying: Russian conquest divides soldiers in Crimea from colleagues, families, countries

March 25, 2014

FEODOSIA, Crimea – Two friends and colleagues who served for 10 years in the Ukrainian 1st Marine Battalion, Olga Mednova and Yulia Medinskaya, hugged each other tightly outside the Grey Barracks in Feodosia, Crimea, on March 24. They did not know when or if they would see each other again. Mednova was heading to Ukraine in a ragged military convoy, retreating from the ruins of their once-proud battalion. Medinskaya was staying back in Feodosia, to see what civilian life in Russian Crimea would bring.  The Ukrainian 1st Marine Battalion was one of the last military bases to fall to Russian forces that started taking over Crimea at the end of February. After three weeks of a Russian blockade, and harassment from pro-Kremlin Cossacks and other Russian-backed self-defense forces, the marines were still flying the Ukrainian flag as late as March 23 – the last Crimean base to do so.

Following negotiations with the Russians, those personnel who remained loyal to Ukraine hoped to pull out in orderly retreat, with their vehicles, arms and equipment. That hope was rudely destroyed in the early hours of March 24, when Russian special forces efficiently stormed the base, using stun grenades, gas, armoured personnel carriers and machine guns. Ukrainian forces, whose weapons were all stowed away ready for withdrawal, fought back with their fists. It was over by 6 a.m. Most of the marines were driven away in Russian trucks, to be released a few hours later, while more and more Russian soldiers moved into the base. The Ukrainian commander and his deputy were taken away by helicopter; their whereabouts are still unknown. “The Russians completely destroyed the clinic, even though they knew perfectly well that it was the medical facility,” said Olga Mednova, who has worked there as a military sanitary instructor for 10 years. She held out a handful of used bullets she had collected after the raid as she described the shattered windows and furniture.

Those same Russian soldiers who blockaded the Feodosia base are well-known to Mednova. They are from the Russian Black Sea fleet and previously shared many training exercises with the Ukrainian marines. Last May they marched together in a joint parade to mark the anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (as World War II is known in Russia and Ukraine). “We walked shoulder to shoulder; it was really beautiful,” Mednova said. “They were our friends a month ago. And now they have surrounded us and are saying ‘come over to our side.’”

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

Russia Beyond the Headlines

What future for Crimea’s Ukrainian military inheritance?

March 25, 2014

The Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol have returned to Russia. It has already been announced that local public sector employees will be paid the same salaries as their colleagues in other Russian regions, that veterans’ pensions will more than double, and that local schools and universities will switch to Russian curricula. Many positive developments are expected in the republic, although some serious problems remain too. One of them concerns the fate of officers and warrant officers of the Ukrainian armed forces who served in Crimea. On the one hand, Kyiv is issuing orders for them not to desert their military units and even, if there is threat to the life and wellbeing of servicemen, to open fire. On the other, some politicians in Kyiv have called for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military personnel from Crimea and for the peninsula to be made a demilitarized zone. It has been reported that Ukraine is preparing a proposal to that effect to be submitted to the UN Security Council.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

Reuters

HIGHLIGHTS-Obama comments on Ukraine in The Hague

March 25, 2014

THE HAGUE, March 25 (Reuters) – Following are key quotes from U.S. President Barack Obama during a question and answer session following the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on Tuesday. “I don’t think that any of us have been under any illusion that Russia has been very interested in controlling what happens to Ukraine. That’s not new, that’s been the case for years now, dating back to the Orange revolution.” What we have said consistently, throughout this process, is that it is up to the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about how they organise themselves and who they interact with.” It has always been our belief that Ukraine is going to have a relationship to Russia. There has always been a strong bond between the two countries, but that does not justify Russia encroaching on Ukraine’s territorial integrity or sovereignty. That’s exactly what’s happened and I said very early on that should Russia do so, there would be consequences and working with our European partners and international partners we have put in place sanctions that have already had some impact on the Russian economy.”

“Now, moving forward we have said, and I want to be very clear about this, we are not recognising what has happened in Crimea. The notion that a referendum, sloppily organised over the course of two weeks, would somehow justify the breaking off of Crimea and the annexation by Russia, that somehow that would be a valid process, I think the overwhelming majority of the world rejects.” “But we are also concerned about further encroachment by Russia into Ukraine, so what I announced and what the European Council announced was that we were consulting and putting in place the framework, the architecture for additional sanctions, additional costs, should Russia take this next step.” “What we also said and will continue to say is that there is another path available to Russia. The Ukrainian government has said it is prepared to negotiate with Russia, that it is prepared to recognise its international obligations and the international community has been supportive of a diplomatic process that would allow a de-escalation of tensions, a moving back of Russian troops from Ukraine’s borders and rapidly organised elections that allow the Ukrainian people to chose their leadership.”

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SOURCE = Reuters

RT

Muzychko killing: Ultra-nationalist mastermind demands cops’ arrest, Interior Minister’s dismissal

March 25, 2014

Dmitry Yarosh, leader of Ukraine’s Right Sector nationalist party, is demanding the resignation of acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and the arrest of police officers involved in the killing of notorious radical militant Aleksandr Muzychko. “We cannot watch silently as the Interior Ministry works to undermine the revolution,” Interfax reported Yarosh as saying. “We demand the immediate resignation of the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and the arrest of the commander of the Sokol Special Forces and those guilty of [Muzychko’s] murder.” Earlier Tuesday, right-wing militant leader Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bilyi, was killed in a police raid against his gang in Rovno, western Ukraine, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Right Sector leaders threatened Avakov with revenge, though they did not specify exactly what they would do. “We will take revenge on Arsen Avakov for the death of our brother,” said Roman Koval, the Right Sector organizer in Rovno, charivne.info news portal reported. Koval claimed that the operation to kill Muzychko was ordered personally by Avakov, the acting Interior Minister. Yarosh backed the claim, adding that the party views Muzychko’s killing as an assassination. The Right Sector leader said that the party understands that “many want to destabilize the situation in Ukraine,” but added that the nationalists “call for peace” and are doing everything in their power to prevent conflicts. Muzychko is, however, known for stunts that are far from peaceful.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Barack Obama: Russia is a regional power showing weakness over Ukraine

March 25, 2014

President Barack Obama has described Russia as no more than a “regional power” whose actions in Ukraine are an expression of weakness rather than strength, as he restated the threat from the G7 western allies and Japan that they would inflict much broader sanctions if Vladimir Putin went beyond annexation of Crimea and moved troops into eastern Ukraine. Speaking at the end of a summit on nuclear security in The Hague, Obama rejected the suggestion made by Mitt Romney – his Republican challenger in the last president election – that Russia was the United States’ principal geopolitical foe. The president said he was considerably more concerned about the threat of a terrorist nuclear bomb attack on New York. He said that the US was committed to the defence of its Nato allies but that for non-member states along Russia’s borders, Washington and the rest of the international community would use non-military pressure to counter Russian encroachment.

Obama said he would not guess at Putin’s motivation, but his remarks appeared to confront one of the apparent aims behind the Russian leader’s actions so far in Crimea – to restore the superpower status and prestige Moscow once enjoyed as the capital of the Soviet Union. “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness,” the president said. The US also has influence over its neighbours, he added, but: “We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. “The fact that Russia felt it had to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more,” Obama said.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Ukraine Defense Chief Resigns; Troops Leave Crimea

March 25, 2014

(KIEV, Ukraine) — Lawmakers in Ukraine accepted the resignation of the defense minister Tuesday as thousands of troops began withdrawing from the Crimean Peninsula, now controlled by Russia. In an address to parliament, Igor Tenyukh said he rejected criticism that he had failed to issue clear instructions to troops, but that he reserved the right to step down. Lawmakers initially refused his resignation, but later accepted it. A majority then voted to appoint Col. Gen. Mikhail Kovalyov as his replacement. Authorities in Ukraine have come under criticism for their often-hesitant reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which was formalized following a hastily organized referendum this month.

In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces. Tenyukh said he had received requests to leave Crimea from about 6,500 soldiers and family members— meaning about two-thirds of the 18,800 military personnel and relatives stationed there were so far taking their chances in the peninsula newly absorbed by Russia.

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SOURCE = Time

 

 

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RT

Moscow: No troop build-up or undeclared military activity near Ukraine borders

March 23, 2014

Russia is observing all international agreements on troop limits in regions bordering Ukraine, the Russian Deputy Defense Minister said, adding that foreign missions’ inspections can confirm that. The statement was made in response to reports by several foreign media outlets over concentrations of “thousands” of Russian servicemen on the Russian-Ukrainian border. “By the way this issue has during the last month been regularly raised in telephone conversations between Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, and his foreign counterparts, including US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and even acting Ukrainian Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh,” Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Deputy Defense Minister said. Sergey Shoigu has, in a very transparent manner, informed all of them about the real situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border. He also stressed that Russia has no intention to concentrate troops there, Antonov said.

Following recent probes by foreign missions in Russia of Ukraine’s bordering regions, foreign inspectors came to the conclusion that “Russian Armed Forces are not undertaking any undeclared military activity that would threaten the security of neighboring countries,” Antonov added. The official said eight foreign inspection groups have recently visited Russia. “Our venues and regions, where troops are stationed near Ukrainian borders, have twice been checked by the Ukrainian military,” the Deputy Minister said. “Besides, we have had on our territory inspectors from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.” Seven of those eight missions were interested in Russian regions bordering with Ukraine, Antonov said. Foreign inspectors were allowed to talk to chiefs of the Russian military units, make pictures of deployment sites and military vehicles, and control them during relocation. “We did our best to meet our partners’ requests by allowing them to inspect all of the sites they wanted to. We have nothing to hide,” Antonov said.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

New York Post

War with Russia edging closer: Top Ukrainian diplomat

March 23, 2014

WASHINGTON – With Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s eastern border, Ukraine’s top diplomat said Sunday that the threat of war was “becoming higher.” “The Ukraine government is trying to use all the peaceful diplomatic means and diplomatic means to stop Russians but the people are also ready to defend their homeland,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said on ABC’s “This Week.” He blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the escalating tension.

“Putin himself is not talking to the rest of the world, he doesn’t want to listen to the world, he doesn’t want to respond on the arguments, Ukrainian arguments … to deescalate situation and stop invasion,” said Deshchytsia.

“We don’t know what Putin has in his mind and what will be his decision. That’s why this situation is becoming even more explosive than it used to be a week ago,” he said. The buildup of Russian troops stretches along most of Ukraine’s eastern border, according to reports.

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SOURCE = New York Post

bbc

Nato warns of Russian army build-up on Ukraine border

March 23, 2014

Nato’s military commander in Europe has issued a warning about the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border. Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen Philip Breedlove said Nato was in particular concerned about the threat to Moldova’s Trans-Dniester region. Russia said its forces east of Ukraine complied with international agreements. The build-up has been allied with Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, following the removal of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president. Moscow formally annexed Crimea after the predominantly ethnic-Russian region held a referendum which backed joining the Russian Federation. Kiev and the West have condemned the vote as “illegal”.

Russian flags have now been hoisted at 189 Ukrainian military units and facilities in Crimea, the Interfax news agency reports. Moscow’s ambassador to the EU told the BBC the “reunification” had not been pre-planned but was the end of an “abnormality” which had lasted for 60 years. Vladimir Chizhov also said said Moscow did not have any “expansionist views” and that “nobody should fear Russia”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Russian Defense Ministry denies rumors about concentration of troops on Ukrainian border

March 23, 2014

Russia has no plans to concentrate its troops on the Ukrainian border, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said. “The Russian Defense Ministry observes all international agreements on the restriction of the number of troops in the areas bordering on Ukraine,” Antonov said on Sunday, commenting on the reports published in some foreign media on the concentration of “thousands” of Russian troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border. “By the way, this issue was raised many times in the course of the past month in telephone conversations between Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu and his foreign colleagues, including [U.S.] Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and even acting Ukrainian defense minister Tenyukh,” he said. “Sergei Shoigu has very clearly told everyone about the real situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border and the lack of any intentions to concentrate troops there,” he said.

“Europe has an objective criterion for evaluating a country’s military activities. It’s a regime of transparency and confidence-building measures in the sphere of conventional weapons, which is based on the Open Skies Treaty and the 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures,” Antonov said. “A set of measures allowing countries to get true information on each other’s armed forces using inspections was developed and is being implemented as part of this regime. There are restrictions on their activities, which may influence the neighbors’ security. If the established thresholds are exceeded, the countries have a duty to declare their intentions and, in some case, invite observers,” he said. “We strictly observe our obligations on these agreements,” Antonov said.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

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Top commander held after base stormed, Ukraine’s interim president says

March 23, 2014

A Ukrainian air force commander has been “abducted” after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, Ukraine’s interim president said Sunday. Col. Yuliy Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over Saturday by forces who sent armored personnel carriers smashing through the base’s walls and fired shots and stun grenades. Two officers were injured by gunshot wounds in the assault, a Ukraine Defense ministry official confirmed to Fox News. Several journalists, including foreign press, were beaten by Russian forces, officials told Fox News.

It was unclear if the forces, who didn’t bear insignia, were Russian military or local pro-Russia militia. President Oleksandr Turchynov, in a statement Sunday, said Mamchur was “abducted” by the forces. He didn’t specify where Mamchur is believed to be held. However, prominent politician Vitali Klitschko said Sunday that Mamchur is being held by the Russian military in a jail in Sevastopol, the Crimean city that is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. With Crimea now effectively under the control of Russian forces, which ring Ukrainian military bases on the strategic Black Sea peninsula, concern is rising that Ukraine’s eastern regions will agitate for a similar move.

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SOURCE = FOX News

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Russian troops storm Ukrainian bases in Crimea

March 22, 2014

Shooting and explosions have been heard as Russian troops backed by armoured vehicles stormed a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea.  Reports say at least one person was injured during the assault on Belbek base, near Sevastopol. The base is now said to be under Russian control. Earlier, several hundred unarmed protesters seized a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorivka, western Crimea. Pro-Russian militia have also been seizing Ukrainian navy ships. The BBC’s Ian Pannell, in Crimea, says the Ukrainian troops on the peninsula feel beleaguered and abandoned by their commanders in Ukraine. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law formalising Russia’s takeover of Crimea from Ukraine, despite fresh sanctions from the EU and the US.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Kyiv Post

Tymoshenko says ‘Ukraine will take Crimea back’ as Russian invasion speeds Putin’s demise

March 22, 2014

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is certain that “Ukraine will take Crimea back” and said the Ukrainian government’s top task is not to let Russian President Vladimir Putin “move further on continental Ukraine.” Tymoshenko’s remarks came during a live TV interview on the Savik Shuster news program on March 21, her first extended interview on a Ukrainian television news program since her release from prison a month ago following the overthrow of her political enemy, Viktor Yanukovych, as president. In her appeal to Ukrainians on the political talk show, Tymoshenko said that “the whole world is keeping an eye on Russia’s moves into Ukraine.”  Tymoshenko believes that the EuroMaidan Revolution that toppled Yanukovych served to stifle Putin’s plans to invade mainland Ukraine. “Putin just wants to change the world’s order and reshape it,” Tymoshenko said. Instead, Tymoshenko believes that the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, on the false pretext of protecting the peninsula’s million or so ethnic Russians, “is the beginning of the end to Putin’s regime.

Now Putin is enemy number one for Ukraine and I need to admit that he lost Ukraine for good in the last weeks, despite the deliberate politics he pursued in our country for the last 20 years.” Putin, Tymoshenko said, is not the first dictator with “fascist attitudes,” and expressed confidence that the world leaders won’t ignore him. “I’m certain we will manage to bring Crimea back, even though Russia boosts its military presence all over Ukrainian border with more than 100,000 troops and lots of military vehicles there,” Tymoshenko explained during the interview. “If Putin crosses the line, Ukraine and the whole world will react,” Tymoshenko said. But she warned that the West won’t send its troops to help Ukraine. “On the flip side, the West focused on imposing economic and financial sanctions against key Russian oligarchs. And with the help of this, we (Ukrainians) will win. But Ukraine was left weak with no army and now everyone of us understands that Ukraine is up against Russia’s aggression.”

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

RT

Coups for export: US has history of supporting anti-govt upheavals

March 22, 2014

The US has been selective in supporting the self-determination of nations. It continues to dismiss Crimea’s choice to reunite with Russia, while at the same time backs the coup in Kiev. And the idea is hardly new for Washington. The current situation in Ukraine has something in common with the one in Colombia, James Petras, a political analyst and Professor (Emeritus) at Binghamton University, New York, believes. The common part is the US role in what’s going on in both countries, he suggests in his op-ed, recently published at the website of Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization.

The two paths to 21st century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war lord, Alvaro Uribe,” Petras says.

By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments, Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable.”

The US has quite a history of meddling in Colombia since encouraging the breakaway of Panama, in the early 20th century. The US was then able to negotiate favorable conditions for the creation of the Panama Canal. The most recent example comes from 2013, when The Washington Post published an article revealing that the CIA actively helped the Colombian government to locate and kill guerrilla leaders.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

ABC News

Russian Forces Storm Ukrainian Airbase in Crimea

March 22, 2014

Russian forces stormed one of the last Ukrainian-controlled airbases in Crimea today, effectively taking over the base. Live video showed Russian forces attempt to use a tank to overturn a vehicle blocking the main gate of the Belbek airbase, which is home to the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade and sits on the edge of the port city of Sevastopol. The livestreaming camera was then taken down by Russian forces. During the initial confrontation shots were fired as troops broke through the wall. At least one person was wounded, according to base commander Yuli Mamchur. “The Russian military is directly responsible for any casualties that its forces — whether they be regular uniformed troops or irregulars without insignias — inflict on Ukrainian military members,” said a senior administration official at the White House.

“Reports of continued attacks against Ukrainian military personnel and facilities highlight the dangerous situation created by Russia and belie President Putin’s claim that Russia’s military intervention in Crimea has brought security to that part of Ukraine. Russia should immediately begin discussions with the Ukrainian government to ensure the safety of Ukrainian forces in the Crimean region of Ukraine.”

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SOURCE = ABC News

Voice of Russia

Ukraine, EU closer association agreement “will make Ukraine even poorer”

March 21, 2014

The EU has today signed an agreement on closer association with Ukraine. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that “Russia needs Europe more than Europe needs Russia.” In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty ratifying Crimea’s accession to Russia, and said he ruled out imposing retaliatory sanctions against the United States. VoR’s political analyst Dmitry Babich gives his views on the latest developments. Russia is very inter-connected with the international economy. The latest news today is that EU leaders have signed an agreement on closer relations with Ukraine. How do you think Russia will take this?

“I think they will take it with irony because Russian experts have warned for a long time that this association agreement between the EU and Ukraine would hit Ukrainian industry because it opens Ukrainian markets to European exports, ” Babich told VoR. “Theoretically, it also opens the EU markets for Ukrainian products, but we all understand that Ukrainian exports are not competitive on the European market. “So what will happen is this association agreement will make Ukraine even poorer – it will increase Ukraine’s insolvency so the West will have to provide more economic aid to Ukraine primarily because the country will continue getting poorer. Ukraine’s market is in Russia, but deterioration of relations between the two countries and certain actions by the new government in Kiev, they shut off the Russian market to Ukraine.”

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

Reuters

Shots fired as Russian troops force their way into Ukrainian base in Crimea

March 22, 2014

(Reuters) – Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armoured vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base’s commander for talks. A Reuters reporter said armoured vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades. Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location. Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: “That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base’s storage.

“Belbek was one of the last military facilities in Crimea still under Ukrainian control following Russia’s armed takeover and subsequent annexation of the peninsula, which has a majority ethnic Russian population and is home to one of Russia’s biggest naval bases. Earlier, the deputy commander of the base, Oleg Podovalov, said the Russian forces surrounding the base had given the Ukrainians an hour to surrender. After the Russians entered, a Ukrainian officer who identified himself only as Vladislav said: “We did not provoke this, this was brute force. I do not know whether this base will be formally in Russian hands by the end of the day. “Ever since World War Two, this place has been quiet, and they came in here firing, with APCs and grenades. I am very worried now.”

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SOURCE = Reuters

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RT

US blacklists 20 Russian officials and businessmen, threatens to sanction economy

March 20, 2014

US President Barack Obama has announced a new executive order imposing further sanctions on top Russian officials and businessmen. The order also allows for measures against Russian energy, mining, defense, and engineering sectors. “We’re imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government. In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals,” Obama said. The new list of sanctioned officials includes 20 names, according to the list published by the US Department of Treasury.

Aleksey Gromov, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration; Sergey Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office; and Sergey Naryshkin, Speaker of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, are among those mentioned. Prominent businessmen Arkady and Boris Rotenberg are also on the list – as well as the Russian Railways president, Vladimir Yakunin and businessman Gennady Timchenko, head of the Volga Group. Yakunin reflected on the decision, saying he is surprised that “a country which calls itself democratic could punish for an honest position and sincere comments.”

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SOURCE = Russia Today

New York Times

Crimean Authorities Release Ukraine’s Navy Commander

March 20, 2014

KIEV — Ukrainian navy commander Serhiy Haiduk and several other hostages detained by Crimean authorities on Wednesday have been released, the Ukrainian presidential website said on Thursday. A Ukrainian military spokesman said Admiral Serhiy Haiduk had been driven away from a navy compound in Russian-controlled Crimea by what appeared to be Russian special forces. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu asked the authorities in Crimea on Thursday to free the detained hostages and allow them safe passage out of the region.

Copyright 2014 ©: Reuters

Reuters

INTERVIEW-Ukraine’s PM warns over Russian plans in Ukraine and region

March 20, 2014

BRUSSELS, March 20 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to destabilise Ukraine’s presidential election in May and has been preparing for possible military action in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said. In an interview with Reuters, Yatseniuk, 39, said Putin wants to extend his hold on Ukraine outside the Crimea peninsula, which he took over earlier this month, into other areas where the majority of the country’s Russian speakers live. “We have clear proof and evidence (that) Russian agencies hired a number of so-called protesters – or actually gangsters – with the task to trigger another cycle of violence in southern and eastern Ukraine,” he said. “They moved these militants from their bases in Transdnistria,” he said, referring to the separatist, mainly Russian-speaking region on Ukraine’s border that broke away from Moldova in 1992 and sees Moscow as its patron.

Such moves would be part of a plan by Putin, he said, to spark “provocations … and send his military to defend the Russian-speaking minority there”. Putin has dismissed such suggestions. Yatseniuk came to office after the removal of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich following months of protests triggered by his refusal to sign a trade deal with the European Union last November. He said that to further undermine Ukraine, Putin will try to challenge the validity of the country’s May 25 presidential election. Western governments hope that vote will help cement political change in Ukraine, but Yatseniuk said Putin might try to trigger violent clashes to cast doubt on the result.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Ukraine nationalist attacks on Russia supporters – fact or Kremlin fairytale?

March 20, 2014

In the middle of the church were two open coffins. Inside them the bodies of Artyom Zhudov and Alexei Sharov – two young men aged 24 and 19. An orthodox priest in magenta robes sang the liturgy. Mourners carried red carnations. The scene was sombre: candles, the flickering images of saints, a woman’s sob. Outside a light snow fell. Sharov and Zhudov were shot dead last Friday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. They were victims of a clash between pro-Russian youths and far-right Ukrainian nationalists. The details are sketchy: a minivan full of men assaults a pro-Russian crowd; the crowd, including Zhudov and Sharov, follow the vehicle to offices of the Patriots of Ukraine, a murky far-right group.

Shots are fired, the young men are hit. The encounter appears to confirm the Kremlin’s unstinting version of the Ukraine crisis. According to this scenario, ultra-nationalists seized power in Kiev last month, compelling Moscow to “protect” Crimea and its Russian majority. Meanwhile, “fascists” have been attacking ethnic Russians, in the south and east of Ukraine, close to the Russian border, especially in the febrile Russian-speaking eastern cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, it says.

The big question is whether such confrontations in eastern Ukraine will prompt further Russian “protective” measures. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, told the BBC that Russia wasn’t planning to invade the east. At the same time, however, Peskov explicitly warned that Moscow reserved the right to “protect Russians and Ukrainians” there if the situation gets worse. According to civil rights groups, however, the Kremlin’s account of anti-Russian persecution is a dark fairytale – “entirely fictional”, as one put it. It is, they say, a made-up scenario scripted in Moscow for state TV, and now played out on the ground by pro-Russian activists and bussed-in professionals. Russian propaganda has been extremely effective, they add. Many trust Russian state TV rather than what they see on the streets, which are strikingly bereft of fascists.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

USA Today

Ukraine, Russia, Crimea: How the story evolved

March 20, 2014

Months of violent protests. Ukraine’s president flees. Russia’s president goes on the offensive. Crimea votes (debatably) to join Russia. What is going on in Ukraine? And, more importantly, why should we care? Earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the standoff in Ukraine the “biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st century.” Here are answers to some of your biggest questions on the ongoing crisis:

I’ve been hearing about Ukraine for months. How did this all start?

In November, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government announced it was abandoning an agreement that would strengthen ties with the European Union. Yanukovych said he was seeking closer cooperation with Moscow. Many in Ukraine were not happy, and protesters took to the streets.

What exactly were they protesting?

Protesters sought closer ties to Europe and an end to Yanukovych’s growing ties with Russia.

When and why did Ukraine explode into violence in February?

Protesters were losing hope when they saw no willingness on the side of Yanukovych to compromise, according to Orysia Lutsevych, a Ukraine expert at the Chatham House think tank in London. Lutsevych said that Yanukovych put people in jail, his government tortured activists and it harassed people. The protesters stopped believing there could be successful negotiations.

What happened to Ukraine’s president?

On Feb. 22, Yanukovych fled the capital after government troops under his control attacked and killed 82 protesters in downtown Kiev. The Ukraine parliament, including members of Yanukovych’s own party, voted to replace him in his absence. Ukraine’s interim government and president, Oleksandr Turchinov, issued a warrant for the arrest of Yanukovych, who escaped to Russia and still declares that he is the legitimate president of Ukraine.

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SOURCE = USA Today

Reuters

Ukraine border guards in Crimea redeploying to mainland-official

March 20, 2014

KIEV, March 20 (Reuters) – Ukrainian border guards in Crimea, under the control of Russia’s military, have started redeploying to regions on the mainland, a senior official said on Thursday. “We have started the gradual redeployment of our servicemen to the territory of Kherson and Mikolayiv regions,” Pavlo Shysholin, deputy head of the state border guard service, told a news conference. Shysholin also said about 1,000 civilians had so far left the peninsula. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Alessandra Prentice)

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SOURCE = Reuters

NBC News

Ukraine Paratroopers Camp Near Russia Border

March 20, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — Two hundred Ukrainian paratroopers have been encamped for a week in eastern Ukraine amid fears that Russia could launch an military incursion over the border. Trenches were being dug next to the camp Friday as soldiers kept watch in damp weather. The soldiers were sent from a base west of Andriivki to boost border defenses in the region, which is home to millions of pro-Russian Ukrainians. Families of the paratroopers — and a handful of local supporters of the Ukrainian cause — visited the camp on Thursday, delivering crock pots of apparently home-made food.

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SOURCE = NBC News

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UN News Centre

Ban heads to Russia and Ukraine amid rising tensions; Security Council briefed on latest events

March 19, 2014

19 March 2014 – With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon headed to Russia and Ukraine as part of his diplomatic efforts to de-escalate current tensions, the Security Council heard senior United Nations officials in New York urge adherence to fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and ensuring respect for the human rights of all. “It is in the spirit of the UN Charter that [the Secretary-General] now embarks on his mission to Moscow and Kiev,” said Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, who, alongside UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, briefed the Council on the latest events in the crisis-torn region. Mr. Ban’s first stop will be the Russian capital, where he will meet on Thursday with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior officials, according to the Secretary-General’s spokesperson. On Friday, the UN chief will travel to Kiev, where he will hold talks with Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other officials. While in the Ukrainian capital, he will also meet with members of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and representatives of civil society.

Mr. Eliasson said that since his own mission to Ukraine at the beginning of the month, “the crisis has continued to deepen [and] tensions in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine continue to rise…we are now faced with risks of a dangerous further escalation that could have ramifications for international peace and security and have serious significance for this Council and for the United Nations.” Laying out a succinct timeline of the “fast-moving and serious” events, he told the Council: Crimean authorities had announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted in Sunday’s referendum did so in favour of secession from Ukraine; subsequently, Crimea declared its independence, which in turn was recognized by Russia; Monday the European Union and the United States moved to apply targeted sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials. Further: President Putin has signed a treaty to make Crimea part of the Russian Federation; the Government in Kiev meanwhile has committed to never accept Crimea’s independence or annexation, stating that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine; and yesterday, Ukraine’s Prime Minister expressed concern that the conflict in the Crimean peninsula is ‘shifting from a political to a military stage.’

“This followed reports that a Ukrainian officer was killed in front of a Ukrainian military base on the outskirts of Simferopol,” Mr. Eliasson continued, noting that after this incident, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister planned to travel to Crimea today. In turn, the Crimean leadership has allegedly stated that Ukraine’s officials would be turned back. “This underscores the dire need for the immediate opening of direct dialogue between Moscow and Kiev.”

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SOURCE = UN News Centre

bbc

Ukraine ‘preparing withdrawal of troops from Crimea’

March 19, 2014

Ukraine is drawing up plans to withdraw its soldiers and their families from Crimea, the security and defence chief in Kiev says. Andriy Parubiy said they wanted to move them “quickly and efficiently” to mainland Ukraine. Earlier, pro-Russian forces seized two naval bases – including Ukraine navy’s headquarters – in Crimea. It comes a day after Crimean leaders signed a treaty with Moscow absorbing the peninsula into Russia. A referendum in Crimea on Sunday, approving its split from Ukraine, came nearly a month after Kiev’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was replaced by Western-leaning interim authorities.

Mr Parubiy, in a news conference, set out more details on Kiev’s position in light of the events in Crimea. “We are developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen, but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine,” he said. He also said the arrangements were now being set up to introduce visas for Russian nationals travelling to Ukraine.

SOURCE = BBC News

Voice of Russia

Moscow will decide whether to introduce visas for Ukrainians visiting Russia after it is officially informed of Kiev’s new visa regime for Russians, a source at Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Ukrainian security chief Andriy Parubiy said earlier in the day that Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry had been given instructions to introduce visas for Russians visiting Ukraine, as tensions rise between the two neighbours. Andriy Parubiy, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said on Wednesday that Ukraine is to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

“Ukrainian government has decided to resign the country’s membership in the CIS,” Parubiy said. He added that the decision was initiated by the the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. Earlier on Wednesday Evgeniy Perebiynis, Head of the Information Politics Department at Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said that Kiev renounced Ukrainian’s membership in the CIS in 2014. Ukraine is also ready to impose a visa regime with Russia and is to ask the UN to turn Crimea into a demilitarized zone.

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

IHS Jane's 360

Britain suspends defence exports to Russian military

March 18, 2014

The British government announced in a Notice to Exporters on 18 March that it has suspended a number of licenses for export to the Russian military. The suspension covers direct exports to the Russian military by British companies, as well as a number of licenses where items would be incorporated onto systems in third countries prior to export to Russia. The suspension covers military goods as well as dual-use items destined for the Russian military. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said “we believe that under current circumstances there is a compelling case for EU member states to act on defence export licenses.

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SOURCE = IHS Jane’s 260

Reuters

Britain warns Putin over Ukraine: Russia could be expelled from G8

March 19, 2014

LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) – Britain warned President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Russia could face permanent exclusion from the G8 if the Kremlin took further steps against Ukraine. “I think we should be discussing whether or not to expel Russia permanently from the G8 if further steps are taken,” Prime Minister David Cameron told the British parliament. The United States and its G7 allies will gather next week at The Hague without Russia to consider a further response to the Kremlin’s moves to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region. Cameron called for a strong response from European Union states, whose leaders meet later this week in Brussels and are expected to discuss details of further sanctions on Russia.

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SOURCE = Reuters

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Gorbachev: ‘Crimea has proclaimed its desire to be with Russia – this is happiness’

March 19, 2014

After the controversial referendum in Crimea, where the vast majority of the population expressed the desire to return the peninsula to Russian jurisdiction, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, whom many blamed for the collapse of the USSR and the ultimate loss of Crimea, shared his opinion about the recent events. Mikhail Gorbachev said that he has very carefully studied the situation with the referendum, and is confident that the Crimeans really want to obtain Russian citizenship. “Now all of this has taken place in Crimea at the request and desire of the people. It is good that they processed it this way, through a referendum, and showed the world that people really want to return to Russia, showed that no one has forced them to do anything,” said Gorbachev.  “Now the people of Crimea must responsibly and skilfully manage the happiness they have achieved.

I believe that this is a happy event, and should be perceived as such. Return of sovereignty to Crimea – this is the foundation,” said Gorbachev. “And, taking advantage of its sovereignty, using its sovereign right, Crimea has expressed its desire be with Russia. And this – this is happiness. This is freedom of choice, which is the most important thing of all.” Gorbachev went on to say that in recent years the residents of Crimea had been on the side of Russia, and not Ukraine. “I personally, and all the supporters of unification, said that the return of Crimea could only be voluntary, free and democratic. And in no case should any blood be spilled. We have already seen what that leads to,” said Gorbachev, who pointed out that this could make Russia vulnerable to “predators” to whom Ukraine and Crimea were unimportant.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

Express

Russian troops storm Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea

March 19, 2014

Russian soldiers, and so-called “self-defence” units of mainly unarmed volunteers moved in early in the morning and quickly took control. Shortly after the incident, Ukraine’s acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh said the country’s forces would not withdraw from Crimea even though Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty to make it part of Russia. But an hour later, Ukrainian servicemen, unarmed and in civilian clothing, began walking out of the headquarters. Uncomfirmed reports claim said the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, was among those who left and was driven away by officers of Russia’s FSB intelligence service. The first group of servicemen was followed within a few minutes by a handful of troops in Ukrainian uniform, looking shell-shocked at the dramatic turn of events.

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SOURCE = The Express

RT

Ukrainian servicemen leave Navy base in Sevastopol as Crimea protesters storm HQ

March 19, 2014

At least 30 Ukrainian naval personnel have left the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in the city of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula after demonstrators stormed the premises early in the morning. Crimean self-defense troops have made a passage to let Ukrainian servicemen leave the territory of the HQ. Reports on the number of people to have left vary with ITAR-TASS saying around 50 personnel are gone, Rear Admiral Sergey Gaiduk of the Ukrainian Navy among them. However, Kryminform says Gaiduk has been detained by the Sevastopol prosecutor’s office while RIA Novosti reports that his whereabouts is unknown. People began protesting outside the HQ at 08:00 GMT. Several thousand participants cut fences, stormed inside and changed the flags on the flagpoles. Some of the participants of the rally were singing the Russian national anthem. There were no immediate reports of violence.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

Middle East Online

Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch

March 19, 2014

On Jan. 12, a reported 50,000 “pro-Western” Ukrainians descended upon Kiev’s Independence Square to protest against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Stoked in part by an attack on opposition leader Yuriy Lutsenko, the protest marked the beginning of the end of Yanukovych’s four year-long government. That same day, the Financial Times reported a major deal for US agribusiness titan Cargill. Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer. And those aren’t the only eggs in Cargill’s increasingly-ample basket.

On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine. Cargill has been in Ukraine for over two decades, investing in grain elevators and acquiring a major Ukrainian animal feed company in 2011. And, based on its investment in UkrLandFarming, Cargill was decidedly confident amidst the post-EU deal chaos. It’s a stark juxtaposition to the alarm bells ringing out from the US media, bellicose politicians on Capitol Hill and perplexed policymakers in the White House.

It’s even starker when compared to the anxiety expressed by Morgan Williams, President and CEO of the US-Ukraine Business Council — which, according to its website, has been “Promoting US-Ukraine business relations since 1995.” Williams was interviewed by the International Business Times on March 13 and, despite Cargill’s demonstrated willingness to spend, he said, “The instability has forced businesses to just go about their daily business and not make future plans for investment, expansion and hiring more employees.”

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

Reuters

OSCE fails again to reach deal on Ukraine monitors

March 19, 2014

“Meanwhile they continue to say that they understand the urgency of deploying monitors, that they support it, and so they are talking out of both sides of their mouth.” ~U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer

VIENNA, March 19 (Reuters) – Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) failed again on Wednesday to agree on sending monitors to Ukraine, raising doubts about whether a deal was possible at all. Some diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based security watchdog spoke of the difficulty posed by Russia’s effective veto of action by the 57-member group, which has a principle of consensus. Ukraine and Western countries want OSCE monitors deployed in a country locked in a confrontation with Russia over Moscow’s decision to absorb the breakaway Crimean peninsula. But talks on Wednesday at OSCE headquarters broke up again without a deal. “This is the third time that a text has been presented to which only one state objects – and that is the Russian Federation,” U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer told reporters.

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SOURCE = Reuters

IWPR

Ukraine: “Referendum Ballots” Handed out in Donetsk

March 19, 2014

In the city of Donetsk, pro-Russia activists are handing out “ballot papers” for a vote on the status of Donetsk region, journalist Olga Ivshina reports on Twitter. Ivshina says the papers are being openly distributed on the streets. The ballot-sheet contains two questions, asking people to decide whether Donetsk region should “reunite” with Russia or remain part of Ukraine. Separatists have become more active in Donetsk in recent weeks, although their leader Pavel Gubarev has been arrested. The security agencies say “tourists” from Russia who include members of that country’s secret services have taken part in separatist rallies in Donetsk.

SOURCE = Institute For War & Peace Reporting

Washington post

Putin’s speech on Crimea leaving Ukraine to join Russia, fact-checked

March 19, 2014

When Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke to a session of parliament on Tuesday, he began by claiming that the Crimean referendum was held “in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.” In fact, although some Crimeans have strong cultural ties to Russia and were happy with the results, the vote itself on Saturday was rushed and “condemned by most of the world,” The Washington Post reported. Two primary concerns were the increased Russian military presence in Crimea in recent weeks and the lack of an option for the status quo on the ballot. The Fact Checker blog and Truth Teller team looked into this and other claims in Putin’s speech announcing the annexation of Crimea. We’ve fact-checked other parts that are misleading or untrue; watch the video below to see why:

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SOURCE = Washington Post

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

The newfound uncertainty of life in Russia

March 18, 2014

Although I was 11 when the Berlin Wall fell, I don’t really remember the Cold War. I never really thought of people from other countries as enemies, or even different in a substantial way – they were just people. Maybe this is because I was raised in a city that was 60 percent African-American by parents who made a concerted effort to teach my brother and me that all people were equal. Maybe it’s because my formative years were the 1990s, when economies all over the world were growing and anything seemed possible. I have been fortunate enough to live and travel all over the world and have tried to approach each experience by accepting whatever foods, traditions and living conditions that were thrown at me as totally normal for the situation and not as something exotic and surreal that I would try once and then tell as an amusing anecdote when I was back home. I have particularly felt that life in Russia was simply a different kind of normal from American life. In fact, life in Russia for me was just normal. Period. When my friends would say something on Facebook about how exciting my life must be as a journalist in Moscow, I would counter, saying that my life here was exactly the same as my life in Washington, DC. Every day I got up, went running, took the kids to school, went to work, cooked dinner, fell asleep in front of the TV. It was normal.

Then there was a revolution in Ukraine. The day Russia’s Federation Council authorized President Vladimir Putin to use troops to defend Russian interests in Ukraine, I was driving down one of Moscow’s main streets thinking that this must have been what it was like during the Cold War – somewhere else, Russian and American interests were fighting, but for ordinary people from day to day nothing changed at all. Over the past few weeks, however, it has. As the Crimea referendum neared and the rhetoric ramped up, I found that I no longer trusted my judgment as to what kind of story was ok or not to commission from a freelancer. I dreamed about being fired because the headline I wrote on some story about Ukraine wasn’t nuanced enough. I worried that what made me an asset to my company – my very American-ness and perspective of the American market – was more of a liability.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

EuroNews

Russia considers Ukraine’s Crimea signed, sealed, delivered

March 18, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Crimea reunited with Russia. He and Crimean leaders have signed a treaty of accession, which they consider effective immediately. Putin stressed the peninsula on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast was historically special for Russia. He said Russia does not intend to absorb other parts of Ukraine. He highlighted Crimea’s Tatar historic Muslim minority, saying they had come back to their territory, and said all legislative and political decisions had to be taken to “bring to fruition the rehabilitation of the Tatars of Crimea.” The three-quarter-of-an-hour speech to an audience including members of both houses of parliament was delivered in St. George’s Hall in Moscow’s Grand Kremlin Palace. Framed with patriotic fervor, it doled out praise and rebuke. “Where Ukraine is concerned, our Western partners crossed a red line,” Putin said. “They behaved cruelly, without responsibility, without professionalism.”

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SOURCE = Euro News

Kyiv Post

Russian, Ukrainian troops face off as Putin speaks in Moscow on fate of Crimea

March 18, 2014

Soldiers of the Ukrainian military base No А-1346 along with dozens of masked Russian soldiers, who were blocking them for over a week, didn’t pay attention to the speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 18, when he announced Crimea would be accepted as a Russian territory. Putin’s voice sounded loudly from a radio placed in the shabby car of one of self-defense militants, who were listening to it with wide smiles on their faces during a seemingly peaceful but very tense scene.

The soldiers of both sides were busy with other things at the same time. The Russians, many of whom are considerably young, were unloading armed vehicles and resettling the items in other cars, while the Ukrainian soldiers were welcoming their wives and children. Both sides spoke little. “All are waiting for the decision. If they (Russian authorities) sign decree on incorporation of Crimea then we become seen as occupants here,” one of the Ukrainian soldiers said, refusing to give his name, fearing for his life. “Oh God! They already did it,” he added.

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

74cc8-guardian_logo

Crimea crisis: Ukraine authorises use of arms in self-defence – live updates

March 18, 2014

Today Crimean Tatars mourned a man found beaten to death, a reminder that violent clashes have occurred since the beginning of the crisis in Crimea, and that the 12% minority group’s general opposition to Russian rule could have serious consequences. Turkey threatened today to close the Bosphorus to Russian ships in the event of violence against Crimean Tatars.

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, also made comments today, in line with those of interim prime minister Yatsenyuk’s. Turchynov said that the attempt to annex Crimea is “a very dangerous step … not only against Ukraine, but also against Europe and the whole world”. He went on to directly accuse Putin of manufacturing the crisis and violating international law.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

The official internet-portal

March 17, 2014

Order of the President of the Russian Federation dated 17.03.2014 № 63-p “On signing the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the adoption of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Crimea and the formation of the Russian Federation new subjects”

Crimea

ABC News

Defiant Putin Blasts West as Hypocrites for Ignoring ‘Free Will’ of Crimeans

March 18, 2014

In a defiant speech to lawmakers today, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear he has no intention to back down from plans to annex Crimea, despite warnings from President Obama that doing so would incur further U.S. sanctions. Putin outlined the long historic ties between Crimea and Russia. He said that Russia had been “robbed in broad daylight” when Crimea remained part of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union and that Crimea had been given away “like a sack of potatoes.” At the start of his remarks, Putin welcomed officials from the “Republic of Crimea,” as Russia recognizes the breakaway region. The comment drew a sustained standing ovation from the crowd. After the speech, Putin signed a treaty with Crimean officials paving the way for the region’s annexation by Russia. Russian lawmakers are expected to ratify the treaty later this week.

In a decree earlier in the day, Putin notified his country’s legislature about Crimea’s proposal to join the Russian Federation and he strongly urged lawmakers to approve it quickly. In his speech, President Putin railed against what he saw as Western “double standards” with regard to recognizing Crimea. He singled out the United States for its policies of foreign intervention since the end of the Cold War. “Our Western partners, especially the USA, believe that they can decide for the world, that they can decide other people’s fate,” he said. “ Look at Belgrade. At the end of the twentieth century. Then Afghanistan, Libya. Those nations were tired, but the U.S. cynically used that.” He referred to the American principle of “freedom” and asked rhetorically, referring to Sunday’s independence referendum, “But what about the free will of Crimeans? Isn’t that of the same value?”

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SOURCE = ABC News

bbc

Ukraine officer ‘killed in attack on Crimea base’

March 18, 2014

Ukraine’s military says an officer has been killed in an attack on a base in Crimea, the first such death since pro-Russia forces took control in February. Ukraine has now authorised its troops to fire in self defence. The attack came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Crimea signed a bill to absorb the peninsula into Russia. Western powers condemned the treaty and a G7 and EU crisis meeting has been called for next week in The Hague. The Ukrainian crisis began in November last year after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned an EU deal in favour of stronger ties with Russia. He fled Ukraine on 22 February after protests in which many died.

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SOURCE = BBC News

RT

2 killed in shooting near Crimea military research center, sniper suspected

March 18, 2014

Two people – a self-defense member and a Ukrainian soldier – have been killed and two others wounded after a suspected sniper opened fire in two directions from a partially inhabited building near a military research center in Simferopol. As RT producer Lida Vasilevskaya arrived on the scene, the perimeter of the Ukrainian military topography and navigation center had already been surrounded by men in camouflage and the situation was “calm”. The Kryminform news agency, citing an unnamed local police source, reports shooting came from a house under construction opposite the center and targeted Crimean self-defense units as well the military center itself.

“Earlier today self-defense units were informed that a group of armed men had been discovered in a partially inhabited building,” a source from the ministry said. “As they were taking measures to check, self-defense units came under fire. One man was killed, one wounded,” the source explained, adding that shooting came “in two directions from one spot”. The Kryminform source claimed another man from the military center was wounded. RT’s producer contacted staff inside the military center, who confirmed that the shooting did take place and came from a nearby house under construction. At the same time, the man had no information on the casualties. Meanwhile, multiple reports that a Ukrainian serviceman died in the incident are unconfirmed by our crew at the scene.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

Voice of Russia

Putin signs treaty of accession of Crimea and Sevastopol to the RF

March 18, 2014

Russia and Crimea have signed treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation following President Putin’s address to the Parliament. Crimea and Sevastopol are joining Russia as two separate regions, President Putin said. The agreement will temporarily apply from the signature date and will take effect once ratified. Russia guarantees all peoples inhabiting Crimea and Sevastopol the preservation of their native language and the creation of conditions for learning and developing it, according to the agreement. The Kremlin said Tuesday that it now considers Crimea part of Russia following the signing of a treaty. According to a report posted on the Kremlin website, “the Republic of Crimea is regarded as accepted in the Russian Federation from the date of the signing” of the relevant treaty. Putin said: “To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

“Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour. “Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

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London School of Economics

Not all Ethnic Russians in Crimea Have a Political Affinity with Moscow

March 17, 2014

Throughout the Ukraine crisis, Crimea has been described as a region with strong sympathies toward Russia. Based on her own research in the region, Ellie Knott takes issue with the prevailing view that ethnic Russians in Crimea necessarily have a strong Russian identity. She notes that much of the empirical evidence in this area is outdated, given it derives from 2001 census data. Citing interview responses, she argues that while a significant number of ethnic Russians do exhibit a Russian identity, there is evidence that this is not the case for many younger citizens who grew up after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In a comment article last month I resisted labelling Crimea as “the next South Ossetia”, Ukraine’s “Achilles heel” and “Russia’s next target.” In recent weeks, a connection has been drawn between Crimean violence in the 1990s and its call to secession with the idea that it “has a strong Russian identity”. However, the lack of engagement with people on the ground means many observers miss much of what has happened since 1991. Hence, while Russia might see Crimea as their next South Ossetia, acting to protect their citizens and compatriots, the situation in Crimea is very different.

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SOURCE = London School Of Economics

Kyiv Post

Putin signs decree officially recognizing Crimea’s independence

March 17, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin wasted no time in recognizing the March 16 secession vote in Crimea, signing a decree 24 hours after polling stations closed in the Black Sea peninsula officially acknowledging the breakaway region as an independent state, the Kremlin press service reported on March 17. The move laid the groundwork for the possible annexation of Crimea, which Putin is scheduled to address in front of an assembly of both houses of parliament in Moscow on March 18. “Taking into consideration the will of Crimea’s people on the nationwide referendum, which took place on March 16, 2014, to recognize the Republic of Crimea, where Sevastopol city has a special status, as a sovereign and independent state,” reads the official decree.

As mentioned, the statement also says that Russia recognizes Sevastopol, a warm-water Crimean port that houses Russia’s Black Sea Fleet base, as a city with a “special autonomous status” within independent Crimea. The presidential decree comes into force immediately after being signed. The final results of the referendum in Crimea showed that 97 percent of voters supported splitting from Ukraine to join Russia, Mikhail Malyshev, head of the referendum election commission said on March 17, adding that the commission has not registered a single complaint about the vote.  Ukraine’s new government said the referendum was a “circus” masterminded by the Kremlin and conducted at gunpoint.

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Tactical exercises by Russian Army are no more than war games

March 17, 2014

The tactical exercises recently carried out by Russia’s armed forces in the Rostov, Belgorod and Kursk regions of the country’s Southern Military District have attracted heightened international attention, with the manoeuvers drawing a particularly acute reaction in Kiev. Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Defense Admiral Ihor Tenyukh even went so far as to suspect Moscow of preparing for an offensive. According to Admiral Tenyukh, Russia had allegedly amassed forces consisting of 220,000 troops, 1,800 tanks and more than 400 helicopters for these exercises. The figures that he presented do not correspond to reality in any way. It was a month ago that President Vladimir Putin placed forces in the Western, and Central Military districts (which include the Baltic and Northern Fleets, airborne troops, military and space forces, fighter and military transport aviation) on alert for an unannounced inspection.

According to official sources, 150,000 troops, 870 tanks, 90 aircraft, 120 helicopters and 1,500 units of military hardware (ships, artillery ordnance, armored personnel carriers and vehicles) were subsequently mobilized for the manoeuvers. Admiral Tenyukh could not fail to have known that back on 7 March, four days before he made his statement in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament), all forces that had participated in these exercises had already returned to their barracks. An official announcement was made about this by Russia’s Ministry of Defense. Maybe this was the reason the Russian Deputy Minister for Defense Anatoly Antonov was forced to issue a clarification. “The UkrainianMinistry of Defense is already well aware that the Russian Southern and Western Military Districts combined do not amount to the numbers of tanks and combat helicopters cited by Mr. Teryukhin,” said Antonov.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

Reuters

Ukraine digs defensive trench in eastern region

March 17, 2014

“Our border is not a castle. But it is equipped so that vehicles cannot cross it in either direction. This is not based on one or another scenario, but rather intended to maintain a solid border.”

DONETSK, Ukraine, March 17 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s easterly Donetsk region, dominated by Russian-speakers and buffeted by rallies by pro-Russian activists, has built a defensive trench complete with concrete barriers along its long border with Russia, its governor said on Monday.Sergei Taruta also said measures would be taken to restore order in the region in the aftermath of Russia’s takeover of Crimea after pro-Russian demonstrators overwhelmed police and stormed public buildings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he reserves the right, after the takeover of Crimea, to protect eastern Ukraine’s Russian-speaking majority from what Moscow says are right-wing allies of the pro-Western government in Kiev. Ukraine’s defence minister says 60,000 Russian troops are massed on the border. Taruta, appointed by the central government like all regional governors, said the aim of the trench project was to protect the 150 km (90 miles) of Donetsk region’s border with Russia, particularly between established crossing points. The trench, he said, was 4 metres (12 ft 6 in) wide, 2.5 metres deep and backed up by a dike 2 metres high. “We have done this on our own and dug a trench practically the entire length of the border. In particularly dangerous places, concrete blocks standing on four legs have been put in place,” Taruta told a news conference.

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SOURCE = Reuters

Voice of Russia

Putin signs decree on ‘Recognition of Crimea’

March 17, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to recognize Ukraine’s breakaway region of Crimea as an independent state, the Kremlin press service said on Monday. Russia also said that it recognizes Sevastopol, a Crimean port that houses the Russian Black Sea fleet base, a city with a “special autonomous status” within the Republic of Crimea. The decree comes into force immediately after being signed. Crimea, the autonomous republic within Ukraine, has refused to recognize as legitimate the new leadership in the country. A referendum held Sunday in the largely Russian-ethnic autonomous republic saw over 96 percent of voters support reunification with Russia. On Tuesday, Putin will address an assembly of both houses of parliament, as well as heads of regions and representatives of public organizations about Crimeaa??s reunification request.

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

telegraph

Tanks and trenches to defend Ukraine from Russia

March 17, 2014

Ukraine despatched tanks into the rolling terrain of the Donbas basin on Monday, putting its biggest guns back on the scene of the biggest armoured clash in history. It was in this bleak but fertile landscape along what is now Ukraine’s border with Russia that the Red Army routed Nazi Panzers to turn the course of the Second World War. But as Ukraine’s dilapidated tank units moved to muddy berms in the fields south of Donetsk city as part of face-saving mobilisation, the guns of T-64 and T-72 models were this time pointed towards Russia. In responding to a reported Russian military build-up, however, Ukraine’s military immediately ran into groups of activists who tried to obstruct their movements. In the village of Elenvola on the edge of the great plain, there was anger at the manoeuvres from their own countrymen. “Russians and Ukrainians don’t want to fight each other,” said Ivan Inozemev, a prison warder. “We would be happy to be part of Russia if that’s what happens.”

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

ITV

Russia defiant in face of Western sanctions

March 17, 2014

After yesterday’s 97% vote to join Russia, things are moving fast in Crimea. Street signs are already being switched to Russian. The parliament has voted to put the clocks forward to match Moscow time and the Russian rouble will be brought into circulation. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree recognising Crimea as a “sovereign and independent country” has triggered the toughest Western sanctions against Russia since the Cold War. Washington and the European Union reacted to the referendum for Crimea to breakaway from Ukraine with asset freezes and travel bans. US President Barack Obama vowed to “increase the cost” if the Kremlin does not back down.

The US announced sanctions against seven Russian officials, including Rogozin, Mr Putin’s close ally Valentina Matvienko who is speaker of the upper house of parliament and Vladislav Surkov, one of Mr Putin’s top ideological aides. The Treasury Department also targeted Yanukovych, Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov In a show of solidarity with the White House, the European Unions’s foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine following Crimea’s referedum.

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SOURCE = ITV News

New York Times

In Eastern Ukraine, the Curtain Goes Up, and the Clash Begins

March 17, 2014

KHARKIV, Ukraine — The opponents arrived in the city’s center and prepared for the coming scuffle with ritualized familiarity. On one side of Freedom Square, beneath a towering statue of Lenin, hundreds of pro-Russian Ukrainians unfurled Soviet banners and flags and set up a public-address system on the bed of a truck. On the other, under a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag atop the regional administration building, a few hundred police officers stepped from buses to reinforce the small overnight guard. They snapped on shin guards and helmets, and handed out batons and riot-control shields.

This was to be a choreographed demonstration against Ukraine’s new government, with a brief attempt by the demonstrators to break police lines and claim the building, followed by a loud march to the Russian Consulate to ask for intervention in Ukraine’s east. It would generate intense television footage that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia might use to support a claim that Ukrainians sought and needed military support, the same argument used to explain the military intervention in Crimea. But while both sides would show a mix of on-camera resolve, even as they clashed they would knowingly flash moments of politeness, mutual respect and restraint — as if many of them were a common people caught in their divided rulers’ fight. One pro-European observer, Anya Denisenko, would later reduce the events to their sum.

“This is,” she said, “information war.”

The rally and scuffle, while passionate, were not an effort by pro-Russian residents to storm and claim a government building, as its organizers might have had it appear. Set against a combustible backdrop of revolution, counterrevolution, secession and the possibility of war, they were street theater of a sort that has been used by both sides in Ukraine. Scenes like these have been playing out in cities throughout the country’s east, like Donetsk and Kharkiv, where large Russian-speaking populations live and the country’s heavy industry is concentrated.

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SOURCE = New York Times

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Russia Beyond the Headlines

Wide range of Russians protest Crimea vote

March 16, 2014

Saturday’s protest in central Moscow against the war in Ukraine, started at Pushkinskaya square and moved to Sakharov’s prospect, brought together a wide range of Russians eager to protest not only Russia’s involvement in Crimea, but the state of Russian politics and the Kremlin’s recent move to tighten the reins on mass media. Although protestors of all political beliefs attended the march, including one young communist group chanting “there is no warfare but class warfare,” representatives from all sections of Moscow society were present. Hipsters with curled mustaches, grandmothers holding small Ukrainian flags, and families strolling with their children, gave the event a festive air, despite the many police present.

Olga Petropalevskaya started going to protests in 2012, when Russians came out in force to protest Putin’s election. “It’s not honest – they’re not letting in observers,” she said about the Crimean elections that will decide whether the peninsula will become part of Russia. Petropavlevskaya, who has fond memories of visiting Ukraine as a child, added: “they should live their lives, and we should live ours.” Alexei Bondarenko came to protest not only against the war, but “against the powers that be, to show our numbers.” He said, “I feel bad about what’s happening” in Ukraine, but for him, the greater issue is the number of Russians who believe in the propaganda of state-owned media. Bondarenko, who works at a technology firm, said his co-workers see the Crimea “as theirs.”

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond The Headlines

RT

Right Sector leader: Kiev should be ready to sabotage Russian pipelines in Ukraine

March 16, 2014

The leader of ultranationalist group Right Sector, Dmitry Yarosh, has threatened to destroy Russian pipelines on Ukrainian territory if a diplomatic solution is not reached with Moscow. In a fiery address loaded warmongering rhetoric, Yarosh told his followers they should be ready to resist the Russian “occupiers.” The leader of the Right Sector made his address to the coup-appointed government in Kiev, as Crimeans made their way to ballots Sunday to vote to join with Russia or to remain within Ukraine. “We cannot allow the enemy to carry out a blitzkrieg attack on Ukrainian territory. We mustn’t forget that Russia makes money sending its oil through our pipelines to the West. We will destroy these pipelines and deprive our enemy of its source of income,” Yarosh said. Continuing the bellicose rhetoric, Yarosh appealed to his followers, urging them to take up arms against Russia, if a diplomatic solution cannot be reached.

Yarosh said that Crimea was too small to satisfy the appetite of the “Russian Empire,” and that the Kremlin would seek to take over the whole of Ukraine. “Let the ground burn under the feet of the occupiers! Let them choke on their own blood when they attack our territory! Not one step back! We will not allow Moscow’s beserk, totalitarian regime to spark a Third World War!” The phrase “Not one step back!” was used in a famous order by Joseph Stalin during WWII and became a popular slogan for the Soviet people’s resistance against the Nazis. Yarosh’s use of this particular rhetoric attracted attention from many observers, given that the members of his Right Sector group are known to use Nazi insignia.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

ABC News

Dueling Protests Held in Moscow Ahead of Crimea Referendum

March 15, 2014

Dueling protests were held in Moscow today, in favor of and against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its potential annexation of Crimea. The rallies came a day before Crimea is to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine and amid reports of Russia escalating its military presence in the neighboring country. At the pro-intervention rally near Red Square, many of the 15,000 reported participants marched in columns wearing red uniforms. At the larger anti-war rally, tens of thousands marched carrying Russian and Ukrainian flags. They chanted “Crimea no!” and slogans against Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I am against war – Russia against Ukraine – and I think Ukraine is independent country and we should solve all the problems with diplomatic methods,” protester Yuliana Badrova said. “I am afraid that this will cause world war and that’s why I am here,” Yelena Sviridova, another protester, said. “I am afraid we will not stop him [Putin]. We are here but he doesn’t listen to us.”

Protests in MoscowOn Saturday Russia vetoed a US-led resolution at the United Nations Security Council that would have declared the referendum illegal. The United States and Europe have warned of sanctions if the vote goes ahead and Russia does not back down. Also on Saturday, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Russian troops had moved beyond Crimea for the first time, taking control of a village just north of the region. A senior State Department official said they had no independent confirmation that Russian troops had entered areas of Ukraine outside Crimea. “We remain concerned about any attempt by Russia to increase tensions or threaten the Ukrainian people and – as we have long said – if Russia continues to take escalatory steps, there will be consequences,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

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SOURCE = ABC News

24TV

Translated using Google Translate

Russian special forces mined all departures from the military unit in Feodosia

March 16, 2014

Russian military zaminuvlay all trips of Ukrainian military unit in Feodosia , which is based battalion of marines. It was on his Facebook page said the head of the Military – Political Studies D. TIMCHUK. According to him, currently set to 40 anti-tank mines at all exits from a / h in Feodosia, the so-called ” mine gate “. Operation of controls , Colonel Vladimir Karpushenko , SWAT team commander , Hero of Russia (received for operation in Dagestan, where he commanded a company of Marines ). Timchuk also said that in the last hour s.Perevalne observed seal ring environment. ” The total number of occupants exceeds 700 people. Among the soldiers , there are many people of non-Slavic appearance characteristic , “- he added.

Російські військові замінувлаи всі виїзди із української військової частини у Феодосії, де базується батальйон морської піхоти. Про це на своїй сторінці у Facebook повідомив керівник Центру військово-політичних досліджень Дмитро Тимчук. За його інформацією, на даний момент встановлено 40 протитанкових мін на всіх виїздах з в/ч у Феодосії, так званий “мінний шлагбаум”. Операцією керує полковник Володимир Карпушенко, командир бригади спецназу, Герой Росії (отримав за операцію в Дагестані, де командував ротою морської піхоти). Тимчук також повідомив, що у с.Перевальне за останні години спостерігається ущільнення кільця оточення. “Загальна чисельність окупантів перевищує 700 осіб. Серед бійців з’явилося багато людей характерної неслов’янської зовнішності”, — додав він.

SOURCE = 24TV

Voronz

Translated using Google Translate

On the “referendum” in Crimea allowed to vote to citizens of Russia

In the Crimea at the polls give ballots to those who are not on the lists , including nationals of the other country. This in his Facebook wrote journalist Catherine Sergatskova. “The referendum hold open I , a citizen of Russia , with a residence permit in Simferopol , received bulletin with the words : ” Well, if you live here , so can vote , “- she wrote. ” Auntie , not finding me in the lists , just type my name in another list ,” – said Sergatskova . Another eyewitness – Leonid Kolesnikov – reports that in each section 5-6 ” vigilantes .” ” 2 sites visited . At each entrance 5-6 vigilantes . Yet the same ext. , Plus one policeman . Many people . Many not on the list , but it’s not a problem. Immediately on the spot and make a photocopy of the passport to make additional announcements and possible vote , “- he wrote on his Facebook.

В Крыму на избирательных участках выдают бюллетени тем, кого нет в списках, в том числе гражданам другой страны.Об этом в своем Facebook написала журналистка Екатерина Сергацкова. “Референдум считать открытым! Я, гражданка России, с пропиской в Симферополе, получила бюллетень со словами: “Ну, раз вы тут живете, значит, можете голосовать“, – написала она. “Тетенька, не найдя меня в списках, просто вписала мою фамилию в другой список“, – рассказала Сергацкова. Другой очевидец – Леонид Колесников – сообщает, что на каждом участке по 5-6 “дружинников“. “Посетил 2 участка. На каждом у входа 5-6 дружинников. Еще столько же внутр., плюс один милиционер. Людей много. Многих нет в списках, но это не проблема. Сразу на месте делают ксерокс паспорта и вносят в дополнительные списки и можно голосовать”, – написал он в своем Facebook.

SOURCE = Voronz

Espreso TV

Translated using Google Translate

In Simferopol stolen base storage of fuels and lubricants (updated)

Tonight at the base of the storage of fuels and lubricants ( POL ) in Simferopol , which previously occupied the Crimea Self-Defense Forces arrived armed people who are trafficked fuel. It was reported by the head of the Crimean media center MOD Vladislav Seleznev on your page in the ” Facebook “, the Espreso.TV. “Sources from Simferopol report that tonight the base fuel storage , which previously occupied the Crimea Self-Defense Forces arrived 25 unidentified persons , including 8 gunmen that presenting the mandate of the Crimean government , uncovered storage tanks of fuel ” – the in the message. According to him, two forty-five vat and a vat of eight fuel trucks ready for export diesel from fuel depot . To be sent to fuel unknown. Seleznev also said that last night near the base fuel storage was carried out shooting with automatic weapons. As of 10:15 tank trucks leaving the base.

Сьогодні вночі на базу зберігання паливно-мастильних матеріалів (ПММ) в Сімферополі, яку раніше захопили сили самооборони Криму, прибули озброєні люди, які вивозять паливо. Про це повідомляє керівник кримського медіа-центру Міноборони Владислав Селезньов на своїй сторінці у «Фейсбуці», передає Еспресо.TV. «Джерела з Сімферополя повідомляють, що сьогодні вночі на базу зберігання ПММ, яку раніше захопили сили самооборони Криму, прибули 25 невідомих осіб, у тому числі 8 автоматників, які пред’явивши мандат від кримського уряду, розкрили ємності для зберігання палива», – йдеться у повідомленні. За його словами, два сорока п’яти кубових і один восьми кубовий бензовози готові до вивезення дизельного палива з бази зберігання ПММ. Куди буде направлено паливо невідомо. Селезньов також зазначив, що минулої ночі в районі бази зберігання ПММ велася стрілянина з автоматичної зброї. Станом на 10:15 бензовози виїжджають за межі бази. Для завантаження прибуло ще два.

SOURCE = Espreso TV

Washington post

Crimea’s Tatars brace for Russian annexation

March 12, 2014

BAKHCHYSARAY, Ukraine — Across this ancient Crimean town of 25,000, surrounded by apple orchards and shadowed by graceful minarets, there are few signs of the tension that grips its Muslim Tatar inhabitants. But inside their rebuilt houses, cafes and mosques, every Tatar has a chilling story to share as they face likely annexation to the country whose rulers once drove them into exile. A housewife tells of men who came in the night last week and scratched a cross on her front gate. A shopkeeper describes an official who took his Ukrainian passport and said he would get a Russian one after Sunday’s referendum on Crimean annexation. A Muslim cleric says worshipers are taking turns guarding their mosque from dusk to dawn. “No one is sleeping through the night,” said Musa Naziz, the young imam at the 300-year-old Taktali Jami mosque, built by his Turkic ancestors and left in ruins many times since. “The Russian authorities say they will respect us, but how can we believe them? The land in our area is full of their troops, just waiting. If they come for us, this time we won’t leave. We will fight back.”Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, with its historical ties to Russia and its 60 percent Russian-speaking population, is an easy target for annexation. Moscow’s greatest worry is the estimated 300,000 Crimean Tatars who began resettling here in the 1980s and are passionately opposed to rejoining the power that persecuted them from czarist to communist times. Many people in Crimea — a multi­ethnic region of about 2 million people — are not happy about the prospect of annexation, but only Tatar leaders have announced a formal boycott of the referendum. In the Crimean capital, Simferopol, there is little organized opposition to the Russian-backed referendum juggernaut — posters, banners, loudspeaker trucks blaring patriotic Russian songs, and one-sided TV coverage by Moscow-based and pro-Russian Crimean stations. Several opposition rallies have been held in the capital, drawing enthusiastic crowds waving Ukrainian flags, but they have been mostly grass-roots events with no high-profile leaders. The growing presence of Russian Cossack troops, uniformed militiamen and local vigilante squads in the region has served as mute but powerful intimidation.Visit the Source for more on this storySOURCE = Washington Post

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Crimea goes to the polls

March 15, 2014

On Mar. 16, a referendum will be held in Crimea according to a resolution adopted by the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on Mar. 6. Residents of the peninsula will be asked to select one of the following options: 1. Are you in favor of Crimea joining Russia as a constituent part of the Russian Federation? 2. Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and of Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine? The authorities in Kiev consider the referendum unlawful, on the grounds that the current Ukrainian Constitution does not allow regional authorities the right to initiate a referendum. However, according to a declaration of independence adopted on March 11 by the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol city council, if voters taking part in the referendum choose in favor of Crimea joining Russia, the Republic of Crimea, as an independent and sovereign country, will appeal to Russia to be admitted into the Russian Federation as a new region.

Voters are eligible to take part in the referendum if they are citizens of Ukraine, 18 years of age and older, and registered within the administrative boundaries of either the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or Sevastopol, which is also a separate region. According to the state registry of voters, as of Feb. 28, 2014, there were about 1.5 million eligible voters in Crimea and a further 309,774 voters in Sevastopol. Talk of a referendum in Crimea first began last month after the confrontation between the opposition and the authorities in Kiev. The Russian-majority population of Crimea feared a crackdown after the new opposition-led government revoked a law giving the Russian language equal status with Ukrainian in some part of the country and President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. On Mar. 7, in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin said that the new Ukrainian authorities had come to power in an unconstitutional coup and did not have a nationwide mandate. Putin added that Russia could not ignore appeals for help from the Russian-speaking populations in the eastern and southeastern regions of the country and Crimea. On Mar. 9, in telephone conversations with British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said that steps being taken by the legitimate authorities of Crimea were based on norms of international law and were aimed to ensure the lawful interests of the republic’s population.

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SOURCE = Russia Beyond the Headlines

Pravda

Translated using Google Translate

The EU does not recognize psevdoreferendum not fame observers in Crimea

March 16, 2014

The European Union does not recognize the result of the so-called ” referendum” in the Crimea, and there will be no official observers of the European Union . Reported by the EU Delegation to Ukraine on page European Union in Ukraine in Facebook. “The European Union is not going to recognize the result of the” referendum “to be held today in the Crimea. , This ” referendum ” is unconstitutional because this illegal act , there is no EU observers ,” – said in a statement. ” EU citizens these days are in the Crimea, and who can comment on the ” referendum ” – does not represent the European Union” , – stated in it.

Європейський Союз не визнає результат так званого “референдуму” в Криму і там не буде офіційних спостерігачів Євросоюзу. Про це повідомило представництво ЄС в Україні на сторінці European Union in Ukraine у Facebook. “Європейський Союз не збирається визнавати результат “референдуму”, що пройде сьогодні в Криму. Цей “референдум” є неконституційним, тому на цьому незаконному акті немає жодних спостерігачів ЄС”, – йдеться в заяві. “Громадяни ЄС, які цими днями знаходяться в Криму і, які можуть коментувати “референдум”, – не представляють Європейський Союз”, – наголошується в ньому.

SOURCE = Pravda

Kyiv Post

Voting in Crimean referendum starts even as Ukraine government declares it illegitimate

March 16, 2014

Balloting began at 8 a.m. in a Crimean referendum that asks peninsula voters whether they want to join Russia or simply declare more autonomy from Ukraine for the region’s two million residents. The vote is widely considered to be a sham with an outcome pre-determined by the Kremlin and its prime minister in Crimea, Serhiy Aksyonov, whose authority the central government in Kyiv does not recognize. Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight. The vote comes a day after Ukraine’s Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared the referendum unconstitutional and Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, voted also on March 15 to dissolve Crimea’s pro-Kremlin parliament. The measure won with 278 out of 450 possible votes. Before the voting, Oleh Tiahnybok, on the floor of the Rada, said:

“Today we all are patriots. We (lawmakers) are responsible for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I feel sorry for the Crimean people that they couldn’t find out truth about what’s going on In Ukraine. Moscow is not interested in Crimea, they are interested in dividing Ukraine. They don’t want to defend Russian citizens but rather try to abolish Ukrainian language as it is. And we need to prevent it.” Viktor Pynzenyk, a member of parliament with Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR party said: “We need to unite now for our future. Rada needs not only to look for its enemies, but also to search for allies as we need to find the way out of the problematic situation we face now in Ukraine.

Hanna Herman, a member of parliament with the opposition Party of Regions, which was run by disgraced ex-President Viktor Yanukovych: “We couldn’t blame Party of Regions for all the problems we facing now. But if we dismiss the Crimean Parliament today as some of you, lawmakers, suggest, then whom we will deal with? We need to understand people in Crimea are also patriots, so we shouldn’t go there and dishonor them.” Nestor Shufrich, a member of parliament, also said: “Every day people are dying in Ukraine. We need to do everything for security” He blamed those who sent “radicals and ulta-right to regions for death and clashes.”

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

RT

Concerns as Ukraine’s govt hastily revamps Maidan squads into National Guard

March 15, 2014

The creation of Ukraine’s National Guard – the custodian of the coup-imposed government – has raised concerns that it may later be deployed to eastern regions of Ukraine to suppress the population increasingly standing up against Kiev. Ukraine has established a National Guard which will be comprised of former and current Ukrainian troops and volunteers from Maidan self-defense squads. Its declared goal, according to the statement of the country’s parliament, is the protection of Ukrainians against external and internal aggression as well as ensuring territorial integrity of the country. A decree enabling the creation of National Guard has already been signed by the coup-imposed President of Ukraine, Aleksandr Turchinov, after it was hastily passed by the parliament on Thursday. A total of 262 members of the Rada voted in favor of establishing the Ukrainian National Guard. According to the law, the National Guard’s chief will be appointed by the Rada upon the recommendation of the acting president. The Guard will be compromised of 60,000 men and women and its official tasks will be to protect and safeguard the lives, rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, society and the state from criminal and other unlawful acts. In addition, the guard will ensure public order in cooperation with law enforcement authorities, protect state borders, combat terrorism, as well as the suppress the activities of illegal paramilitary or armed organized groups or individuals.

The National Guard will be able to carry out the functions of any law enforcement agency in the post-coup country, as the existing agencies cannot be fully relied upon, considering the questionable legitimacy of the new rulers and the public discontent in eastern regions. Ukraine previously established the National Guard in 1991 with a similar role, as the remnants of the former Soviet army were then considered unreliable. In 1995, it became the personal praetorian guard of President Leonid Kuchma. It was later disbanded in 2000. Yet experts are already beginning to question the true motives behind the formation of the new combat force in Ukraine. Historian Vladimir Skachko argues that the Guard will be used to antagonize the Russian speaking population, and he has called the creation of the special force “legalization of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist batons.” Citing historical examples from 20th century European history, Skachko draws a parallel with the SA, or Brownshirts, a paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party, which acted as death squads. This theory appears to hold ground, considering the coming of extreme right-associated politicians to key posts in the coup-installed Ukrainian government.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

EuroNews

Tension on Crimea border between Ukraine and Russia

March 15, 2014

A Ukrainian checkpoint has been set up near Crimea in the Kherson region in the south of the country. Troops arrived after unconfirmed reports of an attempt by Russian forces to enter the region. Trucks lined the road waiting for the all clear to continue their journey with one driver saying he expected to wait 12 hours before being allowed to move on. It is an example of how tension has gripped Ukraine’s frontier. Defence officials say Ukraine’s military scrambled aircraft and paratroopers to confront Russian soldiers landing on a remote spit of land between Crimea and the mainland. The border guard service said talks between the two sides established the Russian servicemen were “guarding against possible terrorist acts” on a gas pumping station. “At this time there is no threat of confrontation,” the Ukrainian border guard service said.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Crimea holds secession referendum

March 16, 2014

Crimea is voting on whether to rejoin Russia or stay with Ukraine but with more autonomy. The referendum has been condemned as “illegal” by Kiev and the West but is backed by Moscow. Since the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian troops have in effect taken control of the majority ethnic-Russian region. Voters are expected to support leaving Ukraine, but Crimean Tatars are boycotting the poll. The BBC’s Ben Brown at a polling station in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, reported a strong turnout – with 100 people arriving in the first 10 minutes after polls opened

Russia earlier vetoed a draft UN resolution criticising the vote – the only Security Council member to do so. The US-drafted document was supported by 13 Council members. China, regarded as a Russian ally on many issues, abstained from the poll. Beijing has said it supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The US and EU had warned they would impose further tough sanctions on Russian officials if the referendum went ahead. Russia intervened in the Crimean peninsula by seizing control of government buildings and blocking Ukraine’s troops at their bases after the fall of President Yanukovych on 22 February. However, the Kremlin officially denies deploying extra troops there, describing them as Crimea’s “self-defence forces”.

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SOURCE = BBC News

News Junkie Post

Ukraine’s Crisis: Economic Sanctions Could Trigger a Global Depression

March 15, 2014

The referendum in Crimea on March 16, 2014 will probably attach the peninsula to the Russian federation. While it is unlikely that NATO will intervene and seek a direct military confrontation with Russia, the United States and the European Union are already cooking some broad and unwise economic sanctions with which to punish Russia. Russia, for its part, has at its disposal some mighty economic weapons with which to retaliate, as needed. The economic pain from this tit for tat of sanctions will be, in particular, inflicted on the EU. Because of the interconnections between all economies and financial markets, mutual economic sanctions could drive a still fragile world economy to a financial crash. The West, acting as if it solely and arrogantly represents the international community, has formulated a hazardous policy to isolate Russia. This ill-advised strategy is extremely shortsighted on all levels. Unlike Iran, Russia is fully integrated into the global economy.
The Ukraine crisis is a major test of BRICS‘ geopolitical validity as an economic group, political  force and potential military alliance. China, Russia’s biggest partner in BRICS, has been strangely muted about Ukraine and the Crimea referendum, urging for “restraint on all sides” and pushing for a political solution. During the emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on March 15, 2014, on a resolution to declare Crimea’s referendum illegal, China did not side with Russia by using its veto power but instead abstained from voting. China’s abstention does not fare well for the future of BRICS, as it plays into the strategy of the US and its EU partner to isolate Russia. China, by its abstention from the UN vote, and India, Brazil and South Africa, by their subdued responses, have already played into the hands of the US and its European allies. Will China and other BRICS members step in forcefully to stop the madness of multilateral economic sanctions?

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Ukraine crisis: voting begins in Crimea as president warns of Russian ‘invasion’

March 16, 2014

Voting has got under way in Crimea in a referendum that will decide whether the Black Sea peninsula leaves Ukraine and becomes part of Russia. Polling stations opened at 8am local time (6am GMT) and are due to close 12 hours later. Provisional results will be released late on Sunday, with the final tally expected one or two days later. A vote in favour of leaving Ukraine could prompt US and European sanctions against Russian officials as early as Monday. The majority of Crimea’s 1.5 million electorate are thought to be in favour of leaving Ukraine and becoming part of Russia, but others see the referendum as part of a land grab by the Kremlin. Ethnic Tatars, Sunni Muslims of Turkic origin who make up 12% of Crimea’s population, have said they will boycott the referendum. European leaders and the US president, Barack Obama, have dismissed the vote, which has been organised by Crimea’s pro-Russian authorities at short notice, as illegitimate, saying it would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

According to ballot papers published before the referendum, voters have the right to choose one of two options, neither of which rejects control by Russia. The first question asks: “Are you in favour of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?” The second asks: “Are you in favour of restoring the 1992 constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?” This envisages making Crimea an independent entity within Ukraine, with the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants, including Russia. On Saturday, Ukraine’s president said there was a “real danger” Moscow would seize further territory after the referendum in Crimea, and he accused “Kremlin agents” of orchestrating turmoil in the Russian-speaking east of his country. The acting leader, Oleksander Turchynov, said there was every possibility Russia would advance deeper into Ukraine. He told parliament: “The situation is very dangerous. I’m not exaggerating. There is a real danger from threats of invasion of Ukrainian territory.”

A group of Russian commandos advanced beyond Kremlin-occupied Crimea on Saturday and landed by helicopter in an area of southern Ukraine under Kiev’s control, Ukraine’s defence ministry said. About 60 Russian troops arrived in four helicopters at 1.30pm in the village of Strilkove, in Kherson province, three miles (5km) beyond the autonomous Crimean border. Another 60 flew in in six helicopters at 3.30pm. Early reports suggested Ukrainian forces had evicted them, but the Russian contingent still appeared to be there on Saturday night. A spokesman for Ukraine’s border guard service, Oleg Slobodyan, said the Russians had taken up positions next to a gas production facility, backed by three armoured personnel carriers. Ukrainian troops had reportedly retreated to a nearby crossroads. Ukraine’s foreign ministry dubbed the incursion a “military invasion” by Russia. It demanded that Moscow withdraw its forces and said Ukraine “reserves the right to use all necessary measures” to stop the invasion. The area, Arbatskaya Strelka, is a long section of land running parallel to Crimea. Since independence it has been in Kherson province, but the land was originally part of Soviet Crimea and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, may be attempting to restore this communist-era border.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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