Ukraine: Archive 2

Last Updated September 18, 2016

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Voice of Russia

New Ukraine can’t be built by radicals longing for power – expert
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March 13, 2014

Revolutions are designed by romantics, implemented by fanatics, while scums use their results. That statement by Otto von Bismarck has been confirmed by history numerous times. Suffice it to recall that while the most progressive part of society was the driving force behind the Arab spring, Islamists got to power as a result of that uprising. It appears that something similar is happening in Ukraine: despite the good intentions of the participants of the protests, the results of the revolution could prove frustrating for them. The brightest and most memorable moments of the Ukrainian revolution were the clashes of the opposition and Berkut. The photographs depicting shootings and Molotov cocktails hitting the helmets of the Special Forces were widespread all over the world. However, not all protests’ participants were that radical and prepared to fight against the militia. Among those who went to the Maidan there were many women, elderly people and children. And naturally, not all the protesters were of the opinion held by ultra-nationalists from the Right Sector.

Actually, it is not surprising that anti-government protests united very diverse groups, thinks Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. “They fought against an absolutely rotten regime which had run down the country. I don’t only mean the regime of Yanukovych as such, although he made it worse by his incompetent policy. But I mean the entire regime in power in Ukraine over the past 20 years: nontransparent and sticky oligarchic system, which provided some balance, but did not provide any development. In other words, the ruling elite lived off the Soviet heritage and was busy redistributing the assets. People got sick and tired of all that. Thus, the explosion of protests was quite natural. Thus, one cannot say that in Maidan there were only provocateurs and participants that got paid,” he says.

If the problem were Viktor Yanukovych personally, one could say that Maidan participants got what they were searching for. He personally fled the country, while the Party of the Regions that supported him got noticeably weaker. But if we assume that the entire political class in Ukraine requires modernization, one cannot talk about the Maidan’s victory. Alexei Vlasov, head of the Center for the Study of the Post-Soviet Space, comments on the issue. “The new appointments of governors in a number of regions in the East and Southeast of Ukraine show that the same people, the same faces, the same financial and industrial groups that were present in Yanukovych’s times remain afloat under the new authorities. If the goal was to remove the hateful Yanukovych, then yes, the problem has been solved, although by illegitimate methods. But what next? I don’t see any winners among those who sincerely protested against the corruption and wrongful administrative decisions made by the previous regime. They did not get what they fought for,” Vlasov asserts.

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SOURCE = Voice Of Russia

The Mail UK

Violent clashes in Donetsk between Ukrainians and pro-Russian groups as Moscow moves thousands of troops to border

March 13, 2014

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Pro-Russian protesters are now killing their opposition in Ukraine.
(Photo Reuters)

Violence has erupted in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk between Ukrainians and pro-Russian groups as Moscow moves thousands of troops to the border. Fighting broke out at rallies staged by opposing demonstrators. One person was killed and at least 10 were hurt, it has been reported. Pro-Russian demonstrators shouted ‘Russia, Putin!’ and hurled eggs, bottles and other projectiles at rival demonstrators. It comes as Russia confirmed today it has massed thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine as John Kerry warned of ‘serious consequences’ if Moscow tried to annex Crimea.

A referendum is set to be held in Crimea on the peninsula’s status this weekend, and the US Secretary of State today said that there is no justification for it to take place. He had earlier said that things could ‘get ugly fast’ after Russia’s defense ministry said massive artillery drills have been launched in its Southern Military District – which covers the border area – involving 8,500 troops and a large amount of hardware. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are dut to meet in London tomorrow. It coincides with war games conducted by the country’s Airborne Troops.In a statement, the ministry said: ‘The main purpose of these actions is to completely check teamwork of the units and make them implement combat missions on an unknown territory.

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SOURCE = Daily Mail

UN News Centre

Together ‘we can pull Ukraine back from the brink’, UN political chief tells Security Council

March 13, 2014

“Mr. Šimonovic returned to Kiev today, where he will meet with ministers and other officials. He is scheduled to hold a press conference in Kiev tomorrow,” said the spokesperson.

The United Nations continued efforts on multiple fronts to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine, with a senior human rights official holding meetings today in the capital, Kiev, while in New York, the Security Council held its sixth urgent session on the crisis, hearing the UN political chief stress that the path to a peaceful resolution is still open – “let us seize it.” The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN requested the Council to convene urgently “due to the deterioration of the situation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Ukraine, which threatens the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Chairing the meeting was Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month. The session was briefed by Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and also heard a statement from Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The meeting came as senior UN officials have been appealing to all parties for weeks to de-escalate tensions and to engage in direct and constructive dialogue to forge a peaceful way forward in Ukraine, which has been witnessing unrest for several months. Tensions heightened last week as lawmakers in Crimea, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have recently been deployed, voted to join Russia and to hold a referendum on 16 March to validate the decision. In his briefing, Mr. Feltman noted that this is the sixth time the Security Council has met on the situation in Ukraine since 1 March, even as multiple multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts remain under way, “all aimed at seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis.” Yet, the frequency of the deliberations is also a reflection of the fact that as an international community “we have not yet been able to deliver on our obligation…to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter,” he said.

Mr. Feltman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s concern continues to deepen regarding the deterioration of the situation in Crimea and rising tensions in eastern Ukraine. In Crimea, the seizure and blockade of Ukrainian military bases, as well as of the majority of State Border Service facilities continues. “There have been reports that a military hospital has been taken over by unidentified military personnel,” he said, noting other reports that Crimean authorities closed the airspace over the peninsula to all commercial flights except those travelling to and from Moscow, citing the need to keep ‘provocateurs’ out of the area. “The scheduled referendum has further complicated an already difficult and volatile situation,” Mr. Feltman continued, saying that he regretted to report that local authorities have denied UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, access to Crimea, citing the lack of readiness to receive him and inability to provide security.

As for the situation on the ground “we will have to rely on, among others, reports from residents, foreign diplomats based in Crimea, and international non-governmental organizations,” with whom Mr. Šimonovic has been in contact. “Given the vast divergence in reports about what is actually happening on the ground in Crimea, we would have much preferred that [Mr. Šimonovic] had been able to collect first-hand accounts himself.” He went on to say that the monitoring mission established by the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is set to become operational in Ukraine by Monday, and, in light of the “unpredictable situation, which could affect human rights”, the Secretary-General has asked Mr. Šimonovic to extend his mission in the country. “In the highly charged atmosphere in Ukraine, exacerbated by the lack of trust and by fear, the potential for intentional or unintentional escalation or miscalculations is very real,” he said, reiterating the Secretary-General’s recent calls for resolving the crisis in a manner that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity and which paves the way for constructive, rhetoric-free dialogue.

“All sides must avoid unilateral actions that could further raise tensions and make de-escalation difficult. It is high time for constructive engagement – instability in Ukraine is in no one’s interest and will have dire consequences for the region and the world,” said Mr. Feltman, emphasizing that the United Nations is convinced that with genuine concerted efforts by the international community “we can together pull Ukraine back from the brink.” Later in the day, the Secretary-General’s spokesman issued a readout of a meeting between the UN chief and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and acting Foreign Minister, Andrii Deshchytsia. “The Secretary-General expressed his increasing concern about developments in Ukraine, including his particular alarm at the rapidly evolving crisis in Crimea and reports of rising tensions in eastern Ukraine,” said the note.

The Secretary-General underscored that he had intensified diplomatic efforts over the past days and weeks but that all parties must de-escalate the situation, tame the rhetoric and find a peaceful solution to the crisis. “He urged the Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister not to relent on their efforts to engage in direct dialogue with Russia and commended their restraint thus far during this difficult time in Ukraine’s history,” said the readout, adding that Mr. Ban stressed the need for the Prime Minister to govern Ukraine in a spirit of inclusivity and to promote a country of unity and opportunity for all, including minorities. The officials also discussed the ongoing visity of Mr. Šimonovic in Ukraine.

Further to the readout, Mr. Ban underscored that the UN Charter has to be the guiding instrument for collective efforts toward a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine. The Charter’s principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes and full respect for human rights, must prevail. Meanwhile, according to UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, Mr. Šimonovic continued his mission in Ukraine today, visiting Lviv, a city in the western part of the country, where he met with the head of the regional council and discussed the hosting of displaced people from Crimea now living in the Lviv region. He also held talks with the regional Ombudsperson. The spokesperson said that Mr. Šimonovic then met with representatives of local non-governmental organizations, including Crimean Tatars, and they discussed the human rights situation in Ukraine. He also had a meeting with the originator of a grassroots campaign to speak Russian in Lviv for one day in solidarity with Russian speakers in Ukraine alarmed by the decision of the country’s Parliament to repeal the language law.

SOURCE = United Nations

Reuters

Russia holds war games near Ukraine; Merkel warns of catastrophe

March 13, 2014

(Reuters) – Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States. In an unusually robust and emotional speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “catastrophe” unless Russia changes course, while in Ukraine a man died in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city. In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion that she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, “We would not only see it, also as neighbours of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed on Monday by the United States and Europe if a referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned. Merkel, a fluent Russian speaker who grew up in Communist East Germany, has emerged in recent days as a leading figure in threatening tough measures against Moscow. Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said European states would draw up a list over the weekend of Russians who will face visa restrictions and asset freezes. Putin declared Russia’s right to invade its neighbour on March 1, as Russian troops were already seizing control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a narrow ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base.

Events have moved rapidly, perhaps signalling an effort by Moscow to turn the annexation into a fait accompli before the West could coordinate a response. In the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a young man was stabbed to death and more than a dozen people were in hospital after pro-Russian and pro-European demonstrators clashed. The violence was the worst since last month’s overthrow of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich. But in an apparently conciliatory move, Russia backed deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea, the Swiss chairman of the European rights watchdog said.

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SOURCE = Reuters

EuroNews

Ukraine: deadly clashes in Donetsk

March 13, 2014

At least one person has been killed and more than a dozen injured in clashes between hundreds of pro- and anti-government protesters in Donetsk.

The violence erupted as participants in two rival rallies broke through a police barrier in the centre of the city.

Hospital sources say the victim was fatally stabbed, making it the first death reported outside the capital during the recent violence.

It was unclear how the dead person was killed. Protesters broke through a police cordon keeping the two sides apart. It was the first death reported in recent Ukrainian violence outside of the capital, Kiev.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Vox Pop: Crimea’s future

March 13, 2014

At an extraordinary meeting on March 6, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an address to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him whether Russia is ready to accept Crimea as a member of the Russian Federation. Sevastopol’s city administration has decided to take part in the all-Crimean referendum, scheduled for March 16. Two questions will be considered in the referendum: 1) Do you support reunification of Crimea with Russia as a constituent of the Russian Federation? 2) Do you support the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Crimea and the Crimean status as a part of Ukraine?

SOURCE = Russia Beyond the Headlines

Herald Globe

Growing Concerns About Press Freedom in Ukraine

March

There is growing concern that Russia or Russian surrogates are trying to restrict independent media coverage of unfolding events in Ukraine, including Crimea. There have been numerous incidents of harassment of international journalists, and Russia recently took over Ukrainian broadcast frequencies, raising alarms that Moscow is trying to silence opposition voices. At one point during a pro-Russia demonstration in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, protesters turned their anger toward Voice of America correspondent Daniel Schearf and his translator. Shearf described what happened. “A large crowd encircled us, you know maybe three, four, five people deep. And we were obviously surrounded,rdquo; he said. In this case, the verbal assault did not turn violent but, as seen in one YouTube video, a Bulgarian journalist in Crimea was attacked by masked men as he tried to take pictures of them removing equipment from a TV studio.

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SOURCE = Herald Globe

RT

Crimea referendum opponents manipulate detached norms of international law – Churkin

March 13, 2014

“In the conduct of the referendum, organized by the Crimeans, the Russian Black Sea Fleet does not interfere,” he said.

Addressing the chorus of criticism at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador has reconfirmed that Russia does not want any escalation of the Ukraine crisis and is not interfering with the upcoming referendum in Crimea. “Russia does not want war and neither do the Russians, and I’m convinced the Ukrainians don’t want that either,” ambassador Vitaly Churkin told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday. “We don’t see any basis to consider the issue in such terms.” It is unacceptable to reject Crimea’s right for self-determination using a smokescreen of protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, without even trying to balance these two principles, Churkin told the council.

“Some dispute the legality of such a referendum, but it is unacceptable to manipulate individual principles and norms of international law, randomly pulling them out of context not only of the international law, but the specific political circumstances and historical aspects,” Churkin said. In each case, the envoy believes, one should “balance between the principles of territorial integrity and the right for self-determination.” “It is clear that the implementation of the right of self-determination in the form of separation from the existing state is an extraordinary measure. In Crimea such a case apparently arose as a result of a legal vacuum, which emerged as a result of unconstitutional, violent coup d’état carried out in Kiev by radical nationalists, as well as direct threats by the latter to impose their order on the whole territory of Ukraine.”

Churkin assured the international community that the Black Sea Fleet – the only Russian military force stationed in Crimea according to existing international agreements – does not and will not interfere with Sunday’s referendum on Crimean succession.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Kiev will not use army to stop Crimea seceding, says Ukraine president

March 12, 2014

“Unfortunately, for now Russia is rejecting a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” he said.

Ukraine’s acting president has said the country will not use its army to stop Crimea from seceding, in the latest indication that a Russian annexation of the peninsula may be imminent. The interim leader said intervening on the south-eastern Black Sea peninsula, where Kremlin-backed forces have seized control, would leave Ukraine exposed on its eastern border, where he said Russia has massed “significant tank units”. “We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,” Oleksandr Turchynov told AFP. “They’re provoking us to have a pretext to intervene on the Ukrainian mainland … [but] we cannot follow the scenario written by the Kremlin.” Crimea is due to hold a referendum on joining Russia this Sunday – organised by the peninsula’s self-appointed leaders. Turchynov described the secession referendum as a sham whose outcome would be decided “in the offices of the Kremlin”.

The European Union is poised to impose travel bans and to freeze the assets of Russian officials and military officers involved in the occupation of Crimea by next Monday if Moscow declines to accept the formation of a “contact group” to establish a dialogue with Ukraine. But Russian leaders are currently refusing to communicate with Ukraine and refuse to accept Turchynov’s legitimacy. “Unfortunately, for now Russia is rejecting a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” he said. A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday is being seen as an unofficial deadline for the introduction of the sanctions, which would exempt the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as the EU tries to keep open lines of communication. Ukraine’s parliament warned the regional assembly in Crimea on Tuesday that it faces dissolution unless it cancels the referendum, which has been condemned by the EU and the US as illegal. But the Russian foreign ministry said it would respect the result of the vote.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Kyiv Post

SBU detains a Russian saboteur in Donetsk

March 11, 2014

Ukraine’s Security Service detained a Russian saboteur in Donetsk Oblast on March 10, said SBU Chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko. The suspect is accused of preparing explosions and orchestrating other acts of diversion, said Nalyvaichenko in a statement on March 11. His activity is suspected of serving as a pretext for a wider Russian military invasion of Ukraine beyond Crimea. The 37-year-old man, who was not identified, carried a Russian passport and was detained jointly by the police and the SBU.  The Russian Embassy in Kyiv did not immediately comment on the detention. “The danger of the detainee is that he’s not just a regular guy, he’s a trained, professional saboteur,” Nalyvaichenko said. “And this individual walked about the land of miners with explosives and set up diversion groups to prepare explosions in public places where masses of people had gathered.” Nalyvaichenko said the man was a member of a “foreign special service” and has organized a number of extremist groups in eastern Ukraine. He has also allegedly supplied the groups with explosives and weapons.

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

Pravda

The sky over Crimea closed for Ukrainian in the ” referendum”

March 12, 2014

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The airspace over the Crimea at the time of the ” referendum” in the ARC will be closed , said the illegal Prime Crimea Sergey Aksenov . ” For safety , airspace over the Crimea at the time of the referendum will be closed ,” – he wrote on Twitter . “After March 17th Simferopol airport to receive and send aircraft as usual ” – said Aksenov . A First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Crimea Temirhaliyev told “Interfax” that the government of Crimea partially restricted arrival of aircraft at the airport of Simferopol to avoid the infiltration of provocateurs republic . “In connection with the possible arrival of us here we provocateurs partially restricted arriving aircraft. This measure is applied selectively , but after March 17 , all these measures will be lifted and the airport will take and send aircraft as usual ” – he said . Meanwhile, the Self-Defense Forces took control of the Crimea Crimean state- control “UkSATSE ” which , according to Temirhaliyeva , prevented the arrival of the President of Tatarstan Rustam region Minnikhanov . “Yesterday we were faced with a problem. During the arrival of the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov when his plane was not allowed in the airspace experts” UkSATSE ” at the direction of the Kiev authorities.

Then head of Tatarstan tried to come here by flight airline S7. This flight is also not allowed. Was followed try his arrival here by plane MOE, which also was not allowed in Ukrainian airspace , “- he said. ” At the moment the situation is brought under control ,” – said Temirhaliyev . According to him, the Crimean division “UkSATSE ” controls at this time the Council of Ministers of Crimea. Head of Tatarstan Minnikhanov could arrive in Simferopol , meet with leaders of the Crimean Tatar community and take part in an extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea . The airport ” Simferopol” March 12, still plans to receive and send only the Moscow flight , according to the online scoreboard airport. As of 10 am lifted on arrival and departure flights to / from Kyiv and Istanbul , but appear in the schedule of all scheduled flights to / from Moscow. On the website of the airline ” Ukraine International Airlines’ (UIA ) reported , according to the airport ” Simferopol ” International Airlines flights can not be taken at the airport due to the limitation of air traffic. Because UIA cancels flights from March 12.

SOURCE = Pravda

RT

OSCE slams Ukraine’s repressive censorship of Russian TV channels

March 12, 2014

The OSCE has criticised Kiev’s “repressive” move to shut down the broadcasting of Russian TV channels after the media watchdog reported over 50% of providers have already fulfilled the order allegedly aimed at “ensuring national security and sovereignty.” “As of 11:00 GMT, March 11th, 50 percent of providers throughout Ukraine have disabled broadcasting of foreign channels,” others are preparing to follow, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine, said on its website. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has voiced strong concerns over the decision. “I repeat my call to the authorities not to initiate these repressive measures,” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said. “Banning programming without a legal basis is a form of censorship; national security concerns should not be used at the expense of media freedom.”

“While I deplore any kind of state propaganda and hate speech as part of the current information war, everyone has the right to receive information from as many sources as he or she wishes,” Mijatovic said. “Switching off and banning channels is not the way to address these problems; any potentially problematic speech should be countered with arguments and more speech.” So far at least 5 Russian channels have been excluded from the list of options, following an appeal by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine last week. “The National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine requires the program service providers to stop the broadcast of the Russian TV channels Vesti, Russia 24, Channel One (worldwide transmission), RTR ‘Planeta’, and NTV-World in their network,” the National Council order says. More than half of Ukraine’s population speaks Russian regularly and one third say it’s their native tongue. In Crimea over 90 percent of the population uses Russian on an everyday basis.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

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Ukraine: western media coverage’s bias should be held into account

March 12, 2014

Reading the global and Australian media recently, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Russian president Vladimir Putin is a dangerous demagogue who threatens the security of the world after his country’s involvement in Ukraine and Crimea. How many times have we seen those infamous shirtless photographs of Putin looking menacing and comical? Are we tired yet of journalists and commentators pontificating on a so-called “new cold war”? Australia’s most popular news website, news.com.au, published a long article last week – pushed as the lead story of the hour – that was the perfect distillation of this disturbing yet predictable trend. It opened with a cute piece of comedy: “We know he loves to strut around shirtless, pose shamelessly for Kremlin PR photographs and invade former Soviet republics.” What a monster! What a brute! Over many words, peppered with Buzzfeed-style images, the piece reminded readers that Putin was a former member of the KGB who carefully crafts his “macho” image and loves to “butterfly swim through chilly lakes”. Readers would have discovered almost nothing about Putin and Russian attitudes towards global affairs, but such stories would presumably please the White House, which is desperate to frame Putin as the archetypal enemy of the 21st century.

Such a message grows from the belief that “our” political and business leaders should be treated with far more respect than non-western figures ripe for one-dimensional portrayals. After all, it’s far easier to smugly ridicule Putin and his friends while believing our own media is far more inquisitive of power. The evidence for this, however, is in short supply. Too often, the issue of US “prestige” is reflected in comments by journalists who are alleged to be independent from the state department line. And when was the last time a self-described serious outlet mocked Barack Obama, Tony Abbott or David Cameron for their choice of clothing? Of course, nobody can doubt the brutality of Putin’s Russia. From state-sponsored homophobia – US writer Jeff Sharlet’s recent shocking essay in GQ magazine revealed the desperation of being gay in the nation – to anti-democratic measures against non-violent dissent, Putin has constructed an authoritarian state that tolerates little opposition. This should all be loudly condemned and challenged, and there can be no excuses for any of it. But Washington, with a record of flagrantly breaching international law over Iraq, Afghanistan, drones, extraordinary rendition and torture, might be hypocritical when denouncing potential Russian breaches of law.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

bbc

Ukraine president: Russia ‘is refusing crisis talks’

March 12, 2014

Russia’s leaders are refusing all negotiations with their Ukrainian counterparts, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has said. Mr Turchynov told the AFP agency that Ukraine would not intervene militarily in Crimea, even though a secession referendum there was a “sham”. Meanwhile interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is travelling to the US to meet President Barack Obama. On Thursday he is due to address the UN Security Council in New York. “We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border [close to Russia] and Ukraine would not be protected,” Mr Turchynov told AFP. He said that Sunday’s referendum in Crimea – in which people on the peninsula will decide whether or not to become part of Russia – was “a provocation” that would be boycotted by most people.

“The Russian forces don’t intend to hold a referendum, they’re just going to falsify the results,” he said. The president said that at the same time the Russian government was refusing to enter into any dialogue with Ukraine. “Unfortunately, for now Russia is rejecting a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” he told AFP. “They are refusing all contact at foreign ministry and top government level.” Mr Turchynov earlier on Tuesday called for the creation of a national guard to defend the country and provide support to just 6,000 troops who are combat-ready. He said that the force would comprise volunteers with military experience who would be on guard against external and internal aggression.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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EU tells Russia: start Ukraine talks or face sanctions

March 11, 2014

The European Union is on course to impose travel bans and to freeze the assets of Russian officials and military officers involved in the occupation of Crimea by next Monday if Moscow declines to accept the formation of a “contact group” to establish a dialogue with Ukraine. A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday is being seen as an unofficial deadline for the introduction of the sanctions, which would exempt the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as the EU tries to keep open lines of communication. The sanctions could be imposed a day after Sunday’s referendum in Crimea to allow the Black Sea peninsula to join the Russian Federation.

Ukraine’s parliament warned the regional assembly in Crimea on Tuesday that it faces dissolution unless it cancels the referendum, which has been condemned by the EU and the US as illegal. But the Russian foreign ministry said it would respect the result of the vote. Officials from the EU, US, Japan and Turkey met in London on Tuesday to draw up a list of Russians who could be subject to the sanctions, as Kiev called on London and Washington to live up to their commitments to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Britain, the US and Russia were signatories to the Budapest memorandum in 1994 in which they agreed to uphold the newly independent Ukraine’s borders in exchange for the surrender of the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the interim Ukrainian prime minister, said: “If you do not uphold these guarantees which you signed up to in the Budapest memorandum, then explain how you will convince Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear status.” In his second press conference since he fled to Russia, Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, decried the actions of the new Kiev government and its western allies but shied away from discussing the de facto Russian occupation of Crimea.

The sanctions will be introduced under what EU leaders describe as phase II of a three-stage plan agreed at their summit last week. The final stage would involve curbs on energy, trade and financial relations if Russian forces move beyond Crimea to the main part of eastern Ukraine. The number of Russians named in the EU’s official journal is expected to be in double rather than triple figures. David Cameron’s spokesman said: “The prime minister is very much linking phase II to the need for dialogue to start in the new few days. We are asking [the officials] to do preparatory work and we still believe there is an opportunity for the dialogue to start and we very much encourage the Russian authorities to start that. The focus [of the sanctions will] be on officials who are closely linked to infringements on Ukrainian sovereignty.”

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Ukraine crisis: Russia drafting counter-offer to US demands

March 11, 2014

Russia has said it is drafting counterproposals to a US plan for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis. The Kremlin denounced the new western-backed government as an unacceptable “fait accompli” and claimed Russian-leaning parts of the country had been plunged into lawlessness. The Kremlin moves came as Russian forces strengthened their control over Crimea, less than a week before the strategic region is to hold a contentious referendum on whether to split off and become part of Russia. In a televised briefing with President Vladimir Putin, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said proposals made by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, were “not suitable” because they took the situation created by the coup as a starting point, referring to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych. Referring to a document he received from Kerry explaining the US view of the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov said: “To be frank it raises many questions on our side … Everything was stated in terms of allegedly having a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in terms of accepting the fait accompli.”

Lavrov said Kerry had delayed a visit to Moscow to discuss the situation and Russia had decided to prepare new proposals of its own, though he did not say what they were. “We suggested that he come today … and we were prepared to receive him. He gave his preliminary consent. He then called me on Saturday and said he would like to postpone it for a while,” the minister said. But in Washington state department officials said it was Russia’s refusal to discuss the American proposals that was hurting prospects for a negotiated solution, in particular the idea of direct talks between Russian officials and those of the new Ukrainian government. “We are still awaiting a Russian response to the concrete questions that Secretary Kerry sent Foreign Minister Lavrov on Saturday in this regard,” Jen Psaki, a state department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Kyiv Post

‘Russians on Maidan’ attempts to set record straight about Ukraine’s revolution

March 11, 2014

Russians in Kyiv
Russians in Kyiv

Kyiv photojournalist/videographer Zoya Shu made a seven-minute film on Independence Square that features Russians talking about Ukraine’s EuroMaidan Revolution and how Kremlin propaganda has distorted the public’s perception of events that led to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych as president on Feb. 21. “I think it is important to show that there is no hostility against the Russian people here, even at Maidan,” Shu said. She first uploaded the video on YouTube without English-language subtitles because her primary target audience was Russians. She added English-language subtitles on March 11, only after it had gained 35,000 views. She said the delay was her attempt to prove to “brainwashed Russians” that the work was her own and “not the plot of the CIA or something.” About the project, in Shu’s words: “I made it a week ago. It was the day when Russian flags started being put on top of administrations in the east, Kharkiv and Donetsk, if I am not mistaken. It was rather distressing news.

“I was walking on Khreshchatyk at that moment and saw a Russian flag on top of one tent, next to a Ukrainian one. I stopped to take a picture. A group of people sat there and one of the guys said he was from St. Petersburg and that he would be glad to give me an interview. “So, I interviewed him, he said there is a tent of the ‘Russian embassy’ at Maidan and took me there. I interviewed that guy too. I finished editing video by 7 a.m. I knew I could do better if I took more time, but I just wanted to make it fast in that situation. “So I made it in one day. My purpose was to refute the official Russian propaganda line that there is any threat to Russians here. I am a native Russian speaker, my grandpa was Russian, but Ukraine is my country and I don’t want any mess here.  “All this situation with lies in media makes me sick. So I just wanted to tell the truth to those who live far away – there is no threat and Russian speakers, neither Russians here need no defence from a foreign country. There was no hostility or reluctance.

“The Maidan environment was compared to the friendly environment of the Olympics by that man, Ruslan (Kirilenko), and another one, Vladimir (Malyshev), said he was very upset with the situation with propaganda and that he does not want any war.  “They were very open and friendly and willing to share their experiences and address their compatriots, saying all is OK. When I asked Vladimir on whose side he will fight in case of war, he did not know what to say, he said he is a patriot of Russia and this situation is very painful.  “Vladimir set up a tent which is covered now in names of Russian cities – apparently a lot of Russian visitors come to Maidan and wrote the city where they are from. “The only thing I was surprised with was the difference between the perception of people who actually see the situation and those who live far away and know it from TV/other media.

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SOURCE = Kyiv Post

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RT

US deploys fighter jets in Poland and Lithuania amid Ukrainian turmoil

March 10, 2014

The US is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and nearly 300 service personnel to Poland by Thursday as part of a training exercise in response to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, the Polish defense ministry confirmed. The agreement to deploy US military forces in Poland was made between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Poland’s Minister of National Defense Tomasz Siemoniak during a telephone conversation on Sunday, March 9, 2014, according to a statement on the official website of the Polish Ministry of National Defense. “The squadron will number twelve F-16 planes and will transport 300 soldiers,” Polish Defense Ministry spokesman, Jacek Sonta, confirmed to AFP. Initially, the training exercise was planned to be smaller but was increased and pushed forward because of the “tense political situation” in neighboring Ukraine, added Sonta.

The ministry also said that the aim of sending the units is to “strengthen Polish – American cooperation.” Part of the preparation team of US Air Force has already arrived on Polish territory. The fighters were sent on the initiative of the Polish government, an initiative immediately accepted by Washington. On Monday, NATO also gave the go-ahead to Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) for reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania in order help monitor the crisis in Ukraine. Poland is a western neighbor of crisis-torn Ukraine – between the countries’ capitals, Warsaw and Kiev, there is less than 700 km. Earlier, the Polish media reported that US fighter jets would be stationed at the Lask air force base in central Poland.

Washington is also sending four F-15 planes to Lithuania in response to “Russian aggression in Ukraine and increased military activity in Kaliningrad,” according to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry. On Saturday, US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea. The ship, with around 300 crew, was heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. When the vessel appeared in the Black Sea, Fox News declared that NATO’s bolstering presence in the Black Sea is a “defensive” measure to counter “Russian military aggression” in Ukraine.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

Voice of Russia

Bulgaria, Romania, US navies to stage joint Black Sea drills

March 10, 2014

Bulgarian, Romanian and American navies are preparing to stage a passing military exercise, also known as PASSEX, to check their communication and cooperation capabilities. The war games are slated for March 11 and will be held in the Black Sea, southeast of Romania’s city Constanța. This is according to the Bulgarian Defense Ministry. The ministry said the exercise between the US Navy and two participants of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program had been scheduled back in 2013 to test their maritime cooperation skills. An official with the Bulgarian military underscored the event had nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine.

According to the source, these exercises are often staged when an ally ship drops by. This time the drills will involve a Bulgarian frigate, three Romanian ships and guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun that will be docked in Bulgaria’s Varna for the period of 12-14 March. While the official reason of a PASSEX is to practice cooperation between NATO allies, it is believed that the unofficial motives behind these exercises might be to “show the flag” (show the power of a nation through a public display of naval power) or other political reasons.

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SOURCE = Voice of Russia

AP

NATO Sending Surveillance Planes to Ukraine Border

March 10, 2014

NATO says it is dispatching surveillance aircraft to fly over Poland and Romania to monitor the crisis unfolding in neighboring Ukraine. The military alliance says the decision to send AWACS reconnaissance planes was taken by the ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member states Monday to intensify the assessment of the possible threat the crisis poses to the alliance. NATO stresses the flights will only take place above the territory of its member nations — thus not crossing into either Ukrainian or Russian airspace. It says the AWCAS, or Airborne Warning And Control System, aircraft, will take off from their bases in Geilenkirchen, Germany, and Waddington, Britain, in the coming days. The NATO decision comes after deployments of U.S. fighter planes to eastern European nations bordering Russia such as Poland and Lithuania.

Copyright © 2014 Associated Press

Rights Group Concerned Over Ukraine Kidnappings

March 10, 2014

Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern over the fate of two Ukrainian journalists who it says were kidnapped Sunday on the isthmus that connects Crimea to mainland Ukraine. The media rights group has identified them as Olena Maksymenko of Ukrainian weekly Ukrainsky Tizhden and freelance photographer Oles Kromplyas. It says Maksymenko disappeared with two activists in the Auto-Maidan movement, which supports the new government in Kiev, after they were stopped at a checkpoint in Perekop. Reporters says Kromplyas was taken into custody by pro-Russian forces shortly afterward at the same checkpoint. Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, expressed concern Monday over a “steady escalation in violations of journalists’ rights in Crimea, which is turning into a lawless region controlled by armed bands whose anonymity reinforces the impunity.”

Copyright © 2014 Associated Press

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Ukraine crisis: US will not recognise Crimea referendum, says ambassador

March 10, 2014

America’s ambassador in Kiev said the US would refuse to recognise next Sunday’s “so-called referendum” in Crimea, and said Washington would take further steps against Russia if it used the poll to legitimise its occupation. Geoffrey Pyatt said Barack Obama and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, had spent the weekend talking to European leaders. Obama also spoke to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. The ambassador said the US and EU were in complete agreement that stronger sanctions could follow after next weekend’s referendum, adding: “There is no daylight between us.”

The ambassador said the White House was unbending in its view that Crimea was part of Ukraine. He said that in the runup to Sunday’s referendum “gangs of pro-Russian thugs” were roaming the peninsula, beating up activists and creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Without mentioning Moscow by name, Pyatt said there was also an “active campaign right now” to stir up dissension and division across the country. Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is due to travel to Washington on Wednesday for talks with Obama. The trip would be an opportunity to reaffirm the US’s strongest support for the “new democratic Ukraine'”, its integrity and the Ukrainian people, Pyatt said. They would also discuss Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Russian troops seize hospital, missile base in Ukraine’s Crimea

March 10, 2014

“We are losing Ukrainian-Russian friendship” because of Russian actions, Khodorkovsky said.

Russian troops seized a military hospital and a missile base in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea Monday, in the latest show of force in the battle for the country’s disputed future. Pro-Russian militias joined Russian troops in taking over the hospital in Simferopol — the region’s main administrative city — herding staff members into a hallway to apparently “meet the institution’s new directors,” Reuters reported, citing Interfax. The report said 20 patients at the hospital are gravely ill. Russian soldiers disarmed servicemen at a Ukrainian Army missile base overnight Friday. Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov told a local TV station that some 200 troops approached the building and threatened to charge it if the Ukrainian soldiers refused to give up their weapons. Crimea’s parliament has set a March 16 referendum on joining Russia, which has been denounced by Ukraine’s government.

NATO will starts AWACS reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania to help monitor the crisis in Ukraine, the alliance said Monday, according to Reuters.  NATO ambassadors, acting on a recommendation from NATO’s top military commander U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, approved the flights Monday, a NATO spokesman said. While separatists in Crimea are keeping up the pressure for unification with Moscow, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed Sunday not to give up “a single centimeter” of his country’s territory. During commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukraine’s greatest poet, Yatsenyuk said, “This is our land.” Standing before the crowd gathered at the Kiev statue to writer and nationalist Taras Shevchenko on Sunday, Yatsenyuk said, “Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won’t budge a single centimeter from Ukrainian land. Let Russia and its president know this.”

Yatsenyuk will address the United Nations Security Council about the situation in Crimea Thursday, Interfax reported Monday. Interfax also quoted Yatsenyuk telling reporters he believed Russia sought to “undermine the foundations of global security and revise the outcome of World War II.” President Barack Obama will meet Wednesday with Yatsenyuk to discuss options to peacefully resolve Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. Also Friday, one of Russia’s most famous prisoners suggested Russia is ruining its longstanding friendship with Ukraine by its aggressive and pro-separatist actions in Crimea. Mikhail Khodorkovsky made the remarks in a lecture to students at Kiev Polytechnic University Monday.

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SOURCE = FOX News

Forbes

Europeans Watch Ukraine And Fear Russia: They Should Take Over NATO And Europe’s Defense

March 10, 2014

Had the U.S. been so foolish as to bring Ukraine into NATO Washington would have a treaty responsibility to start World War III.  Today’s game of geopolitical chicken might have a nuclear end. Maybe Kiev’s inclusion would have caused Vladimir Putin to go quietly into the night after the violent overthrow of a friendly government in a strategic neighbor.  More likely he’d doubt the West would risk war over tangential security interests. In fact, Washington and the Europeans refused to do so in 2008 after their quasi-ally Georgia opened fire on Russian forces, triggering a short, but for Tbilisi disastrous, conflict.  It was one thing for President George W. Bush to fete the Georgian president as a democratic friend.  It was quite another to lend him America’s military for use against Moscow.  The U.S. stayed out. Still, the West cannot easily ignore Russia’s Crimean takeover.  Although Moscow used troops legally based in the region, the move was an act of aggression and war against Kiev.  Yet a majority of Crimean residents may welcome the move.  Ukraine long has been divided along ethnic, cultural, and linguistic lines, with pro-Russian sentiment increasing the further one goes to the east.  It is highest in Crimea.  In fact, that region only ended up in Ukraine in 1954 when then Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Nikita Krushchev, from Ukraine, shifted it administratively.

Although secessionist sentiment has been largely dormant of late, the Western-supported putsch/street revolution, led by armed nationalists, against President Viktor Yanukovich inflamed pro-Russian passions in eastern Ukraine.  While he was revealed to be an ostentatious crook, he was elected in a free election with overwhelming support from Russophiles.  His replacement led the chief opposition party whose candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, was defeated by Yanukovich in 2010.  She apparently is in effective control of the new government, which includes cabinet ministers from the neo-fascist Svoboda Party.  One of the first acts of the reconstituted parliament—cleansed of many elected members from the former ruling party—was eliminating legal protection for the use of the Russian language. Moscow intervened for its own ends, including to secure its naval base at Sevastopol and reinforce its influence in the country, rather than to affirm minority rights or promote Crimean self-determination.  Nevertheless, why shouldn’t Crimeans join Russia if they desire?  The provincial legislature has called for union with Russia and scheduled a referendum on March 16. The new leaders in Kiev, who took power by seizing the capital and threatening the elected president, denounced the move as unconstitutional.  Western governments, which 15 years ago launched an aggressive war to dismember Serbia, called the plan illegal.  Three years after intervening to oust Libya’s recognized government NATO members are proclaiming international borders to be inviolate.

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SOURCE = Forbes

Express

Ukraine latest: I don’t want war in Crimea says Vladimir Putin

March 10, 2014

The Prime Minister called the Kremlin and urged President Putin “to de-escalate” the situation in the Ukrainian region. A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: “The PM made clear that we, along with our European and American partners, want to work with Russia to find a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine, including Crimea. “President Putin agreed that it is in all our interests to have a stable Ukraine. He said that Russia did want to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.” The spokesman added that Mr Putin had said he and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would today discuss proposals to establish a contact group with European Union and US leaders.Moscow has so far ignored the threat of American and EU sanctions designed to force it to pull back from the Crimean peninsula. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the occupation would prove to be a “big miscalculation” by Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also rebuked Mr Putin, telling him a Moscow-backed referendum planned for next Sunday on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal.Visit the Source for more on this story
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SOURCE = The Express

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Ukraine crisis: Chinese president Xi Jinping urges US to show restraint

March 10, 2014

Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine and for all parties to exercise calm and restraint, during separate telephone calls with US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel. “The situation in Ukraine is extremely complex, and what is most urgent is for all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid an escalation in tensions,” China’s foreign ministry on Monday cited Xi as telling Obama. “Political and diplomatic routes must be used to resolve the crisis,” Xi added.

China has an “open attitude” towards any suggestions or proposals which can ameliorate the situation, and is willing to remain in touch with all parties including the United States, he said. Xi told Merkel that the Ukraine situation is “highly sensitive” and needs to be weighed carefully, according to a separate Chinese statement. Merkel delivered a rebuke to President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, telling him that a planned Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine’s constitution. “The chancellor explained the situation in Ukraine and efforts to come to a political solution of the conflict,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement. “The Chinese president was also in favour of finding such a solution through dialogue,” the statement said, adding that Xi said the solution needed to be on the basis of international law.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Kiev Ukraine News

Ukraine PM To Fly To U.S. To Discuss Crimea Crisis

March 10, 2014

Ukraine Personnel Carriers - Lviv
Ukraine Personnel Carriers in Lviv

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will fly to the United States this week to discuss the crisis in Crimea, as hostilities in the eastern European country’s southern region intensify. Yatsenyuk is expected to arrive in the United States on Wednesday, a spokeswoman from his press office told CNN. A White House official confirmed the visit. Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile defended breakaway moves by the pro-Russian leaders of the autonomous Ukrainian region, in separate phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The three leaders spoke amid tensions on the Black Sea peninsula that have escalated since the Moscow-backed regional parliament voted to leave Ukraine for Russia and announced a March 16 referendum to give Crimeans an opportunity to vote on the idea. Putin underlined “steps being taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities … being based on international law on behalf of the interests of the population there,” according to a Kremlin statement.

He also said the new Ukrainian authorities were doing nothing “to curb ultra-nationalist and radical forces committing outrages” in Kiev and other regions. Despite differences of opinion over what is happening on the ground, the Kremlin statement said there was consensus on the need to de-escalate tensions and normalize the situation. Moscow has denounced the events that led to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster as an illegitimate coup and has refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities, putting the two countries on a collision course over control of Crimea, which has longstanding ties to Russia and has thousands of Russian troops stationed there. Putin has said Russia has the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russians living in the former Soviet republic. Pro-Russian forces are now in de facto control of the region ahead of the referendum, which Kiev says is illegal. Washington has warned Moscow that any moves to annex Crimea would close the door to diplomacy. On Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama rounded up world leaders to demand Russia “de-escalate the situation.”

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SOURCE = Keiv Ukraine News Blog

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Rival rallies in Crimea chant for Russia and Ukraine

March 9, 2014

Pro-Ukrainian supporters in Simferopol
Pro Ukrainian supporters in Simferopol, Crimea

By the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, they came with yellow-blue flags and chanted “Glory to Ukraine” and “Down with the Russian occupiers”. Across town by the monument to Vladimir Lenin, the flags were red, white and blue, and the chanting was for union with Russia. There were two very different visions of Crimea’s future on display at the two rallies in its capital on Sunday, a week before the peninsula holds a referendum on joining Russia which the west has called illegitimate, but Russia’s parliament has strongly suggested it will honour. At a similar pro-Ukraine rally in the port city of Sevastopol, the demonstrators were attacked by a group of whip-wielding Cossacks, in a forewarning of the possible violence in the coming months. There are fears that after the referendum, there could be clashes between the large pro-Russian population and the minority Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian populations, who are aghast at the prospect of union with Moscow. The referendum, to be held on Sunday, will ask Crimeans if they want more autonomy within Ukraine or union with Russia. However, the local parliament has already voted for union with Russia and said the referendum is merely meant to “confirm” the decision.

Vladimir Putin said last week that there was no suggestion of Russia annexing Crimea, but Moscow put on a warm reception for the region’s de facto leaders on Friday, and in a phone call with David Cameron and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Sunday, Putin appeared to back the referendum. “Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population,” said the Kremlin in a statement about the call. In the same phone call, Cameron told Putin that Britain and the EU wanted to work towards a diplomatic solution. The Foreign Office said: “The prime minister called President Putin this morning to urge him to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support the formation of a contact group that could lead to direct talks between the governments of Russia and Ukraine. “The PM made clear that we, along with our European and American partners, want to work with Russia to find a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine, including Crimea.”

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SOURCE = The Guardian

New York Times

Clashes in Ukraine as Rallies Take a Turn

March 9, 2014

Crimea
Crimea, Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — Rival rallies turned violent in Crimea on Sunday, as Ukraine celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of its greatest poet and the White House announced that President Obama would host the Ukrainian prime minister just days before a controversial referendum on Crimean secession next week. In Kiev, the capital, tens of thousands rallied in Independence Square to celebrate the birth of Taras Shevchenko, a poet who is a symbol of Ukrainian nationhood. The gathering was both a riposte to Russia and a memorial service for the more than 80 people who died there. “Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land,” said the interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, who will visit the White House on Wednesday. “We won’t budge a single centimeter from Ukrainian land. Let Russia and its president know this.”

In Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, thousands of pro-Russian activists took over the city’s main thoroughfare to call for greater autonomy from Kiev and a referendum on secession. Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion and opposition politician who is now a presidential candidate, visited Donetsk to appeal for calm after days of violence between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters. “The current conflict and aggression must be resolved,” Mr. Klitschko told reporters at a news conference, urging residents to support national unity and stating that he was worried that the events in Crimea may repeat themselves here, in the country’s east. “It must not be solved through bloodshed.” He laid a wreath at a statue of Shevchenko, but canceled a scheduled appearance at a rally at the request of the police.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

Kyiv Post

Dnipropetrovsk residents embrace, protest Russia’s invasion of Crimea in March 9 demonstrations

March 9, 2014

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine – Some 3,000 protesters gathered on March 9 in the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk to celebrate the 200th anniversary of national hero Taras Shevchenko’s birth and to protest Russian military aggression in Crimea. Just two blocks away, a pro-Russian rally thrown by Sevastopol-based Russian Block and local Alliance of Soviet Officers took place. Standing next to the grey, Soviet-style building of Opera Theater, some 1,000 people chanted “Russia!” and “Referendum!” Some 30 minutes after the rally began at noon, the cameramen and reporter of 1+1, one of the TV channels that were loyal to EuroMaidan, were brusquely chased out of the crowd. Two weeks after Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled the nation and Russian soldiers invaded Crimea, a wave of pro-Russian protests occurred in the eastern regions of Ukraine. The protests are being closely watched as Putin’s next pretext for a wider invasion of Ukraine and the introduction of more separatist referendums.

The industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk has a population of one million people, almost all of them Russian-speaking, and was a strategic political, military and economic part of the Soviet Union. After the EuroMaidan Revolution brought a new government in late February, Dnipropetrovsk’s mayor and some officials quickly quit Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and a local governor was replaced with billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy, the third richest person in Ukraine and a Dnipropetrovsk native.

Kolomoyskiy said he took the post to ease separatist tensions. The pro-Russian rally of March 9 gathered some sincere opponents of the new government and EuroMaidan, many of them ready to seek for better circumstances in Russia. “We call for union with Russia and for reviving the Soviet administration! Dnipropetrovsk is a southern capital of the Russian empire!” said leader of Alliance of Soviet Officers Viktor Marchenko, addressing the crowd. At closer look, not all the rally participants supported their leaders’ pro-Russian ideology, but were rather protesting against the “new-old” people in power. Protester Klavdiya Kreshchuk, 53, says she supports EuroMaidan movement, but is unhappy with its results, including the appointment of Kolomoyskiy as Dnipropetrovsk Oblast governor.

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Source = Kyiv Post

RT

Putin defends Crimean referendum legitimacy to EU leaders as Ukraine’s southeast rallies

March 9, 2014

Crimea’s upcoming referendum will reflect the legitimate interests of its people, Russian President Vladimir Putin told two EU leaders over the phone. Inspired by Crimea’s actions, eastern Ukraine is also protesting the coup-imposed government in Kiev. Putin on Sunday had a top-level conversation on the situation in Ukraine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin press service. The Russian president “underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population,” the statement said. The “lack of any action” on part of the current Kiev authorities with regard to ultra-nationalists and radical forces acting in Ukraine has particularly been noted by Putin. While Putin reminded that the power in Kiev was seized in an unconstitutional armed coup, Merkel stressed that, according to Europe’s view, the Crimean referendum violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law. The German Chancellor also “pointed out the urgency of finally coming to a substantial result” on the issue of forming the “international contact group” on Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Despite the difference of opinions, the sides have agreed that the de-escalation of tension in Ukraine is in everyone’s interest, the Kremlin statement notes. Meanwhile, the coup-imposed Kiev government has stepped up pressure on Crimea, blocking the electronic system of the region’s treasury, freezing the autonomy’s accounts, and ramping up the presence of border police on the autonomy’s borders. According to Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev, Kiev’s recent moves will not affect state payments, including pensions, and Crimean authorities are now opening accounts in Russian banks instead of relying on the frozen ones. Temirgaliev also told Interfax that authorities are expecting that some additional railway traffic to and from Russia will be ferried over the Kerch Strait. A bridge connecting Kerch and Russia’s Krasnodar Region is also being built “at a rapid pace,” he said. The future status of the region has yet to be decided by its people; the All-Crimean referendum will take place on March 16. According to the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimea would prefer to keep its status of autonomous parliamentary republic in the case of a favorable outcome of the referendum.

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SOURCE = Russia Today

bbc

Ukraine gripped by rival rallies

March 9, 2014

Tens of thousands of people in Ukraine have held rival pro-unity and pro-Russian rallies, as Moscow continues to strengthen its grip on Crimea. Pro-Russia supporters beat up their opponents in Sevastopol, Crimea. In the eastern city of Luhansk, pro-Russian activists seized regional offices forcing the governor to resign. UK and German leaders telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge him to pull back from Crimea. The region is to vote to secede next week. Addressing a huge crowd in Kiev to mark the 200th birth anniversary of national poet Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged not to give a “single centimetre” of Ukrainian land to the Kremlin. Ukraine’s defence minister has said Kiev has no plans to send the army to Crimea.

In other developments on Sunday:

  • President Obama invites Mr Yatsenyuk to the White House, in what BBC correspondents say is a clear sign the new leader has support from Washington.
  • In the eastern city of Donetsk, pro-Russian protesters take down a Ukrainian flag near the regional government building, replacing it with a Russian flag.
  • In Kharkiv, also in the east, some 10,000 people reportedly march to support Ukraine’s unity, chanting “No to war!” and “Ukraine, Kharkiv, Crimea!”
  • Russia’s ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade behind bars, accuses Moscow of being complicit with Ukraine’s ousted government in using deadly violence against protesters.
  • In Yevpatoriya, western Crimea, pro-Russian forces threaten to storm the command point of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile unit if the personnel there do not surrender their weapons, a representative of the base tells BBC News.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Tatar Sunni Muslims pose a threat to Russia’s occupation of Crimea

March 5, 2014

Russia may be tightening its grip on Crimea, with little resistance to date, but they have yet to face the Crimean Tatar factor. There are 266,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea, over 13% of the local population. They are Sunni Muslim, traditionally pro-Ukrainian, and much better organised than the local Ukrainians, who make up 23% of the population. A quick look at history tells you why: Stalin deported the Crimean Tatars en masse to Central Asia in 1944, and half of them died during or after the journey. They were only able to return after 1989; by which time their homes had gone and their culture had been erased. The Crimean Tatars are still economically marginalised, with constant tensions over land-squatting and ‘irregular constructions’ (shanty towns). But Crimea is their only home. Turkey hosts a large diaspora; but the peninsula was home to the Crimean Tatar Khanate from 1441 to 1783. The roots of Christianity in Crimea go back more than a thousand years; but the idea of Crimea as an ancient outpost of Orthodox Christianity is really only 160 years old, dating back to a programme of church-building to replace local mosques after the Crimean war of 1853-56.

The Crimea that a young Leo Tolstoy saw during his army service was still Muslim in many parts. At rallies last month, the Crimean Tatars were chanting both “Allahu Akbar” in Arabic and “Glory to Ukraine” in Ukrainian. At the time, there was an outside chance of a Crimean regional government supported by the Crimean Tatars, some Ukrainians and local elites who resented the rule of Viktor Yanukovych’s clique., which is why Russia then intervened to put its supporters in power instead. So in less than a week, the Crimean Tatars have gone from being heroes of the revolution to an isolated minority. Their leaders are advising them to stay indoors, but there are also reports of Tatars forming self-defence units. The Crimean Tatars have been well organised since the 1960s. They have their own would-be parliament, the Qurultay, which revamped its voting system last year after an internal debate on accountability, introducing some proportional representation. Most religious organisations belong to the allied Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Crimea (DUMK), which has close links to official Islam in Turkey. Radical Islam exists, but has largely been kept to the fringes by the DUMK to date.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

AP

Analysts: Russia unlikely to pull back in Crimea

March 5, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia is unlikely to pull back its military forces in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, analysts and former Obama administration officials say, forcing the United States and Europe into a more limited strategy of trying to prevent President Vladimir Putin from making advances elsewhere in the former Soviet republic. It’s an unsettling scenario for President Barack Obama, who is under pressure to show he has leverage over Putin in a deepening conflict between East and West. The threat of economic sanctions, along with a series of modest measures that include canceling trade talks with Moscow and suspending plans to attend an international summit in Russia, have so far done little to persuade the Russian leader to pull his forces back from Crimea. “I’m not optimistic they’re going to leave,” said Michael McFaul, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Russia until just last week.

McFaul, in an interview on MSNBC, said he was expressing his personal view, not speaking on behalf of the administration. White House officials have condemned Russia’s military maneuvers in Crimea as a violation of international law and insist they would oppose any long-term occupation of the region. “We would not find that to be acceptable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. A senior administration official said it would be up to Ukraine’s central government to decide the future of Crimea, where nearly 60 percent of the population identify themselves as Russians. The official said the U.S. would oppose any Russian efforts to formally annex Crimea or recognize its independence, steps that would echo Moscow’s moves during its 2008 conflict with Georgia, another former Soviet republic.

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SOURCE = Associated Press

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EuroNews

Tensions ease after standoff at Crimean military post ends without shots fired

March 8, 2014

Armed men, thought to be Russian, drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile-defence post in the Crimea region on Friday but a standoff was resolved without a shot being fired, according to witnesses. There were small signs that an attack had taken place after initial reports said the vehicle had smashed through the gates of the base and that it was being stormed. Later, the Ukrainian base commader Lt Col Vitaly Onyschchenko said: “They intruded from both sides, the army territory base is big. One truck came from the side of the checkpoint and another one came from the munitions gate. It was a group of around 35-60 people.”

Speaking on Ukranian television, Crimea’s pro-Russia premier, Sergei Aksynovov described the armed men as “self-defence units” and said they were surrounded by journalists; and were making no attempts to attack. But one group of armed men did block a unarmed military delegation from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering Crimea on a fact-finding mission for a second day in a row. It remains unclear who the units are but at least one member was seeing wearing the “Berkut” insignia – the emblem of the now disbanded Ukrainian riot police. According to Washington, Russia now has some 30,000 soldiers in Crimea. In response, Ukraine is increasing exercises for its troops.

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telegraph

Ukraine crisis: Putin mocks the West and threatens to turn off gas supplies: live

March 8, 2014

10.10 In their telephone conversation, Russian foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov warned US Secretary of State John Kerry against taking “hasty and unthought-through steps capable of causing harm to Russian-US relations”.

09.55 Digging their heels in, Andriy Deshchytsia, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister has said his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully. Earlier in the week, Crimea’s parliament voted unanimously to be part of Russia, bringing forward to March 16 a referendum on whether to leave the Ukraine.

09.42 A Pentagon research team is studying the body language of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders to better predict their behaviour, officials said yesterday. The project, previously conducted under the State Department, is now backed by the Defence Department’s Office of Net Assessment. Putin’s psychological profile was last updated in 2012. Advocates of such studies argue that it could help US officials anticipate the Russian leader’s actions after he ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine, taking control of the semi-autonomous Crimean Peninsula, which has led to tensions with the West reaching levels not seen since the Cold War. Pentagon analysts have studied about 15 foreign leaders including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

09.36 Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said in a press conference this morning that the Ukrainian government was taking orders from extremists while continuing to deny Moscow had any direct role in the crisis in Crimea.

“The interim government… is not independent. It depends, unfortunately, on radical nationalists who carried out an armed coup.”

09.30 Damien McElroy, our correspondent in Donetsk, says numbers are growing at a pro-Russia rally in Leninin Square. It is an attempt to revive support after the demonstrators leader, Pavel Gubarev, was arrested and taken in custody to Kiev. He can hear the crowd chanting “Freedom for Gubarev”.

09.22 Nick Clegg has given an interview to the Guardian today, in which he says Putin has seemingly been in the “deep freeze” since the Cold War and is applying its outdated KGB mentality in Ukraine. He said Putin was applying “yesterday’s divisions and arguments to today’s problems” and urged the Russian leader to engage in a “civilised discussion” with the new government in Kiev.

“Putin’s reaction is very revealing. It’s as if he’s been in a sort of deep freeze since the Cold War and hasn’t moved with the times. He gives every appearance of applying a KGB mentality rooted in the Cold War to new realities in 21st-century Europe.”

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Russia warns US against ‘hasty’ sanctions

March 8, 2014

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the US not to take “hasty and reckless steps” in response to the crisis in Ukraine’s Crimea region. In a phone call with his US counterpart John Kerry, Mr Lavrov said imposing sanctions on Moscow would harm the US. Pro-Russian troops have been in control of Crimea for the last week. Earlier, a stand-off involving pro-Russian soldiers at a Ukrainian military base outside Sevastopol reportedly ended without incident. Crimea’s parliament announced on Thursday it would hold a referendum on 16 March on whether to join Russia or remain part of Ukraine. Russia’s parliament has promised to support Crimea if it chooses to become part of Russia. The vote has been denounced as “illegitimate” by the interim government in Kiev, which took power after President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia last month in the wake of mass protests against his government and deadly clashes with security forces.

In their telephone conversation on Friday, Mr Lavrov warned Mr Kerry against taking “hasty and unthought-through steps capable of causing harm to Russian-US relations”, Russia’s foreign ministry reports. Mr Lavrov said imposing sanctions on Russia in response to its involvement in Ukraine “will inevitably have a boomerang effect against the US itself”. The US State Department said Mr Kerry had “underscored the importance of finding a constructive way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which would address the interests of the people of Ukraine, Russia and the international community”. “Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to continue to consult in the days ahead on the way forward,” said the US statement.

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SOURCE = BBC News

New York Times

Russia, Ukraine Feud Over Sniper Carnage

March 7, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — One of the biggest mysteries hanging over the protest mayhem that drove Ukraine’s president from power: Who was behind the snipers who sowed death and terror in Kiev? That riddle has become the latest flashpoint of feuding over Ukraine — with the nation’s fledgling government and the Kremlin giving starkly different interpretations of events that could either undermine or bolster the legitimacy of the new rulers. Ukrainian authorities are investigating the Feb. 18-20 bloodbath, and they have shifted their focus from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s government to Vladimir Putin’s Russia — pursuing the theory that the Kremlin was intent on sowing mayhem as a pretext for military incursion. Russia suggests that the snipers were organized by opposition leaders trying to whip up local and international outrage against the government. The government’s new health minister — a doctor who helped oversee medical treatment for casualties during the protests — told The Associated Press that the similarity of bullet wounds suffered by opposition victims and police indicates the shooters were trying to stoke tensions on both sides and spark even greater violence, with the goal of toppling Yanukovych.

“I think it wasn’t just a part of the old regime that (plotted the provocation), but it was also the work of Russian special forces who served and maintained the ideology of the (old) regime,” Health Minister Oleh Musiy said. Putin has pushed the idea that the sniper shootings were ordered by opposition leaders, while Kremlin officials have pointed to a recording of a leaked phone call between Estonia’s foreign minister and the European Union’s foreign policy chief as evidence to back up that version. This much is known: Snipers firing powerful rifles from rooftops and windows shot scores of people in the heart of Kiev. Some victims were opposition protesters, but many were civilian bystanders clearly not involved in the clashes. Among the dead were medics, as well as police officers. A majority of the more than 100 people who died in the violence were shot by snipers; hundreds were also injured by the gunfire and other street fighting. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov signaled that investigators may be turning their attention away from Ukrainian responsibility.

“I can say only one thing: the key factor in this uprising, that spilled blood in Kiev and that turned the country upside down and shocked it, was a third force,” Avakov was quoted as saying by Interfax. “And this force was not Ukrainian.” The next day, Prosecutor General Oleh Makhntisky said officials have found sniper bullet casings on the National Bank building a few hundred yards up the hill from Maidan, the square that became the center and the symbol of the anti-government protests. He said investigators have confirmed snipers also fired from the Hotel Ukraine, directly on the square, and the House of Chimeras, an official residence next to the presidential administration building. Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Velichkovych told AP that commanders of sniper units overseen by the Berkut police force and other Interior Ministry subdivisions have denied to investigators that they had given orders to shoot anyone. Musiy, who spent more than two months organizing medical units on Maidan, said that on Feb. 20 roughly 40 civilians and protesters were brought with fatal bullet wounds to the makeshift hospital set up near the square. But he said medics also treated three police officers whose wounds were identical.

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SOURCE = New York Times

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Nick Clegg hints at Crimea deal if Vladimir Putin ‘drops KGB mentality’

March 7, 2014

“No one is somehow suggesting that Crimea should be treated exactly the same as other parts of Ukraine given that it hasn’t been treated like that in the past by the Ukrainians themselves.”

Britain believes Crimea is in a different category to the rest of Ukraine and could be afforded special treatment if Vladimir Putin abandons his “KGB mentality”, according to Nick Clegg. In an interview with the Guardian, the deputy prime minister acknowledged that Russia had a “very pronounced imprint” on the peninsula, a sign of how Britain and the rest of the EU acknowledge that Moscow will play a central role in determining the constitutional future of Crimea. The Liberal Democrat leader called on Putin to embark on a “civilised discussion” with Kiev as he threw his weight behind the interim Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who said on Friday that the civilised world would not recognise a referendum on 16 March that is designed to return Crimea to Russia. The Black Sea peninsula has been part of Ukraine since Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Kiev in 1954, then a simple transfer within the Soviet Union. Clegg argued that pressing ahead with a referendum condemned by Kiev as unconstitutional would simply inflame tensions. This suggests that continuing Russian support for the referendum would trigger the first set of EU sanctions due to be introduced if Moscow declines to open a dialogue with Ukraine.

Clegg was highly critical of Putin’s behaviour towards Ukraine, seen in Moscow as central to Russian interests. “I think Putin’s reaction is very revealing. It’s as if he’s been in a sort of deep freeze since the cold war and hasn’t moved with the times,” Clegg said. “He gives every appearance of applying a KGB mentality rooted in the cold war to new realities in 21st-century Europe. To regard closer ties between Ukraine and a non-military organisation like the European Union as the equivalent to American tanks on your lawn at the height of the cold war suggests to me that we’re dealing with a man who’s applying yesterday’s divisions and arguments to today’s problems.” At the same time, Clegg sent conciliatory signals to Moscow when he acknowledged Russia’s special links to Crimea, not least the fact that its Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea. He said: “Crimea already has a semi-autonomous status within Ukraine and clearly has a different history to other parts of Ukraine and has a very pronounced Russian imprint on it, not least because of the presence of the Russian Black Sea naval operation. So it is already in a different category and I don’t think anyone wants to deny that.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Reuters

Crimea Military Post Taken Over By Russians

March 7, 2014

MOSCOW/SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, March 8 (Reuters) – Russia said any U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine will boomerang back on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula. In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday. “Sanctions … would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

Kerry stressed the importance of resolving the situation through diplomacy and said he and Lavrov would continue to consult, the State Department said. It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday. Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions. “Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared with the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis. The Pentagon estimated as many as 20,000 Russian troops may be in Crimea. On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over. Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.
The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia and set a referendum for March 16. The conflict resulted from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence.

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SOURCE = Reuters/Huffington Post

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Putin ‘Repeating Georgia Tactics’ In Crimea

March 7, 2014

Russia is using the same tactics to take control of Crimea as it used in efforts to annex other territories in the region, Georgia’s former leader has said. Mikheil Saakashvili told Sky News that Russia President Vladimir Putin wanted to achieve a number of unspoken aims through its involvement in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. And the 46-year-old, who served two terms as Georgia’s president between 2004 and 2012, said Moscow was doing “exactly the same thing” in Crimea as it did in its 2008 conflict with Georgia. He claimed that in both instances, Mr Putin has sent in soldiers not identified as Russian troops to provoke matters in the neighbouring countries – but claimed they were merely Russian citizens seeking to defend themselves.

“Of course this is not true, of course this is nonsense spread by Russian propaganda,” he said. “If the Ukrainian government responds now, Russia will say: ‘Well those were not our troops and now we are moving in with real troops.’ “That’s exactly what happened in Georgia and it’s high time people who still propagate this rubbish version (of events) that we attacked first, to consider that (they have been) a victim of Russian lies. “Putin has this plan to have occupation and annexation of territories ranging from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, then all the other parts of Ukraine and then Transnistria in Moldova.” Mr Saakashvili said Mr Putin had various other motives in the Ukraine crisis. “I think President Putin has very clear goals here,” he said.

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SOURCE = SKY News

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Kyiv Post

Two choices in Crimean referendum: yes and yes

March 7, 2014

Voters in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea who vote in the March 16 referendum have two choices – join Russia immediately or declare independence and then join Russia. So the choices are “yes, now” or “yes, later.” Voting “no” is not an option. The lack of choice wouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with how Soviet or Russian elections are run. The Crimean parliament released the design of the ballot that will be used for the referendum, which will be taking place as thousands of Russian soldiers are in control and – it appears – Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling the shots.. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has annulled the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional, but the pro-Kremlin Crimean authorities who took power on Feb. 27 do not recognize the legitimacy of central government and have said they will proceed with the vote. The ballot asks two questions and leaves no option for a “no” vote. Voters are simply asked to check one of two boxes: Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation?

Crimea Referendum

Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine? That Constitution declares that Crimea is an independent state.  The questions are written in Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, the three most widely spoken languages on the peninsula, and the paper carries a warning in all three languages that marking both options will invalidate the ballot. Volodymyr Yavorkiy, a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, says that not only is the referendum completely illegal, the ballot for it doesn’t stand up to any criticism. “There is no option for ‘no,’ they are not counting the number of votes, but rather which one of the options gets more votes,” says Yavorskiy. “Moreover, the first question is about Crimea joining Russia, the second – about it declaring independence and joining Russia. In other words, there is no difference.”

He says with no choice available, “it’s clear what the result will be.”

Mykhailo Malyshev, head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on referendum, said the election will have 1,250 polling stations equipped with web cameras for the vote. “We have a desire and preparations for installing web cameras at polling stations. They can play a great role during the vote, and if technically it is possible, the web cameras will be installed,” UNIAN news agency quoted him as saying. Malyshev also said that 2.5 million ballots will be printed. However, according to the Central Election Commission data, as of Feb. 28, 2014 there were only just over 1.5 million voters in Crimea. The Central Election Commission, which has also said that the Crimean referendum is illegitimate, took an emergency decision on March 6 to close off the state register to all authorities of the autonomy. In its ruling, the commission said it was doing it “to protect the database of the State register of voters from unsanctioned use of personal data and unsanctioned access and abuse of access.”

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Source = Kyiv Post

bbc

Ukraine crisis: Crimea vote ‘will not be recognised’

March 7, 2014

Ukraine’s interim prime minister has warned the Crimean parliament “no-one in the civilised world” will recognise its referendum on joining Russia. Arseniy Yatsenyuk and others in the Kiev government have called the vote “unconstitutional” and “illegitimate”. But the referendum has the support of the Russian parliament. The speaker of the upper house said if the Crimean people vote on 16 March to join Russia then they would “unquestionably back this choice”. The decision by Crimean MPs to seek to join the Russian Federation comes amid international tensions over the presence of pro-Russian troops in the southern Ukrainian peninsula.

Moscow has said it “will not accept the language of sanctions and threats” after the EU and US announced punitive measures against Russia on Thursday. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Paralympic team has confirmed it will take part in the Sochi Winter Paralympics, which begins later. The head of the team, Valeriy Sushkevych, said they would participate, but warned: “If something major happens, Ukraine will leave the Games immediately”. Russian energy giant Gazprom meanwhile warned the government in Kiev that it would cut off gas exports if it did not settle a $1.89bn (£1.13bn) debt. In 2009, Gazprom halted supplies to Ukraine in a move that caused shortages across Europe.

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Source = BBC News

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