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Posts tagged ‘European Union’

Russia Storms And Overtakes Ukrainian Airbase By Brute Force.


BELBEK AIRBASE, Crimea, March 22 (Reuters) – Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base’s commander for talks.

Russia Takes Ukrainian Naval Base Belbek By Force

A Reuters reporter said armored vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades.

Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.

Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: “That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base’s storage.”

Belbek was one of the last military facilities in Crimea still under Ukrainian control following Russia’s armed takeover and subsequent annexation of the peninsula, which has a majority ethnic Russian population and is home to one of Russia’s biggest naval bases.

Earlier, the deputy commander of the base, Oleg Podovalov, said the Russian forces surrounding the base had given the Ukrainians an hour to surrender.

After the Russians entered, a Ukrainian officer who identified himself only as Vladislav said: “We did not provoke this, this was brute force. I do not know whether this base will be formally in Russian hands by the end of the day. source – Huffington Post

by NTEB News Desk

Russian Deputy PM Laughs at Obama Sanctions.


Kirit Radia (@kiritradia)

 

MOSCOW – Russia’s deputy prime minister laughed off President Obama’s sanction against him today asking “Comrade @BarackObama” if “some prankster” came up with the list.

The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.

It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will dissuade Russia from annexing Crimea, but one an early clue that they will not be effective came just hours later when President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state, perhaps an early step towards annexation.

U.S. official have warned of additional sanctions for Russian action, hoping it will deter Russia from any further aggression towards Ukraine, but it didn’t appear to upset the often outspoke Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is seen in this July 17, 2012 file photo during a meeting with Indian Minister for External Affairs, S.M. Krishna in New Delhi. Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

Rogozin, a friend of actor Steven Seagal, took to Twitter to tweak Obama, tweeting he thinks “some prankster” came up with the sanctions list

In a later tweet addressed to “Comrade @BarackObama,” he asked, “what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?”

Another Russian on the sanctions list, Vladislav Surkov, also seemed unconcerned.

Surkov, a top Putin ideologue often called the Kremlin’s grey cardinal, reportedly told a Russian newspaper, “It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Here’s who gets hit with the sanctions:

U.S. officials said that, among the sanctioned individuals were the “key ideologists and architects” of Russia’s Ukraine policy, while adding that some of the Russian officials were included in the list for their role in curbing “human rights and liberties” in Russia.

The sanctions freeze any assets under American jurisdiction and prevent American banks from doing business with the named individual, essentially freezing them out of the international banking system. The sanctions also impose a ban on their travel to the United States. Separately, but in coordination with the White House, the European Union announced sanctions today on 21 individuals that it plans to name later. U.S. officials told reporters that the American and European lists “overlapped” in some area, but declined to say how.

While some of the sanctioned officials are bold faced names, the White House move is unlikely to affect Russia’s decision making with regard to Crimea’s bid to join the Russian Federation. Russia’s stock market actually improved on the news that so few officials were included on the list. U.S. officials warned that, if Russia does go ahead with annexation of Crimea, additional penalties will follow, with more, harsher measures to come if Russia attempts to enter eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin aides

Vladislav Surkov - An aide to President Vladimir Putin, he was once considered one of Russia’s most powerful men. He has been called the Kremlin’s “gray cardinal” for his role as a power broker behind the scenes. He’s also credited the architect of Russia’s political system, with power concentrated in the presidency. In the past he was credited with shaping the ideology of the ruling United Russia party. He has also written rock music lyrics and is rumored to have authored a book.

Sergei Glazyev - An economic aide to Putin who oversaw relations with Ukraine. He frequently blasted the protest movement in Kiev and was outspoken in his criticism of American and European support for the protests.

 

Top government official

Dmitry Rogozin - An outspoken, hawkish Deputy Prime Minister, he’s known to have a close friendship with Hollywood actor Steven Seagal. As a member of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s government, Rogozin is responsible for the armed forces and arms industry.

Russian lawmakers

Elena Mizulina - A senior lawmaker, she is considered one of the Kremlin’s morality enforcers in the parliament. She is perhaps best known as the co-author of last year’s homosexual “propaganda” law which sparked outrage overseas. She also proposed a measure to give Ukrainians Russian passports.

Leonid Slutsky - A lawmaker in the lower house of Parliament. He is the chair of the Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots. He was one of the Russian observers attending Sunday’s referendum in Crimea.

Andrei Klishas - A member of the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council, who proposed retaliatory action in case of Western sanctions on Russia. He is chairman of the Federation Council Committee of Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Affairs, and the Development of Civil Society. 

Valentina Matviyenko - The head of the Federation Council, she is the most senior lawmaker on the sanctions list.

 

Crimean officials

Sergey Aksyonov - Once an obscure pro-Russian politician in Crimea, he has now been declared the prime minister.

Vladimir Konstantinov - The newly declared speaker of Crimea’s parliament.

 

Ukrainian officials

Viktor Medvedchuk - A pro-Russian politician, he is being sanctioned for having “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support” to impeached President Viktor Yanukovich. Ukraine’s opposition has accused him of orchestrating or aiding a crackdown on protesters and opposition.

Viktor Yanukovich - The ousted president of Ukraine. He was elected in 2010 but was chased from office by protests last month.

The Cold War Was Only on Vacation.


The Crimea is lost. The challenge now is to avoid a wider conflict with a Russia bent on absorbing more territory and further extending its influence into Eastern Europe.

To avoid an eventual choice between feeding Russia’s appetite for its lost empire and a hot war, European and U.S. leaders must embrace expensive and politically tough economic and defense choices.

Save petroleum, aluminum and a few less significant products, the Russian economy is broadly uncompetitive in global markets. Oil and gas account for 75 percent of exports and 50 percent of Moscow’s revenues, and Russia depends on imports from the European Union for technology and many consumer goods. It even buys ships to modernize its navy from France.

U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russian political and military leaders responsible for the Crimean invasion would make a statement, but are unlikely to have any tangible impact on Vladimir Putin’s behavior. However, if the Europeans phase out purchases of Russia’s gas, it has few options to sell it elsewhere. Putin would be starved for cash to finance his military and spread benefits to political cronies.

Replacing Russian gas — which accounts for 30 percent of European supplies — won’t be cheap or pleasant. They must frack to develop shale gas, re-embrace nuclear power and accelerate solar and other alternatives.

For French shipbuilders, German equipment manufacturers and technology and consumer goods producers throughout Europe, cutting off Russia’s most important source of hard currency to buy what they make would be wrenching. Still, it would impose far more systemically destabilizing penalties on Russia.

More than Russian guns won the referendum in the Crimea for Putin. The sad state of the economy and political corruption in the Ukraine made the former Russian possession vulnerable to reacquisition.

To halt Russian expansion, the European Union must do much more to assimilate the Ukraine and other former Soviet states into the Western economy by building infrastructure and moving significantly more industry into these regions, buying a lot more of their exports and imposing aggressive conditions for economic and political reforms in exchange for those benefits.

All of this would be provocative to Moscow and require rebuilding NATO forces, and moving those further east into Romania, the Baltic and aggressively courting cooperation with Belarus.

The Germans and the Americans have the economic resources, but have demonstrated inadequate commitments to giving real meaning to the economic and security commitments the West made to Eastern Europe, for example, through the 1994 Ukrainian security agreement, at the end of the Cold War.

Now, Putin and his political allies, chastened by the loss of an empire and emboldened by Russia’s petroleum wealth, are exploiting western neglect of former Soviet states.

In America, President Obama’s economic policies have boiled down to raising taxes, cutting defense spending and building out a European-style welfare state — universal healthcare and broadening the earned income tax credit. And he has ducked pension and benefits reform that greatly limit the punch of the U.S. military.

Stiffening NATO commitments to Eastern Europe would require German and U.S. governments to step up and pay for stronger militaries, and for the Americans to reform a bloated Pentagon.

In Germany and the United States, taxes are already quite high, even by Cold War standards, and the obvious tradeoff between guns and butter would hit the Obama and Merkel governments where it hurts most — their standing with voters who have come to expect wider and wider welfare benefits.

The greatest courage will be required from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, or each will bequeath to their successors a much more dangerous world.

Russia will enjoy a stranglehold over European energy supplies and boast a modernized military to gradually coop and reclaim former Soviet states and expand its influence throughout Europe.

The Cold War never really ended, it just took a Black Sea vacation.

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

 

Russian Newsman: Moscow Could Turn US to ‘Radioactive Ash’.


MOSCOW — A Kremlin-backed journalist issued a stark warning to the United States about Moscow’s nuclear capabilities on Sunday as the White House threatened sanctions over Crimea’s referendum on union with Russia.

“Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash,” television presenter Dmitry Kiselyov said on his weekly current affairs show.

Behind him was a backdrop of a mushroom cloud following a nuclear blast.

Kiselyov was named by President Vladimir Putin in December as the head of a new state news agency whose task will be to portray Russia in the best possible light.

His remarks took a propaganda war over events in Ukraine to a new level as tensions rise in the East-West standoff over Crimea, a southern Ukrainian region which is now in Russian forces’ hands and voted on Sunday on union with Russia.

Russian television showed images of ethnic Russians in Crimea dancing, singing and celebrating the referendum but followed them with accusations that Kiev’s new authorities and the West have allowed ultra-nationalists to attack Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev and the West blame the violence in eastern Ukraine on pro-Russian groups and say the Crimea referendum is illegitimate. The United States has warned of imminent sanctions against Moscow.

 

Kiselyov is an outspoken defender of Putin and once caused outrage by saying the organs of homosexuals should not be used in transplants.

His show portrayed the Ukrainian authorities as unable to maintain law and order. Putin made a similar charge in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday.

Such remarks have caused concern in Kiev that Moscow might send troops to eastern Ukraine, acting on a vote in Russian parliament allowing him to use the armed forces if compatriots are deemed in need of protection in Ukraine.

As the crisis escalated, the news in Russia has taken on shades of Soviet-era propaganda, with reporters peppering reports with references to what they say was the cooperation of some Ukrainians with the Nazis in World War Two.

There is also now growing menace in some of the reports, as well as echoes of the Cold War.

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, when Ukraine and Russia were both parts of the Soviet Union.

Many people in Crimea hope union with Russia will bring better living conditions and make them citizens of a country capable of asserting itself on the world stage.

Others see the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin as Ukraine’s new rulers try to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia’s sway.

 

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Crimeans Overwhelmingly Vote for Secession.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The head of the referendum committee in Ukraine’s Crimea region says more than 95 percent of voters have approved splitting off and joining Russia.

Mikhail Malishev said the initial result came after more than 50 percent of the ballots had been counted.

Speaking two hours after polls closed, Malishev said turnout was 83 percent — a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Kiev denounced it as a sham.

Underlining how Moscow’s military takeover of the peninsula two weeks ago has driven Russia and the West into a crisis with echoes of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone and, according to the Kremlin, the Russian and U.S. presidents agreed on a need to cooperate to stabilise Ukraine.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” a White House spokesman said. “The international community will not recognise the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama the referendum was legitimate and he expressed concern about the Ukrainian government’s failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in the country.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the present authorities in Kiev to curb rampant violence by ultra-nationalist and radical groups that destabilise the situation and terrorise civilians, including the Russian-speaking population,” the Kremlin said.

It said Putin suggested European monitors should be sent to all parts of Ukraine because of the violence.

Kiev said Moscow’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea peninsula was in “crude violation” of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Moscow that Washington would not accept the outcome of the vote in the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine by Soviet rulers only 60 years ago.

The White House also warned Moscow to expect sanctions while foreign ministers from the European Union, which has major trade ties with Russia, will decide on possible similar action in Brussels on Monday.

But Putin rejected Western accusations that the referendum was illegal, saying it respected the will of the Crimean people, while his foreign ministry said it had agreed with the United States to seek a solution to the crisis through constitutional reform.

 

In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk threatened dire consequences for the Crimean politicians who had called the vote, saying separatist “ringleaders” wanted to destroy Ukrainian independence “under the cover of Russian troops”.

“We will find all of them – if it takes one year, two years – and bring them to justice and try them in Ukrainian and international courts. The ground will burn under their feet,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Yatseniuk had just returned from a U.S. trip where he won expressions of moral support but no offers of weapons. Kiev’s pro-European rulers, who took power after last month’s fall of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to popular unrest, have been as powerless as Western governments to prevent the referendum or buildup of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory.

At a polling booth at a school in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, dozens of people lined up outside to cast their ballots early.

“I have voted for Russia,” said Svetlana Vasilyeva, 27, a veterinary nurse. “This is what we have been waiting for. We are one family and we want to live with our brothers.”

Vasilyeva voiced fears common among some of Ukraine’s native Russian-speakers about the consequences of Yanukovich’s exit after protests in which over 100 people were killed. “We want to leave Ukraine because Ukrainians told us that we are people of a lower kind. How can you stay in such a country?” she said.

But ethnic Tatars – Sunni Muslims who make up 12 percent of Crimea’s population – said they would boycott the vote despite promises by the regional authorities to give them financial aid and proper land rights.

“This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me?” said Shevkaye Assanova, a Crimean Tatar in her 40s. “For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don’t recognise this at all. I curse all of them.”

 

Crimea’s 1.5 million voters had two options: union with Russia or giving their region, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin politicians, the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants – including Moscow.

A local Tatar television channel broadcast the count at one small polling station. It took just a few minutes for officials to stack up the papers, virtually in a single pile. One gave the result as: “166 for, 2 against, 1 spoiled”. By “for” she clearly meant the first option on the paper, for union with Russia.

Russia has the right to keep forces on the Black Sea peninsula, including at its naval base in the port of Sevastopol, under a treaty signed after Ukraine gained independence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But Ukrainian acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh accused Moscow of going far beyond an agreed limit on servicemen – which he said was 12,500 for 2014.

“Unfortunately, in a very short period of time, this 12,500 has grown to 22,000. This is a crude violation of the bilateral agreements and is proof that Russia has unlawfully brought its troops onto the territory of Crimea,” he said.

This figure had risen from 18,400 on Friday. “Let me say once again that this is our land and we will not be leaving it,” he told Interfax news agency.

Tenyukh later said that the defence ministries in Kiev and Moscow had declared a truce until March 21 during which Russian forces, who have been arriving by boat and helicopter, would leave Ukrainian military facilities untouched.

Many Crimeans hope union with Russia will bring better pay and make them citizens of a country capable of asserting itself on the world stage. But others saw the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin from Ukraine, whose new rulers want to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia’s sway.

Putin defended the vote in a phone call on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying it complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples. “It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of the Crimean people,” a Kremlin statement said.

Putin has said he must protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from “fascists” in Kiev who ousted Yanukovich. Western powers largely dismiss his characterisation of the new authorities as successors of Nazi-allied Ukrainian forces which fought the Red Army in World War Two.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Kerry on Sunday to encourage authorities in Kiev to stop what he called “massive lawlessness” against the Russian-speaking population.

In their second phone conversation in two days, Lavrov and Kerry agreed to seek a solution to the crisis by pushing for constitutional reforms in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, Kerry told Lavrov that the United States would not accept the referendum result and said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases, a senior State Department official said.

The White House also warned Putin that he faces international isolation that will hurt Russia’s economy. “You can expect sanctions designations in the coming days,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told NBC’s Meet the Press.

The administration is preparing to identify Russians whom the United States will seek to punish with visa bans and asset freezes that President Obama authorised last week.

At the United Nations, 13 Security Council members voted for a draft resolution on Saturday saying the Crimea result should not be recognised internationally, but Moscow exercised its veto while China abstained.

Tensions over Crimea appear also to be spreading in cyberspace. Unidentified hackers brought down several public NATO websites with attacks on Saturday, the alliance said.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter that the attacks, which began on Saturday evening, continued on Sunday, although most services had now been restored.

“It doesn’t impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks,” another NATO official said.

A group calling itself “cyber berkut” – named after riot police formally disbanded by the central powers in Kiev – said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as NATO interference in their country.

Apart from Crimea, tension is also running high in parts of the Russian-speaking industrialised east of Ukraine near the border with Russia, with clashes between rival demonstrators that Moscow has seized on to support its case that ethnic Russians are being victimised.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Russian Forces Push Beyond Crimea Before Referendum.


Ukraine said Russian forces tried to push deeper into its territory and the Kremlin strengthened its rhetoric, threatening to escalate the worst diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

By Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reports, Russian troops moved beyond the Crimean border and overtook a gas plant just beyond the regional border of Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, told reporters Saturday at the United Nations in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove.

The incursion raises tensions before the Black Sea Crimean region holds a referendum Sunday on joining Russia. While the European Union and the U.S. are threatening to tighten sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t pull back, President Vladimir Putin has said ethnic Russians in the region need protection from “extremists.”

“Russia now takes it as a fact that they’ve picked off Crimea and is sending more soldiers and provocateurs into Ukraine to test the waters and see how much further they can go,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview.

As many as 130 Russian soldiers are in Strilkove, digging trenches and doing “other engineering work,” said Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for Border Guard Service. They have three armored personnel carriers and are in control of a Ukrainian natural gas pumping station, he said. There have been no military confrontations between Ukraine and Russia so far, he said.

The UN Security Council met Saturday in New York where Russia vetoed a resolution proposed by the U.S. that stressed the need for political dialogue. Thirteen members of the Security Council backed the resolution and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the vote shows Russia is “isolated, alone, wrong.” Chinese Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi said the resolution would have resulted “in confrontation and further complicate the situation.” He said respecting “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” is a “fundamental” in China’s foreign policy.

U.S. officials who monitor social media say the number of posts on Twitter, Facebook and other public Internet sites about possible Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine and a growing number of unidentified men who appear to be Russians with military or police training is rising sharply Saturday.

The officials were quick to add that the trend doesn’t mean any Russian action is imminent and that the accuracy and origin of such posts are difficult to verify quickly. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the trend worrisome.

Clashes erupted Friday in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, near Russia’s border, where a shootout left two dead and a policeman injured. Russian troops massed just inside Russia’s border nearby for exercises, stirring concerns of a Kremlin move to annex eastern Ukraine. Russia said it’s examining numerous requests for protection received from people living in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without a breakthrough, warned Russia would face consequences if it failed to change course.

Russia moved more forces into Crimea, bringing the total to about 22,000 soldiers as of Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in a website statement. The troops “may be used for an offensive,” he said.

Lavrov expressed outrage over March 13 clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which one person was killed and 17 injured, according to the regional government.

“Militants came to Donetsk from other regions and started fighting with demonstrators,” Lavrov said.

Putin is driven by deep geopolitical goals and isn’t likely to fear the consequences of sanctions by Western nations, Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said in a telephone interview.

After watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expand and the U.S. build ties with former Soviet Union countries, Russians feel they “have every reason to push back and expand their ‘sphere of privileged interests,’” Rumer said.

“The confrontation has reached a new level,” acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a website statement late Friday. “Either the new young democracy wins, or a totalitarian curtain falls on Ukraine.”

Putin’s government contends ethnic Russians in Crimea are at risk after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny. The Kremlin supports Crimea’s recently appointed administration, which organized Sunday’s referendum.

Crimean Premier Sergei Aksenov told reporters in the region’s capital, Simferopol, that the peninsula may become part of Russia next week, though full integration may take a year. Turnout is expected to be more than 80 percent, he said.

“Preparations are already under way to incorporate Crimea into Russia,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, said in a telephone interview from Sevastopol on Saturday.

Russian lawmakers are scheduled to consider legislation March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where the central authority isn’t functioning and local residents want to secede, he said.

The bill isn’t needed to make Crimea part of Russia because the region already declared independence from Kiev, according to Markov. It would allow for the annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, though Russia would only want to do that if it’s sure “we are welcomed with flowers,” he said.

Russian stocks posted the biggest weekly drop since May 2012, with the Micex Index sliding 7.6 percent to 1,237.43 Friday, the lowest level since May 2012. Russia’s 10-year bond fell for a sixth day, driving up the yield by 38 basis points to 9.79 percent, the highest level since 2009. The ruble weakened 0.2 percent to 43.0570 against Bank Rossii’s target basket of dollars and euros Friday in Moscow. Gold climbed to the highest in sixth months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks fell 2 percent this week to 1,841.13, erasing its gains for the year. The UX index of Ukrainian stocks was down 7.1 percent for the week. Even so, Ukrainian Eurobonds and the hryvnia rebounded after Lavrov said Russia had no invasion plans.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to NATO members Poland and Lithuania on March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, for talks on Ukraine, according to a White House statement. The Pentagon said this week that it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland as a sign of U.S. commitment to defend allies in the region, and the U.S. sent six fighter jets to Lithuania last week.

EU foreign ministers, who meet March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, an EU official said. The next stage of sanctions would be weighed at a summit at the end of next week.

Forbrig said that visa bans and other political moves aimed at Russia won’t deter Putin.

“If Putin sees the EU sanctions as not strong enough, he may view them as a green light to go further,” Forbrig said.

“We have to get to the material base of Putin’s regime through economic and trade measures that both target his revenue directly and have a snowball effect of scaring off investors and fueling capital flight out of Russia,” he said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

LIGNET: Is Russia’s Military Intervention in Ukraine Legal?.


Image: LIGNET: Is Russia's Military Intervention in Ukraine Legal?

A man walks along a road in Simferopol, Ukraine, draped in a Ukrainian flag in protest of Sunday’s referendum on Crimean secession. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Voters in Crimea will decide their fate on Sunday in a contentious, hastily arranged referendum that appears to offer them only a stark choice between joining Russia now or establishing an autonomous Crimea that might join Russia in the future.

Remaining a part of Ukraine is not an option for residents of Crimea, where mysterious armed men in unmarked uniforms walk the streets of Sevastopol as Russian uniformed forces mass on the Ukrainian border.

Click HERE to read an exclusive analysis by LIGNET’s top intelligence experts.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Merkel Gets Tough as Russian Troops Hold War Games.


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 a man was killed in Ukraine in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.

At the U.N. Security Council, the United States circulated a draft resolution that would declare illegal Sunday’s planned referendum on independence for Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But Russia, one of the Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, made clear it opposed the draft.

“Russia announced they will kill it,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters.

In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We would not only see it, also as neighbors 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.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed on Monday by the United States and Europe if the 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 that over the weekend, European states would draw up a list of Russians who will face visa restrictions and asset freezes.

Putin declared Russia’s right to invade its neighbor 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 can 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 the 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.

The leader of pro-Moscow separatist politicians in Crimea, who took power there after armed men seized the regional parliament on Feb. 27, predicted a strong vote in favor of union with Russia in Sunday’s referendum.

“We have a survey by renowned Ukrainian and Crimean polling experts showing clearly and plainly that more than 80 percent of people in Crimea are ready to join the Russian Federation,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told Reuters.

Aksyonov, whose election in a closed session of the regional parliament is not recognized by Kiev, dismissed opponents’ accusations he will fix the referendum on Moscow’s orders. “We guarantee that all aspects of European law will be followed, including security for voters,” he said in an interview.

Western countries dismiss the vote as illegal. “The referendum on Sunday will have no legitimacy, no legal effect, it can have no moral effect. It is a piece of political theater that is being perpetrated at the barrel of a gun,” Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told reporters in Vienna.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said time was running out for a peaceful solution. She urged Russia to listen to the “remarkably unified” voices of its 14 fellow members of the Security Council and the Ukrainian people.

Diplomats said the one-page resolution would urge countries not to recognize the results of the vote in Crimea. A vote on the draft was postponed until Saturday at the latest to allow time for more negotiations.

Russia has taken territory from its former Soviet neighbors in the past with no serious consequences — in 2008 it invaded Georgia and seized two breakaway regions. But if Putin was hoping for a similarly tepid response this time, he may have misjudged.

In particular, he seems to have alienated Merkel, the Western leader with whom Putin, a German speaker who was once a KGB spy in East Germany, has had the closest relationship.

Merkel was initially more cautious than other Western leaders on the Crimean crisis, but in recent days she has pushed the European Union to match U.S. sanctions. EU action is critical because Europe does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, buying most of its gas and oil exports.

The prospect that EU measures could be implemented as soon as Monday has weighed down the Russian economy.

Goldman Sachs revised its prediction for Russian economic growth this year down to 1 percent from 3 percent, blaming the tension over Ukraine for capital flight that would cripple investment. It said $45 billion had already left Russia this year, mostly Russians stashing money abroad.

The Russian stock market hit a 4-1/2-year low on Thursday and is down 20 percent since mid-February. The cost of insuring Moscow’s debt against default rose to its highest level in nearly two years.

The crisis has already forced several Russian firms to put plans on hold for public offerings to raise cash abroad.

Yet none of that appears to have slowed down Putin, who told officials of the Winter Paralympic Games he is hosting in Sochi that Russia was “not the initiator” of the crisis.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 8,500 troops were taking part in new military exercises near the Ukrainian border, testing artillery and rocket launchers.

It was the second big exercise Moscow has ordered since the crisis began; the first, involving 150,000 troops, started a few days before Russian forces seized Crimea.

In a gesture of support for NATO’s eastern members, U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed at Poland’s Lask air base on Thursday.

Among efforts by the West to isolate Russia politically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 34-member rich nations’ club, announced it was suspending membership talks with Russia, under way since 2007.

Moscow has pledged to respond in kind to any Western sanctions. The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that is now an EU member state, said Russia had suspended food product imports through its port of Klaipeda.

But European leaders appear to be calculating that the damage to Russia would be far worse than to Europe. EU-Russian trade makes up 15 percent of Russia’s economy and just 1 percent of Europe’s. Although EU countries depend on Russian gas imports, storage tanks are full after a mild winter.

Diplomatic lines have been open between Russia and the West throughout the crisis: Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Thursday, as they have nearly every day. They are due to meet in London on Friday.

Russia’s top general discussed Ukraine with the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee by telephone on Thursday, the Interfax news agency said.

The crisis over Crimea began after Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

McCain: Putin Doesn’t Want Democracy Next Door.


Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t want democracy in Ukraine because he thinks it would set a bad example for Russians, Sen. John McCain said.

“Vladimir Putin does not want a democracy on his borders. That would be a very bad example, from his point of view, to be set for the Russian people,” the Arizona Republican told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday.

Last month, a protest movement by Ukrainians seeking closer ties with the European Union ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. In the last several days, as many as 16,000 Russian troops landed in the strategic Crimea region and demanded a surrender of Ukrainian forces.

Story continues below video.

McCain has had harsh words for President Barack Obama’s handling of the Russian invasion of Crimea. On Monday, he called the president “feckless,” and charged “nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

McCain defended his criticism, claiming Obama was incorrect when he said the Cold War had been over for 20 years.

“Maybe in the president’s eyes, but certainly not in Vladimir Putin’s eyes,” McCain said.

Russia was likely to keep Crimea, McCain conceded, and predicted, “It’s not going to change.” He said the United States needs to gauge what Putin’s future ambitions are “for the restoration of the Russian empire.” He maintained it was important to view Putin for what he is, and “not what we want him to be.”

“There is has been a fundamental misreading of Vladimir Putin, his intentions, and things that he will do. There is no doubt that he will not give up in Crimea because of his belief in the near abroad,” McCain said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Wanda Carruthers

Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence Intensifies.


Image: Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence IntensifiesAnti-government protesters man a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kiev on Feb. 20.

Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee that ensued left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.

Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. Ukraine’s Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all. It was not clear how they were taken. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev’s occupied city hall.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country — mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

At least 99 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in three months of mostly peaceful protests. Now neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Thursday was the deadliest day yet. An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.

The carnage appears to show that neither Yanukovych nor the opposition leaders appear to be in control of the chaos engulfing Ukraine.

Dr. Oleh Musiy, the top medical coordinator for the protesters told the AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 injured, and the death toll could well rise further.

There was no way to immediately verify his statement. Earlier in the day, an Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies of protesters laid out Thursday on the edge of the capital’s sprawling protest camp.

In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

A truce announced late Wednesday appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters at Kiev’s Independence Square campsite. One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP even after the truce, protesters still threw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.

The Interior Ministry warned Kiev residents to stay indoors Thursday because of the “armed and aggressive mood of the people.”

Yanukovych claimed Thursday that police were not armed and “all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.” But the Interior Ministry later contradicted that, saying law enforcers would get weapons as part of an “anti-terrorist” operation.

Some signs emerged that Yanukovych is losing loyalists. The chief of Kiev’s city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people’s lives,” he said, adding he would continue to fulfill his duties as long as he had the people’s trust.

Another influential member of the ruling party, Serhiy Tyhipko, said both Yanukovych and opposition leaders had “completely lost control of the situation.”

“Their inaction is leading to the strengthening of opposition and human victims,” the Interfax news agency reported.

The parliament building was evacuated Thursday because of fears that protesters would storm it, and the government office and the Foreign Ministry buildings in Kiev were also evacuated. But a parliament session convened in the afternoon, with some pro-government lawmakers heeding the opposition’s call to work out a solution to the crisis.

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries — France, Germany and Poland — met with Yanukovych for five hours after speaking with the opposition leaders. The EU ministers then returned to speak again with opposition leaders.

The 28-nation European Union began an emergency meeting on Ukraine in Brussels to consider sanctions against those behind the violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would once again limit the president’s power.

Prior to the deaths Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalized this week. Protesters who have set up a medical facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched away by police say the number of injured are significantly higher — possibly double or triple that.

The Caritas Ukraine aid group praised the protest medics but said many of the wounded will need long-term care, including prosthetics.

The clashes this week have been the most deadly since protests kicked off in November after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Russia then announced a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine, whose economy is in tatters.

The political jockeying for influence in Ukraine has continued. In Moscow, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was sending former ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine as a mediator.

President Barack Obama stepped in to condemn the violence, warning Wednesday “there will be consequences” for Ukraine if it keeps up. The U.S. has raised the prospect of joining with the EU to impose sanctions against Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “try to do our best” to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, but indicated Moscow would hold back on further installments of its bailout money until the crisis is resolved.

“We need partners that are in good shape and a Ukrainian government that is legitimate and effective,” he said.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, 24, said she will not take part in Friday’s women’s slalom due to the developments in Kiev.

“As a protest against lawless actions made toward protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games,” her father and coach, Oleg Matsotskyy, wrote in a Facebook post.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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