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Posts tagged ‘Black Sea’

Russia Takes The Crimea As Obama Stands Helpless On The Sideline.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

The sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, formally under Moscow’s rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to find ways to pressure Russia to back down.

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U.S. President Barack Obama took steps to punish those involved in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, ordering the freezing of their U.S. assets and a ban on travel into the United States.

The U.S. Navy announced a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Truxton, was heading to the Black Sea in what it said was a long-planned training exercise and not a show of force.

The Crimean parliament voted unanimously “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation”. source – Yahoo News

by NTEB News Desk

Putin Asks Parliament For Official Approval To Invade Ukraine.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the country’s senators to approve sending Russian troops to Ukraine to settle the situation there. Russian MPs have said that the turmoil in Crimea could allow for such a move.

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Earlier on Saturday, the speaker of the Russian State Duma Council Valentina Matvienko said that the current circumstances in Ukraine make such a move possible.

The final decision to send troops to Crimea lies with President Vladimir Putin as Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, speaker of the Russian State Duma Council Valentina Matvienko said. The current circumstances make such a move possible, she said.

“It’s possible in this situation, complying with a request by the Crimean government, even to bring a limited contingent of our troops to ensure the safety of the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian citizens living on Crimean territory. The decision is for the president, the chief military commander, to make, of course. But today, taking the situation into account, even that variant can’t be excluded. We need to protect the people,” Matvienko said.

The Russian government has so far been careful in its assessment of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian government in Kiev. Matvienko said the reason for that was Russia counting on its Western partners, who vowed to guarantee the February 21 agreements between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition.

“Russia did not interfere in the situation in Ukraine for a very long time and showed restraint, assuming that the Western states, which became backers of the agreements, would see that strict compliance with the deal is observed,” she said.

However, after “violent upheaval” took place in Ukraine, the Western states did not come up with “any reasonable measures or responses,” Matvienko said.

Russia, in contrast, for a very long time has urged the situation to be resolved by lawful means, and called for the anti-coup sentiments in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine to be heard, she said.

“Not seeing an adequate reaction from the West, we could no longer maintain status quo,” the speaker concluded.
Matvienko stated as thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators rallied in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Melitopol, Yevpatoria and Mariupol, protesting against the rule of new Kiev authorities. source -RT

by NTEB News Desk

China Joins Russia In Support For Ukraine Military Action.


Sky News: Russia has said China is largely “in agreement” over Ukraine, after other world powers condemned Moscow for sending troops into the country. Hundreds of Russian soldiers have surrounded a military base in Crimea, preventing Ukrainian soldiers from going in or out. The convoy blockading the site, near the Crimean capital Simferopol, includes at least 17 military vehicles.

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Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014

Russian troops are also reported to have taken control of a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch on the eastern tip of Crimea, which has a majority Russian-speaking population.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said two Russian fighter jets violated the country’s air space in the Black Sea on Sunday night and that it had scrambled an interceptor aircraft to prevent the “provocative actions”. And reports claimed pro-Russian protesters had occupied a floor of the regional government building in Donetsk. The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag for the last three days.

Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk has insisted his country “will never give up Crimea to anyone” and urged Russian forces to withdraw.

Mr Yatseniuk said: “I was and am a supporter of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as a conflict would destroy the foundations for stability in the whole region.”  In an interview with Sky News, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the crisis is likely to take some time to resolve.

He said: “I think we probably are looking at a long period of very active diplomacy and looking for solutions to this since there is no sign of a change in the Russian position on this. ”It’s impossible to be optimistic at the moment. We’re not in any position to be optimistic about the security situation and what is happening in the Crimea.”

The crisis has had a huge knock-on effect on global stock markets, with Moscow’s stock exchange plunging as much as 10% on Monday morning.

Russia’s central bank raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday, and claimed they had “broadly coinciding points of view” on the situation there, according to a ministry statement.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later, Mr Lavrov said Russian troops were necessary in Ukraine “until the normalization of the political situation” and dismissed threats of sanctions and boycotts.source – Sky News.

by NTEB News Desk

Putin Taunts Obama By Parking Russian Warship 90 Miles Off Florida Coast.


 

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Havana (AFP) – A Russian warship was docked in Havana Wednesday, without explanation from Communist Cuba or its state media.

The boat, measuring 91.5 meters (300 feet) long and 14.5 meters wide, was docked at the port of Havana’s cruise ship area, near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

The Vishnya, or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, Russian media sources said.

Neither Cuban authorities nor state media have mentioned the ship’s visit, unlike on previous tours by Russian warships.

The former Soviet Union was Cuba’s sponsor state through three decades of Cold War. After a period of some distancing under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the countries renewed their political, economic and military cooperation.

The ship is reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Its visit comes as isolated Havana’s current economic and political patron, Venezuela, is facing unprecedented violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s Communist government is the Americas’ only one-party regime. source – Yahoo News

by NTEB News Desk

In Wake of Bombings, US Offers Security Help For Sochi Olympics.


Image: In Wake of Bombings, US Offers Security Help For Sochi OlympicsAn aerial view of Olympic Park in the Adler district of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The U.S. government is concerned Islamist militants may be preparing attacks aimed at disrupting the Winter Olympic games in Sochi in February and is offering closer cooperation on security with Russia despite strains earlier this year.Two bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd in the past two days – one at the city’s central railway station and another on a bus – killed dozens of people and raised anxieties about the safety of the Olympics.

One militant group issued explicit direct threats to disrupt the Olympics, a State Department official said. Other officials said that regions near Sochi were among the areas of Russia currently most prone to Islamic militancy and other unrest.

“There are clearly sensitivities in our relationship with Moscow but enhancing Olympic security and counterterrorism efforts more broadly are areas of clear mutual interest,” one U.S. official said.

“The Volgograd bombings underscore the threat and the need to work hand in hand with Russia in order to ensure the protection of U.S. citizens participating in and attending the games in Sochi,” the official said.

U.S. security officials said the government was not surprised by the Volgograd bombings and had anticipated that such attacks might well occur in the run-up to the games.

The officials said U.S. and Russian authorities have engaged in extensive contacts regarding security preparations for the Olympics. The United States is expected to share with Russia information it might collect about possible threats to the games.

“We’re taking lots of security precautions” related to the Winter Games, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday.

The U.S. Olympic Committee says it’s cooperating with the State Department and law enforcement agencies to help ensure the protection of its athletes.

“We are always concerned with the safety of our delegation, and the Sochi Games are no different in that regard,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky told Newsmax on Monday.

“We will continue to work closely with the local organizing committee, our State Department and law enforcement agencies to ensure that all appropriate measures are in place.

“We offer our sincere condolences to those affected by the bombings in Russia,” Sandusky said.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden condemned the Volgograd attacks, which were blamed on suicide bombers.

She said the U.S. government had “offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants.”

The State Department is expected to caution U.S. travelers on Monday about possible bombings and hostage takings in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region, which is less than 100 miles from Sochi.

The U.S. offer for closer cooperation with Russia follows two issues earlier this year that raised tensions between U.S. and Russian security agencies: the involvement of two Chechen brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing and Russia’s granting temporary asylum to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Nonetheless, in November, Matthew Olsen, director of the government’s U.S. National Counter-terrorism Center, said his agency was “coordinating and integrating the intelligence community’s support … to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.”

Newsmax reporter Cynthia Fagen contributed to this report.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Russia Foils Islamist Plot to Attack Chemical Arms Facility.


MOSCOW — Russian authorities said Tuesday they had foiled a plot by Islamist radicals to bomb a chemical weapons facility and had arrested two suspects from the North Caucasus, where Moscow is battling an Islamist insurgency.

Militants have previously carried out deadly bombings in Moscow and other parts of Russia outside the mostly Muslim North Caucasus, but specific allegations of plots to attack sites holding weapons of mass destruction in nuclear-armed Russia are almost unheard of.

Authorities believe the suspects planned to build a bomb and attack the Maradykovsky chemical weapons storage and disposal facility in the Kirov region, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of Moscow, the Federal Investigative Committee said.

“The suspects planned a terrorist attack . . . that could have risked killing hundreds of people,” it said in a statement.

It said the men had traveled north to the remote Kirov area from Moscow to plan the attack and it identified them as followers of Wahhabism — an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia and which has become a derogatory term for Islamist radicalism in Russia.

Investigators found bomb components and “literature with extremist content” in an abandoned house in the area where the suspects, aged 19 and 21, were living, the committee said.

It said the suspects were natives of the North Caucasus, a mountainous southern region not far from the Black Sea city of Sochi, where Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in February. The region is some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Kirov.

Insurgent leader Doku Umarov, a Chechen, has urged fighters to use “maximum force” to stop the Olympics taking place.

President Vladimir Putin has staked his reputation on the Games and ordered authorities to boost security in the North Caucasus, where the Islamist insurgency is rooted in two post-Soviet wars pitting Chechen separatists against the Kremlin.

After suicide bombings that killed dozens in the Moscow subway in 2010 and at a Moscow airport in 2011, Umarov called for more attacks on infrastructure in the Russian heartland, but no other major attacks have occurred outside the North Caucasus.

Russia inherited the Soviet Union’s declared stockpile of 40,000 metric tonnes of chemical weapons.

In 1997, Moscow ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires member states to declare and dispose of all chemical weapons and production facilities.

Russia and the United States had pledged to destroy their chemical arsenals by 2012 but both missed the deadline. They have recently led diplomatic efforts to ensure Syria starts destroying its own chemical weapons stockpile.

As of March 2013, Russian authorities had destroyed more than 90 percent of the chemical weapons at the Maradykovsky facility and were disposing of stocks of the nerve agent soman, according to the Kirov regional government website.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Amid Denials, Israel And U.S. Carry Out Joint Missile Test in Mediterranean.


Israel and the U.S. carried out a missile test in the Mediterranean sea on Tuesday, Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement, amid rising tensions in the region over the crisis in Syria.

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The confirmation came after morning reports indicated that Russia had detected two ballistic “objects” launched toward the eastern Mediterranean from the central part of the same and a U.S. denial that its navy had been involved.

The Arrow III missile defense system was tested with a “sparrow” missile, which simulates a ballistic missile, and is launched from a plane, during the exercise.

The exercise was carried out from an Israel Air Force base in central Israel, the Defense Ministry said in the statement.

The Defense Ministry’s statement contradicted those made earlier Tuesday by a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s European headquarters, who said it had not fired any missiles from ships in the Mediterranean. “No missiles were fired from U.S. ships in the Mediterranean,” said the spokesman. He had no further comment.

The projectiles fell into the sea, a sources in Damascus was quoted as saying by the state-run Russian news agency RIA.

Russia’s embassy in Syria said there was no sign of a missile attack or explosions in Damascus, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. A Damascus resident told Haaretz he did not heard anything that might indicate a strike on the capital.

Syria’s early warning radar system did not detect any missiles landing on Syrian territory either, according to a Syrian security source quoted by Lebanon’s Al-Manar television on Tuesday.

The Interfax news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying the launch was detected at 10:16 A.M. Moscow time (0616 GMT) by an early warning radar station at Armavir, near the Black Sea, which is designed to detect missiles from Europe and Iran.

The agencies did not say who had carried out the launch and whether any impact had been detected. The ministry declined comment to Reuters.

“The trajectory of these objects goes from the central part of the Mediterranean Sea toward the eastern part of the Mediterranean coast,” Interfax quoted the ministry spokesman as saying.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had informed President Vladimir Putin of the launch. A ministry official had earlier criticized the United States for deploying warships in the Mediterranean close to Syria.  source – Haaretz

by NTEB News Desk

Erdogan Accuses Turkey Protesters of ‘Burn and Destroy’ Tactics.


TUNIS, TunisiaTurkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “burn and destroy” tactics of some of those involved in days of violent protests on Thursday, and promised to press ahead with plans for an Istanbul park which triggered the unrest.

Speaking on a visit to Tunisia, Erdogan said “terror groups” were manipulating what had started as an environmental campaign, and added that seven foreigners were among those arrested.

“If you say: ‘I will hold a meeting and burn and destroy,’ we will not allow that,” he told reporters after meeting his Tunisian counterpart. “We are against the majority dominating the minority and we cannot tolerate the opposite.”

By confining his comments to a group of protesters, Erdogan appeared softer in tone than before he left for North Africa at the start of the week, when he described the demonstrators in blanket terms as looters.

Nevertheless, his defiance rattled nervous financial markets. The main Istanbul stock index was down 4.7 percent by 1257 GMT while the lira weakened to 1.8923 against the dollar. The two-year benchmark bond yield rose to its highest in more than six months.

Erdogan returns to Turkey later on Thursday to face demands he apologize for a police crackdown on the six days of protests in which three people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in a dozen cities, and to sack those who ordered it.

What began as a campaign against the redevelopment of a leafy Istanbul park has grown into an unprecedented show of defiance against the perceived authoritarianism of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party.

Police backed by armored vehicles have clashed with the protesters night after night, while thousands have massed peacefully in recent days on Taksim Square, where the demonstrations first began.

A policeman who fell from a bridge in the southern city of Adana while chasing protesters died of his injuries, Turkish television stations reported, the third death in the protests.

AK Party Deputy Chairman Huseyin Celik called on members not to welcome Erdogan home at Istanbul airport to avoid stirring trouble. “The prime minister does not need a show of strength,” Celik said in a television interview.

In Taksim Square, protesters remained defiant. “We have the momentum, with people like me going to work every day and coming back to attend the protests,” said Cetin, a 29-year-old civil engineer who declined to give his surname because he works for a company close to the government.

“We should keep coming here to protest until we really feel we’ve achieved something,” he said, one of thousands gathered on Taksim Square until late into the night.

“EVERYWHERE IS TAKSIM”

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, formally in charge while Erdogan is away, has struck a conciliatory tone, apologizing for the initial police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in Taksim’s Gezi Park and meeting a delegation of protesters in his office in Ankara.

Around Ankara’s Kugulu Park, a middle class area dotted with restaurants and bars, people chanted “dictator resign” and “everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance” late on Wednesday as residents banged pots and pans in support.

But the situation was calmer around the 19th-century Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, the caliph’s seat of power until the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1922 and now home to Erdogan’s offices, where some of the fiercest clashes have taken place.

Tourists picked their way along dirt paths where paving stones had been ripped up in the protests.

Despite the unrest, Erdogan remains by far Turkey’s most popular politician, his assertive style and common touch resonating with the conservative Islamic heartland.

His AK Party has won an increasing share of the vote in three successive elections and holds around two thirds of the seats in parliament. A man who rarely bows to any opposition, he clearly has no intention of stepping down and no obvious rivals inside or outside his party.

But he, and those around him, face a challenge in calming the protests without appearing to lose face.

On Wednesday, a small group of people who read a statement in support of the protests were set upon in the Black Sea city of Rize, Erdogan’s homeland and a stronghold of the AK Party, an attack that ended only after police intervened.

“Erdogan cannot backtrack now. It would mean defeat,” said Ali Aydin, 38, a car dealer in the Tophane neighborhood of Istanbul, a conservative bastion in the mostly Bohemian district around Taksim Square. “Weakness would destroy the party.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Turkey Uncovers Alleged Plot to Kill Orthodox Christian Patriarch.


Image: Turkey Uncovers Alleged Plot to Kill Orthodox Christian Patriarch

ISTANBUL — Turkey is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and has stepped up security around the patriarchate in Istanbul, his spokesman said on Friday.Spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos said the patriarch had not received any direct threats but had learned of the alleged plot from Turkish media, which was later confirmed to the patriarchate by Turkish police.

“Later in the day, police informed the patriarchate of a possible threat and dispatched additional police officers,” Anagnostopoulos said.

Turkish broadcaster NTV said one man had been arrested in relation to the alleged plot, after state prosecutors in central Kayseri province received an anonymous letter saying there was a plan to assassinate Bartholomew on May 29, the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of present-day Istanbul.

It said police were still searching for two men in relation to the alleged plot.

The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office, which local media said is leading the investigation, could not be immediately reached for comment.

There has been at least one previous assassination plot against Bartholomew in recent years but the patriarchate sought to play down Friday’s reports.

“The patriarch is not taking this too seriously. He doesn’t believe there is a serious threat,” Anagnostopoulos said.

Known often by his full title Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the historical name for Istanbul, he is the spiritual head of worldwide Orthodoxy, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054.

Previous attacks on Christians have raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in Muslim Turkey, which has around 100,000 Christians out of a total population of 76 million.

In 2010, a leading Catholic bishop was stabbed to death at his home in southern Turkey by his driver and in 2006, a Roman Catholic priest was murdered in the Black Sea town of Trabzon by a teenager with suspected links to ultra-nationalists.

In 2007, three members of a Bible publishing company, one of whom was a German citizen, were tortured and killed in Malatya in central Turkey.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Putin Flexes Russian Military Muscle at West in Naval Exercise.


MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin ordered large-scale military exercises in the Black Sea on Thursday, projecting Russian power towards Europe and the Middle East, in a move that may vex former Soviet neighbors — particularly the Ukraine and Georgia.

Officials suggested the surprise drill would test reaction speed and combat readiness, but Putin’s order also seemed a signal to the West of Russia’s presence in the region.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Putin triggered the maneuvers as he flew back overnight from South Africa after a summit of the BRICS emerging economies.

Peskov said 36 warships and an unspecified number of planes would take part, but not how long exercises would last.

Putin has stressed the importance of a strong and agile military since returning to the presidency last May. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for reliable armed forces and Russian political unity.

Late last month, Putin ordered military leaders to make urgent improvements to the armed forces in the next few years, saying Russia must thwart Western attempts to tip the balance of power. He said maneuvers must be held with less advance warning, to keep soldiers on their toes.

Putin, 60, has used his role as commander-in-chief to cast himself as a strong leader for whom national security is foremost. State media emphasized he ordered the exercises from a plane in the dead of night.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, whose main base is in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, was instrumental in a war with ex-Soviet neighbor Georgia in 2008 over the Russian-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In addition to Georgia and Ukraine, Russia shares the Black Sea with Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania.

But Russian foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said the exercises were “more likely part of a wider attempt to reconfirm that Russia’s navy and military forces in the south are still able to play a political and geopolitical role.”

“It is flexing muscles and may have more to do with what is happening in the Mediterranean, around Syria, than in the Black Sea,” said Lukyanov, editor of journal Russia in Global Affairs.

REGIONAL ROLE

Russia’s modest naval maintenance and supply facility in Syria is its only military base outside the former Soviet Union, and the Defense Ministry recently announced plans to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean on a permanent basis.

Russia has clashed diplomatically with the West throughout a two-year conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people in Syria, using its U.N. Security Council veto to block Western efforts to push President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Moscow-based military analyst Alexander Golts said unannounced exercises are good for Russia’s military, but the location could raise questions among Russia’s neighbors.

“We will be watching these exercises very closely as Georgia has its own experience with Russia,” Tedo Japaridze, head of the Georgian parliament’s foreign relations committee, told Reuters. He said all Black Sea nations have the right to hold exercises.

The Kremlin portrays Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a bellicose leader, and Russia said last week annual U.S.-Georgian training exercises that began this month in Georgia, far from the Black Sea coast, put peace at risk.

Meanwhile, disputes with Ukraine over Moscow’s continued lease of the Black Sea navy base have been a thorn in relations with its former Soviet neighbor.

Peskov said the number of servicemen participating was short of the threshold requiring Russia to notify other nations of its plans, but Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted a spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign minister, who was in Moscow on Thursday, as saying Ukraine had been informed in advance.

A NATO official said the Western alliance was not given notice and that “exercises are part of what the military do. NATO also conducts regular military exercises, which are not directed at anyone”. But he said NATO would like to see greater openness from Russia, including on military exercises.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

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