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Posts tagged ‘EU sanctions’

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

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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Source: NEWSmax.com

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