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Posts tagged ‘Viktor Yanukovych’

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

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.


Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'

 

By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

US Pledges $1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine.


The Obama administration has pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the strife-torn country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The financial assistance was seen as an attempt by the United States to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has had its Crimea region invaded by Russian forces following the overthrow last month of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms.”

The money was expected to shore up the country’s troubled economy and to help Ukraine finance purchases of energy imports while the former Soviet republic seeks a larger bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior administration official with Kerry told the Journal, “You’re seeing already a response from the United States that is isolating Russia politically and diplomatically and offering strong support for the new Ukrainian government.”

American technical experts will be sent to Ukraine to help sort out the country’s growing financial and energy problems, sources said. U.S. advisers will also help Kiev uncover assets believed to have been stolen by Yanukovych’s government.

The Journal also reported that experts will also be sent to help Ukraine prepare for its May 25 general elections.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

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

Analysts: Putin Might Not Be All Wrong About Ukraine.


Vladimir Putin believes Russia’s troop movements in Ukraine’s Crimea region are sanctioned by a 1997 treaty that Moscow signed with Kiev, CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper cited U.S. officials it didn’t name as the source of the information. The officials declined to identify the lawmaker, the Times said.

The treaty — which expires in 2042— requires that Russia coordinate military movements with Ukraine. Russia announced that Ukraine’s ousted — illegally in its view— President Viktor Yanukovych requested Moscow to send troops across the border, the BBC reported.

The Russian connection to the Crimea peninsula dates to the 1700s when Russia captured the territories from the Muslim Ottoman Empire. When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Russia ceded the peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet republic, according to the BBC. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was half Ukrainian.

The ethnic majority in the region is now Russian. Toward the end of World War II, Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslim Tatars from Crimea claiming they had collaborated with the Nazis.

Now, Russia points to a far-right element in the Ukrainian protest movement as having hijacked the campaign against Yanukovych. These forces have four posts in the new temporary government according to the BBC.

“The far right in Ukraine has now achieved the level of representation and influence that is unparalleled in Europe,” said University of Ottawa political scientist Ivan Katchanovski, according to The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, veteran Russia watcher Stephen F. Cohen of Princeton and New York Universities writes in The Nation that while Moscow pursues many “repugnant” policies, coverage by the U.S. mainstream media basically denies Russia any legitimate interests “at home or abroad – even on its own borders, as in Ukraine.”

According to Cohen, the claim repeatedly made in the U.S. media that most Ukrainians long for integration into Europe is inaccurate. In fact, he wrote, the country is divided.

“There is not one Ukraine or one ‘Ukrainian people’ but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions.”

Cohen said the media was also mistaken to discount Putin’s December 2013 offer to work with the West to save Ukraine’s economy.

Appearing on CNN on March 2, Cohen said Putin was not a thug, not out to recreate the Soviet Union, and “not even anti-American.”

Putin is behaving to protect what he sees as Russia’s vital interests, Cohen said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

Putin Mobilizes 150,000 Russian Troops On Ukrainian Border.


SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — A Russian armored personnel carrier loomed beside a checkpoint controlling access to Sevastopol on Wednesday while other heavily armed vehicles moved into public places to guard Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the Crimean port, as Russian President Vladimir Putin further ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine’s caretaker government Wednesday.

russia-takes-control-crimea-ukraine

Tens of thousands gather in Kiev’s Independence square to hear the line-up of the new pro-Western cabinet on February 26, 2014.

Earlier, Russia placed 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border on alert and ordered urgent exercises to test combat readiness. The unprecedented moves — which included men wearing combat gear, ski masks and armed with assault rifles searching  vehicles 40 kiolmetres north of Sevastopol — sent a clear signal to Kyiv and to the West of Russia’s determination to continue to defend what it regards as its interests, and the interests of Ukraine’s large Russian minority, in places such as the Crimea.

russia-takes-control-crimea-ukraine-moblizes-troops

Russia’s actions came four days after a bloody coup by pro-European activists forced former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to flee Kyiv.

While obviously designed to intimidate Kyiv, what Putin was also doing was reassuring anxious ethnic Russians in Ukraine that they had not been abandoned.

Ukraine’s deepening political fault lines, and the potential for mayhem, were not only evident in Sevastopol and Moscow. They were on clear display Wednesday 100 kilometres to the north in Simferopol. Crimean Tatars loyal to Kyiv and chanting “allahu akbar” clashed with a group of Russian-Ukrainians who shouted their support for Moscow. A group of Tatars pushed their way past riot police and into the Crimean parliament where they succeeded in stopping debate on a motion to secede from Ukraine. source – National Post.

by NTEB News Desk

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

McCain in Ukraine Tells Protesters They ‘Will Make Europe Better’.


Image: McCain in Ukraine Tells Protesters They 'Will Make Europe Better'

U.S. Senator John McCain met Ukrainian opposition leaders in Kiev on Saturday and voiced support for protesters camped out for weeks in the capital, a move sure to anger Moscow for what it sees as Western meddling in its backyard.

The street protests started after the November 21 decision by President Viktor Yanukovich – seeking the best possible deal for Ukraine to stave off bankruptcy – to walk away from a trade pact with Europe at the last minute and seek closer ties with its old Soviet master.

The movement has since grown in size and vehemence, bringing tens of thousands onto the streets in a series of rallies, becoming an all-out protest against the president and his cabinet.

McCain is the latest of a string of European and American dignitaries to tour the sprawling protest camp set up behind tall barricades – prompting Russia to accuse the West of excessive involvement.

McCain was due to be joined by the chairman of the Senate’s Europe subcommittee, Chris Murphy, on Sunday.

“I am proud of the people of Ukraine and their steadfast efforts for democracy,” McCain told reporters after meeting the country’s Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.

McCain then met opposition leaders – the ex-boxing champion Vitaly Klitchko, former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and far right nationalist Oleh Tyahnybog – who are calling for Yanukovich’s government to resign and for early elections.

Police violence on November 30 against what was initially a pro-Europe demonstration shocked Ukrainians, setting a match to deep-seated anger over corruption and sleaze.

U.S. Democrats and Republicans have condemned the harsh measures and on Friday senators issued a resolution calling for the United States to consider sanctions in case there is further violence against peaceful demonstrators.

“I heard he (McCain) was here. It’s nice that they know of us, that they remember us. It is great that they support us,” said Volodimir Tarabanov, 28, who works for a delivery company in Kiev.

Thousands of Yanukovich supporters staged a rival rally in Kiev on Saturday, many bused in from Donetsk and other cities in eastern Ukraine – the traditional stronghold of the president’s Party of Regions.

“We are here to support the president and stability,” 18-year-old Maria Nikolayeva said, holding the Party of Regions blue flag. “Yanukovich is our best prospect at the moment … I don’t see any alternative.”

In an attempt to defuse weeks of unrest, Yanukovich on Saturday dismissed the head of Kiev’s state administration and a national security aide over the violence on November 30. Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said two more police officials involved that night were under investigation.

But protesters continued to stream into the capital for the weekend protest. Talks between the government and the opposition on Friday appeared to go nowhere.

Sweden’s foreign minister said Russia should not feel threatened if Ukraine moved closer to the European Union.

“Ukraine has a free trade agreement (FTA) with Russia and we have nothing against that,” Carl Bildt told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Monaco.

“Why should they object that the Ukraine has an FTA with the EU? It is a win-win for Ukraine and Russia. Why they should see everything as a zero sum game? It’s not,” said Bildt, who was closely involved in EU talks with the Ukraine.

The proximity of rival demonstrations in Kiev – separated only by a line of riot police – raised fears of fresh violence.

“The most difficult matters should and can only be solved at the negotiating table. People should not be driven away from their work, from their families,” Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told supporters. “Let’s tell the people to go back home to their families and their business.”

Sergei Bychok, a 43-year-old electrician, said he came to the pro-government rally because he wanted stability.

“I got my salary but a lot of people are here because they are afraid they won’t,” he said in a whisper, referring to widespread accusations among Yanukovich opponents that the authorities paid or pressured people to attend their rally.

In the square held by the anti-government protesters – now known as the “Maidan”, meaning “Square”, or the “Euro-maidan” – the atmosphere was peaceful.

For those who stayed overnight, the day began with early morning prayers followed by an aerobics session led from the stage. The crowds grew denser towards the evening with people holding up placards picturing Yanukovich and Azarov behind bars and sporting stickers reading “Raise Ukraine!”.

“I’m here for Europe and against Yanukovich. For me it’s almost the same because it’s the European Union association that is our chance to rid Ukraine of corruption,” said Oleh, a 22-year-old engineering student. “We will be here a month or as long as it takes.”
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Clintons Urge Ukraine to Spurn Russian Pressure, Sign Deal with European Union.


YALTA, Ukraine – Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Ukraine to resist increasing Russian pressure to back out of signing a cooperation agreement with the European Union that would move this former Soviet republic closer to the west.

At a political star-studded conference here in the historic Livadia Palace, where Franklin D. Roosevelt , Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill met in 1945 to divide up post-war Europe, the Clintons, in separate speeches, portrayed the impending decision by the Ukraine and the 28-member European Union to sign the agreement as what Mrs. Clinton called a “crossroads moment” for this nation of 46 million people, which Russia has long considered not only its bread basket, but an integral part of its former empire.

But the Clintons, directly and indirectly urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to disregard Russian pressure and do whatever was in his country’s best political and economic interests.

Speaking on Friday afternoon, Bill Clinton said that the Ukraine “shouldn’t have to choose” between Russia and the European Union. He said: “If it was me, I would want Ukraine to be a bridge to the 21st century both ways.”

But referring to Russian intimidation aimed at dissuading Ukraine from signing the agreement, Clinton, without specifically naming Russia, signaled his disapproval of Russian tactics.

“I’d resent it if someone tried to force me to do something that wasn’t good for my people,” the former president said.

Since this past summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up economic pressure on Ukraine – blocking Ukrainian imports of everything from the most popular brand of chocolate to steel, pipes, and some agricultural products – to persuade Yanukovych to halt Ukraine’s westward course. Similar Russian pressure has succeeded elsewhere.

Last week, Armenia announced that it would not sign a similar association agreement with the European Union after Russia stepped up arms shipments to Armenia’s foe, Azerbaijan. Armenia announced that it would join instead Russia’s custom’s union, which includes only Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Hillary Clinton was even more emphatic that the United States frowned on such strong-arm tactics by Russia’s Putin.

“We have no vote in the European Union,” Mrs. Clinton told a dinner of some 200 participants and guests at the annual gathering. But she said speaking for herself and for the Obama administration in which she served as Secretary of State, Americans were “hoping and cheering for Ukraine’s integration into the European Union.”

She also praised the country’s expertise and products, specifically singling out Ukraine’s “excellent chocolate,” a reference to Russia’s first impromptu import ban in July, a remark that prompted hoots of approval and enthusiastic applause from the largely pro-European Union audience.

Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair went further, calling upon President Yanukovych not just to sign an association agreement with the European Union – which has been described as a North American free trade agreement for Europe – but to become a full member of the union like Lithuania, a former Soviet republic which also gained independence as Ukraine did after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

“We need to stick with you,” Blair declared.

His message was aimed as much at his fellow Europeans as the Ukrainians and Russians.

Though the conference was being held only 43 days before Ukraine is scheduled to sign the association agreement in November at an European Union summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, European leaders have insisted that Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to seven years in jail two years ago, must be released as part of a series of reforms.

Some Ukrainian opposition leaders and western officials hope that President Yanukovych will release his arch rival and bitter political foe to enable her to seek medical treatment outside of this country. She is said to suffer from a painful back ailment.

But the Ukrainian president, who confronted his critics at the conference, did not tip his hand. The president comes from the eastern part of Ukraine, where support for a close relationship with Russia is strongest. Tymoshenko was convicted of abusing her office by singing a costly gas deal with Putin’s for signing a costly gas deal with Russia in 2009.

Yanukovych said only that it wouldn’t be “easy” to work out a “legal framework” that would allow him to free her. Similarly, he did not openly commit to signing the 1,000 page association agreement, which would commit the Ukraine to continue pursuing economic, judicial and political reform.

The conference this weekend, the 10th annual meeting known as “Yes,” the Yalta European Strategy , this virtual Davos East tries prompting spirited debate about the future of the Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, as well as the latest scientific, social, and political trends.

Sponsored by one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen and philanthropists, Victor Pinchuk, the gathering is non-partisan. The Clintons and Tony Blair have attended for several years, since Pinchuk’s foundation has worked closely with their counterparts on combatting AIDS and other projects.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Judith Miller

Protesters Clash in Dueling Rallies Over Ukraine President.


KIEV, Ukraine  — Supporters and opponents of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich scuffled as both sides held large rallies in the capital Kiev on Saturday, police and local media said.

A dozen young men hurled stones and plastic water bottles at opposition supporters and were then pushed away by police in riot gear, television footage showed.

Anti-Yanukovich protesters also fought back and at one point some of them tried to drag the crew from a military vehicle that carried messages mocking opposition leaders, pictures showed.

“Several people have been injured,” police said in a statement, adding that they had intervened to end the fight which happened a block away from the main opposition rally.

Pro-Western Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), liberal UDAR (Punch) and far-right Svoboda have been holding rallies across Ukraine, accusing Yanukovich of failing to pursue his declared goal of European integration, and demanding the release of jailed Batkivshchyna leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 on charges of abuse of office in a case the West has called politically motivated.

The European Union has indicated that Tymoshenko’s continued imprisonment would make it impossible to sign landmark association and free trade deals with Ukraine tentatively planned for November.

Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions, in turn, held its own rally nearby to condemn what it called the rise of “neo-fascism” in Ukraine, a stab at the far-right Svoboda party and its opposition allies.

Allied in Europe with France’s National Front, the British National Party and Hungary’s Jobbik among others, Svoboda was previously known as the Social-National Party, an echo of the National Socialist, or Nazi Party.

Nowadays, however, the party denies being anti-Semitic or sympathetic to Nazism.

At the opposition rally on Saturday, Svoboda, Batkivshchyna and UDAR said they would work together to defeat Yanukovich in the 2015 presidential election when he is widely expected to seek a second term.

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

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