Friday, March 14, 2014

Ukraine situation March 14 , 2014 -- UN Security emergency meeting and the comments of the Russian Ambassador regarding the Crimea Referendum and Ukraine situation........ At least one person died and 10 were taken to hospitals with injuries following clashes between rival rallies in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Key takeaways from activists -- “The authorities pursuing through repressive and provocateur methods,” Tsiplakov says. The people in Donbass region are angry at the Kiev’s government because the authorities there have simply “armed”and offered government positions to ultra-nationalist “fighters”, he says, warning that plans to officially create militarized units out of extreme right fighters “will lead to guerrilla warfare.” “Right now the tension within society is great,” the activist told RT. “No-one has listened to Donbas people when they were holding peaceful rallies, and when we had People’s Governor Pavel Gubarev, who strictly insisted on a peaceful course of action. He and his like minds were arrested,” Tsiplakov says claiming the reasons for Gubarev’s detention and arrest were fabricated. ........ If this is representative of the views of russian speaking Ukrainians in Eastern and Southeastern Ukraine , the Crimea Referendum could very well be a first act ! Update from late Thursday March 13 , 2014 and Friday morning March 14 , 2014

Notable events before the historic events of the weekend .....

Late in the day....

Right Sector gunmen attack anti-Maidan activists in Kharkov – reports

Published time: March 14, 2014 21:27
Armed men from the radical Right Sector movement have attacked local self-defence activists in the eastern city of Kharkov, Itar-Tass reports citing local sources. At least three activists have reportedly been wounded by gunfire.
The armed group of radicals had arrived from the West of Ukraine on a bus, local activists told Itar-Tass.“The outsiders are shooting machine guns,” he said.
The group has reportedly barricaded itself inside the local headquarters of Right Sector and was throwing sound and flash grenades. Police have been deployed at the scene.
Police are planning to storm the building, a correspondent at the scene told Russia-24 TV channel. According to the report, the group of radical fighters arrived in Kharkov several weeks ago.

The record drop in U.S. government securities held in custody at the Federal Reserve is fueling speculation that Russia may have shifted its holdings out of the U.S. as Western nations threaten sanctions.
Treasuries held by foreign central banks dropped by $104 billion to $2.86 trillion in the week ending March 12, according to Fed data released yesterday, as the turmoil in Ukraine intensified. As of December, Russia held $138.6 billion of Treasuries, making it the ninth largest country holder. Russia’s holdings are about 1 percent of the $12.3 trillion in marketable Treasuries outstanding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“The timing of the drop in custody holdings makes Russia a more likely suspect,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy in New York at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in a telephone interview. “If Russia did it, then they may have transferred the holdings to another bank outside of the U.S.”
Crimea is preparing for a March 16 referendum on splitting from Ukraine after Russia seized the peninsula. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia that the U.S. and Europe could take serious action after the referendum should there be no sign of a resolution to the Ukraine crisis.

Diplomatic Efforts

Kerry, who told a Senate panel in Washington that “nobody doubts” Crimea will vote to leave Ukraine, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London today.
“Escalating talk of sanctions over the Ukraine conflict would give it every reason to move those holdings to an off-shore custodian,” according to Wrightson ICAP, referring to Russia.
The previous biggest drop in Fed custody holdings was $32 billion in June after the central bank indicated they may reduce purchases of Treasuries. Andrea Priest, a spokeswoman for the Fed Bank of New York, declined to comment.
“How much more room it has to go depends on who’s doing the shift,” said Shyam Rajan, rates strategist in New York at Bank of America Corp. “It could just be a shift in where they hold Treasuries as opposed to outright selling. If they had sold we would have been much higher in yields this week. We’ve seen a rally.”

Bank Rossi

A spokeswoman for Russia’s central bank said it hasn’t disclosed changes in its foreign-asset holdings.
“Bank Rossii publishes data on managing foreign-currency assets not earlier than six months after the given period because of the high sensitivity of prices on global financial markets to the actions of largest market participants, including the Russian central bank,” Anna Granik, a spokeswoman for Moscow-based central bank, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The decrease in custody holdings at the Fed spurred speculation Russia may have moved to raise funds to defend its currency as the turmoil worsens. The ruble has declined 10.3 percent against the dollar this year and reached a record low 36.9 per dollar on March 3. It declined 0.2 percent today to 36.6.
“If they were selling to defend the currency, the market would have felt the impact on yields more substantially,” said David Keeble, the New York-based head of fixed-income strategy at Credit Agricole SA.

Central Banks

Central banks at the end of last year may have been adding to their holdings in Europe, such as Belgium’s central bank. Belgium custodial holdings of Treasuries rose by 28 percent in December to $256.8 billion, according to Bloomberg data.
“A lot of people are looking at Belgium,” Keeble said, referring to shifts in foreign reserves.
Foreign holdings of Treasuries totaled a record $5.79 trillion at the end of last year, according to Treasury data released in February. Fed holdings for its own account were $2.2 trillion. The U.S. central bank has begun tapering its monthly purchases of Treasuries to $35 billion as it winds down monetary stimulus that was designed to help foster economic growth.
China, the biggest foreign U.S. creditor, held $1.27 trillion of U.S. government bonds as of December. Japan is the second-largest holder at $1.18 trillion.
The 10-year note posted the biggest weekly gain in almost two years, with the yield dropping as much as 18 basis points. The yield was little changed today at 2.65 percent, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.
“On the margin, it’s a net negative for the Treasury market because it’s a reminder that there’s a potential seller of Treasuries for non-monetary reasons,” said Ian Lyngen, a government-bond strategist at CRT Capital Group LLC in StamfordConnecticut. “If the market believed they were going to do it, Treasury yields would not be at 2.65 percent.”

US Drone "Intercepted" Over Crimea By Russian 'Self-Defense' Forces

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An American scout-attack drone, "almost invisible at a height of 4000 meters" has,according to AFP, been intercepted in the Crimean sky. Reports from the Russian state arms and technology group Rostec stated, judging by side-markings it was an MQ-5B drone - which is likely part of the66th US Recon Brigade based in Bavaria. It was possible to break the drone’s link with its American operators with the help of the EW (electronic warfare) complex Avtobaza. As a result, the device made an emergency landing and passed into the possession of the self-defense forces almost unbroken."

An American scout-attack drone was intercepted in the Crimean sky, the Rostec state corporation reports. "Judging by side marking, the MQ-5B drone was part of the 66th US brigade of military intelligence with the main location in Bavaria," the report on the website of the corporation reads.

According to the report, at the beginning of March, the American brigade was relocated to the Ukrainian Kirovohrad, from where drones commit reconnaissance raids in the direction of Crimea and Russian border areas.

Earlier, they reportedly appeared in the Kherson region, in the area of the Crimean roadblock Chongar. "According to some data, the American reconnaissance brigade had 18 MQ-5B drones in its arsenal. This is the second time the American UAV is intercepted over Crimea," the report says.

"The drone was at the height of about 4 thousand meters and was practically invisible from the earth. It was possible to break the drone’s link with its American operators with the help of the EW (electronic warfare) complex Avtobaza. As a result, the device made an emergency landing and passed into the possession of the self-defense forces almost unbroken," the report says.
"Self-defense" it would appear does not cross a red-line (until Sunday).
It is perhaps ironic that the US is complaining abouit Russia's military presence in Ukraine even as its own equipment is reportedly operating in the country.
What next: CIA spooks in Kiev inciting a violent coup, oh wait, that would be Libya or Egypt. And everyone knows what a success that way.
And as expected, the Pentagon promptly denied the drone belonged to the US. It denied it not the biblical three times, but four. They must really mean it.

Seeking expert opinion on who else has UAV MQ-5B drones. Pentagon say not playing semantics "No truth" its US. Asked four times, four ways.

Kerry Summary: "There Will Be Costs"

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Kerry speaks. The punchline:
And of course, the hollow threats - the costs are back.
Everything else was superfluous:
But before you accuse him of slacking, Kerry put in a solid workday into it:
In summary: Kerry came, spoke with Lavrov, and all he had to show for it was some $50k in taxpayer funds spent for the first class ticket to London.

Early morning.....

Zero Hedge....

The Tanks Are Coming While Russia, US "Remain At Odds" Over Ukraine

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With Interfax reporting that Belarus has begun full-scale military drills in a "readiness check", images from Russia and Ukraine suggest the worst-case scenario - that Russia is making preparations to invade Ukraine, not just Crimea but perhaps as far west as Kharkiv, or even beyond - is more possible. Talks have broken down:
Russia now has a massive force of tanks, troops, artillery, aircraft, and naval forces in position to potentially invade mainland Ukraine from Crimea in the south, but also from positions east and north of Ukraine.
Lavrov adds:
And subtley poitning out the hypocrisy:
Then Lavrov said this:
Which seems to run counter to the following images pouring in from across Russia of even more firepower on the move.

View image on Twitter
Moving tanks Omsk, Saratov, St.Pete, more photos like that popping up. Expect full-scale intervention beyond

Crimea Prime Minister Says May Formally Join Russia Next Week

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Crimea's Prime Minister Sergie Aksenov has been very vocal this morning with comments on nationalizing the region's banks, but the following few comments are sparking concerns:
We will see what Obama, Merkel, and Ukraine's leadership has to say about that... Turchynov, for one, has warned to be "ready for a full-scale invasion at any moment."

Via Interfax,
The Crimean authorities do not consider the possibility of proclaiming independence "under the Abkhaz scenario" and think that the process of joining Russia will take up to a year, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said at a briefing in Simferopol on Friday.

"I suppose that the transition period will last up to one year, when we will able to use all the processes and privileges in Russia comprehensively," Aksyonov said.

When asked whether "the Abkhaz variant" was possible, Aksyonov said no. "No, we will not have independence. We currently think, I personally think, that Crimea should join Russia as a Russian region," he said.

At the same time, when asked how quickly Crimea will be able to join Russia after the referendum is held, Aksyonov said: "In terms of passing a legislative act, I think this will be virtually next week and in regard comprehensive joining, transition period will last up to a year at most."
Is that crossing a red line? It certainly seems from Turchynov's words that it is...
Ukraine must be ready for a full-scale Russian invasion "at any moment," the country's acting president warned Thursday, as officials announced the emergency call-up of a 60,000-strong national guard force.

Oleksander Turchynov saidMoscow was "ready" to go much further than the annexation of the Black Sea territory of Crimea, which is expected to vote to secede from Ukraine in a referendum on Sunday.

Only clear international pressure could halt slow the momentum of the Kremlin, he said. "All of civilized humanity supports our country," said Mr. Turchynov. "I am sure that this united effort in the international arena, bringing together all democratic countries, can still allow us to halt this aggression."

Ukraine won't give up 'a single centimetre' of Crimea to Russia, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says

Russia Warns Of East Ukraine Invasion To "Defend Compatriots", EU Threatens Gazprom, Rosneft CEOs With Visa Ban

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While Russia has been massively piling up troops next to Ukraine's eastern border, one thing that was missing to allow the crossing of the border was a provocation, aka the proverbial spark to give Moscow the green light to "defend" Russian citizens in the East. It may have just gotten that last night, when as previously reported, clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian civilians turned lethal, killing at least one person and dozens injured. A clip of the clashes can be seen below:

Needless to say, this escalation was just the green light Russia needed. As Reuters reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry, responding to the death of at least one protester in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk, repeated President Vladimir Putin's declaration of the right to invade to protect Russian citizens and "compatriots".
"Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection," it said. Curiously, organizers of the anti-Moscow demonstration said the dead man was from their group. That, however, is irrelevant, and in the fog of war, when tank battalions enter a country to "defend" select citizens, mistake are made.
In the meantime, and as we have been reporting since day one, Russian troops continue to gather:
A Reuters reporting team watched a Russian warship unload trucks, troops and at least one armored personnel carrier at Kazachaya bay near Sevastopol on Friday morning. Trucks drove off a ramp from the Yamal 156, a large landing ship that can carry more than 300 troops and up to a dozen APCs.
As also reported before, the key event in the coming days is the Crimean referendum whether to join Russia. Which is why a doomed last ditch diplomatic scramble has seen John Kerry rush to London where he later today he will meet Russian foreign minister Lavrov in a final attempt to diffuse the situation. The attempt will fail.
But perhaps the biggest news so far this morning is that the EU is considering visa bans to 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders, which according to Germany's Bild, include the headest hocnho of all: Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller. From Reuters:
Visa bans threatened by the European Union and United States should Crimea vote to join Russia in a referendum would target at least 13 Russian politicians and industry leaders including Vladimir Putin's close aides, Germany's Bild newspaper reported.

The visa ban list includes Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, the secretary of the National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, as well as several of Putin's advisors, Bild said in an advance copy of a report to be published on Saturday. The report cited diplomatic sources in Brussels and Washington.

Visa bans could also be slapped on the chief executive of Russian energy firm Gazprom Alexei Miller, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia's top crude oil producer Rosneft .
Remember, it is all about the gas. And if Europe "forces" Russia's hand by denying Gazprom free access, then Gazprom will have no choice but to retaliate. At that point all bets are off.

From Anti War......

Kerry Issues Ultimatum: Russia Has Until Monday to Abandon Crimea

Threatens 'Serious Steps' Against Russia If They Refuse

by Jason Ditz, March 13, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry has issued an ultimatum to Russia today, insisting they have until Monday to “reverse course” and abandon Crimea. The Crimean peninsula is holding a referendum on Sunday, in which it is expected to vote to join the Russian Federation.
Kerry said if Russia refuses to give in to US demands they could expect a “very serious series of steps” against them, including major economic sanctions, which US officials say could do serious harm to Russia’s economy.
The Obama Administration has been trying to coax significant Russian trading partners, of which the US is not, into agreeing to impose major sanctions that would harm their trade.
The US demands include Russia forcing Crimea to cancel the referendum and withdrawing all of its troops from the peninsula. Under treaty with the Ukraine, Russia is allowed to keep up to 25,000 troops in the Crimea.


Russia’s Ukraine-Adjacent War Games Add to Tensions

Ukrainian Officials Hype War Games as Threat

by Jason Ditz, March 13, 2014
The Russian military is holding significant war games in its far west, not far from the border with Ukraine. The war games are adding to international tensions surrounding the Ukraine.
Many, particularly US and Ukrainian officials, have tried to spin this as Russia “massing troops” along the border with Ukraine, and painting it as proof that an invasion is imminent.
In practice the war games were probably meant more as a retaliation for NATO’s myriad wargames along the Ukraine frontier in recent days, and there is no reason to think an invasion is even being pondered.
Ultimately, Russia doesn’t need to invade Ukraine right now, because the troops they were allowed by treaty to keep in the Crimea are more than enough to secure that peninsula through a referendum on secession.


Ukraine PM: Crimea Secession a Threat to Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Everyone Will Want Nukes Now, Interim Leader Insists

by Jason Ditz, March 13, 2014
While Crimean secession is obviously a big deal for Ukraine’s interim government, officials seem determined to make it a global game-changer that it clearly is not.
Today, Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, fresh off a visit to the White House to be assured of unconditional US backing, insisted that Crimea’s secession could spark a huge run for nuclear weapons the world over.
Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, though members of the interim government are rethinking that and pushing for rearmament as a way to retaliate against neighboring Russia for backing the secession.
Though Ukrainian officials are pushing for rearmament, they are currently a member in good standing of the nuclear NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state, and Crimea or no such a move would spark a huge international backlash against the interim government, which is already struggling with its links to neo-Nazi protesters.


Addressing the chorus of criticism at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Moscow’s ambassador has reconfirmed that Russia does not want any escalation of the Ukraine crisis and is not interfering with the upcoming referendum in Crimea.
“Russia does not want war and neither do the Russians, and I'm convinced the Ukrainians don't want that either,” ambassador Vitaly Churkin told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday. “We don’t see any basis to consider the issue in such terms.”
It is unacceptable to reject Crimea’s right for self-determination using a smokescreen of protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, without even trying to balance these two principles, Churkin told the council.
“Some dispute the legality of such a referendum, but it is unacceptable to manipulate individual principles and norms of international law, randomly pulling them out of context not only of the international law, but the specific political circumstances and historical aspects,” Churkin said.
In each case, the envoy believes, one should “balance between the principles of territorial integrity and the right for self-determination.”
“It is clear that the implementation of the right of self-determination in the form of separation from the existing state is an extraordinary measure. In Crimea such a case apparently arose as a result of a legal vacuum, which emerged as a result of unconstitutional, violent coup d'état carried out in Kiev by radical nationalists, as well as direct threats by the latter to impose their order on the whole territory of Ukraine.”

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

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

At the same time Churkin reminded about the urgent need to investigate the killings of protesters and security forces at Maidan square that brought new people to power in Kiev. Moscow keeps insisting on setting up a probe into these crimes, Churkin said.

“Acts of violence perpetrated in Kiev need a careful international investigation,” he said, warning that the“image presented by Kiev and western propaganda is completely reversed by the information the same provocateurs were firing at both the representatives of the security forces and protesters.”

“And, according to the latest published information, shooting came from the headquarters of the so-called ‘Maidan Commandant’, who now heads by the Security Council of Ukraine,” Russia's envoy said.
In general, the UN Security Council members all sides called to abstain from taking positions that could deteriorate the Ukraine crisis. Several member states including the US, Britain and France were critical of Russia’s “actions in Crimea,” while the US ambassador Samantha Power even called for a suspension of the “illegitimate referendum” due to “the background of foreign military intervention.”
Ukraine's coup-appointed prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was also given the floor at the council meeting and used that chance to once again accuse Russia of “military aggression” in Crimea.
“This aggression has no reasons and no grounds,” Yatsenyuk said. “This is absolutely and entirely unacceptable in the 21st century, to resolve any kind of conflict with tanks, artillery and boots on the ground.”
With Western media and the self-proclaimed government in Kiev ranting about the Russian invasion in Crimea, international journalists on the scene are struggling to find any evidence of these claims.
The United States in the meantime has ratcheted up its rhetoric with threats of sanctions against Russia if a referendum in Crimea goes ahead on Sunday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing on Thursday that he hoped to avoid such steps, which include sanctions, through discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in London on Friday.
"If there is no sign of any capacity to be able to move forward and resolve this issue there will be a very serious series of steps in Europe and here with respect to the options that are available to us," Kerry said.

At least one person died and 10 were taken to hospitals with injuries following clashes between rival rallies in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Reports said that eggs, fireworks and smoke grenades were used in the unrest.
Tensions erupted in the Ukrainian industrial center of Donetsk on Thursday, where the Russian-speaking population has been rallying in support of creating an eastern Ukrainian autonomy and against the decisions of the coup-imposed government in Kiev.
A rally of Ukraine’s integrity supporters was taking place in Donetsk at the same time and place as anti-government protest.
According to local media reports pro-Maidan activists started provoking the pro-Russian crowd, by shouting far-right slogans “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to heroes”, loudly demanding the respect of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty.
Clashes between the rival rallies reportedly erupted after a crowd of demonstrators broke through a police cordon separating the crowds. Law enforcers were trying to take provocateurs away in police buses.
It was not immediately clear, how many people were injured from both sides of the clashes, but reports indicated that some had their faces bloodied in the fight.
Police deployed additional personnel and managed to separate groups of activists who remained at the square. According to reports there were around 1,000 people on each rival side.
The pro-Maidan crowd had asked the “ultra-nationalists” from a local pro-Ukrainian football club to join their rally, and to bring weapons with them, including baseball bats, an activist from Donetsk, Sergey Tsiplakov told RT.
“Today we have witnessed a planned provocation, when the pro-Russian crowd was basically provoked to harsh measures,” Tsiplakov claims.
Thursday clashes were, Tsiplakov says initially started by the pro-Maidan protesters who had to show their strength to the OSCE observer mission.
“What they needed was to create a show for the OSCE observers, a show of display that was aimed to show that in this region, everyone supports the local government and the events on Euro-Maidan”
He accused the government in Kiev of constantly provoking the increase of tensions in the Donbas region by “directly insulting” the population of a region where “75-80 percent of the people share a pro-Russian attitude.”
“The authorities keep on provoking us. They are provoking us by holding paid rallies in the same place, organized under the umbrella slogan of ‘For a United Ukraine’ but actually they are organized to show support for the regional governor, an oligarch, and his Kievan junta.”
“The authorities pursuing through repressive and provocateur methods,” Tsiplakov says. The people in Donbass region are angry at the Kiev’s government because the authorities there have simply “armed”and offered government positions to ultra-nationalist “fighters”, he says, warning that plans to officially create militarized units out of extreme right fighters “will lead to guerrilla warfare.”
“Right now the tension within society is great,” the activist told RT. “No-one has listened to Donbas people when they were holding peaceful rallies, and when we had People’s Governor Pavel Gubarev, who strictly insisted on a peaceful course of action. He and his like minds were arrested,” Tsiplakov says claiming the reasons for Gubarev’s detention and arrest were fabricated.
The wife of Pavel Gubarev told LifeNews that there is indeed strong support for Russia in Donetsk.
"Yesterday, there was news that the OSCE observer mission arrived in the city and that they along with local students were planning to hold a small rally to show that the people in Donetsk support Ukraine's integration with Europe and that there is no support for Russia at all,” Ekaterina Gubareva told LifeNews.“This deeply angered us because it is not true! We have decided to organize our own peaceful rally to go out and tell everyone that there is more of us and we support the referendum!”
Pavel Gubarev, a local advertising executive, was proclaimed the People’s Governor at a mass rally on March 3. Denouncing Ukraine's coup installed government, he brushed aside the governor appointed by Kiev, Sergey Taruta, calling for a referendum in Donetsk.
Gubarev was detained in Donetsk by Special Security Forces last week and has been under house arrest in Kiev on charges of violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, takeover of power, and seizure of government buildings.

Friday, March 14

Late afternoon / evening items....

21:25 GMT:
A bill has been introduced in the Ukrainian Parliament that aims to denounce the agreement establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIA).
"The instrument of denunciation of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States was introduced by an MP from the Fatherland Party,” Parliament’s press-service announced.
Previously the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrey Deshchitsa stated that Ukraine intends to withdraw from the CIS due to the “inability of the organization to serve as a tool to resolve conflicts among its members."
20:37 GMT:
Pyongyang believes that the ongoing events in Ukraine demonstrate the West’s disregard for the principles of international law.
"Recent events in Ukraine were provoked by an already developed US and Western countries’ coup scenarios,” Kim Yong Jae, N. Korean ambassador to Moscow said Friday, Interfax reports.
The ambassador also said the US is trying to overthrow a “sovereign state in broad daylight” calling it a“brutal violation of the rights of peoples to self-determination."
20:02 GMT:
The redeployment of Russian jets and military transport aircraft to Bobruisk airfield in Belarus has been completed, reported the Belarusian Defense Ministry.According to the ministry’s representative, parts of the Belarusian Air Force and missile defense forces have also been moved to airfields prepared for the exercises. Earlier in the week, the republic’s President Aleksandr Lukashenko invited Russian forces to fend off the potential NATO threat.
18:48 GMT:
Just over 2,000 people gathered in central Sevastopol on Friday to receive a Russian flag, as part of the 'Flag in every home' action being held in support of the upcoming Crimean referendum. Russian flags have been put up across the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to encourage people to vote to join Russia on March 16.
18:34 GMT:
Ukrainian police are investigating at attack on a rabbi in a Kiev street that the man's wife said on Friday was clearly an anti-Semitic act.
Racheli Cohen, wife of rabbi Hillel Cohen, said Thursday's attack by two men on her husband was clearly an anti-Semitic act. "They struck him in the leg, shouting anti-Semitic slurs," she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Kiev police, quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency, said they were looking for two men who shouted anti-Jewish insults at the rabbi and struck him with sticks before making off in a car.
Cohen runs the Ukrainian branch of Hatzalah, a worldwide volunteer emergency services group for Jewish communities.
Jewish leaders have warned of a risk of anti-Semitic violence due to general instability in the country. Last month, a provincial synagogue was firebombed and there were some assaults on Jews in the streets in previous months. (Reuters)
18:32 GMT:
Russia is ready to allow Ukrainian military planes to fly over its territory if the latter fulfills its payment obligations, said the head of the Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Sergey Koshelev. He added that no politics should be involved.
“I would like to confirm that we are ready to fulfill our obligations under the Open Skies Treaty and are looking forward to a similar approach from those requesting to fly over our territory,” Koshelev said.
On Tuesday, Ukraine directed a request through the OSCE for an "emergency observation flight" from 17 to 21 March over Russian territory within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty. On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities have said the country is not ready to fulfill its payment obligations.
A Ukraine Su-25 (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)
A Ukraine Su-25 (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

18:31 GMT:
Ukrainian police has detained four people and identified more than 400 participants of the bloody clashes that took place on Thursday in the eastern city of Donetsk, the head of the regional police department Konstantin Pozhidaev told journalists at a press briefing. He also urged journalists to provide any photo or video materials of the incidents in Donetsk, while calling for the citizens to maintain order and refrain from provoking conflicts during peaceful demonstrations.
17:48 GMT:
Schools and other institutions were transformed into polling stations in Sevastopol on Friday, ahead of the referendum on Sunday. Over 192 polling stations have already been formed for the March 16 vote. The stations will operate from 08.00 to 20.00 local time (06.00 to 18.00 GMT). Those away from their registered city will be unable to take part in the vote as absentee ballots have been banned.
17:36 GMT:
Crimea could be recognized as a part of the Russian Federation as soon as next week, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov told a news conference in Simferopol on Friday.
The process of accession to Russia after the referendum will take up to a year’s time, he said, adding that “there were neither requests, nor suggestions from any side. Nobody in Moscow is especially preoccupied with Crimea’s accession.”
Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov (RIA Novosti / Taras Litvinenko)
Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov (RIA Novosti / Taras Litvinenko)

The Crimean government isn’t going to discuss the question of its separation with Kiev, the dialogue will be possible only after the elections in Ukraine, he said.
Aksyonov also said that Russian troops were not taking any action on Crimean territory.
“Russian troops have always been based here, since the times of Suvorov and Kutuzov. The Black Sea fleet has never left the place, all through Ukrainian independence,” Aksyonov said.
Should the March 16 referendum result in a vote to join Russia, not a single Ukrainian bank in the autonomy will be nationalized, Aksyonov promised at the news conference.

Early items.....

03:22 GMT:
The US Senate is postponing the vote on a bill aimed to provide financial aid to Ukraine and impose sanctions against Russia, until the end of March at the earliest.
The legislature, drafted and approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, failed to advance in the Senate on Thursday, after Republicans objected to the inclusion of the IMF measure.
The next time, US legislature can take up the vote is after Congress returns from a break on March 24.
01:04 GMT:
Canada has promised to provide Ukraine with $220 million aid in an international effort to restore the economic situation in the country.
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper is announcing $220 million in additional measures to promote sustainable economic growth, democratic development, and good governance," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told a news conference in Ottawa.
Some $200 million are conditional on the creation of a wider financial aid package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The other $20 million will be transferred to pay for expert guidance under the IMF supervision.

Thursday, March 13

23:21 GMT:
The Crimean authorities promise to protect the integrity of private property and business, but announced plans to nationalize state property on the peninsula of Ukraine.
"I just want to reassure business – we will not carry out re-privatization. This we can guarantee. Private business will continue to operate normally,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov told, "Komsomolskaya Pravda."
Aksenov said that energy sector enterprises and companies related to mining activities will be privatized by the state. Vessels of the Ukrainian fleet will also be appropriated.
21:43 GMT:
Over 100 Greek expats from the former USSR held a rally in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Athens, condemning the actions of the "self-appointed government” in Kiev that sows discord between nations.
The activists marched towards the Ukrainian embassy to submit a petition calling for national unity in Ukraine. In it they condemned the authorities who “came to power through bloodshed”, for “abolishing our [Greek] schools, abolishing Russian language” which is spoken by some “90 percent of Ukrainians”.
Protest in front of Ukrainian embassy in Athens, Greece. March 13, 2014
Protest in front of Ukrainian embassy in Athens, Greece. March 13, 2014

20:40 GMT:
Ukraine’s coup-imposed Prime Minister told the UN Security Council that authorities in Ukraine are ready to defend ”every minority in our country” and offer more autonomy to Crimea.
"We are ready to engage in a national dialogue to strengthen the powers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the Ukrainian parliament with constitutional means and tools," Arseny Yatsenyuk said.
Sunday's vote in Crimea is seen as a chance for the peninsula's people to fairly decide and choose their course of action.
The ballot only has two options: "Are you in favour of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?" or "Are you in favour of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?"
20:35 GMT:
In a conversation with the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, Russian president Vladimir Putin has assessed the acute situation in Ukraine, and stressed in particular that the "solution to the crisis is possible only on the basis of unconditional consideration of the interests and the will of the multinational population of all regions of this country [Ukraine]," said the press service of the Kremlin.
19:46 GMT:
Clashes erupted in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after participants of a pro-Russian rally broke through a police cordon surrounding the rally of Ukraine’s integrity supporters. According to Interfax-Ukraine, law enforcers attempted to take those rallying for Ukrainian unity in police buses but some of the buses were blocked and had their windows broken. Fireworks and smoke grenades were also reportedly used in the clashes.
18:02 GMT:
Russia has voiced support for the deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea, the chairman of the European security group said on Thursday, calling this a possible "big step forward."
"The Russian Federation supported the idea of a rapid approval and rapid deployment of a special monitoring mission for Ukraine," Thomas Greminger, Switzerland's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters after a meeting of OSCE envoys in Vienna. (Reuters)
16:21 GMT:
Nearly 10,000 people in the city of Ulyanovsk have attended a rally in support of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population.
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