Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ukraine Updates March 6 , 2014 --Estonian Foreign Ministry confirms authenticity of leaked call on Kiev snipers , The Estonian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the recording of his conversation with EU foreign policy chief is authentic. Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders. .......... Questions on Ukraine the West chooses not to answer ( apart from the bombshell on the Kiev snipers and when does the EU and US , UN for that matter commence an investigation into this atrocity ) ...... Ukraine with its back to a finacial wall will see its people hammered by austerity ( just like in Greece , Cyprus , Spain , Ireland , Italy ) ..... As the EU and US weigh sanctions against Russia , Russia readies is own foreign asset freeze measures - " All Sanctions must be mutual " ...... Top of the morning updates ( Russia Today and The Guardian )

Evening  news.....

EU and US sanctions.....

'Visa bans, asset freezes are next': Europe announces three step sanctions against Russia

Published time: March 06, 2014 17:30
Edited time: March 06, 2014 19:25

AFP Photo / Dominique Faget
AFP Photo / Dominique Faget
EU leaders have threatened Russia with sanctions, which could include visa bans, asset freezes and various economic restrictions unless it engages in direct talks with the coup-appointed Ukrainian government.
As a first step, the EU has halted G8 summit preparations and visa-free talks with Russia.
The European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, on Thursday warned that if Moscow does not manage a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine, it will “seriously affect the relations between the EU and Russia.”
“If there is no de-escalation, the EU will decide on additional measures, such as visa restrictions, asset freezes and cancellation of the Russia-EU summit,” Rompuy said at a press conference as quoted by Interfax.
British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened that asset freezes and unspecified travel bans could be imposed on Russia “relatively quickly,” unless progress is made on dialogue with Ukraine.
French President Francois Hollande said that further economic measures against Russia are also possible.
French president Francois Hollande speaks during a press conference on March 6, 2014 in Brussels. (AFP Photo / Alain Jocard)
French president Francois Hollande speaks during a press conference on March 6, 2014 in Brussels. (AFP Photo / Alain Jocard)

According to Cameron, those would be step-three in the sanctions and could carry “far-reaching consequences including in a broad range of economic areas.”
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said there was “no enthusiasm” in Europe for sanctions on Russia but the move was “inevitable.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also blasted the referendum on joining the Russian Federation announced by Crimea’s parliament on Thursday as “illegal and incompatible with Ukraine’s constitution.”
Following an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Merkel said they “condemn the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty with regard to Crimea,” and “consider its territorial integrity to be essential.”
The EU leaders urged the immediate withdrawal of what they believe are Russian troops blocking military installations in Crimea. All troops not part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces must lay down their weapons, Merkel said.
Ukraine should also receive the first portion of EU financial help swiftly, the German Chancellor believes. The EU plans to send 610 million euro to Kiev in the near future, which will later be followed by an aid package of 1 billion euro.
Quick signing of the political part of the EU association agreement with Ukraine is also a top priority task for the European leaders, according to Merkel. The trade-related part will be further discussed, taking into account close economic ties between Kiev and Moscow, she said.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) speaks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel as they meet ahead of a European leaders emergency summit on Ukraine, in Brussels, on March 6, 2014. (AFP Photo / Yves Herman)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) speaks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel as they meet ahead of a European leaders emergency summit on Ukraine, in Brussels, on March 6, 2014. (AFP Photo / Yves Herman)

US President Barack Obama on Thursday also gave a speech on the situation in Ukraine, calling to start“direct negotiations between Russia and Ukraine with participation of the international community,” Itar-Tass reports.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said the solution to the crisis should “take into account Russia’s interests” but heed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. A proposed referendum in Crimea to join Russia would violate international law, he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said that Moscow will react to any attempts to hamper the process of obtaining visas for Russian citizens travelling to European countries.
“Should consular posts of any of the EU member countries move toward a certain tightening of visa application proceedings, we will immediately react to that,” he said.
He added that Russia was “surprised” by EU's decision to freeze talks on a visa-free regime with Russia.
“It is obviously a politicized, unconstructive and baseless approach, which goes contrary to the existing agreements between Russia and the EU on further simplification of rules for mutual citizens’ travels,”Lukashevich stressed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged world leaders to consider the “consequences” of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

“I believe that in the modern world, where everything is interconnected and interdependent, it is possible to cause damage to another country, but this will be mutual damage and one should bear this in mind,”Putin said.
Meanwhile, the Crimean Prime Minister, Sergey Aksyonov, said he was bewildered by the threats of sanctions coming from the West with regard to the situation in Crimea.
“We live here, we can choose our future on our own – since when is it punishable by sanctions? What is it, political persecution? In Lvov, a military installation was seized, the prosecutors and police were thrown out and regional authorities were self-proclaimed – and nobody imposed any sanctions,”Aksyonov told journalists at a media conference.
Sergey Aksyonov, chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, near Crimean parliament on February 28, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
Sergey Aksyonov, chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, near Crimean parliament on February 28, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

“As soon as the Russians for the first time concentrated on defending their interests – and not just Russians, the Ukrainians living here also, everyone got agitated and started talking sanctions. Do we advise America or Germany how to deal with their autonomous regions and tell people what to do? This is their own right, as is the right of the Crimeans for self-determination,” Aksyonov stressed.
The Crimean authorities have denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The Crimea authorities have asked Russia to provide assistance to ensure peace and order in the region.
Crimeans began protesting after the new Kiev authorities introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official purposes in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population is Russian and uses only this language for their communication.
Many units within the national armed forces have started joining up with the pro-Russian Crimean government and the locals who organized self-defense against right-wing radicals. Recently, the commander of the Ukrainian navy and most of the military stationed in the peninsula took new oaths.
Under the Russian-Ukrainian Partition Treaty determining the fate of the military bases and vessels in Crimea – signed in 1997 and prolonged in 2010 - Russia is allowed to have up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems (with a caliber smaller than 100 mm), 132 armored vehicles, and 22 military planes, on the peninsula’s territory. The Russian Black Sea fleet is allowed to stay in Crimea until 2042. Moscow annually writes off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequencies, and to compensate for the Black Sea Fleet’s environmental impact.
Participants of a rally in Crimea's Yevpatoria voice their support to Russia on March 5, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
Participants of a rally in Crimea's Yevpatoria voice their support to Russia on March 5, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

US imposes visa restrictions on Russians, Crimeans who ‘threaten Ukraine security’

Published time: March 06, 2014 12:45
Edited time: March 06, 2014 15:34

Pro-Russian activists wave a giant Russian flag near a statue of Lenin as they rally in Simferopol, the administrative center of Crimea, on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)
Pro-Russian activists wave a giant Russian flag near a statue of Lenin as they rally in Simferopol, the administrative center of Crimea, on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)
The US is imposing visa restrictions on Russian and Crimean officials and private citizens who they accuse of “threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity,” the White House says.
American President Barack Obama has signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against“individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.”
The White House said in a statement that this order is “a flexible tool” that will allow it to sanction those who they consider “most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea.” The document does not preclude further steps in case the situation deteriorates, it added.
The announcement comes as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is getting ready to hold a referendum on March 16 on whether it wants to remain part of Ukraine or to join Russia.
The US, along with its European allies, has displayed support for Ukraine’s coup-appointed government and repeatedly criticized Moscow’s stance on the situation in the former Soviet Republic. Tensions between the two world powers intensified after top American officials threatened Moscow over its position on Ukraine and what the West calls Russia’s “invasion” in Crimea.
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Sunday that “all options are on the table,” echoing Obama’s statement last week about “costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
According to the Russian Foreign Minister, the US Secretary of State John Kerry told him that for now there are no blacklists of Russian officials who would face sanctions over Ukraine. Washington is continuing to aggravate the situation by threatening to impose sanctions, Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday after a meeting with Kerry in Rome. Such steps are not constructive, he added.
I drew the secretary of state’s attention to the non-stop aggravation of the situation, and the announcement about some lists of Russian officials who would be banned from entering the US. He assured that there are no such lists at the moment, but there is only an order [by the president],” Lavrov told journalists after the talks. That, however, does not change anything since that is “still a threat,” Lavrov added.
As of today, Moscow and the US have failed to reach an understanding on Ukraine, Lavrov said, summarizing the results of the meeting with Kerry.
We need to have a clear understanding of what our partners mean when proposing to set up some international mechanism and what its composition will be,” Lavrov said. Russia considers it is most important to “respect” the February-21 EU-brokered agreement to settle the crisis. Another crucial aspect is that any process must be supported by all Ukrainian regions, he said.“First of all in this respect we are worried about Crimea and South-eastern regions,” Lavrov said.
The second most crucial aspect is that any process that might be supported must be based on the clearly voiced agreement by all Ukrainian regions,” Lavrov said.
Under the pretext of “deterring Russian aggression” in Ukraine, the Pentagon announced its plans to send several additional fighter jets for NATO air patrols over the Baltic states and, also expand aviation training in Poland.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to heap further pressure on Moscow, NATO announced on Wednesday a fullreview of its cooperation with Russia and said that it would suspend planning for a joint mission linked to the Syrian chemical weapons. Moscow slammed the move as an application of “Cold War” stereotypes and double standards.
The Crimean authorities have denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The Crimea authorities have asked Russia to provide assistance to ensure peace and order in the region.
Many units within the national armed forces have started joining up with the pro-Russian Crimean government and the locals who organized self-defense against right-wing radicals. Recently, the commander of the Ukrainian navy and most of the military stationed in the peninsula took new oaths.
Under the Russian-Ukrainian Partition Treaty determining the fate of the military bases and vessels in Crimea – signed in 1997 and prolonged in 2010 - Russia is allowed to have up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems (with a caliber smaller than 100 mm), 132 armored vehicles, and 22 military planes, on the peninsula’s territory. The Russian Black Sea fleet is allowed to stay in Crimea until 2042.Moscow annually writes off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequencies, and to compensate for the Black Sea Fleet’s environmental impact.


Obama Bans Critics of Ukraine Coup From Entering U.S.

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Executive order suspends entry rights of anyone who “undermines” Ukrainian “democracy”
Paul Joseph Watson
March 6, 2014

Image: Barack Obama (Wiki Commons).
Under the sweeping language of President Barack Obama’s executive order issued today, critics of the US-backed coup in Ukraine could find themselves being banned from entering the United States.
The executive order suspends “entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons” who fulfil the following criteria;
“[A]ny person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:
(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.
As CNS News’ Craig Bannister notes, this would effectively ban entry for anyone deemed to be a ‘Russian sympathizer’, or anyone who has expressed a view similar to Moscow, which was that the Kiev uprising was a violent coup d’état and not a democratic uprising, since that could easily be characterized as an indirect action or policy which undermines Ukraine’s post-coup government.
By extrapolation, this would mean anyone who has drawn attention to the mountain of evidence that the Kiev protest groups were funded by the U.S. State Department in concert with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy.
It would also ensnare anyone who has highlighted the leaked phone call in which US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland was caught red handed plotting with top diplomat Geoffrey Pyatt to pick Ukraine’s future puppet leaders. Nuland specifically approved Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who later became Prime Minister after the coup.
The executive order could also target critics of the fact that both Nuland and John McCain met with the leader of the neo-nazi affiliated Svoboda Party before the election, an organization that was subsequently handed three top positions within the newly formed Ukrainian government despite its clear links to fascism and anti-Semitism.
The irony of Washington targeting anyone who took actions to “undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine” is painful given that the Kiev revolt led directly to the overthrow of a democratically elected government.
The broad language of the executive order is also a chilling move towards discriminating against people for their political opinions. Obama is seemingly intent on mirroring the United Kingdom, where people like radio host Michael Savage are banned from entering the country and labeled “extremists” for daring to dissent from political correctness.

Russian reactions , US reactions ....

The Russian Perspective: "There Will Be War In Ukraine"

Tyler Durden's picture

With Ukrainians living in the Crimea region voting to join Russia, the West calling for sanctions (well some of the West), boots still on the ground, and markets apparently of the belief that all is well in the world once again, we thought the Russian perspective on the next steps was useful...
Via Sergei Markov of The Moscow Times,
The current crisis is not about Crimea. It is about the rights of Russian-speakers throughout Ukraine whom the Kremlin wants to protect from violence and discrimination. Russia does not want a military intervention in Crimea and does not want to take Crimea from Ukraine.
There is a political solution to this crisis.
First, create a coalition government in Kiev composed of all parties, including those from the east and south of the country. The current government is dominated by anti-Russian extremists from western Ukraine.

Second, Ukraine needs to draft a democratic constitution that has guarantees for Ukraine's Russian-speaking population that would grant official status to the Russian language and establish the principle of federalism.

Third, presidential and parliamentary elections must be held soon. Independent election observers must play an active role in ensuring that the elections are free and fair. There is a real danger that they will be manipulated by the neo-Nazi militants who de facto seized power in a coup.
If these democratic and peaceful solutions to the crisis in Ukraine are rejected by the opposition forces that have seized power in Kiev, I am afraid that Russia will have no other choice but to revert to military means. If the junta leaders want to avoid war, they need to adopt Moscow's peaceful and democratic proposals and adhere to them.
Those currently in power in Kiev are carrying out a political strategy that is not so much pro-European as it is anti-Russian, as evidenced by the surprisingly heavy-handed tactics the U.S. and European Union  have employed in Ukraine. In the end, a minority executed a violent coup that removed the democratically elected and legitimate president of Ukraine.
The Kremlin believes that the current Ukrainian leadership will manipulate the elections planned for May 25 to install a single leader or coalition government functioning much as former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili did in Tbilisi. A "Ukrainian Saakashvili" will unleash an even more repressive campaign of intimidation against Russian-speakers, one that over several years would stoke anti-Russia hysteria among the general population.
After that, Kiev may evict Russia's Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol and purge Crimea of any Russian influence. Ukraine could easily become a radicalized, anti-Russian state, at which point Kiev will fabricate a pretext to justify taking subversive action against Moscow. This looks especially likely considering that ruling coalition members from the neo-fascist Svoboda and Right Sector parties have already made territorial claims against Russia. They could easily send their army of activists to Russia to join local separatists and foment rebellion in the North Caucasus and other unstable regions in Russia. In addition, Russia's opposition movement will surely want to use the successful experience and technology of the Euromaidan protests and, with the help and financial support of the West, try to carry out their own revolution in Moscow. The goal: to remove President Vladimir Putin from power and install a puppet leadership that will sell Russia's strategic interests out to the West in the same way former President Boris Yeltsin did in the 1990s.
The official census puts the Russian minority in Ukraine at 16 percent of the total population, although that number was falsified. The actual number is closer to 25 percent. Surveys indicate that 45 percent of the country's population speak Russian at home, 45 percent speak Ukrainian and 10 percent speak both languages. In the most recent Gallup survey, when asked in which language they would like to be polled, 83 percent of respondents chose Russian. Taking into account the rural population in western and central Ukraine, about 75 percent of the people, probably speak Russian. Of that 75 percent, only about 10 percent are those in Kiev and a few other major cities who supported the protests. This means that only 35 percent of the population are attempting to impose its will on the remaining 65 percent, using a violent coup to achieve their goals.
Putin made the right decision: He did not to wait for that attack and took preventative measures. Many in the West say the Kremlin's reactions were paranoiac, but Germany's Jews also thought the same of leaving the country in 1934. Most of them chose to believe they were safe and remained in Germany even after Hitler came to power. The infamous Kristallnacht took place five years later, one of the first early chapters in the "Final Solution." Similarly, just four years remain until Russia's presidential election in 2018, and there is a strong risk that subversive forces within and outside Russia will try to overthrow Putin, in part using their new foothold in Ukraine.
Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict. Russia is prepared to move its forces into southern and eastern Ukraine if repressive measures are used against the Russian-speaking population or if a military intervention occurs. Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already. At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy.

Or out another way:
If the extremists who seized power in Kiev do not accept Russia's democratic proposals, Russia will likely be forced to revert to military means to solve the crisis in Ukraine.

High-Probability Of Russian Assault Overnight, Ukraine Pravda Says

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On the heels of the Russian navy intentionally sinking a vessel blocking the Ukrainian navy from entering The Black Sea, Ukraine Pravda reports that it is "most probable that Russian troops will assault units in Ukrainian Crimea overnight continuing to the weekend." Citing a source in the uniformed services, Ukraine Pravda warns that "despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks," and maintain "peak readiness."

On the night of Thursday to Friday a great opportunity to assault Ukrainian part of the Russian special forces.

This "Ukrainian Pravda" reported a source in the uniformed services.

"Despite reports that Russian troops ended in learning, active phase lasts. They did not return to the barracks. Could maintain peak readiness by the end of the weekend," - said the source.

"The most probable that the assault would take place that night, but the danger will persist to the end of the weekend" - source added.

"There are three scenarios. First - this air strike," - said the source.

He said that if Russian troops will withdraw from parts of the Ukrainian, that would mean this version.

"Helicopters are already relocated, and it is possible that they will do exactly helicopters," - said the UP.

"The second option - a special operations force for disarmament," - he said.

The interviewee said that in the Crimea are Russian special forces "Alpha", "Vympel" and "Zaslon."

"The third option: they can come up with ryazhenymy Cossacks, as with a living shield. Example is happening" - he added.

He also reminded that the Russian troops flooded his ship to block the path of Ukrainian courts.

According to the source, impacts may not be in all parts, but only by those who are the most combat-ready, including Sevastopol and Feodosiya.
An anti-submarine boat may have been the first casualty of the Russian incursion into Crimea, but it was hardly an act of violence, much less war: The Russian navy sank one of its own, junked vessels to create an obstacle, a Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.
The sinking was the latest in a series of moves by Russian naval forces in the area that were jangling the nerves of Ukrainian officers... the mouth of the bay was blocked by 10 Russian vessels including the formidable guided missile cruiser Moskva.

Watch As A US Missile Destroyer Departs Greece For The Black Sea

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Yesterday we reported that with the US aircraft carrier, CVN-77 George H.W. Bush, anchoring in Piraeus, Greece, an unnamed US warship had been granted permission by Turkey to cross the Bosphorus and enter the Black Sea. There was speculation it may be the carrier itself, even though such a crossing would be forbidden by the Montreaux Convention. Today we have the answer: it is not CVN-77, but one of the ships from its aircraft carrier strike group - the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxton, which as the clip below shows, just departed the Greek port of Souda Bay earlier today.
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer is bound for the Black Sea in what the Navy calls a routine visit unrelated to events in Ukraine.

The USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with about 300 sailors on board, departed Greece early Thursday, said a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in Naples.

The Truxtun is part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which recently entered the Mediterranean and is training with regional navies before continuing to the Middle East. The group also includes Carrier Air Wing 8, the destroyer USS Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Philippine Sea.
But lest someone think that just like Russia's ICBM test coming at a most inopportune time, this move has anything to do with Ukraine tensions, the US Navy would like to frame the situation in a far more amicable manner:
The ship is scheduled to train with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces for an unspecified period of time, conducting joint maneuvers and landing aircraft on ships. The spokesman, Lt. Shawn Eklund, said the visit is unrelated to Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine. "Truxtun’s operations in the Black Sea were scheduled well in advance of her departure from the U.S.,” he said.
Well of course they were. But just in case not sending a missile destroyer into the Black Sea would be seen as a way to avoid escalations, it is best to make sure such confusion is avoided entirely.
For a brief glimpse of the truth behind the real purpose of this trip, we also find the destroyer will join the USS Taylor as the only two U.S. vessels inside the Black Sea during a period of heightened tensions. A a reminder, the Taylor, a guided-missile frigate, remains moored in Samsun, Turkey, after it ran aground in February - good thing it did not have to defend the "free world" from all those Sochi terrorists that America was convinced will blow everything up.
So what does a ship departing for the Black Sea for what may or may not be simple drills with friendly naval forces? The answer can be found in the clip below.

House Passes $1 Billion Ukraine Loan Guarantee, Gazprom Sends Thanks

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The oligarchs have taken over the asylum:
We are sure the auditors will be aggressively checking that this money does not flow directly from the US to Ukraine to Gazprom. But notably, we suspect, Jordan and Tunisia might be pissed as they just lost their funding. Not so much for Detroit or Puerto Rico also...

Measure, H.R. 4152, doesn’t entail any new funding because money remaining in a program for loans to Jordan and Tunisia would be transfered; exact amount of loan guarantees won’t be determined until Ukraine applies for assistance

Ukraine response to Crime Referendum.....

Ukraine Acting President Loses It Over "Crime Against Nation" Crimea Referendum

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Ukraine's Acting President Turchynov is not happy about what his 'fellow countrymen' in the east are doing:
So how will he enforce that decision?Perhaps this is the instigation that Putin has been waiting for? Bonds and precious metals are suddenly bid on this news.
It appears things are escalating once again...
This won't end well as Turchynov adds,Ukraine’s territorial integrity is sovereign and unassailable

Ukraine Update: Pro-Moscow Leader Arrested In Donetsk, Russians Block Border Cross Points

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While the biggest strategic news of the day is that the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia with a done deal referendum to be held in a few days, as well as collapse of the anti-Russian sanction lobby with Germany and others getting cold feet against boycotting Russian goods, the tactical developments continue. Of note: earlier today the leader of the most persistent pro-Moscow protest movement in eastern Ukraine was arrested at his home in the city of Donetsk on Thursday, a Reuters journalist who was with police on the raid said. Around 10 members of the SBU security service arrested Pavel Gubarev at his apartment in a five-story Soviet-era block in the eastern city, on charges of "infringing the territorial integrity and independence of the state". He did not resist.
Gubarev, a Donetsk businessman, had led protesters who blockaded the regional administration building and flew the Russian flag until they were removed on Thursday. He had called himself the "people's governor" and demanded lawmakers sever ties with Kiev and put him in charge of the police force.
So if Russia needed yet another pretext to claim there is repression of pro-Russian individuals, Kiev gladly obliged.
Perhaps this explains why, as Bloomberg reports, the Russian military is restricting access of Ukrainian border troops to check-point buildings, border service says on its website. Bloomberg cites the Ukrainian statement as saying that Russian military use ultimatums to urge Ukrainian border troops to move and take side of self-proclaimed Crimean government. Blocked points include those near Massandra and Yevpatoria.
And some other re-escalation news: also according to Bloomberg, Russian military sank Ochakov ship in the Black Sea near Donuzlav on the eastern coast of the Crimean peninsula. Passage to Donuzlav lake is now blocked and Ukrainian navy ships are locked inside the lake. Bloomberg cited a defense ministry statement.
Still think Putin was de-escalating?
But here is the punchline:
Which is why we fully expect John Kerry to make some more hollow threats and call it a day.


Questions on Ukraine the West chooses not to answer

Published time: March 05, 2014 19:34
Edited time: March 06, 2014 04:41

Ukrainian soldiers look out through a gate near a "stop" sign as they wait inside the Sevastopol tactical military brigade base near Belbek in Sevastopol on March 3, 2014 (AFP Photo / Philippo Monteforte)
Ukrainian soldiers look out through a gate near a "stop" sign as they wait inside the Sevastopol tactical military brigade base near Belbek in Sevastopol on March 3, 2014 (AFP Photo / Philippo Monteforte)
Ukrainian and Western refusal to answer Moscow’s hard questions explains Russia’s tough stance on the crisis in Kiev.
Ignoring Russian concerns is a Western habit adopted after the Soviet Union’s collapse; when NATO bombed Yugoslavia; during the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, and the US push to install an anti-missile shield over Europe that can target Russia.
It also happened recently when Western diplomats flocked to Ukraine to smile and wave and lobby their interests in a future Ukrainian government, while accusing Russia of meddling in Ukrainian affairs.
But it seems that in Ukraine lies Russia’s red line and Moscow no longer takes “don’t know, don’t care”for an answer.
Here’s the questions.

1. Why did the opposition oust Yanukovich after he conceded to their demands?

On February 21, Yanukovich and the three Ukrainian parliamentary faction leaders signed a reconciliation deal co-signed by Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland. A gesture that their countries would serve as agreement guarantors.
The agreement provides a de-escalation roadmap of constitutional reform, a national unity government, early presidential election and disbandment of Maidan fighter groups.
Hours after it was signed, Right Sector radicals, key to the violence unleashed in Kiev which left a hundred people dead, gave Yanukovich an ultimatum: resign or face a siege of his residence.
Against Moscow’s advice, Yanukovich fled.
Vladimir Putin’s comments illuminate the Russian position here: "He [Yanukovich] had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected.. What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country? Armed and masked militants are still roaming the streets of Kiev. This is a question to which there is no answer."
Russia says the February 21 agreement must be implemented. The opposition signed it yet allows an uncontrolled militia of violent armed radicals send fear and loathing across a large swath of Ukraine.
The US says the agreement no longer matters – because Yanukovich fled. The EU signatories don’t seem to be bothered about it either.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AFP Photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AFP Photo)

2. Why is the coup-appointed govt replacing oligarchs linked to Yanukovich with... oligarchs?

Popular resentment of Yanukovich blossomed over corruption. Protesters pointed to power abuse, theft and allowing linked-oligarchs raid businesses of other clans. Evidence came readily after they fled - photos of their homes’ sumptuous interiors.
But the new self-appointed govt is replacing Yanukovich’s oligarchs with their own. Kiev just appointed billionaires as governors of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk respectively, a move that also drew Putin’s ire:"Mr. Kolomoisky was appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk. This is a unique crook. He even managed to cheat our oligarch Roman Abramovich two or three years ago. Scammed him.."
Both hold major assets in their respective regions and thousands depend on them for work. Both appointments are meant to stabilize a volatile society and ensure loyalty to the capital but critics say Kiev is reinventing fiefdoms to nobility in exchange for servitude. For Putin, who famously excluded oligarchs from politics, the move is an anathema.

3. Why did the post-coup parliament strip Russian language of its regional status?

A bill repealing a law on regional languages was among dozens rubber-stamped by a chaotic Ukrainian parliament in the first post-coup days. It allowed the Ukrainian nationalist and anti-Russian Svoboda (Freedom) Party put a feather in its cap. Yet it sent a ripple of hostility south and east from Kiev, where Russian-speakers are a large minority or even majority.
Kiev pledged to restore the status of Russian but now says the acting Ukrainian president won’t sign such a bill into law.

4. Why did Kiev attack the Constitutional Court?

Several Constitutional Court judges were accused of violating their oath and abruptly fired amid coup govt orders they be prosecuted. The judges branded this as an attack on the principle of separation of powers. Putin called it "monkey business".
As Yanukovich was not procedurally impeached but through a simple show of hands the legality of his impeachment is open to challenges taken by several Ukrainian regions and, diplomatically, by Russia. The Ukrainian Constitutional Court is the proper authority to rule on the issue yet the new Kiev admin is mooting totally disbanding it and giving its functions to the Supreme Court.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AFP Photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (AFP Photo)

5. Why would the West support the coup in Ukraine?

From the Russian perspective, the West fueled the fires of protest and ensured the Ukrainian government was toppled. Now it is attempting to legitimize its factious replacement. What Russia calls an unconstitutional coup, the West is branding a public revolution. It is possible that it is both.
Moscow does not challenge the reality. It doesn’t seek a Yanukovich return to power. It would work with the people who ousted him, as it did with the Yushchenko presidency. But Moscow demands the Kiev coup govt carries a national mandate to govern, in both east and west . Without it, any government is unsustainable.
Putin’s position is that it now maybe too late, despite his repeated warnings Ukraine would polarize. "Did our partners in the West and those who call themselves the government in Kiev now not foresee that events would take this turn? I said to them over and over: Why are you whipping the country into a frenzy like this?"
A stable Ukraine is essential for Russia for many reasons, humanitarian being just few of them. Of course Russia wants ethnic Russians in Ukraine to be safe from potential violence and persecution. But there are also more pragmatic considerations as well.
There’s the Black Sea Fleet, strong economic interdependence and there is gas. Ukraine transits Russian natural gas to Europe and is thus essential to the Russian and European economies. Yet now a desperate Kiev mulls privatizing its gas pipelines to fill its empty coffers, while Moscow’s questions remain unheard.

A whodunit ?

Estonian Foreign Ministry confirms authenticity of leaked call on Kiev snipers

Published time: March 05, 2014 15:02
Edited time: March 06, 2014 04:43

Urmas Paet.(AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)
Urmas Paet.(AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)
The Estonian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the recording of his conversation with EU foreign policy chief is authentic. Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders.
Paet told RIA-Novosti news agency that he talked to Catherine Ashton last week right after retiring from Kiev, but refrained from further comments, saying that he has to “listen to the tape first.”
“It’s very disappointing that such surveillance took place altogether. It’s not a coincidence that this conversation was uploaded [to the web] today,” he stressed.
“My conversation with Ashton took place last week right after I returned from Kiev. At that time I was already in Estonia,” Paet added.
Paet also gave a press conference about the leaked tape on Wednesday, saying that the dramatic events in Kiev, which resulted in people being killed, must become the subject of an independent investigation.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement on its website, saying that the recording of the leaked telephone conversation between Paet and Ashton is “authentic.”
The phone call took place on February 26 after Estonia’s FM returned from his visit to Ukraine, which took place soon after the end of street violence in Kiev, the ministry added.

“We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition’s involvement in the violence,"
the statement stressed, adding that the FM was only providing an overview of what he had heard during his Kiev visit.
RT has contacted Ashton’s spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, who said “we don’t comment on leaked phone conversations.”
The US government declined to comment on the leaked phone conversation between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the Estonian foreign affairs minister.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she had nothing to say on the issue, ITAR-TASS reported. However, she did accuse Russia of leaking the tape, stating that “this was another example of how the Russians work.”
The call took place after Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25, following the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital.
Anti-government protesters take cover as they are under fire reportedly of police sniper during clashes police in the center of Kiev on February 20, 2014.(AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)
Anti-government protesters take cover as they are under fire reportedly of police sniper during clashes police in the center of Kiev on February 20, 2014.(AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

It was reportedly uploaded to the web by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to ousted President Viktor Yanukovich who hacked Paet’s and Ashton’s phones.

During the conversation, Paet stressed that “there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”

According to the Estonian FM, “all the evidence shows” that the “same snipers” at Maidan were shooting at people from both sides – the police and the protesters.

Ashton reacted to the information by saying: “Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible,” adding that the matter is worth investigating.

94 people were killed and another 900 injured during the standoff between police and protesters at Maidan Saquare in Kiev last month.

Austerity looming.....

Ukrainian people will bear brunt of IMF deal with tough austerity

Patrick L Young is expert in global financial markets working in multiple disciplines, ranging from trading independently to running exchanges.
Published time: March 05, 2014 03:47
A woman holding carnations walks on Independence (Maidan) square in central Kiev on February 25, 2014 (AFP Photo / Louisa Gouliamaki)
A woman holding carnations walks on Independence (Maidan) square in central Kiev on February 25, 2014 (AFP Photo / Louisa Gouliamaki)
As part of a proposed $15 billion IMF deal to save the Ukrainian economy, lenders will make sure Ukraine makes tough economic reforms which will hurt ordinary people, global financial markets expert Patrick Young told RT.
He also warned that unless economic and political stability is quickly restored, investors will be put off from investing in Ukraine, thereby creating further problems.

RT: Could you explain the situation to us from an economic standpoint there? Would an IMF loan actually save the situation in Ukraine? What’s your take?

Patrick Young: The IMF loan is something which has been in discussion for four or five years. Ultimately, $15 billion will go a long way towards stabilizing the Ukrainian economy. At least, all other things being equal, that was in the old days when there was actually a plausible democratically elected government. The problem you’ve got though, with this loan, is whether it can actually be achieved in the first place from the IMF. And then what can be done in the very, very charged and confusing political situation.

RT: The IMF will also come up with its own demands for Ukraine and the reforms that the country will have to implement. Will that affect the situation in the country?

PY: Here we run back to the same catastrophe that we had when we were first talking about the Maidan demonstrators months ago, who have now exceeded to some sort of office. The problem is that for their $15 billion, the IMF has a very standard type of prescription template. And that means that the government has to behave in a very fiscally sound fashion. “Fiscally sound” does often not mean terribly sympathetic towards the average everyday pensioners or the citizens of Ukraine. And that’s exactly the situation we have here; Ukrainians are used to receiving their gas from Russia and then the government giving them an absolute enormous subsidy on top. That will have to go under the IMF plans. That’s why Mr. Yanukovich walked away from it some years ago. Equally, the government runs a $6.5 billion deficit every year. In other words, it spends more than it brings in, in taxes. The problem with that is, the IMF are going to demand they get their house in order. They’re going to have to bring in austerity. They’re going to be grinding measures to make sure the government actually operates in a logical, reasonable, trustworthy, and non-corrupt fashion. That’s not going to appeal to a lot of oligarchs, and its certainly not going to appeal to ordinary people who are going to see their real standard of living collapse. And that leaves us exactly at the point where, four months on, we’re no better off in terms of the Ukrainian situation because there’s no easy way out – which was why Mr. Yanukovich refused to sign up to the IMF package.

RT: Of course we know that it’s the people, it’s the locals, who bear the brunt of all the austerity measures. Speaking about the domestic situation in Ukraine, and specifically about household and gas tariffs – other previous governments refused to increase gas in homes. Why would the new one adopt such unpopular measures?

PY: It’s very simple. The IMF will refuse to provide the money unless the Ukrainian government, for want of a better term, signs up to these measures. So therefore it’s impossible, unless you comply. The IMF will essentially not give you $15 billion up front. It will give you a few hundred million next month, and keep on going over the course of the loan time. There will be a drip-feed of this money. If you don’t basically pass your homework, then ultimately their invigilators are going to turn around and say “Aha, no more money for you,” and that’s going to be the problem. There is a critical political crisis in Ukraine and nobody wants to talk maturely about the economy, and that is very worrying.

RT: Finally, the last couple of months of unrest in Ukraine have dealt a huge blow to the country’s economy. Could you briefly assess the situation for us? How bad is it?

PY: I think actually in some ways the economy hasn’t been quite as badly affected as it might have been. The difficulty is the incredible uncertainty. If you end up in a situation with an EU trade zone agreement, then there’s going to be a huge catastrophic problem for the east of the country because the industrial heartlands there are suddenly going to find themselves unable to export their goods to Russia and further east where they prove popular at the moment. So thus, there has essentially been an investor strike. People are terrified about putting their money forward in order to manage to build new businesses, create jobs, and so on. And that’s a problem because foreign direct investors, they’re giving Ukraine a wide berth, because who wants to go into a country that’s essentially bankrupt and politically chaotic. This looks more like a European version of Rwanda from an investor's standpoint, say 10 or 15 years ago. And that’s an absolutely ghastly situation to have. Moreover, the situation at the moment as it is, is very challenging because you’ve got the G7 who are essentially turning around and saying all sorts of weird and wonderful statements, while at the same time theoretically claiming that they’re going to offer biscuit crumbs to prop up the economy. That all leads to uncertainty and investors don’t like uncertainty.


Crimean parliament votes to join Russia, hold referendum in 10 days on ratifying

Published time: March 06, 2014 09:29
Edited time: March 06, 2014 10:51

AFP Photo/Vasily Batanov
AFP Photo/Vasily Batanov
A referendum on the status of Crimea will be held March 16, the region’s deputy prime minister announced. Crimeans will be asked to decide if the autonomous republic stays part of Ukraine or joins Russia.
"The referendum will take place March 16," said the autonomous region’s First Deputy-Premier Rustam Temirgaliev, according to ITAR-TASS.

The new date is two weeks earlier than the one announced last week.
There will be two questions on the ballots.

“The first one: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second one: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution,” Temirgaliev said.
According to the 1992 constitution, the autonomous republic is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev, defined on the basis of mutual agreements.
Sevastopol residents will take part in the referendum, despite the city enjoying a special status and not officially being a part of Crimea, according to Sergey Shuvainikov, a Crimean MP.
“We will give Sevastopol an opportunity to have its say,” he said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
Meanwhile the Crimean MPs have unanimously voted for the region to become a part of Russia.
"To become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory,” says the text of the Crimean parliament’s statement, obtained by RIA Novosti.
View image on Twitter
PHOTO: parliament resolution setting referendum on region's status for March 16

When the decision was announced to the people outside the parliament building, they welcomed the news with cheers and screams of “Russia!”
There are currently several thousand people in front of the parliament building, according to ITAR-TASS.

The parliament has also made a decision to ask the Russian leadership to “launch the procedure of Crimea becoming part of Russia.”
The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, explained that the parliament’s decision on the region joining Russia still has to be approved at a referendum.
Russia’s State Duma (parliament) could possibly debate the bill on Crimea joining Russia next week, said leader of the ‘Fair Russia’ party, Sergey Mironov.
More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication.
Crimean authorities denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of the local authorities.

Russian sanctions looming against US and EU- tit for tat  ?

Russia prepares bill on foreign asset freeze in reply to sanctions – senator

Published time: March 05, 2014 08:56
Edited time: March 05, 2014 12:43

The entrance to the Russian Federation Council, on Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)
The entrance to the Russian Federation Council, on Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)
A top Russian lawmaker has revealed he is working on a bill that would freeze the assets of European and American companies operating in Russia in reply to Western economic sanctions.
The chairman of the upper house committee for constitutional law, Andrey Klishas, is sure that Russia must have an enough leverage to deal with the threat of sanctions coming from foreign countries.A team of lawyers are currently preparing a separate federal bill that would allow the Russian president and government to confiscate foreign owned property in Russia, including assets belonging to private companies, the senator told the RIA Novosti news agency.
The bill is in response to the major political crisis in Ukraine and the threat of sanctions against Russia coming from the USA and other countries.
All sanctions must be mutual,” Klishas stated.
The senator added that he had no doubts that such a measure was in line with European standards. “We can recall the example of Cyprus where the confiscation was, in essence, one of the conditions for getting aid from European Union.
Klishas rejects the idea that the measure adds to the tension. “We are only suggesting that instead of threatening each other with sanctions we should together with our partners calmly read the Ukrainian Constitution and understand what has happened in this sovereign country,” the Russian lawmaker said. “The main thing we are trying to achieve, whether our European and American partners want it or not, is to make others listen to our legal arguments and adequately react to them,” Klishas said.
The senator added that the Federation Council planned to officially address parliaments of Poland Germany and France (the guarantors of the February 21 agreement between the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition) with a request to give a legal assessment of the Ukrainian events. Similar requests will be made to parliaments of other European countries and the USA.
Earlier this week the White House called off trade talks and suspended all military ties with Russia and President Barak Obama said that if Russia “continued on its current trajectory” the US administration was ready for “a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its standing in the world.”
Russian officials have already condemned these threats as one-sided and selfish. "Those who try to interpret the situation as a type of aggression and threaten sanctions and boycotts, are the same who consistently have encouraged the sides to refuse dialogue and have ultimately polarised Ukrainian society," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in its official comment that US politicians are losing an accurateperception of real state of affairs in the 21st century. “Moscow has explained to the Americans, repeatedly and demonstrably, why their one-sided punitive measures are not matching the standards of civilized relations between nations. If this fails to take effect, we will have to retaliate, and not necessarily in a mirror way,” the ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

US State Department position paper on Ukraine and Russia's actions.....

President Putin's Fiction: 10 False Claims about Ukraine

Fact Sheet

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC
March 5, 2014

As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, “The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions.”
Below are 10 of President Vladimir Putin’s recent claims justifying Russian aggression in the Ukraine, followed by the facts that his assertions ignore or distort.
1. Mr. Putin says:  Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.

The Facts:  Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.

2. Mr. Putin says:  Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The Facts:  The 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

3. Mr. Putin says:  The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Facts:  The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.

4. Mr. Putin says:  Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.

The Facts:  On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.

5. Mr. Putin says:  There is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum.

The Facts:  To date, there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.

6. Mr. Putin says:  Ethnic Russians are under threat.

The Facts:  Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents.

7. Mr. Putin says:  Russian bases are under threat.

The Facts:  Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action.

8. Mr. Putin says:  There have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The Facts:  Religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

9. Mr. Putin says:  Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea.

The Facts:  Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada.

10. Mr. Putin says:  The Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.

The Facts:  The Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine. Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite.

Live blogs......

Thursday, March 6

07:15 GMT:

The head of Berkut special forces told RT that he was sure there was ”Some outside force, a third party involved in the provocations and in deaths on both sides” of the violent clashes in Kiev.

“At some point, we understood that it was no longer like the peaceful protests of 2004 and 2007. This time it was all about provocation, not only violent, but dirty tactics by the rioters. While we were unarmed - we didn’t even have non-lethal arms - the plan of those who masterminded this was to make the Berkut force crumble, to demoralize us and pressure us to switch sides, but that didn’t happen. 

“And then came the worst: the shooting. Rounds were fired at both sides, but as I’ve already told you, we didn’t have any weapons. It was so difficult to understand what was happening, but officers just began falling to the ground, one by one. So it became clear: people were dying from bullets! But again, no shots could have been fired by Berkut forces. I’m sure there was some outside force, a third party involved in the provocations and in deaths on both sides. It was an organized team of professionals,” Yury Abisov, Crimean Berkut special police head, told RT.

Abisov’s interview follows a leaked phone call of Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet talking to the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and saying that “there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”
04:52 GMT:
The EU has said that among 18 Ukrainians whose assets were frozen is the country's ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, AP reported. Also on the list, are Yanukovich’s closest aides: including a former interior minister, justice minister, the prosecutor general, the head of the security services, Yanukovich's son and others. Also on the list are former Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov and his son. Earlier, the EU informed of the frozen assets, but didn’t name those targeted until early Thursday.
02:06 GMT:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a third envoy would be sent to Ukraine. The announcement came hours after UN emissary Robert Serry was forced to flee Crimea after being blocked in a coffe shop by a crowd of locals on Wednesday.
“I have decided to dispatch the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Ivan Simonovic, to Ukraine to visit Kiev and the eastern part of Ukraine, including Crimea, to see and monitor the human rights situation there,” Ban said.
Simonovic is expected to travel to Crimea over the weekend.
00:33 GMT:
The proposal to the draft law of ‘Development and use of languages in Ukraine’ to include a point about a gradual transition from Cyrillic to Latin letters would not be right, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunya Miyatovich told RIA Novosti. Miyatovich noted that she is expressing her own opinion and that the matter is not within her mandate.

Key takeaways on EU Emergency Summit  ......


The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, had said on Wednesday that EU leaders could impose sanctions on Russia if the situation in Crimea had not defused by the time they met in Brussels on Thursday. While it may not have escalated, the crisis is far from defused.

Ahead of the summit, the European Union froze the assets of Ukraine's ousted Russia-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych and 17 other officials suspected of violations of human rights and misuse of state funds.

David Cameron, François Hollande and Angela Merkel were due to meet on Thursday morning before the summit to discuss a range of possible punitive economic sanctions against Moscow.
Cameron and MerkelDavid Cameron and Angela Merkel will meet with François Holland before the summit. Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has threatened Russia with isolation "diplomatically, politically and economically" to withdraw from the Crimea.
As the EU meets, 40 unarmed military personnel are expected in Crimea on a mission by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation inEurope to try to defuse tensions in the region.
Later, the 15-member UN security council will hold closed-door talks in New York – the fourth such consultations since Friday.
Speaking on his Call Clegg phone-in show on LBC on Thursday morning, Nick Clegg expressed despair that Vladimir Putin was displaying cold war reflexes and said the Russian president had to realise that Ukraine need not be forced into a binary choice between Russia or the EU.
The deputy prime minister said: "Putin is displaying cold war reflexes which are totally out of step with modern Europe, and his mindset is a throwback to cold war thinking. He regards any closer contact between Ukraine and the EU as all synonymous with the old style conflict between capitalism and communism. It is not. This is where he has got it so very wrong."
He added: "To see always this as a zero sum game, and there are these rigid boundaries on the map that have to be protected, is a throwback to a past which I hoped Europe had gone beyond."
But Putin has so far shown no indiciation that he is ready to bend. The first western attempts to get Moscow to back down over its seizure of Crimea failed on Wednesday evening.
Negotiations in Paris between Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, broke up without agreement on Wednesday. The Americans and the Europeans hoped to persuade Moscow to open a dialogue with the new government in Kiev and to withdraw its forces in Crimea to their bases and allow in international monitors.
But while Lavrov accused the Americans of tabling unacceptable ultimatums, Kerry said there were "a number of ideas" up for discussion. Both men are expected to resume negotiations in Rome on Thursday after consulting their respective presidents, Barack Obama and Putin.
"Things have moved in a good direction," said Fabius.
Lavrov said western countries were proposing "steps that do not help create an atmosphere of dialogue. John Kerry agreed that such an atmosphere needed to be created. It's very hard to make honest agreements that will help the Ukrainian people stabilise the situation in an atmosphere of threats and ultimatums."
Kerry insisted he had not come to the French capital expecting to find an instant answer to the crisis in the Crimea, but was encouraged by signals from the Russians after meeting his Moscow counterpart Lavrov. Kerry also met the Ukrainian foreign minister, Andrij Deshchytsia.
"I believe I have something to take back to President Obama, and I believe Foreign Secretary Lavrov has something to take back to President Putin. All parties agree it's important to resolve this issue through dialogue," Kerry said.
It had been a day of frantic diplomacy in Paris, where Kerry met his Russian counterpart in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis. "We will not allow the integrity, the sovereignty, of Ukraine to be violated – or for that violation to go unchallenged," Kerry told journalists after the meeting.
"Russia made a choice. We have clearly stated it is the wrong choice to move troops into the Crimea. Ukrainian territorial integrity must be restored and maintained." Kerry added that efforts would continue to allow a "de-escalation" of the situation.
The meeting between Kerry and Lavrov was the first direct US-Russian contact since the Ukrainian crisis acquired alarming dimensions at the weekend with the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia's military occupation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
Analysts and diplomats in Brussels had been expecting the Kremlin to make symbolic concessions in order to weaken the case for sanctions against Russia by Europe and America, but those failed to materialise. That put further pressure on Thursday's emergency EU summit, with the Europeans almost obliged to impose punitive measures on Russia.
Early on Thursday the EU said it had targeted Yanukovych and 17 other members of his former Ukrainian hierarchy with an assets freeze.
In Washington, Congress was fine-tuning legislation that would provide Obama with a "sanctions toolbox", including visa bans and asset freezes, similar to those used against Iran. The US is expected to push ahead with sanctions, which at their most extreme would include measures to restrict trade, irrespective of the decisions taken in Europe.
Lavrov said Moscow could not order the forces controlling Crimea back to bases or barracks since they were not under Russian control, but were local "self-defence" units opposed to the new government in Kiev and safeguarding their region. Diplomats in Brussels said this amounted to opposition to the western proposals.
In Crimea, a UN special envoy had to abandon his mission after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting "Russia! Russia!"
The envoy, the Dutch diplomat Robert Serry, agreed to leave Crimea to end the standoff.
Germany has led the push to get Russia to engage diplomatically, resisting calls from Washington to isolate the Kremlin. The German push was reinforced by William Hague, the British foreign secretary, and the European commission, which unveiled an €11bn (£9bn) financial package for Ukraine, the equivalent of the $15bn pledged by Russia to shore up Yanukovych before he was toppled.
The transatlantic gulf opening up over how to respond to Putin appeared to be widening. One senior official from a G7 country spoke of growing unease over the US push for economic sanctions against Russia. "This isn't time for economic sanctions," the official said. "There is no clock ticking and we should be careful not to antagonise the other side."
The senior official said Berlin, rather than Washington, should assume the lead in talks with Russia. "I don't think the US should necessarily be taking the lead on behalf of G7 countries."
Merkel has spoken to Putin six times in the past week and the Germans are keen to engage rather than isolate the Russians.
In Washington, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said a bipartisan push was under way to pass legislation that would "strengthen the president's hand". He said it would be similar to how the US Congress and White House had dealt with Iran. "We gave the administration what I'll call a toolbox of sanctions [against Tehran] that they had the ability to impose as they saw fit," Boehner said.
Comparisons to the situation with Iran are likely to unnerve the White House, which has been embroiled in a series of bruising battles with hawks in Congress, who have spent months trying to push through sanctions legislation that further squeeze Tehran, a move the Obama administration believes would scupper nuclear negotiations.
But Obama, who last week insisted "there will be costs" for Putin if he intervened in Ukraine, a threat he has repeated several times since, is under pressure to follow through with action.
Officials in Brussels said there was little sign of willingness from the Russians to pursue a political settlement of the crisis, but they did not rule out a last-minute proposal from the Kremlin that would deflect the pressure for sanctions and divide Europeans going into the summit.
"The situation in Crimea needs to be handled through political dialogue in the framework of the Ukrainian constitution and respecting the rights of all Ukrainian citizens and communities," said José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European commission. "I expect no one will oppose a deployment of international observers to Crimea."
Earlier in Paris, Lavrov boycotted a meeting with Kerry, Hague and Deshchytsia. Kerry said that "regrettably" one member – Russia – had failed to appear for a meeting of the so-called Budapest agreement group, which guaranteed Ukraine's borders after it renounced nuclear weapons in the 1990s.
Lavrov repeated the Kremlin's assertion that the 16,000 troops that have seized Crimea were not Russian forces. "If you mean the self-defence units created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we give them no orders, they take no orders from us," he said. "As for the military personnel of the [Russian] Black Sea fleet, they are in their deployment sites."
European officials and diplomats admit that the sanctions being discussed on Thursday were symbolic rather than substantive. The measures include freezing talks on making it easier for Russians to travel to Europe and on a new overall agreement regulating relations between Russia and the EU.
Russian and European officials admit that both sets of talks are unofficially frozen anyway. Nonetheless, Moscow is threatening to retaliate.

Hague said the summit would need to show that there were "costs and consequences for Russia's actions against Ukraine". But the impact was more likely to be long-term rather than immediate.

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