Putin urges Ukraine referenda delay
Russian president asks pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to postpone disputed referenda seeking independence from Kiev.
Last updated: 07 May 2014 21:41
|Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked pro-Kremlin separatists in southeastern Ukraine to postpone a series of disputed referenda planned for this weekend on declaring greater autonomy or outright independence from Kiev.|
The move was announced after a Kremlin meeting with Swiss president and current Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chief Didier Burkhalter on Wednesday.
Pro-Russian activists said they would discuss Putin's call for postponement at a meeting of their assembly on Thursday.
"Tomorrow we will discuss that at the people's assembly," Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, told Reuters.
"We have the utmost respect for President Putin. If he considers that necessary, we will of course discuss it."
Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in eastern regions, such as Donetsk and Lugansk, had announced plans to stage polls on secession from Kiev following the protest-led ouster in February of a Kremlin-backed regime.
'Withdrawal' of troops
The votes have been denounced as illegal by both Kiev and its allies in Washington and the European Union.
Ethnic Russians who make up a large part of the population in the southeastern half of the ex-Soviet nation of 46 million had expressed fears about losing their language and other rights under a new pro-Western government.
Ukraine plans separately to stage snap presidential elections on May 25 that Russia had denounced as "absurd" because of the ongoing military standoff between separatists and Kiev forces.
But Putin appeared to soften his approach to the national election by calling it a tentative step in the right direction.
"I would like to stress that the presidential elections planned in Kiev, while they are a move in the right direction, will not decide anything if all the citizens of Ukraine fail to understand how their rights are protected after the elections are held," Putin said.
In a move that would go further to easing the tensions in Ukraine, the Russian president also was reported as saying the Kremlin had withdrawn its forces from its border with Ukraine, where NATO had said about 40,000 Russian troops had assembled in recent weeks.
"We're always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds," Putin was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.
But a White House spokesman said later on Wednesday that US officials had seen "no evidence" that Russian troops had pulled back from the tense border.
His statements echoed those of NATO, which earlier Wednesday reported "no indication of a change in the position of military forces along the Ukraine border".
Earnest added that Washington would "certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal."
"That's something that we have sought for quite some time," he said.
Selective support: US set to punish Russia for Ukraine elections, referendums results
Published time: May 07, 2014 02:26
The Unites States and EU have denounced the referendums planned by anti-coup protesters in Eastern Ukraine as illegal, at the same time demanding that the country-wide presidential elections take place despite the military operation in the East.
Should presidential elections in Ukraine fail to take place on May 25, the US and EU are ready to blame Russia, slapping new ‘powerful’ economic sanctions on Moscow, US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted on Tuesday.
“There's no question about our ability, when we want to, to be able to put sanctions in place that are even more biting than what we have today,” Kerry said in a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Washington officials were sending a message that any recognition of the scheduled referendums in the east of Ukraine by Russia will have dire economic consequences, at the same time accusing Moscow of trying to disrupt the presidential elections.
“What we're doing this week,” Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “…is trying to develop this strong sectoral package on both sides of the Atlantic so that the Russians can see it, understand it, and understand its impact if they take further action to prevent these elections from happening.”
In imposing new sanctions the US administration will have to coordinate its actions with the European Union, Nuland added. “Keeping the cats herded is a challenge for the Europeans,” she said.
Russians are “doing everything they can” to disrupt Ukraine's elections. “It seems to me there needs to be a consequence for that up front so that that disruption doesn't continue to take place,” Senator Robert Menendez, the panel's chairman said at the hearing.
Currently over 20 Republican senators co-sponsored a bill seeking to impose tougher sanctions on Russia, in particular on major banks and energy companies.
At the same time – as Kiev continues what it calls an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against protesters in the East – the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Ukraine, Evelyn Farkas, announced the US is sending $18 million of ‘non-lethal’ military aid to Ukraine, adding that Kiev has asked for more assistance.
In the meantime, Moscow stated that the absence of violence would be one of the criteria by which Russia judges the legitimacy of the presidential election, as well as the upcoming referendums in Donetsk and Lugansk.
“Elections and referendums must be free, fair, and take place in an environment that excludes violence, and be held under objective and impartial international monitoring," Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "Depending on how all these criteria are met, we will determine our attitude toward events."
For Kiev to de-escalate the conflict, it must cancel the order deploying the army and National Guard against the population of southeast Ukraine, he said.
Following the Crimean referendum on self-determination in March, US President Barack Obama has ordered that sanctions be applied against a number of Russian officials.
At the time, the White House stated that "the actions and policies" of the Russian government with respect to Ukraine "undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine" and "threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity."
Obama’s executive order applies to several top Russian officials, including presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, presidential adviser Sergey Glazyev, State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky, head of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament Valentina Matvienko and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The latest round of Russia sanctions, announced April 28, show that the Obama administration is willing to target the energy sector. “Russia is already feeling the impact of our measures,” Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury assistant secretary for terrorist financing, told the Congress hearing.
( Russia finally clear its throat , discusses the Ukraine situation from the standpoint of what the road will be moving forward for Russian Federalists in restive Ukrainian Regions... )
Russia Accuses Kiev Of Committing Genocide Of Russian, Ukrainian People
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/06/2014 14:59 -0400
Russia has made its first official comment following the latest escalations in Ukraine- and they are not peaceful-sounding - "We are dealing with the real genocide of both Russian and Ukrainian people,” said Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, adding that Russia was shocked by the massacre in Odessa and mourns the victims together with their families. His words went further as he warned theperpetrators "will get what they deserve from their people." The words though, have now been followed up by actions... asRIA reports that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet "will get new submarines and next-generation surface ships", Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday, voicing his concern at the increasing maritime activity of the US Navy.
Russia's first official response to the escalation in Ukraine and the disaster in Odessa... (via RIA)
The latest episodes of violence in Ukraine constitute a genocide against the Russian and Ukrainian people, Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said during a Balkan forum Tuesday.“We are dealing with the real genocide of both Russian and Ukrainian people,” said Naryshkin, commenting on the tragic events in Odessa on May 2, when 46 federalization activists were killed in clashes.He added that Russia was shocked by the massacre in Odessa and mourns the victims together with their families.“In the 21st century such things happen not only due to the fault of a bunch of political adventurists – they are not worth much on their own, they will get what they deserve from their people. The main problem is that the horrific truth is being kept from the whole world,”Naryshkin said.According to the speaker, Kiev’s authorities initially based their policy on civil confrontation. They have now demonstrated their unwillingness to find and punish those responsible for the numerous crimes that have been committed in Ukraine in recent months, he added....The Russian Foreign Ministry called the events a result of the “criminal irresponsibility of the Kiev leadership indulging insolent nationalist radicals, including Right Sector, who are staging a campaign of physical terror against supporters of federalization and real constitutional changes in Ukrainian society."
And then appears to be taking action asThe Black Sea Fleet gets reinforcements...
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquartered in the Crimea region that recently reunified with Russia will be beefed up with a slew of next-generation warships and submarines, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday.“This year, our sea bases will host new air defense and marine regiments,” Shoigu said.“This year, the Black Sea Fleet will get new submarines and next-generation surface ships, and all of this requires our immediate attention,” the minister said during a conference call.The general underscored that Russia has always “lent all the necessary forces” to the Black Sea Fleet, but Crimea’s accession to Russia required it to amend the fleet’s development plan.Russia has recently voiced concern over the increasing maritime activity of the US Navy in the Black Sea after the Pentagon dispatched its frigate USS Taylor to the region together with the command ship USS Mount Whitney.
The clock is ticking and sanctions are doing nothing. The days of diplomacy - it would seem - are long gone - as Lavrov warns...