Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Ukraine Updates May 16 , 2014 --Ukraine Billionaire ( Rinat Akmetov ) Workers Rout Protesters, Seize Mariupol Oligarch Warns Independence Would Threaten Steel Industry ..... Ukraine Troops Destroy Two Checkpoints Near Slovyansk Three Protesters Captured in 'Military Success' ( Anti terror campaign still rolling along ) ...... Kerry: US Will Sanction Russia if Protests Disrupt Ukraine Vote Sanctions Ready to Go in Effect Anytime ........ NATO DMs Mull New Bases Along Ukraine Frontier NATO Officials Reminds Everyone Ukraine Is Not in NATO ...... Russia: Ukraine Must Pay in Advance for Gas Starting in June, Deliveries Need Prepayment ...... various items of note from Itar Tass.....
MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) - Federalist forces in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region have refused to unveil what steps they will take after a 24-hour ultimatum demanding the withdrawal of Kiev security forces expired late on Thursday.
In the ultimatum, the Donetsk federalists threatened to start a special operation if Ukrainian troops fail to depart from roadblocks seized in the region.
"Our military wing announced the ultimatum, it will also take the measures. I think they won't reveal their tactics," said Miroslav Rudenko, a co-chairman of the Donetsk People's Republic.
The self-defense forces have already started taking active steps, he said, without giving further details.
"As far as I know, our actions intensified since last night, militias launched an offensive. The opposite side's shooting against militias also intensified," Rudenko said.
The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in eastern Ukraine held referendums on self-determination last Sunday with over 90 percent of voters supporting greater autonomy.
The republics declared themselves sovereign states on Monday, with Donetsk planning to ask Moscow to join Russia. The Luhansk leadership also said it did not rule out the possibility of a referendum on becoming part of Russia.
MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that the authors of a United Nations report on Ukraine attempting to justify the punitive operation in the country were carrying out a political to “whitewash” the self-proclaimed authorities in Kiev.
“We are obliged to state that the report has little to do with the overall real situation in Human rights field in Ukraine. The total absence of objectivity, the flagrant irregularities and the ‘double standards’ leave no doubt that the authors have carried out a political order on ‘whitewashing’ the self-declared authorities in Kiev,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Friday.
“It is deeply regrettable that the report actually justifies the criminal punitive operation in Southeastern Ukraine, and is silent on the victims among civilians, attempting to place the responsibility for human rights violation on the ‘pro-Russian forces,’” Lukashevich added.
The report by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights commenting on the situation in Crimea was a step back from the United Nations charter endorsing the principles of impartiality and neutrality, Lukashevich said.
“Declaring that the referendum in Crimea was illegal immediately after Kiev and their Western protectors, the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights endorses that fact that they do recognize the embodied in the international pacts on human rights, the right of people to self-determination, only if it is dictated by political conjunctures,” he said.
The new report by the UN monitoring team in Ukraine was released in Kiev and Geneva on Friday. The research covers the period from April 2 to May 6.
The 34-pages report shows the growing tendency of “violent confrontations” in the country, the official statement said.
The problem has been especially marked in and around the town of Slaviansk, in the Donetsk region, according to the report.
The UN notes that “in most cases, local police did nothing to prevent violence, while in some cases it openly cooperated with the attackers.”
However, the monitoring mission also noted the Ukrainian army had also been accused of murder and other crimes.
“Security and law enforcement operations must be in line with international standards and guarantee the protection of all individuals at all times,” the report said.
Following a regime change in late February, the citizens of the predominantly Russian-speaking southeastern regions of Ukraine refused to recognize the legitimacy of the country’s interim government and called for federalization and referendums on greater autonomy, with rallies sweeping through the region.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov launched a special operation last month to crack down on pro-federalization protests.
Russia has called the Western-backed military operation against the protesters a “punitive act,” and accused Ukraine’s authorities of waging a war against their own people.
The situation in the eastern port city of Mariupol just got a lot more complicated, as the city that had been the scene of multiple battles between secessionist protesters and the western-backed military saw a new force emerge and seize the entire city in a matter of a day.
Thousands of steelworkers took over Mariupol with almost no resistance, and employees of Akhmetov’s steel company, including both factory workers and miners,have moved on several other cities across Donetsk, though in smaller numbers.
Akhmetov’s companies employ some 280,000 people across eastern Ukraine, and he told his employees in no uncertain terms that regional autonomy would cost them export markets in Europe, and potentially put their steel mills at risk.
Though Akhmetov had previously given some lip-service to increased federalization in Ukraine, his business interests now seem squarely centered on ending any hope of self-rule in Donetsk, and with factory workers feeling their livelihoods at risk, he has his own army with an eye on capturing the region back for the pro-West regime.
Ukraine’s military attacked two checkpoints between the eastern cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk overnight, destroying them and capturing three protesters, one of whom was reportedly armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Interim government officials touted it as a great military success, having been carried out with no casualties. Destruction of checkpoints has happened off and on, with protesters quickly rebuilding the sites.
The military has been attacking Slovyansk and Kramatorsk off and on for weeks now, and while they have destroyed buildings on the outskirts, they’ve rarely got into the cities themselves for any major operations.
Protesters in the region are also warning they’re ready to go on the offensive, warning the military to dismantle its own checkpoints in Donetsk Oblast or the protesters will move in and dismantle them for them.
Speaking today in London, Secretary of State John Kerry says the US is prepared to impose yet more sanctions on Russia later this month if Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election is “disrupted” by protests.
Kerry provided no details on what the new sanctions would include, but said they would focus on preventing “new investment” in Russia from Western countries.
Kerry said he wants Russia to play a “constructive role” in the May 25 Ukraine vote, which aims to replace the ousted pro-Russian government with pro-Western officials.
It’s not clear what would constitute a “disruption” of the election in Kerry’s view, but it isn’t clear if the elections are even going to be conducted in the eastern oblasts where the protests are taking place.
Throwing military assets at Eastern Europe on an ad hoc basis is remarkably fashionable these days. An upcoming meeting of NATO defense ministers in early June is expected to be the first major chance officials have to discuss a more permanent scheme.
With Poland in particular clamoring for permanent NATO deployments, the odds are good that the alliance will be strongly considering setting up basesalong the frontier with Ukraine, using tensions between Ukraine and Russia as a pretext for a buildup in the region.
Officials say there’s no real chance of getting into a war with Russia though, so the Russia-Ukraine situation is really just an excuse to set up bases. NATO official Jamie Shea was quick to remind everyone that Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO to begin with, and NATO wouldn’t be required to attack Russia on their behalf.
For Eastern European member nations, the NATO bases are a chance to make their militaries more internationally relevant, and to likely get some increased aid from the big spenders in the west.
Some officials are being pretty straightforward about this being a political football for them, saying Eastern Europe’s NATO members willingly went along with the calamitous US occupation of Afghanistan, and suggesting the US owes them a debt of gratitude that can only be paid with more ill-conceived deployments.
The Russian government has announced that natural gas giant Gazprom will begin insisting on advance payment for any deliveries of natural gas to neighboring Ukraine starting in June.
The move aims to assure that Gazprom is paid promptly, or indeed at all, after years of Ukraine’s government constantly behind on payments. Compounding the problem, after Gazprom ended the substantial discount they had been giving them, Ukraine’s interim government insisted they won’t pay at all anymore.
The bill has ballooned with the non-payment, and is several billion dollars, or tens of billions if the fines and late fees end up factored in. Russia said Gazprom made the decision after Ukraine offered “no specific proposals” on getting caught up on their bills.
Ukraine Interim Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said his nation would be open to making payments on its bill, but only if Russia agreed to knock the price down to the previous discount, which seems unrealistic given the rising prices of natural gas across Europe and Asia.
From Itar Tass.....
Donetsk volunteer guards take control of regional headquarters of National Guards
DONETSK, May 16 /ITAR-TASS/. Voluntary guards of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has taken control of the headquarters of the Eastern unit of Ukraine’s National Guards, a spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic told Itar-Tass over the phone late on Friday.
“They took the building of army unit 3037 in Donetsk,” the spokesman said.
Earlier on Friday, spokesman for the Ukrainian interior ministry’s interior troops Dmitry Obraztsov told the UNIAN news agency that the personnel “left the headquarters to be billeted in another garrison.” He also said he did not know whether the servicemen had managed to take away weaponry.
US does not provide support for Ukraine's Right Sector — State Department
WASHINGTON, May 16. /ITAR-TASS/. US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland has never met with members of the Right Sector ultra-nationalist group, and the US Administration does not provide any support for the group, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf told ITAR-TASS in an e-mail.
Earlier, the Russian media reported that representatives of the Right Sector came to Washington last month to negotiate financial help for the organization. On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov touched upon the subject in an interview to Bloomberg TV.
“The other thing to which I wanted to get response from Washington was these reports about the secret visit of the Right Sector coordinator (Andriy) Artyomenko to Washington for alleged meetings with Victoria Nuland. And we want answers to these questions because it's too serious to manipulate events in Europe across the Atlantic. It's not a remote-control game. It's very serious for us,” Lavrov said.
Ukraine’s national bank suspends operations in Donetsk region
May 15, 22:41UTC+4 Bank claims that representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic demanded from the executives of the bank’s branch “to give them a considerable assignment of money''
KIEV, May 15 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine’s National Bank (NBU) has suspended its operations in the Donetsk region due to the federalisation supporters’ activities in the region, the NBU press service said on Thursday.
The National Bank of Ukraine claims that representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic demanded from the executives of the bank’s branch “to give them a considerable assignment of money or otherwise they will face a mop-up in the division.”
After that, NBU evacuated its personnel and suspended payments in the region.
Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian State Tax Administration withdrew its staff from the Donetsk region, too.
Ukrainian military simulate gunfight near Kramatorsk — self-defense militia
KRAMATORSK, May 15. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian military “simulated armed clashes” against a self-defense group on the outskirts of the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, a representative of voluntary guard of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told ITAR-TASS on Thursday.
ODESSA, May 15. /ITAR-TASS/. Local authorities in Odessa, which became the scene of hair-raising bloodshed and mass murder May 2, have given the assurances that the ultra-rightwing paramilitaries of the Right Sector grouping and of the so-called Maidan self-defense force have been removed from the checkpoints around the city.
“Placed at the checkpoints today are officers of the Odessa police,” regional governor Ihor Palitsya said. “There are no representatives of public associations or self-defense forces there.”
May 2, extremist combatants from the Right Sector and the Maidan self-defense forces organized a street march that grew over into riots and rampages, which eventually took away the lives of 48 people.