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Ukraine Crisis

Breaking news, updates, and analysis on the uprising and crisis in Ukraine.

  • At Slate, Joshua Keating writes that several 2006 US diplomatic cables, part of the 'Cablegate' cache released by Wikileaks, may have foreshadowed the current scenario between Ukraine and Russia.

    "A 2006 cable under the name of Kiev Deputy Chief of Mission Sheila Gwaltney, who as it happens is now the highest ranking diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Moscow following the departure of Amb. Michael McFaul, warns of a possible Russian threat to Crimea – Ukraine’s 'soft underbelly,'" writes Keating.

    From the cable: 

    Discussions with a wide range of contacts in Crimea November 20-22 and officials in Kyiv discounted recent speculation that a return of pro-Russian separatism in Crimea, which posed a real threat to Ukrainian territorial integrity in 1994-95, could be in the cards.  However, nearly all contended that pro-Russian forces in Crimea, acting with funding and direction from Moscow, have systematically attempted to increase communal tensions in Crimea in the two years since the Orange Revolution.  They have done so by cynically fanning ethnic Russian chauvinism towards Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, through manipulation of issues like the status of the Russian language, NATO, and an alleged Tatar threat to "Slavs," in a deliberate effort to destabilize Crimea, weaken Ukraine, and prevent Ukraine's movement west into institutions like NATO and the EU.

    Read more at Slate.

  • POTUS briefed today on Ukraine by nat sec advisors. Will speak with foriegn leaders later today, per @jearnest44
  • Ukraine launched a treason case on Sunday against the head of the navy, who surrendered his headquarters on Sunday in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on only his second day on the job.

    Denis Berezovsky was shown on Russian television swearing allegiance to the pro-Russian regional leaders of Crimea. Russian forces have seized the Black Sea peninsula and told Ukrainian forces there to give up their weapons.

    "During the blockade by Russian forces of the central headquarters of the navy, he declined to offer resistance and laid down his weapons," said Viktoria Syumar, deputy secretary of Ukraine's Security Council.

    "The prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case against Denis Berezovsky under statute 111: state treason," she said. Another admiral, Serhiy Hayduk, was placed in charge of the navy.

  • Members of Crimean self-defense units stand guard in front of the local government headquarters in Simferopol March 2, 2014. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)

  • Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Sunday it was essential to prevent Russia's seizure of Crimea expanding into a wider regional conflict.

    "We should be able to stop Russia in its aggressive moves precisely in order to avoid a conflict," Tusk told reporters on Sunday after an extraordinary meeting with party leaders.

    But he said doing nothing was also not an option.

    "History shows - although I don't want to use too many historical comparisons - that those who appease all the time in order to preserve peace usually only buy a little bit of time."

    Poland shares a border with Ukraine and large parts of the western part of the country were Polish before World War Two. Warsaw's foreign policy is driven by a fear of its former overlord Russia pushing west into Ukraine and threatening Poland's own borders.

    Poland played an important role in brokering the deal that ended violent conflicts between pro-Europe protesters and the government of President Viktor Yanukovich, a Russian ally, and that led eventually Yanukovich's ouster.

  • Ukrainian troops guard their base outside Simferopol, now surrounded by Russian soldiers.

  • I'm inside marines base in Feodosia. Long negotiations going on behind closed doors. Russians want them to give up weapons. So far refusing.
  • Military vehicles, believed to be property of Russian army, are seen near the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol March 2, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

  • Update: New video captures Ukrainian navy chief Berezosky delivering his televised statement, confirming the AFP's previous report that he had switched allegiance to the pro-Russia authorities in Crimea.  

  • Ukraine's navy chief announced Sunday he had switched allegiance to the pro-Russian authorities of the flashpoint peninsula of Crimea, a day after he was appointed to the post by interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov, the AFP reports.

    "I swear to execute the orders of the (pro-Russia) commander-in-chief of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," Denis Berezovsky said in a televised statement from inside the Crimean headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, adding that he "swears allegiance to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

    The BBC currently has a similar report of the navy chief's 'defection'. Al Jazeera American cannot independently confirm this report at this time.

  • British government ministers will stay away from the Paralympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi due to the situation in Ukraine, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday.

    "Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, (Foreign Secretary) William Hague and I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics," Cameron said on Twitter.

  • I am told @NATO council just ended, but shortly reconvening w/#Ukraine 's ambassador, formally NATO-Ukraine Commission.
  • Timeline of the latest development in Ukraine over the last 24 hours (thanks to our colleagues at Al Jazeera English):

    • President Vladimir Putin submits proposal to parliament on the use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine's Crimea.
    • Ukraine's acting president calls an emergency meeting of security chiefs.
    • Russia's upper house of parliament approves President Putin's proposal.
    • Vitali Klitschko urges Ukraine’s parliament to mobilize the army.
    • UN Security Council holds urgent meeting on the crisis.
    • Ukraine's PM says military intervention could lead to war.
    • United Nations Security Council meets in closed-door session.
    • US President Barack Obama calls Vladimir Putin and speaks with him for over 90 minutes.
    • US Secretary of State John Kerry condemns Russia’s invasion.
    • Canada recalls its ambassador to Russia for consultations.
    • Ukraine calls up all military reserves.
    • Ukraine’s acting president says airspace closed to any non-civilian aircraft.
    • Ukraine's PM accuses Russia of declaring war on the country.
    • Hundreds of unidentified gunmen surround Ukraine military base, blocking soldiers from leaving.
    • The US, France, Britain and Canada say they are canceling preparations for the G8 meeting due to be held in Russia in June.
    • US Secretary of State John Kerry condemns Russia’s ‘incredible act of aggression’
    • Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev says Ukraine is preparing to defend itself against Russia. 
    • Army recruiting stations open across Ukraine.

  • In the above photos, military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol March 2, 2014. (All photos by Vasily Fedosenko for Reuters)

  • Ukraine said on Sunday its navy's fleet of 10 warships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol had not left the port and remained loyal to the government in Kiev.

    Earlier, Ukraine said it had withdrawn coastguard vessels from Sevastopol and another Crimean port and stationed them elsewhere.

    Russian forces have seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet also has its headquarters. Several units of Ukrainian troops in Crimea have been surrounded, and Russian troops have urged them to give up arms and support the peninsula's pro-Moscow regional authorities.

  • New Yorker editor David Remnick's analysis of Putin and Ukraine is worth reading (Remnick spent several years as the Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post): 

    In a recent Letter from Sochi, I tried to describe Putin’s motivations: his resentment of Western triumphalism and American power, after 1991; his paranoia that Washington is somehow behind every event in the world that he finds threatening, including the recent events in Kiev; his confidence that the U.S. and Europe are nonetheless weak, unlikely to respond to his swagger because they need his help in Syria and Iran; his increasingly vivid nationalist-conservative ideology, which relies, not least, on the elevation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been so brutally suppressed during most of the Soviet period, as a quasi-state religion supplying the government with its moral force.

    Obama and Putin spoke on the phone today for an hour and a half. The White House and Kremlin accounts of the call add up to what was clearly the equivalent of an angry standoff: lectures, counter-lectures, intimations of threats, intimations of counter-threats. But the leverage, for now, is all with Moscow.

    The legislators in the Russian parliament today parroted those features of modern Putinism. In order to justify the invasion of the Crimean peninsula, they repeatedly cited the threat of Ukrainian “fascists” in Kiev helping Russia’s enemies. They repeatedly echoed the need to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine—a theme consonant with the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Russians everywhere, including the Baltic States. But there was, of course, not one word about the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been independent since the fall of the Soviet Union, in December, 1991.

    If this is the logic of the Russian invasion, the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula.

    Read more in the New Yorker.
  • Al Jazeera's Tim Friend reporting from Kiev says two oligarchs have been appointed as regional governors in the East by the new administration in Ukraine as the leadership grapples with pro-Russian sympathy.

    [Al Jazeera English]
  • John Kerry says Russia could face visa bans, asset freezes, trade and investment penalties over actions in Crimea - @meetthepress , @AP
  • From Kyiv Post, Ukraine's leading English-language newspaper: Under Russian flag, Kalashnikov-armed checkpoints come to Ukraine

    On a road leading to the Crimean peninsula, a journalist woke up with a start. He was being stared at, through the window of the car he and his colleague from a TV station hired to drive to Crimea on March 1, by at least a half-dozen men armed with Kalashnikovs.

    The men wore an assortment of military uniforms, some had their faces covered with Balaklavas. Their only insignia were orange-and-black stripy St. George ribbons, a recognized military symbol in Russia that dates back to its empire days.

    “Pull over and get out,” the men barked. There was no point in arguing with people so heavily armed.

    On March 1, the Russian military had not yet cemented their control of Crimea. But by the morning of March 2, they had taken over, blocking access by air, road and train to everyone except those allowed inside or outside. And journalists were not on the list of people to be let through checkpoints.

    After they were stopped on March 1, the journalists had their luggage inspected twice, and their bulletproof vests and helmets (brought for themselves and their colleagues) confiscated. Their pleas to return the company equipment went unanswered.

    “I have been to many nasty checkpoints in the world, I covered drug trafficking wars in Columbia, but I have never had my bulletproof vest confiscated,” the journalist later said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

    The camouflaged men made it clear they did not like journalists.

     “You're provocateurs,” one of the men said. “Your helmet has a bullet hole in it, if it ends up in front of the camera, we will be accused of shooting.

    Read more from Kyiv Post
  • This can be resolved according to the standard of the 21st century. @FaceTheNation
  • Invasion is not the act of someone who is strong. It is the act of someone who is weak. @FaceTheNation
  • President Obama made it clear we are prepared to work with #Russia to help people of #Ukraine . There are many alternatives to invasion.
  • Photo: Military personnel gather at territory of a Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

  • Ukraine says its Navy still has full fleet of 10 ships in Crimean port of Sevastopol, which have not disarmed and remain loyal to Kiev.

  • Ukraine's flags and a poster are pictured in front of Russia's embassy during a protest rally against Russian intervention in Crimea, in Riga March 2, 2014. Ukraine is preparing to defend itself against Russia but will ask other countries for help if Russia expands its military action, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday. According to local media, about a thousand people attended the protest rally. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

  • Ukraine calls Russia's actions a 'declaration of war'

    Ukraine's new prime minister demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin pull back his military Sunday, as Ukraine called up all military reserves and Western powers angrily warned Moscow over Russia’s incursion into Ukrainian territory.

    "This is not a threat: This is actually the declaration of war to my country," said Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who heads the pro-Western government that took power in Ukraine after massive protests forced President Viktor Yanukovich, a Russian ally, from power a week ago.

    Yatsenyuk’s remarks came as a convoy of Russian troops rolled toward Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine's partially autonomous Crimea region, a day after Russian forces took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula without firing a shot.

    Also on Sunday, Russian forces surrounded several small Ukrainian military outposts in the Crimea and demanded that Ukrainian troops disarm. Some refused, and though there was no fighting the situation remained tense.

    Ukraine’s new government has called up all military reserves, and a senior security official said it was vital for the country’s military to be combat-ready as soon as possible.

    Read more on Al Jazeera America
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Sunday when asked for a response to harsh words from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who condemned Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine.

    "No comment at the moment," Peskov said.

    Kerry threatened "very serious repercussions" from the United States and other countries, including sanctions to isolate Russia economically, a day after President Vladimir Putin declared Russia had the right to intervene militarily in its neighbour.

  • In Crimea, citizens stand for self defense and Mother Russia

    Friday night, Vasili Kryshko bought a pair of woodland green hunting waders. A friend accompanying him bought a long waterproof trench coat, also in camouflage, and they set off to serve their shift at the local self-defense battalion checkpoint, 20 miles outside the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

    Speaking from the checkpoint, Kryshko said it was set up a week ago to prevent “provocateurs” from Kiev and western Ukraine from coming into the city after three months of protests led to the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovich last Saturday. They are in communication with other battalions across the autonomous peninsula, coordinating security.

    "We are not paid," he said. "We are not here for money. We are here for security.”

    The post was unarmed on Saturday morning, but Kryshko said they could have weapons delivered in less than 15 minutes if needed. “We hope it won’t come to that, but we are ready for anything,” he said. “Crimea will decide its fate for itself, it’s the people who will decide.”

    But the checkpoint’s loyalty was clear: A Russian flag was flying high over the barricades and a sign on the roadblock said: “Russia is where we are.”

    Unhappy with the outcome of the protests in the capital and alarmed at the rise of Ukrainian nationalist groups in Kiev, many ethnic Russians in Crimea, who make up almost 60 percent of the population here, have been protesting and calling for Russia to come to their aid — with some even going as far as demanding their neighbor immediately absorb the territory.

    On Saturday afternoon, they may have gotten their wish. The new pro-Russia prime minister of Crimea asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for help safeguarding the Black Sea peninsula. Putin requested and received authorization from the Russian senate to use military force in Ukraine. Already, professional-looking gunmen in neat, matching uniforms, widely assumed to be Russian troops, took over the capital's government buildings, two Crimean airports and the local television building.

    Read more from Al Jazeera America.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine and threatened "very serious repercussions" from the United States and other countries including sanctions to isolate Russia economically.

    "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

    Kerry, however, added that Russia still has "a right set of choices" that can be made to defuse the crisis.

  • Ukraine withdrew its coast guard vessels from two ports in Crimea and moved them to other Black Sea bases on Sunday, a sign that Russian forces were completing their seizure of the isolated Black Sea peninsula.

    In a statement, the border guards said vessels from the Crimean ports of Kerch and Sevastopol had been moved to Odessa and Mariupol. The situation on Ukraine's frontiers was stable apart from in Crimea, the statement said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared he has the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian citizens. Russian forces have seized Crimea, where they have a naval base at Sevastopol, but have not entered other parts of Ukraine.

  • Britain will suspend its participation in preparations for a G8 meeting in Sochi after Russia violated Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, British Foreign Minister William Hague said on Sunday.

    "The United Kingdom will join other G8 countries this week in suspending our co-operation under the G8, which Russia chairs this year, including ... meetings this week for the preparation of the G8 summit," Hague told reporters before boarding a flight to Kiev.

    "We call on both sides to ensure that there can be a reduction in tensions and the avoidance of conflict."

  • France has suspended participation in preparatory meetings ahead of a G8 meeting of world powers in Russia's Sochi, a source in President Francois Hollande's office said on Sunday.

    "We have suspended our participation in the (G8) preparatory meetings," the source said.

  • Armed men check stand guard near the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol March 2, 2014. Ukraine mobilised on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)

  • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Sunday the situation in Ukraine was "extremely dangerous" and he urged Russia to desist transgressions of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    "It is urgently necessary that all those responsible desist from taking further steps that can only be seen as a provocation," Steinmeier said in a statement.

    "Anything else would lead to an escalation with uncertain, possibly dramatic consequences."

    Steinmeier also said Russia had no right to deploy its military in Ukrainian sovereign territory beyond the rules of the treaty on the Russian Black Sea fleet.

  • Russia is threatening peace in European via its military actions in Ukraine and must immediately de-escalate tensions, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Sunday.

    "What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe," Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO ambassadors.

    Rasmussen called on Russia to deescalate tensions and for all parties to "continue all efforts to move away from this dangerous situation".

  • Ukraine called on Sunday for "real steps" by world leaders to help his country, saying it was on the brink of disaster and that Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions amounted to a declaration of war.

    "Any attempt to attack military installations is in fact direct military aggression against our country and the Russian military and the Russian leadership will be held responsible," Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said.


  • At Al Jazeera America, Hashem Said maps the geography of Ukraine's identity crisis. See more maps from Al Jazeera America.
  • The Associated Press has an informative explainer of the cultural differences at the heart of the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

    If Ukraine looks neatly delineated on maps, its often-bloody history is a tangle of invasions and occupations, peoples and beliefs. It is a place that has been struggling for centuries to define itself. And now it finds itself so sharply divided — between support for Russia on one side of the country and loyalty to the West on the other — that it often seems more like two countries than one.

    On opposite sides of Ukraine, two cities, each of about 1 million people, illustrate that divide.

    The eastern city of Donetsk can seem like a cliche of post-Soviet grimness, a place of Stalinist-era apartment blocks, tin-roofed shacks and loyalty to Russia. In the west, Lviv has emerged as a center for Ukrainian artists and writers, a huge draw for European tourists and a city desperate for closer ties to the West.

    To the fiercest pessimists, as well as to extremists on both sides, the cities are already in different nations.

    "The country is already separated," said Ivan Reyko, a 30-year-old factory worker from Donetsk who joined a recent demonstration of about 100 people in the city's main plaza, Lenin Square, where a 30-foot-tall statue of the Soviet hero gazes proudly toward the horizon. "There is no way back to a united Ukraine."

    A recent series of ominous signs has diplomats warning the region could easily stumble into widespread violence. Among them: military drills just across the border by 150,000 Russian soldiers, and the seizure of the parliament building in the Russian-speaking region of Crimea by unidentified gunmen, who flew the Russian flag and chanted "Crimea is Russia."

    Read more at the Associated Press

  • Russian military servicemen have taken weapons from a radar base and naval training facility in Ukraine's Crimea region and urged personnel to side with the peninsula's "legitimate" leaders, Interfax news agency said on Sunday.

    It quoted a Ukrainian Defence Ministry source as saying the Russian servicemen had taken pistols, rifles and ammunition cartridges from the radar post near in the town of Sudak and taken them away by car.

    Another group of Russian military had also removed weapons from a Ukrainian navy training centre in the port city of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet also has a base.

  • The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said on Sunday armed groups had tried to cut off a road leading to Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.

    "Armed men are roaming the area ... There was an attempt to close off the road from Moscow to Crimea," Yevgeny Savchenko was quoted as saying about events on Saturday. "This is really troubling."

  • People attend a rally at Independence Square in Kiev March 2, 2014. Ukraine mobilised for war on Sunday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade, creating the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. (Reuters/Konstantin Grishin)

  • Russia's border guard service said on Sunday some 675,000 Ukrainians had left for Russia in January-February this year and that there were signs of a "humanitarian catastrophe", Russian state news agency Itar-Tass said.

    "If 'revolutionary chaos' in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions," Tass quoted the service as saying.

  • Ukraine is calling up all military reserves and must ensure the armed forces are combat-ready as soon as possible, the country's top security official said on Sunday.

    Andriy Paruby, Secretary of the Security Council which groups top security and defence chiefs, said an order had also been given to the Foreign Ministry to seek U.S. and British help in guaranteeing the security of Ukraine.

    The armed forces, he said, would step up security at energy facilities.

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