Ukraine Crisis | Al Jazeera America

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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • According to Interfax, pro-Russian authorities plan to 'nationalize' state property in Ukraine's Crimea, Reuters reports.
  • According to Interfax, which is quoting a regional official, Ukraine's Crimea could adopt the rouble as its currency, Reuters reports.

  •  Members of Crimean self-defense units guard the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on March 6, 2014 (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)


  • Ukraine flew its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk on Thursday and ejected pro-Moscow demonstrators that occupied it, ending a siege that Kiev had seen as part of a Russian plan to create a pretext to invade.

    Police said they had taken more than 70 people into custody for questioning after clearing out the regional administration headquarters and another government building.

    Officers at the scene said one of those held was Pavel Gubarev, the leader of the protests, who had declared himself "people's governor" and insisted the police should report to him, despite failing to persuade lawmakers to name him provincial boss while his followers occupied the building.

    Police officials declined to comment on Gubarev's case. Kiev put him on a wanted list released on Wednesday.

    "The people who were removed from the building did not resist," Donetsk city police chief Maksim Kirindyasov said. "The building was cleared in a matter of a few minutes."

    The pro-Moscow protesters who had been occupying the building since Monday were first lured out on Wednesday by police who said there was a bomb scare, but fought their way back in after battling police throughout Wednesday.

    The building had flown the Russian flag since Saturday, the day President Vladimir Putin declared Russia's right to invade its neighbor to protect Russians.

    Donetsk, home city of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, has seen the most persistent pro-Moscow demonstrations in a wave of protests that erupted simultaneously across southern and eastern cities the day of Putin's announcement.

    Russian forces seized Ukraine's Crimea region, an isolated Black Sea peninsula, but did not enter other areas of Ukraine.

    SIMILARITIES TO CRIMEA

    Kiev says the protests across the south and east were orchestrated by Moscow to justify a planned wider invasion.

    It points to similarities between Gubarev's tactics and those used in Crimea - where a pro-Russian politician was named provincial boss in a besieged legislature before Russian forces took control - as evidence a wider assault was planned.

    The pattern was also repeated in other cities on Saturday where demonstrators raised Russian flags at regional government buildings and pro-Russian politicians held closed-door legislative sessions.

    But Donetsk was the only city outside Crimea where the Russian flag flew above the government building for more than a day and the protest leader continued to insist he was in charge.

    Most Ukrainians in eastern and southern regions speak Russian as a native language and many are deeply suspicious of the government in Kiev.

    The pro-Moscow demonstrators initially enjoyed substantial support, but their tactics and Putin's invasion threat have increasingly caused a backlash and protest numbers have ebbed.

    In Donetsk, anti-Russian protests gathered in the past two days that were much larger than the pro-Kremlin demonstrations. Seven people were hurt when the two sides clashed on Wednesday.

    Kiev has said that many of the pro-Russian demonstrators have been bused in from Russia. Kirindyasov said those detained at the regional headquarters were all Ukrainian citizens from the Donetsk region, though not from the city itself.

    "Those who are calling people to come out to peaceful demonstrations are in fact engaged in vandalism," he said.

    The Ukrainian authorities say they did not take steps earlier to crack down on the pro-Moscow protests because of fear that violence would provoke a Russian military response.

    Kiev's new government has named one of Ukraine's richest men, metal baron Sergei Taruta, as Donetsk regional governor, a sign that powerful oligarchs, many of whom once supported Yanukovich, are now behind the new authorities. Taruta has yet to appear at the regional headquarters to take up the post.

    [Reuters]
  • The BBC has a look at the language Crimean voters will be facing on March 16 when they are asked to decide whether Crimea should join Russia:




  • Reuters also offers clarification on Crimea's latest move, which comes amid a fresh push by the EU for diplomacy

    From Reuters:

    Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.


    The sudden acceleration of moves to formally bring the Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, under Moscow's rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation.


    The Crimean parliament voted unanimously "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation", the RIA news agency reported. Its vice premier said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16.


    The announcements, which diplomats said could not have been made without Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.


    EU leaders had been set to warn but not sanction Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine after Moscow rebuffed Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea back to their bases. It was not immediately clear what impact the Crimean moves would have.


  • Putin said 48 hours ago that Russia wasn't going to absorb Crimea. Now MPs say it'll be legally possible before next Sunday's referendum
  • Al Jazeera English offers some clarification on Thursday's vote in Crimea:

    The Crimean parliament unanimously voted in favor of becoming part of Russia in a symbolic vote. The parliament has also decided to hold a referendum on March on whether Crimea should become part of Russia. That referendum will be a vote amongst the people of the region.
  • The referendum is only to confirm. Decision has already been taken. From today Crimea is russian, if kremlin accepts. Wow.
  • Crimea politician: This now Russian territory. Only legal troops here russian. any troops of a 3rd country will be treated as illegal bands.
  • There was quite a bit of news out of Ukraine Thursday while America slept. Around 1:30 a.m. ET, the Russian foreign minister said the actions by Russia's partners, via the OSCE and NATO, is not helping to create an atmosphere for dialogue and constructive cooperation, according to Reuters. According to RIA, the Russian foreign ministry has also said a meeting of CIS countries — meaning the Commonwealth of Independent States — will take place on April 4 as planned but diplomats from Russia and Ukraine may meet before then.

    The European Union has also said it is freezing the assets of ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovich and 17 others who are seen as responsible for the violation of human rights, Reuters reported at 2:15 a.m. ET.

    Meanwhile, the Ukrainian flag was once again flying over the Donetsk administration building, Reuters reported a little before 2:30 a.m. ET, after pro-Russian supporters temporarily gained control Wednesday. Police reportedly said the pro-Russian demonstrators left 'voluntarily.'

    As pro-Russian supporters appeared to lose ground in Donetsk, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said Russia is simplifying the system of obtaining Russian citizenship for foreigners who are native Russian speakers, according to Reuters.

    On the international stage, according to a United States official, Secretary of State Kerry was slated to meet with European Union foreign ministers from Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to discuss Ukraine ahead of Thursday's European Union ministers meeting in Brussels, Reuters reported at 4:15 a.m. ET. French President Hollande reportedly said Thursday morning there must be pressure to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and move toward mediation.

    But shortly after news of that meeting was announced, the Russian central bank said it was imposing temporary administration on the Moscow subsidiary of Ukraine's Privatbank, according to Reuters. However, the bank's license was not suspended.
  • According to RIA, which is quoting a spokesman, Russian President Putin has discussed the Crimean parliament's appeal to let Crimea join Russia at a meeting of the security council, Reuters reports.
  • Ukrainian minister says the planned referendum on whether Crimea should become part of Russia would be illegitimate, according to Reuters.
  • According to a Crimean lawmaker, the referendum on whether Crimea becomes a part of Russia is scheduled to be held on March 16, The Associated Press reports.
  • The Associated Press reports that the EU sanctions imposing asset freezes on 18 Ukrainians include ousted President Yanukovych.
  • UN special envoy Robert Serry gestures as he leaves in a car in Simferopol March 5, 2014. Serry was forced to abandon a mission to Ukraine's Russian-occupied Crimea region on Wednesday after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting "Russia! Russia!" (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

  • Serry being threatened,held,run out of town wasn't only incident today. OSCE team surrounded,forced to move. No longer isolated events.
  • An American anchor working for Kremlin-owned television station Russia Today quit on air on Wednesday.

    Liz Wahl, in the network's D.C. bureau, said she could no longer be "part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin." Wahl said she is the grandchild of Hungarian refugees who fled Soviet oppression.

    "As a reporter on this network I face many ethical and moral challenges, especially me personally," said Wahl. "My grandparents came here as refugees during the Hungarian Revolution, ironically, to escape Soviet forces."

    RT has drawn criticism from the international press for it's pro-Russian coverage of the ongoing crisis in Crimea. Watch the clip here.


  • By the numbers, Putin's military is far superior to his eastern neighbor's. Read more on how Russia and Ukraine's military stack up.
  • Eighteen OSCE participating states have decided to send 35 unarmed military personnel to Ukraine. Here's the announcement

    The matter was discussed at a joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) in Vienna on 4 March 2014.

    The visit is taking place under Chapter III of the Vienna Document 2011, which allows for voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about unusual military activities. Ukraine has requested all OSCE participating States to send military representatives from 5 to 12 March 2014, starting in Odessa. This is the first time this mechanism has been activated.  

    As of now, eighteen OSCE participating States have responded positively to the request sending up to two representatives each. Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.  One representative from the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre will also be participating. The military visit participants are on their way to Ukraine now.

    OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said: "It is my hope that this military visit will help to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine. By providing an objective assessment of the facts on the ground, the OSCE will be better placed to foster a political solution to the current crisis through dialogue."

    “Confidence-building and transparency are key elements of the OSCE approach to security, which seeks to foster openness and dialogue as the best way to resolve conflicts in our region," he added.

    The Vienna Document 2011 is one of the main confidence-building measures developed by the OSCE. Under this document, all participating States are required to share information on their military forces, equipment and defence planning. The Document also provides for inspections and evaluation visits that can be conducted on the territory of any participating State that has armed forces.

    Note to editors: Chapter III of the Vienna Document 2011 (full text see at http://www.osce.org/fsc/86597)

    VOLUNTARY HOSTING OF VISITS TO DISPEL CONCERNS ABOUT MILITARY ACTIVITIES

    (18) In order to help to dispel concerns about military activities in the zone of application for CSBMs, participating States are encouraged to invite other participating States to take part in visits to areas on the territory of the host State in which there may be cause for such concerns. Such invitations will be without prejudice to any action taken under paragraphs (16) to (16.3).

    (18.1) States invited to participate in such visits will include those which are understood to have concerns. At the time invitations are issued, the host State will communicate to all other participating States its intention to conduct the visit, indicating the reasons for the visit, the area to be visited, the States invited and the general arrangements to be adopted.

    (18.2) Arrangements for such visits, including the number of the representatives from other participating States to be invited, will be at the discretion of the host State, which will bear the in-country costs. However, the host State should take appropriate account of the need to ensure the effectiveness of the visit, the maximum amount of openness and transparency  and the safety and security of the invited representatives. It should also take account, as far as practicable, of the wishes of visiting representatives as regards the itinerary of the visit. The host State and the States which provide visiting personnel may circulate joint or individual comments on the visit to all other participating States.


  • Russia's national flag (R) and Crimea's regional flag are seen on a building of Council of Ministers in Simferopol, March 5, 2014. Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw forces in Ukraine's Crimea region to their bases on Wednesday amid a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at easing tensions over Ukraine and averting the risk of war. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

  • Pro-Russian demonstrators erect a Russian flag outside the regional government building in Donetsk March 5, 2014 (Reuters)

  • Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia and Western nations agreed on Wednesday to continue discussions in coming days on how to stabilize Ukraine and presented a number of ideas for how to reach that goal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

    "We agreed to continue intense discussions in the coming days with Russia, with Ukraine, in order to see how we can help normalize the situation, stabilize it, and overcome the crisis," Kerry told reporters.

    "Don't assume that we did not have serious conversations which produced creative and appropriate ideas on how to resolve this, we have a number of ideas on the table," he said after meetings with counterparts from Ukraine, Russia, Britain and France in Paris.

    [Reuters]
  • The White House tells Reuters that President Obama spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron today about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
  • Kerry says there are 'a number of ideas on the table' to resolve tensions between Russia and Ukraine, will consult with President Obama.
  • In response to a question from a reporter, Kerry says he had 'zero expectation' that Ukraine and Russian foreign ministers would meet in Paris.

    Kerry adds that he expects to meet with Russian foreign minister Lavrov in Rome on Thursday.
  • Kerry says that the United States is ready to work with all parties to de-escalate tensions in the Ukraine crisis and renews his call for Russia to "send troops back to their barracks."
  • "Russia made a choice...we believe it is the wrong choice...Russia can now choose to de-escalate this situation." Kerry #Ukraine #Crimea
  • "Ukraine's territorial integrity must be restored and must be respected," Kerry says. "From Lebanon to Ukraine, the US stands ready to help our friends in need."
  • Secretary Kerry: "All parties agreed" today that is important to resolve the crisis in Ukraine "through dialogue."
  • Secretary Kerry is speaking now in Paris following a meeting with foreign ministers on the crisis in Ukraine, including Russian foreign minister Lavrov.
  • The European Union External Action released the following statement about Wednesday's meetings between EU and NATO committees:

    EU and NATO committees meet jointly to discuss Ukraine 
     
     
    The European Union's Political and Security Committee (PSC) and NATO's North Atlantic Council (NAC) held a joint informal meeting today to discuss the situation in Ukraine, ahead of the meeting of EU heads of State or government tomorrow. 
     
    The discussions underlined the seriousness of the crisis and showed the convergence of views in both organisations in upholding Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, the need for a dialogue between Ukraine and Russia as well as de-escalating steps in view of a peaceful solution to the crisis in full respect of international law as laid down in bi-and multilateral commitments. Ambassadors had an exchange of views on the various dimensions of the crisis in Ukraine and the options for the response of the International Community. 
     
    Background 
     
    The PSC and the NAC are the bodies respectively of the EU and NATO at ambassador level responsible for monitoring the international situation. 
     
    PSC-NAC meetings are an integral part of the continuous political dialogue between the EU and NATO, including the so-called “Berlin Plus” arrangements and informal meetings. They formally meet on EUFOR Althea, the operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina making use of NATO common assets and capabilities. 


  • The press team for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent out a short update on envoy Robert Serry:

    Robert Serry is taking a late flight out of Simferopol and will shortly return to Kiev to continue his mission, which was cut short by today's incident.

  • According to a U.S. official, the Pentagon is planning to send six additional F-15s to the Baltic air policing operation, beyond the four already provided, Reuters reports.
  • Britain's finance ministry said on Wednesday it would join other European Union countries in freezing the assets of 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating state funds, in line with an agreement reached by the EU earlier in the day.

    European Union governments confirmed on Wednesday that they would freeze the assets of 18 Ukrainians, at Kiev's request, after Ukraine's new rulers said billions in public funds had gone missing.

    "We are freezing assets across the EU on 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating Ukrainian state funds," finance minister George Osborne said in a statement on Twitter.

    Last week Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein said they were taking similar steps against 18 Ukrainians. It was not clear whether the same 18 people would be affected by the move, with further details expected to be announced by Brussels on Thursday.

    [Reuters]

  • Ukraine's fans wave national flags behind a banner before an international friendly soccer match against the U.S. in Larnaca on March 5, 2014 (Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters)


  • Serry was run out of Ukraine. If he plans to return to Kiev, he will have to do so after being forced onto plane to Istanbul.
  • As the political crisis rages on in Ukraine and global leaders lock horns over how best to solve it, the U.S. men's national soccer team is playing Ukraine in an international friendly.

    Business Insider's Tony Manfred is live blogging the game, which, as of 2:18 p.m. ET, saw Ukraine take an early lead.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed possible international efforts to help improve the situation in Ukraine in a phone call, the Kremlin said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The West has threatened sanctions against Russia which effectively occupied Crimea after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich. Moscow accused the Western powers of supporting a "coup" to topple him and did not recognise the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities.

    [Reuters]
  • #UN obviously very keen to get Serry out of Crimea. On flight to Istanbul then back to Kiev.
  • Russia's Lavrov did not meet with his Ukrainian counterpart at the Paris talks, Western diplomats said after the Russian foreign minister left, according to Reuters.

    However, Lavrov reportedly said he will continue discussion on Ukraine 'in days to come' to see how best to stabilize the country.
  • A senior State Department official, denying an earlier Russian report, says no agreements were made at the Paris meeting between Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, according to Reuters.
  • Russia's envoy to NATO accused the alliance of applying double standards and "Cold War" stereotypes to Russia after NATO announced a review of all cooperation with Moscow over tensions in Ukraine.

    "This meeting proved that NATO still has a double standard policy. And Cold War stereotypes are still applied towards Russia," Alexander Grushko told reporters after a meeting of NATO and Russian officials to discuss Ukraine on Wednesday.

    [Reuters]
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