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The first president of an independent Ukraine, who in 1994 sent Soviet nuclear weapons back to Russia in exchange for its pledge not to use force, said nobody believed at the time that an attack from Russia was even possible.
"There was no such prediction," former President Leonid Kravchuk told The Huffington Post in an interview from Kiev Wednesday. "No one could imagine that between Ukraine and Russia there could arise such relations, such bitter relations, when Russia can send its forces on the territory of Ukraine."
Kravchuk called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect the Budapest Memorandum, which Putin has said is now invalid because he considers the new government in Kiev invalid.
"Putin says because a new government was formed, and with this government, we can't respond to any agreements. I answer to Mr. Putin, the government formed was not new, just new leaders. The government remained as before," he said.
"If you follow the logic of Mr. Putin, then that means that Ukraine, as a new government, can now refuse all of its agreements with Russia," he added, noting that Ukraine could do away with the agreement holding the Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea if it wanted to.
Kravchuk, 80, was elected as Ukraine's first president in 1991 after being head of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. He signed the Budapest Memorandum on Dec. 5, 1994 along with Russia, the United States and United Kingdom. Ukraine gave up what was then the third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, inherited from the Soviet Union, in exchange for security assurances from Russia. Kravchuk lost a bid for reelection in 1994, losing the vote in the Russian-speaking East and South by large margins to Leonid Kuchma, revealing Ukraine's East-West divide.
Kravchuk has still been active in trying to mediate Ukraine's political crisis, giving a speech to parliament on Jan. 29 calling on all sides to come to an agreement. He got a standing ovation from the deputies.
Kravchuk lambasted Putin, but said that good relations of Russia were essential for Ukraine.
"My attitude to his assessments is highly negative. They are not truthful. They are based on imperialistic way of thinking and totalitarian assessments," he said. "And his other actions threaten not only Ukraine, but also Europe."
The President spoke to Prime Minister Abe late last evening regarding the situation in Ukraine. The two leaders agreed that Russia’s actions are a threat to international peace and security and emphasized the importance of preserving Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They committed to work with other G-7 partners to insist that Russia abide by its obligations and commitments to Ukraine’s sovereignty, including under the UN Charter and the 1997 basing agreement, but noted that there is an opportunity for Russia to resolve the situation diplomatically, in a way that addresses its interests as well as those of Ukraine and the international community. Both leaders also agreed to work bilaterally and through the International Monetary Fund to support the government of Ukraine as it works to stabilize its economy and prepare for May elections. The President noted that his April visit to Japan will offer an important opportunity to advance the many diplomatic, defense, and trade initiatives the United States and Japan are pursuing in Asia and around the globe.
John Hendren: There is a very real chance, as you know well, that you could lose the Crimea. If that happened, what would that mean to the Ukraine and to the rest of the world?
Yulia Tymoshenko: I think that today it is not just Ukraine that will lose Crimea. I think it is the whole world that, if it does not react to the situation, will actually lose stability. And I think all top leaders in the world should be aware of this. The Kremlin today has declared war — not on Crimea, not on Ukraine. But the Kremlin declared war on the whole world.
If diplomacy doesn’t work, what would you like to see the world do?
It seems diplomacy isn’t working now. The more time we lose, the bigger the risks that we face. Now there are proposals to create negotiations to resolve the situation at the highest possible level. But I think that any consultation or negotiation will not produce any significant results. Instead, they would lead to a situation where the March referendum on Crimea will be held and Ukraine will lose Crimea under the threat of armed force. Today, world leaders have to apply a completely different method.
The critical date is the referendum to be conducted on Crimean secession. If the international community allows this referendum to be held then our struggle would be much more difficult. I call to all international leaders not to allow this referendum to be conducted and not to allow this brutal destabilization of the world.
If key world leaders and the countries that promised us to protect Ukrainian territorial integrity when we gave up our nuclear arms would be willing to apply economic sanctions, then these sanctions should be of the highest severity. And these sanctions, like weapons, will destroy all the plans of the aggressor to capture the territory of the other country.
If a real war starts in Crimea, if Putin starts a real war in Crimea and if he starts to take our territories for real, Ukrainians will fight to the death. A lot of blood will be shed. People will perish. They will give up their lives and if the world stays inactive then not only Putin, but the world will be to blame.
As you point out this threatens to become an armed conflict. Is there any point at which you would ask the rest of the world to come in militarily?
I cannot give advice to the countries that signed the Budapest memorandum with Ukraine, which led to Ukraine giving up its nuclear arms voluntarily. I cannot offer them advice. I am just asking them to honor their guarantees.
When I say that more powerful instruments should be applied I don’t mean that a first shot should be heard. It must be like the Cuban Missile Crisis, when two superpowers clashed. But they ended the conflict peacefully and they kept the whole world quiet. I would call it peaceful greetings by powerful forces. And my opinion is that the containment strategy should be applied as soon as possible.
If in the 21st century the Russian Federation in a peaceful Europe is allowed to capture a territory belonging to another European country by armed force, then I think the world will be in great danger.
In a surprising move after Russia flexed its military might in the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine's new leadership has reached out to oligarchs for help - appointing them as governors in eastern regions where loyalties to Moscow are strong.
With their wealth, influence and self-interest in preventing further conflict, the oligarchs could be the key to calming tensions and maintaining Ukraine's control in areas where pro-Russian activists have stoked separatist tensions.
But the decision to appoint the country's richest men as regional administrators has its risks. Some believe the oligarchs, who have a history of manipulating governments, may become too entrenched in their new jobs and could use their posts for personal gain.
The unexpected move drew instant ire from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called one of the oligarchs, Ukraine's third-richest man, Ihor Kolomoisky, a "swindler."
"They name oligarchs, billionaires as governors of eastern regions," Putin said during a news conference earlier this week. "Naturally, people don't accept that."
Under Ukrainian law, governors are appointed by the country's president instead of being elected. After President Viktor Yanukovych fled for Russia last month in the wake of mass protests against his government and deadly clashes with police, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov fired Yanukovych's appointees and replaced them with his own.
Russia’s upper house of parliament said Friday it would welcome the addition of Crimea to the country's territory if residents there choose to secede from Ukraine in a referendum scheduled next week.
Officials in the Crimean parliament – the Supreme Council – and the city council of Sevastopol voted Thursday for the majority ethnic Russian region to become part of Russia, amid increasing fears that Moscow was seeking to annex the Ukrainian territory. The votes by Crimean authorities, however, are not legally binding and have little immediate effect.
“We [the Supreme Council] have made a decision on entry into the Russian Federation. Now the ball is in your court, you must decide the fate of Crimea – I hope, forever,” said Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of Crimea’s Supreme Council, at a meeting of the region's officials with the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament Sergei Naryshkin.
Continued to discuss the acute situation in Ukraine. The discussion revealed differences in approaches and assessments of the causes of the current crisis and the current situation.
Vladimir Putin, in particular, noted that which came as a result of anti-constitutional coup that does not have a national mandate, the current Ukrainian leadership imposes the Eastern and Southeastern regions and Crimea is illegitimate decision. Russia can not ignore the reference to it in this regard, calls for help and acts appropriately, in full compliance with international law.
Russian President stressed the paramount importance of Russian-American relations to ensure stability and security in the world. These relations should not be sacrificed for individual differences - albeit very important - international problems.
The two leaders agreed that the foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry will continue intensive contacts.
President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.
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Pro-Russian demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest rally in Donetsk on March 6, 2014. 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.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers gave this statement on the House floor Thursday in support of H.R. 4152, legislation to provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to bring to the floor H.R. 4152, a bill providing the authority for loan guarantees for Ukraine.
As we all know, Ukraine is facing an extraordinarily difficult time. As a valued partner and friend of the United States, our nation has a duty to provide the people of Ukraine with help when they most need it.
This bill will provide some stability for the government and people of the Ukraine as they navigate through these troubled waters. The legislation before us will allow funds to be used to guarantee loans for the government of Ukraine – in support of the Secretary of State’s $1 billion pledge this week.
This bill does not appropriate new funds, but simply allows funds to be used from within existing State Department resources.
Ukraine’s economy has been in a difficult position for years, but now the country faces real risks. Russia has punished Ukraine for leaning toward the West and has suspended the assistance they planned to provide.
This bill will not solve all of Ukraine’s problems, but it is an important first step that will allow the country to shore up its finances and begin to make its economy more efficient.
With this legislation, Congress – and the United States – will show that we stand by those that oppose authoritarian rule. It will show that as a nation, we will step up to help the people of Ukraine not only with our words, but with action.
Ukraine is facing an uncertain economic future, but they are choosing the right path of democracy and reform. The American people will stand with the Ukrainian people as they chart this new course, and today will take a first step to quickly respond to their present need.
Mr. Speaker, this is a critically important bill, and one that should pass the House, the Senate, and be enacted without delay. I urge a “yes” vote.
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US Navy spokesman Lt. Shawn Eklund says the ship is scheduled to train with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces for an unspecified period of time and that the said 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 told Stars and Stripes.