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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • #Ukraine 's president representative in #Crimea Sergey #Kunitsyn : Neither #Kolesnikov , nor #Aksyonov decide on anything.
  • Russian troops opened fire with automatic rifles during a takeover on Monday of a Ukrainian naval post in Crimea, Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian officer as saying.

    The unnamed officer from the motor vehicle battalion of the Ukrainian navy said Russian troops broke in to the base near the inland town of Bakhchisaray some time after 2 p.m., took mobile phones from the Ukrainians and began trying to remove vehicles. None of the Ukrainian troops was hurt and the base commander was trying to negotiate an end to the action.

    Further details were not immediately available. Russian forces who have taken control of a number of military installations across the Black Sea peninsula have not so far exchanged fire in anger with Ukrainian troops.


  • A man walking by looks up at a poster calling for people to vote against fascism in the upcoming referendum in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on March 10, 2014 (Baz Ratner/Reuters) 

  • In the airport lounge at Simferopol, extraordinary reports on local TV about "Provocateurs" coming to Crimea, in league with foreign media.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday Russia had drawn up proposals to return the Ukrainian "situation" back to a legislative framework which would take into account all Ukrainian interests.

    At a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov also said he had invited U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to visit Russia on Monday to continue talks, but that Kerry had said on Saturday he wanted to postpone the visit.


  • A man pastes another poster over one calling for people to vote against fascism in an upcoming referendum in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on March 10, 2014 (Baz Ratner/Reuters) 

  • Returned to scene of crime. #yevpatoria base where we were held last week. Quiet today. But Ukrainians prisoners within their own base.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says Russia has its own proposals to return the Ukrainian situation to the framework of international law, taking into consideration the interests of Ukrainians, Reuters reports.
  • According to Interfax, which is quoting a Ukrainian base commander, Russian troops opened fire during the takeover of a Ukrainian military post in Crimea but no one was wounded, Reuters reports.
  • Russia's Putin says he told Foreign Minister Lavrov to invite his United State counterpart, Secretary of State Kerry, for more consultations on Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    Lavrov says he had invited Kerry to Russia today, but Kerry said on Saturday he would like to postpone the visit, according to Reuters.
  • Whereabouts of the 3 young women - one journalist and 2 activists - who were kidnapped yesterday in #Crimea are still unknown
  • This week's Economist includes some pretty strong language over the Ukrainian crisis in an article entitled "Kidnapped by the Kremlin." In describing the article, The Economist says "the West can punish Putin's Russia for its belligerence in Ukraine. But only if it is prepared to pay a price."

    From The Economist:

    AS YOU read this, 46m people are being held hostage in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has pulled Russian troops back from the country’s eastern border. But he has also demanded that the West keep out and that the new government in Kiev should once again look towards Russia. Don’t be alarmed, he says with unambiguous menace, invasion is a last resort.

    Some in the West will argue that the starting point for policy is to recognise reality, however unpalatable. Let Mr Putin keep the Crimean peninsula, which he occupied just over a week ago. It has a Russian-speaking majority and was anyway part of Russia until 1954. As for Ukraine as a whole, Russia is bound to dominate it, because it cares more about the country than the West does. America and the European Union must of course protest, but they would do well to avoid a useless confrontation that would harm their own economies, threaten their energy supplies and might plunge Ukraine into war. Mr Putin has offered a way out and the West should grasp it.

    That thinking is mistaken. In the past week Mr Putin has trampled over norms that buttress the international order and he has established dangerous precedents that go far beyond Ukraine (see article). Giving in to kidnappers is always dangerous: those who fail to take a stand to start with often face graver trials later on.

  • Switzerland froze the assets and bank accounts of nine more Ukrainians, including another son of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich and the son of a former prime minister, all of whom are suspected of human rights abuses and misuse of state funds.

    The European Union, Britain, Switzerland and others have already frozen assets of Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating state funds, after Yanukovich was toppled following months of demonstrations against a decision to spurn a free trade deal with the EU for closer ties with Russia.

    On Monday, Swiss officials widened their measures to include Yanukovich's son, also called Viktor, and Oleksii Azarov, son of the former prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

    Oleksander Yakymenko, the former head of the security service, and Artem Pshonka, the son of Ukraine's former prosecutor general, and are also on the Swiss list, which took effect earlier on Monday.

    Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has said Yanukovich embezzled as much as $37 billion during three years in office.

    Yanokovich's elder son, Oleksander, owns Mako Group, a Ukrainian conglomerate with a Swiss arm that was raided by Geneva prosecutors last month.

  • Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on Monday Kiev hoped to receive the first tranche of a financial aid package which it is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund in April.

    He also said that the national currency, the hryvnia, which fell to a low of 11.6510/$ on March 3, had now stabilised. He saw good prospects for holding it to an average of 10.0-10.1/$ over the year.

  • President Barack Obama began a new week of diplomatic consultations on the Ukraine crisis with a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping that focused on a peaceful solution to Russia's military intervention.

    Obama, who is to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday, is seeking ways to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to loosen Russia's grip on the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.

    Obama spoke to Xi on Sunday night. China is a key ally of Russia and has heightened tensions with Japan by declaring an air defense zone over remote islands claimed by both countries in the East China Sea.

    A White House statement released on Monday gave little detail as to what was discussed between Obama and Xi, saying the two leaders agreed on the "importance of upholding principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, both in the context of Ukraine and also for the broader functioning of the international system."

    "The president noted his overriding objective of restoring Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and ensuring the Ukrainian people are able to determine their own future without foreign interference," the White House said.

    Obama engaged in various diplomatic conversations over the weekend in the search for a solution to the crisis. Last week Crimea's pro-Moscow parliament voted to stage a March 16 referendum to determine whether the region should be annexed by Russia.

    The White House on Sunday said more international pressure on Russia would result if the Crimea vote proceeded.

    "If there is an annexation of Crimea, a referendum that moves Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, we won't recognize it, nor will most of the world," deputy White House national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN.


  • Pro-Ukrainian demonstrators react as an armored military vehicle, believed to be Russian, passes by outside the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 10, 2014 (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)

  • Ukraine's foreign currency reserves are not enough to cover all debt repayments falling due in 2014, Finance Minister Oleksander Shlapak said on Monday.

    He told journalists that Ukraine had to repay about $10 billion in state debt by the end of the year.

    If the debts of state gas company Naftogaz and state highways construction company were added to this, currency reserves would not be able to cover the payments due, he said.

  • The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statement, translated by Al Jazeera English, on the crisis in Ukraine:

    Russia is outraged about the lawlesness that now prevails in the eastern regions of Ukraine as a result of militant's of so-called "right sector " actions with the connivance of the new authorities.

    It came down to the fact that on March 8 in Kharkiv well-equipped masked men with guns opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, injuring several people. In addition, the police of Dnepropetrovsk detained seven Russian journalists, saying that they were only interested in some provocative stories.

    In violation of all existing bilateral agreements the Ukrainian authorities do not let Russian citizens to the territory of Ukraine, actually putting a barrier to border cooperation.

    We are surprised by shamefaced silence of our Western partners, human rights organizations and foreign media. It raises a question - where is the often mentioned objectivity and commitment to democracy?

  • According to Interfax, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk says he will address the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Reuters reports.

    Yatseniuk also said the Russian policy is aimed at undermining the global security system, according to Reuters.
  • President Obama spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping Sunday evening about the situation in Ukraine. The White House provided the following read out of the call: 

    The President spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the evening of March 9 regarding the situation in Ukraine.  The two leaders agreed on the fundamental importance of focusing on common interests and deepening practical cooperation to address regional and global challenges for the development of bilateral relations. In that context, they affirmed their shared interest in reducing tensions and identifying a peaceful resolution to the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.  The two leaders agreed on the importance of upholding principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, both in the context of Ukraine and also for the broader functioning of the international system.  The President noted his overriding objective of restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ensuring the Ukrainian people are able to determine their own future without foreign interference.  The two leaders committed to stay in touch as events unfold. 

  • Russian forces consolidated their hold on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on Monday, taking over a military hospital and a missile base as officials geared up for a referendum on the region's future.

    Interfax Ukraine news agency said pro-Russian militias and Russian troops had seized the hospital in Simferopol, the peninsula's main administrative city, and herded staff into a hall to "apparently meet the institutions' s new directors." It said 20 patients in the building were seriously ill.

    In the port of Sevastopol, Russian soldiers disarmed servicemen at a Ukrainian army missile base, a Ukrainian military spokesman in Crimea said.

    Vladislav Seleznyov told Fifth Channel television that about 200 soldiers aboard 14 trucks moved on the building at about 1.30 a.m and threatened to storm it if the Ukrainian soldiers failed to give up their weapons.

  • Klitschko, warned not to appear at EuroMaidan in Donetsk yesterday, is speaking at Kharkiv rally today. There are competing demos there.
  • The news from @GeoffPyatt presser: #US officials from FBI & Treasury Dept. in #Kyiv assisting in investigation into #Yanukovych corruption.
  • On way to FCO for talks with @WilliamJHague on crisis in UKR. PL&UK together for int. law, respect for minorities, ter. integrity of states.
  • .@GeoffPyatt : Credit to Maidan self-defense forces for keeping peace on the streets of #Kyiv . Life returning to normal here.
  • #Pyatt : We have been positively impressed by the positive evolution of the Svoboda party
  • Glad to host @sikorskiradek @foreignoffice today to discuss #Ukraine . Poland a vital ally and friend
  • #Pyatt : United States not going to recognize any results of so called referendum in #Crimea . We see it as part of #Ukraine
  • Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it was outraged by lawlessness in eastern Ukraine, blaming the far-right paramilitary movement Right Sector for "conniving" with the new government in Kiev.

    In its latest salvo in a propaganda war over Ukraine, in which the United States has issued a list of what it calls 10 false claims by President Vladimir Putin, Russia accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place there against Russian compatriots.

    The ministry said in a statement masked men had opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the eastern city of Kharkiv on March 8, wounding some.

    It also said seven Russian journalists had been detained in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, suggesting the new leaders and their Western allies were not committed to media freedoms.

    "The shamefaced silence of our Western partners, human rights organizations and foreign media is surprising. It raises the question - where is the notorious objectivity and commitment to democracy?" it said.

    Kharkiv police are treating the Kharkiv incident as a minor one and say the only link to Right Sector came from an anonymous phone caller.

    Ukraine's government and Western leaders have accused Russian officials and media of distorting the facts to portray the protesters who ended Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich's rule as violent extremists.

    Witnesses in eastern Ukraine say tensions have been stoked by pro-Russian activists stirring violence to provide Putin with a justification for invading Ukraine to protect Russians there.

    An official who monitors media freedom for The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said after visiting Crimea last week that her more pressing concern was about media freedoms in the southern Ukrainian region.

    She said pro-Russian authorities who have seized power in Crimea were clamping down on media that did not support them and were intimidating reporters.

  • #Pyatt : There's need for direct talks between #Ukraine and #Russia . Contact group can facilitate
  • .@GeoffPyatt : this crisis needs to be solved diplomatically and not militarily. #crimea #ukraine

  • Participants hold placards and shout slogans during an anti-war rally in the Crimean village of Eskisaray, outside Simferopol, on March 10, 2014 (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

  • .@GeoffPyatt : 3) Helping #Ukraine dismantle the plutocracy inherited from #Yanukovych era, investigating economic crimes @uacrisis
  • .@GeoffPyatt : 2) Working with the economic and fiscal team of the #Ukraine government. @uacrisis
  • .@GeoffPyatt : 3 dimensions to our support to #Ukraine 1) $1 Bn loan guarantee, pending Congressional support. @uacrisis
  • #Pyatt : Those people who burned FC Shakhtar flag in #Donetsk yesterday don't come from #Ukraine
  • US Ambassador to #Ukraine Geoffrey #Pyatt on #Crimea : There is no military solution to this crisis. It should be resolved diplomatically.
  • According to a statement from the German government, German Chancellor Merkel told Russian President Putin the planned Crimea referendum violates Ukraine's constitution and international law, Reuters reports.
  • Russian forces tighten grip on Crimea

    Russian forces tightened their grip on Crimea on Sunday despite a U.S. warning to Moscow that annexing the southern Ukrainian region would close the door to diplomacy in a tense East-West standoff.

    In the latest armed action, Russians took over a Ukrainian border post on the western edge of Crimea early Sunday, trapping about 30 personnel inside, a border guard spokesman told Reuters.

    The spokesman, Oleh Slobodyan, said Russian forces now controlled 11 border guard posts across Crimea, a former Russian territory that is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet and has an ethnic Russian majority.

    Ukraine’s defense minister on Sunday told Interfax news service that while Ukrainian armed forces are doing training exercises, Kiev has no plans to send armed forces to Crimea, Reuters said.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Sunday that he will travel to Washington this week to discuss the Crimea crisis, a plan the White House confirmed.

    In Simferopol, Crimea's main city, pro- and anti-Russian groups held rival rallies.

    About 300 opponents of Russian-backed plans for Crimea to secede gathered around a monument to Ukrainian poet and national hero Taras Shevchenko, carrying blue and yellow balloons the color of the Ukrainian flag. The crowd sang the national anthem, twice, and an Orthodox Priest led prayers and a hymn.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Pro-Russian demonstrators spent a lot of today seeking Klitschko, who didn't make public appearance at request of police and authorities.
  • Despite the fact that President Obama and Russian President Putin reached no common ground in the phone calls this past week, the calls were still worthwhile, sources tell The Washington Post.

    From the Post:

    When President Obama and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin discussed Ukraine in two lengthy phone calls this past week, neither expected the other to say: “You know what (Barack/Vladimir)? You’re right.”

    Instead, each leader laid out his own set of facts with no common ground between them, according to public and private accounts of the calls. Putin told Obama that ethnic Russians in Crimea needed protection from attacks by Ukrainian nationalists. The government in Kiev, he said, was illegal, and Russia’s actions to defend them were completely legitimate.

    Not so, Obama responded. There were no attacks against ethnic Russians, and Putin’s deployment of troops to Crimea was illegal. Obama said Russia could withdraw and allow international monitors to assess the situation, or risk serious international consequences, according to a senior administration official listening in.

    But despite the near-total lack of common ground, the U.S. side, at least, considered the calls useful. It’s always worth talking to Putin, the senior official said, because he says what he thinks and may even reflect later on a conversation that seemed to go nowhere at the time.

    “If there’s a chance for an outcome” in Ukraine, said Michael McFaul, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Moscow until last week, “it’s only going to happen in that channel. It’s very important to understand about the nature of Russian decision-making right now. . . . The only person who can resolve that crisis in Russia is Vladimir Putin.

  • Ukraine's industrial East could be next battleground for country's future

    by Sam Narod

    DONETSK, Ukraine — The woman who stood in the cold Saturday afternoon, shouting for the release of a pro-Russian self-appointed "people's governor'' named Pavel Gubarev, would only give her first name: Irena.

    She stood in a square in Donetsk, the unofficial capital of Donbass, the coal mining region of eastern Ukraine where on Monday a group of pro-Russia supporters stormed the regional government headquarters, hoisted the Russian flag and demanded that Donetsk separate from Ukraine. Gubarev, the founder of the People's Militia of Donbass, declared himself the new governor.

    He was arrested by the Ukrainian government on Thursday night and charged with trying to damage “the territorial integrity and independence of the state.” Hence the gathering on Saturday, a rather underwhelming 800 or so, considering the conventional wisdom that has eastern Ukraine solidly in favor of Russian intervention.

    Irena shouted with the crowd.

    “We’re here for freedom!" she said. "For the people’s governor who was illegally arrested by the illegitimate government in Kiev, that’s come to power thanks to America!”

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
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