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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • Kerry says that he spoke directly to Putin today and invited him to engage in "legitimate, appropriate dialogue" with the current government in Ukraine.
  • I actually think this has not been a sign of strength, Obama said, adding that he believes this will push many countries away from Russia.
  • Strong words from Kerry on Putin in Kiev: "Russia has no right to come into Ukraine and tell people, at the barrel of a gun, how to act. That is not 21st century G-8 major nation behavior."
  • Obama stressed there is a strong believe Putin's actions are violating international law but quipped the Russian president must 'have a different set of lawyers.'

  • At his budget press conference, President Obama said he hasn't spoken to President Putin since they spoke over the weekend. However, Secretary of State Kerry is in Kiev at President Obama's direction expressing the Obama's administration 'full support' for the Ukrainian people.
  • Kerry smirks when told be a journalist that Putin had denied that Russia had a military presence in Crimea. "He really said there were no troops in Crimea?"
  • "The United States will stand by the Ukrainian people as they work to build the strong, democratic country they deserve," Kerry concludes. "We must all step up and answer their call."
  • Kerry offers Ukraine a package including a $1 billion loan guarantee to support the Ukrainian economy: "We will provide the best expertise available to help Ukraine's economy and financial institutions to quickly repair themselves."
  • "I come here today at the instruction of President Obama to make it absolutely clear that the United States would prefer to see this deescalated," says Kerry. "If Russia does not choose to deescalate, then our partners will have absolutely no choice to to join us and to continue steps to isolate Russia politically, diplomatically, and economically. This is not something we seek to do. This is something Russia's choices force us to do."
  • Kerry reiterates Pres. Obama's call for Russia to pursue a diplomatic solution with the UN or OSCE as an international mediator.
  • Russia would have you believe that Kiev is trying to destabilize Crimea, says Kerry. "Not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims. None."

    "It is diplomacy, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like these in the 21st century," says Kerry. "There is a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine."
  • Kerry seeks to debunk the Russian narrative of how Ukraine's uprising came to be, blaming Yanukovych for the collapse of the February 24 peace agreement.

    "He broke his obligation to sign that agreement and he fled into the night," says Kerry.
  • Kerry: "We condemn the Russia Federation's act of aggression. We have, at this moment, evidence of a great transformation taking place, and we stand with Ukrainians in that transformation."

    Kerry adds: "In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world, there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing."
  • "The United States extends it's deepest condolences to those whose grief is very fresh," says Kerry, speaking of his time walking through the street of Kiev after arriving in Ukraine this morning.

    The freedom these brave Ukrainians fought for, says Kerry, "will not be stolen by bullets or invasions."

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is now speaking to the press in Kiev, Ukraine. Watch live on Al Jazeera America.
  • NATO released the following statement after meeting on Tuesday: 

    Statement by the North Atlantic Council following meeting under article 4 of the Washington Treaty

    The North Atlantic Council has met at Poland’s request to hold consultations within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, which states that “the parties will consult whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.”

    Despite repeated calls by the international community, Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to violate its international commitments.

    These developments present serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro‑Atlantic area. 

    Allies stand together in the spirit of strong solidarity in this grave crisis.

    We undertake to pursue and intensify our rigorous and on-going assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security, in close coordination and consultation.

    We continue to support all constructive efforts for a peaceful solution to the current crisis in accordance with international law. We welcome the ongoing efforts undertaken by the United Nations, the European Union, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

    We will continue to consult with Ukraine within the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

    We will engage with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council. We will hold a meeting tomorrow.

    NATO is slated to meet with Russia on Wednesday.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to give a speech in Kiev today. I'll be posting his comments as he delivers them. Stay tuned.
  • NATO's Rasmussen says NATO allies stand together in the face of the Ukraine conflict and will intensify their assessment of the impact on NATO security, Reuters reports.
  • Shadowy war. Outside Ukrainian radar station men who say they're Ukrainian guard base -- which has Russians inside. Then men walk inside.
  • Latvia will impose travel restrictions and freeze the assets of Ukrainians linked to human rights violations and corruption, the Latvian government said on Tuesday.

    The foreign affairs ministry of fellow Baltic state Lithuania said it was also preparing travel restrictions for 18 Ukrainian officials of the previous administration suspected of human rights abuses and violence against protesters.

    The Latvian financial sector supervision authority said that events in the Ukraine had not had a major impact on Latvia's banking system. Ukrainian deposits make up around 100 million euros, or just above 1 percent of total non-resident deposits, which are worth 9.2 billion euros. Latvian banks' exposure to Ukraine is 4 percent of total banking assets.

    "Latvia has initiated legal procedures to impose travel restrictions and assets freeze ... against the persons responsible for the mismanagement of Ukraine's public funds and the violations of human rights," the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

    Around ten people should be included on Latvia's blacklist, said Karlis Eihenbaums, a spokesman of the ministry. Their names could not be disclosed, he said.

    Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevicius said Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich would be on its list.

    Lithuania and Latvia, former Soviet republics with large ethnic Russian minorities, have criticized what they say is growing Russian meddling in their affairs, from trade wars to jets buzzing their borders.

  • The Dow Jones industrial average surges 200 points as tensions eased in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk says Russian and Ukrainian ministers have started holding talks, according to Reuters.

    Yatseniuk reportedly went on to say Ukraine's gas debt to Russia amounts to $2 billion.
  • According to the Kremlin, Russian President Putin and China's Xi discussed the situation in Ukraine and their positions are close, Reuters reported.
  • Wondering how Ukrainian and Russian forces compareReuters has the answer.

    From Reuters: 

    According to Reuters, Ukraine's military is underfunded and underequipped when compared with Moscow's fighting force. But Ukraine's senior military leadership served much of their careers in the Soviet Army. 

    Click here to read the rest of Reuters' analysis.
  • While diplomats in Brussels debate how to respond to the Kremlin's intervention in Ukraine, some people on Russia's borders with the European Union are taking matters into their own hands.

    In Lithuania, citizens angry at Russia's leaders are encouraging a boycott of Russian goods and, in northern Poland, special events intended to bring in tourists from the Russian region of Kaliningrad at the weekend have been canceled.

    The measures are piecemeal and unofficial, but they do give a flavor of the anger at Moscow's actions and the potential costs for Russian business interests in Europe.

    Protesters at a pro-Ukraine rally in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on Monday chanted "Boycott Lukoil" - the largest fuel retailer in Lithuania, which is indirectly owned by a Russian firm of the same name.

    The protesters were also distributing instructions on how to recognize Russian-made goods from their barcodes. Over the past week, Facebook groups calling for a boycott of Russian imports have attracted over a thousand members.

    "If I buy Lithuanian or Ukrainian ketchup today instead of a Russian ketchup, then Russia will lose a few cents in taxes that it would have paid to its killers. That's not much, but it's right," a Lithuanian called Romas Sadauskas wrote on one of the Facebook pages promoting a boycott.

    The United States has said it wants sanctions imposed on Russia's rulers for sending troops into Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula, but several EU states are more cautious.

    Moscow says it is acting to defend Russian citizens in Crimea from what it calls band of armed hardline nationalists who ousted the Ukraine's pro-Russian president.

    Poland and Lithuania both have a history of antagonism with Russia as former parts of the Soviet empire that are now members of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

    Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944 and did not shake off Moscow's rule until an independence movement took power in 1990. Poland was ruled by communist puppet governments from the end of World War Two until 1989, and thousands of its people were sent to prison camps in Siberia.

    In the Polish city of Gdansk, the regional tourist board announced that it had decided to suspend a program of events aimed at attracting Russian visitors for March 8, which is a public holiday in Russia.

    The agency's boss said it had been bombarded with complaints about the events.

    In a statement, it apologized to anyone who was offended by the plans and offered "assurances that the initiative in no way had any pro-Russian political sub-text".

    Gdansk is a two-hour drive along the Baltic coast from Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave surrounded by Polish and Lithuanian territory. Kaliningrad is the headquarters of Russia's Baltic Fleet and many of its residents shop in Gdansk.

    "This is a good, tough decision at a tough moment," one local man, Jaroslaw Marciuk, wrote on the tourist board's Facebook page.

  • In a rather scathing analysis, Foreign Policy questions why the Obama administration thought it could trump Russian President Putin.

    From Foreign Policy:

    The Obama administration was clearly taken by surprise when Russia decided to seize Crimea by force. The real question, however, is why Obama and his advisors thought the United States and the European Union could help engineer the ouster of a democratically elected and pro-Russian leader in Ukraine and expect Vladimir Putin to go along with it? This remarkable combination of hubris and naiveté is even more striking when one considers that Washington has few, if any, options to counter Putin's move.

    To be sure, ousted president Viktor Yanukovych was corrupt and incompetent and the United States and the European Union didn't create the protests that rose up against him. But instead of encouraging the protestors to stand down and wait for unhappy Ukrainians to vote Yanukovych out of office, the European Union and the United States decided to speed up the timetable and tacitly support the anti-Yanukovych forces. When the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs is on the streets of Kiev handing out pastries to anti-government protestors, it's a sign that Washington is not exactly neutral. Unfortunately, enthusiastic supporters of "Western" values never stopped to ask themselves what they would do if Russia objected.

    There's plenty of room for finger-pointing and blame casting here, but the taproot of the debacle in Ukraine was a failure to distinguish between power and interests.Power is a useful thing to have in international politics, but any serious student of foreign policy knows that the stronger side does not always win. If it did, the United States would have won in Vietnam, would have persuaded India, Pakistan, and North Korea not to test nuclear weapons, and would have Afghan President Hamid Karzai dancing to our tune. In the real world, however, weaker states often care more about the outcome than stronger states do and are therefore willing to run more risks and incur larger costs to get what they want.

    Unfortunately, U.S. leaders have repeatedly lost sight of this fact since the end of the Cold War. Because the United States is so powerful and so secure, it can meddle in lots of places without putting its own security at risk. United States officials tend to think they have the answer to every problem, and they reflexively assume that helping other societies become more like us is always the "right thing to do." Because we've become accustomed to our self-appointed role as Leader of the Free World, Washington is quick to proclaim redlines and issue high-minded demands, convinced that others will do its bidding -- if it barks loudly enough. 

  • Ukraine border guards say Russian navy ships block both ends of the Kerch Strait separating Crimea and Russia, Reuters reported Tuesday morning.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry visits the Shrine to the Fallen in Kiev on March 4, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

  • Reuters has an interesting opinion piece on Russian President Putin's 'gangland politics' and his close ties to 'burly motorcyclists.'

    From Reuters: 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin calls them his “brothers” — this group of burly motorcyclists who see themselves as road warriors fighting for the greater glory of Mother Russia. They’re known as the Night Wolves, and Putin himself has ridden with them on that icon of American wanderlust, a Harley-Davidson.

    Even as Russia was preparing to send troops to Crimea to reclaim the peninsula from Ukraine’s new government, the Night Wolves announced that they would ride to the troubled region to whip up support for their powerful brother and Harley devotee.

    Clad in leather and sporting their best squint-eyed, make-my-day defiant stares, the Night Wolves had a message for Ukraine’s anti-Russian dissidents: Protest at risk of your health.

    Putin, however, is not the first political leader to appreciate the importance of physical intimidation.

    Somewhere in the political hereafter, Democratic boss Richard Croker was wondering how much more effective his Tammany Hall enforcers might have been — if only they had motorcycles.

    Croker ran the Tammany Hall machine in the late 19th century, a man who came to the attention of the party leaders not because of his dynamic personality or his extensive knowledge of the Constitution, but because he beat the daylights out of a legendary street fighter during a neighborhood picnic. He went on to become a gang leader — like another Tammany boss, Bill Tweed.

    Putin’s relationship today with the 5,000-strong Night Wolves suggests that he is a serious student of U.S. history. Or perhaps he just is a fan of Martin Scorcese’s great film about American street politics, The Gangs of New York, which showed how intimidation was just another form of political debate before and during the Civil War.

  • On the road from Simferopol to Yevpatoria in #Crimea . Ran into about 300 troops on side of road. Bus broke down. No flags. Russian plates.

  • Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand outside a Ukrainian military post as Ukrainian servicemen look on from behind a gate in the Crimean city of Kerch on March 4, 2014 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

  • Ukrainian servicemen look on from inside a military post in the Crimean city of Kerch on  March 4, 2014 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

  • These are the 7 militiamen/self-defense working alongside Russian soldiers at Belbek airfield. Rus troops behind.

  • Ukraine's 204th tactical aviation brigade when they just arrived to face down the Russians in Belbek:

  • Putin says Russia has right to use force in Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia reserves the right to use military force to protect compatriots living in Ukraine, but would do so only as a last resort.

    Breaking his silence on events in Ukraine since massive pro-Europe protests forced out Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, Putin skirted questions about Russian troops taking control of Ukraine’s Crimea region, saying the armed men who seized buildings there were local forces.

    He also distanced himself from Yanukovich and said international retaliation against Russia over Ukraine would be counterproductive, warning that anyone imposing sanctions should think of the damage they would incur.

    "There can be only one assessment of what happened in Kiev, in Ukraine in general. This was an anti-constitutional coup and the armed seizure of power. No one argues with this. Who can argue with it?" Putin said, looking relaxed as he sat before a small group of reporters at his residence near Moscow.

    "As for bringing in forces: For now there is no such need but such a possibility exists," he said. "What could serve as a reason to use military force? It would naturally be the last resort, absolutely the last."

    Putin said Russia would not encourage separatist moves in Ukraine, where many people in eastern and southern regions are Russian speakers and have closer ties to Russia than to the new leaders in Kiev, who are seeking stronger ties with the European Union.

    Putin also insisted that the Russian military deployment in Ukraine's strategic region of Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia has no intentions of annexing Crimea, but he insisted that its residents have the right to determine the region's status in a referendum set for this month.

    "We are not going to meddle. But we think all Ukraine's citizens, no matter where they live, should have the same rights to ... determine the future of their country," he said.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • RT, a Kremlin-funded television network, has often had an interesting spin when it comes to covering the crisis in Ukraine. 

    BuzzFeed has rounded up some of the most biased, opinionated coverage the network has aired so far of the situation unfolding in the country:

    Head over to BuzzFeed for their full analysis of RT's coverage

  • Much has been made of the of the pro-Russian sentiment in the south and east of Ukraine as the crisis in the country has worsened. On Monday, The New York Times took a look at just where exactly that support was coming from. 

    From the Times:

    Around the south and east of Ukraine, in vital cities in the country’s industrial heartland, ethnic Russians have staged demonstrations and stormed buildings demanding a wider invasion of their country by Moscow.

    But some of the people here calling for Russian intervention are themselves Russian — “protest tourists” from across the border.

    They have included passport-carrying Russians, like Aleksey Khudyakov, a pro-Kremlin Muscovite who said he traveled here “to watch and maybe to give some advice.” In Kharkiv, another Russian scaled a government building to dramatically plant his country’s flag — offering at least the image that President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces were being invited in.

    It is clear that in this part of Ukraine, many ethnic Russians distrust the fledgling government, and some would indeed welcome Russian troops. But the events unfolding in major Ukrainian cities in recent days appear to match a pattern played by the Kremlin in Crimea, where pro-Moscow forces paving the way for Russia to seize control were neither altogether spontaneous, nor entirely local.

  • Russia has agreed to a meeting with representatives from NATO on Wednesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday.

    "I have just been informed that the Russian Federation has agreed to the summoning of a NATO-Russia council meeting for tomorrow," she told a committee hearing in the Italian parliament.

  • The Kremlin has released a transcript of President Putin's Tuesday morning press conference. Below are the most important, or incendiary, bits, which have been translated:

    VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, let's confine. I'll start, and then continue. Do not worry, I will try to answer to the maximum.

    First, the evaluation of what happened in Kiev, Ukraine in general. Evaluation can be only one - it's unconstitutional coup and armed seizure of power. With this, no one argues. Who can argue? The question for me is, to which neither I can not answer any of my colleagues, with whom, as you know, I have a lot recently discussed the issue of Ukraine on the phone. The question is: why is it done?

    Pay attention, because President Yanukovych mediated by the three foreign ministers of European countries - Poland, Germany and France - in the presence of my representative (in such capacity, the Ombudsman made, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Vladimir Lukin) signed between the opposition and the government then 21st, then it is an agreement by which I want to emphasize this (good or bad, I just want to point out a fact), Yanukovych has virtually surrendered its authority. He agreed to all opposition demanded that he agreed to early parliamentary elections, early elections of the President, agreed to return to the 2004 Constitution, which the opposition demanded. He responded positively to our request and, on the request of the Western countries, especially their opposition, not to use force. After all, he did not give any illegal order by shooting at demonstrators unhappy. He, moreover, instructed the police to withdraw all forces from the capital, and they followed his orders. He went to the event in Kharkiv, as soon as he went to Kharkov, rather than to release previously occupied office buildings, and immediately took his presidential residence, government building and instead perform what agreed.

    After I asked the question: Why? I want to understand why this is done? And so he passed, in fact, all the power, and he has, I believe, and I told him about this saying there was no chance for re-election. And all agree, all my colleagues with whom I spoke in recent days on the phone. Why was it necessary to engage in illegal, unconstitutional actions and to enter the country to drag the country into the chaos in which it was today? Until now, after wandering around Kiev, masked gunmen in arms. That this question is simply no answer. Someone wanted to humiliate, show your strength? This, in my opinion, absolutely stupid actions. Have, it seems to me to be counterproductive, because it's these actions largely swung east and south-east of Ukraine.

    What worries us the most? We see rampant neo-nationalists, anti-Semites, which is happening in some parts of Ukraine, including Kiev. What do you say, the media are seen for sure, as one of the current governors chains, handcuffs chained to the square there are some structures, in winter, in the cold, poured water. After that, incidentally, was imprisoned in his basement and there is still tortured. What is this? Is that - is democracy? This is a manifestation of democracy? Incidentally, he was appointed recently as December, in my opinion. Even if we assume that all the corrupt government there, I think he even steal something did not have time.

    And when seized the building of the Party of Regions? You know what happened? There was nobody from the party somewhere. Went two-three staff, technical staff, and one engineer said the attackers: "Guys, we release the women miss, please. I - an engineer, I do not even have nothing to do with politics. " He was immediately shot to the front of the crowd. The second person of the same technical staff were herded into a basement and pelted with bottles of "Molotov cocktails" and burned alive. It is also a manifestation of democracy?

    And when we see it, then we understand that worried citizens of Ukraine - and Russian, Ukrainians, generally speaking population living in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. What worries them? They are concerned about here is a mess. And if we see that this disorder begins in the eastern regions, if people asked us for help, and a formal appeal of the current legitimate president we already have, we reserve the right to use all means at our disposal to protect these citizens. And we think that it is quite legitimate. This is an extreme measure.

    And more. I want to tell you what we thought, and believe we will assume that Ukraine - not only our closest neighbor, and really our brotherly neighboring republic. And our armed forces - this comrades in arms, friends, many of them know each other personally. And I'm sure, and I want to emphasize here is, I'm sure that Ukrainian and Russian military servicemen are not on opposite sides, and on the same side.

    Incidentally, that's about the very thing I'm talking about now, this unity occurs in the Crimea. After all, note, thank God, there is not a single shot and no victims except the hustle on the area that happened there a week ago, I think. But what happened there? People came and blocked the armed units, units of the armed forces and agreed with them that they must obey the demands and wishes of the people living in the area. There was no skirmish, never got shot, no shot.

    Thus, the tense situation in the Crimea, associated with the possible use of the Armed Forces, she was just exhausted, this was not necessary. Only what need was and what we were doing, we have strengthened protection of our military facilities because they received threats all the time, and we saw that in the Crimea has tightened boevichki of nationalist organizations. We've done that and done correctly and on time. Therefore proceed from the fact that we in eastern Ukraine and anything like that is not necessary.

    But once again I would like to emphasize. Of course, what I am about to say, it is not included in my jurisdiction, and we are not going to interfere. But we believe that all citizens of Ukraine, I repeat, no matter where they lived, should be granted the same rights to participate in the life of the country and in determining the future of this country.

    I would place those who consider themselves the legitimate authority, hastened to the relevant procedures, because of the national mandate for domestic, foreign, economic policy, and especially the definition of the future of Ukraine they do not.

    Click here to read the full transcript
  • And here ppl rushing to wave flags off second floor balcony

  • No longer fresh, but before storming of Donetsk admin yesterday reps had scratched out faces on their ID cards

  • Col. Mamchuk talks w/ members of Crimean self-defense at Belbek.

  • The Italian foreign minister says she has been informed that Russia has agreed to a meeting with NATO on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
  • Standoff over for now at Belbek. Troops return to barracks after orders from Col. Mamchuk. "Situation is tense and dangerous right now."
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