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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • UN hopes envoy Robert Serry can stay in Crimea to continue work. Not sure if that will be possible. #Ukraine
  • UN not sure what language the unidentified gunmen were speaking. Serry did not have a security detail with him.
  • During a press briefing, Al Jazeera's James Bays asked what language the men who approached Robert Serry were speaking but UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said he did not know.

    Eliasson also said Serry did not have a security detail with him.
  • Special rep is waiting in coffee shop for help. He's asked us to stay with him and keep filming #Ukriane
  • With Robert Serry now. not kidnapped, but held in a coffee shop. Some men outside prevent him from leaving.
  • Poland's Prime Minister Tusk says, in light of the Ukraine crisis, Poland is slated to intensify its defense cooperation with the United States, according to Reuters.
  • UN envoy Robert Serry was leaving Ukrainian naval base when car was surrounded by unidentified armed men. Made his way on foot to his hotel.
  • UN envoy not kidnapped but threatened by unidentified armed men and told to go to the airport and leave. He is safe and back at hotel.
  • UN Deputy Secretary General says UN envoy Robert Serry was not kidnapped, but threatened by armed men in #Crimea . #Ukraine .
  • Deputy sec gen says envoy Robert Serry is safe
  • Un envoy walking to hotel after his car seized by armed men
  • Armed men seized Robert Serry, a special representative of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Ukraine's Crimea region on Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.

    Russian forces have taken control of Crimea in southern Ukraine. Serry was held in the region's main city, Simferopol, a ministry spokeswoman said.

    [Reuters]
  • UN envoy threatened in Crimea - according to dep Sec Gen
  • Below is the translated report from Interfax about the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative being seized by armed men in Crimea: 

    The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine reported that a special envoy of UN Secretary General Robert Seri, who came on a mission to Crimea, captured by unknown gunmen.


    "R.Seri just informed that his car in Simferopol blocked by unidentified armed men in uniform and told the team that they take him to the airport. He refused to go, and now he was captured and held hostage actually unknown," - said the agency " Interfax-Ukraine "Director of Information Policy Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Yevhen Perebiynis.


  • According to Interfax, which is quoting the Ukrainian foreign ministry, the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative has been seized by armed men in Crimea, Reuters reports.

    A spokeswoman from the Ukrainian foreign ministry has confirmed to Reuters the report that a United Nations special representative is being held in Ukraine.
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development promised Ukraine a 5 billion euros, six-year aid package on Wednesday on the condition it enters into an IMF program and makes greater efforts to stamp out corruption.

    The bank also doused speculation that it could be used by Western backers to punish Moscow for its recent actions in Ukraine, saying it was continuing to invest in Russia.

    It said the package for Ukraine, which will run until 2020 as part of a bigger 11 billion euro European Union deal, was aimed at supporting the country, "as part of a coordinated international financial assistance program in support of credible structural and macroeconomic reforms."

    The 5 billion euros earmarked could be exceeded if economic circumstances permitted. It added it was "essential for investor confidence" that Ukraine agreed a macro-economic stabilization program with the International Monetary Fund.

    Ukraine has been thrown into chaos in recent weeks as the ousting of its pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich has been followed by Moscow effectively taking control of Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula.

    Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy because of economic mismanagement, high energy costs and currency turmoil amplified by its conflict with Russia. Kiev's new rulers have said they need $35 billion over the next two years.

    Jonathan Charles, the EBRD's head of communications, said that part of the deal would see the bank investing with the Ukraine government again.

    Though it had continued with private sector projects, it had used worries about corruption to stop its direct dealings with Kiev last month as European pressure rose on Yanukovich.

    "With the new government we will be looking at all possibilities again," Charles said. "There is now a Ukraine taskforce working in the bank to assess what Ukraine's needs are and what we can do to meet them."

    Although he was careful not to pre-empt any decisions ahead of Thursday's summit of European leaders, Charles also played down speculation that the EBRD could reduce its lending in Russia as part of any potential sanctions imposed over Ukraine.

    Russia is where the EBRD spends the biggest proportion of its money. Of the 8.5 billion euros it invested last year, 1.8 billion went to Russian projects, bringing the overall amount it has at stake in the country to 23.7 billion euros.

    According to its latest figures, 783 projects are up and running. Industry, commerce and agri-business schemes make up just under half the total, energy and infrastructure share about 30 percent and financial sector loans make up the rest.

    "We are continuing to invest in Russia," Charles said.

    [Reuters]
  • In an interview with Al Jazeera English's John Hendren, Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko stressed the Kremlin has declared war not just on Ukraine and not just on Crimea but on the whole world. And while she does not believe Russian President Putin will stage a full-scale war, Tymoshenko called on the countries that signed the Budapest Memorandum to demonstrate force so the Kremlin will step back.

    Expanding on that, Tymoshenko said the source of the conflict is the presence of the Black Sea fleet and after the crisis has ended, Ukrainians must do everything possible to ensure the fleet leaves.

    Tymoshenko also likened the strife gripping Ukraine to the Cuban missile crisis, saying the countries involved need to take a step back and a strategy of containment should be used as much as possible.

    When asked if the current crisis grasping the country is partly her fault as well, Tymoshenko answered that all politicians should repent, adding that she does. However, she said, what's more important is that politicians change and be worthy of the people.

    Expanding on her political views, Tymoshenko said the upcoming elections will be the first independent ones in the country and for the first time, Ukrainians will be able to elect new leaders. However, she won't consider any political position until the crisis is over.
  • Won't be much of an administration left to take at this rate. Impossible to tell what was smashed today, Monday, or Saturday. #Donetsk
  • The Russian flag has been restored atop the administration building in Ukraine's Donetsk, according to Reuters.
  • Has the standoff between Russia and Ukraine given new life to a 20-year-old theory of international relations? National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes that the crisis in Crimea may give late political scientist Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" new life.

    "Since the end of the Cold War, perhaps no academic idea has been more debated—and more dismissed—than Samuel Huntington's notion that a global struggle between cultures, a 'clash of civilizations,' would replace the ideological divide between the West and the Soviet bloc," writes Hirsh. "But the current crisis in Ukraine, and the uneasy standoff between the country's generally more pro-Russian eastern half and its more Westernized west, invites a new and far more favorable look at Huntington's thesis. The late Harvard University political scientist's views may even point the way to a resolution, one that will take into account both the "Eurasian" self-identity of Ukraine's eastern region and the yearnings of its other half to join the European Union."

    In the decade after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on Dec. 26, 1991, it appeared that Huntington had read things wrong. Except for the ethnic bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet bloc and communist countries went peacefully democratic. Similar developments took place in Latin America and East Asia. Even China opened itself up more to the rest of the world. Instead of a clash of civilizations, the dominant trend seemed to be global integration, a convergence of economic systems (capitalism) and political systems (democracy) that played out more along the lines of Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" thesis.

    But more recently global convergence appears to have ground to a halt, and nowhere more so than in the mind of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president's blitzkrieg occupation of Crimea was hardly an isolated act. Rather it should be seen as part of a long-term effort by Putin to resurrect Russia's cultural and political dominance in the former Soviet sphere, even as he has gradually turned himself into a quasi-czar/Soviet-style ruler and subverted Russian democracy. Putin's brazen bid to buy off ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and induce him to join a "Eurasian Economic Union" including Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan—based on what Putin called "the best values of the Soviet Union"—may have been politically motivated, but it was largely justified on cultural grounds. 

    The Russian leader and the conservatives he surrounds himself in the Kremlin have long sought to promote the reconstitution of Russian power based on the idea that many of these countries with large Russian-speaking populations, including the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (now under Moscow's control), are part of a distinctive Eurasian culture that is different from the West on many levels, including spiritually. "We should not be shy when bringing back the ideas of ethnic unity," Putin's protégé, former Russian President Dimitri Medvedev, said in 2011 as they laid plans for the Eurasian union. These views have deep roots in Russian academic literature, playing out in debates over concepts such as "Neo-Eurasianism" and "Byzantism," whose unifying theme is a rejection of Western values.


    Read more at National Journal
  • #Donetsk govt building retaken by pro #Russia supporters. Chants of Berkut and Putin. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bh-XSjcCcAATVUy.jpg

  • Ukraine navy crew gather on stern to pray. They have refused to swear allegiance to new crimea government. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bh-WzaOCAAEN5kz.jpg

  • Pro Russian "self defence" group takes over in front of military building after chasing away opponents. #Ukraine . http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bh-W87jIUAAte2j.jpg

  • Pro Russians demonstrate in front of military building in Simferopol. #Ukraine . http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bh-Wp4WIIAAtLjm.jpg

  • According to a senior State Department official, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov during a brief meeting in Paris to engage in direct talks with Ukraine, Reuters reported Wednesday morning
  • According to a Reuters witness, a pro-Russian crowd has recaptured an administration building in Ukraine's Donetsk, Reuters reports.
  • Dempsey concludes: 'The allies stand together'
  • Dempsey says also spoke with eastern Europe and Baltic state mil officials who "seek our assurance for their security"
  • JCS Chief Gen Dempsey says he spoke with Russian counterpart this morning and "urged continued restraint"
  • House Majority Leader Canto says the $1 billion loan guarantee package for Ukraine will move forward quickly, but it should ultimately be offset by other savings, according to Reuters.
  • The State Department has released the following statement on the Budapest Memorandum Meeting: 

    On 5 March 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a meeting in Paris with the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, William Hague, and the Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Andriy Deshchytsia.


    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the urgent question of the Budapest Memorandum, the agreement signed by the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Russia in 1994. The United States had conveyed an invitation to the Russian Federation to the meeting. We deeply regret that the Russian Federation declined to attend.


    The Budapest Memorandum sets out the obligations of signatories in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. Under its terms, the three parties commit to refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The Memorandum also obliges the UK, US and Russia to consult in the event of a situation arising where the memorandum commitments are questioned.


    Ukraine voluntarily surrendered the world’s third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in exchange for these assurances. The three Governments treat these assurances with utmost seriousness, and expect Russia to as well. Russia has chosen to act unilaterally and militarily. The United Kingdom and United States will continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we commend the new Ukrainian government for not taking actions that might escalate the situation. Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity can only degrade Russia’s international standing and lead to greater political and economic consequences.


    In the meeting, the Governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Ukraine discussed steps needed to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and called on Russia to engage in consultations with Ukraine as they have committed to in the Budapest memorandum.


    The United States, United Kingdom and Ukraine agreed that direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, facilitated as needed by members of the international community, are crucial to resolving the current situation. They also agreed that international observers should be deployed immediately in Ukraine, especially in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The three governments reaffirmed the importance of protecting the rights of all Ukrainian citizens, and believed that international observers would help address any concerns regarding irregular forces, military activity and the treatment of all Ukrainians irrespective of their ethnicity or spoken language.

    Ukrainian navy soldiers raise their flag on top of the Ukrainian navy

  • Boehner on Ukraine: We're here in a bipartisan way trying to work with the president to strengthen his hand.
  • Boehner says Obama's handling of foreign policy over last three to four years "allowed Putin to believe he could do what he's doing."
  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is appearing Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. While the hearing is technically focused on the Defense Department's fiscal year 2015 budget, Hagel did address the situation in Ukraine.

    Below are his prepared remarks that focus on Ukraine: 

    While our focus today is on the Defense Department's Fiscal Year 2015 budget, I know events in Ukraine have been the focus for all of us. Before I address the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, I want to address Ukraine.



    General Dempsey and I have been following the situation closely. A few days ago I spoke to the Russian Minister of Defense. Last week, I also participated in a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Brussels.



    Across the Administration, our efforts have been focused on:



    * De-escalating the crisis;



    * Supporting the new Ukrainian government with economic assistance; and,



    * Reaffirming our commitments to allies in Central and Eastern Europe.



    I strongly support the steps the President has taken to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia. Earlier this week, I also directed the Defense Department to suspend all military-to-military engagements and exercises with Russia.


    Also, this morning the Defense Department is pursuing measures to support our allies - including stepping up joint training through our aviation detachment in Poland, which I visited a few weeks ago, and augmenting our participation in NATO's Air Policing mission on the Baltic peninsula. Our EUCOM Commander, General Breedlove, is convening Central and Eastern European Chiefs of Defense.



    This is a time for wise, steady, and firm leadership. It is a time for all of us to stand with the Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and their right to have a government that fulfills the aspirations of its people. That is what President Obama will continue to do.



    I would also like to thank the members of this Committee for your attention to this situation. Senator McCain, I know, was in Kiev a couple of weeks ago at a critical time and helped assure the Ukrainian people that the United States stands with them. To further that goal, I join President Obama and Secretary Kerry in asking members of this Committee to support the Administration's economic package to help stabilize the economy in Ukraine.



    The events of the past week underscore the need for America's continued global engagement and leadership. The President's defense budget reflects that reality, and it helps sustain our commitments and our leadership at a defining moment.


  • Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speak as French President Francios Hollande (C) stands between them during the Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 5, 2014. At left is French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

  • Cantor says House will vote soon on aid to Ukraine.
  • During prepared remarks to Congress, Defense Secretary Hagel said the Pentagon is pursuing measures to support allies during the Ukraine crisis, according to Reuters. The military is augmenting participation in NATO's air policing mission on the Baltic Peninsula and the Defense Department is stepping up joint training through an aviation detachment in Poland, Hagel said, according to Reuters.

    General Dempsey, the top U.S. military office, spoke with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, Hagel said, according to Reuters, while Hagel says he aims to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart on Wednesday as well.
  • EU pledges $15B to Ukraine as diplomats meet over crisis

    Russia cannot order the "self-defense" forces in Ukraine's Crimea back to their bases because the troops do not answer to Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, as Western diplomats prepare to meet in Paris with Russian officials in the first face-to-face talks aimed at warding off war in Ukraine.

    Speaking in Madrid on Wednesday, Lavrov repeated Russia's assertion that armed men deployed there are not Russian forces and said that Russia's Black Sea naval personnel were in their normal positions. He also vowed to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine, including attacks against its own citizens.

    "We will not allow bloodshed. We will not allow attempts against the lives and well-being of those who live in Ukraine and Russian citizens who live in Ukraine," Lavrov told the news conference.

    After months of mass demonstrations in Kiev toppled former president and Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich, troops believed to be Russian took over Crimea on Saturday, placing forces around its ferry, military bases and border posts. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has accused them of an “armed mutiny.”

    "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 in Moscow on Tuesday.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • The European Union has frozen the assets of 18 people held responsible for misappropriating state funds in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported at 8:30 a.m. ET.
  • While much has been made about possible sanctions against Russia as a possible retaliation for its actions in Ukraine, Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger says they must not put the focus on sanctions against Russia in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, according to Reuters.
  • French President Francois Hollande is holding a meeting of the U.S., Russian, British, French and German foreign ministers to discuss the Ukraine crisis, a presidential source told reporters at the Elysee presidential palace.

    The source said the meeting had already begun after the ministers, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, William Hague, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier appeared together at the palace.

    [Reuters]
  • Italy's unicredit has lifted the limit on ATM withdrawals for its subsidiary in Ukraine due to 'stabilization of the situation,' according to Reuters.
  • According to a Reuters witness, France's Hollande has organized a meeting between Secretary of State Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Fabius, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and British Foreign Secretary Hague on Ukraine, Reuters reports.
  • In a joint statement, the United States, Ukraine and British foreign ministers agree international observers should be deployed immediately in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, according to Reuters.

    In that joint statement, the ministers reportedly agreed that direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, facilitated by the international community, are crucial to resolving tensions with Russia.
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