Ukraine Crisis | Al Jazeera America

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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • If Russia's provocations continue...the G7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia #ObamainBelgium #G7Brussels
  • The situation in Ukraine has highlighted the need for greater energy security, President Obama said at a joint news conference with Britain's David Cameron following the G-7 meeting.

  • our nations continue to stand united in support to the #Ukrainian people - POTUS says in joint press conference #G7Brussels #ObamainBelgium
  • POTUS says the situation in Ukraine & energy security dominated the #G7Brussels Summit #ObamainBelgium
  • The White House released the following statement concerning G-7 discussions on Ukraine:



    G-7 leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine and stand united in support of the efforts of the people of Ukraine to build a deeper and stronger democracy that accommodates the rights and aspirations of all people in all regions of Ukraine.  Despite violence and intimidation, strong voter turnout for the May 25 presidential election underscores the determination of Ukraine’s citizens to determine the future of their country.  Against this backdrop, G-7 leaders discussed their commitment to support Ukraine as it works to unite the country and transition to an inclusive democracy and prosperous market-driven economy and their determination to raise the cost for Russia of continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.


    Response to Russian Actions


    G-7 leaders also agreed that coordinated actions must continue to raise the cost of Russia’s unacceptable interference in Ukraine, including the occupation of Crimea in violation of international law and the ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine’s east and south.  G-7 leaders have taken a number of steps to impose economic costs on Russia and committed to take further intensified measures if needed.  Specifically, all G-7 members have:


    ·         Imposed sanctions on individuals and entities who have actively supported or implemented the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity or who are threatening the peace, security, and stability of Ukraine.


    ·         Committed to supporting a diplomatic solution and called on Russia to fulfill the commitments it made in the Geneva Joint Statement to pursue a diplomatic path and cooperation with the government of Ukraine as it implements it plans for promoting peace, unity, and reform.


    ·         Called on Russia to recognize the results of the Ukrainian election, complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border, and exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence.


    ·         Affirmed their readiness to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia if necessary.


  • As international leaders meet, in a presumably tense atmosphere, in Brussels at a meeting of the G-7, an 'eerie silence' has gripped the eastern Ukrainian town of Krasny Liman, Al Jazeera English reports.

    From Al Jazeera English:

    Krasny Liman, Ukraine - The Ukrainian army is carrying out a clean-up operation in parts of Krasny Liman near the embattled city of Slovyansk a day after shelling rocked the town in the east of the country.

    While government troops refused to clarify who they were fighting in the town, more than 50 pro-Russian rebels were stationed in the woods nearby on Wednesday, reportedly manning positions on the edge of the town.

    Though townspeople said that shelling - which began on Tuesday morning - claimed several victims, a nurse was only able to confirm that two civilians were wounded during an army attack on a nearby rebel checkpoint along a road heading through heavy forest into Slovyansk, about 18km southeast of Krasny Liman.

    On Wednesday, the northern section of Krasny Liman was quiet despite a growing sense of dread among the residents. A group of men outside a grocery expressed shock and anger, saying they could not understand why the army had shelled their town.

    'Brother against brother'

    "This is brother against brother," said Dima, who had bought bread and was heading home to prepare his basement as a shelter for his wife and three young children.

    "It doesn't make any sense. Why would they shoot into a town full of civilians?" he said, adding that the pro-Russian rebels had only set up barricades a little more than a week ago in the town.

    The town bore tell-tale signs of the shelling. A bread factory had a large hole blasted through its front wall. Nearby, a house was still smoldering after a direct artillery hit. The family had left just hours before to stay with relatives.

    Around the corner, Krasny Liman resident Igor Chugay was preparing his basement as a bunker. Last night he drove his wife and children to Svyatagorsk to escape the fighting.

    Although the Ukrainian army would not let journalists into the southern section of town, a road leading away from the centre towards Slovyansk showed the carnage wrought after the Ukrainian army rolled through a rebel checkpoint on Tuesday.

    Half a dozen burnt-out vehicles were scattered along the road. Tanks or armoured personnel carriers had rolled through the series of checkpoints, shooting as they went. Thousands of brass casings littered the road ranging from 30mm light canon to heavy machine-gun and assault rifle ammunition.

    Trees along the roadside in this no man's land had been splintered and knocked down by the heavy fire and the two-storey train station of Brusinye in the forest had a gaping hole blown in its centre, caused by an air strike.

    Down the road through the woods, the heavy thump of continuous and heavy artillery fire could be heard coming from the direction of Slovyansk about 10km away.

  • In a sign of just how badly international relations with Russia have deteriorated over the situation in Ukraine, French President Hollande has to host two dinners on the eve of D-Day commemorations — one for Russian President Putin and one for President Obama, Reuters reports.

    From Reuters:

    Criticized at home for a lack of initiative on Ukraine, French President Francois Hollande will hold separate dinners on Thursday with the U.S. and Russian leaders in an attempt to unlock Europe's worst security crisis since the Cold War.

    His aim is to orchestrate an ice-breaking first meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko on French soil, diplomats said, despite continued fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

    French officials have gone to elaborate lengths to keep U.S. President Barack Obama and Putin apart in Paris, at Washington's request, before Friday's 70th anniversary commemorations of the allied D-Day landings in World War Two, which will see 18 world leaders descend on the Normandy beaches.

    The French capital goes into security lockdown from mid-afternoon when Obama and Putin fly in, while Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrives by train from London to begin a three-day state visit, her fifth since taking the throne in 1953.

    "What's at stake is Ukraine, it is stability and it is security," Hollande told reporters on Wednesday. "France is welcoming the world on June 5 and 6 so it gives us a specific responsibility."

    Putin said on Wednesday he was willing to meet Obama in France, but the U.S. leader has so far shunned the opportunity, leaving Hollande to shuttle between the two men. The U.S. and Russian foreign ministers, however, will meet on Thursday.

    Underscoring the sensitivities, Hollande will rush from meeting the Queen at his Elysee Palace to a chic restaurant overlooking the Champs-Elysees avenue to dine with Obama before going back to his residence for a late supper with Putin.

    Hollande has spent much of the week, first in Poland and then in Brussels at a Group of Seven summit, trying to create a diplomatic opening on Ukraine after sending Poroshenko a last-minute invitation to the D-Day ceremonies. Ukrainians fought in the Soviet Red Army that defeated Nazi Germany.

    French diplomats say Hollande, who met Poroshenko in Poland on Wednesday, wants at the very least to get Putin and the Ukrainian to shake hands at a closed-door lunch of leaders on Friday at the 18th century Chateau de Benouville, where rooms are ready for bilateral meetings.

    This, they say, would be a tacit acknowledgement that the Russian leader recognizes Poroshenko's legitimacy, the day before he is sworn in, opening the door for dialogue.

    In an apparent signal of recognition, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, said Moscow's ambassador to Ukraine would attend Poroshenko's inauguration.

  • President Barack Obama is consulting with two of his most important European allies - Britain and France - as they navigate shifting conditions in the Ukraine crisis now that a new government is coming to power.

    Obama plans to meet Thursday with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels, then hop a short flight to Paris for dinner with French President Francois Hollande. He was seated in between the two as world leaders gathered first at an EU conference center for the Group of 7 summit.

    Topping the agenda was what to do about Russia and its actions in Ukraine.

    The U.S. and Europe started out showing solidarity against Vladimir Putin by levying sanctions against the Russian president. But diverging approaches are emerging now that European leaders are planning separate, private meetings with Putin in Paris while Obama is steering clear of him.

    Hollande said Thursday that it's up to Obama whether he wants to meet with Putin and noted that both men would be at events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy Friday, along with other leaders.

    "The important thing is we have the same language, the same arguments on Ukraine all together," Holland said in a brief exchange with reporters traveling with Obama. "We are seven."

    The G-7 meeting was originally supposed to take place in Sochi, Russia, and include Putin, but the leaders froze him out and moved the site to Brussels after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. After an opening dinner Wednesday night, the group said in a joint statement that they condemn Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and its annexation of Crimea.

    "Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia," Obama said earlier Wednesday. He announced he'll ask Congress for up to $1 billion to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe and earmarked $5 million worth of equipment to help Ukraine's military fight insurgents, including night vision goggles, body armor and communications tools.

    But the changing dynamic in Ukraine has raised questions across the West about how to proceed. The allies had warned Russia that disrupting Ukraine's May 25 presidential vote would trigger even harsher sanctions, but businessman Petro Poroshenko's victory has made Western leaders more optimistic. Obama praised Poroshenko effusively after meeting him for the first time this week in Poland ahead of his inauguration Saturday.

    Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes said G-7 leaders would discuss the future approach on sanctions during their meetings.

    "We'll have to evaluate going forward, what are the triggers for different types of sanctions," Rhodes said. "That would be reviewing whether or not Russia is continuing to destabilize Eastern Ukraine and whether or not Russia is continuing to support separatist groups."

    While Obama avoided scheduling a meeting with Putin, it remained unclear whether Poroshenko and Putin would meet. "We don't want different countries to be having conversations over the head of the government in Kiev about Ukraine's future," Rhodes said.

    But Rhodes said the White House is not concerned about the meetings Putin has scheduled with Cameron, Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel around the commemoration. "The question is not whether there are meetings, it's what people are saying in those meetings," Rhodes said.

    [The Associated Press]
  • Medvedev: "The G7 even dares to talk about the "measured approach" of the Ukrainian army against its own people. Cynicism knows no limit"
  • The G7 released the following statement on foreign policy, which expectedly addresses the crisis in Ukraine:


    • We welcome the successful conduct under difficult circumstances of the election in Ukraine on 25 May. The strong voter turnout underlined the determination of Ukraine’s citizens to determine the future of their country.  We welcome Petro Poroshenko as the President-elect of Ukraine and commend him for reaching out to all the people of Ukraine.


    • In the face of unacceptable interference in Ukraine’s sovereign affairs by the Russian Federation, we stand by the Ukrainian government and people. We call upon the illegal armed groups to disarm. We encourage the Ukrainian authorities to maintain a measured approach in pursuing operations to restore law and order. We fully support the substantial contribution made by the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to the de-escalation of the crisis through the Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE instruments. We commend the willingness of the Ukrainian authorities to continue the national dialogue in an inclusive manner. We welcome the "Memorandum of Peace and Unity" adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on 20 May and express the wish that it can be implemented rapidly.  We also encourage the Ukrainian parliament and the Government of Ukraine to continue to pursue constitutional reform in order to provide a framework for deepening and strengthening democracy and accommodating the rights and aspirations of all people in all regions of Ukraine.


    • The G-7 are committed to continuing to work with Ukraine to support its economic development, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We encourage the fulfilment of Ukraine's commitment to pursue the difficult reforms that will be crucial to support economic stability and unlock private sector-led growth. We welcome the decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve a $17 billion programme for Ukraine, which will anchor other bilateral and multilateral assistance and loans, including around $18 billion foreseen to date from G-7 partners.  We welcome the swift disbursement of macro-economic support for Ukraine. We support an international donor coordination mechanism to ensure effective delivery of economic assistance and we welcome the EU’s intention to hold a high-level coordination meeting in Brussels. We welcome ongoing efforts to diversify Ukraine's sources of gas, including through recent steps in the EU towards enabling reverse gas flow capacities and look forward to the successful conclusion of the talks, facilitated by the European Commission, on gas transit and supply from the Russian Federation to Ukraine.


    • We are united in condemning the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilize eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop. These actions violate fundamental principles of international law and should be a concern for all nations.  We urge the Russian Federation to recognize the results of the election, complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border and to exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence. We call on the Russian Federation to meet the commitments it made in the Geneva Joint Statement and cooperate with the government of Ukraine as it implements its plans for promoting peace, unity and reform.


    • We confirm the decision by G-7 countries to impose sanctions on individuals and entities who have actively supported or implemented the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and who are threatening the peace, security and stability of Ukraine. We are implementing a strict policy of non-recognition with respect to Crimea/Sevastopol, in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262. We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.


    • The projects funded by the donor community to convert the Chernobyl site into a stable and environmentally safe condition have reached an advanced stage of completion. While recognizing the complexity of these first of a kind projects, we call upon all concerned parties to make an additional effort to bring them to a satisfactory conclusion and call upon project parties to keep costs under control. This remains a high priority for us.

    The G7 are meeting, without Russia, in Brussels on Wednesday. The meeting was originally scheduled for Sochi but was relocated following international outcry over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
  • Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, will attend the inauguration of Petro Poroshenko as Ukrainian president, Itar-Tass news agency quoted a Russian deputy foreign minister as saying on Thursday.

    "It was decided that Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zurabov will take part in the official ceremony of Ukraine's presidential inauguration, which is due to be held on June 7," Grigory Karasin was quoted as saying.

    It was unclear whether any other Russian officials would attend the ceremony.

  • According to Al Jazeera America's news blog The Scrutineer, activists in Moscow are using Coke bottles to protest against the United States.

    From The Scrutineer:

    All across Moscow, “food patriots” are blowing up bottles of Coke in a carbonated, high-fructose protest against the United States.

    Pictures and videos uploaded on VK, Russia’s version of Facebook, show dozens of young protesters — sporting shirts with slogans like “Defend our children from overseas poison” and “I refuse Cola for Russia, I’ll drink to your health in kvass instead” — lining up plastic bottles of coke and, in unison, dropping in pieces of Mentos candy to chemically erupt a three-foot-high caramel-colored fountain.

    The tried-and-true juvenile party trick, according to activist group Food Patriotism, underlines the corrosive nature of the beverage that has long been synonymous with U.S. capitalism. “This is an educational program for parents,” one activist told DNI news. “Imagine that happening in your kid’s stomach.

    Though they purport to be advocates for children’s health (a recent demonstration took place on Russia’s Children’s Day) and only target unhealthy, processed foods, Food Patriotism apparently gets its name from the “culinary diplomacy” movement, pioneered by the controversial ex-head of Russia’s Federal Consumer Protection Service, Gennady Onishchenko.

    Onishchenko — perhaps best known for issuing a series of unorthodox health warnings, including an advisory against international travel (adapting to different climates takes a toll on one’s body) and participation in public protests (you might catch the flu) — advocated for bans on food imports from Moscow’s political enemies. He outright blocked imports of Moldovan wine as tensions rose over the breakaway, ethnic-Russian region of Transnistria.

    Amid the recent showdown over another breakaway, majority-Russian region in a former Soviet state, culinary diplomacy appears to be making a comeback. Washington has imposed sanctions on key Moscow officials, and though tensions between the U.S. and Russia have plateaued in recent days, relations between the Cold War foes remain icy.

  • Speaking in Warsaw, Ukrainian President-elect Poroshenko says the peace plan he will unveil after his inauguration is slated to include de-centralization of power and an amnesty offer, Reuters reports.

    The recently elected leader went on to say discussions on the peace plan were scheduled to continue at D-Day commemorations in France later this week, adding that no meeting is scheduled with Russian President Putin but he has not ruled out that it could happen, according to Reuters.

    Poroshenko says he has discussed his peace plan with President Obama, European Union leaders and the Canadian prime minister during the visit to Warsaw, Reuters reports.
  • The Ukrainian government claims at least 300 rebels have been killed as fighting continues in the eastern region of the country, Reuters reports.

    From Reuters:

    Ukrainian government forces battled separatists with artillery and automatic weapons on Wednesday as fighting raged for a second straight day in and around the eastern town of Slaviansk, forcing many frightened residents to flee.

    The Kiev government, trying to break rebellions by pro-Russia militias which it fears could lead to dismemberment of the country, said more than 300 rebels had been killed in the past 24 hours in the "anti-terrorist operation" centred on the town, a strategically located separatist stronghold.

    Rebels denied this and said losses by the Ukrainian side during a government offensive which began on Tuesday exceeded theirs.

    At an army checkpoint on the edge of the town, the crash of heavy artillery shelling could be heard and a plume of black smoke rose above the outskirts. Sustained bursts of automatic gunfire rattled out from leafy areas in nearby fields.

    Fleeing the fighting, families came through the barbed wire checkpoint in small groups, taking with them only as much as they could carry.

    "It's a mess," Marina, a young woman, sobbed as she clutched her husband's arm. "It's war."

    Balancing his four-year-old daughter on his hip, Andrei Bander, 37, said he feared he would not be back any day soon.

    "We took only what was most necessary. We are going. We don't even know where. We will head to Russia though because it's clear we need to leave Ukraine. I don't see anything good left here," he said, waiting for a taxi in the no man's land beyond the check point with only a few small bags.

    "In the past few days, from 5.30 in the morning until about 1 p.m., we have been sitting in the basement. We didn't have time to have lunch or wash or anything."

  • Russian gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday it was pushing back a deadline for Ukraine to move to prepaying for gas by one day to June 10 because of a public holiday in Kiev.

    Gazprom and Naftogaz were holding talks on Wednesday in Berlin trying to settle gas dispute that could hurt onward supplies to the European Union.

  • Senior Rostov region official tells BBC that 7,000 Ukrainians who crossed border are holidaying and it's normal for this time of year
  • Obama endorses Ukraine's Poroshenko amid heightened violence

    U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, offering Kiev financial and security help and saying he was the right choice to lead the country locked in a stand-off with Moscow. The meeting was held hours after pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s east seized two government bases near the city of Luhansk.

    At their first meeting since the billionaire confectionary magnate was elected last month against a backdrop of armed clashes in Ukraine's east, Obama said he was impressed by Poroshenko's vision for pulling his nation out of crisis.

    "What Ukrainians said in the elections is that they reject that path. They reject violence," and want the opportunity to determine their own future, Obama told reporters after meeting Poroshenko in Poland’s capital Warsaw.

    "That's the hope that President Poroshenko represents," Obama said. "In my discussions with him today it's clear he understands the hopes and aspirations of the Ukrainian people."

    He said they had discussed Poroshenko's plans for restoring peace and order in Ukraine and reducing its dependence on Russia for energy. "I have been deeply impressed by his vision," Obama said.

    Speaking after their talks, Poroshenko said he was ready to present a plan for "the peaceful resolution of the situation in the east" very soon after his inauguration on Saturday. He gave no details but he has backed a military crackdown on the rebels.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Pres Obama talks with Pres-elect Poroshenko of Ukraine following their bilateral meeting in Warsaw, Poland this am

  • President Obama meets with Ukraine President-elect Poroshenko in Warsaw on June 4. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) 

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she would not hesitate to impose economic sanctions on Russia if the situation in Ukraine were further destabilised, urging President Vladimir Putin to help by using his influence on pro-Russian separatists.

    "It is decisive that President Putin use his influence to get the separatists to refrain from violence and intimidation, hand over their weapons and stop the occupations," she said in a speech in parliament. "If this doesn't happen ... we won't shrink from imposing further sanctions."

    Speaking before a summit of the Group of Seven leading powers in Brussels, she said the world had not yet done enough to regulate financial markets, including 'shadow banking' which she said would be on the agenda of a G20 summit in Brisbane.

  • According to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, Secretary of State Kerry is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Thursday in Paris.

    This is just one in a long string of meetings the pair has had over the crisis in Ukraine. The duo had a marathon meeting in London last year but failed to come to a concrete resolution.
  • The White House has released new information about United States security assistance to Ukraine:

    The United States is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation of Crimea and a concerted effort by Russian-backed separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine.  President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March.

    This assistance includes:

    • A new tranche of $5 million for the provision of body armor, night vision goggles, and additional communications equipment.  This is in addition to the approximately 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat (delivered in March), as well as assistance for the provision of materiel using Foreign Military Financing to support Ukraine’s armed forces with medical supplies, service member equipment (e.g., helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units), explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and handheld radios.

    • The United States also has allocated Cooperative Threat Reduction funding to support Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service with supplies (e.g., clothing, shelters, small power generators and hand fuel pumps, engineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear). 

    • To date, Embassy Kyiv has purchased and delivered 20-person shelters, sleeping bags, fuel filter adapters, barbed wire, patrol flashlights, perimeter alarm systems, fuel pumps, concertina wire, vehicle batteries, spare tires, binoculars, excavators, trucks, generators, food storage freezers, field stoves, and communications gear to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, for use in monitoring and securing their borders.

    Senior Leader Engagement

    • On April 1, senior U.S. defense officials met with their Ukrainian counterparts in Kyiv for bilateral defense consultations, during which they held substantive discussions on regional security, defense cooperation, and areas for growth in the U.S.-Ukraine defense relationship.

    • Senior defense officials met with Ukrainian counterparts in Kyiv in early June to discuss ongoing U.S.-Ukraine defense cooperation and U.S. support to Ukraine’s defense reform efforts.

    • In early June, U.S. European Command will hold a general/flag officer steering group meeting with Ukrainian counterparts in Kyiv to set the strategic direction for future military-to-military cooperation.

  • After meeting w/ #Poroshenko , #Obama : "What we have seen has been an incredible outpouring of democracy in the face of actions by Russia"
  • After meeting Prez-elect #Poroshenko of #Ukraine in Warsaw, #Obama : “Ukraine has gone through a very challenging time..." #understatement
  • #Ukraine flags wave and crowd cheers as POTUS speaks of standing strong with Ukraine #ObamainPoland

  • 'We will not accept Russia's occupation of Crimea,' President Obama said at a Freedom Day event in Warsaw.

    Bigger nations should be allowed to bully the small, he added. So far, President Obama has been using his trip to Europe to take small swipes at Russia, warning the country that America and its NATO allies won't tolerate its behavior. He's also using the trip to shore up support against Russia among America's NATO allies.

  • Russia is pulling back most of its troops from the Ukrainian border but a portion of the Russian force "looks like it intends to remain," NATO's top military commander said on Wednesday.

    U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, also said Russian irregular forces, Russian-backed forces and Russian financing were very active in eastern Ukraine and "this has to stop".

    All steps being taken by NATO to reinforce its members in eastern Europe would comply with NATO's 1997 agreement with Russia, Breedlove told reporters, accusing Moscow of breaking the pact "when they crossed a sovereign boundary and annexed under fire a portion of a sovereign nation."

    He also said that NATO and its member countries were considering a wide range of requests for help from Ukraine, including lethal aid.

  • U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday called Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko a "wise selection" to lead the country and pledged more military aid to help address security threats from Russian-backed separatists.

    Obama, speaking to reporters after a meeting with Poroshenko in Warsaw, said they discussed the new leader's plan to restore peace, boost economic growth, and reduce energy dependence on Russia.

    "In my discussions with him today it's clear he understands the hopes and aspirations of the Ukrainian people," Obama said.

    Obama said he discussed with Poroshenko ways the United States can help train Ukrainian law enforcement and military personnel.

    The White House said in a statement after the meeting that Obama had approved an additional $23 million in defense security assistance to Ukraine since early March, including $5 million for "the provision of body armor, night vision goggles, and additional communications equipment."

    Ukrainians have urged Washington to provide more support to help reduce concerns over Russian intervention in the country.

    The White House said other aid has included 300,000 ready-to-eat meals and financing for medical supplies, helmets, hand-held radios and other equipment.

  • According to NATO commender Breedlove, NATO and its members are considering a wide range of requests for help from Ukraine, including lethal aid, Reuters reports.

    Russian irregulars, Russian-backed forces and Russian financing is very active in eastern Ukraine, Breedlove reportedly added, saying 'this has to stop.'

    All NATO reinforcement steps will comply with the 1997 pact with Russia, Breedlove said according to Reuters, adding that Moscow has broken that agreement. He added that a portion of the Russian force on the Ukrainian border 'looks like it intends to remain.'
  • The G7 is thumbing its nose at Sochi on Wednesday and meeting without Russia for the first time in 17 years following the country's actions in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    From Reuters:

    The world's leading industrialized nations meet without Russia for the first time in 17 years on Wednesday, leaving President Vladimir Putin out of the talks in retaliation for his seizure of Crimea and Russia's part in destabilizing eastern Ukraine.

    The two-day Group of Seven summit, taking place in Brussels rather than the previously planned Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, will cover foreign policy, economics, trade and energy security.

    The latter is an issue of particularly high sensitivity to Europe after months of tension with Moscow, which supplies nearly a third of Europe's oil and gas.

    While it is the first time Russia will not be at the table since joining the club in 1997, Putin will still hold one-on-one talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande this week, on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

    The decision to drop Russia from the group was taken by its other members - the United States, GermanyFrance, Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy - in March, after Moscow seized Crimea and annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.

    Since then, the EU and the United States have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on senior Russian and Crimean officials and threatened to apply much harder-hitting economic and trade measures if Moscow is deemed for have further destabilized eastern Ukraine.

    While Russia retains substantial forces on Ukraine's eastern border, and pro-Russia militias are operating in many towns, presidential elections took place relatively peacefully across the whole of Ukraine last month, which the West took as a signal of Moscow's readiness not to escalate the crisis.

    That sense of increased cooperation has raised questions about whether the European Union, with its critical trade and energy ties with Russia, could soon seek ways of drawing Moscow back into the fold, such as allowing it to rejoin the G8.

    Officials responsible for coordinating this week's summit did not rule that out on Tuesday, but said Moscow had a long way to go to prove its intentions were sound and that it was capable of acting like a "normal democratic country".

    "It's a bit early at this stage, but I wouldn't rule out the heads of state discussing how they see the future of the G7 or the G8," said one European official.

    "It was Russia that distanced itself from the G8 via its actions in Ukraine. It is up to Russia to behave in line with international law and the values of the G8. That would be the prerequisite for the G8 to become the G8 again."

    At the same time, another official added: "We cannot exclude that if there is an aggravation of the situation, the EU or the G7 will have to consider further measures against Russia."

    Russia denies that it is behind the revolt in eastern Ukraine. It also asserts the right to protect Russian-speakers in the region.

  • As far as I can understand, main progress of #Ukraine government forces today was encircling Semyonovka (outside Slavyansk) more tightly
  • #SecKerry to meet #Russia FM Lavrov in Paris on Thursday to discuss #Ukraine and #Syria , @statedeptspox tells reporters in Warsaw.
  • Obama seeks $1 billion boost to bolster short-term military presence in Europe

    President Barack Obama unveiled plans Tuesday for a $1 billion initiative to bolster its military presence in Europe, pledging solidarity with its partners in the region amid ongoing tension with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

    Speaking in Warsaw alongside Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama sought to reassure America’s European allies and called on Congress to help the U.S. fund an effort to increase military ties in the region in the form of further troop movements and more equipment. But the cash injection will be focused on short-term goals, with the president stressing the temporary nature of the initiative. He fell short of promising to permanently bolster its military presence on the continent.

    “Today, I'm announcing a new initiative to bolster the support of our NATO allies here in Europe," Obama said at Warsaw's Belweder Palace.”

    If approved, the funding will be used to increase military exercises and training missions on the continent, as well as rotations of air and ground forces, the White House said. Officials said Obama was also seeking to ramp up U.S. Navy participation in NATO deployments in the Black and Baltic Seas, plus working to boost the military capacity of non-NATO countries that sit on Russia's border, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

    Obama said he was not interested in threatening Moscow but cautioned that it would take a lot of time to rebuild trust after Russia's intervention in Ukraine, adding that the West would prepare further sanctions against Russia if it felt the Kremlin continued activities that were destabilizing to Ukraine.

    Also in Warsaw as a part of Obama’s trip, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described how the crisis in Ukraine was at the heart of the president’s trip.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Sources at #nato : nato may send ships to black sea for first time since crisis started.
  • According to the Kremlin, Russian President Putin is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Merkel on June 6 during his visit to France, Reuters reports.
  • Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Tuesday welcomed a U.S. plan to boost its temporary military presence in eastern Europe in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

    "The U.S. authorities' decisions to increase the level of presence in NATO's eastern members are incredibly important," Komorowski told a joint news conference with visiting U.S. President Barack Obama.

    "We welcome them as an announcement of a real return by NATO to standing very strongly by the basis of the alliance, which is article 5, which speaks about the collective defense of the countries' territories," Komorowski said.

    "For us it is most important that it is made clear that there are no second-rate NATO members. That there are no countries that are told by some outside countries, particularly Russia, whether U.S. forces can or cannot be stationed there."

  • Obama said he is 'sure' he will see President Putin at D-Day events in Europe.

    'He's goin' to be there,' Obama said of the Russian leader.
  • 'Rebuilding that trust will take quite some time,' Obama said of his relationship with Putin.
  • Obama describes his relationship with #Putin as "business-like" #ObamainPoland
  • We're going to maintain sanctions that are directed at the annexation of Crimea, Obama said of his relationship with Russian President Putin.

    'Mr. Putin has a choice to make,' he said, explaining that Putin can use his influence to calm the Ukrainian separatists and facilitate dialogue to calm the situation in Ukraine.
  • Obama says he wants to hear from the president-elect of #Ukraine what sort of assistance he wants (they meet tomorrow) #ObamainPoland
  • I want to hear from him what he thinks would be most helpful, Obama said about his upcoming meeting with Ukrainian President-elect Poroshenko, adding that he believes Ukraine is concerned about economic support.

    'We're going to spend a lot of time on the economics of Ukraine,' he said.
  • There is no doubt that what has happened in Ukraine adds a sense of urgency when we meet in Wales at the next NATO summit, President Obama said Tuesday in Poland.

    Everyone has the capacity to do their fair share to make NATO effective, he added.
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