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Ukraine Crisis

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

  • Ukraine signs landmark EU trade deal, Russia warns of 'grave consequences'

    Ukraine signed a landmark free-trade agreement with the European Union on Friday, a move that immediately drew an angry response and a threat of “grave consequences” from Moscow.

    The economic pact — the abandoned signing of which last year sparked protests that led to the ouster of then-president Viktor Yanukovich and months of unrest — holds the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU's 500 million citizens.

    But Russia has long been opposed to its neighbor acceding to the EU treaty, amid concern from Moscow over losing influence over former Soviet republics. Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals on Friday.

    Meanwhile on Fruday, Russian President Vladimir Putin again said a long-term ceasefire was needed in Ukraine to allow talks between the Kiev government and representatives of eastern regions where rebels are waging an armed insurgency against the pro-Western government.

    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko signalled he would make a decision on extending a ceasefire in the east of the country when he returns to Kiev on Friday following an EU summit in Brussels.

    "This decision will be taken by me when I return to Ukraine, I will have to conduct consultations with the minister of defense, the defense council," Poroshenko told a news conference. "The decision will be taken today."

    Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have made clear their ultimate goal is membership into the EU, but Brussels, under pressure from voters weary of the bloc’s expansion, has made no promise it will extend them invitations.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • German Chancellor Merkel says the progress made on the Ukrainian peace process is not satisfactory, Reuters reports.

    Merkel says if no progress is made on any of the points of the peace plan then we are prepared to take severe measures, according to Reuters.
  • Ukraine signs landmark EU trade deal, Russia warns of 'grave consequences'

    Ukraine signed a landmark free-trade agreement with the European Union on Friday, a move that immediately drew an angry response and a threat of “grave consequences” from Moscow.

    The economic pact — the abandoned signing of which last year sparked protests that led to the ouster of then-president Viktor Yanukovich and months of unrest — holds the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU's 500 million citizens.

    But Russia has long been opposed to its neighbor acceding to the EU treaty, amid concern from Moscow over losing influence over former Soviet republics. Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals on Friday.

    Meanwhile on Fruday, Russian President Vladimir Putin again said a long-term ceasefire was needed in Ukraine to allow talks between the Kiev government and representatives of eastern regions where rebels are waging an armed insurgency against the pro-Western government.

    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko signalled he would make a decision on extending a ceasefire in the east of the country when he returns to Kiev on Friday following an EU summit in Brussels.

    "This decision will be taken by me when I return to Ukraine, I will have to conduct consultations with the minister of defense, the defense council," Poroshenko told a news conference. "The decision will be taken today."

    Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have made clear their ultimate goal is membership into the EU, but Brussels, under pressure from voters weary of the bloc’s expansion, has made no promise it will extend them invitations.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • According to diplomats, the European Union could expand sanctions against Russia by targeting new people and companies as early as next week if Ukraine rebels do not de-escalate the crisis, Reuters reports.
  • According to RIA News Agency, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Moscow would welcome the extension of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine but not the postponement of the 'ultimatum' for three days, Reuters reports.
  • According to a summit statement, European Union leaders seta deadline of Monday, June 30, to agree on terms for a ceasefire and prisoner release for east Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    EU leaders have decided not to impose new sanctions on Russia, The Associated Press reports. However, EU leaders did say they are ready to reconvene at any time to impose further sanctions, according to Reuters.
  • According to Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency, which is quoting a source, Ukrainian President Poroshenko has told European Union leaders he has extended the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine for three days, Reuters reports.
  • Ukraine separatists agree to peace talks

    Separatist rebels have agreed to participate in further peace talks Friday aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Thursday.

    "There is an agreement to hold a round of consultations on June 27 in Donetsk," Andrei Purgin, a senior figure in the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted as saying.

    The peace talks are the latest sign that conflict may be winding down in the country, which has been plagued with unrest since Ukrainians ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Earlier this week, breakaway parts of Ukraine agreed to observe a cease-fire, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said he also supported a cease-fire.

    Earlier, speaking in Strasbourg, France, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he had just heard of the rebels' readiness to meet again with the so-called "contact group" which includes former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Moscow's envoy to Kiev and a high-ranking official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a security and rights watchdog.

    But Ukrainian media quoted Poroshenko as hinting that there would be no extension of a government ceasefire, which officially ends at 10 p.m. Friday, unless Kiev is satisfied with the results of that day's talks.

    "It is a very important day: If our conditions for the peace plan are not accepted, then we will make a very important decision," he was quoted as saying by Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Opinion: A day with Ukraine’s ragtag volunteer fighters

    Turmoil in eastern Ukraine has continued despite Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s offer of a cease-fire to pro-Russian rebels, with both sides accusing each other of violating it. At least 11 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the June 23 cease-fire. Perhaps alarmed by the prospect of punitive sanctions by the United States and the European Union, on June 25 the Russian parliament at the request of President Vladimir Putin rescinded the March 1 resolution that authorized him to intervene militarily in defense of Russian speakers in Ukraine and other non-Russian states.

    Putin’s actions may also have been motivated by the Ukrainian armed forces’ successful counterattacks. After several early setbacks, Ukraine’s counterterrorism operations in recent weeks have squeezed the insurgents into an area of about one-third of the Donbas region and regained control of much of the border with Russia. Self-defense units comprising volunteers from the region, who have thrown in their lot with Ukraine in the ongoing struggle against pro-Russian rebels, have been instrumental in that offensive. The volunteers come from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds (including Ukrainians, Russians, Jews and many others), possess a sincere commitment to a democratic, pro-Western Ukraine and share a remarkable interethnic Ukrainian patriotism. One such unit is the Donbas Battalion.

    Last week I had the opportunity to visit the battalion’s training camp outside Kiev as part of a small group of opinion-makers and experts on a three-day study tour sponsored by the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Kiev. The visit brought home several points. First, Ukrainians are determined to fight and retain their sovereignty. Second, residents of the Donbas, generally considered indifferent to Ukraine, can be as patriotic as western Ukrainians. Third, the interethnic patriotic sentiments suggest that Ukraine is witnessing the emergence of an all-inclusive polity. These developments bode well for Ukraine’s future and portend a sad end for Putin’s imperialist adventures in the mineral-rich eastern region.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • According to Interfax, Ukrainian rebels say they have agreed to take part in further peace talks in Donetsk on Friday, Reuters reports.
  • The Russian parliament on Wednesday revoked the right it had granted President Vladimir Putin in March to order a military intervention in Ukraine, where Kiev is struggling with a rebellion by Russian speakers in the east.

    A senior lawmaker said the move, which Putin had requested, should be seen as an act of goodwill to help facilitate peace efforts in Ukraine, where Moscow sees itself as the defender of the rights of the large Russian-speaking minority. But he said the authority could be reinstated at short notice.

    "The President of the Russian Federation has enough means under the constitution and federal law to effectively influence the situation in Ukraine," Viktor Ozerov, head of the Federation Council's security committee, told the chamber.

    "If, to that end, the president needs to take measures of a military nature, the Federation Council's Defence and Security Committee is ready ... to swiftly consider such a motion from the president. But I hope that will not be required."

    The decision, effective immediately, was taken by 153 votes in favour to one against, with no abstentions.

    Russia's parliament rarely deviates from the line taken by Putin. After the vote, the speaker of the chamber asked whether the lawmaker who voted against had accidentally pressed the wrong button.

    But his assertion of Russia's responsibility to defend the rights of Ukraine's Russian speakers, notably by annexing Crimea, have significantly boosted Putin's wider popularity, helped by highly favourable reporting by state-controlled broadcasters.

    A survey released by the Public Opinion Fund pollster - which says it has the presidential administration among its clients - on Wednesday showed several different indicators of support for Putin sharply up from mid-2013.

    More than half of Russians believe Putin is doing a good job as president, versus 16 percent who expressed that view in April 2013, it said. It also found that two-thirds of respondents would like Putin to stay on as president for a fourth term when his current term ends in 2018. Just 14 percent were opposed.

    Western powers have accused Russia of allowing pro-Russian fighters to cross into eastern Ukraine along with heavy weaponry to confront government forces, and have threatened to toughen existing sanctions if Moscow does not do more to end the conflict. [ID:nL6N0P628G]

    Ukraine's government has agreed a limited ceasefire with some of the Russian-speaking rebel groups to allow peace talks. However, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has threatened to end the truce early because of rebel attacks.

    The ceasefire is supposed to last at least until Friday, when Kiev is due to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union at a summit where the bloc's leaders may also consider tougher sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

    The drive to move closer to the EU faces strong opposition in Ukraine's east - where historic ties with Russia are stronger than in the west - and was one of the factors that triggered the separatist rebellion.

    [Reuters]
  • When asked what tangible steps he'd like to see President Putin take, Kerry said the U.S. is not announcing a new round of sanctions today but is taking steps to prepare such a move.

    He added that the U.S. is 'delighted' Putin asked the DUMA to withdraw his emergency military powers over Ukraine.

    'There are concrete actions...moving forces out,' Kerry said, adding that not deploying tanks, among other steps would be seen as positive, concrete steps by the Russians.
  • Speaking from Brussels, Secretary of State Kerry addressed the situation in Ukraine, saying it is critical for Russian President Putin to prove he is committed to peace.

    The United States is committed to instituting greater costs if Russia does not do so, Kerry said.
  • Al Jazeera America has compiled a shocking photo gallery of the conditions in the battered eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk:

    Guards of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" keep watch in the Slovyansk town hall. (John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)

    Residents walk past a house destroyed by shelling in the besieged city of Slovyansk, June 24, 2014. Despite calls for a cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, the city is held by separatists of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" and endures frequent shelling from Ukrainian forces. (John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)

    The wreckage of a Ukrainian helicopter lies in a field outside of Slovyansk, June 25, 2014, after being shot down by pro-Russian separatists. (John Macdougall/AFP/ Getty Images)

    See more pictures at Al Jazeera America
  • Speaking from Brussels, the Ukrainian foreign minister says the revocation of the Russian right to intervene in Ukraine is positive and more positive steps from Russia are needed, Reuters reports.
  • Latest statement from Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov who apparently has turned to poetry http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BqgjusMCYAAvpSM.png

  • Russian troops seen to mass at Ukraine border as rebels reject peace plan

    NATO’s Secretary-General said Thursday that several thousand more Russian troops had been deployed on Ukraine's eastern border, just hours after pro-Moscow separatists refused a call to lay down their weapons as part of a proposed peace plan by Ukraine's president.

    "We now see a new Russian military build-up around the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during remarks at a London think tank.

    Petro Poroshenko, installed as a Ukrainian president on June 7, has been pushing a plan to end the separatist rebellion in the country’s restive east, including an offer of a unilateral ceasefire by government forces and amnesty for the separatists as long as they put down their weapons.

    Poroshenko was due later on Thursday to meet regional officials from the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of eastern Ukraine to explain his plan – though he rules out meeting separatists.

    But Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists were locked in fierce fighting in the east of Ukraine after rebels rejected the call to lay down their arms in line with Poroshenko's plan, government forces said.

    Heavy fighting broke out at around 4 a.m. (ocal time near the town of Krasny Liman, which itself has been under government control since early this month.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • New Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin says policy priorities are a peace plan for the east and the signing of the association agreement with the European Union, Reuters reports.
  • Ukrainian President Poroshenko says new Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin will present the peace plan for the east to European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on June 23, Reuters reports.
  • NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rassmussen says Russia has resumed a military buildup near Ukraine, calling it "a very regrettable step backward."

    Speaking in London Thursday, Rassmussen said: "I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military build-up - at least a few thousand more Russian troops deployed to the Ukrainian border, and we see troop maneuvers in the neighborhood of Ukraine."

    He added: "If they're deployed to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and fighters that would be a positive step. But that's not what we're seeing."

    [The Associated Press]
  • Ukrainian President Poroshenko says he will the association agreement with the European Union on June 27, Reuters reports.
  • NATO chief Rasmussen says 'at least a few thousand' more Russian troops are now on the Ukrainian border, adding that he sees troop maneuvers in the Ukraine area, Reuters reports.

    The Associated Press reported the same information, citing NATO.
  • The White House provided the following summary on Wednesday of Vice President Biden's call with Ukrainian President Poroshenko:
    Vice President Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Poroshenko about the Ukrainian government’s efforts to resolve the crisis in the eastern part of the country. The Vice President offered his condolences for the tragic loss of life of Ukrainian service members over the last week. He commended President Poroshenko’s commitment to move ahead with his peace plan, and for further steps taken to unify the country and work towards a better, more prosperous future for all of Ukraine. The Vice President underscored that G-7 Leaders have clearly called for Russia to stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border and to exercise its influence among the separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence, both of which Russia has thus far failed to do. The Vice President noted that the United States would work with our partners to impose further costs on Russia if it continued on its current course. The two leaders pledged to stay in touch in the run-up to the European Union leaders meeting on June 27.

  • Ukraine president floats unilateral ceasefire order for restive east

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signaled that he will soon order a unilateral ceasefire in the separatist east, a move that could end a 10-week conflict that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians according to the United Nations.

    "The peace plan begins with my order for a unilateral ceasefire," Poroshenko said in a speech to students at a military institute in Kiev.

    "Immediately after this, we need very quickly to get support for the peace plan ... from all participants," he added, while outlining a 14-step blueprint towards an end to the conflict.

    Poroshenko's announcement on Wednesday came a day after a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the two leaders discussed a long-term solution to the pro-Russian uprising gripping eastern Ukraine since early April.

    Poroshenko's office said the two presidents “discussed a series of priority measures that must be undertaken to implement a ceasefire, as well as the most efficient ways to monitor it.”

    Poroshenko announced in the capital, Kiev, that the ceasefire was meant to be a temporary measure designed to give the pro-Russian fighters a chance to disarm.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, @PavloKlimkin, proposed as new Ukrainian foreign minister.
  • The European Commission is seeking further three-way talks by mid-July to solve the dispute on gas prices between Russia and Ukraine, Reuters reports.
  • Ukraine's interior minister says the gas pipeline blast is being treated as a possible 'act of terrorism,' Reuters reports.
  • Natural gas pressure and transit volumes on the border between Slovakia and Ukraine were normal at 1400 GMT on Tuesday, Slovak gas transit firm Eustream said.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian police said an explosion rocked the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline, a major supply route for gas being transported through Ukraine to the European Union.

    Ukraine's state-run gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz, as well as a source at Russian gas producer Gazprom, also said earlier that shipments to Europe were unaffected.

    [Reuters]
  • The Ukrainian energy ministry says a gas pipeline blast in central Ukraine 'is not the first attempted terrorist attack' on its pipelines, Reuters reports.
  • Russian foreign ministry calls the death of Russian TV correspondent Igor Kornelyuk near Luhansk "the latest crime of Ukrainian forces"
  • A Russian journalist for a Russian state-owned TV channel died Tuesday in eastern Ukraine after being wounded by mortar fire, the Rossiya 24 network said.

    Correspondent Igor Kornelyuk, 37, died during surgery in a hospital after being wounded while on assignment in Luhansk. The whereabouts of the sound engineer with him at the time is still unknown, the network said.

    Viktor Denisov, a cameraman working with Kornelyuk, said in a television broadcast that they were filming Ukrainian refugees fleeing the area north of the regional capital when mortar fire began. Denisov was not immediately next to Kornelyuk when he was wounded.

    The deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia separatist rebels and the government in Kiev has been raging for nearly two months. On Monday, new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pledged to propose a peace plan this week to bring a cease-fire to the east but said the porous border with Russia had to be secured first.

    Ukraine accuses Russia of supporting the rebels and the United States and NATO say tanks and other heavy weapons have crossed from Russia into the hands of rebels in Ukraine.

    Russia has rejected the claims it has sent any weapons or troops, and the rebels said a few tanks they had were seized from Ukrainian forces.

    Cash-strapped Ukraine is due receive 500 million euros ($680 million) on Tuesday from the European Union to help stabilize the country and shore up its ailing economy. EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn said the loan is "a further concrete sign of European solidarity."

    The money from the 28-nation bloc is part of a wider EU package aimed at helping Ukraine reform its economy to boost growth and increase jobs.

    The EU sent Ukraine 100 million euros ($1.35 million) last month and has another 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) lined up for it, provided Ukraine meets milestones on economic and financial reforms.

    [The Associated Press]
  • British Foreign Secretary Hague says Gazprom's decision to cut gas to Ukraine damages Russia's credibility as an energy supplier to Europe, Reuters reporters.
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