Archive | March 4th, 2014

Putin asks Russian parliament to use military in Ukraine



Ukraine accuses Russia of sending thousands of extra troops to Crimea, puts military on high alert.


The Kremlin on Saturday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked parliament for permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine.

Putin said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea.

Ukraine earlier on Saturday accused Russia of sending thousands of extra troops to Crimea and placed its military in the area on high alert as the Black Sea peninsula appeared to slip beyond Kiev’s control.

Russia’s RIA news agency said pro-Russian authorities in the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority, and the Russian Black Sea fleet based there had agreed to guard important buildings. Regional premier Sergei Aksyonov said that that Fleet personnel had already been deployed.

The peninsula’s main civil airport at the fleet town of Simferopol announced it had closed its airspace. Russia accused Kiev-backed gunmen of attacking the Interior Ministry building and wounding personnel in “treacherous provocation.”

As armed men described as Russian troops took control of key airports and a communications center in Crimea on Friday, Kiev accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” — a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis, and raised fears that Moscow is moving to annex a strategic peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk opened a cabinet meeting by calling on Russia not to provoke discord in Crimea.

“We call on the government and authorities of Russia to recall their forces, and to return them to their stations,” Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “Russian partners, stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Moscow is “extremely concerned” about the recent developments in the Crimean region, which it said confirm the desire of Kiev’s politicians to destabilize the situation on the peninsula.

“In Russia, we are extremely concerned about the recent developments in Crimea,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We believe it is extremely irresponsible to further pressure the already tense situation in the Crimea,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russian lawmakers have urged Putin to take steps to stabilize the situation in Crimea and protect Russians there.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said on Saturday she could not rule out the dispatch of a limited troop contingent to Ukraine’s Crimea region to protect the Black Sea fleet’s base there and Russian citizens.

Valentina Matviyenko gave no indication that a decision had been taken on this but said sending troops might be possible following a request for assistance from the pro-Russia authorities in Crimea.

“It is possible, in this situation … even to send a limited contingent to guarantee the security of the Black Sea fleet and Russian citizens living on the territory of Crimea,” Matviyenko said.

Meanwhile, the pro-Russian prime minister of Ukraine’s restive Crimea claimed control of all military, police and other security services in this strategic peninsula Saturday and appealed to Russia’s president for help in keeping peace there.

In a statement reported by local and Russian news agencies, Sergei Aksenov declared that the armed forces, the police, the national security service and border guards will answer only to his orders. He said any commanders who don’t agree should leave their posts.

Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support.

Crimea, a southeastern peninsula of Ukraine that has semi-autonomous status, was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great. It became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

Alarm in Europe

France, Germany and Britain expressed alarm on Saturday over fast-moving developments in Ukraine’s Crimea, urging all sides to avoid further escalation and calling on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“France is extremely concerned by the reports from Crimea, which describe significant troop movements,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. “We call on the parties to abstain from acts that could raise tensions and affect Ukraine’s territorial unity.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to call for a de-escalation of the situation.

Hague said on Friday he would travel to Ukraine on Sunday to hold talks with Ukraine’s new leadership, a week after Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in Kiev.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that developments in Ukraine over the past few hours were dangerous and urged Russia to explain its intentions regarding the troop movements.

“The situation in Crimea in particular has become considerably more acute. Whoever pours more oil onto the flames now, with words or actions, is consciously aiming for further escalation of the situation,” he said.

Obama warns Russia against military involvement

President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if it intervenes militarily. Russia has taken a confrontational stance toward its southern neighbor after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country. Yanukovych was voted out of office by parliament after weeks of protests ended in violence that left over 80 people dead.

Demonstrators sought his resignation after he backed out of signing an agreement to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union instead of Russia. Yanukovych took refuge in Russi and stills ays he’s president.

Aksenov, the head of the main pro-Russia party on the peninsula, said in his statement that he appealed to Putin “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea.”

Aksenov was appointed by the Crimean parliament on Thursday after pro-Russia gunmen seized the building and as tensions soared over Crimea’s resistance to the new authorities in Kiev, who took power last week.

Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” Obama said.

Such action by Russia would not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, Russia or Europe, Obama said, and would represent a “profound interference” in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.

“Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world,” Obama said. “The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

He did not say what those costs might be.

At the United Nations, the Ukrainian ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Friday that 10 Russian transport aircraft and 11 attack helicopters had arrived in Crimea illegally, and that Russian troops had taken control of two airports in Crimea.

He described the gunmen posted outside the two airports as Russian armed forces as well as “unspecified” units.

Russia kept silent on claims of military intervention, even as it maintained its hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea, a territory that was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires and has played a symbolic role in Russia’s national identity.

Meanwhile, flights remained halted from Simferopol’s airport. Dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patrolled the area. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.

One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said the men were part of the Crimean People’s Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no “radicals and fascists” arrive from other parts of Ukraine. There was no way to verify his account.

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Russia starts giving out passports to Ukraine’s ex-Berkut officers pelted with ‘threats’



The Russian Foreign Ministry has answered SOS signals coming from the disbanded Ukrainian riot police “Berkut.” The ministry ordered the prompt issue of Russian passports for the officers, who have been threatened by lynch mobs.

The Consulate General in Simferopol has started giving out Russian passports to officers of the special Berkut forces, based on the applications it has received,” the consulate’s spokesperson Evgeniya Kaplunenko told Itar-Tass.

The Berkut officers who choose to get a Russian citizenship will be offered career opportunities in some regions of Russia, Russian Interior Ministry’s press-service said earlier on Friday.

The governor of Russia’s Astrakhan region has announced that “if needed, the Region can accept, accommodate and provide social, rehabilitation and other help for Berkut officers and their families,”adding that they will not be left without employment there.

Other regions have also offered help to Ukrainians in general, who found themselves in “difficult circumstances,” according to Itar-Tass.

On Saturday, Russia’s Consul General in Simferopol, Vyacheslav Svetlichny, said he did not exclude the possibility of Russian passports being issued not only for ex-Berkut officers, but also for all Ukrainian citizens who wanted them.

That could be possible,” Svetlichny told RIA Novosti. “We will be solving these issues gradually.

Kiev, December 11,2013 (AFP Photo / Volodymyr Shuvayev)Kiev, December 11,2013 (AFP Photo / Volodymyr Shuvayev)

The news came as a surprise for some of the Berkut unit members, who not only were left without a job, but have also been showered with threats to themselves and their families.

“The people who have come to power do not need us; to them, we are enemies. We have been threatened, they want to execute us. Of course, in such conditions we will be glad to receive any kind of protection,” a Crimea-based Berkut officer told RIA Novosti on condition of anonymity.

According to the officer, he has only just learned about Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, and will now spread the word to Berkut officers in other parts of Ukraine.

Berkut, the Ukrainian riot police that took a prominent part in trying supress the riots in Kiev, which started at the end of November, became “arch-enemies” of Maidan, have largely been demonized both at home and in the Western media. The officers in the unit are usually mentioned in connection with the brutal ejection of Maidan protesters on November 30 that they actually carried out, or are presented as cold-blooded murderers of dozens of unarmed people during last week’s bloody street battles in Kiev, which is yet to be proven.

Local riot police kneel as they apologize to Lviv residents for taking part in an operation against anti-government protesters in Kiev but said that they did not beat protesters, during a rally in central Lviv February 24, 2014. (Reuters / Roman Baluk)Local riot police kneel as they apologize to Lviv residents for taking part in an operation against anti-government protesters in Kiev but said that they did not beat protesters, during a rally in central Lviv February 24, 2014. (Reuters / Roman Baluk)

However, few mention the other side of the story: weeks of having to stand on duty and obey orders with a hail of stones, pyrotechnics and petrol bombs raining down on their heads, with groups of violent armed rioters always waiting for an officer to be separated from a group to beat him to a bloody pulp, or with some “revolutionary engineers” reportedly mixing up flammables and toxic substances behind the scenes on Maidan to test inextinguishable fire on living human beings.

Interior Ministry members are on fire, caused by molotov cocktails hurled by anti-government protesters, as they stand guard during clashes in Kiev February 18, 2014. (Reuters / Andrew Kravchenko)Interior Ministry members are on fire, caused by molotov cocktails hurled by anti-government protesters, as they stand guard during clashes in Kiev February 18, 2014. (Reuters / Andrew Kravchenko).

Berkut’s body armor, which many of the reporters cited, did not mean they were not burnt, shot in the neck or the head by the armed rioters, or had their limbs and other body parts broken. While “only” 16 law enforcement officers, including those of Berkut, were killed in Kiev clashes, hundreds more were injured, and many were hospitalized with serious gunshot wounds. However, while the new Ukrainian authorities promised the strictest possible investigation into “crimes against humanity” by President Viktor Yanukovich or into the “deaths of peaceful protesters” in central Kiev, they apparently crossed out any responsibility on the part of the armed radical groups, including the Right Sector.

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Putin: Russian citizens, troops threatened in Ukraine, need armed forces’ protection


Russian President Vladimir Putin has requested the use of Russian military forces in Ukraine to settle the situation there. The Russian population and the Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet are threatened by the situation in the country, he said.

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil

Putin’s request was filed after the Chairman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, said that in order to “protect the people” Russia could theoretically send troops to Ukraine. She particularly referred to the crisis in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where Russians make the majority of the population.

It’s possible in this situation, complying with a request by the Crimean government, even to bring a limited contingent of our troops to ensure the safety of the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian citizens living on Crimean territory. The decision is for the president, the chief military commander, to make, of course. But today, taking the situation into account, even that variant can’t be excluded. We need to protect the people,” Matvienko said.

“In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory (in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea)… I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalization of the socio-political situation in the that country.”

The Russian government has so far been careful in its assessment of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian government in Kiev. Matvienko said the reason for that was Russia counting on its Western partners, who vowed to guarantee the February 21 agreements between ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition.

Russia did not interfere in the situation in Ukraine for a very long time and showed restraint, assuming that the Western states, which became backers of the agreements, would see that strict compliance with the deal is observed,” she said.

However, after “violent upheaval” took place in Ukraine, the Western states did not come up with “any reasonable measures or responses,” Matvienko said.

Russia, in contrast, for a very long time has urged the situation to be resolved by lawful means, and called for the anti-coup sentiments in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine to be heard, she said.

Not seeing an adequate reaction from the West, we could no longer maintain status quo,” the speaker concluded.

Matvienko spoke as thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators rallied in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Melitopol, Yevpatoria and Mariupol, protesting against the rule of new Kiev authorities.

The Russian leader held detailed phone discussions on “various aspects of the extraordinary situation in Ukraine” with US President Barack Obama, the Kremlin press service reported.

Putin stressed that in the case of further spread of violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect their interests and the Russian speaking population.

Putin emphasised the existence of real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens on Ukrainian territory.

In a separate conversation with French President Francois Hollande, Putin said that there is a real threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, Itar-tass reports.

The Russian commander in chief also held a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the case of an escalation of violence against the Russian-speaking population in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, the Kremlin announced.

Putin stressed that Russia cannot remain on the sidelines and will apply the necessary measures within the framework of international law to prevent further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.

According to the Russian Constitution, the use of Army on foreign territories can only be approved by the majority of the Federation Council members upon a request by the President.


Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Alexander Khudoteply)Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Alexander Khudoteply)


The developments follow an appeal by the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, who requested that Russia to help cope with the crisis and ensure “peace and calm” in the region.

The tension in Crimea escalated following an attempt to seize the building of the local Interior Ministry by gunmen overnight. Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement, blaming the new authorities in Kiev for intending to “destabilize the situation on the peninsula.

Meanwhile, self-proclaimed Ukrainian Acting President Aleksandr Turchinov has signed a decree ruling that appointment of the pro-Russia premier in Crimea is “illegal.”

Aksyonov, who is the leader of Crimea’s Russian Unity party, was appointed as the new Prime Minister of the autonomy after the Crimean Supreme Council dismissed the regional government. Peace and order in the region has been maintained by local armed self-defense squads, which were widely misreported as Russian troops on Friday.

Massive media speculation also arose around claims that the Russian military have been making“illegal” moves in Crimea. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent an official note to Ukraine, stressing that all the moves are carried out “in full accordance with basic Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet.”

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