Archive | March 7th, 2014

US ‘plotted, abetted’ ouster of Ukraine’s president: Retired CIA officer

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The Obama administration “plotted” and “abetted” the ouster of Ukraine’s Russian-backed president to install a “puppet regime,” a retired CIA officer and political activist says.

“Never before in my 50 years in Washington has it been so clear that the United States has plotted, has aided and abetted and tried to put in the new premier or the new prime minister of the Ukraine,” said Ray McGovern.

“We have an intercepted telephone conversation” between the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, that confirms Washington’s role in Ukraine, McGovern told Press TV on Monday.

The intercepted phone call between Nuland and Pyatt was made in January. Moscow’s intelligence apparatus was allegedly involved with the leaked recording of the conversation.

McGovern said that the crisis in Ukraine will not be solved by the likes of US Secretary of State John Kerry or the “puppet regime” installed in Ukraine.

Ukraine has been gripped by unrest since November 2013, when now-ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama threatened Russia with sanctions as tensions between the two countries heats up over the crisis.

Washington and its Western allies are considering sanctions against Moscow, accusing Russia of preparing to launch a military intervention in Ukraine.

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Kerry Takes Offer of Aid to Ukraine and Pushes Back at Russian Claims

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Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Kiev is a symbolic and tangible illustration of American support as the White House tries to counteract Russian pressure on the new Ukrainian authorities.Credit            Kevin Lamarque/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images       

KIEV, Ukraine — In a demonstration of support for Ukraine’s fledgling government and a new swipe at Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday with an offer of $1 billion in an American loan guarantee and pledges of technical assistance.

Trudging through a damp mist, Mr. Kerry stopped first for an emotional visit to improvised memorials where protesters were gunned down last month as they voiced opposition to what was then Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin government.

Mr. Kerry placed a lighted candle at one of the shrines, which were draped with flowers and photographs of some of the victims; met with religious leaders; and listened to Ukrainians who beseeched him for help.

“We hope Russian troops will leave Crimea, and we also hope for your assistance,” a Ukrainian woman told Mr. Kerry as he walked along Instytutska Street.

“We are trying very hard,” Mr. Kerry responded. “We hope Russia will respect the election that you have.”

But there was no indication that Russia was prepared to reverse its intervention in Crimea, and Mr. Kerry later warned that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, might be preparing to expand the scope of his country’s military operation into eastern Ukraine.

Credit Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Kerry Condemns Russian Action in Crimea

Speaking in Kiev on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry also defended Ukraine’s fledgling government.

“It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further,” Mr. Kerry said at a news conference at the American Embassy here.

He took issue with Mr. Putin’s version of events, which justified Moscow’s military action in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine, by saying it was to defend the region’s Russian population.

“It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve,” Mr. Kerry said. “That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior.”

The centerpiece of the American aid package is the $1 billion loan guarantee. It is intended to cushion Ukrainian households as the new government undertakes wrenching economic changes that are expected to be demanded by the International Monetary Fund, and as it contends with the reduction of energy subsidies from Russia, which has challenged the new government’s legitimacy.

The United States will also send technical experts to help Ukraine’s national bank and Finance Ministry, provide advice on fighting corruption, and train election monitors to help establish the legitimacy of Ukraine’s coming election.

American officials are offering help in recovering so-called stolen assets, an allusion to the billions of dollars reported to have been spirited out of Ukraine by former President Viktor F. Yanukovych and powerful businessmen.

The United States will also provide technical advice so that Ukraine might lodge complaints with the World Trade Organization should Russia try to use trade as a political weapon.

Economic sanctions to punish Russia for its military intervention in Crimea are likely within days, according to a senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Kerry.

“I think there will be movement on sanctions very likely later in this week,” said the State Department official, who could not be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters on Mr. Kerry’s trip.

The barricades that protesters erected during their struggle against Mr. Yanukovych, who fled last month, were still visible during Mr. Kerry’s visit to the shrines. More than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February and the Yanukovych government authorized deadly force.

As he gazed at the shrines, Mr. Kerry asked what Ukrainians thought about Mr. Putin’s assertion that he had to intervene in Crimea because the Russian-speaking people there were in danger. “We don’t have any threat,” a woman shot back. “They are making it up.”

Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

Obama Warns Russia on Ukraine

President Obama said any intervention militarily in Ukraine would be “deeply destabilizing.

Mr. Kerry later observed, “Here in the streets today I didn’t see anybody who feels threatened, except for the potential of an invasion by Russia.” He expressed hope that Mr. Putin “would step back and listen carefully that we would like to see this de-escalated.”

He added, “We are not looking for some major confrontation.”

After his visit to the shrines, Mr. Kerry also met Ukraine’s interim leaders, including acting Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, acting President Oleksandr V. Turchynov and leaders of the Ukrainian Parliament.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a multiple-track strategy of providing assistance to Ukraine, increasing the economic pressure on Russia and offering what it called an offramp by suggesting that international monitors might be sent to ensure that the rights of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population were protected while Russian troops returned to their barracks.

The American-backed loan guarantee is contingent on backing from Congress, but there has been growing support among lawmakers for firm action.

Referring to Ukraine’s coming negotiations with the I.M.F., Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement that the loan guarantee was “aimed at protecting the most vulnerable Ukrainian houses from the impact of the needed economic adjustment.”

But the guarantee was also intended to help Ukraine cope with Russian pressure. Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas company, said Tuesday that it would cancel a discount for natural gas supplies to Ukraine, as of April 1. Russia offered the discount in December after Mr. Yanukovych decided to strengthen ties with Moscow instead of the European Union.

A State Department official who was traveling with Mr. Kerry said, “We are going to work with Congress on providing a $1 billion loan guarantee aimed at helping insulate Ukraine from the effects of reduced energy subsidies based on what transpired in Russia.”

Russia could try to counter such economic efforts by raising gas prices to Ukraine even further. If that happened, the United States might be funneling aid to Ukraine that would end up in Russian banks.

”The Russians are major holders of Ukrainian debt,” the senior American official acknowledged. “So in any scenario in which Ukraine is getting financial assistance, some of the money very likely is going to end up in the hands of Russian institutions. I think there is probably no way of avoiding that.”

There were no signs that the moves by the United States and its partners had prompted a rethinking on Moscow’s part.

The State Department official said that Russia was solidifying its control over Crimea and that there was a “continued inflow of Russian troops” there. The Russian force in Ukraine has now grown to 16,000, according to Ukrainian officials. And the senior American officials said there were reports that Russian helicopters had approached Ukrainian airspace, and that Ukrainian jets had moved to intercept them.

In addition, a key element of the American plan to reverse the Russian intervention — sending international monitors — seems to have no particular appeal for the Kremlin. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is sending an initial group of 10 monitors to Ukraine. The United States and other Western nations would like to see that number increased so that monitors could widen their visits to include not only eastern Ukraine but eventually Crimea while Russian troops return to their barracks. But Russia has not supported such a move.

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Obama warns peace failure would harm I$raHell world standing

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JTA

The United States will have a “limited” ability to manage the “international fallout” on Israel if it does not make peace with the Palestinians, President Obama said.

“The absence of international goodwill makes you less safe,” Obama told Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg during an interview in the Oval Office that was published Sunday afternoon. “The condemnation of the international community can translate into a lack of cooperation when it comes to key security interests. It means reduced influence for us, the United States, in issues that are of interest to Israel.”

The interview was published a day before Obama was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

Netanyahu appeared to respond to the Obama interview in a statement upon landing early Monday morning in the United States.

“The tango in the Middle East needs at least three,” Netanyahu said. “For years there have been two — Israel and the U.S. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present. In any case, in order for us to have an agreement, we must uphold our vital interests. I have proven that I do so, in the face of all pressures and all the turmoil, and I will continue to do so here as well.”

Obama suggested that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may be the most peace-seeking Palestinian leader that Israel will face across the peace negotiating table, and said now is the time to seize the opportunity to make peace with someone who is sincere about recognizing Israel and its security needs.

The president said he sympathized with Netanyahu’s political difficulties at home in trying to negotiate a peace deal but added that he believes Netanyahu is one of the only Israeli politicians who could cut such a deal and sell it to the Israeli people.

“For Bibi to seize the moment in a way that perhaps only he can, precisely because of the political tradition that he comes out of and the credibility he has with the right inside of Israel, for him to seize this moment is perhaps the greatest gift he could give to future generations of Israelis,” Obama said, referring to Netanyahu by his popular nickname.

“I believe that Bibi is strong enough that if he decided this was the right thing to do for Israel, that he could do it,” Obama said. “If he does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, asserting that it is “not subject to periodic policy differences. That’s a rock-solid commitment, and it’s one that I’ve upheld proudly throughout my tenure.” He added that he did not believe the bipartisan support that Americans have for Israel is not going to be affected by the absence of a peace agreement.

“So it is not realistic, nor is it my desire or expectation, that the core commitments we have with Israel change during the remainder of my administration or the next administration,” Obama said.

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EU has no plans to impose sanctions against Russia now – Russia’s EU envoy

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EU has no plans to impose sanctions against Russia now - Russia's EU envoy

© Photo: Voice of Russia

The EU has no plans to impose santions against Russia in relation to the situation in Ukraine, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the UN, has said Tuesday.

“Let’s comply with legal terms that clearly state that only the UN Security Council can impose sanctions and everything apart from that is unilateral restricting measures. For now, nobody talks about the EU taking such measures against Russia,”Chizhov said in an interview to Russia-24 television.

Voice of Russia, RIA

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Russian FM: Kerry’s threats vs Russia unacceptable, West sides with neo-Nazis

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Training in hand combat among opposition fighters from the nationalist organization "Right sector" in a camp on Independence Square in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)Training in hand combat among opposition fighters from the nationalist organization “Right sector” in a camp on Independence Square in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin). 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said “unacceptable threats” by US Secretary of State John Kerry over Crimea failed to take into account the violent power seizure in Kiev carried out by radicals.

In the statement released Monday, the ministry said Kerry’s  “Cold War” rhetoric would do nothing to punish  “radical extremists” who carried out the coup, but rather sought  to put the focus on Russia. It was also critical of the G7’s  decision to suspend preparations for the upcoming G8 summit in  Sochi, saying the move was unjustified.

The Foreign Ministry accused Washington and its allies of turning  a blind eye to the excesses of what it called militant,  Russophobic and anti-Semitic forces operating on Kiev’s central  Independence Square, which pushed for the ouster of Ukraine’s  embattled President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

“Not bothering to make any effort to understand the complex  processes occurring within Ukrainian society or make an objective  assessment of the environment, which is furthering the  degradation following the forceful seizure of power in Kiev by  radical extremists, [Secretary of State John Kerry] operates with  a ‘Cold War’ stamp, offering not to punish those who carried out  the government overthrow, but the Russian Federation,” the  statement said.

“And while glossing over this, the USA and its allies have  closed their eyes to the excesses of the radical fighters on  Maidan, their bullying of political opponents and ordinary  citizens, as well as their anti-Semitism and militant  Russophobia.”

Moscow further accused European powers of standing idly by while  the “newly born Kiev regime” trampled on the EU mediated  agreement of February 21, in which Yanukovich reached a deal with  the opposition to settle the crisis. The ministry noted the  foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland had signed off on  the document which was thrown out of the window when opposition  forces seized power the next day. In the process, the West has  effectively allied itself with neo-Nazis who are smashing up  Orthodox churches and synagogues while “declaring war on the  Russian language.”

On Sunday, Kerry threatened to isolate Russia economically and  politically for deploying troops in the Crimea to protect the  majority Russian speaking population, which Moscow says is under  threat.

“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in  order to assert your interests,” Kerry said during an  interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an act of  aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext.  It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

“There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal  trade routine, there could be business drawback on investment in  the country,” he continued. “There could even be  ultimately asset freezes, visa bans.”

G8 gambit

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on  Monday warned that suspending preparations for the upcoming Group  of 8 summit in Sochi would not only damage the member states, but  the entire international community.

“In connection with a number of well-known statements from  Group of Eight members, the decision to suspend work within the  framework of the Russian presidency in the international  structure will motivate nothing,” the spokesman said.

“It is not only politically defective, but also contrary to  the principles of constructive cooperation of this format, which  is oriented towards using the combined potential of the G8 in the  interests of development, global stability, and the fight against  transnational challenges and threats.”

Lukashevich said that he hopes that as opposed to the prevailing  politicized climate in some capitals, they member states would be  able to continue working together in the G8.

“The Russian side is ready for this,” he said.

On Sunday, the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the  United Kingdom and the United States – along with the President  of the European Council and the President of the European  Commission condemned Russia for what it called a”clear violation  of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“Russia’s actions in the Ukraine also contravene the principles  and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have  decided for the time being to suspend our participation in  activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8  Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where  the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion.”

Kerry issued a starker warning, saying that not only the upcoming  G8 summit in Sochi, but Russia’s membership in the global forum,  were at risk.

“He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain  in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry said. “He may find  himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American  business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the  ruble.”

The 40th G8 summit is to be held on June 4-5 at the Black Sea  resort of Sochi. If the meeting goes ahead, the leaders are  expected to focus on responses to new global threats.

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Ukraine nationalist leader calls on ‘most wanted’ terrorist Umarov ‘to act against Russia’

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ARCHIVE PHOTO: Dmytro Yarosh (L), a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014 (Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili)ARCHIVE PHOTO: Dmytro Yarosh (L), a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014 (Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili).

A leader of the Ukrainian radical group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmitry Yarosh, has called on Russia’s most wanted terrorist Doku Umarov to act against Russia in an address posted on Right Sector’s page in VKontakte social network.

The statement points out that “many Ukrainians with arms in  the hands” supported Chechen militants in their fight  against Russians and “it is time to support Ukraine  now.”

The message, signed “leader of Right Sector Dmitry  Yarosh” then calls on Umarov “to activate his  fight” and “take a unique chance to win” over  Russia.

Yarosh leads the far-right militant Right Sector group and used  to be a leader of radical nationalist group Trident, which became  the core of the Right Sector.

Yarosh attended the February 21st political gathering  at the renamed Independence Square shortly after the signing of  the deal that returned the country to the 2004 constitution. He  shared the stage with virtually all of Ukraine’s prominent  opposition politicians, including former superstar boxer and  leader of the Democratic Alliance for Reform, Vitaliy Klitschko.  In the following video, surrounded by masked units from his  far-right following, he declares victory and vows to continue  fighting, as the crowd cheers in a military fashion.

The radical leader has been consistently anti-Russian in his  statements, calling for the destruction and division of the  “Moscow Empire” and openly supporting Chechen militants  and Georgian aggression. Yarosh believes Russia is Ukraine’s  “eternal foe” and has said that war between the two  countries is “inevitable.”

Aside from his beliefs on Russia, the Right Sector leader  believes Ukraine should be “careful” with its future EU  membership, as the “bureaucratic monster of Brussels” is  “doing everything to bring to naught the national  identity” of EU member countries.

Far-right group "Right Sector" train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)Far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)

Yarosh’s outrageous plea to terrorist Doku Umarov exhibits the  “guts of the so-called new Ukrainian  authorities,”Chairman of the Presidium of the Russian  Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus told Itar-Tass.

“Extremists, nationalists of all stripes, flooded the  peaceful republic threatening it with chaos and violence,”Aliy Totorkulov said.
Even the fact of Yarosh’s address, whose “hands are stained  with blood” shows that the Ukraine’s extreme  right“Maidan sponsors” and the forces supporting the  instability in Caucasus come from a “single-center” of  extremism, Totorkulov stressed.

“We strongly support the deployment of Russian troops to  resolve the situation in Crimea as well as provide assistance to  other Ukrainian regions, where the population rejects nationalism  and asks [Russia] for help and protection.”

During the recent riots in Ukraine, Yarosh rejected any  negotiations with the Ukrainian government, calling on his  supporters to defy the truces and agreements of the government  and the opposition.

The Right Sector has been referred to as the most active, the  most radical and the best organized group in the Ukrainian  unrest. Well-equipped masked rioters from Right Sector often used  clubs, petrol bombs and firearms against the Ukrainian police.  Some notorious members of the radical movement have continued to  use rifles and pistols to intimidate local authorities, which  they believe should be “afraid” of the people.

Although the violent acts of the group have been well-documented  by media and placed on YouTube, Western powers have largely  ignored its actions and persisted with describing the protests in  Ukraine as “peaceful.” After meeting with Ukrainian  protesters, including Right Sector members, in late January,  Western representatives went as far as saying that they were  “convinced that these people posed no threat.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights  Konstantin Dolgov said that Moscow awaits the West’s reaction to  Yarosh’s appeal to Umarov.

“The Ukrainian neo-fascist Yarosh has appealed to terrorist  Umarov,” Dolgov wrote on Twitter. “Does the West place  their stake on such Ukrainian ‘democrats’? Will they react to  this?”

Far-right group "Right Sector" train in Independence Square in Kiev January 31, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)Far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in Kiev January 31, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)

Umarov, who commanded groups of militants in both Chechen wars  and organized several large terror acts, is the most wanted  terrorist in Russia. Umarov has claimed responsibility for  several attacks on Russian civilians, including the 2010 Moscow  Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport  bombing, which killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.

In March 2011, Umarov was put on the UN Security Council’s  Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee list of individuals. The  US government has also announced a $5 million reward for  information leading to the terrorist leader’s capture.

The self-proclaimed ‘Emir of the Caucasus Emirate’ routinely  recorded video addresses, in which he incited terror attacks  against Russian government forces and civilians. He last appeared  alive in a video posted on the internet in summer 2013, calling  to step up terrorist activities and thwart the 2014 Sochi Winter  Olympics. Umarov’s long absence led rumors of his death to  spread, but so far this has not been officially confirmed.

Meanwhile the social media page of the Right Sector group, where  the message has been posted, was taken down as it has violated  company’s policies by posting prohibited content. The VKontakte  page now states that the “community has been blocked at the  request of Roskomnadzor as it has been added to the register of  prohibited content.” 

The Right Sector social media VKontakte page had over 375,000  followers and was used for coordinating the actions of the  movement’s cells across Ukraine.

After the outrageous message caught the attention of world media,  a Right Sector representative has claimed that the movement has  nothing to do with the posting and that one of their  administrator’s accounts was “hacked.”

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Lavrov: Russian option to send troops is only to protect human rights

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressing the UN Council for Human Rights (Still from video)Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressing the UN Council for Human Rights (Still from video)

Russia’s decision to allow troops to be sent to Ukraine is meant to deter radicals from using violence in the country and to facilitate reconciliation, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

He dismissed the interpretation of the move by Western powers as  an act of aggression on the part of Moscow and called on the West  to stop using human rights as a pretext for pursuing geopolitical  goals.

“I reiterate, we are talking here about protection of our  citizens and compatriots, about protection of the most  fundamental of the human rights – the right to live, and nothing  more,” Lavrov told on Tuesday the UN Council on Human Rights  in Geneva.

“Those who try to interpret the situation as an act of  aggression, threaten us with sanctions and boycotts, are the same  partners who have been consistently and vigorously encouraging  the political powers close to them to declare ultimatums and  renounce dialogue, to ignore the concerns of the south and east  of Ukraine and consequently to the polarization of the Ukrainian  society,” the minister charged.

Lavrov suggested that Russia would not use its military force for  geopolitical gains under a pretext of protecting human rights.
“Human rights are too important to make it a bargaining chip  in geopolitical games, to use it to impose one’s will on others;  less so to instill regime change,” he warned. “An  intervention through force under a pretext of protecting  civilians causes the opposite, multiplies the suffering of  peaceful citizens, and strips them of their fundamental human  right – the right to life.”

Lavrov said Russia’s position on the Ukrainian debacle is that  the self-proclaimed government in Kiev must comply with its  obligations under an agreement, signed on February 21 by  President Yanukovich, opposition leaders and foreign ministers of  Germany, France and Poland. Yanukovich held his end of the  bargain, but the opposition didn’t, the FM stressed.
“The opposition did nothing. The illegal arms have not been  relinquished, the government buildings and streets of Kiev have  not been completely freed, radicals maintain control of cities.  Instead of a promised national unity government a ‘government of  the victors’ has been created,” he said.

Lavrov called on Kiev to return to the February 21 agreement and  conduct a constitutional reform, which would include participants  from all regions of Ukraine. The reform should be approved in a  nationwide referendum, he said.

Following the ousting of Viktor Yanukovich in a wave of violent  street protest, the opposition-controlled parliament appointed a  new government. Ten Ukrainian regions saw massive protest rallies  against the developments in the capital. Several of them,  including Crimea, announced that they would not take orders from  the new government and replaced appointed governors with elected  representatives.

Moscow reserved the option to send troops to Ukraine, if it were  required to protect civilians in the defiant regions. Kiev called  the move “a declaration of war” and announced military  mobilization. The US threatened Russia with political and  economic isolation.

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Seriously, what?! Kerry tells Russia ‘you don’t invade a country on completely phony pretexts’

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The US Secretary of State spoke today of the unacceptability of invading a sovereign country on phony pretexts in order to assert one’s own interests in the 21st century. But no, he was not speaking about the United States, as one might have thought.

“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in  order to assert your interests,” John Kerry said during an  interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an act of  aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext.  It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

Kerry has also threatened to isolate Russia economically and  politically and warned of potential asset freezes and visa bans,  adding to media and political hype that followed Russia  authorization of sending a stabilization force in Crimea on  official request from the authorities.

“There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal  trade routine, there could be business drawback on investment in  the country,” he said. “There could even be ultimately  asset freezes, visa bans.”

Although Kerry was never challenged by the interviewer to comment  in terms of that statement on Washington’s own constant threats  to use force and military invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan,  those who watched the interview immediately smelled the  hypocrisy.

“Since when does the United States government genuinely  subscribe and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial  integrity? They certainly are not doing that at the moment in  Syria,” Marcus Papadopoulos, commentator for ‘Politics  First’ told RT. “They certainly did not do that when they  attacked Libya. They certainly didn’t do that when they invaded  Iraq. They certainly didn’t do that when they attacked Serbia  over Kosovo and then later on recognized Kosovo’s unilateral  declaration of independence. The United States government merely  pays lip service to sovereignty and territorial integrity, it  picks and choses.”

Since the crisis in Ukraine escalated to a point where the lives  of the Russian speaking population of Ukraine has become threatened, Kerry’s reaction comes, some believe, as  the most ridiculous thus far, taking into account US own history of military actions all over the globe.

Following Russia’s parliament approval of potential deployment, other members of  the G8 said they were putting preparations on hold for the  planned summit of the group in Sochi on June 4 and 5.

The US also warned Russia that it risks losing its place in the  Group of Eight developed countries over the deployment of troops  in Crimea.

Canada in the meantime warned of “ongoing negative  consequences” for Canada-Russia relations, if Russia pushes  forward with military action.

This year Russia holds the presidency in G8 that includes the  governments of the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia, USA,  France and Japan.

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

Crimeans began protesting after the new self-imposed government  in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official  documents in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are  Russian and use only this language for their communication. The  residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the  Ukrainian autonomous region.

Feeling a threat from the new central government of questionable  legitimacy, a number of regions stood up against it. Thousands of people across  eastern and southern Ukraine are flooding the streets of major  cities, urging local authorities to disobey Kiev’s orders. The  local population is calling the government in Kiev illegitimate  and demanding that their local governments refuse to take orders  from it.

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British FM calls Ukraine Europe’s ‘biggest crisis’ this century

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William Hague says Russia needs to return to the status quo in Crimea or face diplomatic consequences

Times of Israel

The unrest in Ukraine is “the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday, as he warned Russia to back down in Crimea.

“It’s difficult to rank these things but it’s certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century and it will require all our diplomatic efforts,” Hague told BBC radio from Kiev, where he is meeting the interim Ukrainian government.

The British foreign minister urged Russia to pull back its forces in Crimea or face “significant costs.”

Referring to the decision by Britain and other allies to pull out of preparatory talks on the G8 summit in Sochi this week, Hague said: “There are diplomatic measures which we have started on already.

“There are a range of other significant costs. I don’t want to anticipate at the moment what those will be, those will be discussed among my fellow EU foreign ministers today. They are also for discussion with the United States, Japan, Canada, other nations.

“But be in no doubt that there would be such costs. The world cannot just allow this to happen. The world cannot say it’s OK in effect to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Sunday that Russia risked losing its seat among the prestigious Group of Eight nations, although Hague did not go that far.

“What we will do in subsequent weeks depends on Russia’s behaviour. Clearly that means there is a serious threat to G8 cooperation over the coming weeks and months,” Hague said.

“The G7 countries are entirely capable of cooperating well among themselves without Russia and they will increasingly move in that direction if these matters cannot be resolved.”

Explaining what Western powers wanted Moscow to do, Hague said Russia was entitled to have forces in Crimea.

“But when they are outside their bases they are meant to operate with the agreement of the Ukrainian authorities. Russia needs to return to that situation,” he said.

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US prepares ‘tough response’ for Russia over Ukraine

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Obama administration’s plans to punish Russia may require drastic shift in foreign policy

Times of Israel

Western powers on Sunday prepared a tough response to Russia’s military advance into Ukraine and warned that Moscow could face economic penalties, diplomatic isolation and bolstered allied defenses in Europe unless it retreats.

On Sunday evening, the White House issued a joint statement on behalf of the Group of Seven saying they are suspending participation in the planning for the upcoming summit because Russia’s advances in the Ukraine violate the “principles and values” on which the G-7 and G-8 operate.

Still, the crisis may prove to be a game-changer for President Barack Obama’s national security policy, forcing him to give up his foreign policy shift to Asia and to maintain US troop levels in Europe to limit Russia’s reach.

The ill will and mistrust also could spill over on two other global security fronts — Syria and Iran — where Russia has been a necessary partner with the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would heed the West’s warnings. Hundreds of armed men surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, a pro-Russian area. In Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk alerted allies that “we are on the brink of disaster.”

Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia now has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region. The US was also watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of eastern Ukraine, where there is a large Russian-speaking population, though the officials said they had not yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he has consulted with other world leaders, and “every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion.” Obama spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Kerry planned to travel to Kiev Tuesday for meetings with the Ukrainian government. Officials said the Obama administration would also focus this week on putting together a package of economic assistance for Ukraine.

In Brussels, NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia’s actions have violated the UN Charter. He said the alliance was re-evaluating its relationship with Russia.

“There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this,” Kerry said.

Beyond economic sanctions and visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight of world industrial powers as payback for the military incursion.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told a Washington audience on Sunday that the United States is ready to work with other countries and the International Monetary Fund to provide support to bolster Ukraine’s economy. He said he had been assured in discussions with Ukrainian officials that the new government is prepared to pursue the reforms needed to overhaul the country’s ailing economy.

Lew said the administration was ready to supplement emergency IMF loans to cushion the impact economic reforms would have on vulnerable Ukrainians.

“The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms,” Lew said during a speech Sunday night to the annual policy conference of AIPAC, America’s largest pro-Israel lobbying group.

Several US senators also called for bolstered missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia is “going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term,” said Kerry. “The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight.”

Still, it was clear that few in the West were prepared to respond immediately to Putin with military force.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday midday appearance in St. Peter’s Square to urge world leaders to promote dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, discussing the potential of US military strikes against Russian troops in Crimea, said, “I don’t think anyone is advocating for that.” One of the administration officials indicated that the US was not weighing military action to counter Russia’s advances, saying the Obama administration’s efforts were focused on political, economic and diplomatic options.

Rubio said it would be difficult to rein in Moscow. He said Putin has “made a cost-benefit analysis. He has weighed the costs of doing what he’s done, and … clearly he has concluded that the benefits far outweigh the costs. We need to endeavor to change that calculus.”

As a starter, Rubio and fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the Obama administration should return to plans it abandoned in 2009 to place long-range missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia believed the program was aimed at countering its own missiles and undermining its nuclear deterrent. The White House denied that and has worked instead to place medium-range interceptors in Poland and Romania — aimed at stopping missiles from Iran and North Korea.

Experts said potential US budget cuts to Army units based in Germany also could be slowed, or scrapped completely, to prevent a catastrophic erosion of stability and democracy from creeping across Europe.

The Pentagon is considering new reductions to Army units in Germany that already have been slashed under Obama. Currently, there are two Army brigades — up to 10,000 soldiers — based in Germany, where armored and infantry units have dug in since World War II. At the end of the Cold War, more than 200,000 American forces were stationed across Europe.

Damon Wilson, an Eastern European scholar, former diplomat and executive vice president of the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, said the US must be ready to pour its efforts into Ukraine, even at the cost of policies and priorities elsewhere.

“We should be no longer deluded by the fact that Europe is a safe spot of stability and security, and not a security risk for the US,” Wilson said Sunday. He said that if Putin goes unchecked, it could result in war — the second one on NATO’s borders.

The 3-year-old civil war in Syria is already a crisis for neighboring Turkey, a NATO member state. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders four nations that are — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

“This is the biggest challenge to Obama’s presidency,” Wilson said. “This is a pretty tectonic shift in our perception of European security.”

Wilson said the White House may have to abandon the policy shift to Asia — its attempt to boost America’s military, diplomatic and economic presence there — to refocus on Russia’s threat.

He played down concerns that the new schism between Washington and Moscow will have an effect on efforts to end the war in Syria and limit Iran’s nuclear program.

In Syria, Wilson said, Russia relied on a “bankrupt plan” in its failure to convince President Bashar Assad to embrace peace. “There’s nothing happening there that’s credible in a positive way,’ he said.

With Iran, the bulk of negotiations already have been between the US and Iran, said Wilson, who described Russia as mostly playing in the background.

Even so, officials said the US and the West would not be able to roll over Russia on any number of global diplomatic or economic fronts.

Russia has made clear it is ready to provide weapons and military equipment to governments across the Mideast that have irked Washington. Russia’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council gives it veto power over major world deliberations.

“The challenge is, we do need to have some kind of working relationship with Russia,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said Sunday. “And while we can impose these costs and take these steps, we’ve got to be mindful of the fact that they can impose their own costs on us.”

Kerry appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Rubio was on NBC, while Graham and Schiff were interviewed on CNN.

Posted in USA, Russia, UkraineComments Off on US prepares ‘tough response’ for Russia over Ukraine

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