Archive | March 12th, 2014

‘I’ll hang you by the balls and have you f***ed’ – Ukrainian presidential hopeful abducts pro-Russian MP

Screenshot from YouTubeScreenshot from YouTube

A Ukrainian presidential hopeful and his supporters have abducted a regional MP over his opposition to the coup-imposed government in Kiev. A video of the action shows the MP being roughed up by a group of men and threatened.

Oleg Lyashko reported secretly going to the Lugansk region on Sunday night and detaining Arsen Klinchev, a member of the local parliament from the Party of Regions.

“The scum Klinchev will answer for his crimes. We detained him and handed him over to law enforcement. I am sincerely grateful to everyone, who helped with this deed. The video is coming shortly. The fight goes on,” Lyashko wrote on his Facebook page.

The promised footage followed soon. In it Lyashko is seen entering the office, as Klinchev later clarified, of local General Vladimir Guslavsky with a group of half a dozen men, whose faces are covered with a black circle. They floor the MP and handcuff his arms behind his back.

Then Lyashko is seen calling Klinchev “scum” several times, while forcing him to make a statement on camera, ordering his supporters to vacate the regional administration building.

The building was captured on Sunday by a group of protesters, who opposed Mikhail Bolotskih, the new Kiev-appointed governor. The protesters forced Bolotskih to sign his resignation, but hours later he stated that the resignation was invalid because it was signed “under threats.” The protesters also raised the Russian flag in front of the administration.

Lyashko forced Klinchev to call on the protesters to take down the Russian flag and free the administration building, while the MP was denying any authority over the people.

“You’re scum, that’s what I say. Now tell your people to go out of the Lugansk administration. And make a good face now, nobody will give you money, retard,” Lyashko told the MP.

Klinchev, still handcuffed, is then dragged into a bus, where one of the men who abducted him lectures him on his pro-Russian stance. He promises to hang him “by the balls” and “call an army to f**k you”.

After driving for nearly 30 minutes, a phone rang and a voice, (Klinchev assumed it was Lyashko’s), ordered their return. Back in General Guslavsky’s office, Lyashko continued his intimidation, after which he and his group left.

Shortly after being released, Klinchev shed light on the conflict and gave his version of what happened.

Speaking to the media, Klinchev said that he met with General Guslavsky, as they agreed, after midnight.

“At 11pm, all people know, General of Lugansk [regional] Department of Internal Affairs was there. He was talking to the people and was persuading them to leave this [administration] building and was in general listening to what people wanted. After that he addressed me and said: Arsen, after you talk to people, come to my office and we will discuss everything,” Klinchev said.

Klinchev then goes on to say that at around 12am he called General Guslavsky, who asked to come up to his office to talk.

“Once I entered his office and took a seat, Lyashko along with another, about eight people, run into the room. In fact, many of them I personally know. There were also journalists, particularly, from the Ukraine TV channel. Those people were standing aside, while a group of four people started twisting [my arms]. They handcuffed me,” Klinchev said.

He says they called him and his supporters “scum” and “scumbags”, who do not understand things. Lyashko and his people said Russian flags were “treason” and that is why “all of us should be butchered.”


Oleg Lyashko (center) (image from Lyashko's Facebook page)Oleg Lyashko (center) (image from Lyashko’s Facebook page)


After that Klinchev was taken from the building through a back door and put on the ground.

“Actually, all of them [eight people] were not wearing masks. Honestly, I already said good bye to my life, because those people who I saw just would not leave me alive afterwards. While we were driving they were telling me what awaits me, that I am a scum and a scoundrel and etc,” Klinchev continued.

“After we came back and went up to Guslavsky’s office, the sitting governor [Bolotskih] was already there. After that Lyashko and his team left. Actually, I am now being told that Lyashko now says that he is boss here in the Lugansk region and starting this moment, everyone who does not agree with him will be ‘driven in a trunk’,” Klinchev said, adding that according to the governor, he was supposed to be sent to Kiev on a charter flight.

It’s not unusual for the new Ukraine authorities to resort to insults and threats in dealing with those defying them. Just days ago, Boris Filatov, the deputy head of the Dnepropetrovsk region, who was appointed by Kiev as well, posted a political program on Facebook, which involves “giving the scum any promises, guarantees and concessions” and “hanging them later.”

Lyashko, who is the presidential candidate for his own Radical Party, has a shady past not normally expected from a person with ambitions to head a nation. In 1994, he was convicted of large-scale embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to six years, but was amnestied a year later.

His criminal record was expunged in 1998, so now, in this regard, Lyashko is on par with the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who has two expunged convictions dating back to the Soviet era.

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South Sudan ponders the road ahead after ethnic killings

A South Sudanese woman gathers wood for her home at a camp for displaced Dinkas between Bor and Minkammen. (JM Lopez / AFP/Getty Images)

Prosecuting the leaders responsible would destabilize the fledgling country.

Reporting from Juba, South Sudan

Concealed in the Nile River reeds, mothers and their children crouched underwater, holding their breath as long as possible, as South Sudanese militias on the bank argued whether to hunt down and kill dozens of people hiding there.

One elderly man was spotted by a fighter onshore and ordered out, said Mabior Nyuon Bior, a doctor who was among the terrified civilians.

As the man hobbled out of the Nile, the militiaman shot him.

“Why did you do that?” Bior heard another fighter say.

“Because I can,” came the response.

Two hours later, after the fighters had left, it was finally safe for Bior and other survivors to come out of the water. But by that time, he said, eight children had drowned in their mothers’ arms.

When the fighters with the Lou Nuer tribe attacked his city of Bor in December, “friends were killing friends, just because it was another tribe,” said Bior, a member of the Dinka tribe.

At first, he stayed at his post in Bor’s hospital, operating on a badly wounded soldier and a woman facing complications in childbirth. But he had to flee into the bush when Lou Nuer fighters came, firing at him with machine guns as he ran. Some of the patients ran too, but he had to leave the woman and the soldier.

“I was fearing to die. The noise they made with their guns, boom-boom.”

In the next five days, he repeatedly fled from Lou Nuer militias hunting down Dinkas in the bush. He saw four people shot down beside him as he ran. He said he saw the bodies of 10 civilians on a riverbank.

When the town was retaken by government forces, he walked back into Bor, where he found the hospital mortuary crammed with the dead. The patients he had risked his life to save had died, including the woman and her baby, left without milk.

“I was feeling bad,” Bior said. “If not for this fighting, this woman would still be alive.

In the days after ethnic killings exploded in South Sudan in December, an estimated 10,000 people died in the fighting.

The atrocities were triggered by a political struggle in the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement between President Salva Kiir and his rival and former deputy, Riek Machar, with both sides responsible for massacres, according to diplomats, witnesses and human rights organizations.

A United Nations peacekeeping base in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, is home to thousands displaced by ethnic fighting. (Nichole Sobecki / AFP/Getty Images)

Now the fledgling country must grapple with how to move beyond the violence. Some fear that prosecuting those responsible, especially political leaders, will destabilize this volatile, fragile country, which won independence less than three years ago, and make it impossible to reach a peace deal. But human rights groups argue that South Sudan can’t afford to bury the truth and grant amnesty to the killers without risking future ethnic violence.

Past peace deals in South Sudan have proved superficial and fragile, including one signed in May 2012 in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. In some of those deals, ethnic militias were absorbed into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling party, in effect papering over ethnic fissures.

Moreover, fighting continues despite a cease-fire agreement in January, and an estimated 850,000 people have fled their homes.

Those hiding in the river with Bior were Dinkas. In the capital, Juba, it was the Lou Nuers who fell under attack in December by members of South Sudan’s security forces.

In Juba, a small city has sprung up at the United Nations peacekeeping base, with narrow alleys, makeshift shops, phone-charging businesses and women cooking over charcoal fires. It looks like any camp for displaced persons except for the neatly packed suitcases sitting outside some of the makeshift tents, and the suit carriers hanging inside, some belonging to members of parliament who fled to the camp.

William Mabany, a policeman who is a Lou Nuer, said he ran to the camp to avoid being killed by fellow officers in December. He shows a cellphone photograph of a mass grave full of twisted corpses of people who he says belonged to his tribe.

In one incident, government forces deliberately fired shots into a room full of Lou Nuer men being detained in a police building, killing more than 200 of them, according to a survivor, Mayang Yian.

Victims were identified by initiation scars on their faces or were questioned in the Dinka language and detained or killed if they couldn’t answer, survivors say.

Bol Ngot, a university student in Juba, was hiding in a house with seven other Lou Nuer men when government soldiers ordered them into the street. He said he was beaten with a rifle butt and two of the others were killed, including his cousin.

“I saw soldiers shooting people, and when I saw it I ran away,” he said. “My head was covered in blood. I thought they were going to kill me.”

People want the truth about the killings, but not everyone wants reconciliation.

“No, no, no,” said Vito Mario, 35, an oil technician from the Shilluk tribe. He fled last month to a camp for the displaced in Malakal after Lou Nuer fighters killed the family next door.

“They destroyed our lives. We don’t want these people to live with us in Upper Nile state…. To live together — ,” Mario trailed off, shaking his head doubtfully.

It’s incredible how fast it spun out of control.”— Toby Lanzer

“They were saying they don’t want us in this area. This is their land,” said Okeng Robert, who lives in the same camp, describing a January attack by Lou Nuer militias.

Horrendous violence has touched so many families that it is difficult to know how the country can begin to heal the wounds.

In his January visit to a church in Bor where at least 14 Dinkas had been killed, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for reconciliation and warned against impunity. Accompanying him was the archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, who had been appointed by Kiir in May to head a national committee on reconciliation. Deng earlier led a peace process in Jonglei state, where increasingly violent tit-for-tat massacres along tribal lines, usually over cattle theft, have been going on for years.

A diplomat in Juba, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak, said that after the recent fighting, Deng, a Dinka, may not be acceptable to all South Sudanese to lead the reconciliation process.

Critics say that although the U.N., donors and international humanitarian agencies provide about a billion dollars a year for aid, they overlook the ethnic rifts, poor governance and bitter infighting in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

South Sudanese refugees arrive at a border checkpoint in Joda, Sudan. (Ashraf Shazly / AFP/Getty Images)

“On so many fronts, things were ticking along in a positive way at the end of last year,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer said. “It’s incredible how fast it spun out of control.

“I have asked myself, should we have been more focused on reconciliation?”

Bior, the doctor, said his country needs doctors. Before the recent fighting, he said, people would often call out to him in the street: “Thank you for what you do.” So despite everything, he will return to Bor’s hospital, because people need him.

When he remembers the patients who died and the morgue piled with bodies, “I blame politicians, all of them.”

He’s afraid that another superficial peace deal may leave the country vulnerable to violence. In Jonglei, where ethnic tension has long festered and different tribes will have to learn to live side by side, he worries that violence could explode again.

“The government should work hard on reconciliation. They have to go to the villages and talk to the people. If you want your people to have reconciliation, go there to the remote cattle camps and tell them this is how we should live.”

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Russian takeover of Crimea ‘is not a done deal,’ U.S. official says


By Jim Puzzanghera


WASHINGTON — The United States would not recognize a referendum by Crimea to leave Ukraine, and a shift of that region to Russia “is not a done deal,” a top Obama administration official said Sunday.

“If there is a referendum and it votes to move Crimea out of Ukraine and to Russia, we won’t recognize it and most of the world won’t either,” deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Were that to happen, the isolation of Russia, the cost that it would pay, would increase significantly from where they are now,” he said.

Russia has shown no signs of backing down over the Crimea crisis in the face of economic sanctions from the U.S. and its European allies.

The sanctions came after Russian troops seized control of the Crimean peninsula, which has a Russian-speaking majority. Moscow claims that the takeover of key facilities there in late February was the work of local pro-Russian militias.

A referendum organized by pro-Russian members of Crimea’s regional assembly is scheduled for March 16.

Blinken, who was traveling with President Obama this weekend in Florida, said sanctions have taken an economic toll on Russia and that the dispute still could be resolved.

“We’ve seen Russian markets go down substantially, the ruble go down, and investors sitting on the fence. So Russia’s paying a price for this,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s not a done deal,” he said of Crimea seceding from Ukraine to join Russia. “I think the door is clearly open to resolving this diplomatically.”

The White House announced Sunday that Obama would meet with new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Washington on Wednesday to “discuss how to find a peaceful resolution to Russia’s ongoing military intervention in Crimea that would respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

But former Obama administration Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he did not foresee Russian President Vladimir Putin backing down.

“I do not believe … that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hands,” Gates said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Top Republicans reiterated their view that Obama has been weak on foreign policy and that emboldened Putin to move to seize Crimea after Ukraine’s government collapsed in the face of massive protests last month.

“A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness, that Putin fears no retribution,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Cruz cited the lack of retaliation by the administration for the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria in its civil war.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” echoed those comments.

“I think there’s no question but he believes he is weak,” Cheney said of Putin’s view of Obama.

Obama should be doing more to flex U.S. military muscle, Cheney said.

The former vice president under President George W. Bush suggested conducting joint military operations with NATO countries that border Russia, offering equipment and training to Ukraine and reinstating the ballistic missile defense system that was planned for Eastern Europe but scrapped by Obama in 2009.

Russia had opposed the deployment of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic. It was designed to shield European allies from Iranian missiles.

Blinken pushed back against Republican assertions that the administration’s foreign policy encouraged Putin’s actions in Crimea.

“The notion that this is somehow a result of Syria makes very little sense to me. This is about Ukraine,” he said on CNN.

He noted that Russia sent troops into the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008, when Bush was president.

Gates, who also served in the Bush administration, cited Georgia as well in coming to Obama’s defense.

“Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force,” Gates said on Fox. “I think that even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren’t cutting our defense budget, I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea and he has seized it.”

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Obama courts support from wary China on opposition to Russia’s incursion in Ukraine

Obama courts support from wary China on opposition to Russia's incursion in Ukraine

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk across the South Lawn of the White House from Marine One, Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Washington, as they arrive from Florida. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is stepping up its attempts to court China’s support for isolating Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine.

With official comments from China appearing studiously neutral since the Ukraine crisis began, President Barack Obama spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping late Sunday in a bid to get Beijing off the fence.

The call was their first known conversation since Russian forces took control of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow Crimea region. It came amid signals that Russian President Vladimir Putin was hardening his position on Crimea, which is due to vote on joining Russia this weekend in a referendum the U.S. and its allies have vowed not to recognize.

In making his case, Obama appealed to China’s well-known and vehement opposition to outside intervention in other nations’ domestic affairs, according to a White House statement.

However, it remained unclear whether China would side with the U.S. and Europe or with Moscow, which has accused the West of sparking the crisis in Ukraine with inappropriate “meddling” in the internal affairs of the former Soviet republic. China is a frequent ally of Russia in the U.N. Security Council, where both wield veto power.

In his conversation with Xi, Obama “noted his overriding objective of restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ensuring the Ukrainian people are able to determine their own future without foreign interference,” the White House said.

It said the two leaders “agreed on the importance of upholding principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, both in the context of Ukraine and also for the broader functioning of the international system.” They also affirmed their interest in finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

Obama’s call to Xi follows a conversation last week between his national security adviser, Susan Rice, and Chinese state counsellor Yang Jiechi.

Seeking as broad a coalition as possible, Obama also spoke by phone Monday with the leaders of Spain and Kazakhstan, echoing familiar themes about respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The White House said Obama and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised Ukraine’s new government for showing restraint, while Obama encouraged President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan — one of the largest ex-Soviet republics — to play an active role in finding a peaceful outcome.

In wooing China’s support, the U.S. is seeking to capitalize on Beijing’s policy of non-intervention, which Beijing has used as a rationale for limiting its involvement in North Korea and elsewhere around the world.

U.S. officials believe China may be viewing the situation in Crimea through the prism of its own ethnic minorities in border regions. The officials say they were buoyed by comments last week from China’s ambassador to the United Nations, who emphasized Beijing’s support for non-interference while not directly taking a side in the dispute.

That and other previous statements from Chinese officials have stressed Beijing’s determination to hold to its longstanding policy of opposing threats to any country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But, perhaps tellingly, they have also referred obliquely to “reasons” that the Ukraine situation has evolved as it has, suggesting sympathy with Russia’s complaints of Western meddling.

Ken Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said China appears to be “sitting on the fencepost” when it comes to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

“What we’re seeing in China’s statements very much reflects the major — and in this instance, conflicting — interests the Chinese leadership has,” said Lieberthal, a former Asia adviser under President Bill Clinton.

Even if China were to publicly oppose Russia’s military manoeuvrs in Crimea, it would likely be a symbolic gesture, and there’s no expectation China would levy economic penalties against Russia or take other punitive action.

U.S. officials say China may be acting more out of self-interest than anything else as it watches Crimea and its majority ethnic Russian population prepare to vote on breaking away from Ukraine. China is grappling with its own ethnic minority groups in border regions that may feel stronger ties to neighbouring countries.

White House spokesman Jay Carney wouldn’t say whether Obama asked Xi for any specific actions, including support at the U.N., regarding the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

“China obviously plays a very important role in the Security Council and does have an important relationship with Russia,” he said.

Obama’s call to Xi was part of a broader effort by the president to rally world leaders around the notion that Russia’s incursion into Crimea violates international law. The Kremlin has so far shown little sign of backing down, and a referendum on whether to join Russia is scheduled in Crimea on Sunday.

Ahead of that vote, Obama will host Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday. The U.S. has promised Ukraine’s new government $1 billion in loan guarantees, which would supplement a $15 billion aid pledge from the European Union.

European leaders have joined Obama in condemning Russia’s push into Crimea, where 60 per cent of the population is ethnic Russian.

Russia moved into Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital of Kyiv. Yanukovych had faced three months of political protests after he scrapped plans to strengthen ties with Europe, a move Russia opposed.

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Crimean leaders blame Kiev for selling Ukraine off for IMF loans

Crimean leaders blame Kiev for selling Ukraine off for IMF loans

@ Collage: Voice of Russia

Crimea’s deputy prime minister, Olga Kovitidi, described as predatory the terms of an agreement Kiev is ready to accept from the International Monetary Fund.

The tentative agreement with the IMF which the Ukrainian authorities signed with the IMF on March 2, says that the country’s entire gas pipeline system will be handed over for free in the American company Chevron’s ownership the moment the basic agreement is signed, while the owners of the Mariupol, Zaporizhzhya and Dnipropetrovsk steel mills will be obliged to surrender their 50% stakes to Germany’s Ruhr.

The Donbass coal industry will be handed over to Ruhr’s subsidiary in Finland, she told Interfax on Sunday, citing media reports.

It emerged recently that Kyiv has pledged to make territory available near Kharkiv to host US missile defense systems and a wing of American fighter jets to provide cover for the missile defense installations, she also said.

Ukraine’s interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has assured the West that Kiev will fulfill all of the IMF’s terms in order to secure a loan, Kovitidi said.

The Crimean leaders have also learned that Kyiv promised the West to take a package of unpopular measures in order to fill gaps in the Ukrainian budget, she said. Gas prices for municipal companies will have to be increased by 50% and for private will double.

Electricity tariffs will be raised by 40%, housing utility tariffs will be raised, too, gasoline excises will go up 60% and transportation tariffs 50%, while state support for childbirth will be cancelled, the free distribution of textbooks will be annulled at schools and the VAT relief will be scrapped in rural regions, she said.

Concurrently, VAT will be introduced on medications, which will push up prices and bring citizens’ living standards down,” Kovitidi said.

“The planned annulment of the moratorium on the sale of farmland looks appalling. The selloff of Ukraine’s black soil zone, including to foreign countries, may have disastrous economic and social consequences,” she said.

Kovitidi said that the Crimean legislature’s decision to hold a referendum on March 16 was correct.

“The recent developments in Ukraine and the decisions being made have a direct bearing on the people of Crimea, who must know the truth and decide their own and their children’s future in a referendum,” she said.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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Europe faces ‘shooting conflict’ if Russia enters east Ukraine, says Hague

British foreign secretary accuses Putin of major miscalculation but says pressure will not remove Russia from Crimea.
William Hague

William Hague warned of another ‘frozen conflict’ in Europe over Ukraine. Photograph: Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images

Europe would face the “great danger of a real shooting conflict” if Russian forces moved beyond Crimea to enter the main part of eastern UkraineWilliam Hague has said as he accused Vladimir Putin of a major miscalculation.

As the foreign secretary warned of another “frozen conflict” in Europe, the energy secretary, Ed Davey, said gas prices could increase if the Ukraine crisis escalated into a military conflict.

But the foreign secretary, who said Putin had implemented carefully prepared plans to assume control of Crimea, acknowledged none of the options on the table – diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions – would be able to remove Russian forces from the Black Sea peninsula.

Asked by the BBC’s Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, what would happen if Russian troops went beyond the Black Sea peninsula to enter “mainland” eastern Ukraine, Hague said: “There would be far reaching trade, economic and financial consequences. It would bring the great danger of a real shooting conflict. There is no doubt about that.”

Asked whether Britain and the EU would advise the Ukrainians not to take up arms against the Russians, Hague said: “We have commended all of their restraint so far. It is not really possible to go through different scenarios with the Ukrainians and say: in these circumstances you shoot and in these you don’t. We have commended their restraint. They have not risen to any provocation from Russia.

The warning from Hague came shortly after Davey told Britain’s energy companies not to seek to make profits from the Ukraine crisis, though he acknowledged gas prices would increase if the crisis escalated.

Hundreds of Ukrainian women, and some men, hold a demonstration in support for peace and for keeping Ukraine unified in Bakhchisaray in Crimea.

Ukrainians hold a demonstration in support of a unified Ukraine in the Crimean city of Bakhchisaray. Photograph: Spencer Platt/GettyThe energy secretary told the Andrew Marr Show: “We use Norwegian gas and we have a lot of gas imported on ships – liquefied natural gas. So our security of supply on gas – people shouldn’t be worried about that.

“The companies who supply gas and electricity tend to buy their gas forwardly. They buy it 18 months in advance so they shouldn’t be using it as an excuse to put up people’s prices. They hedged quite rightly. But we have seen that when this crisis broke there was a spike in oil and gas prices. They have now come down.

“But if there was an escalation, if we saw military conflict, if that conflict went on for months and months and months, there could be an impact on prices.”

Hague said he believed Putin would eventually be seen to have made a “big miscalculation” as the EU pivots away from Russia, particularly in the energy sphere. But he admitted that none of the proposed EU measures against Russia, to be introduced on a graduated basis if Moscow refuses to change tack, would remove Russian forces from Crimea.

The foreign secretary said: “None of these things force a Russian withdrawal from Crimea. That is well understood. But they will raise the cost to Russia over time.”

But the foreign secretary, who rejected next Sunday’s planned referendum in Crimea, said there was no “tacit acceptance” of the Russian occupation of Crimea. Some of the sanctions identified in the first phase of the EU’s action will be triggered if Moscow refuses to discuss the long-term future of Crimea with Ukraine.

“This is the creation of another frozen conflict in Europe like Abkhazia, that is part of Georgia, like Transnistria, that is part of Moldova. There absolutely isn’t a tacit acceptance.”

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “The priority in Ukraine must be a de-escalation and a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“So I welcome that the foreign secretary made this clear to the BBC this morning when he confirmed that all economic and diplomatic options should remain on the table in seeking to achieve that.

“It is also vital that the UK, along with EU allies, sets out a clear timetable for taking further economic and financial measures if Russia fails to change course in the days ahead.

“The UK should also work with the group of the worlds seven largest economies to agree to suspend Russia from the G8 if it refuses to agree a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.”

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‘Blackwater’ footage: Who are the mercenaries in Ukraine?

Screenshot from YouTube user WorldEarthNewsScreenshot from YouTube user WorldEarthNews

Videos have sprung on YouTube alleging that the US private security service formerly known as Blackwater is operating in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Western press is hitting back, accusing Russia of fabricating reports to justify “aggression.”

The authenticity of videos allegedly made in downtown Donetsk on March 5 is hard to verify. In the footage, unidentified armed men in military outfits equipped with Russian AK assault rifles and American М4А1 carbines are securing the protection of some pro-Kiev activists amidst anti-government popular protests.

The regional administration building in Donetsk has changed hands many times, with either pro-Russian protesters or pro-Kiev forces declaring capture of the authority headquarters. In the logic of the tape, at some point the new officials appointed by revolutionary Kiev managed to occupy the administration, but then – as the building was surrounded by angry protesters – demanded to secure a safe evacuation.

This is where the armed professionals come in. The protesters, after several moments of shock, start shouting, “Blackwater!,” and “Mercenaries!,” as well as “Faggots!,” and “Who are you going to shoot at?!” But the armed men drive off in the blink of an eye without saying a word.

Surely these men were not Blackwater – simply because such a company does not exist anymore. It has changed its name twice in recent years and is now called Academi.

The latest article on the case, published by the Daily Mail, claims that though these people did look like professional mercenaries, they conducted the operation too openly.

On the face of it, the uniforms of the people in the videos are consistent with US mercs – they don’t look like Russian soldiers mercs. On the other hand, why run around in public making a show of it?” said DM Dr Nafeez Ahmed, a security expert with the Institute for Policy Research & Development.

I think the question is whether the evidence available warrants at least reasonable speculation.”

Ahmed also added that “Of course the other possibility is it’s all Russian propaganda.”

Why would Russia need to make such provocation? The Daily Mail explained that “any suggestion that a US mercenary outfit like Blackwater, known now as Academi, had begun operating in east Ukraine could give Russian President Vladimir Putin the pretext for a military invasion.

Other western media outlets are maintaining that a “Russian invasion” has already began, because the heavily armed military personnel now controlling all major infrastructure in Crimea are “obviously” Russians.


Armed men march outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 9, 2014.(Reuters / Thomas Peter )Armed men march outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 9, 2014.(Reuters / Thomas Peter )


The Daily Beast media outlet went even further. On the last day of February, it published an article alleging that “polite Russians” in Crimea are actually…employees of Russian security service providers.

While there are indeed several military-oriented security service providers in Russia, it however appears highly unlikely that all of them combined could provide personnel for such a wide-scale operation.

At the beginning of the week, Russian state TV reported that several hundred armed men with military-looking bags arrived to the international airport of Kiev.

It was reported that the tough guys are employees of Greystone Limited, a subsidiary of Vehicle Services Company LLC belonging to Blackwater/XE/Academi.

Greystone Limited mercenaries are part of what is called ‘America’s Secret Army,’ providing non-state military support not constrained by any interstate agreements, The Voice of Russia reported.

But they are not the only ones. A Russian national that took part in clashes in Kiev was arrested in Russia’s Bryansk region this week. He made a statement on record that he met a large number of foreigners taking active part in the fighting with police.

He claimed he saw dozens of military-clad people from Germany, Poland, and Turkey, as well as English speakers who were possibly from the US, Russkaya Gazeta reported earlier this week.

Ivan Fursov, RT

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Ukraine’s Crimea seeks to become independent state


 Holing up the Crimea flag


The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum.

Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum.

Western nations have said they will not recognize the vote as legitimate. But the move might be used as an attempt to ease tensions with Crimea existing as a self-proclaimed state without Russia moving quickly to incorporate it into its territory.

After a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, some leaders in Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia also asked to join Russia, but their request was never granted.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting president on Tuesday called for the formation of a national guard and for the mobilization of reserves and volunteers into the country’s armed forces.

Oleksandr Turchynov asked the national parliament to approve turning the country’s Interior Ministry troops into a National Guard “to defend the country and citizens against any criminals, against external and internal aggression.”

Turchynov said that the mobilization will include those who have previously served in the army and volunteers.

Russian forces have strengthened their control over Ukraine’s Crimea region in the run-up to a referendum set for Sunday on whether to split off and become part of Russia.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who will fly to Washington to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, called on Western nations to defend Ukraine against a nation “that is armed to the teeth and that has nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, accused the country’s new government of fomenting civil war.

Yatsenyuk asked Russia, the U.S. and European Union member Britain to abide by a treaty signed in 1994, in which they pledged to guarantee Ukraine’s security in exchange for giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

“We are not asking for anything from anyone,” Yatsenyuk told parliament. “We are asking for just one thing: military aggression has been used against our country.

Those who guaranteed that this aggression will not take place, must from the one side pull out troops and from the other side must defend our independent, sovereign state.”

Parliament was to vote later Wednesday on the motion on mobilization and the appeal to the West.

Yanukovych, speaking in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, repeated the Russian claim that the new Ukrainian authorities are kowtowing to radical nationalists, and that they posed a threat to Russian-speaking eastern regions.

Yanukovych, who fled last month after months of protests, said he would soon return to Ukraine.

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Fair Russia call on Socialist International to counter Ukrainian extreme right

RIA Novosti / Evgeny Biyatov

The Russian center-left has sent foreign allies a memorandum blaming the Ukrainian opposition for an anti-constitutional coup, and warning the European stance towards the Ukrainian extreme right can only aggravate the situation.

The document was prepared by Fair Russia- the socialist parliamentary party which is a member of the Socialist International – the association of 156 leftist parties that endeavour to establish democratic socialism in 126 countries in the world.

Fair Russia said that the decision to prepare was because of the need to counter the blatant anti-Russian approach in Western media coverage of the Ukrainian events.

According to Russian socialists, Viktor Yanukovich really had demonstrated his inability to cope with the turmoil and had de-facto ceased to be president, but at the same time, de-jure he remains the lawfully elected leader of the state because his ousting took place outside the constitutional impeachment procedure.

This circumstance makes the Kiev events an anti-constitutional coup and Fair Russia blames the Ukrainian opposition, in particular Vitaly Klitchko,Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleg Tyagnibok, for breaching the agreement they signed with the authorities on February 21. Foreign ministers of Germany and Poland as well as the head of the European Department of the French Foreign Ministry must also share the blame as they acted as guarantors of this deal, but applied no pressure to the opposition for withdrawing from it, the memorandum reads.

It was the inaction of the European officials that instigated the activities of the Right Sector radical group manned by nationalists and neo-fascists whose primary motto is Ukraine for Ukrainians, the Russian message reads. According to Fair Russia, the Right Sector controls about 15,000 well armed extremists who used threats and violence to force the authorities in several regions into cooperating with the “Maidan” movement. The Russian party told its foreign allies that the leaders of Ukrainian rightist have called on the eviction of Russians and Jews from the country or even physical extermination of these groups.

The nationalist Liberty party headed by Tyagnibok has already pushed through the parliament the cancellation of the law ordering punishment for fascist and Nazi propaganda as well as the law that allowed Ukrainian regions to introduce additional national languages spoken by large minorities of the population.

Russian leftists claim the real power in Ukraine belongs to the militants representing the Rights Sector and the legitimate opposition leaders who hold talks with foreign governments have little political weight.The attacks on regional authorities in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country directly threatened the rights and security of the population, and all this left Russian leaders no other choice but to state their readiness to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the neighboring country.

Fair Russia holds that it was only because of the Upper House’s decision to allow President Vladimir Putin to use military force in Ukraine that negated the threat of ultranationalists seizing power in the eastern and south-eastern regions.

The Russian party called upon all of its partners from the Socialist International to deliver aid to the Ukrainian people and also expect them to publicly denounce the nationalist ideology of the Ukrainian opposition as well as the actions of the rightist extremists. According to Fair Russia only the free, honest and universal elections can now restore the legitimate state structures in Ukraine.

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Syrian American Council allies with Congressional Zionist


It is no secret that the Syrian Solidarity Movement opposes the efforts of the Syrian American Council (SAC) and allied groups to promote military intervention by the U.S. and other foreign powers in the internal affairs of Syria.

When we coordinated the Nov-December tour of North America by Mother Agnes, Syrian American Council was active in hounding host organizations and venues including churches, peace centers and mosques. They tried but failed to stop this tour which promoted local ceasefires and  nonviolent reconciliation among all Syrians, both opposition and government.

Now we observe that SAC has further aligned itself with the opponents of peace, reconciliation and justice in the Middle East. They have in effect made common cause with Israel by inviting and featuring the pro-Zionist U.S. Member of Congress Eliot Engel at their March 15 conference in Washington, DC.

Engel has said, “I remain committed to the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. Not only are the U.S. and Israel close strategic allies in the dangerous Middle East, but we have a great deal in common. We are democracies and nations of immigrants from all corners of the globe. We are proud to embrace the highest ideals in our laws and policies… I firmly believe that we must stand with our ally, Israel, as it faces a variety of threats and challenges….”

The Syrian American Council is again revealing the true nature of its advocacy:  promoting aggression, war and occupation in league with the US/Nato, Gulf monarchies and Israel.

-The Syria Solidarity Steering Committee

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