Monthly Archives: February 2014

Obama Warns Russia Against Crimea Invasion

US President Barack Obama has warned Moscow that any military intervention in Ukraine would be “deeply destabilising”, as Kiev claims Russian troops have invaded.

He said: “The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.”

US officials say Mr Obama may abandon plans to attend the G8 summit in June, and could also halt discussions on deepening trade ties with Moscow.

Men claiming to be members of a local militia at a checkpoint

Masked men who call themselves members of a local militia rest at their checkpoint on a highway that connects the Black Sea Crimea peninsula to mainland Ukraine. Men claiming to be members of a local militia at a checkpoint

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to host the economic meeting in Sochi, the site of the recent Winter Olympics.

The administration official said the US was in discussions about the summit with European partners, adding that it was difficult to see how leaders would attend if Russia had forces in Crimea.

Mr Obama’s warnings come after Ukraine’s Acting President appealed to Russia to stop “naked aggression” in the Crimean peninsula amid claims from Kiev 2,000 Russian troops have invaded.

Armed men outside Simferopol airport

Armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport in Crimea. Armed men outside Simferopol airport

Oleksandr Turchynov said: “I personally appeal to President Putin to immediately stop military provocation and to withdraw from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea … It’s a naked aggression against Ukraine.”

Speaking after a private meeting at the United Nations, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Yuriy Sergeyev, said there was an “external presence” in Crimea “encouraging separatism”.

He added he had told the council about “unspecified and armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine”.

US officials have told Fox News they see “evidence of air and maritime movement into and out of Crimea by Russian forces”.

Russia denies being behind the seizure of the airports

When asked about the claims, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow was complying with agreements with Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague will visit the country on Sunday and hold talks with Ukraine’s new leaders.

Earlier on Friday, armed forces seized two airports in the region, but Moscow denies being behind the takeovers.

Ukrainian security sources claim they have regained control of Simferopol and Sevastopol airports amid earlier reports Russian forces tried to seize them.

Armed men were seen patrolling the perimeter at Simferopol, a civilian airport, and there were also reports Russian forces were blocking Sevastopol’s military airport.

Despite the claims from Kiev, a military source quoted by the Interfax news agency said the armed men at Sevastopol had extended their control by taking over the runway.

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said about 30 Russian marines from the country’s Black Sea Fleet had taken up position outside the coast guard base in Sevastopol.

Moscow has said armoured vehicles were moving around Crimea for “security reasons”.

 

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Movement of Russian armored vehicles in Crimea fully complies with agreements – Foreign Ministry

Russian military vessels are anchored at a navy base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, February 27, 2014

The movements of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s armored vehicles in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea are in full compliance with Russian-Ukrainian agreements, Moscow has said.

Russia has passed a note regarding the maneuvers to a minister-counselor at Ukraine’s embassy in Moscow, Ruslan Nimchinsky, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.

On Thursday, the Russian charge d’affaires in Kiev, Andrey Vorobyev, was summoned to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and handed two diplomatic notes – one on the latest events in Ukraine and one asking Russia’s Black Sea fleet units to abstain from movements outside their deployment sites.

“The Russian Foreign Ministry has passed an reply to the Ukrainian side on the movement of the Black Sea Fleet armored vehicles in Crimea, which is caused by the necessity to provide security for the Black Sea fleet’s naval deployment areas on Ukrainian territory, which happens in full accordance with basic Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet,” a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website reads.

Meanwhile, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s press service dismissed reports that Russian troops were blocking Belbek airport near the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.

“No units of the Black Sea Fleet were deployed in the area of Belbek [airport], nor did they take any part in blocking it,” a statement from the fleet’s press service reads.

The comment followed reports in some media that the airport was being patrolled by a group of unidentified armed people. It was alleged that Russian troops arrived to “prevent the arrival of some militants,” Interfax news agency reported.

On Friday evening, Crimean self-defense squads raided the international airport in the republic’s capital, Simferopol, searching for Ukrainian airborne troops. They found no military personnel inside, but are still patrolling the grounds of the airport. Airport security said the squads are helping to ensure safety at the airport.

Crimea events result of Ukraine’s internal policies – Moscow

Russia says that the latest developments in Crimea come as a result of internal political processes in Ukraine.

“The Russian side considers the events on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea a consequence of recent internal political processes in Ukraine and, in that context, sees no necessity to hold urgent bilateral consultations which were proposed by the Ukrainian side,” the Foreign Ministry said after a meeting with Ruslan Nimchinsky.

On Friday, Russian diplomats met in Moscow with Nimchinsky, and handed him a reply. Earlier, Kiev proposed holding urgent bilateral consultations on the events in Crimea – based on the Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership signed in 1997.

via Movement of Russian armored vehicles in Crimea fully complies with agreements – Foreign Ministry — RT News.

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Yanukovich denies ouster, says ‘ashamed & guilty’ for not preventing chaos

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich takes part in a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don February 28, 2014.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledges to fight for Ukraine. He addressed a press conference in southern Russia, appearing in public for the first time since he fled Kiev amid bloody riots.

Dozens of international reporters have flocked to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after the fugitive Ukrainian president announced he would hold a press conference there.

Before anyone was allowed to ask questions, Yanukovich decided to set the record straight, saying he considers himself the only legitimate president of Ukraine.

“No one has ousted me,” he told reporters. “I had to leave Ukraine because of a direct threat to my life and the lives of my family.

It is the current Ukrainian parliament that is “not legitimate,” the Ukrainian leader said, adding that the people who took power in Kiev are “spreading the propaganda of violence.”

“As you know, the power in Ukraine has been seized by nationalist fascist-like fellows representing the absolute minority of Ukrainians. The only existing way out of the situation is fulfilling all that was stipulated in the [February 21] agreement between the president of Ukraine and the opposition with participation of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, and a representative of the Russian Federation,” Yanukovich said.

He described the situation in Ukraine as “complete lawlessness,” “terror” and “chaos”, saying that the politicians, including MPs, have been threatened and are facing threats of violence. It has nothing to do with the unity government that was negotiated with the opposition, he added.

According to Yanukovich, the early Ukrainian elections announced for May 25 are also completely “illegitimate” and he will not take part in them.

Despite that, the ousted leader said he will “remain in politics,” “keep on fighting for the future of Ukraine” and return to his home country as soon as he receives “international safety guarantees.”

‘Irresponsible politics of the West’

Yanukovich left Ukraine’s capital Kiev amid the worst surge of violence in the country’s post-Soviet history, which left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. The pro-Maidan opposition immediately capitalized on his absence from the city, dominating the parliament, which then voted to strip the president of his powers and announced early elections. It also placed the full blame for the tragic events in central Kiev on Yanukovich, making it a nearly indisputable allegation in local and Western media.

Yanukovich gave his own clear assessment of the events for the first time in weeks, drawing a very different picture. The violence and deaths in Ukraine are the “result of the irresponsible politics of the West, which has encouraged Maidan,” Yanukovich said.

US and other Western countries’ representatives “must take full responsibility” for the fact that the agreement between the president and the opposition leaders was not honored, he said.

There remains, however, a chance for the country to change its course and not to slip into chaos, Yanukovich said.

‘I lacked strength, I am sorry’

When asked if he feels ashamed of any of his own actions, Yanukovich replied that he feels both ashamed and sorry for “not having been able to stabilize the situations and stop the mayhem” in Ukraine.

“I want to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what has happened in Ukraine and that I lacked strength to maintain stability,” he said.

Yanukovich also apologized to the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, for having to “suffer” while doing their duty of maintaining peace and order. Police officers were “burned and poured over by petrol bombs,” were “fired at and killed by rifles” but still stood their ground, he said.

The Ukrainian leader then said he had not given any order for police to fire live rounds until the rioters started using firearms, putting the officers’ lives under threat.

Yanukovich refused to comment on the Ukrainian parliament’s intention to try him in the International Criminal Court, saying that an independent investigation has to be carried out first. However, he stressed that “the scenario of bloodshed… was drafted not in Ukraine.”

‘Crimea part of Ukraine, Russian presence a rumor’

Even as Yanukovich was speaking, the situation in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Autonomous Republic of Crimea was increasingly getting out of the capital’s control. The Crimean parliament was forming a new regional government while local “self-defense squads” started actively patrolling strategic sites to prevent provocations from Ukrainian radical groups.

Yanukovich said he understands the concerns of Crimeans, who want to “protect their homes and families” from “bandits.”

However, he then urged the people of Crimea not to let any bloodshed or civil war happen. Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine while maintaining broad autonomy, Yanukovich said.

The fugitive president ruled out any possibility that he will ask Russia for military help to resolve the situation there. Also, there is no confirmed information about Russia’s alleged military presence in the region, Yanukovich said.

“I do not have any such official information,” he said. “I did not have it back then [in Ukraine], and there isn’t any now. This all has been on the level of some rumors spread by somebody,” he told journalists.

Yanukovich made it to Russia from Crimea thanks to “patriotically-minded officers,” who helped to “save his life.” He has not yet met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but they have already talked over the phone.

When asked why he chose to leave Ukraine for Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said that he has “an old friend there,” who can provide him with a “temporary safe haven.”

‘Russia cannot abandon Ukraine’

Yanukovich received a lot of questions on Russia’s role and possible actions in the Ukrainian crisis.

While saying “it is not correct” to tell Moscow what to do, Yanukovich said he believes “Russia cannot abandon Ukraine to its fate and should use all possible means to prevent chaos and terror in its neighboring country.”

With that, Yanukovich made it clear he was “categorically against any intervention into Ukraine and breach of its territorial integrity.”

“The truth will prevail,” Yanukovich said in an emotional conclusion to his comments to journalists, urging the politicians that have seized power in Kiev to “leave” for the sake of the Ukrainian people.

So far, there has been no indication that the new Ukrainian authorities are considering returning to a dialogue with what they consider an overthrown rival. A Kiev court on Friday issued an order for Yanukovich’s arrest, while the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) earlier voted in favor of trying him at the ICC in The Hague for alleged “crimes against humanity during the recent peaceful protests.”

RT News

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12 Signs That Russia Is Ready To Fight A War Over Crimea

russia army

By Michael Snyder

Russia will never, ever give up Crimea without a fight.  Anyone that thinks otherwise is just being delusional.  The Russian Black Sea fleet’s main base at Sevastopol is far too strategically important.  In addition, ethnic Russians make up approximately 60 percent of the population of Crimea, and most of the population is rabidly pro-Russian.  In fact, many prominent Crimean politicians are already calling for reunification with Russia.  So if you have been thinking that Russia is just going to fold up shop and go home now that pro-European protesters have violently seized power in Kiev, you can quit holding your breath.  The truth is that Russia is more than willing to fight a war over Crimea.  And considering the fact that vitally important pipelines that pump natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe go right through Ukraine, it is not likely that Russia will just willingly hand the rest of Ukraine over to the U.S. and the EU either.  If the U.S. and the EU push too hard in Ukraine, a major regional war may erupt which could ultimately lead to something much larger.

Russia and Ukraine have very deep historical ties.  Most Americans may not think that Ukraine is very important, but the Russians consider Ukraine to be of the utmost strategic importance.

As an American, how would you feel if another nation funded and organized the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Canadian government and replaced it with a government that was virulently anti-American?

By doing this to Ukraine, the United States and the EU are essentially sticking a pin in Russia’s eye.  Needless to say, Russia is extremely angry at this point and they are gearing up for war.

Vladimir Putin, Sergei Shoigu

The following are 12 signs that Russia is ready to fight a war over Crimea…

1 More Russian military vehicles continue to pour into Crimea.  Just check out this video.

2 Russian military vehicles have been photographed in the main square of Sevastopol.

3 Russian military jets near the border with Ukraine have been put on combat alert.

4 Russia has ordered “surprise military exercises” along the Ukrainian border.

5 In connection with those “exercises”, it is being reported that Russia has deployed 150,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.

6 Russia already has approximately 26,000 troops stationed at their naval base in Sevastopol.

7 Russian ships carrying additional soldiers have been spotted off the coast of Crimea…

Russia’s large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov has arrived near the Russia Black Sea Fleet’s base at Sevastopol, which Russia has leased from Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The ship is reported to be carrying as many as 200 soldiers and has joined four additional ships carrying an unknown amount of Special Forces troops. Flot.com also reported over the weekend that personnel from the 45th Airborne Special Forces unit and additional divisions had been airlifted into Anapa, a city on Russia’s Black Sea coastline.

8 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the following statement to reporters on Wednesday…

“Measures are taken to guarantee the security of our facilities.”

9 An unidentified Russian official has told the Financial Times that Russia is willing to use military force to protect Crimea…

Moscow earlier revealed that it would be ready to go for war over the Crimea region in order to protect the large population and army installations.

“If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia,” an unidentified Russian official told the Financial Times.

10 Officials in Sevastopol have “installed” a Russian citizen as mayor of the city.

11 Approximately 120 pro-Russian gunmen have seized the Crimean parliament building and have raised the Russian flag.

12 There are rumors that Russian authorities have offered protection to ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych…

Viktor F. Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine, declared on Thursday that he remained the lawful president of the country and appealed to Russia to “secure my personal safety from the actions of extremists.” Russian news agencies reported that he had already arrived in Russia, but officials did not immediately confirm that.

No matter what the “new government” in Kiev says, and no matter how hard the U.S. and the EU push, Russia will never give up Crimea.  The following is what a recent Debka article had to say about the matter…

There is no way that President Vladimir Putin will relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there – or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. This military stronghold is the key to Russia’s Middle East policy. If it is imperiled, so too are Russia’s military posture in Syria and its strategic understandings with Iran.

And you know what?

The people of Crimea do not want Russia to leave either.  In fact, they overwhelmingly want Russia to help defend them against the “new government” in Kiev.

As you read this, militia groups are being formed in Crimea to fight back against the “nationalist invasion” that they are anticipating.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Time Magazine article

Many of the people at the rally in Sevastopol were not just ready to believe. They were convinced of the imminent nationalist invasion. What scared them most were the right-wing political parties and militant groups that have played a role in Ukraine’s revolution. “What do you think they’re going to do with all those weapons they seized from police in Kiev? They’re going to come here and make war,” said Sergei Bochenko, who identified himself as the commander of a local militia group in Sevastopol called the Southern Russian Cossack Battalion.

In preparation, he said, his group of several hundred men had armed themselves with assault rifles and begun to train for battle. “There’s not a chance in hell we’re going to accept the rule of that fascist scum running around in Kiev with swastikas,” he said. That may be overstating the case. Nowhere in Ukraine has the uprising involved neo-Nazi groups, and no swastikas have appeared on the revolution’s insignia. But every one of the dozen or so people TIME spoke to in Sevastopol was certain that the revolt was run by fascists, most likely on the payroll of the U.S. State Department.

And just remember what happened back in 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  The Russians have already shown that they are not afraid to militarily intervene in order to protect Russian citizens.

So what would the U.S. and the EU do if a war erupts between Russia and Ukraine?

Would they risk a direct military confrontation with Russia in order to help Ukraine?

I am very concerned about where all of this could be heading.

Tom O’Halloran.

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Will Russia go to war to win Ukraine’s Crimea?

A senior representative of the Russian Defense Ministry shared his views with Pravda.Ru about possible developments in the Crimea and Russia’s reaction to such events.

“Will Russia deploy troops in the Crimea, if required?”

“Russian troops are already located in the Crimea. This is a contingent that is located there under an interstate agreement about a military base. The strength of the contingent can not be increased in violation of the agreement.”

“If the Crimean authorities ask for help or Russian troops are attacked, what is going to happen?”

“The republic of Crimea, in accordance with the laws of Ukraine, is subordinated to the central government. Ukraine’s President has resigned, and the central legitimate power in Ukraine is hence limited in powers before early presidential elections. The deployment of troops at the request of a part of the state would automatically recognize the central government illegitimate – it would be recognized so by the country that would deploy troops.

“As for the attack on the contingent – the probability of an organized military attack on the Russian base in Crimea, Ukraine, is equivalent to the probability of Ukraine’s wish to declare war on Russia.

“That is, additional forces will not be introduced, will they?”

“Since Ukraine is an independent state that does not participate in military blocs such as the CSTO and NATO, its sovereignty under the conditions of an internal conflict can not be broken, even with a purpose to assist its authorities by second party efforts.”

“Some people say that “insubordination” in the Crimea would be suppressed with the use of force. Can it be real?”

“No. Violent suppression of unrest with army’s help is impossible. First, the army needs to be sworn in. To do this, Ukraine will have to have a new president first, the defense minister, etc. Secondly, the army of Ukraine is a conscript army, which means that this is the people’s army. The army formally subordinates today to Parliament Speaker Alexander Turchynov. In fact, as long as there is no legitimate president in the country, the army of Ukraine remains in a passive position. And of course, it is capable of reflecting an external threat – not more than that. The police repression is also impossible. Special units of public security police in Ukraine have been disbanded. Creating new ones takes a lot of time.
“As for “people’s groups,” there is such a probability, but I would not take this option s

ere are armed militia groups on the territory of the Republic of Crimea. Representatives of various mono-ethnic politically engaged groups that historically seek greater authority and political autonomy are likely to act as main provocateurs of massive clashes in the Crimea. The decentralization of power in Ukraine can make it possible.

“You mean the Crimean Tatars?”

“No comment.”

“Does the leadership of the country have a response to statements from the Ukrainian side about the need to withdraw Ukrainian citizenship from those, who do not know the Ukrainian language?”

“We have no right to speak on behalf of the Russian leadership. As for the formulation of the “Ukrainian side,” I would not take statements from some Ukrainian politicians, who do not hold legitimate power, as statements from the “Ukrainian side.”

“How do you estimate the current state of affairs?”

“I’m upset. Probably, this is the most precise formulation. I am upset because of the actions of individual politicians and officials, Ukraine found itself in a very difficult situation. The events in Ukraine have exacerbated the difficult financial situation, in which the state has found itself.  Youth unemployment in Ukraine is around 20 percent. This means that one in every fifth Ukrainian aged 17-35 has no permanent source of income. According to most conservative estimates, by the summer of 2014, unemployment among young people will grow to 23-25 ​​percent.”

“What can you say about Viktor Yanukovych?”

“I would refrain from evaluating the actions of the former president.”

Anton Kulikov – Pravda.Ru

 pravda.ru.

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US, NATO, EU lecture Russia with ‘provocative statements’ on Ukraine

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Moscow has urged NATO to refrain from provocative statements on Ukraine and respect its non-bloc status after a chorus of Western politicians said Russia should be “transparent” about its military drills and avoid any steps that could be “misunderstood.”

“When NATO starts giving a consideration the situation in Ukraine, it sends out the wrong signal,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website on Thursday.

As Ukraine’s turmoil has shifted to the ethnic Russian-majority in the Crimea region, the US, NATO, and the EU have all voiced their concerns over the situation as well as come up with proposals on how Russia should act.

At the same time, the EU-brokered agreement to settle the Ukrainian political crisis which was signed on February 21 and certified by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France “is still not being implemented,” Russia said.

“Militants, who still haven’t surrendered arms and not vacated administrative buildings, announced their intention to ‘bring order’ to all Ukrainian regions,” the Russian ministry said.

The agreement to jointly investigate violence, as well as to form a national unity government “fell into oblivion,” Moscow said. “Instead, as it was announced on [Kiev’s] Maidan ‘a government of winners’ has been established which includes nationalist extremists.”

Kiev on February 27, 2014.

Russia urged foreign partners who encouraged the opposition rallies in Ukraine and then initiated the February 21 settlement agreement, to realize their responsibility to work towards its fulfillment.

Moscow says it is ready to cooperate with the West on Ukraine, just as it had been offering to do long before the crisis in the country descended to bloody unrest.

“But we are ready to cooperate if there is a clear understanding that the cooperation should be honest, and based on an ability to make agreements as well as to fulfil them. And agreements should take into consideration interests of all the Ukrainian people as well as of all Ukraine’s partners,” the ministry’s statement reads.

‘Moscow, be careful’ chorus

The barrage of comments from the West particularly intensified after President Vladimir Putin ordered on Wednesday a surprise military drill to test the combat readiness of the armed forces across western and central Russia. The move – Moscow underlined – was not related to events in Ukraine and was in full compliance with Russia’s international agreements (The Vienna Document 2011) and obligations. That has been confirmed by NATO.

However on Thursday, NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia “not to take any action that could escalate tension or create misunderstanding.”

His statement was echoed by American Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said that Moscow must be transparent about military exercises along the Ukrainian border and not take any steps that could be misinterpreted or “lead to miscalculation during a delicate time.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow Wednesday to be “very careful” with its approach to Ukraine and respect its territorial integrity.

A similar sentiment came from the head of another NATO member-state, British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“We are particularly concerned by the situation in Crimea – every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” Cameron added at a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London on Thursday.

Pro-Russian demonstrators carry a giant Russian flag as they rally in central Simferopol on February 27, 2014.

Lawmakers in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted Thursday to hold a referendum to determine the region’s future. According to the parliament’s spokeswoman as a result of “the unconstitutional seizure of power in Ukraine by radical nationalists supported by armed gangs,” Crimea’s peace and order is “under threat.” Ethnic Russians form around 58.3 percent of the population of the peninsula on the Black Sea.

Turmoil in the region began after the new Ukrainian authorities ousted President Yanukovich and revoked a 2012 law that allowed regions to use minority languages, including Russian, as second language.

The European Parliament also had its say pointing out in a resolution that Russia must not put economic pressure on Ukraine. Moscow “pledged to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the “Budapest memorandum” signed with the US and the UK in 1994,” the parliament’s press service reported. In the same act, they added, “it also pledged to refrain from exerting economic pressure on Ukraine in order to subordinate it to its own interests.”

On Thursday, NATO defense ministers and Ukraine’s first deputy defense minister gathered in Brussels to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, while the parliament in Kiev was busy forming the new Cabinet.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important “that we prevent a breakup of the Ukraine, and that special forces in the country are strengthened,” Ruptly TV reported.

“NATO stands ready to support democratic development, defense reforms, military cooperation and democratic control over the security sector,” Rasmussen said after the session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. NATO, which “has a long-standing partnership” with Ukraine is set to continue its engagement and support the country “on the path of democratic and inclusive reforms,” he added.

A day earlier, Rasmussen also noted that the door to NATO remains open to Ukraine, admitting though that there are “more urgent priorities” for the country’s new leadership.

Russia, in response blamed the western alliance for attempting to make a decision for Ukrainians.

“So, the membership should remain among not so urgent, but still priority tasks?” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. “We strongly recommend everyone to refrain from provocative statements and respect Ukraine’s non-bloc status.”

US, NATO, EU lecture Russia with ‘provocative statements’ on Ukraine — RT News.

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وزارة الدفاع الروسية : المقاتلات الروسية على حدود اوكرانيا تدخل مرحلة التأهب

Sukhoi Su-35 Fighter Jet

أعلنت وزارة الدفاع الروسية الخميس 27 فبراير/شباط أن المقاتلات المرابطة في المنطقة العسكرية الغربية دخلت مرحلة التأهب وذلك في إطار اختبار جاهزية القوات المسلحة تنفيذا لأمر الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين القائد الأعلى للقوات المسلحة

. وأوضحت الدائرة الصحفية التابعة للوزارة أن المقاتلات الروسية تجوب الأجواء في المناطق الحدودية بصورة مستمرة. وجاء في بيان صدر عن الوزارة: “منذ تلقي الإشعار بوضع (قوات الجو) في أعلى حالات التأهب، انتقلت طائرات المنطقة العسكرية الغربية الى المطارات المشمولة بالعمليات”

وأضافت الدائرة الصحفية أن القاذفات الروسية تقوم بدورها وتنفذ مهمات تدريبية-قتالية لإصابة “العدو الافتراضي” في حقول الرمي. وتابع بيان الوزارة أن الطيارين الروس يتدربون في إطار الاختبارات، على عمليات تزويد المقاتلات الاعتراضية التي تقوم بالنوبة القتالية على مدار الـ 24 ساعة، بالوقود في الجو، بواسطة طائرات التزويد بالوقود “إيل-78”. كما تعمل وحدات سلاح الإشارة على توسيع دائرة الرصد بالرادار

ويشمل اختبار جاهزية القوات المنطقتين الغربية والمركزية نحو 150 ألف عسكري من مختلف أنواع القوات بالإضافة الى مؤسسات الإدارة العسكرية. وتشارك في الاختبار نحو 90 طائرة وأكثر من 120 مروحية ونحو 880 دبابة وما يصل الى 80 سفينة

وكانت القوات الروسية في الدائرة العسكرية المركزية المجاورة لحدود أوكرانيا والدائرة العسكرية الغربية التي تضم مقاطعة كالينغراد الواقعة وسط أوروبا قد بدأت مناورات وتدريبات مفاجئة منذ يومين، وذلك بقرار من الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين

واعتبر العديد من المراقبين أن هذه المناورات تأتي ضمن خطة الكرملين لتطوير جاهزية القوات الروسية، التي شهدت خلال الشهور الأخيرة مناورات مماثلة ومفاجئة في دوائر عسكرية أخرى

لكن المراقبين لم يستبعدوا أن يكون الهدف من توقيت هذه المناورات هو عملية استعراض قوة فقط ودعم الروس والتتار الذين يشكلون أغلبية سكانية في شبه جزيرة القرم (ذات الأهمية الاستراتيجية بالنسبة لروسيا)، لتعزيز نزعات الانفصال لديهم عن أوكرانيا والانضمام إلى روسيا

تجدر الإشارة إلى أن منطقة شبه جزيرة القرم التي يقع فيها ميناء سيفاستوبول وقاعدة أسطول البحر الأسود الروسي، كانت تاريخيا أراضي روسية تخلى عنها الرئيس السوفياتي نيكيتا خروشوف خلال ترسيم الحدود بين أوكرانيا وروسيا في خمسينيات القرن الماضي

وقد بدأ البرلمان الروسي بحث تسهيل إجراءات حصول سكان القرم على الجنسية الروسية، حيث تبلغ نسبة الروس 60% من إجمالي سكان المنطقة، إضافة إلى 12% من القومية التترية، بينما يصل تعداد أبناء القومية الأوكرانية إلى 23%

وفي إطار مبادرة تيسير شروط الحصول على الجنسية رفع الحزب الليبرالي الديمقراطي الروسي مشروع قانون بهذا الصدد إلى مجلس النواب

وعلى نفس المسار، كلفت قيادتا الحزب الشيوعي الروسي وحزب “روسيا العادلة” المعنيين في الحزبين بالعمل على إعداد مبادرات تشريعية بهذا الشأن

ومن جهته، رجح رئيس لجنة السياسة الاجتماعية في مجلس الاتحاد، فاليري ريازانسكي، إمكانية منح موسكو الجنسية الروسية للأوكرانيين من أصول روسية أيضاً

 

Yanukovich in Russia, to hold press-conference in Rostov-on-Don Friday – source

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Viktor Yanukovich will hold a news conference in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don at 1700 local time (1300 GMT) on Friday, reports Itar-Tass citing sources close to Ukraine’s ousted president.

The site of the event will be announced later, the agency writes.

Yanukovich vanished over the weekend and his whereabouts have so far been unknown, with rumors claiming that he could have fled to Russia, or that he was still in Crimea.

He was reportedly last seen in Crimea.

The new Ukrainian authorities – who came to power following months of violent confrontation – put Yanukovich on an international wanted list on suspicion of involvement in mass killings during the riots in Kiev.

Dozens of people were killed in clashes between armed radical protesters and security forces.

On February 22, Ukrainian MPs voted to oust Yanukovich and hold a presidential vote on May 25.

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, held an emergency session and passed a law on the return to the 2004 constitution without the president’s approval, saying that the president had removed himself from power.

Yanukovich described the situation as a coup d’etat and said he was not going to resign, as he was a “legitimately elected president.”

On February 23, the parliament voted for its speaker, Aleksandr Turchinov, as acting president of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader fled Kiev at the end of the worst week of violence since protests began in November, when he refused to sign an association agreement with the EU.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor general said that the president was still on the country’s soil, without giving any further details.

On Thursday Viktor Yanukovich made a statement that he still considered himself the legitimate leader of Ukraine and warned against an internal military conflict. He also asked Russia to ensure his safety against the actions of “extremists” that took power in Ukraine.

A source inside the Russian authorities told Itar-Tass news agency that his security had reportedly been ensured on Russian territory “in connection with the fact that President Yanukovich appealed to the Russian authorities”.

RT News

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اوكرانيا – مسلحون يستولون على مطار سيمفروبول في شبه جزيرة القرم

Map of crimea

Map of crimea

استولى مسلحون ليلة الجمعة على مطار سيمفروبول في شبه جزيرة القرم التي تتمتع بحكم ذاتي في أوكرانيا، حسب ما ذكرت وكالة إنترفاكس

وقالت الوكالة إن 50 مسلحا استولوا ليلا على المطار، حيث احتشدت بعد ذلك جموع وهي تلوح بأعلام الأسطول الروسي في البحر الأسود

ونقلت وكالة “فرانس برس” عن شهود عيان قولهم إن الرجال ما زالوا يسيطرون على المطار. وذكرت الوكالة نقلا عن الشهود أن الرجال وصولوا إلى المطار على متن 3 شاحنات لا تحمل أي لوحات تسجيل

وصباح الخميس، استولى مسلحون مقربون من الروس على البرلمان والحكومة المحليين في سيمفيروبول. وتشهد شبه جزيرة القرم بجنوب أوكرانيا حيث يتمركز الأسطول الروسي في البحر الأسود توترات انفصالية

وقرر البرلمان المحلي في جلسة مغلقة لم يسمح للصحافة بحضورها تنظيم استفتاء في 25 مايو لنيل المزيد من الحكم الذاتي، وكذلك إقالة الحكومة المحلية

والقرم التي تسكنها غالبية من الناطقين بالروسية في جنوب أوكرانيا، كانت في البدء جزءا من روسيا في إطار الاتحاد السوفياتي، قبل أن يتم إلحاقها بأوكرانيا عام 1954

وهي ما تزال تأوي الأسطول الروسي في البحر الأسود في منطقتها التاريخية، في مدينة سيباستوبول المطلة على البحر

Crossroads of Crimea : Facts you need to know about Ukraine region

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians (L) and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

With its multinational society and a long history of conquests, the Crimean peninsula has always been a crossroads of cultures – and a hotbed of conflicts. Amid Ukrainian turmoil, every ethnic group of Crimeans has its own vision of the region’s future.

What is Crimea?

Now known as Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the picturesque peninsula shooting out into Black Sea from mainland Ukraine was for centuries colonized and conquered by historic empires and nomadic tribes. Greeks, Scythians, Byzantians and the Genoese have all left traces of their presence in Crimean archeological sites and placenames. Nomadic invasions, such as that of the Goths and the Huns, oftentimes redrew the ethnic picture of the region.

The most long-lived, however, proved to be the conquest of the peninsula by Turko-Mongols, who settled in the region, mixing with indigenous and other Turkic people already living there and in 1441 formed the Crimean Khanate. The local Turkic-speaking population became known as the Crimean Tatars. While the Khanate proclaimed its independence from the Golden Horde, it soon became a Turkish protectorate.

How does Russia come into picture?

The Crimean Khanate became notorious for its brutal and perpetual slave raids into East Slavic lands, in which tens of thousands of people were captured annually on Russian, Polish-Lithuanian and later Ukrainian territories. The Crimean-Nogai raids made up the Khanate’s economy through a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. They also caused vast steppe territories, known as the Wild Fields, to be unpopulated for centuries.

As the Tsardom of Russia grew stronger, one of the most vital issues for its rulers was to protect the southern borders against the raids. For this purpose, Moscow accepted the loyalty of Cossack-ruled Zaporizhian Sich, which also proved to be a defining moment in the formation of present-day Ukraine.

The Russian Empire eventually did away with its historical rival in the 18th century as a result of several victorious Russo-Turkish wars. As part of the 1774 Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty the Crimean Khanate aligned itself with Russia, but Catherine the Great soon annexed its lands, giving them a historic Greek name of Taurida.

The City of Sevastopol on the Black Sea shore, the Crimea.

During the Crimean War of 1853–1856, the peninsula again became a major theater of war. The Russian Empire lost the war to Ottoman Empire’s British and French allies following the bloody Siege of Sevastopol, but retained Crimea due to success on Turkish front. Despite the defeat and total devastation of the city, the heroic 11-month long defense of Sevastopol became known as an iconic event in Russian history, which has ever since been associated with the courage of the Russian military.

Later on during World War II, Sevastopol’s heroic struggle against Nazi Germany earned it the title of Hero City, reinforcing its special historic status for the Russians. As the war ended, the city had to be completely rebuilt for the second time in its history.

Ethnic controversy

By the beginning of the 20th century, Russians and the Crimean Tatars were equally predominant ethnic groups in Crimea, followed by Ukrainian, Jewish and other minorities. Crimea was both a royal resort and an inspiration for some of the great Russian poets, writers and artists, some of whom lived or were born there.

The turmoil of the Russian Civil War gravely affected the region, bringing both the notorious “Red Terror” and a severely weakened economy, which caused the Crimean population to be unable to cope with the great famine of 1921–1923. Of the famine’s 100,000 victims some 75,000 were Crimean Tatars, mainly because they relied on livestock breeding in mountainous areas with very limited lands and did not grow many crops.

Still, even more disastrous for Crimean Tatars was the aftermath of the WWII, in which some 20,000 of them allied with the Nazi German occupants, but many others also fought the Germans within the Soviet Army. Citing the collaboration of Crimean Tatars with the Nazis, Joseph Stalin ordered the whole ethnic group to be deported from Crimea to several Central Asian Soviet republics. Officially, 183,155 people were deported from Crimea, followed by about 9,000 Crimean Tatar WWII veterans. That made up about 19 percent of the Crimean population on the eve of war, almost half of which was by then Russian.

While the move was officially criticized by the communist leadership as early as in 1967, the Tatars were de-facto unable to return to Crimea until the late 1980s. The tragic events surrounding Stalin’s deportation obviously shaped the ethnic group’s detestation of the Soviet regime.

Other Soviet citizens got to know Crimea as an “all-Union health resort,” with many of those born in the Soviet Union sharing nostalgic memories of children’s holiday camps and seaside.

How was Crimea separated from Russia?

Another controversial decision involving Crimea followed in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, himself an ethnic Ukrainian, transferred the peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR, extracting it from Russian territory.

The health resort Krym (formerly Frunzenskoye), 1980.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev’s “present” has been widely criticized by many Russians, including the majority of those living in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Adding to the confusion was also the status of Soviet-times Sevastopol, which not only remained the largest Crimean city, but also retained its special strategic and military profile. In 1948, Sevastopol was separated from the surrounding region and made directly subordinate to Moscow. Serving as an important Soviet naval base, it used to be a “closed city” for years.

In the 1990s, the status of Sevastopol became the subject of endless debates between Russia and Ukraine. Following negotiations, the city with the surrounding territories was granted a special “state significance” status within the Ukrainian state, and some of the naval facilities were leased to Russia for its Black Sea Fleet until at least 2047. However, the city’s Russian majority and some outspoken Russian politicians still consider it to be a part of Russia.

Referendums and hopes

In 1991, the people of Crimea took part in several referendums. One proclaimed the region an Autonomous Republic within the Soviet Union, with 93.26 percent of the voters supporting the move. As the events unfolded fast, another one was already asking if the Crimeans supported the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union – a question that gathered 54 percent support. However, a referendum on Crimea’s independence from Ukraine was indefinitely banned from being held, leading critics to assert that their lawful rights were oppressed by Kiev authorities.

A rally in support of the Crimea independence referendum, 1992.

Complicating the issue was the return of the Crimean Tatars, who not only started to resettle in tens of thousands, but also rivaled local authorities. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People was formed to represent the rights and interests of the ethnic minority. Although it was never officially recognized as an official organization, the body has enjoyed undisputed authority over most of Crimean Tatars and has successfully pushed for some concessions for the ethnic group in local laws.

While the Crimean Tatar re-settlers and the peninsula’s current Russian majority have learned to understand one another as neighbors, hardcore politicians from both ethnic groups also created grounds for a heated standoff. Calls for wider autonomy and aggressive lobbying for Crimean Tatar rights have prompted several pro-Russian Crimean political leaders to call the Mejlis an “organized criminal group” leading “unconstitutional” activities. The remarks sparked furious claims of “discrimination” from the Crimean Tatar community.

Who lives there now?

The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the populations, according to the latest national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars. However, in the Crimea’s largest city of Sevastopol, which is considered a separate region of Crimea, there are almost no Crimean Tatars and around 22 percent of Ukrainians, with over 70 percent of the population being Russians.

An absolute majority of the Crimean population (97 percent) use Russian as their main language, according to Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll. One of the first decisions of the interim Kiev government directly hit Crimea, as it revoked a law that allowed Russian and other minority languages to be recognized as official in multi-cultural regions.

What’s happening now?

After the Ukrainian President was ousted and an interim government was established in Kiev, the Russian majority started protesting outside the regional parliament, urging local MPs not to support it. They want the Autonomous Region to return to the constitution of 1992, under which Crimea briefly had its own president and independent foreign policy.

The parliament of the Crimea autonomous region was due to declare on Wednesday the region’s official position toward the new authorities in Kiev. The Tatar community has spoken out sharply against holding a parliamentary session on the issue, expressing their support for the new central authorities.

Ukrainian men help pull one another out of a stampede as a flag of Crimea is seen during clashes at rallies held by ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014

Two separate rallies, consisting of several thousand protesters, faced each other in front of the parliament building in the Crimea capital Simferopol. Two people have died as a result of scuffles and stampede and about 30 were injured, before the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, Refat Chubarov, called for the participants of the rally to go home peacefully.

Following the example of Kiev, vigilante groups are being formed, with about 3,500 people already patrolling the streets of Crimea along with police to prevent any provocations.

After the central government in Kiev disbanded the Berkut special police task force, new authorities in Sevastopol have refused to comply and welcomed all Berkut officers who feel intimidated to come to live in Crimea with their families. Sevastopol earlier elected a new mayor after the popular gathering ousted the Yanukovich local government, which tried to cling to power by pledging allegiance to Kiev’s new rulers.

What happens next?

The ultimate goal of the ethnic Russian population protesting in Crimea is to hold a referendum on whether the region should retain its current status as an autonomous region in Ukraine, to become independent, or become part of Russia again. In the meantime they claim to have a right to disobey orders of the “illegal” central government.

The Tatar minority meanwhile feels that ethnic Russians are trying to “tear Crimea away from Ukraine” excluding them from deciding the land’s fate.

Right-wing radicals from Western Ukraine earlier threatened to send the so-called “trains of friendship” full of armed fighters in order to crush any signs of resistance to the revolution they were fighting so hard for.

The Kiev authorities busy with appointing roles in the revolutionary government in the meantime embraced a soft approach towards Crimea. The interim interior minister even did not undertake any “drastic measures” to arrest fugitive ousted president Yanukovich, fearing that may spark unrest.

Russia repeatedly confirmed it does not doubt Crimea is a part of Ukraine, even though it understands the emotions of the residents of the region. This week Russian MPs initiated a bill that will allow Russian citizenship within six month if the applicant successfully proves his or her Russian ethnicity. It is prepared especially to save Russian speaking Ukrainians from possible infringement of their rights.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

via Crossroads of Crimea: Facts you need to know about Ukraine region — RT News.

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