Daily Archives: March 3, 2014

President Vladimir Putin observed Western and Central Military District forces exercises

Arrival at Kirillovsky Test Ground.

Arrival at Kirillovsky Test Ground.

March 3, 2014, 19:20 Kirillovsky Test Ground, Leningrad Region

Arrival at Kirillovsky Test Ground. -

Observing Western and Central Military District forces exercises. With Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu -left- and Head of General Staff Combat Training Directorate Ivan Buvaltsev.

Observing Western and Central Military District forces exercises. With Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu -left- and Head of General Staff Combat Training Directorate Ivan Buvaltsev.

Observing Western and Central Military District forces exercises. With Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu -left- and Head of General Staff Combat Training Directorate Ivan Buvaltsev.-

The President was accompanied by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Commander of the Western Military District Anatoly Sidorov and Head of General Staff Combat Training Directorate Ivan Buvaltsev.

The exercises, which began on February 26, are being conducted as part of a snap inspection of combat readiness of Western and Central Military District forces and a number of armed forces’ branches.

via President of Russia.

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US suspends trade talks, military cooperation with Russia over Ukraine

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The US has suspended forthcoming trade and investment talks with Russia over situation in Ukraine, according to a US official. In addition, the Pentagon announced that the US has also suspended all joint “military engagements” with Russia.

“We have suspended upcoming bilateral trade and investment engagement with the government of Russia that were part of a move toward deeper commercial and trade ties,” a spokesman for the Office of the US Trade Representative said.

Earlier Monday evening, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced in a statement that US-Russia “military engagements,” such as military exercises and port visits, are on hold for now.

“Although the Department of Defense finds value in the military-to-military relationship with the Russian Federation we have developed over the past few years to increase transparency, build understanding, and reduce the risk of military miscalculation we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” the statement reads. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”

Kirby said the events in Ukraine have not changed US naval movements in the region.

“Some media outlets are speculating on possible ship movements in the region,” Kirby said. “There has been no change to our military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean; our Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region.”

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16,000 Russian troops deployed in Crimea region, Ukraine claims | Fox News

Ukraine officials on Monday claimed 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in the Crimea region, a sign of widening military intervention in the flashpoint peninsula.

“Approximately 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in Crimea by the military ships, helicopters, cargo airplanes from the neighboring territory of the Russian Federation,” the permanent mission of Ukraine to the United Nations wrote in a letter.  “The Russian troops keep taking their attempts to seize, block and control crucial governmental and military objects of Ukraine in Crimea: the Parliament in Crimea, all civil and military airports, means of communications, radio stations, customs service, military and coast guard bases and headquarters of the Ukraine’s navy in Crimea.”

The letter also claims Russian forces used stun grenades against Ukrainian soldiers, and said Ukrainian ships had been blocked in Sevastopol Bay by Russian naval vessels. Ukraine also claimed that Russian aircraft twice entered the nation’s airspace, and said the Ukrainian military base in Kerch was surrounded by Russian forces.

But the letter says Ukrainian armed forces are “protecting their staffs, military units and bases, and are not responding to any provocations that occurred over the past days.”

READ UKRAINE’S LETTER TO THE UNITED NATIONS

Meanwhile, pro-Russian authorities in Crimea said they’ll cut off water and electricity to Ukrainian soldiers in bases surrounded by Russian forces Monday night, a former Russian lawmaker said, Reuters reported.

Earlier Monday, armed men seized a Ukrainian border checkpoint at a ferry terminal between Russia and Crimea, Reuters reported.

Russians had been surrounding the ferry terminal for days, but had not taken control of Ukraine’s border guard station until now, Reuters said, citing Ukrainian border guards.

The troops seized the checkpoint after guards tried to stop two buses carrying seven armed men, and the next ferry brought three truckloads of soldiers across, a border guard spokesman said, Reuters reported.

The developments come after heated exchanges at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security meeting on Monday, in which the U.S. ambassador said there was no justification for Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, while her Russian counterpart said the ousted Ukrainian president had asked Russia to use troops.

Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin quoted former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, as saying “the life and security and the rights of people particularly in the southeast part in Crimea are being threatened,” and continued: “So under the influence of Western countries there are open acts of terror and violence.”

If true, the request would be a reversal for Yanukovych, who had said Friday he would not ask for Russian forces.

But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said there was no evidence that ethnic Russians in the region were under direct threat.

Earlier in the day, Ukraine said Russian forces controlling the disputed peninsula of Crimea demanded that the crew of two Ukrainian warships must surrender or face capture. A Russian Navy commander also ordered that that all Ukrainian forces in the region must surrender by 5 a.m. local time Tuesday or face “a real assault,” the Interfax news agency reported, according to Sky News.

But a Russian Black Sea Fleet official later told the Interfax news agency that there are no plans to launch an assault on Ukrainian military units in Crimea and the fleet did not set an ultimatum to surrender, according to Reuters.

Despite the claims, the EU is threatening to freeze visa liberalization and economic cooperation talks and boycott the G8 summit in Russia’s Sochi if Moscow does not back off in Ukraine.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU would give Russia until an emergency summit of EU leaders is held on Thursday to show clear signs of goodwill, including a willingness to open talks and a withdrawal of Russian troops to their barracks in the Crimea.

If not, Fabius said the EU would start implementing punitive measures.

The uncertainty of the situation going forward roiled global financial markets Monday, as Russia continued to impose its military presence on Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Maksim Prauta said Monday that four Russian navy ships were blocking Ukraine’s anti-submarine warship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych in Sevastopol’s harbor. He said the Russians ordered the crew to surrender within the hour or face Russians storming and seizing the ships and crew.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted that Crimea remains Ukrainian territory despite the presence of thousands of Russian troops who have secured control over the region without suffering any casualties or firing a shot.

“Any attempt of Russia to grab Crimea will have no success at all. Give us some time,” he said at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is visiting Kiev.

“For today, no military options [are] on the table,” he said, adding that what they urgently need is an economic and political support.

NATO is urging Russia to pull back its forces and seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue with Ukraine.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, which means the United States and Europe are not obligated to come to its defense. But Ukraine has taken part in some alliance military exercises and contributed troops to its response force.

So far, however, Ukraine’s new government and the West have been powerless to counter Russia’s tactics.

Russia has long wanted to reclaim the lush Crimean Peninsula, part of its territory until 1954. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet pays Ukraine millions annually to be stationed at the Crimean port of Sevastopol and nearly 60 percent of Crimea’s residents identify themselves as Russian.

 

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China Sides With Russia On Ukraine

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Russia on Monday said it had a powerful ally supporting its actions in Ukraine: China.

The Russian government said China is “in agreement” with Russia, whose troops occupy the Crimean region of Ukraine, Sky News reported.

But when asked about Ukraine at a regular press briefing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang answered indirectly.

China, which consistently says it opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs, is looking to “maintain principles” on Ukraine, it said Monday after Russia insisted the two were in broad agreement.

“China has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations,” the Chinese spokesman said.

“At the same time, we also take into consideration the history and the current complexities of the Ukrainian issue. It could be said that China’s position is to both maintain principles while also seeking to be realistic.”

Russia has appeared keen to stress that it has a major international ally on its military intervention in Ukraine, and Beijing frequently backs Moscow’s positions against Western powers on thorny issues, such as the protracted conflict in Syria.

But, analysts say, China is torn between wanting to support Russia and maintaining its longtime opposition to foreign intervention, especially given its own separatist issues in the far-western region of Xinjiang.

China also noted, however, that “there are reasons that the Ukrainian situation is what it is today”.

Niu Jun, a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said China wanted to maintain its relationship with Russia but had strong concerns about foreign intervention.

“It’s all very inconvenient,” he said. “That’s why they came out with a statement nobody can understand.

“What this statement is really saying is, ‘what Russia did was not right and China does not want to support this military invasion’. But China also wants to support Russia, so it came up with excuses,” such as Russia’s history with Crimea and Ukraine’s internal situation, he said.

James Jeffrey, a retired career U.S. diplomat, told Reuters that the days and months ahead will be vital. If Putin faces few long-term consequences for seizing Crimea, it will set a precedent for China and other regional powers who may be considering establishing 19th-century-style spheres of influence of their own.

“The Chinese,” Jeffrey said, “are in the same position.”

Earlier, Moscow’s foreign ministry said that Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, in a phone call, noted “broadly coinciding points of view of Russia and China over the situation that has developed in the country and around it”.

Yet China’s account of the conversation was less direct, saying that the two men “thoroughly exchanged views on the matter” and agreed that “appropriately resolving” the situation was important to regional peace and stability.

Russia has found itself internationally isolated over its covert military intervention in Ukraine, and on Monday its stocks and currency collapsed amid fears of a prolonged military campaign.

The other members of the G8 nations on Sunday released a statement condemning Russia for violating international law and suspending their participation in a G8 summit scheduled for Sochi in June.

China is not a member of the G8.

China and Russia cooperated on vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, although they voted through a resolution this month on allowing humanitarian aid convoys into Syria.

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Russia gives Ukrainian forces in Crimea ultimatum to surrender – Interfax

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and the commander of the Western Military District Anatoly Sidorov, right, walk upon arrival to watch military exercise near St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, March 3, 2014. Putin has sought and quickly got the Russian parliament's permission to use the Russian military in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and the commander of the Western Military District Anatoly Sidorov, right, walk upon arrival to watch military exercise near St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, March 3, 2014. Putin has sought and quickly got the Russian parliament’s permission to use the Russian military in Ukraine.

(Reuters) – Russia‘s Black Sea Fleet has told Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Tuesday or face a military assault, Interfax news agency quoted a source in the Ukrainian Defence Ministry as saying.

 

The ultimatum, Interfax said, was issued by Alexander Vitko, the fleet’s commander.

 

The ministry did not immediately confirm the report and there was no immediate comment by the Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea, where Russian forces are in control.

“If they do not surrender before 5 a.m. tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea,” the agency quoted the ministry source as saying.

 

 

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Ukraine is Europe’s biggest crisis of century – Hague

The turmoil in Ukraine is the “biggest crisis” to face Europe in the 21st Century, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.

He said Russia controlled the Crimea, in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and warned of “significant costs” if its troops did not withdraw.

He urged Ukraine and Russia to hold talks and suggested Russia’s membership of the G8 could be under threat,

Vladimir Putin has said Russia reserves the right to protect its interests

Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilisation in response to Russia’s build-up of forces on the Crimean peninsula, which was part of Russia until 1954.

No 10 has ruled out military intervention, saying the “only avenue that is being pursued is a diplomatic and peaceful one”.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who will chair a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday to discuss the UK’s response, said the situation was “grave”.

Mr Hague, who travelled to Kiev on Sunday to meet the new Ukrainian government, told the BBC that Russia had “legitimate” interests in the region.

But he said its actions were unacceptable and required a “strong” response from the international community.

William Hague warns Russia of “consequences and costs” if it does not respect the sovereignty of Ukraine

It is a very tense and dangerous situation that Russia’s intervention has now produced,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today, adding that there was now a constant risk of a “flashpoint”.

“The world cannot just allow this to happen. The world cannot just say it is OK, in effect, to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way.”

Mr Hague rejected claims the US and EU were powerless to act, saying they had a range of options at their disposal if Russian forces did not return to their naval bases in Crimea and honour the terms of an agreement with Ukraine allowing them to station forces there.

The UK has said Russia will face “significant costs” if it does not pull back, with economic action not being ruled out.

Speaking after meeting Ukraine’s interim president and prime minister, Mr Hague said Russia’s actions could not be allowed to become the “normal way to behave in international affairs”.

The foreign secretary said there was a “serious threat to G8 co-operation in the coming weeks and months”.

The UK and other G7 nations have already said they are suspending preparations for this year’s G8 summit in Russia, while the US has hinted at stronger measures, such as possible sanctions and asset freezes on Russian business.

‘Completely unacceptable’

The G7, which comprises the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, has called on Moscow to “address any ongoing security or human rights concerns that it has with Ukraine through direct negotiations”.

It has also repeated its commitment to provide substantial financial backing to the new Ukrainian government, with talks with the International Monetary Fund due to begin in the coming days.

The UK is to give £10m to Kiev to support economic and political reforms.

In a separate development, Buckingham Palace said Prince Edward has cancelled a visit to the Sochi Paralympics.

A statement said: “The Earl of Wessex, patron of the British Paralympic Association has, on the advice of government, cancelled a planned visit to Russia between 11 and 14 March to attend the Sochi Paralympic Games.”

The UK government has also said no British ministers will attend the event although a spokesman said Mr Cameron remained “fully supportive of our Paralympic athletes’ participation at Sochi”

The Russian incursion was triggered by former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych’s removal from power following four months of street protests that culminated in bloody clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

The Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Crimea, and urged British nationals in the peninsula to leave.

It said it was not able to provide consular services to anyone choosing to remain in Crimea.

via BBC News – Ukraine is Europe’s biggest crisis of century – Hague.

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Libya MPs shot and wounded as congress stormed

(CNN) — At least two members of Libya’s General National Congress were shot and wounded after protesters stormed its headquarters in Tripoli on Sunday evening, according to congress members.

One of the congressmen, Abdul Rahman Sweihli, was shot in the leg after protesters opened fire on him inside the building.

As his security detail rushed him out, gunmen opened fire on their cars as they were trying to flee, his son Bashir Sweihli told CNN.

No information about the second lawmaker was available.

A GNC member speaking on Libyan TV said lawmakers continued their evening session despite dozens of protesters surrounding the building and pouring gasoline on the walls before they stormed the building.

Workers walk past the wall of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli on March 2, 2014, in front of which gunmen dispersed a sit-in protest and detained demonstrators the previous day.

Workers walk past the wall of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli on March 2, 2014, in front of which gunmen dispersed a sit-in protest and detained demonstrators the previous day.

Other members of the GNC, the country’s interim parliament, were assaulted, and some of the women members harassed, lawmakers said.

Young men ransacked the building, and parts of it were set on fire, according to witnesses.

Videos posted to social media sites showed a chaotic scene, with young men setting cars and furniture outside the building ablaze.

Protesters accused a GNC-backed rebel group of attacking its camp outside parliament

Protesters accused a GNC-backed rebel group of attacking its camp outside parliament

Public anger has been mounting against the GNC, especially after members voted last December to extend their term in office until the end of this year.

For almost a month, thousands of Libyans have taken to the streets across the country in peaceful demonstrations demanding an end to the GNC’s term.

In response to the rising tensions, lawmakers announced last month that early elections would be held, but a date has not yet been set.

Earlier in the day, anti-GNC protesters blocked off roads close to the building and set tires on fire after reports spread of an attack Saturday night on anti-GNC protesters. That attack included burning down their tent and reportedly kidnapping some protesters.

More than two years after the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime, Libyans have become increasingly frustrated with the state of their country and the performance of their elected officials.

Separately on Sunday, gunmen shot dead a French national in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Local authorities condemned the killing and said the man was an employee of a private French company that was doing expansion work on the Benghazi Medical Center.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned the killing of the man identified as Patrice Real and said the perpetrators must be pursued and punished.

A Libyan soldier was also killed in Benghazi on Sunday when an improvised explosive device detonated under his car, according to the state news agency LANA.

Four unidentified bodies of young men with gunshots to the head were found in a forest east of Benghazi, LANA reported.

Separately, a fifth unidentified body was discovered in al-Jarutha, west of the city.

Violence levels in the city have spiked over recent weeks with assassinations, kidnappings and bombings becoming near daily occurrences in the city that was the cradle of Libya’s revolution.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the rising violence in Benghazi, residents and officials blame the violence on Islamist extremist groups.

Last week security forces found the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians dumped west of the city.

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PressTV – ‘US has zero leverage over Russia’

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Eric Draitser, an American analyst, believes that US threats against Russia over Ukraine are “purely superficial” as Washington has no “leverage over Moscow.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia could be ousted from the Group of Eight (G8) developed nations over its deployment of troops in the restive Ukrainian region, warning that Moscow will suffer a loss of trade and investment if it does not retreat.

Also on Saturday, President Barack Obama called Russia’s build-up of its forces in Crimea a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty” and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order withdrawal of Russian forces from Crimea back to their bases.

In a phone interview with Press TV on Sunday, Draitser said the “threats that the Obama administration is making are purely superficial at best.”

“We hear them talking about political isolation of Russia, economic sanctions possibly against certain Russian entities, also a laughable threat. They have absolutely zero leverage over Moscow considering the fact that Russia could simply turn off the gas to Europe and it would throw the entire continent into an uproar it would create chaos all throughout Europe ,” he noted.

Draitser went on to say that US actions concerning Russia are symptomatic of Washington’s double-standard and hypocrisy.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for the United States to condemn Russia’s actions in east of Ukraine, the statements that you’ve heard from Secretary of State Kerry as well as from Obama himself all indicate that the United States is engaging in what George Orwell famously referred to as ‘doublethink,’ that is holding two contradictory views at the same time and believing both of them.”

“On the one hand, the United States condemns what it calls an intervention by President Putin and the Russian government into the east of Ukraine, into Russian cultural and historical territory of Crimea, but this is quite interesting considering the fact that this is the United States which engages in serial interventions all over the world on much flimsier pretexts. Let us not forget that there were no American military bases, there were no American citizens under threat in Libya. There were no American military bases under threat in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Somalia, or elsewhere and yet the United States found a pretext under the cover of so-called humanitarianism to engage in brutal and bloody interventions in each of those cases and many others.”

“All of a sudden the United States is up in arms citing international laws, citing the UN Charter and citing territorial integrity and sovereignty which is of course such an absurd and laughable accusation that it really requires incredible amount of self-deception to believe in it,” Draitser stated.

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Putin outfaces USA over Ukraine : Analyst

Russian President Veladimir Putin is downright to lay down a tacit military marker to Washington over Ukraine, says a prominent analyst.

In an article published on Press TV website, Finian Cunningham wrote, “Putin is entirely right to lay down an unspoken military marker to Washington over Ukraine, just like he did when the Americans tried to mess militarily with South Ossetia in 2008 through its NATO proxy, Georgia.”

This is while Washington has ironically blamed Ukraine’s current political turmoil on Russia in an apparent ignorance of Washington’s complicity in the Eastern European country’s destabilization, the analyst said.

In a veiled threat of military confrontation, US President Barack Obama warned earlier this week that Russia will face “costs” if it intervenes in Ukraine.

“But, here’s the laughable irony of Obama’s protestations. The latest apparent Russian military moves follow months of US-sponsored destabilization in Ukraine. This illegal and covert American interference has trampled all over Ukrainian sovereignty, which ironically Obama is now accusing his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of doing,” he said.

Cunningham also noted that the current crisis in Ukraine has all the hallmarks of Washington’s covert agenda for regime change, an agenda which is being “ruthlessly pursued” against Syria as Russia’s Arab ally.

“The ultimate target of this meddling, as has been brazenly stated over many years since the early 1990s by [former US National Security Advisor] Zbigniew Brzezinski and other US imperial planners, is the destabilization of Russia itself,” he added.

On Saturday, the upper house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to deploy troops into the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine.

Moscow said the troops move comply with Russian-Ukrainian agreements to protect Russia’s Crimean naval base.

Based on witness reports, some 12 military trucks carrying troops, two ambulances, and a Tiger vehicle armed with a machine gun were on the road on Sunday from the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol, the home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, to Simferopol, Crimea’s administrative center.

Unrest erupted in Ukraine in November 2013, when now-ousted President Viktor Yanukovych refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

PressTV

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Despite its problems, Ukraine is a prize for Russia, Europe

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KIEV, UkraineUkraine is in agony. In its 22 years of sovereignty, it has never had political leadership that could foster a national feeling among all Ukrainians. The previous, pro-Russian government was reviled by those who saw it as little more than an organized criminal gang. The new, pro-European government, propelled into power by the demonstrations in Kiev’s central square, has given those Ukrainians who opposed the protests very little reason to have confidence in it. The new government’sswift downgrading of the status of the Russian language made it appear to many that this was just another case of one clan taking power from another — and probably getting ready to snatch the spoils.

Ukraine spent 2013 dealing with the need to resolve a choice of its own making: whether to lean toward Europe or Russia. Both Europe and Russia showed keen interest in the outcome, and each tried to gain the upper hand. The result is today’s crisis.

But, given Kiev’s evident dysfunction, why were outsiders so interested in Ukraine?

Russia

●President Vladimir Putin wanted Ukraine to be part of his new Eurasian Economic Union, based in Moscow. If Kiev signed on with the European Union, thus reducing trade barriers to Europe, it would have scotched Putin’s plan.

●Part of the ideology behind the Eurasian union is that Russia and its neighbors have a different value system than the West. Putin has been pushing that idea hard. It contains a thinly veiled ethnic appeal, to fellow eastern Slavs. If Ukraine joined Europe, and prospered while abiding by European values, that would contradict Russia’s contentions.

●Russia feared that if Ukraine and the EU reduced trade barriers, European companies would use Ukraine as a conduit for flooding the Russian market. (Russian tariffs for Ukraine are lower than they are for Europe)

●Integration with Europe might be a prelude to integration with NATO, which Putin would see as a disaster. Russia bases its Black Sea fleet in Crimea; it would be unthinkable to maintain that base if Ukraine joins NATO.

●Much of the natural gas that Russia sells to Europe flows across Ukraine, and Russia’s state-owned Gazprom would very much like to gain control of Ukraine’s pipeline system.

●Putin was not a fan of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, and he apparently decided that the way to handle him was to smother him in the Kremlin’s embrace.

●Standing up for ethnic Russians abroad — millions live in Ukraine — is good politics at home.

The downside: Russian dominance of Ukraine would force Moscow to deal with extremely strong anti-Russian feeling among a significant part of the population.

The European Union

●Poland was the most enthusiastic proponent of the Ukraine trade deal. Polish leaders believed that it would lead to having a competently managed, largely democratic, non-corrupt nation as a neighbor. And that, they thought, would be better for Poland than the Ukraine that currently exists.

●Many in Europe — and in the United States — saw Ukraine as a nation not yet fully formed, and worried that without assistance toward becoming one it could turn into a flash point of East-West tension. (They were right.)

●The EU has launched a legal case to force Gazprom to divest itself of pipelines feeding Europe. Allowing Gazprom to assume control of Ukraine’s pipeline system would be a step backward.

●European leaders were also not fans of Yanukovych, and they decided that the way to handle him was to smother him in their embrace.

●European leaders are not fond of Putin. Denying him control of Ukraine might take him down a peg or two.

The downside: Owning Ukraine’s myriad problems.

So what’s their prize?

●For Russia: Putin offered Ukraine a $15 billion bailout in the fall. He had committed $3 billion by the time Yanukovych’s government came undone. That’s a write-off, but Russia gets to keep the other $12 billion.

●For Ukraine: The country is appealing to the EU and the International Monetary Fund for short-term and long-term loans. They will most likely be forthcoming, and for far more than $15 billion.

●For Ukraine: The Ukrainian people will have to bear the austerity that comes with the international assistance.

●For the West: They will be blamed for the austerity.

●For Russia: It may decide to keep control of Crimea. It will gain Russia plenty of enmity in Ukraine — and elsewhere.

The really big downside: All bets are off if the Crimea crisis leads to war.

 The Washington Post.

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