Daily Archives: March 4, 2014

Russia fires intercontinental ballistic missile in scheduled test

Russian RS 12 M Topol

The Russian military has successfully performed a scheduled test launch of the RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile, the country’s Defense Ministry said.

The launch of the intercontinental three-stage ballistic missile (ICBM) was carried out from Kapustin Yar testing ground in the Astrakhan region. The dummy warhead hit its target at a test ground in Kazakhstan, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told RIA Novosti.

“The aim was to test an advanced battle equipment for the intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the ministry stated.

Russia informed the United States ahead of the ICBM test – and even before the latest Russian military moves in Crimea – a US official told Reuters.

The White House confirmed that the launch was “routine” and that the United States had advanced notice. Such prior notification is required under the nuclear arms treaty between the two nations.

Since 2007, Topol has been repeatedly tested in order to allow for the extension of its current service life, which was recently extended to 25 years. Its initial service life was only 10 years.

In 1998, RS-12M Topol became the first Soviet mobile ICBM to be successfully entered into service.

Defense Ministry stressed that Kapustin Yar range is “a unique” facility for testing battle equipment for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

RS-12M Topol ballistic missile

RS-12M Topol ballistic missile

“Only it provided the test routes and the polygon measuring complex, which allows testing [of] advanced battle equipment capable of bypassing the anti-missile systems, including those with advanced configuration,” the ministry said.

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Court in Egypt bans Palestinian group Hamas

Hamas PM Ismail Haniya, visited Cairo during Mohammed Morsi‘s year in office

A court in Egypt has banned all activities by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and ordered the seizure of its offices and assets.

A lawsuit filed by an Egyptian lawyer had demanded the move because of its links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s interim government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December, five months after President Mohammed Morsi was ousted .

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told a news conference  “Whoever threatens Egypt’s security should understand that there will be consequences.”

Senior Hamas officials, including deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, live in Cairo and may now be at risk of arrest.

Conspiracy

Hamas, which governs the neighbouring Gaza Strip, was founded in the 1980s as an offshoot of the Brotherhood and the groups have close ties.

Since the overthrow of Mr Morsi, the authorities in Cairo have accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and conspiring with jihadist militants based in the northern Sinai peninsula who have carried out attacks on government and security forces personnel, killing hundreds.

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Morsi and 35 others are on trial on charges including conspiring with foreign organisations – among them Hamas, Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – to commit terrorist acts.

Prosecutors say the attacks by jihadists, whom Hamas’s military wing has been accused of training, were intended to “bring back the deposed president and to bring Egypt back into the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip”.

The Palestinian group has also been accused of assisting Morsi’s escape from prison during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak. The ousted president and more than 100 others, including members of Hamas, are charged with murdering prison officers during the breakout.

Since July, the Egyptian authorities have also limited movement through the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip and destroyed dozens of tunnels, which were dug under the border and used to smuggle food, fuel and weapons.

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Russia allowed to have 25,000 troops in Crimea since 1999… & other facts you may not know

Ukrainian marines look at a Russian ship floating out of the Sevastopol bay on March 4, 2014

Ukraine’s statement at the UN that 16,000 Russian soldiers have been deployed to Crimea has caused a frenzy among Western media which chooses to ignore that those troops have been there since the late 1990s in accordance with a Kiev-Moscow agreement.

Western media describes the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as if a full-scale Russian invasion were under way, with headlines like: “Ukraine says Russia sent 16,000 troops to Crimea” and “Ukraine crisis deepens as Russia sends more troops into Crimea,” as well as “What can Obama do about Russia’s invasion of Crimea?”

It seems they have chosen to simply ignore the fact that those Russian troops have been stationed in Crimea for over a decade.

Russia’s representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, reminded on Tuesday that the deal surrounding the Black Sea Fleet allows Russia to station a contingent of up to 25,000 troops in Ukraine. However, US and British media have mostly chosen to turn a deaf ear.

People watch a Russian Navy ship enter the Crimean port city of Sevastopol March 2, 2014

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined that the country’s military “strictly executes the agreements which stipulate the Russian fleet’s presence in Ukraine, and follows the stance and claims coming from the legitimate authority in Ukraine and in this case the legitimate authority of the Autonomous Republic Crimea as well.”

So here are the facts, numbers, and details of this long-standing (but rarely cited) deal:

1) The Black Sea Fleet has been disputed between Russia and Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union back in 1991.

2) In 1997, the sides finally managed to find common ground and signed three agreements determining the fate of the military bases and vessels in Crimea. Two years later, in 1999, the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments ratified them. Russia has received 81.7 percent of the fleet’s ships after paying the Ukrainian government a compensation of US$526.5 million.

3) Moscow also annually writes off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequency resources, and for the environmental impact caused by the Black Sea Fleet’s operations.

4) According to the initial agreement, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was to stay in Crimea until 2017, but the deal was later prolonged for another 25 years.

5) The 1997 deal allows the Russian navy to have up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems with a caliber smaller than 100 mm, 132 armored vehicles, and 22 military planes on Crimean territory.

Ukrainian marines look at a Russian ship floating out of the Sevastopol bay on March 4, 2014

6) In compliance with those accords, there are currently five Russian naval units stationed in the port city of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula:

The 30th Surface Ship Division formed by the 11th Antisubmarine Ship Brigade, which includes the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship guard missile cruiser Moskva as well as Kerch, Ochakov, Smetlivy, Ladny, and Pytlivy vessels, and the 197th Landing Ship Brigade, consisting of seven large amphibious vessels;

The 41st Missile Boat Brigade, which includes the 166th Fast Attack Craft Division, consisting of Bora and Samum hovercrafts as well as small missile ships Mirazh and Shtil, and 295th missile Boat Division;

The 247th Separate Submarine Division, consisting of two diesel submarines – B-871 Alrosa and B-380 Svyatoy Knyaz Georgy;

The 68th Harbor Defense Ship Brigade formed by the 400th Antisubmarine Ship Battalion of four vessels and 418 Mine Hunting Ship Division, which consist of four ships as well;

The 422nd Separate Hydrographic Ship Division, which includes Cheleken, Stvor, Donuzlav and GS-402 survey vessels as well as a group of hydrographic boats.

7) Besides the naval units, Moscow also has two airbases in Crimea, which are situated in the towns of Kacha and Gvardeysky.

8) The Russian coastal forces in Ukraine consist of the 1096th Separate Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment in Sevastopol and the 810th Marine Brigade, which hosts around 2,000 marines. (Several other coastal units of the Black Sea Fleet are located in Russia’s Krasnodar Region, including the 11th Separate Coastal Missile Brigade in Anapa, the 382th Separate Marine Battalion, and a naval reconnaissance station in Temryuk).

Last week, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to send the country’s military forces to Ukraine to ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.”

However, the final say about deploying troops lies with Putin, who hasn’t yet made such a decision, stressing that deploying military force would be a last resort.

Authorities in the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea – where more than half the population is Russian – requested Moscow’s assistance after the self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of languages other than Ukrainian in official circumstances.

People watch a Russian Navy ship enter the Crimean port city of Sevastopol March 2, 2014

 

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Crimean self-defense squads in stand off with Ukrainian soldiers at Belbek airport

The autonomous republic’s self-defense forces have met with Ukrainian soldiers who wanted to return to Belbek Sevastopol International Airport. The sides entered into long negotiations, which ended with a peaceful agreement.

Nearly 50 soldiers from the Ukrainian army singing the national anthem and brandishing the Ukrainian flag came to Belbek airport at about 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT). They were keen to continue their service on the airport’s territory.

After self-defense squads’ fired several warning shots in the air, both sides started negotiating.

“You are deliberately provoking us,” one of the members of the self-defense forces told Ukrainian soldiers. The conversation was broadcast by Crimean ATR channel.

“How are we provoking you? We have no weapons,” the Ukrainians responded.

After the negotiations, nearly 10 airport military personnel, including several servicemen, signalmen and dispatchers, were permitted to stay on the territory of the airport to help ensure safety of the premises.

“The negotiations involved a lot of give and take, and the self-defense squads agreed to our demands but on certain conditions,” Colonel Yury Mamchur from the Ukrainian forces told the journalists at the scene.

Ukrainian servicemen carry flags as they leave Belbek Airport in Crimea on March 4, 2014.

The self-defense squads have been patrolling the grounds outside the airport since February 28. They were helping to ensure safety and prevent possible turmoil in Sevastopol and throughout the whole of Crimea.

Belbek Airport hosts 45 MiG-29 fighter jets and 4 L-39 training jets. However, only four fighters and one training aircraft are currently operational.

While most of the airport is patrolled by the self-defense squads, storage facilities with weapons and ammunition are still controlled by Ukrainian military forces.

The Crimean authorities have denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them.

Many units within the national armed forces have started joining up with the pro-Russian Crimean government and the locals who organized self-defense against right-wing radicals. Recently, the commander of the Ukrainian navy and most of the military stationed in the peninsula took new oaths.

This brings the total number of troops who’ve reportedly switched sides to nearly 6,000 in the last two days.

Among those pledging allegiance to Crimea is Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, who was appointed by Kiev last week as chief of the Ukrainian Navy, but swore to serve the people of Crimea on Monday.

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

Ukrainian servicemen wait at Belbek Airport in Crimea on March 4, 2014.

 

 

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Russian troops ordered home from surprise war games

T-72 tanks of the separate tank battalion of the Baltic Fleet motorized infantry brigade, during dislocation, being loaded on flatcars and sent to the district selected for military exercises, in the city of Gusev, Kaliningrad Region on February 28, 2014

President Putin has ordered troops sent last week to a surprise military exercise in western and central Russia to return to their bases.

Putin ordered the return after a Defense Ministry report, which said the exercises have been conducted successfully, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media.

The surprise military drills in Russia’s central and western territorial commands were launched last Wednesday.

They involved 150,000 troops, 90 aircraft, 880 armor, 80 warships and other hardware.

On Monday the last phase of the drill was witnessed by Putin, who visited the Kirillovsk military range in Leningrad region in north-western Russia.

March 3, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin supervises the military exercises at the Kirillovsky test range in Leningrad Region. Left: Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, right: Chief of the Russian Army’s Main Department of Combat Preparation Ivan Buvaltsev.

During the phase the 138th Mechanized Brigade of the Sixth Army of the Western Military District and the 104th Guards Airborne Regiment of the 76th Guards Airborne Division engaged in tactical war games. They demonstrated in the field their capabilities to maneuver and cripple enemy logistics, communication and control before a direct offensive.

The finale was somewhat spoilt by a heavy snow storm, which made a planned deployment of airborne troops too risky.

The exercises, which came amid a political crisis in Ukraine, were taken as a sign of a possible massive military incursion by some Russia watchers in the West.

Such drills, however, are called on a regular basis in Russia, with the previous one conducted in July in the east of the country.

Russia is currently under criticism from Western powers after the senate approved the sending of troops to Ukraine if needed to protect civilians from possible violence.

Moscow is concerned that radical extremists, who helped oust President Yanukovich and put in power the current self-proclaimed government in Kiev, may target regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, which refused to take orders from the new central authorities.

Western powers see the stance as aggressive and violating international law. Moscow denies the allegations, saying it is only concerned with protection of human rights in an unstable Ukraine and with the fate of ethnic Russians living there.

Soldiers of the separate tank battalion of the Baltic Fleet motorized infantry brigade, during loading of tanks on flatcars, for dislocation to the district selected for military exercises, in the city of Gusev, Kaliningrad Region on February 28, 2014.

 

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Pew: Strong Bipartisan Support for Israel As Obama-Netanyahu Meet

The Pew Research Center on Monday evaluated recent polling on American sentiments regarding the peace process in general, and administration efforts to pursue a U.S.-backed framework agreement between the parties in particular, as President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in the Oval Office to discuss issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Iranian nuclear program. Pew noted that despite public signals that Obama “intends to press [Netanyahu] to help move Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations to a ‘conclusive round,’” Americans were divided on the degree to which the administration should be focusing on the dispute.

Until now, Obama has not been as personally involved as some presidents had been in peacekeeping efforts, although Secretary of State John Kerry has made the goal of a comprehensive peace agreement one of his top priorities. But about four-in-ten (39%) of Americans say the U.S. should be less involved in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute compared with 36% who say it should remain is involved as it is now, according to a survey conducted last fall. About a fifth (21%) of Americans say the U.S. should be more involved.

U.S. support for Israel remains high, and it cuts across partisan and religious lines. About half (49%) of Americans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians in their dispute, while just 12% sympathize with the Palestinians and 12% say they back neither side, according to a March 2013 survey.

An interview given by the President to Bloomberg on the eve of the talks – described by veteran Israeli journalist David Horovitz as “a bombshell battering” of the Prime Minister – saw Obama placing substantial blame on Netanyahu for uneven progress in current Israeli-Palestinian talks. Horovitz noted that the interview, which also saw Obama sketching out scenarios for Israel’s diplomatic isolation, was a move that “might be considered bad manners, poor diplomatic protocol, a resounding preemptive slap in the face,” and more substantively that it was “just about the last thing likely to bolster the prime minister’s confidence in their alliance, and just about the last thing likely to encourage Netanyahu to further alienate his hawkish home base by taking steps such as halting building outside the settlement blocs.”

The Oval Office meeting itself reportedly went smoothly:

Speaking to the press, Obama said that there is strong bipartisan support for Israel’s security and that the two-state solution is still possible. Obama praised Netanyahu’s intensive efforts in the talks and reiterated his commitment to assuring Iran does not become a nuclear power…An Israeli official said prior to the meeting of the two leaders that “there are tensions between the two. Obama’s interview (with Bloomberg) heightened tensions.”

via Pew: Strong Bipartisan Support for Israel As Obama-Netanyahu Meet – The Tower – The Tower.

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Russia slams Ukraine’s UN envoy for publicly justifying Nazi collaborators

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Yuriy Sergeyev speaks during a Security Council meeting on the crisis in Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 3, 2014

Russia has slammed Ukraine’s UN envoy for justifying Ukrainian Nazi collaborators on the sidelines of the Security Council session. The diplomat said the USSR fabricated accusations against Ukrainian nationalists during the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s.

“With these words, [the] Ukrainian representative at the UN offended the memory of killed Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and citizens of other nationalities who fell victims to the atrocities committed by Ukrainian Nazi supporters,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to Ukrainian diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev. “There is a lot of proof of their violent crimes. We are ready to acquaint Sergeyev with them.”

Speaking after the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the Ukrainian envoy accused “the Russian-Soviet side at the time” of attempts to press on “the Western allies to declare [the] Bandera movement members and others murderers.”

“The Nuremberg Trials (a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany between 1945 and 1949) did not declare it. Why? Because the facts were falsified and the Soviet Union’s position at the time was unjust,” the diplomat told reporters.

In his statement, Sergeyev particularly referred to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which was led by Stepan Bandera, and its militant branch, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, headed by Roman Shukhevich.

In the summer of 1941, Bandera called on “the people of Ukraine to help the German army to defeat Moscow and Bolshevism.” However, Bandera and Hitler failed to reach an agreement as Nazi Germany refused to support the idea of an independent Ukrainian state. Bandera was arrested in 1942 and sent to a concentration camp. He was released two years later.

Sergeyev asked not to “generalize” or assume that all residents in the western regions of Ukraine are nationalists or followers of Bandera, a controversial leader of the nationalist movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians.

“Millions of Ukrainians in the west are normal European citizens,” he stressed, saying the same applies to the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party members.

The comment by the Ukrainian envoy comes amid a wide presence of far-right groups in the recent coup. Aligned within the nationalist-radical umbrella group Right Sector, the armed groups violently fought in Kiev to overthrow President Yanukovich.

Ukraine remains divided on the nationalist issue and the events of WWII. Nationalism has traditionally been strong in the west of the country, where in some areas, Victory Day (May 9) was declared a day of mourning in 2013. In the city of Lvov, the day ended in scuffles.

In eastern Ukraine, the glorification of such figures as Bandera and Shukevich, as well as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, has always prompted protests.

The division between west and east sharpened one more time in 2010, when then-President Victor Yushchenko posthumously honored Bandera and Shukhevich with the title of ‘Hero of Ukraine.’

The move was condemned by the European Union as well as a number of Jewish organizations around the world. The award sparked anger in Russia – where Bandera is regarded as a fascist – and Poland, where he is blamed for organizing the mass killings of Poles.

In 2011, the Ukrainian constitutional court recognized the presidential order as invalid.

 

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Egypt : El-Sissi Gives Sign of Presidential Run – ABC News

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Egypt‘s military chief, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, gave his strongest indication yet that he intends to run for president, saying Tuesday that he “can’t turn his back” to public demands. In a campaign-style speech, he said Egyptians must unite and end street turmoil to tackle the country’s mounting economic and security woes.

El-Sissi is considered almost certain to win if he runs for president, riding on a wave of popular fervor since ouster Mohammed Morsi, who had faced massive protests demanding his removal after a year in office.

El-Sissi’s speech to military cadets and their families during a graduation ceremony, later aired on state TV, appeared aimed at explaining to nervous supporters why he has not yet made an official announcement amid the widespread expectations — while laying out what is likely to be a theme of his campaign, that Egyptians must take responsibility for restoring stability and rebuilding the economy.

He virtually confirmed he intends to run. “Don’t imagine that anyone who truly loves his country and loves the Egyptians, can ever turn his back on them when he finds there is a desire by many of them. No one can do that,” he said, to applause from the audience.

He said he could not openly declare his candidacy since he still holds the post of defense minister. “Let us leave things for the coming days,” he said, hinting that he was waiting for the interim president to issue a law governing the presidential vote. The vote is to be held by the end of April.

“I spoke in signs so that people don’t get confused” amid much speculation, el-Sissi said. “I hope you all got the sign.”

His call for unity reflected the daunting problems he would face if he becomes president. Morsi’s Islamist supporters have been protesting for months demanding his reinstatement. Also, Islamic militants have been waging a campaign of bombings and assassinations. The economy has been wrecked since the 2011 ouster of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

“Don’t imagine that any one person can solve the problems in Egypt, regardless of who it is you select. No, it will be solved by all of us,” he said. “Don’t imagine that the problems accumulated for over 30 years, can be solved without us joining hands.”

In an implicit call to Morsi supporters to end their protests, he said, “Maybe eight months (since Morsi’s ouster) is a time to start to review and reconsider. … Look around you to see if what is happening pleases God.”

“Egyptians, you need to put your hands together to avert a real danger for Egypt,” he said.

Over the past weeks, the 59-year-old army chief has been increasingly acting in a presidential fashion, most notably a visit last month to Russia, where he secured the Kremlin‘s blessing for his likely presidential bid.

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Last week, his wife made her first public appearance: Intisar el-Sissi was seated next to him during a ceremony honoring senior officers.

Posters of el-Sissi next to a lion are plastered on walls and hoisted on lampposts across much of the country. Songs praising the military and el-Sissi are played on radio and blare from coffee shops. Supporters often tout him as the new Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the legendary Arab nationalist who ruled in 1950s and 1960s.

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The law governing the upcoming presidential vote was given on Tuesday to the Cabinet for consultations, after which it will be given to interim President Adly Mansour to issue.

Ali Awad, the president legal adviser, said that one article in the new law provides that if only one candidate runs, the vote will be a referendum on the candidate. Another article would allow for the results of the voting to be appealed if a complaint is filed within a week of their announcement. Awad said the articles will still be debated by the Cabinet.

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Putin : Deploying military force is last resort, but we reserve right

Russia will not go to war with the people of Ukraine, but will use its troops to protect citizens, if radicals with clout in Kiev now try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians, particularly ethnic Russians, Putin told the media.

Putin, who was given a mandate by the Russian senate to use military force to protect civilians in Ukraine, said there is no need for such an action yet.

Putin cited the actions of radical activists in Ukraine, including the chaining of a governor to a stage as public humiliation and the killing of a technician during an opposition siege of the Party of Regions HQ, as justification for Russia to be concerned for the lives and well-being of people in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Incidents like those are why Russia reserves the option of troop deployment on the table.

“If we see this lawlessness starting in eastern regions, if the people ask us for help – in addition to a plea from a legitimate president, which we already have – then we reserve the right to use all the means we possess to protect those citizens. And we consider it quite legitimate,” he said.

Russia is not planning to go to war with the Ukrainian people, Putin stressed, when a journalist asked if he was afraid of war. But Russian troops would prevent any attempts to target Ukrainian civilians, should they be deployed.

“We are not going to a war against the Ukrainian people,” he said. “I want you to understand it unambiguously. If we do take a decision, it would only be to protect Ukrainian citizens. Let anybody in the military dare, and they’d be shooting their own people, who would stand up in front of us. Shoot at women and children. I’d like to see anyone try and order such a thing in Ukraine.”

Putin dismissed the notion that the uniformed armed people without insignia who are currently present in Crimea are Russian soldiers. He said they are members of the Crimean self-defense forces and that they are no better equipped and trained than some radical fighters who took part in the ousting of Yanukovich.

He assured that the surprise military drills in Russia’s west which ended on Tuesday had nothing to do with the Ukrainian situation.

An attack of marines supported by combat vehicles during an exercise held by the Baltic Fleet coastal defense troops at the Pavenkovo training ground in the Kaliningrad region, March 2, 2014.

Sanction threats are counterproductive

Asked about criticism of Russia over its stance on Ukraine, Putin dismissed the accusations that Russia is acting illegitimately. He stated that even if Russia does use force in Ukraine, it would not violate international law.

At the same time he accused the United States and its allies of having no regard to legitimacy when they use military force in pursuit of their own national interests.

“When I ask them ‘Do you believe you do everything legitimately,’ they say ‘Yes.’ And I have to remind them about the US actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where they acted either without any UN Security Council mandate or through perverting a mandate, as was the case in Libya,” Putin said.

Our partners, especially in the United States, always clearly formulate for themselves their geopolitical and national interests, pursue them relentlessly and then drag the rest of the world in, using the principle ‘You are either with us or against us.’ And harass those who refuse to be dragged in,” he added.

As for the sanctions Russia faces over Ukraine, Putin said those threatening them should think of the consequences to themselves if they follow that path. In an interconnected world a country may hurt another country if it wishes, but it would be damaged too.

Threats are counterproductive in this situation, Putin warned. He added that if G8 members choose not to go to Sochi for a planned G8 summit, that would be up to them.

Putin sympathies with Maidan protesters, rejects coup

Putin stressed that the Ukrainian people had a legitimate reason to protest against Yanukovich’s power, considering the overwhelming corruption and other faults of his presidency.

But he objected to the illegitimate way his ouster took place, because it undermined the political stability in the country.

“I strictly object to this form [of transition of power] in Ukraine, and anywhere in the post-Soviet space. This does not help nurturing a culture of law. If someone is allowed to act this way, then everyone is allowed to. And this means chaos. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a country with an unstable economy and an unestablished political system,” Putin explained.

He said that while he personally was not fond of months-long streets protests as a means to pressure the government, he sympathized with the Maidan demonstration members, who were genuinely outraged with the situation in Ukraine.

But at the same time he warned that what happens in Ukraine now may be a replacement of one group of crooks with another, citing the appointments of certain wealthy businessmen with questionable reputations.

Asked about the presence of snipers during the violent confrontation in Kiev last month, Putin said he was not aware of any order from the Yanukovich government to use firearms against the protesters. He alleged that the shooters could have been provocateurs from one of the opposition forces. He added that what he was sure of is the fact that police officers were shot at with lethal arms during the confrontation.

Yanukovich is certainly powerless in Ukraine, but legally speaking he is the legitimate president of the country, Putin said. The way the new authorities in Kiev replaced him did not enhance their credibility.

Asked if he felt for Yanukovich, Putin said “Oh, no. I have absolutely different feelings.” But he declined to publicly explain what those were. He also refrained from commenting on what mistakes he saw in Yanukovich’s actions, explaining that it would not be proper for him to do so.

At the same time Putin does not see any political future for Yanukovich, which he told the ousted Ukrainian president himself. He added that Russia allowed him to come to its territory for humanitarian reasons, because if he remained in Ukraine he could have been summarily executed.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych arrives for his press-conference in southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, on February 28, 2014.

Equal participation in Ukraine’s future for all Ukrainians

The Russian government is currently engaging with the self-proclaimed govern of Ukraine with the goal of preserving economic ties between the two countries. However, any normal relations would only be possible after Ukraine has fully legitimate branches of government, Putin said. He considers that he has no counterpart in Kiev now, so he personally has no partner to communicate with.

The Russian president stressed that Russia wants to see equal participation of all citizens of Ukraine in defining the future of the country. The resistance to the authorities in Kiev, which is evident currently in the eastern and southern Ukraine, shows clearly that currently Kiev does not have a nationwide mandate to govern the country.

“Frankly, they should adopt a new constitution through a referendum so that all citizens of Ukraine feel engagement in that process, have an input on the formation of the new principles of how their nation should function,” Putin suggested. “That’s certainly not for us, but for the Ukrainians and the Ukrainian authorities to decide this way or another. I believe after legitimate government is formed, after a new president elected, after a new parliament is elected, they should return to this.”

Russia will be watching the planned presidential election in Ukraine, Putin said. If it is conducted in an atmosphere of terror, Russia will consider it unfair and will not recognize its results, he warned.

Putin commented on the issue of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which Russia committed to preserve. He said that Western powers reject Russia’s assessment of the events in Ukraine as a coup and insist on calling it a revolution.

Some Russian experts, Putin warned that if Ukraine had undergone a revolution, then the nation that came out of it is not the same that it was before, similarly to how Russia transformed after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

If this is the case, Moscow may consider itself no longer bound by any treaties it has with Ukraine, Putin warned.

 

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12 videos showing why southeast Ukraine fears and stands up to radical nationalists

Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups actively fought on Maidan to overthrow President Yanukovich. Now as the fierce riots in Kiev are over, they are unwilling to give up their violent ways, unleashing their “revolutionary” power against local authorities.

They hide their faces behind masks. They wear jeans and camouflage, helmets and bulletproof vests. Their arsenal is not rich, but it’s quite powerful: spiked ball maces, baseball bats, batons, spades, and flames. Under the guise of “self defense units,” they attack activists without distinction in Kiev.

On February 15, activists from ‘For a Clean Kiev’ gathered to sweep up the mess, collect trash, and dismantle the barricades across the city’s main central square that was at the heart of the revolt. But radicals blocked them from doing so.

Armed youngsters then chased down the crowd of activists, knocking them off their feet and beating them with batons and bats.

Hapless onlookers were dragged into the scuffle. One man with his face covered in blood said he was shielding his wife when a group of five to 10 “Maidan protesters” suddenly attacked them and battered him with baseball bats.

Ultra-nationalist groups that took an active part in overthrowing the ruling regime at Kiev’s Independent Square now want to repeat their success in other regions of Ukraine.

A far-right network of groups called Right Sector has its own agenda. They are less interested in Ukraine’s association with European Union, focusing instead on the “national revolution.”

They want “Ukraine for Ukrainians.” Its members salute in a Nazi style and shout nationalist slogans like “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”

Far-right activist Aleksandr Muzychko, aka “Sashko Beliy” (Sasha White) definitely has his own style of negotiating.

“The Right Sector was armed and will be armed till the time when it will be necessary,” Muzychko said, dressed in camouflage. As if to prove his words, he pulled an AK-47 machine gun out from under the table of a local Ukrainian parliament.

“You did not give us this weapon and you will not take it away. Who wants to take away my machine gun, my pistol, my knives? Let them try! As Americans say, ‘God made every man different; Sam Colt made them equal!’ I will put aside my Kalashnikov only when order in Ukraine is restored,” he said.

In the video, titled “Sachko Communicates with a Prosecutor,” he hoarsely yells at a prosecutor of Rovno (Rivne) Oblast after being told a criminal investigation into a local murder is being delayed.

Snatching the prosecutor’s tie, Sashko threatens tie him up with a rope and pull him to Maidan.

Another far-right activist, Igor Mosiychuk – aka “Moisha” – is a member of ‘Patriots of Ukraine.’

He proudly calls himself a “Ukrainian nationalist.” In this video from 2010 found on Youtube, he is seen haughtily playing with weapons.

Igor Mosiychuk was sentenced to six years in January this year for plotting the demolition of the monument to Lenin, but has just been released as “a political prisoner.” He almost literally stepped from prison to a Ukrainian TV station where he shared his group’s views and threatened “harsh punishment” to those who try to split Ukraine. He called on the Right Sector to move on Crimea.

Negotiations between far-right groups and local authorities seem to be far from constructive and peaceful. Ultra-nationalists, accompanied by masked people in camouflage with batons in hand, show no respect.

The people of Vasylkov don’t want ultra-nationalists in their city, which is located some 25 kilometers from Kiev. A verbal fight between the two groups risks evolving into real clashes.

So, who are the ‘Patriots of Ukraine?’

The Patriots of Ukraine is a well-structured group that mainly consists of football ultras, professional raiders, and militants. They all undergo illegal military training, using real weapons, in various parts of Ukraine.

This video provides a perfect understanding.

 RT News

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