Daily Archives: March 18, 2014

2 killed, 2 injured in shooting near Crimea military research center, ‘sniper detained’

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Two people – a self-defense member and a Ukrainian soldier – were killed and two others wounded after snipers opened fire from a partially inhabited building near a military research center in Simferopol. One sniper was detained, another is on the run.

As RT producer Lida Vasilevskaya arrived on the scene, the perimeter of the Ukrainian military topography and navigation center had already been surrounded by men in camouflage and the situation was “calm.”

The local Interior Ministry said in a press release that shooting came from a house under construction opposite the center and targeted Crimean self-defense units as well the military center itself.

“Earlier today self-defense units were informed that a group of armed men had been discovered in a partially inhabited building,” the press release said. “As the self-defense were taking measures to check, they came under fire, presumably from a sniper rifle,” police said adding that shooting came “in two directions from one spot.”

One self-defense unit member was killed and another wounded, police said. Also, one Ukrainian soldier who was guarding the military research center, was killed, and another wounded.

Earlier, Ukrainian servicemen told RT that last night unknown groups tried to break into several military bases, but self-defense units managed to prevent them from entering.

“Guys from self-defense told me today that they were afraid of provocations,” Lida Vasilevskaya tweeted.

Crimean Interior Ministry did not rule out a provocation aimed at complicating the situation in the city after Crimea and Sevastopol were accepted into the Russian Federation.

Despite lack of verified details of what exactly happened in Simferopol, and a stream of conflicting reports, Kiev immediately claimed “Russian soldiers started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen”.

“This is a war crime without any statute of limitations,” coup-appointed Prime-Minister Yatsenyuk told a meeting at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

In another immediate reaction to the accident, acting President Aleksandr Turchinov authorized Ukrainian troops stationed in Crimea to use firearms to “defend their lives.”

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Russian lawmakers ask President Obama to impose sanctions on them all

The State Duma has passed a motion suggesting that the US and EU extend the freshly introduced sanctions to all Russian MPs rather than a limited group of officials, defying western pressure just hours before Russia and Crimea signed a federation treaty.

The motion was supported by a unanimous vote on Tuesday morning. It was prepared the day before by all four parliamentary parties after representatives of the United States and the European Union said they were slapping sanctions, such as visa bans and asset freezes, on a number of Russian officials who are seen as “key ideologists and architects” of the policy towards Ukraine.

The State Duma motion reads that the US President’s decree was limiting the rights of Russian citizens and that similar discriminatory measures were approved by foreign ministers of the EU nations.

In a speech MP Mikhail Markelov (Fair Russia) called the move by the US State Department, President Obama and the European Union “an absurd attempt”, and suggested that the US punished all lower house members. “As long as they stress that MP Lyudmila Mizulina is on the blacklist, they should also impose sanctions on all 436 MPs who voted for the law that protects our children from gay propaganda,” Markelov noted.

A day earlier, after first reports about the new sanctions the head of the lower house committee for family issues Lyudmila Mizulina said that she was perplexed by her addition to the list. “The decision is puzzling – although we’ve expected sanctions – because I don’t have any accounts or real estate abroad, nor do my family members live abroad…Why was particularly I included?” the lawmaker said in press comments.

Deputy Markelov also said in his Duma speech that Russian politicians cannot be intimidated by Western sanctions as previous examples of their application demonstrate that such measures are hardly effective. “They tried it before in Serbia, Belarus, Syria. But these nations have not lost their dignity, have not lost their identity, they remain united and independent countries,” the deputy said.

“Our position is extremely clear and honest. We never betray our own. We will never betray the Russian-speaking citizens and simply the citizens who live on the territory of Crimea, who have made a decision to be with Russia forever,” Markelov told the parliamentarians.

“As for the sanctions, today any sanctions will only unite our political elite, because our businessmen and the common people have always united before external threats, regardless of their political views,” the MP added.

Commenting on the parliamentary motion an Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that everyone in Russia was tired of sanctions adding that the western measures only caused irony or even sarcasm. He refused to answer the question if Russia planned any reciprocal steps.

Hours after the State Duma passed the motion President Vladimir Putin, Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov, Chairman of the Crimea nlegislature Vladimir Konstantinov and Sevastopol Mayor Aleksey Chaly signed the federation treaty between the Crimean Republic and Russia. Putin asked the Russian parliament to ratify the treaty making both Crimea and the city of Sevastopol new federation subjects.

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US shuts down Syrian embassy, tells diplomats to leave !!!!!?

Embassy of Syria, Washington

Washington has closed the Syrian embassy and two of its consulates, and has told all Syrian diplomats that they must leave the country, after Damascus decided to call back its mission last week.

“Following the announcement that the Syrian Embassy has suspended its provision of consular services, and in consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people, we have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States,” said a note from the State Department’s special envoy for Syria, Daniel Rubinstein.

As well as its mission in the US capital, Syria also operated two consulates in Troy (Michigan) and Houston.

Syria’s own decision, reported in Middle Eastern media last week, was allegedly provoked by the US, which made it increasingly difficult to obtain accreditation for new diplomats since the internal conflict broke out in 2011.

Reports also claimed that Damascus would follow the same course of action in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, two other countries that have staunchly supported the rebels alongside the US.

Neither Damascus nor Washington have implied that the withdrawal of representatives constitutes a severing of diplomatic ties.

“Despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar Assad leaves power,” said Rubinstein.

The US vacated its own embassy in Damascus more than two years ago.

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600,000 people attend Moscow rally for Crimea-Russia reunification

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A concert rally in support of the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation, held in Moscow’s Red Square gathered around 600,000 people. At the rally Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine will overcome its crisis, and further development of our relationship depends on the joint actions of Kiev and Moscow.

“The We Are Together concert rally in the Red Square ended without incident. About 600,000 people took part in it,” the police spokesperson said.

“We are very worried by what is happening in Ukraine but I believe that Ukraine will overcome all the difficulties. We are not just neighbors, we the closest relatives, and our future success depends on us, both Russia and Ukraine,” Putin said at the We Are Together rally held in Moscow in support of Crimea becoming part of Russia.

Today is “a very joyful, fair, festive day,” the president said.

“After a hard, long and exhausting journey Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their home harbor, to their home shores, to their permanent home port – to Russia,” Putin said.

He thanked the people of Crimea and Sevastopol for “their decisive position and articulated will to be together with Russia.”

The concert rally took place at the Red Square and was organized by public, patriotic veteran and youth organizations.

Shortly before the president’s arrival to the rally it was attended by Chairman of the Crimean State Council Vladimir Konstantinov, head of the Crimean Council of Ministers Sergei Aksyonov and Sevastopol’s Authorized Chairman Alexei Chaly, who met with Putin separately in the Kremlin earlier.

Earlier on Tuesday the Russian president addressed the Federal Assembly over the accession of Crimea to Russia. Later the president signed an agreement on the admission of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation and the formation of new Russian constituent regions.

Tens of thousands gather in Moscow to support Crimea-Russia reunification

A rally on the occasion of Crimea’s reunification with Russia that began at 2 pm GMT (6 pm Moscow Time) on Red Square has brought together tens of thousands of people.

The crowd was waving the Russian national tricolors, St. George’s flags, as well as the banners of main political parties and a host of public movements, an Itar-Tass correspondent said in an eyewitness account from the site.

Many people brought posters with them. The most typical slogans said “Crimea Is With Us”, “Welcome Back”, “We Are Together”, “We Stand For Peace”, “Russia and Crimea Are One”, “Crimea is the Russian Land”, “We Don”t Need Others” Property, But Won”t Give Away What”s Our Own”, “We Trust Putin”, and “Long Live the Fraternal People”.

The rally was broadcast to a huge outdoor screen installed on Manezhnaya Square located in a stone’s throw from Red Square and the Kremlin. A specially organized corridor, which begins at Revolution Square metro station, provides access to Red Square but anyone wishing to get to the rally has to pass metal searchers.

 

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US war in Iraq diverted both senior level attention and military capabilities away from Afghanistan – Robert Gates, CIA director

former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who has just published his memoir Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

The War in Iraq will always be tainted by the fact that the premise on which the United States went to war was the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was proved to be not true. But the eventual assessment of this conflict will depend on how the situation in the Middle East evolves over the next decades, says Robert Gates, CIA Director (1991-1993) and the US Secretary of Defense (2006-2011).

Today we are going to talk about that little boy from Wichita, Kansas, the one who earned Eagle Scout, the one who went through life always trying to be prepared and to serve with duty, honor and distinction. Unknown to many his doctoral dissertation wrestled with both the Soviet and Chinese question. For the public he served many roles and under many presidents including Secretary of Defense for both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And while it may seem a bit too early to write his memoir as I suspect there are many pages yet to be written, Robert Gates has with Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War which gives an insider’s look to some of his experiences and thoughts.

Welcome, Secretary Gates. I want to talk about a shared moment even though we’ve never met. In 2006 I was volunteering at the cast of the contingency air medical staging facility and some of the military hospitals around Washington DC. I was working with the group that was helping families deal with their loved ones as they convalesced as they returned from the theater. While I was seeing some of the things the report came out just as you were being installed a Secretary talking about the difficulties that Walter Reed was facing and some of the things that weren’t going so well. And I remember hearing you for the first time and just taking it on a very blunt matter-of-fact, very steady way, not diverting it, not avoiding it at all and I wondered how important it was that that was part of your first impression and how that affected your course?

Certainly that was an important moment in terms of communicating how much I care about troops and particularly taking care of those who had been wounded and the families of those who had been killed. It was an opportunity to demonstrate not only that care but also that I would demand accountability when it came to taking care of the troops and as a result of the findings of that time and that investigation I fired the hospital commander, I fired the sergeant general of the army and I fired the secretary of the army. I think it sent a powerful message both to the troops but also to the leaders that people who didn’t take proper care of our troops would be held accountable people who didn’t perform their jobs well, would be held accountable and frankly that was kind of a new thing in Washington DC.

And it was probably a necessary message not just under political spectrum but as you said for the people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, because Iraq was and still remains somewhat difficult theater. The US military might be designed in fact better at winning wars than winning the peace. Do you feel that you had the tools necessary to prosecute the task you were assigned?

I think we had most of the tools, I think that there were some serious deficiencies that I moved quickly to remedy. I think and it was clear that we needed much more heavily armored vehicles and moving our troops from one place to another than relatively light Humvees that were like jeeps and that were being destroyed constantly by roadside bombs and under in the road bombs. We clearly needed more intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in Afghanistan, we needed it faster. So there were number of items of equipment that frankly when I became secretary I thought were needed by the troops and it was important to get them to them in weeks of months, not in years. So a good part of my first year or so and in office was trying to get that equipment to the troops. I think part of the problem is that like most wars everyone expected that the efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan would be short so people weren’t willing to make long term investments and expensive investments in capabilities that they thought wouldn’t be needed very well. I was willing to do that, my attitude was win in a war, you are all in and you do everything that is necessary to be successful. And if you have material left over at the end, well, so be it.

In other words you wanted to make sure you were prepared just as you were trying as an Eagle Scout. But I wanted ask you then about the balance being prepared having that fore thought, making sure you are at the logistics and materials necessary but also maintaining enough mental nimbleness to be prepared for things that go wrong, because certainly in real life things always go somewhat differently as expected.

This is one of the reasons why I think people need to be more cautious about entering conflicts because they never go the way people intend, on very very rare occasions such as the first Gulf War in 1991 that go better than expected, but most of the time they got a lot worse than expected and take a lot more time than expected. But you have to be willing to do this questioning yourself routinely in terms of is the strategy working, what are the benchmarks to tell me whether or not the strategy is working and I might prepare to adjust. One of the things that I admire the most about General Petraeus, General McChrystal, General Rodriguez, General Austin, General Dempsey and others in these two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan was that if something wasn’t working they would quickly abandon it, try something different, try a different tactic, they were willing to be very creative and very innovative but they were willing to fail fast and try something that if something wasn’t working to shift gears unfortunately Washington isn’t that good in doing that and I think that is one of the things that I tried to focus on the Pentagon was that the senior military leadership needed to focus on the wars we were fighting and make sure we were doing a good job in those rather than being completely occupied with fighting future wars that might not take place at all or it may not take place for 20 or 30 years.

I imagine though that there is a fine line between questioning tactics and questioning yourself. And in giving that I want to ask a little bit about your experiences in theater amongst the troops. How did that change you? How did it inform your strategy going forward?

I think one of the things that people don’t understand that my experiences on the front lines and at the hospitals made me very watchful of anything that would put those troops on danger or in greater danger, it made me determine to do everything possible to protect them in terms of equipment and taking care of them. But at the same time you have to willing to make the decisions to send those troops, same troops, in harm’s way. And sometimes you have those two parallel plots in your mind: what do I have to do to win this battle, what do I have to do to take care of these troops? And you have to be able to do both at the same time, you can’t be so preoccupied with taking care of the troops that you don’t fulfill your responsibilities of Secretary of Defense in executing the president’s strategic decisions in war. But at the same time that doesn’t prevent you from having a deep sense of commitment and caring for the troops that you’ve sent in harm’s way leaving everything in your power to take care of.

But how do you personally develop a way to handle that? I know that when I worked in psychiatric facilities, when I worked in military hospitals I developed a sort of wall which separated the reality of working with people with serious maladies from my home life. How did you decompress? How did you escape? How did you wrestle with the problems that you knew or the deaths that were caused in part by your decisions?

President Bush and President Obama respectively were the seventh and eighth presidents that I had worked for. I had been Deputy Director and Director of CIA under President Reagan and the first president Bush. And in my CIA role I sent people in harm’s way. So I had been doing this a long time and first of all you have to be persuaded that what you are doing is in fact the right thing for the country. That in itself becomes an important psychological defense. If you believe that the actions that you are taking are important to safeguard the country and all Americans, then you are prepared to make the tough decisions that put specific people at risk. The other side of that coin is knowing that all of those people that you are putting at risk are volunteers, they have known what they were getting in to and they were prepared to take that on for exactly the same reasons – to do what is necessary to protect the country against their adversaries, against their enemies. And so knowing that they are volunteers, having confidence that you are doing the right thing I think is important in being able to deal with that on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s deal with the question about the right thing. There are many who claimed that Iraq was a diversion from the real war or the threat in Afghanistan that stands from Afghanistan. Can you respond to that? Should we have been ion Iraq?

Well, as I have said I think that is a question that history will have to answer. I think that the war will always be tainted by the fact that the premise on which we went to war was that there were weapons of massive destruction in Iraq and it proved not to be true. So that will always be a factor. But I think it will depend on how the situation in the Middle East evolves over the next 10-15-20 years in terms of whether that action is seen as the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam is the first crack in the wall of Arab authoritarianism that survived for decades and opened new opportunities or whether it led to a generation of instability and conflict in the regions. Until those questions are answered I think you can’t make a final judgment on the war itself. There is no question and I write about it in the book that Iraq diverted both senior level attention and military capabilities away from Afghanistan and probably made earlier success in Afghanistan much harder to achieve.

You mentioned earlier that you were the Deputy Director of the CIA, in 1984 Iran contra came to light when you were serving in that post. How much did you know and looking back how much should have been known? And would you do anything differently today?

It was late 1986 when it actually happened and I would tell you that there were two things going on in parallel. One was supporting the countries in Nicaragua and the other was selling weapons to Iran. I think the investigations showed that a lot of people knew that each of those two things was going on but was known only to a handful of people at the White House and Director Casey at CIA and few CIA people in the Clandestine Service that money from those arms sales in Iran was being diverted to countries in Nicaragua. So it is that redirection of the money that was this most scandalous part of the whole thing and very few people knew about that. I didn’t know about that, neither did a lot of other people.

-Now moving quickly into the present, yesterday Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine. Can you speculate on what kind of talker conversations happen when a moment like this occurs at the DOD or with the DOD in the White House?

I think that primary focus would be on the frustration at the limited options that are available in terms of retaliation or responding to the action. First of all you basically take the military option off the table, we are not going to go war with Russia over Crimea or over Ukraine and so you don’t want to end up in a military confrontation with the Russians. And actually there is nobody that I’ve heard that is arguing for that. So the question then is what kind of economic sanctions, what kind of political sanctions might have some impact on Vladimir Putin in terms of getting him either to change course or to alter his political strategy. And frankly giving the nature of the person Putin is I think that that is a very tough question because I think it will take very far reaching sanctions to have any impact on his decision making process.

I guess that leads us to the question about the balance you might have faced between pragmatism, politics, responsibility and duty. Could you talk about those and how often they went in conflict with each other?

-I don’t think that they really come into conflict that often and I think that if you believe that decisions are being made that make it tough for you to do your duty they always have a choice to resign, for example if I had faced some of the budget decisions that Secretary Panetta and Secretary Hagel had faced in terms of the consequences of sequestration I’m not sure that I would have felt like I could do my duty to the troops in carrying those out and then the question of whether you should resign would come up. That is always balance that, well, if I stake and I hope to mitigate the consequences can I make the consequences less dangerous for the country and for the troops. And I find that when you are in the situation where pragmatism becomes very important and you have to make sure that your policies are in alignment with your values, but you also have to watch out for what will protect the American people.

And finally what have you learnt that you want to make sure that your successors understand and learn going forward whether that the successors right now in this cool classroom or the people actually at the DOD or CIA?

From my personal standpoint it is the importance of being able to act, of doing things that serve the country and that means you have to compromise, it means you have to work with both Republicans and Democrats, it means that you have to make deals. That is the real world in which things get done. And those who argue that you can’t compromise I think don’t understand how the American government works and how the Constitution sets things up in terms of checks and balances, that the only way it works is through compromise and if you are in a senior position, particularly with respect to national security you have to make sure that you have been actually get things done rather than just pound the table.

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NSA records, stores for 30 days 100% of foreign countries’ telephone calls

The US National Security Agency has created a surveillance system that allows it to record and review other countries’ telephone calls. Then, the information is stored up to 30 days. This data is provided by the documents, disclosed by the NSA former contractor Edward Snowden.

The program is called MYSTIC and it was launched in 2009. Its RETRO tool reached its full capacity against the first target country in 2011. The system gathers “every single” telephone call nationwide and store it in a 30-day rolling buffer. The oldest call is then replaced by the newest one. This allows specialist to retrieve a necessary audio, analyze it and send its fragment for a long-term storage.

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. In his January speech President Obama claimed that this bulk method of capturing data flows doesn’t use discriminants. Thus, the most of the collected information is irrelevant for the US. In fact, the capability of the method is highly valuable.

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that this is a necessary method of providing the national security. “New or emerging threats are often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats,” she said.

The documents, provided by Snowden say that the program may be extended to other countries, if it hasn’t been already. Last year’s secret intelligence budget showed more countries for which the MYSTIC system provides “comprehensive metadata access and content.”

The program gathers data of those American, who leave in the target countries as well. The fact denies Obama’s statement “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.”

President Obama instructed the NSA and other agencies that bulk acquisition may be used only to gather information on one of six specified threats, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The directive, however, also noted that limits on bulk collection “do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection.”

In order “to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network” the US has build a new repository in Utah. Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, thinks that in the upcoming years the NSA will retain data longer.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines assures that MYSTIC is strictly conducted under Executive Order 12333, the traditional grant of presidential authority to intelligence agencies for operations outside the United States.

Some legislators are now considering whether Congress should draft new laws to govern intelligence operations. Experts agree with them, saying that there is not much legislation that governs overseas intelligence work.

Beginning in 2007, Congress loosened 40-year-old restrictions on domestic surveillance because so much foreign data crossed US territory. There were no comparable changes to protect the privacy of US citizens and residents whose calls and e-mails now routinely cross international borders.

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Russian Foreign Ministry vows retaliatory steps against EU

Russia sharply criticised the European Union on Tuesday for imposing sanctions on Russian officials and lawmakers involved in efforts to make Crimea part of Russia, and said it will retaliate.

“Attempts to speak to Russia in the language of force and threaten Russian citizens with sanctions will lead nowhere,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The adoption of restrictive measures is not our choice; however, it is clear that the imposition of sanctions against us will not go without an adequate response from the Russian side.”

All Russian MPs volunteer to be subject to US, EU sanctions

The Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has unanimously passed a statement in which they volunteered to be subject to the US and EU sanctions imposed on individual Russian officials and lawmakers due to the referendum in Crimea.

“We suggest that Mr. Obama [US President Barack Obama] and EU bureaucrats put all of the Duma deputies who voted for Crimea’s accession to Russia and for this resolution on the ‘black list’ of persons subject to the US and EU sanctions,” the statement says.

Russian blacklisted MP is happy to be on US sanctions list

Leader of the Just Russia party Sergei Mironov said he was proud to be on the US sanctions list. “It is with pride that I have found myself on the black list, this means they have noticed my stance on Crimea. It is funny that they will freeze accounts. I want to respond by re-phrasing the phrase from the Golden Calf [satirical novel] – ‘Keep looking, Shura, keep looking.’ No accounts exists, let them introduce sanctions as much as they want,” Mironov told reporters on Tuesday.

The statement Russia’s State Duma is to pass today on Crimea could be a response to the sanctions, Mironov said.

“We are very inter-dependable in the world” and for now it is too early to say certain things on how Russia could react, though this is wanted very much, Mironov said. As to mass media reports on the possibility of the Crimean referendum scenario in Transdniestria, one should not jump ahead, Mironov said.

“We will react to facts, including legal facts, though the example of Crimea is a very inspiring example for many Russian people,” Mironov said in the State Duma.

EU unveils list of sanctioned Russian, Crimean officials

The European Union has unveiled its list of sanctioned Russians and Crimeans whom it implicated in organizing the crucial referendum on Crimea’s independence. The EU version of the list, duplicated by the US, includes 13 Russians and eight people from Crimea and specifically targets political officials.

Italy’s foreign chief Federica Mogherini said earlier the EU sanctions would be in force for six months. This came after today’s meeting of 28 EU ministers and officials in Brussels. According to Mogherini, the sanctions will include visa bans and financial restrictions. However they will not affect representatives of Russia’s leadership, journalists and employees of nongovernmental structures.

The European Union took a cautious approach to imposing sanctions against Moscow, while leaving open the possibility of adding harsher economic measures when EU leaders meet later this week.

The 21 named officials are part of an original list that EU had drawn up last week that ran at about 120-130 people, Reuters says. It has since been shortened.

Among them are Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev, Parliament Chairman Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimea’s Navy Commander Deniz Berezovsky, as well as Russia’s Security and Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov, Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Law Andrei Klishas, and MP Nikolai Ryzhkov, to name a few.

EU sanctions require unanimity among all 28 member states. There are several countries, including Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Portugal, that have reservations about the decision. However, there are some EU members, like Poland, that reportedly pushed for expanding the list on Monday but failed to get enough support.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the damage inflicted by possible sanctions concerning the situation in Ukraine will be “mutual”. While the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow will respond to possible sanctions, not necessarily mirroring them.

The EU and US sanctions follow the Crimean Parliament’s adoption of the resolution on the independence of Crimea on Monday, which declares the Black Sea peninsula an independent, sovereign state and appeals to join Russia as a republic.

Read also:

EU sanctions against 21 Russians to last 6 months

EU adopts sanctions against 21 Russians, Ukrainians

Ministers of 28 EU states to hold emergency meeting on  referendum in Crimea

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Russia’s Federation Council to consider Crimea’s integration with Russia on Friday

The Federation Council will hold a special conference, aimed at ratification of Crimea’s integration with Russia agreement, Valentina Matviyenko, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, said.

“We will hold a special conference on Friday at 8:00 am GMT,” she said during her meeting with the delegation of the Supreme Council of the Crimea. Before the conference, a committee on international affairs, on constitutional legislature, on federative lay-out and on agenda will hold a joint meeting.

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​Disappeared Malaysia Airlines flight path altered by plane’s computer – report

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Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 changed course on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing via the cockpit’s computerized Flight Management System, not by manual control, American officials suggested to the New York Times.

The officials said Monday that only seven or eight keystrokes would have been sufficient to change the Boeing 777’s flight path, though it was not clear whether the system was reprogrammed before or after takeoff.

Regardless, the theory supports the belief of investigators – first voiced by Malaysian officials – that the flight was deliberately diverted.

On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that investigators had reliable information that someone on the plane had “deliberately disabled” communications systems before the plane vanished. Furthermore, investigators said that it would have taken someone with pilot training to be able to switch off the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS. This system automatically sends engine data and other information to the airline.

Yet Malaysian officials retracted the ACARS theory on Monday. They believe ACARS was still functioning when the plane’s co-pilot spoke the last words heard from MH370 by ground control.

ACARS lost function around the same time oral radio contact was cut off and as the airplane’s transponder halted, the Times reported.

Investigators are combing over radar tapes from MH370’s departure given they believe the recordings would show that after the plane changed its path, it went through several pre-ordained “waypoints,” or markers in the sky. That would implicate that a knowledgeable pilot was controlling MH370 as it went through those points, as passing through them without a computer is not likely.

One waypoint was added to MH370’s planned route, according to investigators. Pilots would do this if an air traffic controller orders a different route to avoid weather or traffic. Yet the wayward point in this case was well off the path to Beijing.

American officials said that if anyone changed the course of the flight by reprogramming the Flight Management System, it would likely be someone familiar with Boeing aircraft.

Meanwhile, China has started a search and rescue operation in a northern region of its own territory, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said early Tuesday, according to Xinhua.

Indonesia and Australia said Monday they would divide between them a large section of the south-eastern Indian Ocean in the plane search. Indonesia will examine equatorial waters while Australia will focus farther south, according to the Times.

On Sunday, Pakistan became one of 25 countries participating in the search for the missing plane. UK newspaper The Independent reported that Malaysian investigators had requested permission from the Pakistani government to follow up on a theory that the missing passenger jet had landed close to the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government says it has no record of the craft entering its airspace, but has told the Malaysian investigators it is ready to share all available information. In addition, The Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee has said that although the Malaysian Airlines plane could have reached Kazakhstan, their radars would have picked it up.

“No information about the Malaysian plane is available at our radar as it has not entered our airspace,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told reporters when asked to comment on the Malaysian government‘s request. “Our radar system has no information about the Malaysian aircraft as it has never contacted our control tower.”

RT News.

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French FM Fabius: Russia’s participation in G8 meetings suspended

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said the Group of Eight suspended Russia’s participation in their meetings. However, President Putin is still invited to visit France on June 6.

“At the moment, he is still invited. As for the G8 as a political formation for the dialogue of all big states together, we have decided to suspend the participation of Russia, there will be seven countries that gather [for the summit] – without Russia,” Fabius told Europe 1 radio.

France plans to hold a grand celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Allied Forces landing in Normandy.

Following Sunday’s referendum in Crimea in which over 96 percent of the population voted to join the Russian Federation, the US imposed sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials. The EU, in its turn, applied sanctions against 21 officials.

French defense and foreign ministers postponed their visit to Moscow that was scheduled for Tuesday in attempt to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.

Fabius called the crisis the biggest since the end of the Cold War, but called for calm.

“We want firmness to prevail and for Putin to not go any further, but at the same time we want to de-escalate the situation via dialogue,” said Fabius in an interview with France 2 television on Monday.

If Russia expanded its influence into the eastern Ukraine, then “there will be a reaction, including with force”, Fabius told France 2 TV, quoted by Reuters. “Ukraine has already mobilized some people and we cannot allow Russia to do simply anything.”

However, several Russian officials who were included on the list noted that they didn’t have any property or assets abroad.

Earlier, the EU list was announced, including 13 Russians and eight people from Crimea. The sanctions were visa bans and financial restrictions.

The EU sanctions are to be in force for six months, said Federica Mogherini, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, after EU ministers and officials met in Brussels.

However, some top officials think that the current measures will see both Russia and the world community suffer.

“We are all reluctant to impose sanctions because Russia will probably respond and we’ll all suffer as a result. But Russia is leaving us no choice. And the European Council has decided, if there is no movement on Russia’s part to correct the position, then I’m afraid we’ll have no – no choice on Monday,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.

The Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner pointed out that the reaction illustrates double standards of the West.

“It’s impossible to continue trying to present oneself as the guarantor of the global power when basic criteria are picked depending on the country that’s involved. In the case of the Crimean referendum, it turns out it’s bad, and if the Falkland Islands want their self-determination, it’s good. It doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny,” she said.

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