Daily Archives: April 8, 2014

Russia calls restricted access to NATO HQ ‘Cold War’ Mentality

NATO decision to limit the access of Russian diplomats to its headquarters in Brussels reflects the persistent “Cold War” mentality among the alliance’s officials, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. NATO said Monday the access to NATO Headquarters will be denied to all representatives of the Russian Mission, except the Russian Ambassador, his Deputy Head of Mission, and two support staff. Other Russian diplomats will have to notify NATO about their planned visit to its headquarters in advance, register upon arrival and be escorted by security staff throughout their visit.

“We noted that information about the move was posted on the main page of NATO’s official website. It looks like access by Russian diplomats to the NATO office is the North Atlantic alliancea’s number one problem,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The introduction of restrictive measures against [Russian diplomats] confirms once again that the alliance is not capable of overcoming the “Cold War” mentality, preferring the language of sanctions over dialogue,” the statement reads.

Ties between Moscow and the West plunged to record lows in recent weeks surrounding disagreements over Crimea, which rejoined Russia after 60 years as part of Ukraine last month.

In the ongoing diplomatic strife that followed, NATO froze all practical aspects of its military cooperation with Russia last week. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the Atlantic alliance’s moves as “Cold War-style sword swinging.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said last Thursday it has decided to recall its chief military representative to NATO, Col. Gen. Valery Evnevich, for consultations amid the standoff, RIA Novosti reports.

Russian officials have repeatedly said that Moscow was not seeking confrontation with NATO, but was ready to take all political and military measures to ensure its security.

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Kiev cracks down on eastern Ukraine after 2 regions proclaim independence

A pro-Russian militant holding a bat guards a barricade in front of the Donetsk regional administration building on April 8, 2014.

 A pro-Russian militant holding a bat guards a barricade in front of the Donetsk regional administration building on April 8, 2014.

Dozens have been arrested as Kiev authorities launched a crackdown on anti-Maidan activists in cities of eastern Ukraine that attempted to declare their independence.

At least 70 activists have been arrested after a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” launched by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry in the eastern city of Kharkov.

According to the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, “the building of the regional state administration is totally free of the separatists who seized it earlier.”

On Monday, Kharkov protesters erected barricades around administrative buildings and the regional headquarters of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). The demonstrators soon took control of the building.

This was followed by clashes with police who reportedly unleashed fire-hoses, stun grenades and tear gas to push the crowd back from the building. In response, protesters threw several Molotov cocktails at the building and set a pile of tires on fire. The blaze soon spread to the first floor of the building.

Eventually, a group of local police outside the administration building moved in to push protesters back, allowing fire crews to extinguish the blaze. The building was slightly damaged by the blaze and several windows were broken in the scuffles.

Activists at the scene said the law enforcement officers who used force against protesters had been deployed from western Ukraine. According to some witnesses, the violence was initially triggered by a group of provocateurs.

Despite the crackdown, a group of at least 150 people gathered in front of Kharkov’s administration building Tuesday to protest against the new authorities in Kiev.

Donetsk

Ukraine’s southeast has been seeing weekly anti-Maidan demonstrations.

In Donetsk, activists proclaimed the creation of a People’s Republic of Donetsk after seizing the local administration building.

This action on Monday was also followed by a special operation. Police took weapons seized by the protesters in the SBU’s regional headquarters, Donetsk Mayor Aleksandr Lukyanchenko said.

A woman raises her fist as pro-Russians demonstrate in front of the Donetsk regional administration building, held by pro-Russian militants, on April 8, 2014.

Ukrainian media however report that the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk has ceased to exist.

“The Committee on Patriotic forces of Donbass has been receiving numerous calls from the public voicing their disagreement with the proclamation of the republic and its joining the neighboring state as well as conducting a referendum – all those without a legal base in place,” Ukrainskaya Pravda daily cited the committee said as saying.

The proclamation and referendum plans were thus annulled till the legal base is created, the committee said. The group’s original posting on Facebook has become unavailable.

Lugansk, Nikolaev, Dnepropetrovsk

On Tuesday, protesters gathered in Lugansk – also outside the regional department of the SBU. Interfax-Ukraine reported that the protesters were setting up barricades and pouring flammable mixtures on them.

The speakers at the demonstration called for the creation of a parliament of the Lugansk republic, choosing new MPs and establishing a new government. Calls for an independence referendum were also heard.

On Monday, clashes erupted in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev after at least 300 activists attempted to storm the city administration building. The protesters were also trying to remove the Ukrainian flag from the administration building. Police reportedly used rubber bullets to force the crowd back from the building.

At least 15 people have been injured, with 11 of them were admitted to hospital, and more than 20 arrested, the city’s Health Department reported.

An elderly woman looks at the Russian flag set up by pro-Russian activists at a barricade blocking access to the Ukrainian Security Service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on April 8, 2014.

After pro-Russian demonstrators expressed their discontent with Kiev authorities in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, the city authorities moved to negotiate with the anti-government activists.

According to the region’s deputy governor, Boris Filatov, both the “left-wing” and the pro-Russian protesters agreed to refrain from “calls for separatist actions.” In return, the authorities said they will let the activists use some offices in the administrative buildings for their “meetings and work,” as well as provide them with “free access” to local printed media.

Meanwhile, Russia has called on Kiev and Washington not to ignore the interests of all of Ukraine’s regions, including those in southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced concerns over the build-up of Ukrainian forces and US mercenaries in southeastern parts of the country, calling on Kiev to immediately cease military preparations which could lead to a civil war.

According to Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, the coup-appointed government in Ukraine has not made any positive steps towards these regions and the people there “fear that their interests are being ignored by Kiev.”

 

 

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Brawl in Ukraine parliament as communist supports pro-Russia protesters

KIEV (Reuters) – Deputies in the Ukrainian parliament brawled in the chamber on Tuesday after a communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis.

Two deputies from the Svoboda far-right nationalist party took exception to the charges by communist Petro Symonenko and seized him while he was talking from the rostrum.

His party supporters rallied to his defense and a brawl broke out with deputies from other parties joining in and trading punches.

Communist lawmakers scuffle with right-wing Svoboda ( Freedom) Party lawmakers during a parliament session of Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, in Kiev, Ukraine Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Communist lawmakers scuffle with right-wing Svoboda ( Freedom) Party lawmakers during a parliament session of Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, in Kiev, Ukraine Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Symonenko stirred nationalist anger when, referring to pro-Russian protesters who seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, he said nationalists had set a precedent earlier this year by seizing public buildings in protest at the rule of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.

Now, he said, armed groups were attacking people who wanted to defend their rights by peaceful means.

“You are today doing everything to intimidate people. You arrest people, start fighting people who have a different point of view,” he said, before being pulled away from the rostrum by the Svoboda deputies.

Symonenko did not appear to have been hurt in the brawl involving other deputies. But one deputy later resumed his seat in the chamber with scratches on his face clearly showing.

The communists backed Yanukovich and his Regions Party through the three months leading up to him fleeing the country on February 21 after more than 100 people were shot dead by police snipers in Kiev.

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‘World’s oldest message in a bottle’ reaches granddaughter

German fisher Konrad Fischer holding a message in a bottle from 1913 on the fishing cutter "Maria I" in Kiel, Germany.

German fisher Konrad Fischer holding a message in a bottle from 1913 on the fishing cutter “Maria I” in Kiel, Germany.

A message in a bottle tossed in the sea in Germany 101 years ago, believed to be the world’s oldest, has been presented to the sender’s granddaughter, a museum said Monday.

A fisherman pulled the beer bottle with the scribbled message out of the Baltic off the northern city of Kiel last month, Holger von Neuhoff of the International Maritime Museum in the northern port city of Hamburg told AFP.

“This is certainly the first time such an old message in a bottle was found, particularly with the bottle intact,” he said.

Researchers then set to work identifying the author and managed to track down his 62-year-old granddaughter Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin.

“It was almost unbelievable,” Erdmann told German news agency DPA.

She was first able to hold the brown bottle last week at the Hamburg museum.

Inside was a message on a postcard requesting the finder to return it to his home address in Berlin.

“That was a pretty moving moment,” Erdmann said. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”

Von Neuhoff said researchers were able to determine based on the address that it was 20-year-old baker’s son Richard Platz who threw the bottle in the Baltic while on a hike with a nature appreciation group in 1913.

A Berlin-based genealogical researcher then located Erdmann, who never knew Platz, her mother’s father who died in 1946 at the age of 54.

Von Neuhoff said a handwriting comparison with letters penned by Platz later in life confirmed that he was “without a doubt” the author.

Erdmann told local newspapers that the surprise discovery had inspired her to look through family scrapbooks to learn more about her grandfather, a Social Democrat who liked to read.

Much of the ink on the postcard has been rendered illegible with time and dampness, von Neuhoff said.

The discovery will be on display at the museum until May 1, after which experts will set to work trying to decipher the rest of the message.

The Guinness World Records had previously identified the oldest message in a bottle as dating from 1914. It spent nearly 98 years at sea before being fished from the water.

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Chinese cup auctioned for record-breaking $36M

HONG KONG (AP) — A Shanghai collector bought a rare Ming Dynasty cup that’s touted as the “holy grail” of China’s art world for $36 million at a Hong Kong auction on Tuesday, smashing the previous world record price for Chinese porcelain.

Sotheby‘s said Liu Yiqian was the winning bidder for the small white cup, which measures just 8 centimeters (3.1 Inches) in diameter and is more than 500 years old. The vessel is known as a “chicken cup” because it’s decorated with a rooster and hen tending to their chicks.

It was made during the reign of the Ming Dynasty’s Chenghua Emperor, who ruled from 1465 to 1487. Sotheby’s said there are only 17 such cups in existence, with four in private hands and the rest in museums.

“There’s no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain,” said Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia. “This is really the holy grail when it comes to Chinese art.”

For such a prized item, bidding was limited to a handful of wealthy collectors and when the winning bid was hammered down at HK$250 million ($32.2 million), the standing-room only crowd broke into applause. The auction house’s commission brought the total to HK$281.2 million ($36.1 million). A pre-sale estimate had estimated a maximum sale price of HK$300 million.

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Sotheby’s said the previous record for Chinese porcelain was set in 2010 when a gourd-shaped Qianlong vase sold for $32.4 million.

It’s the latest of several records set at the auction house’s Hong Kong spring sales, indicating that the region’s super-rich are still spending despite fluctuating economic growth. At Sunday’s sale of modern and contemporary Asian art, Asian collectors bought nine of the top 10 priciest lots.

“Definitely the mood in Hong Kong at this moment, in Asia, is buoyant,” said Chow.

Chow said the cup would likely go on display in Liu’s Long Museum in Shanghai, which he and his wife, Wang Wei, opened in 2012.

Liu is a middle-school dropout who drove a cab before becoming a multimillionaire. Forbes estimates his fortune at $900 million, making him the 200th richest person in China.

via Chinese cup auctioned for record-breaking $36M – Yahoo News.

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Oscar Pistorius recounts moment of killing

Mr Pistorius is seen here leaving court on Tuesday

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has described the moment he fired the shots which killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home.

He told his trial in Pretoria he had heard noises from the toilet and thought an intruder was coming out.

“Before I knew it, I had fired four shots at the door,” he said.

The trial of the athlete, who could face life imprisonment if convicted of murder, was adjourned until Wednesday after he broke down crying.

The 27-year-old double amputee denies deliberately shooting Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

On his first day on the stand, on Monday, he made a tearful apology to Ms Steenkamp’s family.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Pistorius killed his girlfriend after an argument with her.

‘She wasn’t breathing’

In the early hours of 14 February 2013, he said he had got up from bed to bring in some fans he had left outside, in order to cool his bedroom.

When he heard a window opening in the bathroom, he said, he thought there was a burglar trying to get in.

Wanting to protect Ms Steenkamp, who was not sleeping, he had gone to get his gun in the dark.

“I whispered to Reeva to get down and phone the police,” he said.

He said he then went into the passage without his prosthetic legs and, overcome with fear, started screaming, and shouted for Ms Steenkamp to get to the floor.

The toilet door slammed, reconfirming his belief there was a person or people in the bathroom, the athlete said.

“I heard a noise from inside the toilet, what I perceived to be someone coming out of the toilet,” he said tearfully. At that point, he shot at the door.

After the shooting, Mr Pistorius said he had smashed in a door panel to get into the toilet, where he discovered what he had done.

“Whilst I leant over the partition to get in, I saw the key, so I took it and I unlocked the door, and I flung the door open, and I threw it open,” he said, sobbing.

“And I sat over Reeva and I cried… and um, I don’t know how long… I don’t know how long I was there for… She wasn’t breathing.”

As the athlete broke down, the judge adjourned the trial.

Valentine’s gifts

Earlier, the athlete described how the couple had spent a quiet evening together on 13 February, Ms Steenkamp doing some yoga as he spoke to his cousin on the phone.

He had then watched TV in bed with his head resting on her stomach and she would occasionally show him photos of cars she was looking at on her phone, he said.

He said that they had bought Valentine’s Day gifts for each other. He had bought her a bracelet and they had been due to go the jewellers’ to collect it the next day, he said.

Mr Pistorius also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, reality TV celebrity and law graduate, was hit by at least three bullets while in the toilet cubicle of Mr Pistorius’ home in Pretoria.

Known as the Blade Runner, Mr Pistorius holds six Paralympic medals and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

via BBC News – Oscar Pistorius recounts moment of killing.

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Tensions Rise on Gaza Border as IDF Thwarts Terror Attack

Coming after terrorists launched rockets into Israel late last week and Israel retaliated, Monday, IDF soldiers prevented an attack at Israel’s border with Gaza. The Times of Israel reported:

The soldiers spotted two suspects carrying a suspicious object near the fence, and chased them away by firing warning shots, according to a statement from the army. As they fled, the suspects dropped the object, which exploded moments later.

Soldiers guarding Israel’s border with Hamas ruled Gaza are regularly under threat from snipers as well as improvised, explosive devices (IED’s).

Monday’s incident at the Gaza border came on the heels of cross border attacks during the past week. Thursday and Friday last week, terrorists fired 5 rockets into Israel. The IDF retaliated hitting five sites inside Gaza.

IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said:

“The retaliation this evening at Gaza terrorist aggression was precision, and intelligence based. It is our obligation to seek out those that wish to attack us, eliminate their capabilities and pursue them wherever they hide. Hamas rocket terrorism is an intolerable reality Israelis should not have to accept.”

Four Hamas members were reported injured.

Last month Israel intercepted an Iranian sponsored arms shipment heading to Gaza. The rockets intercepted suggested that Hamas was trying replenish its arsenal that had been degraded during 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense.

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Turkey’s Erdogan Says Lifting of Twitter Ban Should Be Overturned

ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday a constitutional court ruling lifting a ban on Twitter was wrong and should be overturned.

“The constitutional court’s ruling on Twitter did not serve

justice. This ruling should be corrected,” Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his AK Party.

Access to Twitter was blocked on March 21 in the run-up to local elections, but Turkey’s telecoms authority lifted the two-week-old ban last Thursday after the court ruled that the block breached freedom of expression.

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Ukraine Moves to Reassert Control Over Restive East

MOSCOWUkrainian Interior Ministry troops expelled pro-Russian demonstrators from a regional administration building in the eastern city of Kharkiv early on Tuesday, arresting about 70 protesters as the provisional government in Kiev moved to exert control over unrest that the United States and its Western allies fear might lead to a Russian military invasion.

The successful operation to remove the demonstrators was announced by Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, who had traveled to Kharkiv to supervise the enforcement effort and described a dramatic overnight siege during which the building was briefly set on fire.

Mr. Avakov, writing on Facebook, boasted that the building had been retaken “without firing a shot, grenades, or other special weapons.” He said the special forces that had carried out the operation in Kharkiv were part of a broader redeployment of Interior Ministry troops to eastern Ukraine aimed at countering the unrest, which the government in Kiev has said is being orchestrated by Russia.

The unrest, in which pro-Russian demonstrators on Sunday evening seized government buildings in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lugansk and other cities in the region, has posed a delicate challenge for the authorities in Kiev given that Russian armed forces are deployed along the border and that the Kremlin has warned that it is prepared to intervene to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responding to the deployment of Ukrainian Interior Ministry troops, issued a stern statement accusing the Ukrainian government of embedding within its forces in eastern Ukraine both nationalist militants from the group Right Sector and private American mercenaries from a company called Greystone. It said the American contractors were being disguised as members of a military unit called “Falcon.”

A private American security company affiliated with Greystone, Academi — once known as Blackwater and notorious for its military contracting work in Iraq —, issued a statement in mid-March saying its personnel were not working in Ukraine, after similar allegations surfaced in the Russian press. The company did not immediately respond to the statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry, which has repeatedly denounced the government in Kiev as illegitimate and the result of a coup, warned against the use of military force in eastern Ukraine. “We call immediately for the halt of any military preparations, which risk the outbreak of civil war,” it said in its statement.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia would seek multinational talks on the Ukrainian political crisis that could include the United States, the European Union and “all the political forces in Ukraine,” which should include representatives of the country’s southeast, which includes Donetsk and Lugansk.

“The result, of course, should be constitutional reform,” Mr. Lavrov said at a televised news conference following a bilateral meeting with the foreign minister of Angola.

Mr. Lavrov said the talks should include presidential candidates from the country’s major parties, which would likely include the Party of Regions of the former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. “We are deeply convinced, and this conviction has not been refuted by anyone so far, it is impossible to calm down the situation and turn it onto the path of national dialogue if Ukrainian authorities continue ignoring interests of the southeast regions of the country,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Mr. Avakov, the acting interior minister, portrayed the expulsion of protesters in Kharkiv as a victory. On Facebook, he wrote: “We, the new team in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, choose to guard the integrity and independence of Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine.”

Hundreds of pro-Russian demonstrators continued to occupy the government administration building in Donetsk, as well as government buildings in other cities.

The seizure of government buildings by pro-Russian protesters has provided a particular public relations challenge for the new Ukrainian government because demonstrators in Kiev who helped oust Mr. Yanukovychhad long occupied government buildings in the capital, including City Hall.

The latest crisis began when several hundred pro-Russian demonstrators in the city of Donetsk declared on Monday that they were forming an independent republic and urged President Vladimir V. Putin to send troops to the region as a peacekeeping force, even though there was no imminent threat to peace.

The actions in Donetsk and two other major cities in eastern Ukraine, which included demands for a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, seemed to be an effort by the activists to mimic some of the events that preceded Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. However, there were no immediate indications that the Kremlin was receptive to the pleas.

While widely regarded as political theater that is supported, if not directed, by the Kremlin, the protests could help promote what analysts say is Russia’s primary goal of destabilizing the shaky government in Kiev, preventing it from drifting further into the West’s orbit and giving Moscow leverage over the country’s future ahead of presidential elections in May.

The turmoil in eastern Ukraine also makes it extremely difficult for the provisional government in Kiev to begin putting in place austerity measures and financial overhauls required by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for an $18 billion loan package that the country desperately needs to avert a default on its debt.

The protesters themselves may be trying to provoke a violent response from Kiev, analysts say, hoping to provide the pretext for a Crimea-like military incursion in a country that Moscow considers an integral part of historical Russia.

In Donetsk, the authorities were able to retake control of the headquarters of the security services, but remained in a standoff with demonstrators occupying the regional administration building. Several thousand people remained on the streets early Tuesday morning, and tensions remained high across the region, with a continuing risk of violence.

In recognition of the potential dangers, Secretary of State John Kerry told Mr. Lavrov, in a phone call on Monday that there would be “further costs” if Russia took additional steps to destabilize Ukraine, the State Department said. Mr. Kerry said in the call that the United States was monitoring with growing concern the pro-Russia protests in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk and Mariupol, and did not believe they were a “spontaneous set of events,” according to Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman.

“He noted in particular the recent arrests of Russian intelligence operatives working in Ukraine,” Ms. Psaki said.

The Obama administration has warned Russia that it is prepared to impose additional sanctions if Russia intervenes militarily or covertly to undermine the new Ukrainian government, a point Mr. Kerry repeated on Monday.

“He made clear that any further Russian effort to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia,” Ms. Psaki said, without providing details. Officials from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union are planning to meet in the next 10 days to discuss the situation in Ukraine, Ms. Psaki said.

CNATO’s top commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, said last week that the approximately 40,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border were capable of intervening in eastern Ukraine on 12 hours’ notice and could accomplish their military objectives in three to five days.

In Kiev on Monday morning, the acting prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, said, “There is a script being written in the Russian Federation, for which there is only one purpose: the dismemberment and destruction of Ukraine and the transformation of Ukraine into the territory of slavery under the dictates of Russia.”

Russian officials, including Mr. Lavrov, have said that they have no intention of taking military action in eastern Ukraine, and in a statement on Monday afternoon, the Russian foreign ministry reiterated its call for federalizing Ukraine, a move that would substantially weaken the government in Kiev, making it vulnerable to manipulation by Moscow.

The unrest in eastern Ukraine seemed to heighten fears in Kiev and the West about possible Russian military action a little more than a month after Russian forces occupied Crimea. The Kremlin annexed Crimea after a referendum there last month.

In Germany, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that the government was extremely concerned about the events in eastern Ukraine and called for calm.

“The latest developments in Donetsk and in Kharkiv are something which we are all very worried about in the German government,” the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said at a news conference. “We must urgently renew our appeal to all those in positions of responsibility to help stabilize the region and avoid such escalation.”

Even as the Kremlin denied any role, government-controlled television stations in Russia gave live coverage to the events in Donetsk on Monday, including the reading of a sort of declaration of independence of the “sovereign state of the Donetsk People’s Republic” by a pro-Russia demonstrator inside the regional administration building. Protesters occupied the building on Sunday.

While the demonstrators in Donetsk announced that a referendum on secession from Ukraine would be held no later than May 11, there did not appear to be the same overwhelming support for such a move that there was in Crimea last month.

The events in the east unfolded just hours after a Ukrainian military officer was shot and killed in Crimea in a confrontation with Russian troops. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Vladislav Seleznev, said the officer, Maj. Stanislav Karchevskiy, had been killed in a military barracks where he lived with his wife and two children, next to the Novofedorivka air base in western Crimea.

The officer’s death was a rare instance of deadly violence as Ukrainian forces continued their withdrawal from the peninsula after its annexation by Russia. Mr. Seleznev said the Ukrainian had been collecting his belongings in preparation to leave Crimea when an argument broke out with Russian service members, Reuters reported Monday.

Mr. Seleznev said that the altercation had involved several Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and that there had been no other injuries. He said a Russian soldier armed with an automatic weapon had entered the dormitory and shot Major Karchevskiy, who was unarmed.

With tensions intensifying in the east, the former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who is running for president in elections next month, traveled to the region.

At a news conference in Donetsk, Ms. Tymoshenko said she was committed to strengthening the autonomy of Ukraine’s regions, especially by letting them control their finances, but said she opposed federalization. She also said she did not believe most people in Donetsk supported the protesters.

“I got the impression that all of this aggression lives on its own island, separate from the life of Donetsk,” she said. “It does not at all correspond with the opinions or wishes of the people in Donetsk.”

 via Ukraine Moves to Reassert Control Over Restive East – NYTimes.com.

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​Moscow warns Kiev against using military, mercenaries in southeastern Ukraine

The headquarters of Russia's Foreign Ministry in Moscow

The headquarters of Russia’s Foreign Ministry in Moscow

The Russian Foreign Ministry has voiced concerns over the buildup of Ukrainian forces and US mercenaries in the southeastern part of the country, calling on Kiev to immediately cease military preparations which could lead to a civil war.

As parts of Ukraine push for greater autonomy – with Donetsk and Kharkov declaring independence on Monday – the self-imposed government in Kiev is reportedly dispatching additional forces in turbulent regions to avoid potential disobedience by local law enforcements.

“We are particularly concerned that the operation involves some 150 American mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd., dressed in the uniform of the [Ukrainian] special task police unit Sokol,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Organizers and participants of such incitement are assuming a huge responsibility for threatening upon the rights, freedoms and lives of Ukrainian citizens as well as the stability of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, confirmed that additional police special forces units have arrived in southern and eastern parts of Ukraine from other regions.

“These special forces are ready to solve operational problems without the regard to local peculiarities,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry quoted Avakov as saying. “I urge all the hotheads now to defer from criticism and panic, and help the police keep the situation under control.”

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, special forces backed by militants from the Right Sector are being tasked with suppressing protests in the southeastern regions of Ukraine, which for weeks have been calling for a referendums on the regions’ statuses within Ukraine. Moscow called on the government in Kiev to refrain from actions that could spark a civil war in Ukraine.

“We urge [Kiev] to immediately stop all military preparations which could lead to a civil war,” the statement reads.

On Monday, a source in the Interior Ministry of Ukraine told Ria Novosti that three special forces units have been redeployed to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions to suppress anti-government protests. The source claims that they consist of Interior Forces units, the newly-formed National Guard, Right Sector radicals, and Blackwater (Greystone) mercenaries and Falcon units. LifeNews also reported seeing armed Titan special forces units in Donetsk.

The reports of Greystone Limited (an affiliate of Academi/Blackwater) operating in Ukraine remain unconfirmed.

In a separate press release on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it is “closely watching what happens in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, in particular in the Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov regions.”

Moscow noted that without “real constitutional reform in Ukraine,” the “federalization” of the country, and the implementation of Russian as a second official language, long-term stabilization of the crisis is unlikely.

The ministry said that is time to stop “putting the blame on Russia, accusing [Moscow] of all the troubles in today’s Ukraine.”

Instead, Moscow urged Kiev to answer the legitimate questions that people in Ukraine have for the self-imposed government.

“Ukrainian people want to get a clear answer from Kiev to all their questions. It’s time to listen to these legal claims,” the Foreign Ministry said, accusing the Ukrainian government of acting “irresponsibly.”

At the same time, the ministry confirmed the Kremlin’s commitment to kickstart a national Ukrainian dialogue to stop the crisis. Russia is trying to propose the federalization of Ukraine, where regions would have broader powers of autonomy – including the right to promote regional language minority rights.

Meanwhile, the US hinted that Moscow could be behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine. In a daily briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that during the phone conversation between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, the US chief diplomat “noted the Ukrainian Government’s assertion that this appeared to be a carefully orchestrated campaign with Russian support.”

“He called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs, and provocateurs, calling for de-escalation and dialogue, and called on all parties to refrain from agitation in Ukraine. He made clear that any further Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia, and the ministers all discussed convening direct talks within the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the EU to try to de-escalate the tensions.”

The White House has also urged Russia to refrain from interfering in Ukraine. “We call on President Putin and his government to cease efforts to destabilize Ukraine,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

On Monday, a group of anti-coup activists seized government buildings in Ukraine’s eastern cities of Donetsk and Kharkov, proclaiming the regions’ independence from Ukraine. Clashes between pro-independence demonstrators and security forces were also witnessed in Lugansk and Odessa.

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