Tag Archives: David Cameron

Britain debates Syria airstrikes ahead of key vote

Britain is debating launching airstrikes in Syria against the group calling itself Islamic State(ISIL) ahead of a vote on military action.

Prime Minister David Cameron urged MPs to approve the strikes saying Britain could make a “real difference” to the US-led operation to destroy the group.

“…we possess the capabilities to reduce this threat to our security and my argument today is that we should not wait any longer before doing so,” said the prime minister. “We should answer the call from our allies, the action we propose is legal, it is necessary and it is the right thing to do to keep our country safe.”

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the conservative prime minister for rushing to war.

“I urge members on all sites the House to think very carefully about responsibility that lies with them today,” said the Labour leader. “Do we send in bombers, not totally aware of the consequences are going to be, or de we pause, not send them in and instead put all of our efforts into bring about a peaceful, humanitarian and just political settlement to the terrible situation faced by the people in Syria.”

If MPs support Cameron, as expected, British air strikes could be launched from a military base in Cyprus within hours of the vote.

 

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On Centenary of World War I, Europe Sees Modern Parallels

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

LONDON — With a dimming of the lights and ceremonies across this country and in Belgium, monarchs, princes, presidents and citizens commemorated on Monday the day 100 years ago when Britain entered World War I at the start of four years of carnage once called the war to end all wars.

Some took the moment to recall more modern crises in the Middle East and Europe that are rooted in the fighting between 1914 and 1918 that toppled empires and redrew the world map. Some dwelled on a vision of reconciliation among former foes.

“We were enemies more than once in the last century, and today we are friends and allies,” Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, told a ceremony in Belgium, referring to Germany and its allies in two world wars. At Westminster Abbey, prayers were said in English and German.

But today’s myriad wars haunted the commemorations, too.

“How can we remain neutral today when a people not far from Europe is fighting for their rights?” President François Hollande of France said in Belgium. “How can we remain neutral when a civilian airliner is brought down, when there is conflict in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza?”

A century ago, as hostilities loomed, Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, famously remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

To echo those words, Prime Minister David Cameron urged Britons to extinguish the lights in their homes at 10 p.m. on Monday to leave a lone light or candle burning by 11 p.m. — the precise moment of the declaration of war on Germany.

In London, the lights went off at such landmarks as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge over the River Thames. At Westminster Abbey, at a late-night ceremony attended by political leaders, a lone oil lamp at the tomb of the unknown soldier was extinguished at 11 p.m. by the Duchess of Cornwall, the former Camilla Parker-Bowles and wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

The fighting a century ago erupted after a series of interlocked events beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914 — killings that set off a chain of events, driven by a complex web of alliances, that historians have described as Europe’s stumbling or sleepwalking into a cataclysmic conflict.

“Most were stumbling into the darkness, increasingly bound by the chains of their own and others’ making, their hope of avoiding war ever fading,” the Very Rev. Dr. John Hall, the dean of Westminster Abbey, said in a foreword to the order of service on Monday.

Many in Britain and elsewhere expected a quick end to the hostilities. But the war soon bogged down in trench warfare that consumed the energies and resources of nations at the cost of millions of lives.

Neutral at the beginning, the United States formally joined the war in 1917.

The writer H. G. Wells is often credited with coining the description of the conflict as “the war that will end war,” the title of an essay that became a jingoistic catchphrase, “the war to end all wars.”

As the conflict drew to a close, a more cynical view overtook that sentiment when David Lloyd George, the British prime minister at the time, is said to have remarked: “This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”

The approach of the conflict in 1914 was commemorated on Sunday when Mr. Hollande and President Joachim Gauck of Germany embraced at a war memorial in the eastern French province of Alsace, near the frequently contested frontier between their nations. The occasion commemorated Germany’s declaration of war on France on Aug. 3, 1914, as German troops massed to invade neutral Belgium — the incursion that drew Britain into the war a day later.

No formal ceremonies were planned in Berlin, with German commemorations focused on Mr. Gauck’s attendance at ceremonies in lands once conquered by German soldiers. In Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin inaugurated a memorial in Moscow last week, and a museum is to open in St. Petersburg.

The scale of commemoration in Russia was unusual. Moscow usually focuses most of its commemorative efforts on World War II.

 NYTimes.com.

Breaking News – Iraq formally asks US to launch air strikes against rebels

top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey

Iraq has formally called on the US to launch air strikes against jihadist militants who have seized several key cities over the past week.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” confirmed top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey in front of US senators.

Earlier the Sunni insurgents launched an attack on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji north of Baghdad.

Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki earlier urged Iraqis to unite against the militants.

Government forces are battling to push back ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and its Sunni Muslim allies in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, after the militants overran the second city, Mosul, last week.

US President Barack Obama is due to discuss the Iraq crisis with senior Congress members on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting Senate leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he did not “support in any way” getting American troops involved in the Iraqi “civil war”.

But Gen Dempsey told a Senate panel that it was in America’s “national interest to counter [ISIS] wherever we find them”.

In other developments:

Cameron Offered Support to Muslim Brotherhood Officials Last Year

Essam El-Hadad, former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s assistant on Foreign Affairs and the father of Gehad El-Hadad, with Dr Wael Haddara, senior advisor to Morsi, in front of 10 Downing Street, after a meeting

British Prime Minister David Cameron invited the Muslim Brotherhood’s international spokesman to lunch at Chequers last year in a two-hour seminar in which the Brotherhood presented its vision and the prime minister asked what Britain could do to support it, the Middle East Eye has learned.

Gehad El-Hadad, the international spokesman, was the star attraction of a prime ministerial seminar held on 17 May last year, when the former president Mohamed Morsi was still in power and months before he was due to London on an official visit.

According to a source who was present, Cameron talked of crony capitalism under Hosni Mubarak, and the potential of free markets under Morsi. Cameron questioned El-Hadad on the Brotherhood’s vision and asked what Britain could do to support it.

El-Hadad’s answers were described by those who attended as convincing and were referrred to in Cameron’s own summary at the end of the meeting. The prime ministerial seminar was followed by lunch and a tour of Chequers. Also present was Maajid Nawaz, the co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based think tank which focusses on counter-extremism.

The lunch at Chequers was the start of a series of meetings which Downing Street officials and ministers held with senior members of the Brotherhood. On June 5 Gehad’s father Dr Essam El Hadad had a meeting with John Casson in 10 Downing Street, accompanied by Dr Wael Haddara, senior advisor to the then Egyptian president. This was in preparation for a visit by Morsi in July. Dr El-Hadad also met William Hague and Alastair Burt at the Foreign Office.

News of the private encounters with the Brotherhood will embarrass the prime minister, who has since ordered a Whitehall investigation into whether an attack on tourists in Egypt was organised by the Brotherhood in Britain. Cameron came under a hail of criticism when it was revealed that he had appointed Sir John Jenkins, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head the review.

In justifying the reason for the inquiry, Home Office ministers said it was about the government “forming its own view”.

Downing Street was at pains to deny that Britain had come under the influence of Riyadh, with whom it has lucrative defence contracts. The kingdom has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and has placed the organisation in pole position on its threat list, above al-Qaeda.

The Whitehall review will draw on assessments provided by MI6. El-Hadad himself is under arrest in Egypt, charged with inciting and participating in acts of murder, being a member of a “terrorist group”, publishing “false news”, disrupting “national peace” and “portraying a false image abroad”.

In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood denied it had engaged in, or promoted, acts of violence and announced it had engaged the legal services of a former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC. Since then, it has heard nothing from the Whitehall inquiry.

Tayab Ali, of ITN sollicitors, acting on behalf of the Brotherhood said: “The government argues that its terrorism related inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood is not at the behest of Saudi Arabia, but in the UK national interest. Now that it has been revealed that Cameron invited a senior spokesman of the brotherhood for lunch at Chequers, maybe the prime minister himself should testify to the inquiry that he set up.”

Ali asked how it was that contact between Cameron and the Brotherhood was not only seen as legitimate in May last year, but actively sought by Downing Street, and the same organisation is now being investigated for alleged terrorist links.

“How has the UK national interest changed now that an elected president has been ousted in a military coup, and an unprecedented clampdown is underway, comprising the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, mass arrest, torture in custody and summary justice, which contravenes all legal norms and international conventions to which the UK Government is signatory?” Ali said.

Downing Street today confirmed the seminar took place and that El-Hadad attended it. “We can confirm that Gehad el El-Hadad attended a seminar at Chequers last year which sought to bring together a diverse spectrum of views on the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s important to remember that the Brotherhood were in power in Egypt at the time and, like Governments across the region and world, we were engaging with them in order to understand them better and to try to positively influence their actions in office. This is an organisation that has rapidly risen in prominence in recent years and our understanding of its philosophy, values and impact needs to keep pace with this,” said a spokeswoman.

The decision to appoint a serving ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head the inquiry has been criticised by a former UK ambassador to Riyadh, Lord Wright of Richmond. He said in a debate in the House of Lords, that the current ambassador would be in an “extremely invidious position” since the Saudi government wishes to discredit and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: ”This is about UK national interest and the UK government forming its own view.”

A key role in the investigation will be played by Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, a former adviser to Tony Blair, ambassador in Egypt and special representative in Iraq. MI6 will investigate claims the Brotherhood were behind an attack in February on a bus in Sinai which killed three tourists from South Korea and an Egytpian driver. One of five jihadi militant groups based in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said it carried out the bomb attack on the tourist bus, claiming it was part of its economic war against the Egyptian government which it described as traitors. The attack was denounced at the time by the Muslim Brotherhood.

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-when-cameron-took-muslim-brotherhood-lunch#sthash.oAhjZH9y.dpuf

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David Cameron’s religious adviser is descended from founders of the ‘terrorist’ Muslim Brotherhood

tariq-ramadan

Tariq Ramadan,

David Cameron is facing embarrassment over the close links between a Government adviser on religion and an Islamist group placed under urgent investigation.

The Prime Minister last week ordered the security services to look into the Muslim Brotherhood amid fears its leaders, exiled from Egypt, are plotting terrorist attacks from London.

He said the inquiry would establish ‘the complete picture’ of the Brotherhood including its possible involvement with ‘violent extremism’ and its ‘presence here in the UK’.

But the investigation is likely to lead to red faces in Whitehall, as a scion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founding family is a senior ministerial adviser.

Tariq Ramadan is one of 14 members of the Foreign Office’s Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, chaired by Tory peer Baroness Warsi. He is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, and was a member of a taskforce set up by Tony Blair after 7/7.

But Prof Ramadan, 51, is grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna and his father Said Ramadan was a leading light.

The Swiss citizen was for several years banned from the US for ‘providing material support to a terrorist organisation’ and only let in after a long legal battle in which he argued that no link with terrorism existed.

He was kept out of France in the 1990s over supposed links to Algerian terrorists.

He lost two posts at Dutch universities for hosting a chat show on a TV channel backed by the Iranian regime and became notorious for refusing to say stoning to death should be banned outright, although calling for a moratorium.

Critics repeatedly accuse the smartly dressed, well-spoken scholar of seeming to be moderate when speaking to Western audiences but giving more extreme speeches in Arabic.

Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘David Cameron should be deeply embarrassed by this. Tariq Ramadan is extremely loyal to his father and grandfather and he does not, by any means, speak out against the Muslim Brotherhood.’

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Prof Ramadan has written and taught extensively on issues relating to Islam, and therefore has plenty of relevant experience to bring to the group.’

Prof Ramadan’s office in France declined to comment.

 

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Veiled Threat – UK’s senior Muslim Brotherhood leader to British PM : Don’t ban us – or else

Ibrahim Mounir

Ibrahim Mounir

It is a familiar argument at this point: acting against Islamic jihadists risks “alienating moderate Muslims.” The Times editors put “peaceful” in brackets ahead of Ibrahim Mounir’s reference to “Muslim Brotherhood values,” but in reality the Brotherhood’s year in power in Egypt was anything but peaceful; that year was marked by thuggery against its opponents, and since the Brotherhood was toppled from power, its supporters have blamed Christians for the loss of power, terrorizing them and burning churches. And even if it really were peaceful, the Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to establishing Islamic law in societies, and we are constantly told that Muslims in the West have no interest in bringing Sharia West with them, now or ever — so one would think that genuinely moderate Muslims would be happy to repudiate the Brotherhood and see it banned in Britain.

Ibrahim Mounir’s tactic here is very similar to one that is used constantly against me and other foes of jihad terror: the claim that speaking honestly about how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism will alienate moderate Muslims. You can see an Australian interviewer ask me that exact question in this video. The obvious answer, of course, is that if they were truly moderate, they’d be just as indignant about that usage as we are, and would be standing with us against it.

Finally, note Mounir’s veiled threat: if the Brotherhood is banned, there will be jihad terror in the U.K. Of course, if it isn’t banned, there will be jihad terror in the U.K., but he doesn’t mention that.

Ban on Muslim Brotherhood ‘will increase terrorism risk,’” by Tom Coghlan in the Times, April 5 :

Banning the Muslim Brotherhood will leave Britain at greater risk of terrorist attacks, the group’s most senior leader in the UK said yesterday.

Speaking for the first time since David Cameron announced an investigation into the organisation’s alleged links to violent extremism, Ibrahim Mounir said that it risked alienating moderate Muslims. “If this [ban] happened, this would make a lot of people in Muslim communities think that [peaceful] Muslim Brotherhood values . . . didn’t work and now they are designated a terrorist group, which would make the doors open for all options,” he said. Asked if he meant open to violence, he replied: “Any possibility.”…

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Cameron Orders Investigation into Brotherhood

Britain Politics

British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood over concerns the group is planning radical activities from a base in London, his Downing Street office said Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.

The intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have been tasked to gather information on the “philosophy and activities” of the group after several leaders fled to London following the toppling of Egyptian  Mohammed Morsi last year, according to the report.

The probe would include an assessment of claims that the group was behind a suicide bus bombing that killed three South Korean tourists in Egypt’s south Sinai in February and several other attacks.

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The probe could reportedly lead to a ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has risen in prominence in recent years but our understanding of the organization — its philosophy and values — has not kept pace with this,” a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement to AFP.

“Given the concerns now being expressed about the group and its alleged links to violent extremism, it’s absolutely right and prudent that we get a better handle of what the Brotherhood stands for, how they intend to achieve their aims and what that means for Britain,” according to the statement.

Morsi, the group’s former leader, was ousted last July after a single year in power. He now faces trial for treason.

Egypt’s government in December declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia followed suit last month.

The British government acted following reports that Brotherhood leaders had met in London last year to decide their response to the Egypt crisis, The Times said.

They gathered in a flat above an Islamic charity office in the drab northwest London suburb of Cricklewood, the report said.

The Times quoted officials as saying it was “possible but unlikely” that the investigation would lead to a ban, with some in the Foreign Office reportedly believing it would only serve to radicalize and drive members underground.

Islamic radicalism has been a cause for concern in Britain. Just last week it was reported that England’s Department of Education is beginning to take “special measures,” in the wake of a systemic campaign of an organized takeover of public school by Islamists in the city of Birmingham.

One major issue causing concern is the number of British citizens who have travelled to Syria to fight alongside the rebels trying to oust Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Britain’s Information Minister recently said that the “security concern” for the UK posed by individuals who have trained and fought in Syria is “a big problem” for MI5 and the police.

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Putin defends Crimean referendum legitimacy to EU leaders as Ukraine’s southeast rallies

Pro-Russian demonstrators attend a rally in Donetsk March 9, 2014.

Crimea’s upcoming referendum will reflect the legitimate interests of its people, Russian President Vladimir Putin told two EU leaders over the phone. Inspired by Crimea’s actions, eastern Ukraine is also protesting the coup-imposed government in Kiev.

Putin on Sunday had a top-level conversation on the situation in Ukraine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin press service.

The Russian president “underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population,” the statement said.

The “lack of any action” on part of the current Kiev authorities with regard to ultra-nationalists and radical forces acting in Ukraine has particularly been noted by Putin.

While Putin reminded that the power in Kiev was seized in an unconstitutional armed coup, Merkel stressed that, according to Europe’s view, the Crimean referendum violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L-R) sit to watch a fragment of the ballet “Ruslan and Lyudmila” during the G20 Summit in Peterhof near St. Petersburg September 6, 2013.

The German Chancellor also “pointed out the urgency of finally coming to a substantial result” on the issue of forming the “international contact group” on Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Despite the difference of opinions, the sides have agreed that the de-escalation of tension in Ukraine is in everyone’s interest, the Kremlin statement notes.

Meanwhile, the coup-imposed Kiev government has stepped up pressure on Crimea, blocking the electronic system of the region’s treasury, freezing the autonomy’s accounts, and ramping up the presence of border police on the autonomy’s borders.

According to Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev, Kiev’s recent moves will not affect state payments, including pensions, and Crimean authorities are now opening accounts in Russian banks instead of relying on the frozen ones.

Temirgaliev also told Interfax that authorities are expecting that some additional railway traffic to and from Russia will be ferried over the Kerch Strait. A bridge connecting Kerch and Russia’s Krasnodar Region is also being built “at a rapid pace,” he said.

The future status of the region has yet to be decided by its people; the All-Crimean referendum will take place on March 16.

According to the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimea would prefer to keep its status of autonomous parliamentary republic in the case of a favorable outcome of the referendum.

Southeastern Ukraine rallies against govt

On Sunday, thousands of anti-Maidan demonstrators rallying in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk blocked and occupied the regional administration building, hoisting a Russian flag on top. The protesters have demanded that Mikhail Bolotskikh, the region’s head, step down. Bolotskikh was appointed by the self-proclaimed Kiev authorities.

Some 3,000 people took part in the rally and about 1,000 broke inside the building, according to Itar-Tass and local media reports. Twitter users claimed that Bolotskikh has already signed his resignation and escaped the city center in a car through a “disgrace corridor” formed by the protesters.

Later on Sunday, the fugitive official declared that he signed the document under pressure and that he is still carrying out his duties.

Before the takeover, pro-Russian demonstrators reportedly clashed with Euromaidan activists demonstrating near a monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, whose 200th birthday was celebrated on Sunday.

Shevchenko’s anniversary attracted rallies in support of Ukraine’s unity all across the country. One of the largest demonstrations took place in Kharkov, where some 10,000 people marched with a huge 100-meter Ukrainian flag and chanted, “No to war!”

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‘Visa bans, asset freezes are next’: Europe announces three step sanctions against Russia

EU leaders have threatened Russia with sanctions, which could include visa bans, asset freezes and various economic restrictions unless it engages in direct talks with the coup-appointed Ukrainian government.

As a first step, the EU has halted G8 summit preparations and visa-free talks with Russia.

The European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, on Thursday warned that if Moscow does not manage a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine, it will “seriously affect the relations between the EU and Russia.”

“If there is no de-escalation, the EU will decide on additional measures, such as visa restrictions, asset freezes and cancellation of the Russia-EU summit,” Rompuy said at a press conference as quoted by Interfax.

British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened that asset freezes and unspecified travel bans could be imposed on Russia “relatively quickly,” unless progress is made on dialogue with Ukraine.

French President Francois Hollande said that further economic measures against Russia are also possible.

French president Francois Hollande speaks during a press conference on March 6, 2014 in Brussels.

According to Cameron, those would be step-three in the sanctions and could carry “far-reaching consequences including in a broad range of economic areas.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said there was “no enthusiasm” in Europe for sanctions on Russia but the move was “inevitable.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also blasted the referendum on joining the Russian Federation announced by Crimea’s parliament on Thursday as “illegal and incompatible with Ukraine’s constitution.”

Following an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Merkel said they “condemn the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty with regard to Crimea,” and “consider its territorial integrity to be essential.”

The EU leaders urged the immediate withdrawal of what they believe are Russian troops blocking military installations in Crimea. All troops not part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces must lay down their weapons, Merkel said.

Ukraine should also receive the first portion of EU financial help swiftly, the German Chancellor believes. The EU plans to send 610 million euro to Kiev in the near future, which will later be followed by an aid package of 1 billion euro.

Quick signing of the political part of the EU association agreement with Ukraine is also a top priority task for the European leaders, according to Merkel. The trade-related part will be further discussed, taking into account close economic ties between Kiev and Moscow, she said.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) speaks with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel as they meet ahead of a European leaders emergency summit on Ukraine, in Brussels, on March 6, 2014.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday also gave a speech on the situation in Ukraine, calling to start “direct negotiations between Russia and Ukraine with participation of the international community,” Itar-Tass reports.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said the solution to the crisis should “take into account Russia’s interests” but heed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. A proposed referendum in Crimea to join Russia would violate international law, he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said that Moscow will react to any attempts to hamper the process of obtaining visas for Russian citizens travelling to European countries.

“Should consular posts of any of the EU member countries move toward a certain tightening of visa application proceedings, we will immediately react to that,” he said.

He added that Russia was “surprised” by EU’s decision to freeze talks on a visa-free regime with Russia.

“It is obviously a politicized, unconstructive and baseless approach, which goes contrary to the existing agreements between Russia and the EU on further simplification of rules for mutual citizens’ travels,” Lukashevich stressed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged world leaders to consider the “consequences” of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

“I believe that in the modern world, where everything is interconnected and interdependent, it is possible to cause damage to another country, but this will be mutual damage and one should bear this in mind,” Putin said.

Meanwhile, the Crimean Prime Minister, Sergey Aksyonov, said he was bewildered by the threats of sanctions coming from the West with regard to the situation in Crimea.

“We live here, we can choose our future on our own – since when is it punishable by sanctions? What is it, political persecution? In Lvov, a military installation was seized, the prosecutors and police were thrown out and regional authorities were self-proclaimed – and nobody imposed any sanctions,” Aksyonov told journalists at a media conference.

Sergey Aksyonov, chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, near Crimean parliament on February 28, 2014.

“As soon as the Russians for the first time concentrated on defending their interests – and not just Russians, the Ukrainians living here also, everyone got agitated and started talking sanctions. Do we advise America or Germany how to deal with their autonomous regions and tell people what to do? This is their own right, as is the right of the Crimeans for self-determination,” Aksyonov stressed.

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. The Crimea authorities have asked Russia to provide assistance to ensure peace and order in the region.

Crimeans began protesting after the new Kiev authorities 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.

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil

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.

Under the Russian-Ukrainian Partition Treaty determining the fate of the military bases and vessels in Crimea – signed in 1997 and prolonged in 2010 – Russia is allowed 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 the peninsula’s territory. The Russian Black Sea fleet is allowed to stay in Crimea until 2042. Moscow annually writes off $97.75 million of Kiev’s debt for the right to use Ukrainian waters and radio frequencies, and to compensate for the Black Sea Fleet’s environmental impact.

Participants of a rally in Crimea’s Yevpatoria voice their support to Russia on March 5, 2014.

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Ukraine is Europe’s biggest crisis of century – Hague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Completely unacceptable’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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