Tag Archives: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Confirmed: Ukrainian air force fired over 150 missiles at Lugansk, bombed admin HQ

Kiev has admitted showering the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk with dozens of missiles from the air, saying that its Air Force helicopters and jets “fired more than 150 missiles” in Monday’s military action.

DEATH TOLL: 181 people killed, 293 injured in Kiev military op

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also confirmed on Tuesday that the deadly explosion at the city’s administrative building was indeed an airstrike. Kiev has so far denied the responsibility for the incident, saying its forces “do not target” civilian areas.

The OSCE Ukrainian mission’s daily report stated that “on June 2, around 15:00 local time missiles hit the building of the regional government administration. According to the observers’ data, the strike was carried out with non-guided missiles launched from an aircraft.”

According to an earlier statement by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, the intense bombing in Lugansk area was meant to “support the Ukrainian Border Guards,” which the local militia have been trying to take under control.

“All in all, for fulfilling the combat support of the Ukrainian border guards the army aviators fired more than 150 missiles, carried out three jet sorties and five helicopter sorties,” the statement says.

The air support was backed by fighter jets launching decoy flares to prevent the attacking aircraft from being targeted from the ground.

According to the ministry, two self-defense checkpoints were destroyed in the attack.

Not all the Monday fighting was on the outskirts of Lugansk, apparently, as one Ukrainian missile hit the occupied Lugansk administration building, killing at least eight civilians inside and nearby. Some Kiev politicians have laid the blame on the self-defense forces for the “blast,” which has undoubtedly been confirmed as an airstrike by the accounts of witnesses and the CCTV footage from the scene.

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OSCE observers released in Slavyansk arrive in Berlin

OSCE observer Axel Schneider leaves the plane in Berlin’s Tegel airport, May 3, 2014.

Military OSCE observers captured by anti-Kiev activists in Slavyansk on April 25 have been released and delivered to Donetsk. Most of them have flown to Berlin.

A German government plane carrying seven of the freed OSCE observers, four of whom are German, landed at Berlin’s Tegel Airport at around 9 p.m. local time, Bild reports. They were welcomed by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Earlier on Saturday the Russian president’s representative Vladmir Lukin said that “All 12 people I have on the list were freed.”

Last week, the military observers were captured by anti-Kiev protesters who accused them of espionage. Earlier one of the detained – a Swedish officer suffering from diabetes – was released.

Lukin stressed the release of the observers wasn’t a bargain. “It was a voluntary humanitarian act, and we’re very grateful for it to those controlling the city,” he said.

Lukin has delivered the OSCE observers to Donetsk and they have met with representatives of the Council of Europe, according to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the OSCE.

“As soon as they are transferred to the representatives of the Council of Europe, we’ll be able to say that the mission is over,” Lukin said earlier.

On the way to Donetsk their car came under fire, but all of them are fine, one of Lukin’s colleagues, who was with the observers in Slavyansk, Evgeny Kozhokin, told RIA Novosti.

The OSCE observers were treated well in captivity, Col. Igor Turansky, head of the Ukrainian military mission to the OSCE, said after arriving at Kiev airport from Donetsk.

“There are no injuries, all was well. [We were] given food, water, sleep, treated well,” he said, as quoted by Interfax-Ukraine.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (L) welcomes OSCE observers John Christensen (C) from Denmark Germany’s Axel Schneider (2nd L) and unidentified observers in Berlin’s Tegel airport, May 3, 2014.

He noted that the self-defense forces said they detained the observers because they “did not coordinate their actions with the representatives of the locals.” Turansky added that the self-defense troops wanted to know the purpose of the observers’ visit. According to him, the detained Ukrainian officers were treated the same as the OSCE observers.

Kiev authorities jeopardized the lives of the OSCE observers who were in Slavyansk, said Maria Zaharova, head of the press department of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

“More or less prepared analysts did not doubt the fact that these military observers were deployed to Slavyansk by the Ukrainian side and their known sponsors to create a new source of tension to escalate the crisis and to directly involve the European countries in the domestic conflict,” Zaharova told RIA Novosti.

“The Kiev junta did not only think about the observers’ security, but put their lives at direct risk by starting the punitive operation against the civilians in Slavyansk,” she added.

The conflict resolution carried out by the self-defense forces during the operation saved the lives of the foreigners, she added.

The interim Ukrainian government was supporting the mission carried out by Vladimir Lukin, including aid in establishing contacts and coordinating activities at a central administration level, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stated, as quoted by Interfax news agency.

“Vladimir Lukin was advised of a safe way from Donetsk to Slavyansk, with transportation. The Ukrainian security forces insist on this, being responsible for the lives of both the observers and the negotiators,” the statement said.

Vladimir Lukin is Russia’s official envoy to Ukraine. He initially had difficulties in entering Slavyansk as the Ukrainian army and the Right Sector militants refused him access to the city.

The Kiev government was initially reluctant to support the mission.

“We get the impression that the Kiev administration views the mission as something handicapping their plans to start the attack on Slavyansk in the coming hours,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

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Pro-Russian Forces in Ukraine Free One of 8 Detainees – NYTimes

A group of European military observers, detained since Friday, appeared before journalists in a news conference in Slovyansk on Sunday.

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — The self-appointed mayor of this breakaway city in eastern Ukraine on Sunday displayed eight detained members of a European military observer mission and later released one for health reasons, but otherwise refused to discuss conditions under which the others might go free beyond mentioning a possible prisoner exchange.

In an afternoon of political theater, the de facto public authority here, Vyachislav Ponomaryov, had the detainees led into an auditorium by masked gunmen.

The observers, whom Mr. Ponomaryov has branded as spies, were escorted to seats once used by the city’s administrators. He then yielded the floor to the German officer leading the observers, Col. Axel Schneider, who held a long question-and-answer session with journalists.With erect posture, the colonel began by referring to himself and his team as “guests” under Mr. Ponomaryov’s “protection,” and said the team had suffered no violence at its captors’ hands since being seized on Friday.“We are not prisoners of war,” he said.

But the clearly coercive nature of the display here held the truth of the matter, which Colonel Schneider nodded to toward the end of the conference, saying, “I cannot go home on my free decision.”

He said the observers were performing a diplomatically accredited inspection in a rented bus when they were stopped at a checkpoint about two miles south of Slovyansk, the stronghold of the anti-Kiev armed militias in eastern Ukraine.

The team was held in a basement for one day and then moved on Saturday to better quarters, he said. The observer mission included seven military officers — three from Germany and one each from Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland and Sweden — and a German interpreter, along with five members of the Ukrainian military as escorts.

Colonel Schneider flatly rejected accusations that the observers were spies, and he dismissed claims that the team had carried ammunition and reconnaissance equipment.

His team’s mission, he said several times, had diplomatic status under the so-called Vienna Document 2011 of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which allows member nations to invite military observers from other member states to observe internal security conditions.

“I have no overlap with any other action executed in this region,” he said. “It is forbidden.”

The detention of the team has led to intensive diplomatic activity seeking their release.

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, condemned what he called the “public display” of the mission members on Sunday, which he said “scandalously violates every rule and standard.” And he called on Russia to use its influence over the separatists in Ukraine to ensure all of the captives would be released unharmed. “It is Russia’s duty to influence the separatists so that they release the members of the O.S.C.E. mission as quickly as possible,” Mr. Steinmeier said in a statement.

Russia’s representative to the security organization has publicly said that the team should be freed.

But Mr. Ponomaryov, who referred to members of the team as “prisoners of the situation,” said he has heard nothing directly from Russia. He gave no timetable for any decisions, but insisted that the observers had been and would be treated well.

“We understand that these are officers before us,” he said. “And as we are also servicemen, we are required to abide by the officers’ code of honor.”

At another moment, Mr. Ponomaryov said the display was intended in part to reassure the observers’ families that the men were in good health. And later in the day, he released one of the observers — a Swedish officer with diabetes, Maj. Thomas Johansson — for health reasons, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Ponomaryov. (At the end of the conference, Major Johansson noted that he was not ill and had access to medicine during his captivity.)

As the news conference continued, Colonel Schneider gradually expanded on his descriptions of the teams’ circumstances, making clear that its members were detainees.

“Our presence here in Slovyansk is for sure a political instrument for the decision-makers here in the region, and the possibility to use it for negotiations,” he said. “And this is not a surprise.”

He added, “It is logical in the eyes of Mayor Ponomaryov that he can use us to present his positions.”

The antigovernment militias here and their supporters, who seek a referendum that will allow them self-rule, have noted that the interim authorities in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, have arrested activists or officials on the antigovernment side.

But they have yet to make specific demands for any exchange, beyond Mr. Ponomaryov’s pointing out on Saturday that his own deputy has disappeared and could be in government custody.

The United States has opposed any exchange, and said the detainees should be freed unconditionally.

On Sunday, Mr. Ponomaryov, who was positioned two seats to the colonel’s right, occasionally checking a ringing cellphone, refused to answer questions about a resolution. He did reconfirm that he would consider a prisoner exchange.

When asked by journalists if he thought of the observers as human shields, he said he did not.

“This is nonsense,” he said. “Nonsense. If I gave the word that these people will remain safe, and I provide them capable security, then believe me, I will keep my word.”

Less clear was the status and prospects of five members of the Ukrainian military who had accompanied the observer team.

Colonel Schneider, and then later Major Johansson, said four of these Ukrainians had been held on the first day with the European team, but only two of them were moved with the European officers on Saturday. The conditions and whereabouts of the other three were unknown.

As the back-and-forth inside the sandbagged city administration building continued, a white sport utility vehicle bearing the markings of the O.S.C.E. pulled up outside. Several diplomats stepped out and were escorted into another section of the building by a gunman wearing a black mask.

Mr. Ponomaryov noted that the observers’ release would have to be discussed with diplomats.

“So that these officers feel certain — I told my guests, and I repeat it again — the conditions of their release will be specified with representatives of the O.S.C.E.,” he said. “It will be a separate topic.”

Several minutes after the diplomats arrived, Mr. Ponomaryov abruptly cut short the session and ordered journalists to leave, at one point shouting, “One! Two!” and preparing to shout “Three!” as if trying to compel disobedient children to comply.

The gunmen behind the sandbags led the journalists out into the bright afternoon light of the city’s main public square. There, behind a massive statue of Lenin, a Russian television journalist playfully petted a saddled pony as masked men came and went.

via Pro-Russian Forces in Ukraine Free One of 8 Detainees – NYTimes.com.

 

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‘NATO spies’? Slavyansk self-defense forces keep foreign military inspectors detained

Federalization supporter stands guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building which was seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 25, 2014.

The self-defense forces in Slavyansk have refrained from immediately freeing the detained foreign military observers they are calling “NATO spies.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has promised to do its utmost to accelerate their release.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it is taking measures to resolve the situation with the detained military observers.

The ministry pointed out that the Vienna document pins full responsibility for the security of observers on the receiving party, in this case Kiev.

“It would be logical to expect from the present Kiev authorities a preliminary coordination of location of activities and safety of the inspectors in the areas where these authorities do not control the situation and where a military operation against the citizens of their own country has been launched,” the statement said.

“We believe that those people should be released as soon as possible,” also said Russia’s envoy to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Andrey Kelin. “Just like all other members of the organization, we are concerned with the developments.”

“Their detention would not help with defusing the tension on the ground and deescalating the conflict,” he added.

‘Detained group alright, could be exchanged for anti-Kiev activists’

A group of German negotiators have already arrived in eastern Ukraine for talks to set free the detained military observers, Itar-Tass quoted Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) news agency as saying.

The detained team is “not OSCE monitors” but was sent by OSCE member states in accordance with the 2011 Vienna Document on military transparency, the organization explained on Friday. The current Germany-led group arrived to Ukraine on April 21 by Kiev’s request.

Speaking to journalists on Saturday, the “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, did not rule out that the group could be exchanged for anti-government activists that had been detained by Kiev authorities.

“People’s mayor” of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov (L), speaks during a press conference in Slavyansk on April 26, 2014.

“The Kiev junta has our fellows and comrades therefore, if there is a possibility, we are ready for an exchange,” Ponomaryov said, answering the questions of journalists on Saturday.

He dismissed the allegations of the Ukrainian Security Service that the group is being held in “inhuman conditions.”

“They are in alright condition. One of the soldiers suffers from diabetes, but it is not a serious condition, he is on tablets. There is medicine there is food,” Ponomaryov said, adding that they are still trying to verify the purpose of the group’s activities in Slavyansk.

A statement released by the Ukraine’s state security service on Saturday maintained that “the official representatives of the OSCE are being held in inhuman conditions,” and that “among those detained is a person who needs immediate medical help.”

“The terrorists plan to use the hostages as a human shield,” Kiev’s statement claimed.

‘No NATO spies fighting in Ukraine’ – NATO

The protesters said they detained eight officers of NATO member states – four from Germany, and one each from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The group was accompanied by four Ukrainian officers, thought to be members of the country’s general staff.

On Saturday a representative of the protesters told journalists that the detained officers had “maps of Slavyansk with checkpoints and barricades marked on them, dog tags and live ammo,” which proved they were acting officers gathering intelligence.

The journalists were shown some of the documents of the detainees, in which the military observers are described as officers. The names of three of them are as follows: John Christensen (Denmark), Axel Schneider (Germany) and Krzysztof Kobelsky (Poland).

With the preponderance of officers from NATO member countries in the group, they were branded “NATO spies” by the militia.

NATO’s official spokeperson, Oana Lungescu, tweeted on Saturday that the alliance has no force deployed in Ukraine.

A similar statement was made earlier by NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow.

Reinforcements sent to Slavyansk

The interim people’s governor of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, Denis Pushilin, promised to send reinforcements to Slavyansk, which is currently besieged by Ukrainian troops.

“We’ve reached an agreement on full coordination of actions in Slavyansk as the command of defense of Slavyansk has been handed over to the authorities of the Donetsk republic,” Pushilin said.

Two armed men (Front) check two men’s identity papers in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 26, 2014.

On Friday, security forces loyal to the coup-imposed government in Kiev announced the beginning of the second stage of a “counter-terrorist operation” in the Donetsk region. They said the plan is to establish a full blockade of Slavyansk.

According to Ponomaryov, the city is being defended by approximately 2,500 volunteers.

Earlier, the Slavyansk self-defense forces detained a number of people, including journalists, suspecting that they could be gathering information for the Ukrainian authorities or for the radical nationalists from the Right Sector movement.

The suspicious attitude towards visitors is understandable, considering a number of fatal gun attacks on militia-held checkpoints the city witnessed in the past few days. Some of the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian troops acting in an ongoing “anti-terrorist operation” against Slavyansk. The perpetrators of some of the others remain unidentified, with the protesters laying the blame on Right Sector activists.

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Russian Defense Ministry suspends handover of armaments and military hardware to Ukraine

Redislocation of armaments and military hardware from Crimea to Ukraine

MOSCOW, – Russia’s Defense Ministry has suspended handover of armaments and military hardware to Ukraine from Crimea to prevent the munitions and equipment from being used against civilians in the east and south-east of the country, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said.

“I would like to recall that Russia complies with its international liabilities and under the Paris Charter, the Helsinki Act and UN and OSCE resolutions it has pledged to avoid supplying or display restraint regarding arms supplies to hot spots,” he said.

Antonov explained that the term “hot spot” was very appropriate to describe the current situation in Ukraine’s east and southeast.

So far Russia has returned to Ukraine 389 pieces of military equipment, including eight helicopters and three naval vessels, Antonov said.

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This is what happens.. when you put idiot as prime minister

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Switzerland‘s Federal President Didier Burkhalter (left), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office, shakes hands with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right) during Burkhalter’s visit in Kiev, Ukraine, April 14, 2014.

Swiss president greeted with Danish flag in Ukraine

In the photograph above, Swiss president Didier Burkhalter is greeted by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev .

Burkhalter isn’t standing in front of a Swiss flag .. That’s the flag of Denmark.

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​Ukrainian inspectors in Russia look for undeclared deployment of troops

An armored vehicle during an exercise held by the Baltic Fleet coastal defense troops at the Pavenkovo training ground in the Kaliningrad region.

A Ukrainian national team of inspectors is to monitor a suspected buildup of troops in the west of Russia. It’s the third visit of its kind in March and the last that can be conducted in 2014 under Russian international obligations.

The four-member Ukrainian team will be traveling by car across an area of about 13sq km in Belgorod and Kursk Regions along Russia-Ukrainian border to ensure that Russia is not performing any undeclared deployment of troops there. The inspectors will also perform a helicopter flyover of the area, reported Sergey Ryzhkov, head of the Russian national center for reduction of nuclear threat.

The two-day visit is being conducted under the so-called Vienna document, an international treaty for members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The treaty is meant to build up trust among the members through a mechanism of voluntary declaration of deployment of troops and international inspections to verify those declarations.

“This is the last inspection event in the territory of the Russian Federation to be performed in 2014 in the framework of the Vienna document, because the quota for inspections in our territory by OSCE members has been depleted,” Ryzhkov said.

The Vienna document mechanism has been in force since 1990 and has last been updated in November 2011. A total of 56 nations are participating in the mechanism. The document allows up to three annual verification inspections, no two of which may be conducted by the same state.

Previously in 2014 Russia has hosted an observation mission from Latvia and Germany between March 1 and 3, and a mission from Switzerland and Finland between March 2 and 3, according to a statement made by Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov last Wednesday. Neither delegation voiced claimed any violations on the part of Russia.

The ongoing Ukrainian inspection is carried out amid speculation in some Ukrainian media that Russia is building up its military in the west for a possible invasion of Ukraine. Moscow dismisses such reports as false.

Russia is participating in other trust-building mechanisms, which provide for foreign inspection of its military. Those include US inspections of Russian nuclear facilities under the New START treaty, which came into force in 2011 and sets a limit on a number of nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia are allowed to deploy.

Another inspection mechanism works under the Treaty on Open Skies, effective since 2002, which provides for observation flights by participants over each other’s territory. The latest such flight over Russia was conducted on March 17 by a joint mission from Germany and the US.

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US, Germany inspectors to fly over Russia amid Ukraine tensions

Saab 340.(Screenshot from YouTube user Saab AB)

American and German inspectors will make observation flights over Russia and Belarus within the framework of the international treaty on Open Skies. The mission is set to verify the true position of Russian troops and military equipment.

Starting from March 17, military inspectors from the United States and Germany will perform flights over European Russia and Belarus to check the real whereabouts of Russian troops following accusations from Ukraine that Russia is consolidating military forces close to its borders. The inspection will continue through March 21.

“The flights will be performed on the Swedish observation plane SAAB-340,” head of the National Nuclear Threat Reduction Center, Sergey Ryzhkov, told Itar-Tass.

Ryzhkov specified that the flights will be performed on agreed routes only and that representatives of the Russian and Belarus military will be present onboard to ensure that the observation equipment on board is used strictly in accordance with the treaty’s provisions and that the flight adheres to coordinated parameters.

The SAAB-340 twin-engine aircraft to be used in the inspection is equipped with aerial photographic cameras and is not capable of carrying weapons.

This international mission is the third one starting from the beginning of March seeking to verify the current location of Russian army units and military equipment.

The first mission was performed on March 3-8 by American and French military inspectors. On March 12, Russia gave a positive reply to Ukraine and allowed Kiev to perform an inspection flight to allay fears about the impending invasion of the Russian army on the Crimea peninsula.

On Monday, Russia announced its readiness to let Ukraine use a Russian helicopter to inspect the Kursk and Belgorod regions close to the Russian-Ukrainian border.

In the course of the inspection, the Ukrainian representatives will be given an opportunity to inspect the specified area using a helicopter provided by the Russian side to make sure that “no military activity threatening Ukraine, so actively discussed in Ukrainian and Western media lately, is underway there” Russia’s deputy Defense Minister, Anatoly Antonov, told journalists.

Russian inspectors are also making observation flights this week over NATO member Spain, where the US recently deployed its Aegis missile destroyer. The inspection started March 16 and will last until Saturday. A Russian military delegation flying on an Antonov 30B aircraft is planning to make up to 1,800-kilometer flights over Spain from Getafe air base near the capital, Madrid. Spanish officers are also present onboard and the flights are performed on agreed routes only. Like the observation planes in Russia, the Antonov 30B twin-engine surveillance aircraft carries no weapons onboard.

A Russian Antonov-30B airplane.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and unites 34 countries. The treaty allows observation flights over Canada, the US, Russia and the majority of European states. The primary aim of the treaty is to ensure transparency in arms control and the settlement of crisis situations within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations.

 RT News

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OSCE military observer mission en route to Crimea

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is sending a delegation which includes representatives from the US and 14 other nations to observe the situation in Crimea amid tensions in Ukraine, according to a US official.

Daniel Baer, the chief US delegate to the OSCE, told the Associated Press that each country is sending two individuals, bringing the total number of observers to 30. Baer added that the military observer mission is set to leave within 24 hours and hinted that other countries main still join.

The OSCE comprises of Russia, the US, all European countries, and some central Asian nations. It is based on consensus, meaning that the majority of the monitoring missions need full approval by all nations – including OSCE member Russia. According to Baer, Ukraine used the provision to ask other countries to send unarmed military monitors.

OSCE officials were already in Ukraine on Tuesday and making their way to Crimea, Baer said. The officials specialize in minority rights and freedom of the media.

The delegation has a week-long mandate that can be extended if Ukraine requests it. One of its main focuses is to concentrate on the potential of a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Baer also added that the the military observer mission is a “broad-based monitoring effort” that will try to prevent a possible “military incursion” and encourage dialogue. The observers will keep an eye out for “areas where there has been tension or uncertainty has arisen over lack of clarity over military movements.”

RT news producer Lida Vasilevskaya reported on Tuesday evening that the OSCE delegation had arrived in Simferopol, Ukraine, but said they were not giving any comments to the media.

Tensions in Crimea became heated after the Ukrainian parliament voted to repeal a law which gave regional status to the Russian language. Authorities in Crimea requested Moscow’s assistance and Crimean authorities denounced the coup-imposed government in Kiev, declaring that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of local authorities.

More than half of the Crimean population are ethnically Russian and use only the Russian language for their communication. The residents have announced they will hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin clarified the country’s stance on Ukraine in an interview on Tuesday. He stated that Russia will not go to war with the people of Ukraine, but will use its troops to protect citizens if radicals with clout in Kiev try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians – particularly ethnic Russians.

Putin, who was given a mandate by the Russian Senate to send troops in order to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, said there is no need for such action yet.

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

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

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

Russia’s representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, also said on Tuesday that the deal surrounding the Black Sea Fleet allows Russia to station a contingent of up to 25,000 troops in Ukraine.

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

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