Tag Archives: Russian

Time to grab guns and kill damn Russians – Tymoshenko in leaked tape

Ukrainians must take up arms against Russians so that not even scorched earth will be left where Russia stands; an example of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko’s vitriol in phone call leaked online.

 

Tymoshenko confirmed the authenticity of the conversation on Twitter, while pointing out that a section where she is heard to call for the nuclear slaughter of the eight million Russians who remain on Ukrainian territory was edited.

 

She tweeted “The conversation took place, but the ‘8 million Russians in Ukraine‘ piece is an edit. In fact, I said Russians in Ukraine – are Ukrainians. Hello FSB 🙂 Sorry for the obscene language.”

 

The former Ukrainian PM has not clarified who exactly she wants to nuke.

 

Shufrych’s press service flatly contradicted Tymoshenko, slamming the tape as fake. The press release reads “The conversation didn’t take place,” as quoted by korrespondent.net.The phone conversation with Nestor Shufrych, former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, was uploaded on YouTube on Monday by user Sergiy Vechirko.

 

The leaked phone call took placed on March 18, hours after the Crimea & Sevastopol accession treaty was signed in the Kremlin.

 

While Shufrych was “just shocked,” Tymoshenko was enraged by the results of the Crimean referendum .

 

“This is really beyond all boundaries. It’s about time we grab our guns and kill go kill those damn Russians together with their leader,” Tymoshenko said.

 

The ex-pm declared if she was in charge “there would be no f***ing way that they would get Crimea then.”

 

Shufrych made the valid point that Ukraine “didn’t have any force potential” to keep Crimea.

 

But Tymoshenko, who plans to run in Ukraine’s presidential election, expressed confidence that she would have found “a way to kill those a*****es.”

 

 

 

“I hope I will be able to get all my connections involved. And I will use all of my means to make the entire world raise up, so that there wouldn’t be even a scorched field left in Russia,” she promised.

 

Despite being incapacitated by spinal disc hernia the ex-PM stressed she’s ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot that m*********er in the head.”

 

Tymoshenko rose to power as a key figure in the pro-European Orange Revolution in 2004, becoming Ukrainian prime minister 2007-2010.

 

She was imprisoned in 2012, under president Viktor Yanukovich, after being found guilty of exceeding her authority by signing a gas supply and transit deal with Russia.

 

The deal is claimed to have cost Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz, around US$170 million.

 

Tymoshenko served part of her seven-year sentence in prison before being relocated to a Kharkov hospital.

 

She was released immediately after the Kiev coup which ousted Yanukovich.

 

 

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Preparations for joining Russia already underway – Crimean PM

Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said Monday that preparations for the southern Ukrainian region to become part of Russia are already underway.

A referendum to decide whether the region will become part of Russia will take place on March 16.

The peninsula will be ready to begin using Russian law within a couple of months of a pro-secession vote, and the local Finance Ministry is already working on a roadmap for switching from the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, to the Russian ruble, Aksyonov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

The referendum in Crimea, where ethnic Russians make up about 60 percent of the population, is widely expected to return a favourable result that will pave the way for annexation by Moscow.

Aksyonov also promised that Ukrainian would cease to be an official language if Crimea joined Russia.

“We use two languages on a daily basis a?? Russian and Crimean Tatar,” Aksyonov said. “It’s certain that the republic [of Crimea] will have two languages.”

About 15 percent of Crimea’s population of about 2 million people are ethnic Tatars, among whom support for the incoming regime in Kiev is reportedly strong.

Aksyonov has also promised senior political positions in a new Crimean government to members of the Tatar community.

Formerly the leader of a local pro-Russian political party, Aksyonov was appointed prime minister last month by a vote in the Crimean parliament.

The planned referendum has been brought forward twice from its original date of May 25 since it was announced by local lawmakers last month.

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Breaking news – US imposes visa restrictions on Russians, Crimeans it says ‘threaten Ukraine security’

The US is imposing visa restrictions on Russian and Crimean officials and private citizens who they accuse of “threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity,” the White House says.

American President Barack Obama has signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against “individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.”

 

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‘US and NATO, not Russia, need to back off Ukraine’

The US and NATO are ready to overlook the nationalism and racism of many of the groups that make up the Ukrainian opposition in Ukraine in order to have a pro-NATO and pro-US government installed in Kiev, foreign policy columnist Conn Hallinan told RT.

The neoconservative view of the world is driving US and even European foreign policy in Ukraine. This includes a deliberately aggressive foreign policy that involves pushing NATO right up to the Russian border, explained Hallinan.

“There is a bloc of political elites, economic elites in the US that pretty much have a kind of un-reconstructed view of the world that’s really like the Cold War. And a group of them are neoconservatives: the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland who was caught in that conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine basically planning the coup and about the person who ended up Prime Minister of the coup government,” Hallinan said.

“I think that they have a view which is very aggressive militarily, economically and if you can march NATO up essentially right to the Russian borders, then what you’d also do is to force the Russians to consider whether or not they are going to play a constructive role in Iran and Syria.”

Russia has been playing a prominent role on the international stage, with many recent policy achievements under its belt, including the Iranian talks. Hallinan argues that many in the US and Europe resent that success.

“It was really the Russians who got the Iranians to agree to sit down and start negotiating seriously about their nuclear program and it was the Russians who got the Syrians to agree to have talks and at least examine the possibility of a political solution. I think that there is a group in the US, not just in the US but also in France, in Britain, who don’t like that view of the world, who really want a Cold War view of the world. Who would like to see Iran a target of a military attack, who would like to see Syria the target of a military attack, and whose view of Europe is very much what it was in 1955-1956: ‘Russia is an evil empire, you have to challenge it and you have to try to isolate it from any effect in world politics.’”

The foreign policy columnist also explained that it makes sense for Russia to be involved in the economic situation in Ukraine and offer a financial rescue package.

“The economic situation in Ukraine is so dire that money promised from the EU and the IMF will not be enough. In contrast, Russia is Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, so it makes economic sense for the Russians to be involved in any financial rescue package.”

Plus, the US, the IMF, and the EU cannot afford to give Ukraine the needed funds. “They can talk about aid but they are not able to do it. It’s going to rely on the fact that the closest and the biggest trade relations are between Ukraine and Russia. So Russia has got to be brought to the table and we have to go back to October when President Putin was talking, ‘we need a kind of tri-part approach to the solution.’ That’s what we need to do. But at this point, it’s the US and NATO that have to back off, it’s not the Russians at this point. We have got to back off.”

On top of the economic problems, there are numerous disagreements between the US and many countries in Europe over how to proceed in Ukraine.

“The US is talking about sanctions, the EU is saying ‘wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.’ Secretary of State Kerry is talking about throwing the Russians out of G8 and Germany is saying ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ You can see a lot of hyped-up things and I think what we are going to have to do is to have some kind of political settlement here, where we can just get some calm voices that would stop talking about this as if it’s 1939. And then say ‘Look, we have a political problem in Ukraine, we have to come up with a government that reflects all sections of Ukraine, not just one section, and we have to recognize the fact that you cannot put a military force on the borders of Russia.’”

Some of the key elements of the revolution in Ukraine are being swept under the rug, including the racist and nationalist tendencies of some central players.

“Aspects of the so-called revolution in Ukraine, such as the Svoboda party, are openly racist and have celebrated the formation of a former SS division operating in Ukraine. What is worrying is that there is so little mention of this in the Western media, which is biased in its reporting of Ukraine,” explained Hallinan.

“One of the things I find interesting is that if you do a search in American newspapers for Right Sector and Svoboda you’ll find very few references and no history. Last year, the Svoboda party celebrated the formation of the Galician division of the Waffen SS, which was the section of the Nazi army that was directly commanded by the Nazi party. The Waffen SS were particularly efficient at killing people, particularly Jews. Jews were killed in WWII in Ukraine. There is no mention of that at all.”

Without this information, all Americans are seeing is pro-democracy European modernists in the West against dictatorial Russians in the East. “That’s the way most Americans look at the story, they don’t see anything else. And I don’t see at this point that the American media is going to give much of a counter-narrative to see. American media is controlled by very few companies and people view the world as what they see on Fox TV and read in the daily newspapers and it’s a one-note orchestra,” Hallinan said.

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Urkraine mobilizes for war, calls up reserves

A woman waves a Russian flag as armed servicemen wait near Russian military vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava

A woman waves a Russian flag as armed servicemen wait near Russian military vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava

(Reuters) – Ukraine mobilized on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced. The Defense Ministry was ordered to conduct the call-up, potentially of all men up to 40 in a country that still has universal male conscription.

Russian forces who have already bloodlessly seized Crimea – an isolated Black Sea peninsula where most of the population are ethnic Russian and Moscow has a naval base – tried to disarm the small Ukrainian contingents there on Sunday. Some Ukrainian commanders refused to give up weapons and bases were surrounded.

Of potentially even greater concern are eastern swathes of the country, where most of the ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language. Those areas saw violent protests on Saturday, with pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisting flags at government buildings and calling for Russia to defend them.

Putin’s declaration that he has the right to invade his neighbor – for which he quickly received the unanimous approval of his parliament – brought the prospect of war to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe.

“President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said after the leaders spoke for 90 minutes on Saturday.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a pro-European government that took power after Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago, said Russian armed action “would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia”.

Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said he sent a request to NATO to “examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”. Ukraine also appealed for help to Britain and the United States, as co-signatories with Moscow to a 1994 accord guaranteeing Ukraine’s security after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

NATO ambassadors were due to meet in Brussels on Sunday. Washington has proposed sending monitors to Ukraine under the flags of the United Nations or Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, bodies where Moscow would have a veto.

Washington and its allies have suspended plans to attend a G8 summit in Sochi, where Putin had just finished staging his $50 billion winter Olympic games.

“This is probably the most dangerous situation in Europe since the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968,” said a Western official on condition of anonymity. “Realistically, we have to assume the Crimea is in Russian hands. The challenge now is to deter Russia from taking over the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.”

POWERLESS

In Crimea, Ukraine‘s tiny military contingent was powerless to oppose Russian forces, who bore no insignia on their uniforms but drove vehicles with Russian plates and seized government buildings, airports and other locations in the past three days.

Troops stand guard in Balaklava, Crimea, on Saturday, March 1.

Russian news agencies reported that Moscow’s troops had disarmed Ukrainians at several small bases.

Igor Mamchev, a Ukrainian navy colonel at a small base near the regional capital Simferopol, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 television he had refused to surrender.

“A truck with troops of the Russian Federation, armed with rifles, helmets and bullet-proof vests arrived at our checkpoint and suggested we give up our weapons and accept the protection of the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” he said.

“I replied that, as I am a member of the armed forces of Ukraine, under orders of the Ukrainian navy, there could be no discussion of disarmament. In case of any attempt to enter the military base, we will use all means, up to lethal force.

“We are military people, who have given our oath to the people of Ukraine and will carry out our duty until the end.”

Ukrainian marines were barricaded into a base in Feodosia, a Crimean port. Russia appealed for them to back the “legitimate” – pro-Russian – regional leadership.

Their commander, Dmytro Delyatytskiy, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 by telephone Russian troops had demanded they give up their weapons by 10 a.m. and they refused.

“We have orders,” he said. “We are preparing our defenses.”

Elsewhere on the occupied peninsula, the Russian forces appeared to be assuming a lower profile on Sunday after the pro-Moscow Crimean leader announced overnight that the situation was now “normalized”. Russians had vanished from outside a small Ukrainian guard post in the port of Balaclava that they had surrounded with armored vehicles on Saturday.

The Russian forces had been greeted cheerfully by many, with a wedding party honking its horns and people snapping photos. But there were also some voices of worry.

“No one is attacking us, so why do we need protection – much less armed protection? They are filling up Balaclava with troops,” said Olga Karpova, 32.

A barricade in front of the Crimean regional parliament, which the Russians seized on Thursday, had been dismantled. A single armored vehicle with two soldiers drove through the main square, where people were snapping photos.

Putin asked parliament on Saturday to approve force “in connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots” and to protect the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

Federation Council meeting

Putin said his request for authorization to use force in Ukraine would last “until the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country”.

His justification – the need to protect Russian citizens – was the same as he used to launch a 2008 invasion of Georgia, where Russian forces seized two breakaway regions.

In Russia, state controlled media have portrayed Yanukovich’s removal as a coup by dangerous terrorists and extremists, funded by the West.

Russian officials have repeatedly described Ukraine’s Russian speakers – some of whom have Russian passports – as facing urgent danger. Itar-Tass quoted Russian border guards as saying 675,000 people had fled Ukraine for Russia in the past two months and there were signs of a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

In a statement posted online, the Kremlin said that Putin had told Obama “there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory”. Moscow reserved the right to intervene on behalf of Russian speakers anywhere they were threatened, Putin added.

FLAGS TORN DOWN

So far there has been no sign of Russian military action in Ukraine outside Crimea, the only part of the country with a majority that is ethnically Russian and which has often voiced separatist aims at times of tension between Moscow and Kiev.

A bigger risk would be conflict spreading to the rest of Ukraine, where the sides could not be easily kept apart. Demonstrations turned violent in eastern cities on Saturday.

Demonstrators flew Russian flags at government buildings in the cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk.

The worst violence took place in Kharkiv, where scores of people were wounded when thousands of pro-Russian activists, some brandishing axe handles and chains, stormed the regional government headquarters and fought pitched battles with a smaller number of supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities.

In Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home city, the local government has called for a referendum on the region’s status, a move Kiev says is illegal. A pro-Russian “self-Defense” unit, which staged a big protest on Saturday, scheduled another for Sunday.

Pro-Russian activists hold Russian flags during a rally in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 1.

Pro-Russian activists hold Russian flags during a rally in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 1.

“We do not recognize the authorities in Kiev, they are not legitimate,” protest leader Pavel Guberev thundered from a podium in Donetsk on Saturday.

Thousands of followers, holding a giant Russian flag and chanting “Russia, Russia” marched to the government headquarters and replaced the Ukrainian flag with Russia’s.

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Ukraine nationalist leader calls on ‘most wanted’ terrorist Umarov ‘to act against Russia’

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Dmytro Yarosh (L), a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014

A leader of the Ukrainian radical group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmitry Yarosh, has called on Russia’s most wanted terrorist Doku Umarov to act against Russia in an address posted on Right Sector’s page in VKontakte social network.

The statement points out that “many Ukrainians with arms in the hands” supported Chechen militants in their fight against Russians and “it is time to support Ukraine now.”

The message, signed “leader of Right Sector Dmitry Yarosh” then calls on Umarov “to activate his fight” and “take a unique chance to win” over Russia.

Yarosh, who is a self-proclaimed deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, leads the far-right militant Right Sector group. He used to be a leader of radical nationalist group Trident, which became the core of Right Sector.

The radical leader has been consistently anti-Russian in his statements, calling for the destruction and division of the “Moscow Empire” and openly supporting Chechen militants and Georgian aggression. Yarosh believes Russia is Ukraine’s “eternal foe” and has said that war between the two countries is “inevitable.”

Yarosh attended the February 21st political gathering at the renamed Independence Square shortly after the signing of the deal that returned the country to the 2004 constitution. He shared the stage with virtually all of Ukraine’s prominent opposition politicians, including former superstar boxer and leader of the Democratic Alliance for Reform, Vitaliy Klitschko. In the following video, surrounded by masked units from his far-right following, he declares victory and vows to continue fighting, as the crowd cheers in a military fashion.

Aside from his beliefs on Russia, the Right Sector leader believes Ukraine should be “careful” with its future EU membership, as the “bureaucratic monster of Brussels” is “doing everything to bring to naught the national identity” of EU member countries.

Anti-government protesters from far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014.

Yarosh’s outrageous plea to terrorist Doku Umarov exhibits the “guts of the so-called new Ukrainian authorities,”Chairman of the Presidium of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus told Itar-Tass.

“Extremists, nationalists of all stripes, flooded the peaceful republic threatening it with chaos and violence,” Aliy Totorkulov said.

Even the fact of Yarosh’s address, whose “hands are stained with blood” shows that the Ukraine’s extreme right“Maidan sponsors” and the forces supporting the instability in Caucasus come from a “single-center” of extremism, Totorkulov stressed.

“We strongly support the deployment of Russian troops to resolve the situation in Crimea as well as provide assistance to other Ukrainian regions, where the population rejects nationalism and asks [Russia] for help and protection.”

During the recent riots in Ukraine, Yarosh rejected any negotiations with the Ukrainian government, calling on his supporters to defy the truces and agreements of the government and the opposition.

Right Sector has been referred to as the most active, the most radical and the best organized group in the Ukrainian unrest. Well-equipped masked rioters from Right Sector often used clubs, petrol bombs and firearms against the Ukrainian police. Some notorious members of the radical movement have continued to use rifles and pistols to intimidate local authorities, which they believe should be “afraid” of the people.

Although the violent acts of the group have been well-documented by media and placed on YouTube, Western powers have largely ignored its actions and persisted with describing the protests in Ukraine as “peaceful.” After meeting with Ukrainian protesters, including Right Sector members, in late January, Western representatives went as far as saying that they were “convinced that these people posed no threat.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights Konstantin Dolgov said that Moscow awaits the West’s reaction to Yarosh’s appeal to Umarov.

“The Ukrainian neo-fascist Yarosh has appealed to terrorist Umarov,” Dolgov wrote on Twitter. “Does the West place their stake on such Ukrainian ‘democrats’? Will they react to this?”

Anti-government protesters from far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in Kiev January 31, 2014.

Umarov, who commanded groups of militants in both Chechen wars and organized several large terror acts, is the most wanted terrorist in Russia. Umarov has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Russian civilians, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing, which killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.

In March 2011, Umarov was put on the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee list of individuals. The US government has also announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the terrorist leader’s capture.

The self-proclaimed ‘Emir of the Caucasus Emirate’ routinely recorded video addresses, in which he incited terror attacks against Russian government forces and civilians. He last appeared alive in a video posted on the internet in summer 2013, calling to step up terrorist activities and thwart the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Umarov’s long absence led rumors of his death to spread, but so far this has not been officially confirmed.

Meanwhile the social media page of the Right Sector group, where the message has been posted, was taken down as it has violated company’s policies by posting prohibited content. The VKontakte page now states that the “community has been blocked at the request of Roskomnadzor as it has been added to the register of prohibited content.”

The Right Sector social media VKontakte page had over 375,000 followers and was used for coordinating the actions of the movement’s cells across Ukraine.

After the outrageous message caught the attention of world media, a Right Sector representative has claimed that the movement has nothing to do with the posting and that one of their administrator’s accounts was “hacked.”

Screenshot from Right Sector’s Vkontakte page

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Crossroads of Crimea : Facts you need to know about Ukraine region

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians (L) and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

With its multinational society and a long history of conquests, the Crimean peninsula has always been a crossroads of cultures – and a hotbed of conflicts. Amid Ukrainian turmoil, every ethnic group of Crimeans has its own vision of the region’s future.

What is Crimea?

Now known as Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the picturesque peninsula shooting out into Black Sea from mainland Ukraine was for centuries colonized and conquered by historic empires and nomadic tribes. Greeks, Scythians, Byzantians and the Genoese have all left traces of their presence in Crimean archeological sites and placenames. Nomadic invasions, such as that of the Goths and the Huns, oftentimes redrew the ethnic picture of the region.

The most long-lived, however, proved to be the conquest of the peninsula by Turko-Mongols, who settled in the region, mixing with indigenous and other Turkic people already living there and in 1441 formed the Crimean Khanate. The local Turkic-speaking population became known as the Crimean Tatars. While the Khanate proclaimed its independence from the Golden Horde, it soon became a Turkish protectorate.

How does Russia come into picture?

The Crimean Khanate became notorious for its brutal and perpetual slave raids into East Slavic lands, in which tens of thousands of people were captured annually on Russian, Polish-Lithuanian and later Ukrainian territories. The Crimean-Nogai raids made up the Khanate’s economy through a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. They also caused vast steppe territories, known as the Wild Fields, to be unpopulated for centuries.

As the Tsardom of Russia grew stronger, one of the most vital issues for its rulers was to protect the southern borders against the raids. For this purpose, Moscow accepted the loyalty of Cossack-ruled Zaporizhian Sich, which also proved to be a defining moment in the formation of present-day Ukraine.

The Russian Empire eventually did away with its historical rival in the 18th century as a result of several victorious Russo-Turkish wars. As part of the 1774 Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty the Crimean Khanate aligned itself with Russia, but Catherine the Great soon annexed its lands, giving them a historic Greek name of Taurida.

The City of Sevastopol on the Black Sea shore, the Crimea.

During the Crimean War of 1853–1856, the peninsula again became a major theater of war. The Russian Empire lost the war to Ottoman Empire’s British and French allies following the bloody Siege of Sevastopol, but retained Crimea due to success on Turkish front. Despite the defeat and total devastation of the city, the heroic 11-month long defense of Sevastopol became known as an iconic event in Russian history, which has ever since been associated with the courage of the Russian military.

Later on during World War II, Sevastopol’s heroic struggle against Nazi Germany earned it the title of Hero City, reinforcing its special historic status for the Russians. As the war ended, the city had to be completely rebuilt for the second time in its history.

Ethnic controversy

By the beginning of the 20th century, Russians and the Crimean Tatars were equally predominant ethnic groups in Crimea, followed by Ukrainian, Jewish and other minorities. Crimea was both a royal resort and an inspiration for some of the great Russian poets, writers and artists, some of whom lived or were born there.

The turmoil of the Russian Civil War gravely affected the region, bringing both the notorious “Red Terror” and a severely weakened economy, which caused the Crimean population to be unable to cope with the great famine of 1921–1923. Of the famine’s 100,000 victims some 75,000 were Crimean Tatars, mainly because they relied on livestock breeding in mountainous areas with very limited lands and did not grow many crops.

Still, even more disastrous for Crimean Tatars was the aftermath of the WWII, in which some 20,000 of them allied with the Nazi German occupants, but many others also fought the Germans within the Soviet Army. Citing the collaboration of Crimean Tatars with the Nazis, Joseph Stalin ordered the whole ethnic group to be deported from Crimea to several Central Asian Soviet republics. Officially, 183,155 people were deported from Crimea, followed by about 9,000 Crimean Tatar WWII veterans. That made up about 19 percent of the Crimean population on the eve of war, almost half of which was by then Russian.

While the move was officially criticized by the communist leadership as early as in 1967, the Tatars were de-facto unable to return to Crimea until the late 1980s. The tragic events surrounding Stalin’s deportation obviously shaped the ethnic group’s detestation of the Soviet regime.

Other Soviet citizens got to know Crimea as an “all-Union health resort,” with many of those born in the Soviet Union sharing nostalgic memories of children’s holiday camps and seaside.

How was Crimea separated from Russia?

Another controversial decision involving Crimea followed in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, himself an ethnic Ukrainian, transferred the peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR, extracting it from Russian territory.

The health resort Krym (formerly Frunzenskoye), 1980.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev’s “present” has been widely criticized by many Russians, including the majority of those living in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Adding to the confusion was also the status of Soviet-times Sevastopol, which not only remained the largest Crimean city, but also retained its special strategic and military profile. In 1948, Sevastopol was separated from the surrounding region and made directly subordinate to Moscow. Serving as an important Soviet naval base, it used to be a “closed city” for years.

In the 1990s, the status of Sevastopol became the subject of endless debates between Russia and Ukraine. Following negotiations, the city with the surrounding territories was granted a special “state significance” status within the Ukrainian state, and some of the naval facilities were leased to Russia for its Black Sea Fleet until at least 2047. However, the city’s Russian majority and some outspoken Russian politicians still consider it to be a part of Russia.

Referendums and hopes

In 1991, the people of Crimea took part in several referendums. One proclaimed the region an Autonomous Republic within the Soviet Union, with 93.26 percent of the voters supporting the move. As the events unfolded fast, another one was already asking if the Crimeans supported the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union – a question that gathered 54 percent support. However, a referendum on Crimea’s independence from Ukraine was indefinitely banned from being held, leading critics to assert that their lawful rights were oppressed by Kiev authorities.

A rally in support of the Crimea independence referendum, 1992.

Complicating the issue was the return of the Crimean Tatars, who not only started to resettle in tens of thousands, but also rivaled local authorities. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People was formed to represent the rights and interests of the ethnic minority. Although it was never officially recognized as an official organization, the body has enjoyed undisputed authority over most of Crimean Tatars and has successfully pushed for some concessions for the ethnic group in local laws.

While the Crimean Tatar re-settlers and the peninsula’s current Russian majority have learned to understand one another as neighbors, hardcore politicians from both ethnic groups also created grounds for a heated standoff. Calls for wider autonomy and aggressive lobbying for Crimean Tatar rights have prompted several pro-Russian Crimean political leaders to call the Mejlis an “organized criminal group” leading “unconstitutional” activities. The remarks sparked furious claims of “discrimination” from the Crimean Tatar community.

Who lives there now?

The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the populations, according to the latest national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars. However, in the Crimea’s largest city of Sevastopol, which is considered a separate region of Crimea, there are almost no Crimean Tatars and around 22 percent of Ukrainians, with over 70 percent of the population being Russians.

An absolute majority of the Crimean population (97 percent) use Russian as their main language, according to Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll. One of the first decisions of the interim Kiev government directly hit Crimea, as it revoked a law that allowed Russian and other minority languages to be recognized as official in multi-cultural regions.

What’s happening now?

After the Ukrainian President was ousted and an interim government was established in Kiev, the Russian majority started protesting outside the regional parliament, urging local MPs not to support it. They want the Autonomous Region to return to the constitution of 1992, under which Crimea briefly had its own president and independent foreign policy.

The parliament of the Crimea autonomous region was due to declare on Wednesday the region’s official position toward the new authorities in Kiev. The Tatar community has spoken out sharply against holding a parliamentary session on the issue, expressing their support for the new central authorities.

Ukrainian men help pull one another out of a stampede as a flag of Crimea is seen during clashes at rallies held by ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014

Two separate rallies, consisting of several thousand protesters, faced each other in front of the parliament building in the Crimea capital Simferopol. Two people have died as a result of scuffles and stampede and about 30 were injured, before the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, Refat Chubarov, called for the participants of the rally to go home peacefully.

Following the example of Kiev, vigilante groups are being formed, with about 3,500 people already patrolling the streets of Crimea along with police to prevent any provocations.

After the central government in Kiev disbanded the Berkut special police task force, new authorities in Sevastopol have refused to comply and welcomed all Berkut officers who feel intimidated to come to live in Crimea with their families. Sevastopol earlier elected a new mayor after the popular gathering ousted the Yanukovich local government, which tried to cling to power by pledging allegiance to Kiev’s new rulers.

What happens next?

The ultimate goal of the ethnic Russian population protesting in Crimea is to hold a referendum on whether the region should retain its current status as an autonomous region in Ukraine, to become independent, or become part of Russia again. In the meantime they claim to have a right to disobey orders of the “illegal” central government.

The Tatar minority meanwhile feels that ethnic Russians are trying to “tear Crimea away from Ukraine” excluding them from deciding the land’s fate.

Right-wing radicals from Western Ukraine earlier threatened to send the so-called “trains of friendship” full of armed fighters in order to crush any signs of resistance to the revolution they were fighting so hard for.

The Kiev authorities busy with appointing roles in the revolutionary government in the meantime embraced a soft approach towards Crimea. The interim interior minister even did not undertake any “drastic measures” to arrest fugitive ousted president Yanukovich, fearing that may spark unrest.

Russia repeatedly confirmed it does not doubt Crimea is a part of Ukraine, even though it understands the emotions of the residents of the region. This week Russian MPs initiated a bill that will allow Russian citizenship within six month if the applicant successfully proves his or her Russian ethnicity. It is prepared especially to save Russian speaking Ukrainians from possible infringement of their rights.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

via Crossroads of Crimea: Facts you need to know about Ukraine region — RT News.

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NATO Urges Intact Ukraine as Russia Holds Army Exercise

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NATO and the Obama administration made a plea for keeping post-revolutionary Ukraine in one piece as tensions mounted in the Crimea and the Kremlin ordered a test of combat readiness of nearby Russian military units.

Defense ministers of the 28-nation U.S.-led alliance called for a “sovereign, independent and stable” Ukraine, emphasizing the “principle of inviolability of frontiers.” North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the warning was addressed “to whom it may concern.”

Allied defense ministers issued the statement at a meeting in Brussels today after Interfax reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military drills involving around 150,000 troops in Russia’s central and western military districts, including areas bordering Ukraine.

Scuffles between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian demonstrators in the Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that was part of Russia until 1954 and remains home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, underscored the unpredictable outcome of the popular uprising that swept away Ukraine’s president last week.

“NATO is trying to send a very strong message that Russia should be very careful and not intervene in Ukraine,” Jan Techau, head of the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment and a former research adviser at the NATO Defense College in Rome, said by telephone. “It’s telling the Russians that there will be a very high price if they do intervene. It’s a unified Western message.”

Soviet Collapse

Russia notified western governments of the military drills via the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. Rasmussen said he learned of the maneuvers during today’s meeting. “I suppose the Russians have lived up to all their obligations as regards transparency,” he said.

Ukraine, home to 45 million people, has been caught between Russia and the West since the dissolution of the Soviet Union made it independent in 1991. Putin in 2008 blunted an effort by Ukraine’s then pro-western government to seek NATO membership and is trying to bind it to his planned Eurasian economic union.

Last week’s ouster of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych set back Putin’s designs and left a divided Ukrainian opposition to form a government to steer the country away from economic calamity and try to better ties with the West without alienating Russia.

‘Outside Actors’

U.S. officials stressed non-interference. Traveling with President Barack Obama to Minnesota, Josh Earnest, deputy White House press secretary, told reporters that “outside actors” must “end provocative rhetoric and actions.”

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia to live up to a commitment to respect Ukraine’s independence, saying it would be a leading beneficiary of a democratic, economically restored Ukraine.

“We’re hoping that Russia will not see this as a sort of a continuation of the Cold War,” Kerry said on MSNBC, according to a transcript. “This is not Rocky IV, believe me.”

Russian rhetoric veered between reaffirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity and preparing for military contingencies. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will gird for “crisis situations, posing a danger to the country’s military security,” Interfax reported. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the plans and timing for the drills weren’t triggered by events in Ukraine, Interfax reported.

Whether Ukraine holds together will hinge on Crimea, site of the port that has been a key Russian naval and trading lifeline since the age of the tsars. Demonstrators for and against a referendum on becoming part of Russia faced off today in the regional capital, Simferopol.

Techau of the Carnegie Endowment questioned whether Russia’s military has the strength to intervene in a country of Ukraine’s size. Putin’s main goal, he said, is to maintain influence by “stirring up fears and resentment among Russian speakers in Ukraine.”

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Egypt Gives Russian Dignitaries Red Carpet Welcome – ABC News

65645678In an echo of the Cold War, Egypt gave the red carpet welcome Thursday to senior Russian officials aiming to expand Moscow’s influence through military and economic cooperation with a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

The flirtation underscores how U.S.-Egyptian relations have soured lately over the Obama administration’s criticism of the July 3 military coup. And although Egyptian officials say the one-time Soviet client is not turning away from the United States, the military-backed government is clearly signaling it has options.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy sought to downplay speculation of a major foreign policy shift, describing the visit by Russian’s foreign and defense ministers as an “activation” of existing ties and speaking positively of cooperation between the two countries “in multiple fields.”

But the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shogiu arrived in Cairo weeks after the United States froze millions of dollars in military aid is significant.

The officials gave no details about any arms deals being discussed.

Russia‘s Interfax news agency recently quoted an unidentified official of the state Rosoboron export arms trader as saying that there are no plans to sign big contracts during the Cairo talks.

It said Egypt has shown interest in purchasing Russian air defense missile systems and MiG-29 fighter jets, combat helicopters and other weapons. But it quoted an unnamed official dealing with arms trade as saying that no big deals are expected in the near future as Egypt currently can’t afford it.

However, a retired Egyptian military general who maintains close ties to the present army leadership said Egypt was inching close to signing a $2 billion deal with Russia for the purchase of 24 MiG fighter-jets as well as anti-tank missiles and an air- defense system.

“Do you want us to take the (U.S.) slap on our face and remain silent? Of course not,” said the retired general, Hossam Sweilam. “This pressure is not acceptable, so we returned to the Russians to maintain our fighting capabilities.”

Tensions are high between Egypt and the U.S. — its chief foreign backer and benefactor since the 1970s, since the ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and the subsequent crackdown on his Islamist supporters that has left hundreds dead and thousands arrested.

Lavrov and Shogiu were greeted with an honor guard and met at Defense Ministry headquarters for talks with Egypt’s powerful Defense Minister and military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, who led the coup that ousted Morsi, and his commanders.

Throughout the day, state television broadcast black-and-white archival footage of Soviet and Egyptian leaders meeting in the 1950s and 1960s, the two decades that saw the two nations forge a strategic friendship at the height of the Cold War and Egypt’s wars with Israel, Washington’s closest Middle East ally.

“We seek to energize a relationship that is already in existence,” Fahmy told reporters later after meeting with Lavrov.

When asked whether Russia would replace the U.S. as his country’s chief ally, Fahmy said Egypt was not looking for a “substitute for anyone” and that Russia was too significant for such a role.

Lavrov, speaking through an interpreter, described the meeting as “historic.”

Egypt Gives Russian Dignitaries Red Carpet Welcome – ABC News.