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​Ron Paul: Western powers fomenting Ukrainian conflict, US should ‘stay out’

Former United States congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul has called on the US to stay out of the intensifying Ukraine conflict, saying it was Western powers that initially stirred unrest there and which continue to incite the tense situation.

On the brink of what he calls a “civil war,” Ukraine must be allowed to resolve its differences free of Western forces antagonizing and incentivizing further clashes, Paul said, especially in the nation’s east where pro-Russian Ukrainians are moving to protect the area from the Western-backed government in Kiev.

Western Ukraine right now is being urged on by its Western supporters, meaning its NATO supporters, the European Union, the United States and the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” Paul wrote on his website, ronpaulchannel.com.

Paul said the US and its allies provoked the Ukrainian conflict in the first place, despite what American media outlets and Western leaders claim about Russia’s culpability.

“The truth is, the coup of several weeks ago to overthrow the elected leader Viktor Yanukovych was stirred up by the same group: NATO, the European Union, the U.S., and the IMF,” he wrote.

Paul said that Washington’s role in pumping $5 billion into the effort to “control Ukraine” is plain interventionism and meddling which could easily result in disaster.

“The current fighting looks like a serious escalation that may get out of control, even though it’s in the interest on both sides, the West as well as Russia, not to escalate,” he wrote. “There have been a lot of threats and intimidation on sanctions and economic penalties, which very well could get out of control.”

He adds that the IMF has dangled $17 billion in front of the Kiev government if it can rid eastern Ukrainian cities of “Russian supporters.” These kinds of measures, Paul said, explain “more aggressive activity by the Western Ukrainians to try to conquer these cities” and show that Western powers do not have the Ukrainian people’s best interests at heart.

“Ironically, the IMF doesn’t seem to have much common sense in trying to help the Ukrainian people because, in order to get this $17 billion, not only must they fight and control the East, they also have to raise taxes and increase oil prices—which will not help the people,” he wrote. “This is generally the case when there are sanctions placed on a country, or when war breaks out: the people suffer and the special interests seem to thrive.”

Paul said that the western Ukrainian move to institute a military draft also proves it is not on the defensive against Russian incursion, as the US and its allies claim.

“In all seriousness, if a country is defending itself, then the people rally and you don’t have to use conscription to get fighters.”

Paul concluded by saying the US has helped create and exacerbate divisions in Ukraine, and that Washington needs to refrain from offering money and weapons or picking sides, and let Ukraine “settle this on their own.”

“It would be much better for the Ukrainians, for the Europeans, for the Russians, and for the Americans, for us to just stay out and follow the principles of a non-intervention foreign policy.”

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Lavrov: Russia, US, EU, Ukraine agree on de-escalation roadmap

Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine have adopted a joint document on the de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, after talks in Geneva. It calls for all illegal armed groups to lay down arms and a wide amnesty.

The document calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable,” Lavrov said.

The most important agreement reached during the talks, according to Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start of true constitutional reform.”

“Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists at the Thursday briefing.

“An amnesty for all the protesters must take place, except of those who committed grave crimes,” the Foreign Minister added.

The issue of illegal armed groups and seized buildings concerns all the regions of Ukraine, Lavrov stressed.

“It is impossible to solve the problem of illegally seized buildings in one region of Ukraine when the illegally seized buildings are not freed in another,” he said.

“Those who took power in Kiev as a result of a coup – if they consider themselves as representing the interests of all the Ukrainians – must show the initiative, extend a friendly hand to the regions, listen to their concerns, and sit down with them at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the document does not give any guidelines on the future political system of Ukraine.

“We did not use any terms… There are federations where the rights of the regions are limited, and there are unitary states in name only where the regions have broad authority,” he explained.

The goal of the meeting was to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they are responsible for stability in the country and must ensure that “each region can protect its history and language,” Lavrov stressed.

“Only then will Ukraine be a strong state, a proverbial bridge between the East and the West,” Lavrov said.

The Russian side on Thursday provided US and EU representatives with documents passed on from south-eastern Ukrainians, which contain “a thorough vision of how their interests should be reflected in the new [Ukrainian] constitution.”

The OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) monitoring mission must play “the leading role” in assisting the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the crisis, Lavrov stressed, adding that Russia “will support” the mission’s work.

The Geneva meeting has given Russia “hopes” that “the US and the EU are genuinely interested in a trilateral cooperation with Russia aimed at convincing the Ukrainian to sit down at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.

According to the Russian top diplomat, the Americans now have a “decisive influence” on the Kiev authorities, which should be used for resolving the crisis.

Russia “does not want to send any troops to Ukraine,” Lavrov stressed, answering journalists’ questions. Moscow’s chief concern is that the rights of all the Ukrainian regions, including those with Russian-speaking majorities, must be taken into account in the constitutional reform.

“We have absolutely no wish to send our troops to Ukraine, to the territory of a friendly state, to the land of a brotherly nation. This is against the fundamental interests of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

Calling the recent NATO statements on Ukraine’s neutrality “unacceptable,” Lavrov stressed that pushing for changes in the country’s non-aligned status will “undermine the efforts to resolve the crisis” in Ukraine.

“The fact that Ukraine has chosen non-aligned status and enshrined it in its law must be respected by all and there should not be any attempts to doubt it or to erode its meaning,” the Russian Foreign Minister stressed.

Ahead of the quadrilateral talks, Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saw Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa. Both meetings were held behind closed doors.

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Protesters seize 6 armored vehicles in Ukraine’ Donetsk region

Men wearing military fatigues ride on armoured personnel carriers (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on April 16, 2014.

Men wearing military fatigues ride on armoured personnel carriers (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on April 16, 2014.

KIEV, April 16. ITAR-TASS

Ukrainian protesters on Wednesday seized six armored vehicles of the Ukrainian army which had rolled in the town of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, as part of the task force to conduct an anti-terrorist operation, local media reported.

Activists surrounded the vehicles and blocked their movement. Then they disarmed the servicemen and drove the APCs towards the village of Ivanivka.

Raid in Kramatorsk

On Tuesday, Ukrainian security services carried out a raid in the airport of Kramatorsk and won it back from the city’s self-defense forces.

According to human right activists, in the course of the raid, a fighter jet was shot down, and there were casualties and wounded.

At the same time, at 17:00 GMT on Tuesday physicians from Kramatorsk reported that no people injured in the shootout during the airport’s storming were delivered to local hospitals.

Representatives of the Kramatorsk self-defense forces say that Right Sector militants and foreign mercenaries were taking part in the storming of the airport. “The attackers were dressed in the uniform of Right Sector militants, and some of them spoke foreign languages.”

“They sought to avoid contact with local residents, allegedly not to give themselves away. We suppose that these were mercenaries,” one of the Kramatorsk self-defense activists reported.

The Kramatorsk airport is now controlled by Ukrainian servicemen, but the city itself is still under control of self-defense units. “We were indeed knocked off from the airport, but the city is under our control. We won’t let anyone in it,” one of the activists assured, stressing that the city’s self-defense forces are ready to fight against armored equipment.

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Kiev must stop war on Ukrainians – Churkin

The international community must demand that those who are in power in Kiev stop war on their own citizens in south-eastern Ukraine, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told the UN Security Council.

“The international community must demand the stooges of Maidan stop the war against their own people”, Churkin said at an emergency Security Council session.

Churkin stressed that “reckless actions” of the Kiev government are “threatening to rip apart the delicate garment of Ukrainian mosaic society.”

Kiev’s post-coup authorities “stubbornly,” Churkin says, refuse to listen to those who do not accept Kiev’s “radicalized, chauvinistic, russophobic, anti-Semitic forces.”

“Some, including those in this hall, constantly look for Moscow’s hand in the events in the southeast , persistently without wishing to see the true reasons of the events in Ukraine. Quit doing it,” Churkin told the meeting.

“Quit spreading tales that we built up military armadas on the border with this country, ready at any moment, within a few hours to reach almost as far as La Manche, that we sent hordes of agents to coordinate actions of the protesting people of Ukraine.”

Monstrous russophobia bordering on hatred became the norm in the Verhovna Rada, Churkin reminded. “These beings deserve only one thing – death,” Churkin quoted a recent female Svoboda party MP’s statement about protesters in the East. And such views are widely shared among her “brutal co-party members,” he added.

The people’s outcry in the East was indeed answered by Ukraine Parliament – with “draconian laws” threatening them long term imprisonment for “separatism” and “terrorism,” Churkin said.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power used a chance to accuse Russia of directly intervening and orchestrating the protests in Ukraine.

“You heard that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine but the fact is that many of the armed units that we have seen were outfitted in bullet proof vests, camouflage uniforms with insignia removed,” Power said.

Armed pro-Russia protesters prepare for the battle with Ukrainian police special team on the outskirts the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 13, 2014

“We know who is behind this. Indeed the only entity in the area capable of coordinating these professional military actions is Russia,” Power claimed.

In his turn, Ukraine’s Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said that “Russia has not only constantly been increasing its troops alongside the Ukrainian border but also sending subversive groups into Ukrainian regions in order to destabilize the situation,” accusing Russia of orchestrating a full-scale “terrorist operation” in the East.

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin speaks at the United Nations Security Council during a meeting called by Russia April 13, 2014 at the United Nations in New York

Taking the floor for the second time, Churkin warned that the deadline was looming, and that prospects of holding negotiations next week would be undermined if Kiev uses force against its people in the East, Churkin said in his rebuttal to the accusations by other members of the UNSC.

“Let’s move aside from speculations, accusations, from searching for Russian phantoms flying all over different corners of Ukraine, but let’s concentrate attention on what we can do – in this case I’m directing my eyesight at my Western colleagues – in order to prevent the Kiev authorities’ reckless actions, which at this moment are embodied in the criminal order of Mr. Turchinov, and to prevent the realization of this order, which will have the most severe implications primarily for the people of Ukraine.”

In response to his Ukrainian colleague’s accusations that Russia is engaged in supporting terrorism in Ukraine, Churkin responded: “Why did you not accuse of terrorism those who were terrorizing your government for a span of several months?”

“Those who actually terrorized the security forces, who actually set on fire the policemen, shot at them, just like they did at those who were protesting against the authorities and seemingly acted on their side. Those people, for some reason, you did not call terrorists, and even relieved them from any liability for their criminal actions that were conducted over several months.”

Churkin called accusations against Russia “ridiculous” pointing out that Russia’s calls to start negotiations at the beginning of the crisis were ignored. “Why did you encourage this crisis?” Churkin asked.

“Russia, throughout the stretch of the Ukrainian crisis spoke out not for aggravation of the crisis, not to destabilize the country,” but to “keep the situation stable” in the neighboring country, Churkin told the UNSC, adding, “it is not our fault what we are witnessing there.”

He also questioned the role the US plays in the EU decision making process, citing the fact that Washington was quick to answer President’s Putin letter addressed to EU nations, on gas transit to Europe. “We will have to wait and see if there is any sovereignty left in the EU. Can it independently make decisions that could lead the situation out of crisis?”

Churkin also stressed that Russia repeatedly stated that constitutional reform mentioned in February 21 agreement has to be implemented to avoid the escalation of tensions. He also stressed that FM Sergey Lavrov in his conversations with his counterpart John Kerry, always tries to explain to him the position of pro-federalization activists, so the US can get a full picture of the tension in Ukraine.

And while Russia and the US continue their talks, Churkin says, some politicians in the US already state that these conversations “will not lead to anything” and are just being conducted by the US to “occupy time.”

“Occupy time? So, does that means that someone in Washington actually has something like Turchinov’s armed scenario in their heads? If so, let’s not accuse Russia of seeking to destabilize the situation.”

Churkin also accused the West of double standards, pointing out the fact that the West encouraged actions to overthrow the government in Kiev in February, while at the same time condemning the events in the East of the country, where people reject the new rule forcefully imposed on them.

Russia’s UN envoy also said that there seems to be a total disconnect in Kiev’s approach to the crisis, as the acting prime minister Yatsenyuk is talking of the possibility of referendum while Turchinov at the same time is giving crackdown orders. “It seems they prefer to use force,” Churkin said.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power speaks at the United Nations Security Council during a meeting called by Russia April 13, 2014 at the United Nations in New York

When Samantha Power took the floor for the second time she stressed the US consistently “called for de-escalation and urged restraint” when dealing with the Ukrainian crisis, saying “there has been no shortage of evidence in diplomacy.”

She once again blamed Russia for fuelling Ukrainian crisis.

“It is not the United States that escalated the situation. It is the Russian Federation,” Power said, stating that it is hard to “reconcile the behavior of the Russian Federation, the propaganda of the Russian Federation, the military actions of the Russian Federation which range from the massing of 40,000 troops at the border to the subversive activities inside Ukraine” with “this appeal for diplomacy and de-escalation, and an appeal we wish was in fact sincere.”

Power said that Russia’s point of view is “rooted in the idea that the internet does not exist” where people can see all the “evidence.” She claimed that pro-federalization rallies are not protests, but instead are a series of military operations by “professional forces, carrying weapons, Russian made weapons as it happens, carrying out sophisticated, complicated military operations across a substantial number of eastern Ukrainian cities.”

Finally, Powers said that the “credibility of the Russian Federation has been greatly undermined.”

In his final address to the council, Churkin expressed hope that his calls will eventually find some response, and the bloodshed in Ukraine will be prevented while there is still time.

“Maybe, he Vice President Biden will pick up the phone and call Mr. Turchinov, as he numerously called Mr. Yanukovich before Feb 21?” Churkin asked. “Just call to tell Mr. Turchinov the same thing he told Mr. Yanukovich. He told him, as press service of vice president reported: ‘For god’s sake don’t use force, get rid of your security forces from central Kiev.”

“And now what, the US will endorse the realization of this criminal order to use armed forces?” Churkin said, urging Samantha Power to tell Biden to “immediately” call Kiev instead of waiting for a planned visit, as “in a couple of hours the situation can take an irreversible turn.”

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting requested by Russia to discuss the Kiev’s decision to use military forces to crush protests in Eastern Ukraine.

The United Nations Security Council emergency session was requested by Russia to discuss Ukraine’s declaration of a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-federation protesters in Eastern Ukraine.

The session was initially planned to be closed, but several Security Council members were pushing for an open format.

The urgent meeting comes after the coup-imposed Kiev government authorized the use of the military in Ukraine’s south-eastern regions to supress the popular uprising.

Events on the ground have taken a very dangerous turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, slamming the order of a full-scale military operation as “criminal.”

“The Kiev authorities, who self-proclaimed themselves as a result of a coup, have embarked on the violent military suppression of the protests,” the ministry said adding that the rallies, which have gripped the Donbas region were prompted by Kiev’s disregard of the legitimate interests the people.

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Democratic presidential candidate accuses US of provoking Ukrainian crisis

Diverting from the typical Western line against “Russia’s invasion of Crimea,” former Ohio congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said it was driven by covert action by the United States.

Kucinich made the comments Tuesday evening while speaking to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, arguing American meddling in Ukraine’s affairs is what sparked the current situation in the first place and that Ukrainians were being exploited by Western powers.

Asked how he’d handle the tense standoff if he were president, Kucinich said the following:

“What I’d do is not have USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy working with U.S. taxpayers’ money to knock off an elected government in Ukraine, which is what they did. I wouldn’t try to force the people of Ukraine into a deal with NATO against their interest or into a deal with the European Union, which is against their economic interest.”

“So, it’s the USA’s fault that Putin rolled in? We made them do it?” O’Reilly asked.

“Bill O’Reilly, if you don’t believe in cause and effect, I don’t know what I can do for you,” Kucinich said.

In February, Kucinich penned a column for the Huffington Post in which he argued the Association Agreement floated between by the European Union would be used to draw Ukraine “into the broad military arrangement with EU nations,” ultimately giving NATO positioning in a country bordering Russia.

When now-ousted President Viktor Yanukovich turned down the EU agreement to move closer to Moscow, pro-Western protests erupted in Kiev. Eventually, Yanukovich fled the country, resulting in a split between pro-Russian populations in Ukraine and those in favor of closer ties to Europe.

“From what I’m hearing, you’re blaming the USA for subverting Ukraine in the first place, thereby giving Putin a pass to go in and invade,” O’Reilly said.

“That’s close,” Kucinich responded. “We should be concerned about the Ukrainian people, because they’re being used right now. They would be used by the IMF in a new austerity program, by NATO to go on the doorstep of Russia.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no consensus between the United States and Russia regarding whether or not the troops in Crimea constitute an invading force. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the idea on Tuesday, saying the soldiers are part of Crimea’s self-defense forces and that Moscow is not looking to go to war with Ukraine.

RT USA

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Crimean self-defense squads in stand off with Ukrainian soldiers at Belbek airport

The autonomous republic’s self-defense forces have met with Ukrainian soldiers who wanted to return to Belbek Sevastopol International Airport. The sides entered into long negotiations, which ended with a peaceful agreement.

Nearly 50 soldiers from the Ukrainian army singing the national anthem and brandishing the Ukrainian flag came to Belbek airport at about 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT). They were keen to continue their service on the airport’s territory.

After self-defense squads’ fired several warning shots in the air, both sides started negotiating.

“You are deliberately provoking us,” one of the members of the self-defense forces told Ukrainian soldiers. The conversation was broadcast by Crimean ATR channel.

“How are we provoking you? We have no weapons,” the Ukrainians responded.

After the negotiations, nearly 10 airport military personnel, including several servicemen, signalmen and dispatchers, were permitted to stay on the territory of the airport to help ensure safety of the premises.

“The negotiations involved a lot of give and take, and the self-defense squads agreed to our demands but on certain conditions,” Colonel Yury Mamchur from the Ukrainian forces told the journalists at the scene.

Ukrainian servicemen carry flags as they leave Belbek Airport in Crimea on March 4, 2014.

The self-defense squads have been patrolling the grounds outside the airport since February 28. They were helping to ensure safety and prevent possible turmoil in Sevastopol and throughout the whole of Crimea.

Belbek Airport hosts 45 MiG-29 fighter jets and 4 L-39 training jets. However, only four fighters and one training aircraft are currently operational.

While most of the airport is patrolled by the self-defense squads, storage facilities with weapons and ammunition are still controlled by Ukrainian military forces.

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.

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.

This brings the total number of troops who’ve reportedly switched sides to nearly 6,000 in the last two days.

Among those pledging allegiance to Crimea is Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, who was appointed by Kiev last week as chief of the Ukrainian Navy, but swore to serve the people of Crimea on Monday.

Crimeans began protesting after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev 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. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

Ukrainian servicemen wait at Belbek Airport in Crimea on March 4, 2014.

 

 

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Russia slams Ukraine’s UN envoy for publicly justifying Nazi collaborators

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Yuriy Sergeyev speaks during a Security Council meeting on the crisis in Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 3, 2014

Russia has slammed Ukraine’s UN envoy for justifying Ukrainian Nazi collaborators on the sidelines of the Security Council session. The diplomat said the USSR fabricated accusations against Ukrainian nationalists during the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s.

“With these words, [the] Ukrainian representative at the UN offended the memory of killed Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and citizens of other nationalities who fell victims to the atrocities committed by Ukrainian Nazi supporters,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to Ukrainian diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev. “There is a lot of proof of their violent crimes. We are ready to acquaint Sergeyev with them.”

Speaking after the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the Ukrainian envoy accused “the Russian-Soviet side at the time” of attempts to press on “the Western allies to declare [the] Bandera movement members and others murderers.”

“The Nuremberg Trials (a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany between 1945 and 1949) did not declare it. Why? Because the facts were falsified and the Soviet Union’s position at the time was unjust,” the diplomat told reporters.

In his statement, Sergeyev particularly referred to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which was led by Stepan Bandera, and its militant branch, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, headed by Roman Shukhevich.

In the summer of 1941, Bandera called on “the people of Ukraine to help the German army to defeat Moscow and Bolshevism.” However, Bandera and Hitler failed to reach an agreement as Nazi Germany refused to support the idea of an independent Ukrainian state. Bandera was arrested in 1942 and sent to a concentration camp. He was released two years later.

Sergeyev asked not to “generalize” or assume that all residents in the western regions of Ukraine are nationalists or followers of Bandera, a controversial leader of the nationalist movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians.

“Millions of Ukrainians in the west are normal European citizens,” he stressed, saying the same applies to the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party members.

The comment by the Ukrainian envoy comes amid a wide presence of far-right groups in the recent coup. Aligned within the nationalist-radical umbrella group Right Sector, the armed groups violently fought in Kiev to overthrow President Yanukovich.

Ukraine remains divided on the nationalist issue and the events of WWII. Nationalism has traditionally been strong in the west of the country, where in some areas, Victory Day (May 9) was declared a day of mourning in 2013. In the city of Lvov, the day ended in scuffles.

In eastern Ukraine, the glorification of such figures as Bandera and Shukevich, as well as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, has always prompted protests.

The division between west and east sharpened one more time in 2010, when then-President Victor Yushchenko posthumously honored Bandera and Shukhevich with the title of ‘Hero of Ukraine.’

The move was condemned by the European Union as well as a number of Jewish organizations around the world. The award sparked anger in Russia – where Bandera is regarded as a fascist – and Poland, where he is blamed for organizing the mass killings of Poles.

In 2011, the Ukrainian constitutional court recognized the presidential order as invalid.

 

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Putin : Deploying military force is last resort, but we reserve right

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 now try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians, particularly ethnic Russians, Putin told the media.

Putin, who was given a mandate by the Russian senate to use military force to protect civilians in Ukraine, said there is no need for such an 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 HQ, 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 on the table.

“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,” he said.

Russia is not planning to go to war with the Ukrainian people, Putin stressed, when a journalist asked if he was afraid of war. But Russian troops would prevent any attempts to target Ukrainian civilians, should they be deployed.

“We are not going to a war against the Ukrainian people,” he said. “I want you to understand it unambiguously. If we do take a decision, it would only be to protect Ukrainian citizens. Let anybody in the military dare, and they’d be shooting their own people, who would stand up in front of us. Shoot at women and children. I’d like to see anyone try and order such a thing in Ukraine.”

Putin dismissed the notion that the uniformed armed people without insignia who are currently present in Crimea are Russian soldiers. He said they are members of the Crimean self-defense forces and that they are no better equipped and trained than some radical fighters who took part in the ousting of Yanukovich.

He assured that the surprise military drills in Russia’s west which ended on Tuesday had nothing to do with the Ukrainian situation.

An attack of marines supported by combat vehicles during an exercise held by the Baltic Fleet coastal defense troops at the Pavenkovo training ground in the Kaliningrad region, March 2, 2014.

Sanction threats are counterproductive

Asked about criticism of Russia over its stance on Ukraine, Putin dismissed the accusations that Russia is acting illegitimately. He stated that even if Russia does use force in Ukraine, it would not violate international law.

At the same time he accused the United States and its allies of having no regard to legitimacy when they use military force in pursuit of their own national interests.

“When I ask them ‘Do you believe you do everything legitimately,’ they say ‘Yes.’ And I have to remind them about the US actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where they acted either without any UN Security Council mandate or through perverting a mandate, as was the case in Libya,” Putin said.

Our partners, especially in the United States, always clearly formulate for themselves their geopolitical and national interests, pursue them relentlessly and then drag the rest of the world in, using the principle ‘You are either with us or against us.’ And harass those who refuse to be dragged in,” he added.

As for the sanctions Russia faces over Ukraine, Putin said those threatening them should think of the consequences to themselves if they follow that path. In an interconnected world a country may hurt another country if it wishes, but it would be damaged too.

Threats are counterproductive in this situation, Putin warned. He added that if G8 members choose not to go to Sochi for a planned G8 summit, that would be up to them.

Putin sympathies with Maidan protesters, rejects coup

Putin stressed that the Ukrainian people had a legitimate reason to protest against Yanukovich’s power, considering the overwhelming corruption and other faults of his presidency.

But he objected to the illegitimate way his ouster took place, because it undermined the political stability in the country.

“I strictly object to this form [of transition of power] in Ukraine, and anywhere in the post-Soviet space. This does not help nurturing a culture of law. If someone is allowed to act this way, then everyone is allowed to. And this means chaos. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a country with an unstable economy and an unestablished political system,” Putin explained.

He said that while he personally was not fond of months-long streets protests as a means to pressure the government, he sympathized with the Maidan demonstration members, who were genuinely outraged with the situation in Ukraine.

But at the same time he warned that what happens in Ukraine now may be a replacement of one group of crooks with another, citing the appointments of certain wealthy businessmen with questionable reputations.

Asked about the presence of snipers during the violent confrontation in Kiev last month, Putin said he was not aware of any order from the Yanukovich government to use firearms against the protesters. He alleged that the shooters could have been provocateurs from one of the opposition forces. He added that what he was sure of is the fact that police officers were shot at with lethal arms during the confrontation.

Yanukovich is certainly powerless in Ukraine, but legally speaking he is the legitimate president of the country, Putin said. The way the new authorities in Kiev replaced him did not enhance their credibility.

Asked if he felt for Yanukovich, Putin said “Oh, no. I have absolutely different feelings.” But he declined to publicly explain what those were. He also refrained from commenting on what mistakes he saw in Yanukovich’s actions, explaining that it would not be proper for him to do so.

At the same time Putin does not see any political future for Yanukovich, which he told the ousted Ukrainian president himself. He added that Russia allowed him to come to its territory for humanitarian reasons, because if he remained in Ukraine he could have been summarily executed.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych arrives for his press-conference in southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, on February 28, 2014.

Equal participation in Ukraine’s future for all Ukrainians

The Russian government is currently engaging with the self-proclaimed govern of Ukraine with the goal of preserving economic ties between the two countries. However, any normal relations would only be possible after Ukraine has fully legitimate branches of government, Putin said. He considers that he has no counterpart in Kiev now, so he personally has no partner to communicate with.

The Russian president stressed that Russia wants to see equal participation of all citizens of Ukraine in defining the future of the country. The resistance to the authorities in Kiev, which is evident currently in the eastern and southern Ukraine, shows clearly that currently Kiev does not have a nationwide mandate to govern the country.

“Frankly, they should adopt a new constitution through a referendum so that all citizens of Ukraine feel engagement in that process, have an input on the formation of the new principles of how their nation should function,” Putin suggested. “That’s certainly not for us, but for the Ukrainians and the Ukrainian authorities to decide this way or another. I believe after legitimate government is formed, after a new president elected, after a new parliament is elected, they should return to this.”

Russia will be watching the planned presidential election in Ukraine, Putin said. If it is conducted in an atmosphere of terror, Russia will consider it unfair and will not recognize its results, he warned.

Putin commented on the issue of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which Russia committed to preserve. He said that Western powers reject Russia’s assessment of the events in Ukraine as a coup and insist on calling it a revolution.

Some Russian experts, Putin warned that if Ukraine had undergone a revolution, then the nation that came out of it is not the same that it was before, similarly to how Russia transformed after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

If this is the case, Moscow may consider itself no longer bound by any treaties it has with Ukraine, Putin warned.

 

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Thousands in Moscow, St Petersburg rally in support of Russian speakers in Ukraine

A Moscow rally in support of Russian-speakers in Ukraine. “Russia + Crimea,” “Bandera followers are criminals and murderers,” and “Fascism won’t pass.”

Rallies and other actions in support of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine have attracted thousands in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities across Russia.

Around 27,000 people, including members of the patriotic youth groups and veterans’ organizations, took part in the Moscow march, which started on Pushkin Square in central Moscow on Sunday, the police said.

The demonstrators carried Russian national flags and chanted: “Russia and Ukraine are brothers forever,” and “Crimea, Russia is with you.”

“We are worried about the developments in Ukraine where millions of our compatriots live,” the organizers of the rally, which went on under the slogan, “We don’t abandon our people,” told Itar-Tass news agency. “The Ukrainians are our fraternal nation, which is historically connected to us and has unified cultural and spiritual roots with Russia.”

Russia’s biggest bikers’ club, the Night Wolves, has staged a major motorbike rally in the capital in support of Russian speakers in Ukraine. Despite the fact that the motorcycle season hasn’t yet kicked off, over 100 bikes participated in the rally.

“With this event, we want to express our attitude to the events in Ukraine,” one of the bikers told Ridus website. “During the last five years, we have conducted various activities in the Crimea, which were bound by a sense of unity between Crimea and Russia.”

The motorcycle enthusiasts were backed by car owners, who organized an motorized rally of their own in Moscow. Over 50 cars decorated with Russian flags joined the rally, city police told RIA-Novosti news agency.

Around 15,000 people gathered in the center of St Petersburg, local police in the city said.

“The main idea of the demonstration is to express outrage about the treatment of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine,”
Orlana Zapolskaya, from the United Russia party, told Itar-Tass news agency.

The rally was also aimed at showing full support for the decision of the Federation Council, which voted to use stabilizing Russian military forces on Ukrainian territory, Zapolskaya added.

On Saturday, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to send Russian military forces in Ukraine to ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.”

However, the final say about sending in the troops lies with Putin, who hasn’t yet made such a decision.

The authorities in Crimea requested Moscow’s assistance after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of languages other than Ukrainian in official circumstances in the country.

Crimea has longstanding close ethnic, cultural and military links with Russia, as part of Imperial Russia since the 18th century and then the Soviet Union in the 20th century.

Under Ukrainian-born Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in 1954 Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet republic, but retained strong links with Russia after the end of the Soviet Union through Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which has a base there.

With more than half of Crimea’s population being Russian, the referendum to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region is scheduled for March 30.

 

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675,000 Ukrainians pour into Russia as ‘humanitarian crisis’ looms

Pro-Russian protesters wave a Russian flag and hold a sign (C) reading “Our brothers are in Russia, we are slaves in Europe” during a rally in front of the regional administration building in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014.

An estimated 675,000 Ukrainians left for Russia in January and February, fearing the “revolutionary chaos” brewing in Ukraine, Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service said. Officials fear a growing humanitarian crisis.

On Sunday, the border guard service said Russian authorities have identified definite signs that a “humanitarian catastrophe” is brewing in Ukraine.

“In just the past two months (January-February) of this year…675,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Russian territory,” Itar-Tass news agency cited the service as saying.

“If ‘revolutionary chaos’ in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions,” the statement read.

Ukrainians have long formed a large presence in Russia. According to the official 2010 census, 1.9 million Ukrainians were officially living in Russia, although the head of the Federal Migration Service put that figure as high as 3.5 million one year before. While those migrants were often prompted by economic concerns, political turmoil has spiked the recent rise in Ukrainian’s attempting to leave the country.

On Saturday, Russian migration authorities reported that 143,000 requests for asylum had been sent to Russia within a two-week period. Russian officials have promised to expedite the processing of those requests.

“Tragic events in Ukraine have caused a sharp spike in requests coming from this country seeking asylum in Russia,” said the chief of the FMS’s citizenship desk, Valentina Kazakova. “We monitor figures daily and they are far from comforting. Over the last two weeks of February, some 143,000 people applied.”

Kazakova said most requests come from the areas bordering Russia, and especially from Ukraine’s south.

“People are lost, scared and depressed,” she said. “There are many requests from law enforcement services, state officials as they are wary of possible lynching on behalf of radicalized armed groups.”

A week after the government of Viktor Yanukovich was toppled by violent street protests, fears of deepening political and social strife have been particularly acute in Ukraine’s country’s pro-Russian east and south.

Soon after Yanukovich opted to flee the country in what he branded as an extremist coup, a newly reconfigured parliament did away with a 2012 law on minority languages which permitted the use of two official languages in regions where the size of an ethnic minority exceeds 10 percent.

Apart from the Russian-majority regions affected by this law, Hungarian, Moldovan and Romanian also lost their status as official languages in several towns in Western Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Ukrainian deputies were wrong to cancel the law, while European parliamentarians urged the new government to respect the rights of minorities in Ukraine, including the right to use Russian and other minority languages.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, was far more damning in his criticism.

“The attack on the Russian language in Ukraine is a brutal violation of ethnic minority rights,” he tweeted.

Out of some 45 million people living in Ukraine, according to the 2013 census, some 7.6 million are ethnic Russians. Leaders of several predominately Russian-speaking regions have said they will take contr

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