Monday, September 16, 2019
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Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) — As Ukraine‘s new leaders accused Russia of declaring war, Russia’s Prime Minister warned Sunday that blood could be spilled amid growing instability in the neighboring nation.

Kiev mobilized troops and called up military reservists in a rapidly escalating crisis that has raised fears of a conflict. And world leaders pushed for a diplomatic solution.

In a post on his official Facebook page, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the recent ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych a “seizure of power.”

“Such a state of order will be extremely unstable,” Medvedev said. “It will end with the new revolution. With new blood.”

Officials said signs of Russian military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula were clear.

Russian generals led their troops to three bases in the region Sunday, demanding Ukrainian forces surrender and hand over their weapons, Vladislav Seleznyov, spokesman for the Crimean Media Center of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told CNN.

By late Sunday, Russian forces had “complete operational control of the Crimean Peninsula,” a senior U.S. administration official said. The United States estimates there are 6,000 Russian ground and naval forces in the region, the official said.

“There is no question that they are in an occupation position — flying in reinforcements and settling in,” another senior administration official said.

Speaking by phone, Seleznyov said Russian troops had blocked access to bases but added, “There is no open confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian military forces in Crimea” and said Ukrainian troops continue to protect and serve Ukraine.

“This is a red alert. This is not a threat. This is actually a declaration of war to my country,” Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

Speaking in a televised address from the parliament building in the capital, Kiev, he called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “pull back his military and stick to the international obligations.”

“We are on the brink of the disaster.”

Kerry heading to Kiev

A sense of escalating crisis in Crimea — an autonomous region of eastern Ukraine with strong loyalty to neighboring Russia — swirled, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemning what he called Russia’s “incredible act of aggression.”

Speaking on the CBS program “Face The Nation,” Kerry — who is set to arrive in Kiev on Tuesday — said several foreign powers are looking at economic consequences if Russia does not withdraw its forces.

“All of them, every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion,” he said. “They’re prepared to put sanctions in place, they’re prepared to isolate Russia economically.”

But Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said his country needs more than diplomatic assistance.

“We are to demonstrate that we have our own capacity to protect ourselves … and we are preparing to defend ourselves,” Yuriy Sergeyev said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And nationally, if aggravation is going in that way, when the Russian troops … are enlarging their quantity with every coming hour … we will ask for military support and other kinds of support.”

Pushing diplomatic possibilities

In Brussels, Belgium, NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting on Ukraine.

“What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the U.N. charter,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. He later added that Russia’s actions constituted a violation of international law.

He called upon Russia to honor its international commitments, to send it military forces back to Russian bases, and to refrain from any further interference in Ukraine.

Rasmussen also urged both sides to reach a peaceful resolution through diplomatic talks and suggested that international observers from the United Nations should be sent to Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said Putin had accepted a proposal to establish a “fact-finding mission” to Ukraine, possibly under the leadership of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and to start a political dialogue.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched a special envoy to Ukraine Sunday evening, a spokesman for his office said.

Lean to the West, or to Russia?

Ukraine, a nation of 45 million people sandwiched between Europe and Russia’s southwestern border, has been plunged into chaos since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 following bloody street protests that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.

Anti-government protests started in late November when Yanukovych spurned a deal with the EU, favoring closer ties with Moscow instead.

Ukraine has faced a deepening split, with those in the west generally supporting the interim government and its European Union tilt, while many in the east prefer a Ukraine where Russia casts a long shadow.

Nowhere is that feeling more intense than in Crimea, the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership. Ukraine suspects Russia of fomenting tension in the autonomous region that might escalate into a bid for separation by its Russian majority.

Ukrainian leaders and commentators have compared events in Crimea to what happened in Georgia in 2008. Then, cross-border tensions with Russia exploded into a five-day conflict that saw Russian tanks and troops pour into the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as Georgian cities. Russia and Georgia each blamed the other for starting the conflict.

By Sunday night, electricity had been cut off at the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy in Crimea, and officials feared there could soon be an attack, Seleznyov said.

CNN has not independently verified that claim, and Russian officials could not be immediately reached to respond.

Military maneuvering

Word of the power outage came hours after the newly named head of Ukraine’s navy disavowed Ukraine’s new leaders and declared his loyalty to the pro-Russian, autonomous Crimea government.

Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky, who was appointed Saturday by interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov, said from Sevastopol on the Black Sea that he will not submit to any orders from Kiev.

He was quickly suspended and replaced by another rear admiral, the Defense Ministry in Kiev said in a written statement.

These scenes come one day after Putin obtained permission from his parliament to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.

Putin cited in his request a threat posed to Russian citizens and military personnel based in southern Crimea.

Ukrainian officials have vehemently denied Putin’s claim.

Western governments worried

The crisis set off alarm bells in the West and fueled a stern rebuke from the leaders of the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In a statement Sunday, they condemned Russia’s “clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” saying they were temporarily suspending activities related to preparation for June’s G8 Summit in Sochi, Russia.

Canada recalled its ambassador to Moscow.

Senior Obama administration officials Sunday portrayed Russia’s intervention in Ukraine as weak, describing it in a conference call with reporters as a kind of desperate measure from a man who realizes he has lost support of the international community.

When asked what concrete measures the administration has taken to signal its strong opposition to Russian involvement in Ukraine, the officials noted that planning meetings about the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi had been canceled. In the long term, economic sanctions could be employed, they said. The officials declined to be more specific about what those sanctions might involve.

In discussions over the weekend with Putin, Obama “made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community,” according to a statement released by the White House.

During that call, one administration official said, Putin did not “slam the door” to the idea that international monitors could travel to Ukraine to make sure violence doesn’t flare up, one official said.

According to the Kremlin, Putin told Obama that Russia reserves the right to defend its interests in the Crimea region and the Russian-speaking people who live there.

Obama met Sunday with his national security team and called U.S. allies afterward, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he and Obama were of the same mind when they spoke on Sunday.

“We agreed Russia’s actions are unacceptable and there must be significant costs if they don’t change course,” Cameron posted on his verified Twitter account.

Cameron also planned to talk with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Britain’s Foreign Minister William Hague arrived Sunday in Kiev, where he will meet with Ukraine leaders.

Russia’s rouble has fallen to a fresh all-time low against both the dollar and the euro after the political turmoil in Ukraine intensified.

The rouble fell 2.5% to 36.5 roubles against the dollar and 1.5% against the euro to 50.30.

Stocks on Moscow’s MICEX main stock index also fell, dropping 9% in early trading.

The sharp falls came as Russia’s central bank hiked its key lending rate on Monday to 7% from 5.5%.

“The decision is directed at preventing risks to inflation and financial stability associated with the increased level of volatility in the financial markets,” the central bank said in a statement.

Selling ‘fervour’

At the weekend, President Vladimir Putin received parliamentary approval to deploy Russian troops in Ukraine.

His spokesman said he yet to decide whether he would send troops in.

“Now that (Russia and Ukraine) are actually on the verge of a military confrontation investors will start selling Russian stocks with special fervour,” analysts at Rossiysky Capital said in a note for investors.

Artem Argetkin, trader at BCS in Moscow, said brokers were trying to close their positions at any price.

“There’s a sell-off of everything right now,” he added.

Financial backing

Operators of privately run exchange booths in Russia said they were not prepared for the higher demand for the US dollar.

An employee at a small exchange said that her booth, which is open 24 hours a day, ran out of dollars by Sunday morning.

“We were not ready for this, we have not stocked up,” she said.

Meanwhile, the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US said they were ready “to provide strong financial backing to Ukraine”.

Ukraine needs an estimated $35bn (£20.9bn) over the next two years, according to its finance ministry,

Putin ready to invade Ukraine; Kiev warns of war

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament’s approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert and appealed to NATO for help.

Putin’s open assertion of the right to send troops to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe creates the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Troops with no insignia on their uniforms but clearly Russian – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – have already seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula in the Black Sea where Moscow has a large military presence in the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet. Kiev’s new authorities have been powerless to stop them.

The United States said Russia was in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and called on Moscow to withdraw its forces back to bases in Crimea. It also urged the deployment of international monitors to Ukraine.

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

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov ordered troops to be placed on high combat alert. Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said he had met European and U.S. officials and sent a request to NATO to “examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.

The United States will suspend participation in preparatory meetings for a summit of G8 countries in Sochi, Russia, and warned of “greater political and economic isolation”, the White House said in a statement after President Barack Obama and Putin held a 90-minute telephone call.

Obama told Putin that if Russia had concerns about ethnic Russians in Ukraine, it should address them peacefully, the White House said.

Putin’s move was a direct rebuff to Western leaders who had repeatedly urged Russia not to intervene, including Obama, who just a day earlier had held a televised address to warn Moscow of “costs” if it acted.

Putin told Obama that Russia reserved the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

‘DANGEROUS SITUATION’

The Russian forces solidified their control of Crimea and unrest spread to other parts of Ukraine on Saturday. Pro-Russian demonstrators clashed, sometimes violently, with supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities and raised the Russian flag over government buildings in several cities.

“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.”

Putin asked parliament 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.

The upper house swiftly delivered a unanimous “yes” vote, shown live on television.

Western capitals scrambled for a response.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called for the swift deployment of international monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Ukraine to help stem the escalating crisis there.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call that Moscow’s military intervention risked creating further instability and an escalation “that would threaten European and international security”, the Pentagon said. A U.S. defense official said there had been no change in U.S. military posture or in the alert status of forces.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Moscow not to send troops. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said this would be “clearly against international law”. Czech President Milos Zeman likened the crisis to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

“Urgent need for de-escalation in Crimea,” tweeted NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “NATO allies continue to coordinate closely.”

NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the situation, Rasmussen tweeted. “North Atlantic Council will meet tomorrow followed by NATO-Ukraine Commission,” he wrote.

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 and recognized them as independent.

In a statement posted online, the Kremlin said that in his phone call with Obama, Putin “underlined that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory”.

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 Russian ethnic majority, which has often voiced separatist aims.

A potentially bigger risk would be conflict spreading to the rest of Ukraine, where the sides could not be easily kept apart.

As tension built on Saturday, demonstrations occasionally turned violent in eastern cities, where most people, though ethnically Ukrainian, are Russian speakers and many support Moscow and Yanukovich.

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

In Kharkiv, scores of people were wounded in clashes when thousands of pro-Russian activists stormed the regional government headquarters and fought pitched battles with a smaller number of supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities.

Pro-Russian demonstrators wielded axe handles and chains against those defending the building with plastic shields.

In Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home region, lawmakers declared they were seeking a referendum on the region’s status.

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

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.

Coal miner Gennady Pavlov said he backed Putin’s declaration of the right to intervene. “It is time to put an end to this lawlessness. Russians are our brothers. I support the forces.”

“WAR HAS ARRIVED”

On Kiev’s central Independence Square, where protesters camped out for months against Yanukovich, a World War Two film about Crimea was being shown on a giant screen, when Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister, interrupted it to announce Putin’s decree. “War has arrived,” Lutsenko said.

Hundreds of Ukrainians descended on the square chanting “Glory to the heroes. Death to the occupiers.”

Although there was little doubt that the troops without insignia that have already seized Crimea are Russian, the Kremlin has not yet openly confirmed it. It described Saturday’s authorization as a threat for future action rather than confirmation that its soldiers are already involved.

A Kremlin spokesman said Putin had not yet decided to use force, and still hoped to avoid further escalation.

In Crimea itself, the arrival of troops was cheered by the Russian majority. In the coastal town of Balaclava, where Russian-speaking troops in armored vehicles with black Russian number plates had encircled a small garrison of Ukrainian border guards, families posed for pictures with the soldiers. A wedding party honked its car horns.

“I want to live with Russia. I want to join Russia,” said Alla Batura, a petite 71-year-old pensioner who has lived in Sevastopol for 50 years. “They are good lads… They are protecting us, so we feel safe.”

But not everyone was reassured. Inna, 21, a clerk in a nearby shop who came out to stare at the armored personnel carriers, said: “I am in shock. I don’t understand what the hell this is… People say they came here to protect us. Who knows? … All of our (Ukrainian) military are probably out at sea by now.”

The rapid pace of events has rattled the new leaders of Ukraine, who took power in a nation on the verge of bankruptcy when Yanukovich fled Kiev last week after his police killed scores of anti-Russian protesters in Kiev. Ukraine’s crisis began in November when Yanukovich, at Moscow’s behest, abandoned a free trade pact with the EU for closer ties with Russia.

For many in Ukraine, the prospect of a military conflict chilled the blood.

“When a Slav fights another Slav, the result is devastating,” said Natalia Kuharchuk, a Kiev accountant.

“God save us.”

(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Balaclava, Ukraine, Timothy Heritage, Stephen Grey and Peter Graff in Kiev, Lina Kushch in Donetsk and Peter Apps in London; Steve Holland and Phil Stewart in Washington and Lou Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Alistair Lyon, Diane Craft and Dan Grebler)

US President Barack Obama has warned Russia there will be “costs” for any military intervention in Ukraine.

He said he was deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside the country.

Ukraine’s acting president has accused Russia of deploying troops to Crimea and trying to provoke Kiev into “armed conflict”.

Russia’s UN ambassador said any troop movements in Crimea were within an existing arrangement with Ukraine.

Speaking from the White House, President Obama commended Ukraine’s interim government for its “restraint”.

“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilising, which is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia or Europe,” he said.

“It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine – and of international laws.”

He added: “Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And, indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Mr Obama did not spell out what any US response might be. However, the BBC’s Beth McLeod in Washington says the US is considering exerting economic pressure by withholding the deeper trade ties that Moscow seeks.

It is also considering boycotting a G8 summit hosted by Russia, she adds, although that is not until June.

In a TV address on Friday, Ukraine’s interim President Oleksander Turchynov said Moscow wanted the new government to react to provocations so it could annex Crimea.

He appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stop provocations and start negotiations”.

He said Russia was behaving as it did before sending troops into Georgia in 2008 over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have large ethnic Russian populations.

“They are implementing the scenario like the one carried out in Abkhazia, when after provoking a conflict, they started an annexation of the territory,” Mr Turchynov said.

Armed men in unidentified military uniforms have moved in on Crimea’s parliament, state television building and telecommunication centres. They have also been patrolling airports in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, and Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.

Russian armoured personnel carriers and a truck are near the town of Bakhchisarai, Crimea. 28 Feb 2014
Russian armoured personnel carriers were seen near the town of Bakhchisarai, Crimea
Security camera captures armed men inside regional parliament in Simferopol
Security cameras captured armed men inside the regional parliament in Simferopol
Men calling themselves "local militia" at a checkpoint  the city of Armyansk
Men calling themselves “local militia” have set up checkpoints on roads connecting Crimea to the rest of Ukraine
map of Crimea

Ukrainian media citing local officials said 13 Russian aircraft carrying nearly 2,000 suspected troops had landed at a military air base near Simferopol. The report remains unconfirmed.

On Friday, Russian armoured vehicles and helicopters were also seen in and around Simferopol and Sevastopol.

Flights from and to Simferopol were cancelled with airlines saying airspace over the peninsula had been closed.

However, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that any Russian military movements in Crimea were within Moscow’s long-standing arrangement with Ukraine on the deployment of military assets.

“We are acting within the framework of that agreement,” he said, after a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council.

He did not give details of any Russian military deployment.

The Kremlin said President Putin had spoken of the “extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence” during telephone conversations with Western leaders.

On Friday, Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych made his first public appearance since being ousted from office a week ago.

Speaking in Russia, he apologised for not “having enough strength to keep stability” in Ukraine and called his usurpers “young, neo-fascist thugs”.

Mr Yanukovych said he would “continue to struggle for the future of Ukraine”, but said he would only return if his safety could be guaranteed.

Ukraine has started procedures demanding his extradition.

Mr Yanukovych is wanted on suspicion of mass murder following violent clashes between police and protesters last week that left more than 80 dead.

Ukraine’s political crisis began in November when Mr Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU in favour of a similar agreement with Russia.

The move brought thousands of Western-leaning protesters out on to the streets calling for his resignation and closer ties with the EU.

Since he was deposed, tensions have shifted to Crimea where the majority of the population are ethnic Russians.

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