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Russia without Ukraine is a country;
Russia with Ukraine is an empire.

During the Great War, Germany grabbed Ukraine
and Lenin took it back
During the Great Pariotic War, Germany grabbed Ukraine
and Stalin took it back
During the Winter Olympiad, Germany grabbed Ukraine
and Putin let it slip away
History does not repeat, but it does rhyme.

Ukraine Crisis March 2014

The United States estimates Russia has 40,000 troops along the border, while Kyiv says the number is closer to 100,000. Washington believes Moscow is using those troops not only to intimidate Ukrainians but also as a bargaining chip with Europe and the United States in the most serious East-West standoff since the end of the Cold War. US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia to pull back thousands of troops along the Ukraine border, saying those forces are creating a "climate of fear" that does not support diplomatic dialogue.

Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from the southern Rostov region near Ukraine's eastern border, the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted as saying by state news agencies. The Defense Ministry said it was pulling forces out of the Rostov region near Russia's border with Ukraine after month-long military exercises. “The battalion ... has completed its field exercises at the Kadamovsky training grounds in the Rostov region and is beginning its march to its permanent base in the Samara region,” the ministry was quoted as saying. A battalion numbers between 300 and 1,200 troops.

The U.S. State Department cautiously welcomed the announcement. "If reports that Russia is removing some troops from the border region are accurate, it would be a welcome preliminary step. We would urge Russia to accelerate this process," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. NATO sources said they were aware of reports of small numbers of Russian troops relocating, but believe these reports were inconclusive.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was cautious in its statements regarding Russian troop movements. "We have information that the Russian Federation is carrying out unfathomable maneuvers on the borders with Ukraine -- in some border places they are taking away troops, in others they are coming closer," ministry spokesman Evhen Perebiynis told reporters in Kyiv. "Such actions cannot fail to cause concern especially since we today do not have a clear explanation from the Russian Federation about the aims of these movements."

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia and the US have agreed to work together with Ukraine’s government and people to overcome the Ukrainian political crisis, after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry. "We agreed to start broad cooperation with Ukraine’s government and people to solve such top-priority tasks as supporting the rights of national minorities, including the right to use national minorities’ languages in official documents. Besides, we will also try to disarm informal armed groups in Ukraine in order to bring peace to the country. We will help Ukrainians to adopt a new, more democratic constitution and to hold free and honest elections according to internationally adopted norms," Mr. Lavrov said in Paris in the early hours of Monday, after four hours of talks with the US State Secretary John Kerry.

Russia believes that there is no other way to settle down the political crisis in Ukraine than federalization of the country. "We are convinced that the constitutional reform in Ukraine should include federalization as one of its main topics," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after four hours of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Media reports claiming that the Ukrainian leadership wants to recruit personnel from private foreign military companies "in order to maintain law and order" may suggest that the Kiev regime wants to suppress civil protest and discontent, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "Anyway, one can state that in the absence of support from the Ukrainian population, the Maidan government has only one option if it wants to remain in power - to mobilize any support possible from foreign sponsors, including foreign mercenaries," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary.

"Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the company Greystone Limited, registered in Barbados, which is integrated with the Academi corporation," it said. "It is an analogue, or, probably, an affiliate body of the Blackwater private army, whose soldiers have been accused of committing rigorous and regular human rights abuses in troubled regions," the ministry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for constitutional reform in Ukraine in order to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of its people. Putin was holding a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 31. He called the chancellor to discuss "various aspects of the situation in Ukraine, including possible international assistance for the restoration of stability in the country", the presidential press service said. "Discussing various aspects of the situation in Ukraine... Putin stressed the importance of holding constitutional reforms" in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.It added they also discussed Moldova's largely Russian-speaking breakaway region of Transdniestr bordering Ukraine and Putin raised "the need to take effective measures aimed at lifting an effective blockade from the outside of this region."

Ukraine Crisis - 30 March 2014

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said. He accused the EU and US of duplicity and described sanctions as a “dead-end track.” If the West accepts Kiev’s coup-appointed government then it must, in turn, accept the legitimacy of Crimea’s referendum to join with Russia, Lavrov told Irada Zeinalova, the host of the “Sunday Time” analytical program on Russia’s Channel One TV. "We are convinced that it would be impossible to work out solutions to all of Ukraine’s problems without a unanimous agreement on the introduction of the federal form of government in Ukraine. Each region needs to have the opportunity to elect directly its local authorities, the executive branch and the governors, and to have all the rights and needs of its citizens satisfied across all spheres... We know from experience that the unitary state does not work in Ukraine. After every presidential election they change the Constitution: first they give more power to the president, then to the parliament, after that to the government. This merry-go-round cannot last for long."

There were clashes in Odesa on 30 March 2014 between pro-Russian and pro-European demonstrators. The violence broke out when the routes followed by the two groups of demonstrators crossed. The pro-Russian marchers, who were carrying Russian flags, put the pro-European activists to flight and chased them, driving them toward the Duc de Richelieu statue but were stopped there by police. They then hurled eggs at the pro-European activists and went away after a brief rally.The pro-Russian demonstrators had earlier gathered on Kulikovo Field, not far from the central train station. Police posted at what has become the usual site for pro-Russian rallies said between 2,500 and 3,000 people had turned out for the event. After the meeting, its participants marched through city streets in procession.

Several thousand people held a pro-Russian rally in Donetsk on Sunday demanding a referendum on the status of Donbas, a large industrial area in eastern Ukraine. After the rally on a square in the city center, where Russian flags and flags of pro-Russian organizations were held, some of the participants moved in procession toward the train station.

Ukraine Crisis - 29 March 2014

Russia has completed its military takeover of Crimea, as the Ukraine crisis continues. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kyiv had left the Black Sea peninsula. The Russian leader ordered that military hardware seized from Ukrainian troops, including trucks, tanks and warplanes, be returned to Ukraine. There also are reports that Moscow is amassing military forces on Russia's borders with Ukraine. Western leaders are calling for a de-escalation of tensions and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, in which it recalled four probes in March by foreign missions in Russia of regions bordering Ukraine. The ministry said that “even Ukrainian inspectors” agreed that “there were no major military activities being carried out.” The four international missions included representatives of Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, France and Ukraine. None of the missions “found ‘aggressive preparations’ and have not recorded any military activities, aside from the previously declared,” the statement said. “Opportunities to conduct such activities were provided to all those who wished to get acquainted with the real situation in the border with Ukraine regions,” the ministry said. The statement emphasized that “even Ukrainian inspectors” agreed that “there were no major military activities being carried out.” “The result of this was the official reports submitted to all OSCE member states. The objective information contained in those reports, in our view, should have become a subject of an impartial analysis and basis for further conclusions,” the statement said.

There is no intention in Moscow to send its troops into eastern Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. Hopefully, the growing understanding in the West of Russia’s position will allow for a de-escalation of the tension, he added. In an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel, Lavrov said "We have absolutely no intentions of crossing Ukrainian borders. This is not in our interests. We simply want everybody to work together; we want the violence to stop and we want the Western countries who are trying to sweep under the rug those cases of violence and to portray the situation in Ukraine in a positive light to realize they need to bear the responsibility. According to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian authorities lately have been trying to disarm all those who possess firearms illegally – that is, the criminals. If this is the result of our Western partners’ efforts, then, I repeat, we are satisfied with that. We are ready to continue to work out joint recommendations for the Ukrainians to stop all the lawlessness and to start a deep constitutional process to reform their country."

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied accusations that Moscow had a role in escalating the crisis. He told reporters in New York that it is up to the Ukrainians to restore order in their country. "The armed groups must be disarmed, the radicals must be reined in and most importantly, there must be a constitutional process, there must be a constitutional assembly and the results of the constitutional assembly must be put to referendum," said Churkin.

A new constitution should clearly state the non-bloc status of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Sergei Brilev's Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) television program on March 29. He said this idea had been put forth in Russia's proposals concerning the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. "This thesis is reflected in our proposals. We are convinced that a new constitution should clearly state the non-bloc status of Ukraine," the minister said. "The Americans hear this. As to how much they understand this can be judged from their public statements. Last week in Brussels, President Barack Obama said that neither Ukraine nor NATO was prepared for this, and this issue should not be discussed now," Lavrov said, referring to calls for Ukraine's admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

A day after neo-Nazi activists who helped bring the acting government in Kiev to power turned against it, the US Embassy in Kyiv and the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine condemned the incident that took place at the Verkhovna Rada on the night of 27 March 2014. Several hundred neo-Nazi activists from the Right Sector and their supporters besieged the parliament building, pressuring lawmakers to sack the newly appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The Right Sector believes that Avakov is personally responsible for ordering what they call a political assassination of one of their leader, Aleksandr Muzychko, who was killed in a special operation in a city of Rovno.

"As in the past, we call on all sides to refrain from violence and to stick to legal methods for expressing their views and concerns and to avoid any actions which may destabilize the situation. We welcome the statements of Pravy Sector’s leadership that they intend to keep their actions “within the framework of the law”. We urge all political forces to distance themselves from extremists, who undermine the efforts to stabilize Ukraine and to protect its sovereignty. We urge the Ukrainian Government to ensure that those who broke the law are held accountable."

Ukraine Crisis - 28 March 2014

"Russia's main objective with regard to Ukraine is to disrupt early presidential elections in the country, and the risk of incursion of Russian troops into the mainland Ukraine is very high," National Security and Defence Council Secretary Andriy Parubiy said during a web conference with Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the U.S. Atlantic Council.

According to Parubiy, the available data indicate that the annexation of Crimea was the first stage of Russia's plan of invasion of Ukraine, codenamed "Russian Spring". "The next stage should have been eight southeastern and eastern regions of Ukraine where they planned a scenario identical to that in Crimea, for the seizure of regional state administrations, public institutions, the proclamation of so-called "people's governors", and then an appeal to Russia for help," Parubiy said. According to him, the numerical strength of Russian troops deployed near Ukraine's northern and eastern borders exceeds 100,000. "Russian troops were supposed to be welcome in the east and south of Ukraine, but well-prepared protests have failed to receive wide popular support there.

Now, along with the amassment of troops, they are employing a long-term political strategy to disrupt the Ukrainian elections. We are aware of the highly probably attack on the mainland territory of Ukraine and we are preparing for it. Our general strategy now is to ensure public order, avoid provocations, and prepare for the May 25th presidential election," Parubiy said. So far, there has been no progress in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. "The sides are holding consultations and issues to be raised at a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian deputy foreign ministers," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin told reporters. He said it was too early to speak about any concrete date or venue for the meeting.

Western experts believe the number of Russian forces near eastern and southern Ukraine is close to 30,000. Russia says the soldiers are involved in "springtime exercises" and has assured the United States they will not cross the border.

US President Barack Obama says Russia must pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border and begin negotiating to defuse tensions. In an interview with CBS News, Obama said Russia's military moves may be no more than an effort to intimidate Ukraine. But he added that Russia may have "additional plans."

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that a majority of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of the Ukraine situation (57 percent) and his interactions with Russia (54 percent). According to another poll conducted by CBS News and released Wednesday, 43 percent of Americans believe the United States' image in the world has worsened since Obama took office, an increase from 2009, when 60 percent said the country's image had improved.

The Ukrainian parliament witnessed a second day of picketing, as hundreds of Right Sector activists pressure MPs to sack the interior minister. Earlier other protesters tried to force their way into Kiev’s Rada to stop a vote on austerity measures. At least a thousand of the activists stood guard around the Verkhovna Rada building demanding that the MPs vote on sacking the freshly-appointed interior minister. The protesters accuse Arsen Avakov of ordering what they call a political assassination of one of their leaders, Aleksandr Muzychko, the notorious Right Sector brute. Speaker Aleksandr Turchinov, who was also appointed acting president of Ukraine, branded the Right Sector’s actions a provocation. “The Ukrainian parliament is the foundation of the legitimate Ukrainian power. Without this foundation there would be no power at all,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the events in Crimea have demonstrated a high level of readiness of the Russian Armed Forces and he thanked the military service members stationed in the peninsula for their stamina and professionalism. 'The recent events in Crimea were a serious test. They demonstrated both the completely new capabilities of our Armed Forces and the high morale of the personnel,' the president said at a ceremony introducing the top officers on the occasion of new appointments and rank awarding.

Ukraine Crisis - 27 March 2014

US and European security agencies estimate Russia had deployed military and militia units totaling more than 30,000 people along its border with eastern Ukraine. The current estimates represent what officials on both sides of the Atlantic describe as a continuing influx of Russian forces along the Ukraine frontier. according to a U.S. assessment of the situation, the likelihood of a Russian incursion into eastern parts of Ukraine is now greater than it has been before.

The officials have been quoted as having seen several worrying signs in the past three to four days. Countering Moscow's claims that Russian troops positioned near the border with Ukraine are conducting routine military exercises, the Pentagon says that there is no indication supporting that. "They continue to reinforce, and it continues to be unclear what exactly the intent there is... We've seen no specific indications that exercises are taking place," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on Thursday. An incursion into eastern Ukraine, if deep enough, could enable Russia to establish a land connection to Crimea. Currently, Russia has access to the Black Sea peninsula only by air and sea.

From local sources, VOA learned that the Russian military has established a field hospital in the Bryansk region, about 20 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine border, that some 60 train cars have arrived near the border with supplies and that the frontier is being patrolled by more than a dozen Russian drones.

Russia had significantly stepped up its military presence in the Black and Azov Seas, the State Border Service of Ukraine reported. "The State Border Service of Ukraine has said that recently Russia has significantly increased its military presence in the Black and Azov Seas. The ships and boats and the Russian coast guard and fleet are conducting acting maneuvers," reads the statement.

Three ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and three support vessels of Chornomornaftogaz were spotted in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. Chornomornaftogaz ships flying the flag of the Russian Federation are based near offshore fixed platforms. Two more ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were in the western part of the Sea of Azov. "All vessels were moving in international waters and at a substantial distance from the outer boundary of Ukraine's territorial waters," reads the statement.

NSDC Deputy Secretary Viktoria Siumar said "With regard to Transnistria and threats in that direction, the situation is quite threatening. According to our data, Russia pays special attention to this region, and it's all done for the purpose of organizing riots in Odesa ..." Russia is preparing to organize riots through Transnistria in Odesa and thus create a "security belt for Crimea", Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) Viktoria Siumar briefed the press at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center on Thursday in Kyiv.

In case of emergencies, bomb-shelters in Kyiv have enough space for all residents and guests of the city, Head of Kyiv City State Administration (KCSA) said this at an off-site meeting. "All the conditions [in air-raid shelters in the capital - ed.] in Kyiv are provided for half million people," Bondarenko said. "If we talk about a system that relates to the underground space of the Kyiv Metro and underground parking sites, 100% of Kyiv residents can be accommodated there," Bondarenko noted. Earlier it was reported that in Kyiv there are 526 bomb shelters. Of them 299 are in the municipal ownership of the city and another 124 are owned by private entities (factories and enterprises).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a working-level agreement with the Ukrainian leadership on opening a two-year credit worth from $14 billion to $18 billion. The International Monetary Fund has agreed to grant Ukraine between $14 billion and $18 billion to help the country avoid a default. The package is vital for securing further help from other international lenders like the World Bank and the EU. the rescue would form the central part of a broader package released by other governments and agencies amounting to $27 billion (19.6 billion euros) over the next two years. The Fund made an immediate end to Ukraine's costly gas subsidies one of its main conditions for the program's approval. It also wanted the central bank to stop propping up the Ukrainian currency and for the government to cut down on corruption and red tape.

Ukraine's parliament voted in favor of an anti-crisis law accepting austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund as part of a $14-18 billion bailout package. Earlier, parliament deputies failed to support the draft law despite the entreaties of the government, but later returned after a recess and approved it with a vote of 246 - 20 more than the number required.

The Party of Regions faction had no intention to vote for the anti-crisis bills, presented by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk in the Verkhovna Rada. MP from the Party of Regions faction Yuriy Miroshnychenko said that the Prime Minister met with the Party of Regions separately in order to explain the need to adopt the proposed bills. “On the whole, this is a good practice, when the head of the government comes to the opposition faction and explains so that it will be clear what takes place in Ukraine,” Miroshnychenko stressed.

About 1,500 people gathered at the Verkhovna Rada's building on Thursday evening for a rally demanding the dismissal of Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The activists were not engaged in any unlawful activity.

The US Senate and House of Representatives easily passed bills on Thursday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kyiv government and impose sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea. The Senate passed its legislation by voice vote. The House voted for its legislation by 399-19. The bills also calls for additional defense equipment and military training to countries in central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine, although exact assistance levels are still to be determined.

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for a resolution submitted by Ukraine denouncing the referendum in Crimea that made the Black Sea peninsula an integral part of the Russian Federation. One hundred UN member countries voted in favor of the resolution, while 11 voted against and 58 abstained. A number of countries in the 193-nation assembly did not participate in the vote. As well as Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe voted against the resolution. The resolution "affirms commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders." It also calls on UN member states “to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption” of Ukraine’s national unity.

The vote by the United Nations on a resolution declaring Crimea's referendum invalid clearly showed that Russia is not alone on the world arena, the country's UN envoy said. “The result is rather satisfying for us as we have won a moral and a political victory,” Vitaly Churkin said. “It clearly shows that Russia is not isolated [by the international community],” the diplomat said.

The West has not yet reached a stage where it will be ready to impose economic sanctions on Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, stressing that she hopes for a political solution to the stalemate over Ukraine crisis. The chancellor said she is “not interested in escalation” of tensions with Russia, speaking after Wednesday meeting with the South Korean president in Berlin. Berlin is very much dependent on economic ties with Russia with bilateral trade volume equaling to some 76 billion euros in 2013. Further around 6,000 German firms and over 300,000 jobs are dependent on Russian partners with the overall investment volume of 20 billion euros. Germany is currently the European Union’s biggest exporter to Russia. German car manufacturing companies are likely to suffer first if sanctions against Russia become more substantial, as about half of German exports to Russia are vehicles and machinery.

Ukraine will receive reverse gas supplies from Slovakia, and later from Poland and Hungary, European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Janusz Lewandowski told the Polish media in Kyiv on Wednesday, the Polish news agency PAP reported. "It has been agreed [with the Ukrainian side - ed.] that there will be a possibility of reverse gas from the Slovak Republic, and later - from Poland and Hungary," Lewandowski said. The Commissioner noted that this is a very important decision in terms of energy security of Ukraine, which needs to be implemented.

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Page last modified: 31-03-2014 17:50:53 ZULU