HORLIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Marko Djurica reports: Masked gunmen in military fatigues took control of a government building in another Ukrainian town on Wednesday, as pro-Russian separatists tightened their grip on a swathe of the country’s industrial east largely unopposed by police.
Local media reports said the gunmen turned up at first light, and were later seen by a Reuters photographer to be controlling entry to the building in the town of almost 300,000 people. They refused to be photographed.
The heavily armed men wore the same military uniforms without insignia as other so-called “green men” who have joined pro-Russian protesters with clubs and chains in seizing control of a string of towns across Ukraine’s Donbass coal and steel belt abutting the border with Russia.
A police official in nearby Donetsk, the provincial capital where separatists have declared a “People’s Republic of Donetsk”, said separatists were also in control of the Horlivka police division, having seized the regional police HQ earlier in April.
Wednesday’s takeover followed the fall of government buildings on Tuesday further east in Luhansk, capital of Ukraine‘s easternmost province, driving home just how far control over the densely populated region has slipped from the pro-Western central government in Kiev. Read the rest of this entry »
“If he thinks that sanctioning seven Russians, out of a population of, what, 150 million, is a sanction, he’s living in a different world.”
Geneva (AFP) – Former Russian oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia, has applied to become a resident of Switzerland, his spokesman told AFP on Monday.
“His application for residency was filed a while ago,” said spokesman Boris Durande, without specifying which part of Switzerland Khodorkovsky intends to settle in.
The 50-year-old foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been living at a Zurich hotel since shortly after he was pardoned and released from jail on December 20.
He was once Russia’s richest man and an influential politician with presidential ambitions who openly opposed Putin when the former KGB spy first entered the Kremlin in 2000.
Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003 and subsequent convictions on fraud and embezzlement charges have been widely condemned by Kremlin critics as an effort by Putin to silence his most potent rival.
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) March 1, 2014
Then Anderson Cooper turns our attention to Tom Foreman, to present a kindergarten-level geography lesson for CNN’s barely-literate, low-information viewers. He talks slow, and doesn’t use any big words, so if we watch closely, we’ll be able to follow what he’s showing us. Watch the whole thing:
Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag.
The report said the men with “Russian Navy ensigns” first surrounded the Simferopol Airport’s domestic flights terminal.
Crimea retaliated after Ukraine ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich on February 22. The majority of residents are ethnic Russians and they made it known their loyalties lie with Russia. After Yanukovich left, Crimea kicked out their Kiev-appointed mayor and elected a Russian mayor.
Ukraine crisis: Yanukovych gives news conference
Jan Techau writes: No matter how the crisis engulfing Ukraine plays out, it has already produced one result that is probably more important than anything else: it has destroyed the myth of Russian strength.
Over the past decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to convince both the world and his fellow countrymen that Russia is a resurgent great power. He was aided by an unmatched talent for tactical maneuvering, a relatively stable oil price, and a West bogged down by distracting wars and economic woes.
Putin pulled off a war in Georgia, created a Eurasian customs area to rival the European Union, duped the West on Syria, cunningly played former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and then torpedoed Ukraine’s signing of a trade and association agreement with the EU. He did all this with resolve, shamelessness, and chutzpah.
In a statement on his official Facebook page, Arsen Avakhov wrote that Yanukovych and several other officials were wanted on charges of “mass killing of civilians” in violence that engulfed Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, earlier this week. At least 82 people, most of them protesters, were killed in clashes with members of the police and security forces. Some of the dead were shot by snipers in strategic positions overlooking the main protest camp in Kiev’s Independence Square.
“We must find Yanukovych and put him on trial….All the criminals with him should be in prison.”
— protester Leonid Shovtak
Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters.
With a revolution on, the chances that events in Ukraine could provoke a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the West may be increasing.
Walter Russell Mead writes: For the third time in a generation, there is revolution in Ukraine. For the second time in a decade, Viktor Yanukovych has been overthrown in Kiev. It is impossible not to rejoice that the goons and thugs who sought to tie Ukraine to Putin’s imperial project by massacring their fellow citizens in the streets of Kiev were defeated. But it is much too soon to conclude that the next Ukrainian government, whatever it may be, will be any more successful than its predecessors.
“The political leadership of virtually every major party or movement in Ukrainian life is sketchy at best; many are corrupt tools of business interests, some are inexperienced hotheads with ties to dubious forms of ultra-nationalist ideology…”
Worse, if anything the chances that events in Ukraine could provoke a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the West may be increasing.
[Check out Walter Russell Mead’s book “Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World” at Amazon]
None of the core facts in Ukraine changed last night. Ukraine is a divided country with a weak state and ineffective institutions. The oligarchs who clawed their way to the top when communism collapsed still hold their ill-gotten gains, still manage their business affairs in the Wild East ways of the post-Soviet days, still dominate politics and economic development and have yet to be brought under any kind of effective legal control. Ukraine’s abject energy dependence on Russia creates a sea of political and economic problems which no Ukrainian government since independence has been able to manage.
The BBC’s Duncan Crawford reports that Independence Square resembled a battleground.
At least 21 protesters have been killed in renewed clashes with police in central Kiev after a truce agreed on Wednesday broke down.
George Will writes: One hundred years ago this coming Aug. 4, the day Britain declared war on Germany, socialists in the German Reichstag voted for credits to finance the war. Marxists — including Lenin, who that day was in what now is Poland — were scandalized. Marx had preached that the proletariat has no fatherland, only a transnational class loyalty to proletarians everywhere. “In 1918,” wrote Louis Fischer, Lenin’s best biographer, “patriotism and nationalism, born of the ‘subjectivism’ Lenin so disliked, were ideological crimes in Soviet Russia.”
The political elites who cobbled together the European Union hoped that the pooling of national sovereignties would extinguish the nationalism that, they think, ruined Europe’s 20th century. They considered the resulting “democracy deficit” — the transfer of national parliaments’ prerogatives to Brussels bureaucrats — a price well worth paying for tranquillity.
Now comes turbulent Ukraine, incandescent with nationalism and eager to preserve its sovereignty by a closer relationship with the European Union.
Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, is resisting the popular desire for constitutionally limited government and for a national existence more independent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s presence. Yanukovych wants to trade Ukraine’s aspirations for Putin’s billions.
Ben Shapiro writes: On Wednesday, the White House announced that it would be taking a muscular new role in Ukraine: by deferring to the Russians. Again.
As the streets burn in Ukraine, and with police cracking down on opposition protesters, Vice President Joe Biden, who has been handed the unpleasant Ukrainian situation to handle, called up Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to express “grave concern” over the situation. He also told Yanukovich that the “United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.” Jay Carney reiterated that message at the White House, stating, “We continue to condemn street violence and excessive use of force by either side. Force will not resolve the crisis.”
[Order Ben Shapiro’s book: “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans“ from Amazon]
Then the White House went further on Wednesday: White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes explained, according to Reuters, that “the United States would like to see Russia support efforts to reduce tensions in Ukraine.”
Tribune wire reports – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Wednesday he had agreed a “truce” with opposition leaders, after street violence in which at least 26 people were killed, and a start to negotiations to end further bloodshed.
A statement on the presidential website said that during talks with the three main opposition leaders, Yanukovich had agreed firstly a truce and secondly “the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilising the situation in the state in the interests of social peace.”
The statement, issued on the eve of a visit by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France, appeared to indicate that riot police who on Tuesday night advanced on to Kiev’s Independence Square would not take further immediate steps to break up the encampment of protesters.
Anne Gearan writes: The United States condemned an explosion of street violence in Ukraine that killed at least 15 people Tuesday and said the government bears primary responsibility for restoring calm.
Vice President Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to express what the White House termed “grave concern,” and called on the embattled leader to pull back government forces after a day of chaotic street clashes and immediately resume political discussions with opponents.
Biden “made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation,” a White House statement said.
Washington announced no specific new action, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt threatened both sides with sanctions.
“We believe Ukraine’s crisis can still be solved via dialogue, but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions,” Pyatt said on Twitter, in both English and Russian. Read the rest of this entry »
John O’Sullivan reports: At least nine people have been killed today in renewed clashes between the police and protesters in Kiev. That number will probably increase over the course of the night since the police are currently overturning barriers and clearing demonstrators from Kiev’s central square, the Maidan, where they have been encamped for the last three months.
The battle, broadcast live on numerous television and Internet outlets, is like a scene from the apocalypse, with fires spreading, laser beams searching the landscape, fireworks thrown, smoke from grenades, and a constant deafening sound from loudspeakers.
Ukraine’s political standoff show no sign of abating, while the economy is at risk of imploding as the country teeters on the brink of default, according to reports:
But behind the scenes is a handful of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, who control an enormous amount of Ukraine’s economic output through their holdings in metallurgy, chemical production, and mining, and other industries. This clan of oligarchs, with their economic interests and close ties to embattled President Viktor Yanukovych, could be critical to ending the political turmoil.
By using their economic clout, Ukraine’s elite clan of oligarchs could pressure Yanukovych to find a political compromise quickly in order to save the economy, and their businesses, says Volodymyr Panchenko, the director of the International Center for Policy Studies in Kiev.
“The oligarchs could definitely change the situation, and it should be done this week,” he says.
Jesus Diaz writes: Protests against new anti-democratic laws in Ukraine are increasing in intensity, with four citizens reported dead. As you can see in these extraordinary images by Ilya Varlamov, the demonstrators are using rockets made with fireworks. They look like scenes from some science-fiction movie about urban warfare.