News from Ukraine on April 17-16, 2014



APRIL 17,2014

April 17 – The USA are looking into secretly supporting Ukraine, in particular by supplying weapons. “Secret” visit of the CIA Director John Brennan to Kyiv last Sunday was more than a warning for Russia.

April 17 -During his latest interview Putin has stated that he may not accept the results of the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine.

April 17 – Secret Service of Ukraine (SSU) continues to detain Ukrainian and Russian saboteurs who are carrying out subversive activities in the southern and eastern regions. SSU has identified and detained 117 citizens of Russian Federation who have been involved in “extremist activities in Ukraine”.

April 17 – Approximately 1000 people participated in a rally held in Luhansk to support Ukraine’s unity. 7000 people have held a rally “Praying for Ukraine” in Donetsk.

April 17 – In Melitopol Ukrainian border guards have detained 3 residents of Crimea who were trying to smuggle 5 million UAH to mainland Ukraine. The money was allocated as payment for anti-Ukrainian activity.

April 17 – In Sloviansk (Donetsk oblast) separatists have seized the local television tower and switched off Ukrainian TV stations.

April 17 – State Border Guard Service of Ukraine have prohibited entry to Ukraine for men aged 16-60 who are Russian citizens and who are arriving from Russia. Same restrictions apply to men who are citizens of Ukraine and registered in Crimea and Sevastopol. These men are suspected insurgency fighters who aim to enter mainland Ukraine.

April 17 – Following the meeting of Ukraine-EU-US-Russia [in talks in Geneva today], a number of agreements were reached, in particular, the release of captured buildings in Ukraine and amnesty for extremists. The USA is ready to impose additional sanctions against Russia if the latter violates Geneva agreement, said US Secretary of State John Kerry. Obama is skeptical about Russia adhering to this agreement.

Putin makes claims to oblasts with Ukrainian majorities:

Putin signaled his plans for Kharkiv and Odessa today, based on his understanding of history. Note that in Kharkiv oblast, 71 percent of the people self-identified as Ukrainian: in Odessa, 63 percent.

Kharkiv: 71% Ukrainians; Russians – 26%,

Odessa: 63% Ukrainian; Russians – 21%

(and significant Moldovan, Bulgarian, Jewish and Greek populations)

(Worth noting that Donetsk and Luhansk have Ukrainian majorities, with higher percentages of ethnic Russians in the cities.)

Text of Joint Diplomatic Statement on Ukraine

APRIL 17, 2014

“Following is a joint statement on Thursday by the four parties – the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine – meeting in Geneva to discuss the continuing conflict in Ukraine:

The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.

All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.

All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.

Amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes.

It was agreed that the O.S.C.E. Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The U.S., E.U. and Russiacommit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.

The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.

The participants underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented.”

APRIL 16, 2014

April 16 – Officers of 45th regiment of Air-Landing Forces of Russian Federation, which is accommodated near Moscow, are currently operating in the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, Donetsk oblast, informed First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Vitaliy Yarema.

April 16 – The number of Russian servicemen in Donetsk oblast continues to increase, stated Vasyl Krutov, anti-terrorist unit Chief (Security Service of Ukraine). “The day before yesterday (Sunday – editor) there were 150 persons wearing unidentified green uniform, whereas yesterday (Monday – editor) another 300 arrived.”

April 16 – The recording of telephone conversations among the members of the subversive group in Sloviansk was made public by Security Service of Ukraine (SSU). During the conversation, the leader of the subversive group in Sloviansk nicknamed “Strilets” is providing instructions to the member of the subversive group nicknamed “Prapor” (who is also an officer of Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces) regarding the blocking of Ukrainian military unit: “Then you block them and shoot to kill, there is no need to fuss with them”, he emphasized and ordered to disarm Ukrainian servicemen.

April 16 – Russian servicemen have been ordered to kill several hundred people and then invade the territory of Ukraine, informed one of the leaders of SSU’s counter-intelligence unit Vitaliy Naida: “Main goal of the saboteurs and special units is Ukraine is highest possible destabilization of the situation”.

April 16 – NATO has announced that it is stepping up its presence at eastern borders. NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said: “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land. For example, air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required.”

April 16 – Ukrainian special service units have detained 23 officers of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, informed Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the Head of Security Service of Ukraine.

April 16 – The life of Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych is being controlled by Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces.

April 16 – Georg Streiter, Germany’s Deputy Government Spokesperson has stated that Kyiv will not allow for peaceful overtaking of militia precincts and other state owned sites by armed men infinitely. Thus Berlin has shown support for anti-terrorist operation in Eastern Ukraine.


The cost of stopping the Russian bear now is high-but it will only get higher if the West does nothing

FIRST Vladimir Putin mauled Georgia, but the world forgave him-because Russia was too important to be cut adrift. Then he gobbled up Crimea, but the world accepted it-because Crimea should have been Russian all along. Now he has infiltrated eastern Ukraine, but the world is hesitating-because infiltration is not quite invasion. But if the West does not face up to Mr Putin now, it may find him at its door.

The storming of police stations in eastern Ukraine over the weekend by pro-Russian protesters (see article) is a clever move, for it has put the interim government in Kiev in an impossible position. Mr Putin has warned that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. If the country’s government fails to take control, it will open itself to charges that it cannot keep order within its own borders. But its soldiers are poorly trained, so in using force (operations were under way as The Economist went to press) it risks escalation and bloodshed. Either way, it loses.

The West has seen Russia brush off its threats and warnings. It looks feeble and divided. Yet, after the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, even doves should grasp that the best chance of stability lies in standing up to Mr Putin, because firmness today is the way to avoid confrontation later.

Red lines and green men

Russia insists that it has played no part in the seizure of towns such as Sloviansk and Gorlivka. This is implausible. The attacks were co-ordinated, in strategically useful places that had seen few protests. Just as in Crimea six weeks ago, troops in unmarked uniforms and with Russian weapons carried out the initial assaults. Russian agents have turned up in custody and in reporters’ notebooks, organising the protests and, some say, paying for them. Russia has been meddling in eastern Ukraine for weeks, occasionally with results from the pages of Gogol. On April 6th “local people” stormed what they thought was the regional administrative headquarters in Kharkiv only to find that they had taken control of the opera house.

Russian diplomats counter that they cannot be behind what is going on, because instability in eastern Ukraine is not in Russia’s interests. True, normal countries benefit from peace and prosperity next door. However, mindful of its own claim to power and the outlook for Russia’s stagnant economy, the Kremlin has much to fear from the pro-European demonstrations that toppled Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych. It appears determined to see the new Ukraine fail.

There are several reasons why Russia might want to destabilise Ukraine. One motive could be to stop the presidential elections, due on May 25th. That would deprive Ukraine of the elected leadership it needs to restore order. A second could be to justify overt Russian intervention. Mr Putin is capable of exploiting either anarchy or bloodshed as a pretext to move his troops, camped in large numbers across the border, into Ukraine as “peacekeepers”. But occupation would come at a heavy cost (see article), so the Kremlin might prefer a third result: civil conflict that destroys the authority of Kiev, followed by a parallel government for eastern Ukraine. There is nothing wrong with federalism in principle, but this would be a formula for Russian domination.

Some would leap at such a deal as the least bad on offer. Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs might be happy, because they could go on stealing. The West could take comfort that the Russians had not actually invaded. But it would be a terrible outcome for the Ukrainian people, especially those who risked their lives in the Maidan for a chance of something better. For the West to accept such a result with relief would constitute a grave misreading of Russia’s mischief-making.

Mr Putin has used the Ukrainian crisis to establish some dangerous precedents. He has claimed a duty to intervene to protect Russian-speakers wherever they are. He has staged a referendum and annexation, in defiance of Ukrainian law. And he has abrogated a commitment to respect Ukraine’s borders, which Russia signed in 1994 when Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons. Throughout, Mr Putin has shown that truth and the law are whatever happens to suit him at the time.

Mr Putin has taken to arguing that Russian values are fundamentally at odds with Western liberal ones. He now has the tools to intervene on his borders and beyond so as to upend the post-Soviet order. That might be in Transdniestria, a slice of Moldova that has hosted Russian troops since the early 1990s. Or in Kazakhstan, which has a large Russian population in the north. Or even in the Baltic states, two of which have large Russian-speaking minorities and all of which depend on Russian gas. Because the Baltics are members of NATO and the EU, a Russian move against them would be a challenge to the entire West. A miscalculation by either side could be disastrous.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

That is why the West needs to show Mr Putin that further action will be costly. So far, its rhetoric has marched far ahead of its willingness to act-only adding to the aura of weakness. Not enough is at stake in Ukraine to risk war with a nuclear-armed Russia. And European voters will not put up with gas shortages, so an embargo is not plausible. But the West has other cards to play. One is military. NATO should announce that it will hold exercises in central and eastern Europe, strengthen air and cyber defences there and immediately send some troops, missiles and aircraft to the Baltics and Poland. NATO members should pledge to increase military spending.

Another card is sanctions, so far imposed on only a few people close to Mr Putin. It is time for a broad visa ban on powerful Russians and their families. France should cancel the sale of warships to Russia. A more devastating punishment would be to cut Russia off from dollars, euros and sterling (see article). Such financial sanctions, like those that led Iran to negotiate over its nuclear programme, would deprive Russia of revenues from oil and gas exports, priced in dollars, and force it to draw on reserves to pay for most of its imports. They would be costly to the West, especially the City of London, but worth it. Impose them now, and give Mr Putin reason to pause. Do any less and the price next time will be even higher.


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