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Putin Confronts the West

Putin Confronts the West
April 16, 2014
Ukrainian Army troops receive munitions at a field on
the outskirts of Izyum, Eastern Ukraine, April 15, 2014.

After pro-Russian paramilitary troops took over more buildings in additional cities in Eastern Ukraine Monday, leaders in the European Union and the United States considered steps to execute increasingly punitive economic sanctions against Russia . . . the EU will put different Russian nationals on its travel ban and on its frozen assets list . . . the Pentagon also reported Monday, that the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer deployed in the Black Sea, was harassed by a Russian fighter jet . . . the American ship was forced to warn the Russian aircraft by radio since it reportedly flew within 1000 yards of the destroyer, but the plane eventually left the area over Black Sea waters east of Romania after 90 minutes . . . the actions of the Russian airplane and another Russian warship maneuvering near the USS Donald Cook is an unexpected development since most attention has been focused on the Kremlin’s ground forces arrayed on the eastern Ukrainian border . . . these types of activities between Russian and American military personnel were prevalent during the Cold War, subsided after the Soviet Union’s break-up, but have become more frequent in the past few years . . . with tensions so high in the region, the actions by Russia’s military could lead to accidents or miscalculations in the Black Sea . . . the U.S. Navy will likely raise its alert level in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea to a higher state of readiness and may even send more ships through the Bosphorus to patrol the Black Sea . . . the U.S. Government can also point to Monday’s naval activity as motivation to direct new economic sanctions that target the Russian defense sector.

Russia Quickly Fills Void as US Evacuates Kyrgyzstan
April 14, 2014
As the United States prepares to leave its base in Kyrgyzstan, Russia is poised to greatly expand its influence in a resource-filled country near Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Over the past month, Russia has purchased Kyrgyzstan’s state-owned natural gas company, bid for its airports and increased pressure on the country to join its trade organization.
April 14, 2014
Pro-Russian activists gather at a seized police station
with a banner reading "Donetsk Republic" in the eastern
Ukrainian town of Slovyansk on Sunday, April 13, 2014.

The Ukrainian government on April 13 sent security forces to confront pro-Russian demonstrators who stormed a police station and established roadblocks in the eastern city of Sloviansk . . . Ukrainian officials said at least one officer and several citizens were killed in the confrontation, and several others were injured . . . the interim Prime Minister in Kiev later told the protesters to leave occupied buildings by today, or they will face a “large scale anti-terrorist operation” by the Ukrainian military . . . however, the attempted intervention by security forces so far has failed to remove pro-Russian protesters, who local media say now control the entire city . . . Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the moves by the security forces, saying the government was cracking down
“against anyone who does not agree with the nationalist-radicals, chauvinistic and anti-Semitic actions” . . . it also accused the United States and Europe of supporting the move . . . Kiev is in an extremely difficult and risky situation in eastern Ukraine . . . failure to secure the cities could result in more defections to Russia, or at least declarations of autonomy from Kiev, further weakening the embattled government . . . using force is likely to inflame the situation, potentially providing Russia with an excuse to mobilize troops to “protect” ethnic Russian’s in the area . . . if civilians die in the violence, Ukrainians could blame Kiev . . . however, taking no action to stop the pro-Russian groups also risks losing control to Russia and makes Kiev appear weak.

April 11, 2014
Pro-Russian activists reinforce their barricade outside
the regional security service building in the eastern
Ukrainian city of Lugansk on April 10, 2014.

Pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine spent Wednesday putting up barricades around the government security building in Luhansk, preparations that could foreshadow a lengthy standoff with Ukrainian security forces . . . the Pro-Russian separatists broke into the security building’s armory earlier in the day and they now have about 200 rifles and pistols . . . the separatists in Luhansk also reportedly made a request to President Vladimir Putin to send Russian reinforcements to the city if the standoff turns violent . . . local Ukrainian legislators and representatives from the group behind the barricades attempted to cool tempers and talks continued into the night . . .. . . it is still too early to read much into the standoff in Luhansk  . . . there does not seem to be a clear consensus on what each side wants from the other and no apparent leader has emerged among the pro-Russian contingent . . . one demand that has bubbled up is for a federalist type of government in Ukraine that would give local governments in cities such as Luhansk more power of self-rule and autonomy . . . this yearning for federalism in the Ukraine may have been a seed planted by Russian operatives because it has become a common refrain heard from Moscow regarding future Ukrainian governance from Kiev. 

Putin Insulates Russia With Plan for Financial Self-Sufficiency
April 10, 2014
While media reports focus on Vladimir Putin’s next military move in Ukraine, the Russian president is deftly making economic changes to cushion the blow of international sanctions. He is also slowly pulling Russia away from the international financial system to promote greater economic self-sufficiency. Putin’s supporters, now estimated to represent about 80 percent of Russia’s population, do not worry about sanctions as long as Russian flags are flying in Ukraine.
April 9, 2014

F-15 fighter jets fly over a Lithuanian air force base during a NATO exercise on April 1. (Getty Images)

NATO unveiled plans Tuesday to increase the number of fighter jets patrolling the Baltics in May . . . the plans further NATO’s goal to increase land, air and sea defenses for central and eastern European allies . . . the United States currently oversees air patrols in the Baltics . . . Washington already raised the number of F-15 fighter jets to 10 from three after Russia’s annexation of Crimea . . . the new plans will further increase the number of fighter jets to 12, tripling the normal patrol, to defend Baltic airspace . . . Denmark, France and Germany and the United Kingdom also offered more military hardware for the three Baltic states . . . the ex-Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004 and require defense assistance from other NATO members because they lack the hardware to protol the airspace . . . the Baltic states are also asking NATO to deploy land forces permanently in the region to send a strong message to Moscow . . . NATO member Poland has also asked for permanent troops . . .
NATO’s defense build-up in the Baltics is a direct response to Russia’s military presence along the border of Ukraine and follows NATO’s plan to deter Putin from aggressive actions in former Soviet states in the region . . . it is unclear if NATO will seriously consider the call from Poland and the Baltic states for basing permanent land forces in the region because that move could create destabilizing, defensive reactions from Moscow.

April 7, 2014
Pro-Russian activists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk hold the Russian flag on April 7.

The Ukrainian security service detained 15 armed people April 6 who were reportedly plotting a coup in the country's eastern region bordering Russia . . . the security service announced that they had also taken 300 machine guns, many grenades and a grenade launcher, five handguns and gas bombs from the would-be attackers . . . the statement says a coup was planned for April 10 in Luhansk province . . . few details on the plan were provided . . . the situation in Ukraine remains volatile, and the arrests are likely to further inflame tensions . . . pro-Russian sectors will blame the arrests on a witch hunt, while Ukraine nationalists will worry about Russian plans to take over Kiev . . . further uncertainty is likely as the May elections approach.

April 4, 2014

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel with his South Korean counterpart Lee Kyung-soo in Seoul on Jan. 26. (Getty Images)

The United States will uphold its defense commitments with allies if territorial disputes with China escalate in East Asia, a State Department official told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week … Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel on Thursday briefed the committee on recent developments in East Asia . . . he told the committee U.S. allies in the region expressed concern that Russia’s annexation of Crimea will prompt China to act in territorial disputes in the South China Sea . . . Russel said Southeast Asian states, especially the Philippines, believe China will now use “threatening force or other forms of coercion to advance their territorial interests” . . . the Chinese coast guard attempted to prevent Philippine ships from resupplying a small offshore garrison in the Second Thomas Shoal this week . . . Russel underlined the “chilling effect” sanctions would cause on Chinese officials and businessmen because of the economic interdependence between the United States, China and other East Asian states . . .
China’s aggressive move against Philippine ships is a reactionary measure taken against the Philippine government for issuing a lawsuit to the U.N. court at The Hague over the weekend contesting Beijing’s South China Sea territorial claims . . . even though Beijing may feel emboldened by Russia’s actions in Crimea, Russel is correct in noting that economic interdependence serves as a strong deterrent for robust military action in regional territorial disputes . . . Russel’s assurance to East Asian allies is backed by an increasing presence of the U.S. military in the region.

West Finds Some Russian Arms Deals Are Too Big to Fail
April 4, 2014
Despite the urgency to enact tough sanctions following Russia’s taking of Crimea, Western governments are finding that canceling large military deals with Russia is not as easy as it seems. The defense trade with the Kremlin creates jobs and profits for Western contractors, making some contracts so lucrative that they can become “too big to fail.”
Cold War Redux: NATO Sets Strategy to Counter Russia Threat
April 3, 2014
NATO foreign ministers are moving at full diplomatic speed to counter a potential Kremlin threat to Ukraine's neighbor to the south, Moldova, which has a large ethnic Russian population. The ministers met this week in Brussels and agreed on a series of steps aimed at blunting further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
April 2, 2014

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO suspended all “military and civilian” cooperation with Russia on April 1 to protest Moscow’s annexation of Crimea . . . NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there will be “no business as usual” with Russia because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions . . . the decision came after NATO foreign ministers met for the first time since Russian forces annexed Crimea by Russian in March . . . the ministers directed military leaders to draft plans to reinforce defense measures for nervous Eastern European countries, especially former Soviet states in the Baltic region . . . German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Russia’s relationship with NATO is contingent upon Moscow withdrawing troops from the Ukrainian border. . . dialogue between NATO members and Russia is still allowed at the ambassadorial level to “exchange views…on the crisis” . . . NATO will review relations with Moscow at their next ministerial meeting in June . . .
NATO’s decision is likely intended to boost Western sanctions against Russian officials to force Moscow to withdraw from the Ukrainian border and de-escalate tensions in the region . . . the suspension in relations with NATO, alone, may not coerce Putin into withdrawing troops from the Ukrainian border because he will likely insist the soldiers are there to ensure the security of Crimea and Russian citizens.

March 31, 2014
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (Getty Images)

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev traveled to Crimea on Monday, prompting fierce criticism by Ukraine and Western governments . . . Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, one of the Russian officials targeted by Western sanctions, accompanied Medvedev on the trip and said on his Twitter account, “Crimea is ours. Basta!” . . . Medevdev held a meeting with Crimean leaders to discuss ways to improve Crimea’s struggling economy, attract investment, and strengthen infrastructure . . . the prime minister announced Moscow’s intention to open a special economic zone in Crimea to “allow for the use of special tax and customs regimes in Crimea” . . . the Russian military said Monday it was ordering troops back from the Ukrainian border, which the Ukrainian defense ministry confirmed as a gradual decrease in Russian troop presence along its borders . . .
Medevdev’s visit to Crimea reinforces Moscow’s claims to the region and was a blatant rebuff of the West as it comes a day after talks in Paris ended without substantial agreement between Russia and Western powers on ways to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

No Way Out? ‘Off-Ramp’ Would Offer Putin an Exit Strategy
March 28, 2014
Conventional wisdom holds that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is the most destabilizing event in Europe since the Soviet era and an indication that Vladimir Putin will use military force against eastern Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. Another possibility, however, is that Crimea is a one-time event and that Putin now seeks what U.S. President Barack Obama has called an “off-ramp” to end tensions.
Next Stop, Estonia: Steps Putin Could Take to Destabilize NATO
March 28, 2014
In a March 18 speech announcing the annexation of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin made the case that the people of Crimea had the right to determine their political fate and strongly hinted that ethnic Russians outside the Russian Federation had the same right. That logic now can be applied by Moscow to Western allies on the periphery of Russia, in line with Putin’s presumed long-term goal: destabilizing NATO along Russia’s borders.

In the speech, Putin reiterated Moscow’s concerns regarding NATO, saying that it “remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory.” Absent a firmer response from the West than mild economic sanctions, it appears that Putin has made Crimea’s new status a fait accompli and a powerful argument to further test Western resolve.
One Way the West Can Really Hurt Russia: Ban the Bolshoi
March 27, 2014
Russia’s blithe reaction to Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea makes clear the impotence of such limited moves in the face of Russian realpolitik on the ground. Russia is simply not susceptible to trade or financial sanctions that the West might impose, especially not from Europe, which remains dependent on Russian energy supplies.
March 27, 2014

Pro-Russian activists occupy the Ukrainian navy headquarters as Russian soldiers patrol outside in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on March 19. (Getty Images)

President Barack Obama said Wednesday at a summit in Brussels that the United States and European Union are coordinating tougher sanctions against Moscow . . . Obama said he is working with his EU counterparts, “coordinating around the potential for additional, deeper sanctions, should Russia move forward and engage in further incursions into Ukraine” . . . the president emphasized the importance and strength of NATO and plans to increase its profile within new Eastern European member states . . . the new sanctions would target the Russian economy, specifically its energy sector . . . Russia supplies one-third of the EU’s oil and gas, and 40 percent of its gas is transported through Ukraine . . . Group of Seven members decided not to impose new sanctions against the Russian economy unless President Vladimir Putin plans “further incursions into Ukraine” . . .
Obama’s speech emphasized a unified U.S.-EU effort to counter Moscow that will strengthen transatlantic relationships but do little to deter Putin . . . Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian gas and oil imports will prevent the EU from heavily sanctioning Russia’s economy since the United States alone will not be able to compensate for the loss of the EU’s largest energy supplier.

Fresh From Crimean Conquest, Putin Weighs Next Moves
March 25, 2014
Russia’s annexation of Crimea is complete, but the same cannot be said for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist plans. Putin now knows that the West is not prepared to directly challenge Russia, and he is weighing a range of options in the region and as far afield as the Middle East.
Pentagon's New Target: Climate Change, not Russian Aggression
March 21, 2014
As Vladimir Putin’s Russia invades Crimea and annexes it by force, the Pentagon has released an untimely strategic review that refocuses American power on a far different mission: fighting global climate change. Clearly reflecting White House priorities, the document describes a new U.S. military force that does more with less but still must “project power and win decisively” with fewer soldiers, Marines, airplanes and ships.
March 20, 2014
Pro-Russian self-defense forces seized the Ukrainian
navy headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.


Pro-Russian "self-defense" forces seized two Ukrainian naval bases in Crimea on Wednesday, breaking through gates, raising Russian flags and asking Ukrainian officers to leave . . . meanwhile, Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a treaty Thursday to annex Crimea from Ukraine; the upper house will vote on the treaty Friday . . . the United States, European Union, and NATO all condemned the seizure of Ukrainian bases . . . President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Washington will impose more sanctions against Russian officials and key sectors of the Russian economy . . . EU officials met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the crisis and impose more sanctions on Moscow . . .
Russian actions in Crimea and impending ratification of the annexation treaty will heighten tensions over what Obama called an “escalation” of the conflict in Crimea . . . these tensions will create problems in the coming days as Ukraine attempts to withdraw troops and civilians from Crimea.

Weak Sanctions Reflect Lack of Western Resolve on Ukraine
March 20, 2014
As Vladimir Putin’s forces occupy Crimea following Sunday’s lopsided referendum on joining Russia, the limited financial sanctions announced by Europe and the United States are seen as a weak and ineffective response to Russian aggression. Several Russians on the sanctions lists openly mocked the process, asserting they will not be affected at all.
Assad Gains Ground on Rebels While Putin Distracts the West
March 20, 2014
Three years after the start of the Syrian civil war, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad regime is making gains against rebel forces and shows no interest in a negotiated peace. The Ukraine conflict adds a new wrinkle to the Syrian situation that will probably embolden Assad and could increase support from Russia.
 Ukraine Pays Price for US Advice to Give up Nuclear Weapons
March 20, 2014
Briefly a nuclear power, Ukraine in retrospect seems to have made a major tactical mistake. By giving up its weapons and relying on U.S. protection, the former Soviet republic finds itself once again caught in the wheels of history, staring down a Russian invasion. Ukrainian legislator Pavlo Rizanenko sums up the Crimea crisis: “If you have nuclear weapons, people don’t invade you.”
Ukraine Crisis Exposes Europe's Need to Escape 'Gas Blackmail’
March 19, 2014
The intense stalemate between the European Union and Russia over Ukraine has cast a spotlight on Europe’s disturbing overreliance on Russian state-owned energy giants Gazprom (London: OGZD) and Rosneft (London: ROSN). Despite the impasse in Crimea, the Kremlin continues to supply oil and natural gas to the EU. Yet Baltic and Central European nations are desperate to secure U.S. energy imports in a bid to break Moscow’s stranglehold over their economies.
March 18, 2014

Pro-Kremlin activists rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, on March 18. (AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert to U.S. citizens in Russia from March 14 to June 13, 2014 . . . U.S. citizens are advised to be aware of the potential for public demonstrations and anti-American activity in Russia in connection with Russian actions in Crimea . . . areas of increased risk include regions bordering Ukraine in Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, Rostov Oblasts, and Krasnodor Krai . . .
LIGNET has noted a sizeable Russian buildup of troops in these regions, where there have been several reports of an increased presence of Russian neo-Nazi and radical nationalists . . . LIGNET posted an analysis of the sudden spike in Russian nationalism on March 12.

Additional information on this Travel Alert can be found HERE

March 17, 2014
Pro-Russian people in Lenin Square in Simferopol
respond emotionally to the results of the referendum
on March 16, 2014.

Voters in Crimea backed a referendum to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia March 16 . . . election officials announced that with more than half of the votes counted, 95 percent supported the move . . . voter turnout reportedly exceeded the 50 percent required to make a referendum binding . . . Ukraine’s prime minister reiterated his previous statements that the vote is illegitimate, and that neither Kiev nor the West will recognize the result . . . in Donetsk, a major city in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian demonstrators called for their own referendum on its relationship with Ukraine . . . meanwhile, Russian forces took control of a natural gas plant outside of the village of Strilkove, which is across the border from the Crimean peninsula . . . Moscow also vetoed a Saturday vote by the United Nations Security Council denouncing the referendum . . . although the results of the referendum in Crimea were not surprising, the vote will further strain relations between Russia and the West . . . not only are most residents of Crimea ethnically Russian, they also speak Russian and retain close emotional ties to Moscow . . . the military move by Russia beyond Crimea demonstrates the relative ease Russia could take additional territory, and is almost certainly increasing anxiety inside Ukraine . . . for Russia, the moves in Crimea are a grim reminder to other former Soviet countries not to stray into the orbit of the West and or face consequences from Moscow.

Putin Poised to Win Ukraine Standoff in Strategic Blow to US
March 13, 2014
The half-hearted intervention in Ukraine by an ill-prepared European Union and toothless threats from Washington on behalf of Kiev have given Moscow the perfect pretext to project power into a region it has long coveted. Regardless of the outcome of a Crimean referendum this weekend to join Russia, the region’s political status has been inexorably altered.
March 9, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with
the commander of the Western Military District Anatoly
Sidorov, upon his arrival to watch military exercises
near St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, March 3, 2014.

Russia warned both the United States and the European Union against implementing sanctions for Russia’s actions in Ukraine . . . Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the United States on Friday to avoid “hasty, poorly thought out steps…especially concerning sanctions, which would unavoidably boomerang on the U.S. itself” . . . in a separate statement, Russia warned that it would retaliate against the EU if it imposes sanctions . . . news reports March 8 suggested that Russia is considering halting U.S. military inspections which are part of arms control treaties . . . Moscow also ruled out any negotiations with the government in Kiev and reinforced its military presence in Crimea on Saturday . . . Moscow continues to show no sign of backing down in Ukraine, despite recent sanctions by the United States and the EU, and is unlikely to cave to international pressure . . . while sanctions against Moscow are likely to sting, they will fall far short of crippling the economy . . . Moscow could up the ante by seizing international assets or disrupting natural gas exports to Europe, which depends on Russia for approximately one-quarter of its gas usage . . . halting gas flows to Kiev would significantly impact Ukraine and increase pressure on the government, already dealing with a difficult economic situation and political unease.

March 6, 2014
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary general

NATO officials said Wednesday it is shelving its cooperation with Russia and suspending military coordination and high-level staff meetings with Moscow . . . NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance would suspend the joint military mission involved with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons . . . the announcement came as NATO vowed to “intensify” its support for Ukraine as Russian troops remain in Crimea . . . U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris on Wednesday, but talks stalled and the two leaders agreed to meet again in Rome on Thursday . . . the United States announced on Wednesday that the Pentagon would increase military cooperation with Baltic states in response to Russian aggression . . . NATO’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia is an attempt to deter Russia from further aggression in Ukraine . . . Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to remove Russian troops anytime soon as he views Ukraine as essential to Russia’s geopolitical interests.

Putin's Strategic Goals Threaten Nations Beyond Ukraine (March 5, 2014)

March 1, 2014

Troops in unmarked uniforms stand guard in Balaklava
on the outskirts of Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 1, 2014.

Russia’s upper house of parliament on Saturday unanimously approved sending troops to Ukraine . . . President Vladimir Putin asked parliament to allow him to deploy troops to Ukraines Crimea region, saying the lives of Russian citizens and soldiers had been threatened . . .  Crimea’s leader asked for help in maintaining peace, but Ukraine’s new government condemned the Russian vote, calling it “direct aggression against the sovereignty of Ukraine” . . . on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama warned Putin to respect Ukraine’s independence or face consequences after unidentified men dressed in military camouflage and carrying assault rifles took up positions at two Crimea airports . . . Ukrainian officials said the armed men “do not hide their affiliation with Russian armed forces” and condemned their presence as “terrorists with automatic weapons” and “an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international treaties and norms” . . . Ukrainian officials have called for the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Crimea . . . ousted President Viktor Yanukovych said during a press conference in Russia Friday that he was not removed from office but fled for his life after gangsters seized power in Kiev . . . Moscow appears to be making a play to loosen Crimea’s ties to the Kiev government and could be encouraging secession . . . developments in Crimea could be part of a larger Russian strategy, including access to loans and natural gas, to dissuade Ukraine from pursuing closer ties with Europe . . . any Russian military deployment to Ukraine will increase international tensions and lead to economic reprisals by the European Union and the United States . . . the situation in Crimea will place further pressure on the interim government in Kiev and will undermine its credibility if it cannot maintain  control of Ukraine.



February 28, 2014
Ukraine's newly appointed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Ukraine’s new “government of national unity” in Kiev started taking shape Wednesday as opposition leaders began selecting candidates . . . the Ukrainian parliament voted Thursday on the various slates that include future leaders who have occupations such as journalists and mechanics . . . parliament confirmed the new prime minister Feb. 27 . . . Arseniy Yatsenyuk, 40, who leads the Fatherland party, will assume the post . . . Yatsenyuk once served as the Ukraine’s economy minister and he will have his work cut out for him . . . Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, has already taken an epic dive and the country is running out of foreign currency reserves . . . the new government in Kiev will immediately need a round of financing and loans from the International Monetary Fund . . . but the IMF may have stiff reform requirements before the bailout can begin . . . new presidential elections are supposed to be held in May, so the new prime minister will not have much time to enact needed changes before he has to share power with a new president.

February 27, 2014
Moscow on Wednesday granted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych protection “on the territory of Russia,” according to an unidentified official quoted by Russian news agencies . . . the Interfax news agency cited a statement from Yanukovch, in which the deposed president said that he and those close to him received death threats and asked Russia to ensure his “safety from the activities of extremists” . . . meanwhile, Russian news outlet RBK reported that Yanukovcyh stayed at the Hotel Ukraina in central Moscow before moving to a Kremlin sanatorium outside Moscow . . . the exact whereabouts of Yanukovch, who is on an international wanted list, have remained unknown since he fled Kiev over the weekend amid rising violence between anti-government protesters and police . . . although the reports from RBK remain unconfirmed, it is highly likely that Yanukovch has fled to Moscow, where he is attempting to garner political support.

February 27, 2014
A Pro-Russian demonstrator waves Russian
and Crimean flags from an old Soviet Army
tank during a protest in front of a local
government building in Simferopol, Crimea,
Ukraine, Feb. 27.

Dozens of pro-Russia gunmen seized government buildings in Crimea on Thursday . . . gunmen also have control of the Crimean parliament and they confiscated cellphones from legislators as they entered the building for a debate on the territorial status of Crimea . . . the Crimean parliament plans to approve a referendum on greater autonomy according to BBC News . . . a large pro-Russia crowd reportedly is demonstrating outside parliament . . . meanwhile, an interim government is expected to be approved in Kiev on Monday . . . Russia added to the tensions Wednesday when President Vladimir Putin ordered a surprise military exercise near the Ukraine border . . . the United States and the interim Ukrainian government warned Russia against intervening in Ukraine . . . former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has fled to Russia and said Wednesday he is still the legitimate president . . .the Kremlin is watching events in Crimea closely because of its large pro-Russia population and because it is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet . . . Moscow is probably reluctant to annex Crimea because this would alarm other former Soviet republics with large pro-Russia populations . . . the new developments in Crimea might make it impossible to reconcile the people of the region with the government in Kiev and could inspire similar resistance in eastern Ukraine.

February 25, 2014
Protesters stand guard outside the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Feb. 25. (Getty Images)

The Ukraine parliament postponed today’s deadline to form an interim government until Thursday due to political infighting among three parties . . . parliament is also struggling with how to appeal to residents of eastern and southern Ukraine who are angry over President Viktor Yanukovych’s removal from power . . . Ukraine needs about $35 billion in loans through 2015 to meet its financial obligations . . . the International Monetary Fund is reluctant to lend the country more money since it did not live up to the terms of prior loans . . . Russia has canceled its $15 billion loan offer and could punish the country for Yanukovych’s removal by raising natural gas prices and demanding payment of outstanding loans . . .the political situation in Ukraine remains extremely volatile and it is not clear how parliament will be able to form an interim government . . . a new IMF loan package would be delivered in tranches with strings attached such as raising gas prices which would prove extremely unpopular . . . the European Union and the United States are under pressure to provide large loans to Ukraine to prevent economic pain from sparking new unrest that would play into Moscow’s hands.

February 25, 2014
The Ukrainian city of Sevastpol, in the Crimea. (AP)

Secessionist calls in the pro-Russian southern region of Ukraine are growing louder . . . the Crimean Supreme Soviet on Monday voted 78-3 to adopt a special declaration officially announcing its intention to secede from Ukraine . . . meanwhile, a protest attended by thousands in the port city of Sevastopol in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula vowed to establish a parallel administration and civil defense squads . . . nearly 5,000 reportedly have joined such squads already . . . demonstrators also elected a new city leader, Aleksei Chaly, who vowed to defend Sevastopol . . . the largely Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions of Ukraine have been shaken by the events in Kiev over the past week including the sudden overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovcyh . . . the Crimean Peninsula has a strong Russian heritage and was officially part of Russia until 60 years ago, when Soviet leadership transferred it to Ukraine . . . Russian officials have so far refrained from publicly stating their support for Crimean separatism, but secession is possible.

February 24, 2014
Dmitry Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday that he doubts the legitimacy of Ukraine’s new authorities and accused those in power of conducting an “armed mutiny” . . . he spoke after Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovcyh on Saturday and issued a warrant for his arrest . . . the Obama administration warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that a Russian military intervention would be a “grave mistake” . . . meanwhile, European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev to discuss possible financial and political support for Ukraine’s new leaders . . . Ukraine has until Tuesday to form a new unity government and is in danger of defaulting on its debts . . .  The Putin government has made no official announcements concerning military intervention in Ukraine . . . however, the risk remains high as Crimea and pro-Russian areas in eastern Ukraine have seen protests against the overthrow of Yanukovych, prompting fears that Ukraine could be split apart by separatist movements.

Russian Threats Fuel Prospects for Ukrainian Split
February 22, 2014
February 24, 2014
1000 EST Update

Russia denounced the unrest in Ukraine Monday, calling it a "mutiny" and a threat to Russian citizens. Moscow also withdrew its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations. The Ukrainian parliament issued an arrest warrant for President Viktor Yanukovych and 20 other officials for "mass killings of civilians." Yanukovych's whereabouts are unknown but he was seen in the strongly pro-Russian region of Crimea on Sunday.
February 22, 2014
Some Ukrainian protesters oppose the deal signed yesterday by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the leaders of the prominent opposition political parties . . . under the new framework, a transitional government will be formed and the country will hold elections in December 2014, two months before they were scheduled to take place . . . additionally, the Ukrainian parliament will revert to the country’s 2004 constitution that limits the authority of the presidency . . . crowds in Independence Square booed opposition leaders who signed the deal and called them traitors, saying they do not trust President Yanukovych . . . the situation in the Ukraine remains tense and the current truce is extremely fragile . . . if Yanukovych hesitates to sign the constitutional legislation, it will likely force protesters back out into the streets and end the peace . . . even if the government follows the measures outlined in the deal, many rank-and-file protesters will remain skeptical and see the deal as not giving enough to the demands of the opposition . . . hardliners want unconditional surrender of the current regime and complete removal of the president . . . Russia, whose envoy refused to sign the agreement, will likely undermine efforts to limit the power of Yanukovych . . . a new interim government comprised of both government parties and opposition parties will provide a voice to unrepresented groups, but the new cabinet will likely lack the strength to stop any new political violence that arises ahead of scheduled elections, and almost certainly will suffer from infighting and divisions.

February 21, 2014
Policemen on duty near Dynamo Stadium on Jan. 24,
in Kiev, Ukraine.

Standard & Poor’s, one of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, warned that Ukraine may run out of cash and default on its debt in the wake of violent protests in the capital Kiev . . .  “Should Russian financial support fall short of Russia’s commitments, we expect the government of Ukraine to default on its foreign-currency obligations,” S&P said . . . further downgrades are possible . . . “We consider that the future of the current Ukrainian leadership is now more uncertain than at any time since the protests began in November 2013,” the ratings agency said . . . S&P’s downgrade underscores the difficult balancing act that Ukraine must perform to repair its finances while deciding its future ties with the European Union . . . should Russia renege on its promised $15 billion loan pledged in December, Ukraine will face almost certain economic difficulties.
February 18, 2014

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. (Getty Images)

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced Monday that Russia would send the next installment of aid to Ukraine in an effort to help besieged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych . . . Russia promised to give Ukraine $15 billion in aid in December but mass protests in Kiev prompted Moscow to halt the installments after transferring only $3 billion . . . Moscow’s announcement coincided with a high-level meeting in Berlin this week between Ukraine opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko and German leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel . . . the Ukrainian conflict reflects a struggle for influence between Russia and the West, as the European Union and United States claim to be working with the International Monetary Fund to develop an aid package of their own to help the opposition . . . Russian aid will help keep Yanukovych afloat for now, but continued mass protests coupled with the Ukrainian opposition’s efforts to push for parliamentary reforms will decrease Yanukovych’s powers and signify that Ukraine’s political turmoil is far from over.

February 5, 2014
Dr. David Adesnik of AEI explains the current turbulence in Ukraine and explains the role of Russia in stoking those tensions. Adesnik further explains why it is critical for the United States, and Europe, to back the protestors in the Ukraine to undercut President Vladimir Putin's imperial ambitions.
February 3, 2014

Ukrainian activists rally outside the Deutsche Bank office in Kiev on Feb. 3. (AFP/Getty Images)

Officials from the United States and the European Union discussed on Monday a possible financial aid plan as part of a political solution to Ukraine’s crisis . . . the aid would be provided by the United States in tandem with the EU and other countries including Norway, Turkey, and Japan . . . the exact amount of a financial package has not been decided, but EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told the Wall Street Journal that “the figures won’t be small” . . . the aim of the aid package will be to convince Ukrainian President Yanukovych to make reforms and appoint a technocratic government . . . the prospective aid package is a sign that the United States and the EU are stepping up their efforts to counter pressure from Russia and sway the outcome of the political crisis in Ukraine . . . Yanukovych turned his back on an EU economic pact in November and instead signed a deal with Russia for $15 billion in aid . . . it remains uncertain whether Ukrainian leaders will be able to meet the political and economic conditions of the proposed Western aid package.

February 3, 2014
Ukrainian activists stand in front of an ambulance carrying injured protest leader Dmytro Bulatov in Kiev. (Getty Images)

Ukrainian protest leader Dmytro Bulatov who claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by assailants with Russian accents escaped to Riga, Latvia Feb. 2 . . . he will then travel to Lithuania for further treatment . . . medical workers and protesters had refused to allow police to question Bulatov, who said he was held for eight days by unknown individuals who cut off his ear and hammered nails through his hands . . . Bulatov is wanted by the Ukrainian government, and opposition activists believe police went to the clinic to arrest him . . . Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara dismissed Bulatov’s claims of torture despite his physical condition and said his only injury was “a scratch” . . . Bulatov’s case will further raise tensions between the demonstrators and the Ukraine government . . . the extent of the injuries to Bulatov suggest the incident is real, and the lack of compassion from the government will alienate protesters . . . Bulatov’s story is supported by other facts . . . two other activists have been kidnapped – one was found dead last week, while a third survived a kidnapping and severe beating.

January 30, 2014

An opposition protester guards a barricade in the center of Kiev on Jan. 30, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian parliament canceled an anti-protest law on Tuesday and created an amnesty law for protesters on Wednesday . . . the opposition said the law didn’t go far enough and demanded on more legislation that will dissolve some presidential powers and hold snap elections . . . protesters rejected the amnesty bill and continued to occupy public squares and government buildings in Kiev, vowing to remain until new elections were called . . . Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych went on sick leave today, leaving the new legislation temporarily unsigned . . . Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday that Moscow may hold off on sending the rest of its $15 billion aid package to Ukraine until a new Ukrainian cabinet was formed . . . tensions have eased slightly in Ukraine as talks between the government and opposition continue, but the resolve of the protesters in Kiev is not likely to wane until Yanukovych resigns . . . some EU members are pressing Brussels to counter Russia’s aid package as both vie for influence in the former Soviet state . . . if the opposition were to win a snap election, an EU bid would likely be accepted by the new government, complicating relations with Moscow.

January 28, 2014
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov and his cabinet on Tuesday, according to a decree posted on the presidential website . . .  meanwhile, Ukrainian Justice Minister Olena Lukash threatened to call a state of emergency after anti-government activists besieged Justice Ministry headquarters in Kiev on Sunday . . . protests continue to spread throughout the country with opposition supporters occupying local government offices in 10 cities . . . Vitaly Klitschko, leader of the opposition Punch party, said Azarov’s resignation was a “face-saving” gesture and “a step toward victory” for the opposition . . . the resignations will not resolve the political crisis in Ukraine . . . the protests began in Kiev after Yanukovich declined an invitation to join the European Union and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Russia instead, but the protest movement has since evolved to reflect a variety of grievances over economic and social hardship.

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