Friday, 07 March 2014 04:06
Monday, 03 March 2014 02:28
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow and whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances on Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry is going this week to Ukraine's capital. Kerry says world leaders "are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia."
Missile defense systems and troop levels in Europe have again become urgent questions in Washington and beyond. It's a renewed reality that may force President Barack Obama's administration to give up its intended foreign policy shift to Asia.
There appears to be little if any taste in the West for a direct military response to Russia's provocation. Economic sanctions, visa bans, freezing of Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties are under consideration.
Sunday, 02 March 2014 16:53
By TIM SULLIVAN and DAVID McHUGH Associated Press
PEREVALNE, Ukraine (AP) - Warning that it was "on the brink of disaster," Ukraine put its military on high alert Sunday and appealed for international help to avoid what it feared was the possibility of a wider invasion by Russia.
Outrage over Russia's military moves mounted in world capitals, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling on President Vladimir Putin to pull back from "an incredible act of aggression."
A day after Russia captured the Crimean peninsula without firing a shot, fears grew in the Ukrainian capital and beyond that Russia might seek to expand its control by seizing other parts of eastern Ukraine. A senior U.S. official said Washington now believes that Russia has complete operational control of Crimea, a pro-Russian area of the country, and has more than 6,000 air, naval and ground forces in the region.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said there was no reason for Russia to invade Ukraine and warned that "we are on the brink of disaster."
"We believe that our western partners and the entire global community will support the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine," he said Sunday in Kiev.
World leaders rushed to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels, Britain's foreign minister flew to Kiev to support its new government and Kerry was to travel to Ukraine Tuesday. The U.S., France and Britain debated the possibility of boycotting the next Group of Eight economic summit, to be held in June in Sochi, the host of Russia's successful Winter Olympics.
In Kiev, Moscow and other cities, thousands of protesters took to the streets to either decry the Russian occupation or celebrate Crimea's return to its former ruler.
"Support us, America!" a handful of protesters chanted outside the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. One young girl held up a placard reading: "No Russian aggression!"
"Russia! Russia!" the crowd chanted in Moscow.
Kerry, interviewed Sunday on U.S. television news shows, talked about boycotting the G-8 summit, as well as possible visa bans, asset freezes and trade and investment penalties against Russia. Kerry said all the foreign ministers he had talked to were prepared "to go to the hilt" to isolate Russia.
NATO issued a statement saying it "condemns Russia's military escalation in Crimea" and demanding that Russia respect its obligations under the U.N. charter. Ukraine is not a NATO member, meaning the U.S. and Europe are not obligated to come to its defense, but the country has taken part in some alliance exercises.
"We are on a very dangerous track of increasing tensions," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. "(But) it is still possible to turn around. A new division of Europe can still be prevented."
So far, however, Ukraine's new government and other countries have been powerless to counter Russia's tactics. Armed men in uniforms without insignia have moved freely about Crimea for days, occupying airports, smashing equipment at an air base and besieging a Ukrainian infantry base.
Putin has defied calls from the West to pull back his troops, insisting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. His confidence is matched by the knowledge that Ukraine's 46 million people have divided loyalties. While much of western Ukraine wants closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, its eastern and southern regions like Crimea look to Russia for support.
Russia has long wanted to reclaim the lush Crimean Peninsula, part of its territory until 1954. Russia's Black Sea Fleet pays Ukraine millions every year to be stationed at the Crimean port of Sevastopol and nearly 60 percent of Crimea's residents identify themselves as Russian.
During a phone conversation Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin "directed her attention to the unrelenting threat of violence from ultranationalist forces (in Ukraine) that endangered the life and legal interests of Russian citizens," according to a Kremlin statement.
The statement also said "the measures taken by Russia are fully adequate with regard to the current extraordinary situation."
Ukraine's new government came to power last week following months of pro-democracy protests against a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his decision to turn Ukraine toward Russia instead of the EU. Yanukovych fled to Russia after more than 80 people were killed in the protests. He insists he's still president.
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, put Ukraine's armed forces on alert, calling up reserves for training and stepping up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic locations. However, no overt military actions by Ukraine were seen.
Turchynov also moved to consolidate the new government's authority in eastern Ukraine, appointing 18 new regional governors and enlisting the support of the wealthy businessmen known as oligarchs. The new appointees included two oligarchs in the eastern cities of Dneprotrovsk and Donetsk, as big business and the new Ukrainian government united against Russia.
Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, urged business, ordinary people and the government to join together, saying Sunday that the use of force and "illegal action from outside" were "impermissible."
"I call upon all my fellow citizens to unity for the sake of a whole and undivided Ukraine ... Our strength is in the solidarity of business, government and society," said Akhmetov, whose SCM Group has 300,000 employees and interests in steel, coal and mining.
Faced with the threat from Russia, "the national elite has consolidated around the new government," political analyst Vadim Karasyov of the Institute for Global Strategies told The Associated Press. "The biggest businessmen and oligarchs have agreed to head key regions. This is a very good sign for the new government."
Russian troops, meanwhile, pulled up to the Ukrainian military base at Perevalne on the Crimean Peninsula in a convoy Sunday that included at least 13 trucks and four armored vehicles with mounted machine guns. The trucks carried 30 soldiers each and had Russian license plates.
In response, a dozen Ukrainian soldiers, some with clips in their rifles, placed a tank at the base's gate, leaving the two sides in a tense standoff. It appeared to be the first known case of outmatched Ukrainians standing up to Russian military might.
Unidentified soldiers were also seen cutting power to the headquarters of the Ukrainian Naval forces in Crimea — whose own commander defected later Sunday and pledged his allegiance to "the people of Crimea."
In Kiev, a Ukrainian security official said the head of the Ukrainian Navy — Adm. Denis Berezovsky — had been dismissed and faces a treason investigation after declaring his allegiance to the pro-Russian government of the Crimea region and offering no resistance to the Russian troops.
The speaker of Crimea's legislature, Vladimir Konstantinov, was quoted as saying local authorities do not recognize the new government in Kiev. He said a planned referendum on March 30 would ask voters about the region's future status.
A convoy of hundreds of Russian troops was also seen heading toward Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea. Armed men in military uniforms without markings strolled around Simferopol's central plaza, Lenin Square, outside its Council of Ministers building.
"It is very important that we all do everything we can to calm tensions," said British Foreign Minister William Hague, who flew to Kiev on Sunday.
He said he has urged Russian officials to "speak directly to the Ukrainians" but so far they had not.
President Barack Obama talked with Putin by telephone for 90 minutes Saturday and expressed his "deep concern" about "Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty." Obama warned that Russia's "continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation."
In Moscow, at least 10,000 people bearing Russian flags marched freely through the city Sunday, while a few dozen demonstrating on Red Square against the invasion of Ukraine were quickly detained by Russian riot police.
"We understand that the West wants to attack us and seize this territory. It (the West) is dangerous to us," said Victor Sidelin, a Moscow resident at the march.
McHugh reported from Kiev, Ukraine. AP writers Greg Keller in Paris, Laura Mills and Lynn Berry in Moscow, Tom Strong in Washington, Tim Sullivan in Crimea, Greg Katz in London and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.
Friday, 28 February 2014 01:17
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's interior minister says the Russian military are blocking an airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea near the Russian naval base.
Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post that the Belbek international airport in Sevastopol is blocked by military units of the Russian navy. Avakov called the blockade "military invasion and occupation."
Separately, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings were patrolling the airport in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea on Friday as tensions in the country's Russian-speaking southeast escalated. It was not immediately clear who they were.
Friday, 21 February 2014 01:55
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukraine's presidency says negotiations with opposition leaders, the European Union and Russia have produced an "agreement to settle the crisis," but released no details.
A statement on the presidency's website says a document will be signed at noon local time (1000 GMT, 5 A.M. EST) Friday.
However, Germany's Foreign Ministry says on Twitter that negotiators had taken a break "to continue talks later on."
Street battles between protesters and police in Kiev have left more than 100 people dead this week, including some shot by snipers Thursday. The Health Ministry says nearly 600 people have been wounded and 369 hospitalized.
A shaky peace reigned in the protest camps in downtown Kiev Friday morning. No visible police forces remained on the square, and volunteers walked freely to the protest camps to donate food and other packages.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 02:31
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukrainian police say more than 20 officers have been wounded by gunfire in the capital as violence between anti-government protesters and police continues despite the declaration of a truce.
A statement from the Interior Ministry on Thursday said the gunfire appeared to be coming from the national music conservatory, which is on the edge of the downtown square housing an extensive protest tent camp. It did not say when the officers were wounded, but added that they were receiving treatment on Thursday.
Also Thursday, the parliament building was evacuated because of fears protesters were preparing to storm it, said parliament spokeswoman Irina Karnelyuk.
Thick black smoke from barricades of burning tires belched from the protest camp.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:52
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The prime minister of crisis-torn Ukraine has submitted his resignation.
In a statement Tuesday on the government website, Mykola Azarov offered his resignation in order to encourage what he called "social-political compromise."
Ukraine has been gripped by protests for two months and the crisis was aggravated in recent days after protesters and police clashed violently.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:16
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Two people have died in clashes between protesters and police in the Ukrainian capital Wednesday, according to medics on the site, in a development that will likely escalate Ukraine's two month-long political crisis.
An Associated Press reporter saw medics declare two people dead near the barricades where police and protesters have confronted each other for three days. Police earlier reported one death, but it was unclear whether that was a separate victim.
Oleh Bondar, a medic, said the two men died of bullet wounds, but would not specify whether they were rubber or real bullets.
Police began dismantling barricades near a government district in Kiev on Wednesday morning, but protesters soon pushed them back to their original positions.
Ukraine's political crisis reached a new phase last week after President Viktor Yanukovych pushed through harsh anti-protest legislation. That prompted street battles at a cordon of riot police and buses near the Ukrainian parliament. Protesters threw rocks and fire bombs and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The clashes injured hundreds of protesters and police, but the deaths were likely to stoke anger and cause more people to join the protests and clashes.