NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine

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Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the U.S. to present its proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the U.S. to present its proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the United States’ claim of possessing proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine.

During an interview with Radio Europe 1 news and TF1 TV channel, Mr. Putin was asked about claims by the U.S. that they had proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine. President Putin’s response was: “Proof?  Why don’t they show it?”

He went on to discredit the the alleged proof by recalling the United States’ claim of evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, only to find out after U.S. troops invaded Iraq and Saddam Hussein was hung that there was, in fact, no WMDs.

“The entire world remembers the U.S. Secretary of State demonstrating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the U.N. Security Council,” Mr. Putin said.  “You know, it’s one thing to say things and another to actually have evidence,” he added.

The Ukrainian Government and Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of supporting the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine that are fighting for independence, a claim which Moscow denies.

When asked about Russian troops annexing Crimea in March, Mr. Putin clarified the soldiers’ roles, saying that they didn’t annex the region.

“It’s a delusion that Russian troops annexed Crimea,” he said.  “Russian troops were in Crimea under the international treaty on the deployment of the Russian military bases.  It’s true that Russian troops helped Crimeans hold a referendum on their (a) independence and (b) desire to join the Russian Federation.  No one can prevent these people from exercising a right that is stipulated in Article 1 of the U.N. Charter, the right of nations to self-determination.”

The contents of Article 1 of the U.N. Charter:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Mr. Putin has repeatedly stressed that Ukrainian citizens have “certain rights, political, humanitarian rights, and they must have a chance to exercise those rights.”

NATO and Kiev have refused to recognize the annexation as legitimate and have stressed that Crimea is still part of Ukraine.   NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday that “NATO allies do not, and will not, recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”

When asked if Russia will return Crimea to Ukraine, Mr. Putin said that “In accordance with the expression of the will of people who live there, Crimea is part of the Russian Federation and its constituent entity.”

President Putin stated that with the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, Moscow “could not allow a historical part of the Russian territory with a predominantly ethnic Russian population to be incorporated into an international military alliance, especially because Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia.  I’m sorry, but we couldn’t act differently.”

Known as “little green men” these Russian troops abruptly began appearing in Crimea following the ousting of Ukraine’s former president. Photo by AP.

Following the annexation, pro-Russian activists in eastern and southern Ukraine took up arms against the Kiev authorities, leading to clashes with the Ukrainian military that have resulted in scores of deaths in recent months.  The Ukrainian government has accused Moscow of supporting and supplying the separatists, a claim which the Kremlin denies.

Mr. Putin and other top ranking Russian officials have criticized Ukraine for allegedly attacking its own citizens and denying its people their rights.

It is “vital” to hold talks with the separatists “instead of sending tanks” to deal with them and “firing missiles at civilians from the air and bombing non-military targets,” the president said, adding that the Kiev authorities must hold talks with the militants to deescalate the crisis.

Fighting in recent weeks has resulted in dozens of deaths.  Clashes between the Ukrainian military and armed separatists at the Donetsk International Airport last week left over 50 militants dead, separatists leader said.  On Monday, an estimated 500 separatists began a three-day attack on a border center near the city of Luhansk. Today, the guards left the center.  Also on Monday, a Ukrainian fighter jet bombed Luhansk’s main regional building, resulting in the deaths and injuries of several citizens.

lugansk-3

Russia has demanded that Kiev bring an immediate end to its military operations against the separatists, and expressed its will to work with the Ukrainian government to deescalate the crisis.

In response to Westerners’ claims of Russia wishing to restore the Soviet Union and destroy Ukraine, Mr. Putin said that Moscow recognizes Ukraine as sovereign state and respects the country’s choices, but wishes that it would not join NATO because it would mean “NATO’s infrastructure will move directly towards the Russian border, which cannot leave us indifferent.”

President Putin also responded to accusation against the Kremlin by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton that Russia’s recent actions resembles Hitler’s during the 1930’s: “when I hear such extreme statements, to me it only means that they don’t have any valid arguments.”

He also said that the U.S. takes the “most aggressive and toughest policy to defend their own interests… and they do it persistently.”

Mr. Putin concluded his statement by scoffing the United States’ disapproval of Russia’s recent “aggressive” actions, saying:  “There are basically no Russian troops abroad while U.S. troops are everywhere.  There are U.S. military bases everywhere around the world and they are always involved in the fate of other countries even though they are thousands of kilometers away from U.S. borders.”

 

 

 

 

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“What’s happening in Ukraine… is a threat for all of Europe”

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Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint outside SLovyansk, which is not far from Kramatorsk. Photo by John Moore, New York Times

The crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate on Tuesday with the death of seven Ukrainian soldiers and one pro-Russian militant.

At 13:00 local time, Ukraine forces were ambushed by roughly 30 pro-Russian gunmen near the town of Kramatorsk, a regional significant city located in northern Donetsk.

The fighting broke out when an armored personnel carrier carrying Ukrainian paratroopers was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (some reports say it was a grenade launch), killing two and injuring three.

A firefight between the Ukraine soldiers and pro-Russians followed.  The rebels attacked from bushes along a river and used automatic weapons and grenade launchers.

The firefight ended with several more deaths and injuries.

This is the largest number of deaths suffered by Ukrainian forces since Kiev began its “anti-terror” operations back in mid-April against pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.

Ukraine forces continue to surround Slovyansk, the pro-Russian activists’ strong hold.

Also on Tuesday, self-declared governor Valery Bolotov was shot in an attempted assassination, the “Luhansk People’s Republic” press office said.  He lost a significant amount of blood but will live, they added.

Meanwhile in Donetsk, while speaking at a news conference, Kiev elected governor of Donetsk, Sergei Taruta, called on the parliament to pass a legislation authorizing a vote to help regions to obtain more independent power while staying part of Ukraine.

He stated that the referendums held on Sunday in Donetsk and Luhansk by pro-Russian activist was nothing more than “an opinion poll” and that the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” did not exist legally or politically.  He also added that Donetsk can not survive economically as an independent territory.

Referendums on greater autonomy from Ukraine were held in Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday by pro-Russian activist who control a large number of cities in eastern Ukraine.

The ballot papers asked: “Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic?”

There was a whopping 70% turnout, and according to pro-Russian officials in Donetsk, 2,252,867 voted yes, while a mere 256,040 voted no.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, 89% and 90% respectively voted “yes”.

It is very possible that a larger number of citizens in eastern Ukraine do not support an independent Donetsk/Luhansk, but the results from the vote won’t show it because numerous pro-Unity residents refused to cast a ballot in the referendum.

However, the legitimacy of the results are more likely than not, inaccurate.  Reason being that none of the voting stations were independently monitored; meaning that the factual number of votes could have very well been manipulated.

Some journalist even reported seeing people vote more than once.

On Monday, after the votes were counted, pro-Russian authorities declared Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent countries.

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Donetsk is red, and Luhansk is yellow.
As you can see, both regions are right next to Russia.

Just two hours later, Donetsk People’s Republic Leader Denis Pushilin asked for Russia to annex the newly founded nation.

Later that night, he urged Moscow listen to the “will of the people” but stated that he was not asking for Russian military intervention.  He did add that “peacekeepers” may be needed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Kiev on Tuesday and urged talks between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian activists.

He fully supports the national round table that the government has planned to hold on Wednesday.  The meeting will include politicians and civic leaders from eastern Ukraine.

It seems though, that talks between government officials and rebels will not happen.

On Tuesday, in an interview with interim President Arseniy Yatsenyuk by BBC, he said: “you can’t have the dialogue with the terrorist who are holding and possessing live ammunition and machine guns.  We [the Ukrainian government] are willing to talk to the Ukrainian people, but not to terrorist.”

Mr. Pushilin has stated that there will not be dialogue between the Donetsk People’s Republic and Kiev.

“What about negotiations with Kiev?  The only question that will be discussed with them is the question of hostage exchange.  Nothing else,” he said on Monday.  “As well as this, a middleman must participate.  We see this middleman as the Russian Federation,” he added.

He also warned the Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk region, saying: “To those illegal military units in our territory, you are offered to either take the people’s side or leave our territorial region.”

In other developments

Where is Ukraine Heading?

Kiev and western nations have repeatedly claimed the referendums held by pro-Russian separatist to be illegal and illegitimate.  This, however, did not stop the activist from continuing with the voting.

The same happened back in March when Russia annexed Crimea after it held a referendum and declared itself to be an independent nation.

In the interview with Mr. Yatsenyuk by BBC, he stressed that Ukraine does not accept the referendum held in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Let me explain, there was no referendum at all,” he said.  Prime Minister Yatsenyuk went on to say that the majority of Ukrainians actually want a “unified, territorial, integral, country.”

This claim would appear to be backed by a recent survey by Pew Research Center which stated that 77% of Ukrainians wanted the country to stay united.

However, the survey was conducted after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but before the bloody violence in Odessa a couple of weeks ago that resulted in the death of 40 people.

Therefor, it is possible that the recent violence in eastern Ukraine has caused some peoples’ opinion to flip-flop.

On May 11, during the referendum in Donetsk Vice journalist Henry Langston interviewed a man named Yuri who said that he had “never seen so many people at the voting station.”

The crisis in Ukraine started back in February when former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office following violent protest in Kiev which resulted in roughly 100 deaths.

Soon afterwards, Crimea held its own referendum on separating from Ukraine, which received a distinct “yes”.  Russia then annexed Crimea.

And now Kiev fears the same will happen in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Mr. Yatsenyuk stated that “What’s happening today in Ukraine is not only a threat for Ukraine, this is a threat for the entire Europe.  Because, Russia undermined the international law, the security, and tries to build up a new Berlin Wall.

“It seems the ultimate goal of [the] Russian President [Vladimir Putin] and [the] Russian Regime is to make Ukraine a failed state,” he added.  “And I want to be very clear, Russia will fail in making Ukraine a failed state.”