Obama’s Message to Young Adults

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In what was both a humorous and serious one hour event at the White House on Tuesday, United States President Barack Obama sat down with Tumblr founder David Karp and answered and discussed questions sent in by young adults all across the U.S.

From student debt to gun violence, President Obama shared his views and opinions on some of America’s most prominent issues, and proposed ways to fix them.

During the event, Mr. Karp asked President Obama questions sent in by Tumblr users.

Tumblr, which was founded in 2007, is an insanely popular blogging website with over 190 million blogs and 83.1 billion posts.  With over 90 million posts a day, it is one of the most popular and used blogging sites in the world.

Mr. Obama answered numerous questions and gave future, financial and education advice to young adults.

He gave advice to those entering or searching for jobs to do what they enjoy most.  “You are going to do best at what you most deeply care about,” Mr. Obama said, adding that if your job is what you enjoy, the effort you put into it won’t “feel like a burden.”

President Obama also gave his insight and financial advice to those going into college, saying that an “investment in college is always going to be a smart investment”, but that it is import to research what you’re investing into, as to avoid wasting money and time on things of little to no use to you.

He also encouraged teens and young adults to find more than just one way to achieve a goal or dream–you don’t need to take the traditional road.

Mr. Obama warned teens and young adults of the dangers of not believing that they have a voice and the ability to make a change, saying that is of the utmost importance for people to realize and know that they are capable of making the world a better place.

As for the numerous problems faced at schools and universities across the U.S., President Obama stressed for the need for people to take control of the steering wheel and to choose their education and life path.

Too many young adults see college as a box to check, he said, as opposed to an opportunity to find out what matters to them.  Numerous “Young people waist a lot of time” on things that aren’t important and beneficial to them, he warned.

“Education is not a passive thing… it is an active passage” of finding what matters and is important to you, he said.

Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that schools should not just teach text book material, but also teach students traits and skills which will come in handy when they enter the real world.

He also touched on the importance of allowing transgenders the same rights as others.

The controversial subject of gun violence was also discussed by the president.  Gun violence has been rampant in the U.S. in the last two years, with numerous mass-shootings happening across the country, including on Tuesday.

“Our levels of gun violence are off the chart,” President Obama said, adding that he does respect gun violence, but believes that it is absurd that a bill can’t be passed to make those who wish to obtain a firearm first go through a background check.

He also encouraged those who want a restriction on guns to take action, saying: “If the public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.”

Mr. Obama said that the reason gun restrictions haven’t taken place on a wide scale is because those who want gun restrictions are not taking the same level of action as those who do not want gun restrictions are.

He stated that until people take action, not much is going to change.

The president warned that mass shootings have become the “norm” in the U.S., and added that he is willing to work with others to bring an end to gun violence in the United States.

In conclusion, Mr. Obama answered a question about where he saw himself in ten years, saying that while he does not know where he will be in 10 years, he does intend to make every day of the remaining two and a half years of his term “count”.  He said that it encourages him, despite all the negativity he deals with on a daily basis, that he is able to do something in office that helps others’ lives.

He said that if he comes away helping those in the middle class, it’s a good day for him.

He also added that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, are interested in working with and developing young people for a brighter and better future.

And lastly, President Obama warned young people not to become cynical; believe you can make a change; “Look out on the horizon,” and take advantage of opportunities.

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.

 

NATO To Expand Partnership in a ‘post-Crimean World’

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NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO's new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO’s new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO has promised that the transatlantic security partnership must focus not only on collective defense in its immediate region, but global partners as well, in a “post-Crimean world”.

The statement came from NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershblow on Friday at Wrocław Global Forum in Poland.

“Our Strategic Concept sets out collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security as three essential core tasks for NATO,” Mr. Vershblow said.  “Although Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the strategic environment in a fundamental way, all three core tasks remain essential, valid and vital for our security.”

Mr. Vershblow went on to accuse Russia of changing borders “through force”, continuing to subvert a sovereign state [Ukraine] through covert means and a cynical disinformation campaign,” ripping “up the international rule book”, and seeking to “recreate a sphere of influence based on a dangerous new doctrine of limited sovereignty for countries that form part of the so-called ‘Russian World’.”

Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, NATO has heavily criticized and rebuked Russia’s “aggressive” actions in Ukraine, which the Alliance believes are bent on expanding the Kremlin’s power.

Since the Ukraine-crisis began, NATO has taken steps to meet the crisis and strengthen collective defense from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Mr. Vershblow said.

Every NATO member is contributing in one way or another; either with aircraft, naval ships, ground troops and/or commanders and planners, he added.

NATO is also “considering the longer-term implications of Russia’s actions for our Alliance.”

Over the last few months, Western countries have applied sanctions against Russia–allegedly damaging its already crippled economy–in consequence for Moscow’s supposed backing of anti-Kiev separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

In light of the conflict between the EU and the US and Russia over Ukraine, NATO Defense Ministers discussed earlier this week about a “Readiness Action Plan”, which includes improving NATO’s reaction time, enhancing its intelligence and awareness capabilities, pre-positioning equipment and supplies further East, “and carrying out more high-intensity military exercises in more demanding scenarios.”

NATO is also working towards filling “capability gaps” that exist within the alliance, Mr. Vershblow said.  These gaps include drones, transport aircraft, Special Forces and deployable C2, all of which are needed to be able to “react quickly, together, and effectively to all threats, whether here in Europe or out of area.”

Ambassador Vershblow stated that developing these capabilities “puts a premium on our ‘Smart Defense’ multinational capability projects, and on further regional cooperation.”  He added that “Poland and its Višegrad partners continue to demonstrate that this is a pragmatic and cost-effective way to build greater security together, and in a way that makes both NATO and the European Union stronger.”

Mr. Vershblow challenged NATO members who do not spend the required 2% of their GDP on defense, to raise their defense spending to the expected percent.

Order Descending NATO Members’ GDP Defense Spending According to WorldBank 

  1. U.S. 4.2%
  2. Greece 2.6%
  3. U.K. 2.4%
  4. France 2.3%
  5. Turkey 2.3%
  6. Estonia 1.9%
  7. Poland 1.9%
  8. Portugal 1.8%
  9. Croatia 1.7%
  10. Italy 1.7%
  11. Albania 1.5%
  12. Bulgaria 1.5%
  13. Denmark 1.4%
  14. Norway 1.4%
  15. Canada 1.3%
  16. Germany 1.3%
  17. Netherlands 1.3%
  18. Romania 1.3%
  19. Slovenia 1.2%
  20. Belgium 1.1%
  21. Czech Republic 1.1%
  22. Slovakia 1.1%
  23. Lithuania 1.0%
  24. Latvia 0.9%
  25. Spain 0.9%
  26. Hungary 0.8%
  27. Luxembourg 0.6%
  28. Iceland 0.1%

“The crisis in Ukraine has made us go ‘back to basics’ and focus more on collective defense,” Mr. Vershblow said.  But it must not “lead to a self-centered, inward-locking Alliance,” he added.  The Alliance must focus on the “Future NATO” that is needed to meet the “evolving 21st century security needs.”

Dialogue and cooperation with partner countries is “vital” to fulfill NATO’s vision of the future, the ambassador said.  This applies to NATO members, and Ukraine and “other Eastern neighbors whose sovereignty is being challenged by Russia.”

Mr. Vershblow stated that partnership is crucial for keeping Europe free, stable, and peaceful, and NATO must keep its doors open for European partners who wish to join the Alliance.

He also added that NATO, in coordination with the EU, the UN, and regional organizations such as the African Union, must do what they can to help countries in the Middle East and North Africa develop their own defense capacity.

In conclusion to his speech, Mr. Vershblow summarized NATO’s new policies: “when it comes to shaping transatlantic security and defense in a post-Crimean world, we should avoid false choices.  NATO’s duty is to defend all 28 Allies against any possible risk or threat to their security, whenever and wherever it may occur.  This means we not only need the right capabilities, but also the right connections, so that we can deter aggression at home and project stability abroad.”

A Plan to Bring Peace to Ukraine

While responding to journalists on Friday at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Northern France, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had mentioned to him a “plan” to bring an immediate cease-fire between Ukraine military forces and separatists in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s military operations against separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and demanded an immediate end to them.

Fighting between the Ukrainian military forces and separatists in the last few months has left over 100 dead–soldiers, militants and civilians.  Kiev authorities have accused the Kremlin of backing and supporting the armed separatists–who are deemed as terrorists by the authorities–and demanded that Russia use its power to convince the gunmen to lay down their arms.

In April, at Geneva, Moscow had agreed to use its influence to bring an end to the fighting, but their promises never came about.

Fighting has drastically intensified since and threatens to divide the country in two if it does not end soon.  Many citizens of Ukraine believe the country is already in a civil-war.

The situation took a turn for the worse on May 11 when separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence after holding referendums on self-rule.  The Ukrainian government has refused to recognize the referendums as legitimate–including the one in Crimea–and has been conducting what they call “anti-terrorists” military operations against the separatists.

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers at BCP at Marynivka.  Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.  Location, BCP at Marynivka. Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

And amid all of this, the West and Russia have continuously accused each other of fueling the fire and doing nothing to extinguish the growing flame.

President Putin said that he does not know if Mr. Poroshenko’s plan will be implemented and carried out, but he “thought the general attitude seems right; I like it.”

He added that if the plan does go-through, Russia will work towards developing relations on other areas, “including economic relations.”

Moscow has stated that they will “respect” the will of the Ukrainian people, and work with authorities to bring stabilization and peace to the agonized 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 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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Russian President Says Ukrainian Presidential Election not legally possible

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Russian President Vladimir Putin  said on Wednesday that the Ukraine presidential election on May 25 is not technically, legally possible.

He added though, “that any political process is… better than armed confrontation”, referring to the “anti-terror” operations against pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine.

President Putin stated that the Ukrainian constitution does not allow for the upcoming presidential election.

“In this context, in my view, given that the Ukrainian constitution still legally in force at this moment does not make it possible to hold an election when the country has a president, President Yanukovych, still legally in office–and I stress that in legal terms he is still the president in office–“.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office back in February following months of protest in the country’s capital, Kiev, that resulted in over 100 deaths.

An interim government then took over, but Russia has refused to recognize it as legitimate.

Mr. Putin said that given the current situation in Ukraine, “it would seem easier… to first hold a referendum on all the basic issues, hold a referendum on the constitution and adopt it, and then on the basis of the new constitution elect a president and a parliament and form a government.”

The president believes that his idea “would be a lot more logical and would bring greater stability” in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian government has already decided, with the support of the EU and US, to hold its presidential elections.

However, he said that “what is important is not the election itself, but to organize relations with all of Ukraine’s regions so that people, whether in the west, south, east, or north of the country all feel that they are full-fledged citizens, and so that ethnic minorities have full rights as citizens, including the right to use their native language.”

The interim Ukrainian government had previously banned the use of Russian language.  Moscow then stepped in and stated its right to intervene in Ukraine to protect the rights of the Russian speaking population there, which led to the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

Either way, “the political processes underway, including on legitimizing the current authorities, are a positive steps”, but “it will be very difficult for us [the Russian Federation] to build relations with those came to power with punitive operations still underway in southeast Ukraine, and who obstruct the media’s work,” Mr. Putin said.

His remarks are in reference to the recent “anti-terror” military operations issued by Kiev against gunmen in eastern Ukraine, as well as the detainment of two Russian journalist, who allegedly were transporting weapons, and a British reporter, who was freelancing for Russia Today, by Ukrainian military forces.

President Putin stated that the Kiev government is “not just obstructing the press but they are behaving more and more aggressively.”  And that “What is happening now with journalists in unacceptable.”

He hopes that “the Ukrainian authorities will take the necessary steps to at least humanize the political process unfolding in Ukraine now.”

Mr. Putin also stressed Russia’s goal towards helping to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine, saying: “Our position at the moment is to establish direct contacts with the current authorities in Kiev and in southeast Ukraine.”  He added, “we have done everything we can to establish these direct contacts.”

Russian Troops along its shared border with Ukraine

Earlier this week, President Putin ordered the withdraw of Russian forces from its border with Ukraine.

Moscow has twice before called for the withdraw of its forces from the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Mr. Putin told reporters: “Our forces were not on the border anyway.  They were indeed quite close to the border, as you probably heard.  Some time ago, I gave the Defense Ministry the order to withdraw them to the training sites, the test grounds.  These sites are also in neighboring regions, in Rostov Region, quite near the border.  But now the Defense Ministry has received a new order to withdraw them from these test grounds too.”

He stressed that Russia is “not doing this because we do not dare to keep our forces in those regions” but “as an additional step” to help make the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election “a more favorable environment”.

Putin countered a statement by NATO that it had seen no withdraw of Russian forces along the Ukrainian-Russian border, saying: “If someone cannot see what is happening there, perhaps they should take a closer look.  The fact of the matter is that there is quite a large number of forces there [along the border], quite a lot of hardware.  Just withdrawing all of them requires some serious preparation in itself, including organizing their transportation.  But I think that with good weather, they soon will be able to see all of this from space.”

Preventing a Repeat of the Odessa Violence

In response to the final question by reporters, the Russian President stated his belief “that the nightmare and horror that we saw on our TV screens, the events we know well that took place in Odessa, have not yet received adequate assessment from the international community.”

Over 40 were killed when violent clashes broke out between pro-Unity and pro-Russian activists in the seaside port city of Odessa a few weeks ago.

Majority of those who were killed died when pro-Unity activist lit on fire the Trade Union building that pro-Russians were taking cover inside of.

President Putin warned the international community that “if we do not make an adequate assessment of events, it is possible that similar crimes could happen again.

“I want to draw this to the attention of the media, the Russian public, and our human rights organisations too.  There should without question be a thorough investigations and the criminals should be caught and punished.

“We should all work towards this results, because if this not done, as I said, we could see a repeat of the horror and nightmare we saw in Odessa, and this would create fertile soil for terrorism to emerge.”

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

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Image

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.

Image

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.”