Tag Archives: EU

Putin Warns on Ukraine Pursuing Closer Ties With West #Minsk

By ANDREY OSTROUKH in Minsk, Belarus & ALAN CULLISON in MoscowRussian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met Tuesday for the first time in two months at talks in Minsk, Belarus. Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesRussian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met Tuesday for the first time in two months at talks in Minsk, Belarus. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on trade at the start of talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Tuesday, sidestepping mounting concern over the pro-Russia insurrection in eastern Ukraine that has claimed an estimated 2,000 lives this year.

At their first meeting in two months, Mr. Putin threatened to scrap trade preferences with Ukraine if President Petro Poroshenko follows through on plans for closer relations with the European Union.

The two were joined in the Belarusian capital of Minsk by officials from the EU, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They stressed the need to end the bloodshed in Ukraine, which has flared into the biggest East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.

“Today in Minsk, without any question, the fate of the world and the fate of Europe are being decided,” Mr. Poroshenko said.

Mr. Putin, however, stressed trade issues, highlighting the dangers he said Russia faces if Ukraine pursues closer ties to the West. Since the onset of the crisis, Mr. Putin has accused the West of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, and trying to spoil its relations with Moscow by luring it into an association agreement.

Mr. Putin said that a trade agreement between Kiev and Europe will flood the Ukrainian market with European goods, which may then find their way into Russia.

“In this situation Russia can not stand idle. And we will be prompted, I want to highlight this, will be prompted to take retaliatory measures, to protect our market,” Mr. Putin said.

Ukraine’s latest political crisis began after Ukraine’s last president, Viktor Yanukovych, abruptly moved late last year to sign a trade agreement with Russia instead of the EU. Mr. Yanukovych was toppled in February after months of street protests. Mr. Poroshenko, elected in May, has since revived the agreement with Europe.

At the same time, Ukraine is battling an insurgency in the east that began in April. Kiev accuses Russia of funneling men and arms across the border to support the separatists, a charge Russia denies.

Just ahead of the talks in Minsk, Ukraine released videotaped interrogations of Russian soldiers it said had been captured in Ukraine. Kiev said they were part of a column of Russian infantry vehicles that its forces had attacked on Monday.

Russian Army in Ukraine: Video evidence released of Russian soldiers captured in east Ukraine. © http://www.youtube.com/channel/UkraineToday.

Moscow confirmed to Russian news agencies that the soldiers were Russian. “These servicemen did indeed participate in patrolling a section of Russian-Ukrainian border, and crossed it probably by accident at an unequipped and unmarked section,” the Defense Ministry told the Interfax news agency. “They showed no resistance to Ukraine’s armed forces when they were detained.”

Russia on Monday said that it wants to send another convoy of humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine. The last convoy, which was delivered to rebels without Ukrainian approval last week, was condemned by the U.S. and the EU.

From left, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesFrom left, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

In the videotapes, the soldiers said they were part of a paratroop unit based in Kostroma, 340 kilometers (210 miles) northeast of Moscow. They said they had been ordered to the Ukrainian border for military exercises, and had been given uniforms stripped of any indications that they were Russian military units.

One of the soldiers said they knew they were heading into Ukraine, but another said they thought they were on an exercise inside the Russian border. “They started shooting at us, and my vehicle blew up,” said one. “Then I knew this wasn’t an exercise; it wasn’t just a march.”

The Wall Street Journal.

#EU and #NATO leaders condemn #Russia’s aid convoy entering #Ukraine

by Ian Bateson.
A local resident holds a Russian national flag as lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy cross the Ukrainian border at the Izvarino custom control checkpoint, on Aug. 22, 2014. © AFPA local resident holds a Russian national flag as lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy cross the Ukrainian border at the Izvarino custom control checkpoint, on Aug. 22, 2014. © AFP

Hours after a convoy of Russian military trucks crossed the border without approval from Ukrainian authorities, the move was slammed by key international organizations.

Leaders have criticized the breach in international law and called for Russia to halt the movement of the convoy, which is allegedly carrying humanitarian aid.

“This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “Instead of de-escalating the situation, Russia continues to escalate it.”

Rasmussen’s statement, however, fell short of calling the sending of the convoy into Ukraine an act of aggression, which would imply a military response.

The European Union has also begun to criticize the move while praising Ukraine for showing restraint in its own response.

“The EU deplores Russia’s decision to enter humanitarian consignment into Ukrainian territory without an ICRC escort or consent of the Ukrainian government,” said European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton via her spokesperson on Twitter.

Neither announcement contained a call for further action against Russia or aid for Ukraine.

By mid-afternoon Andrew Roth of the New York Times, reporting from the border crossing in Izvaryne, said via Twitter that all of the convoy trucks had crossed over from Russia into Ukraine.

Photos and video circulating on social media later showed the convoy splitting up and arriving in the separatist held cities of Krasnodon and Luhansk.

Follow Ian Bateson on Twitter @ianbateson

Kyiv Post.

On August 26, meeting in the format #Ukraine – #EU – “#Eurasian trio” to be held

Ukraine – EU – Eurasian trioOn August 18-19, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko had phone consultations with President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.

Petro Poroshenko informed José Manuel Barroso on the development of the situation in the Donbas and continuing provocations of the Russian Federation aimed at escalation of the security situation in the region. He informed that terrorists had shelled the convoy of civilians leaving Luhansk under white flags.

The President of the European Commission condemned that terrible crime and called for immediate objective investigation into the tragedy. He emphasized the necessity of ensuring the protection of civilians. The Ukrainian President assured of the beginning of the investigation and bringing the perpetrators to liability.

The President of the European Commission supported the initiative of the Ukrainian President on inviting the EU to take part in the high level meeting. On August 26, in Minsk, meeting in the format Ukraine – EU – “Eurasian trio” (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia) will take place. The participants will discuss the issues related to the implementation of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, energy security and stabilization of the situation in the Donbas. Petro Poroshenko expressed gratitude to Jose Manuel Barroso for the readiness to send three members of the European Commission simultaneously (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the European Commission – European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht). Such an unprecedented step proves solidarity and support of the European Union to Ukraine, the President noted.

The parties also discussed the issue of providing the third wave of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine by the EU.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko accepted the invitation of President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso to make a working visit to Brussels on August 30.

Official web-site of President of Ukraine.

#Russia May Ban Car Imports If West Imposes New #Sanctions, Sources Say

By Reuters.Ilya Naymushin / ReutersRussian mechanics work on an Arctic Trucks all-terrain vehicle, based on the Lexus LX570 car, at an assembly shop of the Arctic Trucks Russia plant in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

Russia may tighten retaliatory sanctions against Western nations to include a ban on imports of cars, among other things, if the U.S. and the EU impose additional sanctions on Moscow, business daily Vedomosti said Monday.

Following Russia’s standoff over Ukraine, Western nations imposed sanctions on Moscow including on its financial and energy sectors, and put dozens of Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on a sanctions list.

Imported vehicles accounted for 27 percent of sales of passenger cars in the first half of 2014, for trucks imports accounted for 46 percent, and 13 percent for buses, according to Vedomosti.

Russia, which denies allegations it is arming separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, may fully or partly ban imports of cars, Vedomosti reported, citing sources.

The new ban would not apply to foreign automakers’ production inside Russia, the paper said. Ford, Volkswagen, Ford Renault, Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co all have production facilities inside Russia.

The paper added that proposals for new measures had already been sent to Putin for consideration but that no decision had been taken to prepare any new sanctions yet.

New trade restrictions are possible in the event Western nations impose additional sanctions on Moscow, the paper added.

Russia has imposed a ban on certain agricultural imports from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

It has also said the government could introduce protective measures in aircraft, shipbuilding and automotive industries

The Moscow Times.

Editors Note: Is it just me or do you also think that Putin is digging his own grave? Russia’s sanctions on the west may cause a little sting to the wests economies but it is the russian people who will suffer the most, empty supermarket shelves, food shortages and now automobiles. The west on the otherhand are targeting Putin’s cronies where it hurts them most, in their wallets.

Obama Transcript: New US, EU sanctions ‘going to have a greater impact on the Russian economy than we’ve seen so far’

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM © AFPUS President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM © AFP

Editor’s Note: The following is the transcript of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks on Ukraine on July 29.

U.S. President Barack Obama announces new sanctions against Russia on July 29.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.

In the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and countries around the world, families are still in shock over the sudden and tragic loss of nearly 300 loved ones senselessly killed when their civilian airliner was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  These grieving families and their nations are our friends and our allies.  And amid our prayers and our outrage, the United States continues to do everything in our power to help bring home their loved ones, support the international investigation, and make sure justice is done.

Since the shoot-down, however, Russia and its proxies in Ukraine have failed to cooperate with the investigation and to take the opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.  These Russian-backed separatists have continued to interfere in the crash investigation and to tamper with the evidence.  They have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region.  And because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to support the separatists and encourage them, and train them, and arm them.  Satellite images, along with information we’ve declassified in recent days, show that forces inside Russia have launched artillery strikes into Ukraine — another major violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.  And we have information that Russia continues to build up its own forces near the Ukrainian border and that more Russian military equipment, including artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense equipment, has been transferred across the border to these separatists.

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has worked to build a strong international coalition to support Ukraine, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its right to determine its own destiny, and to increase the pressure on Russia for actions that have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ability to make its own decisions.  The core of that coalition is the United States and our European allies.

In recent days, I’ve continued to coordinate closely with our allies and our partners to ensure a unified response to the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s continued arming of the separatists.  And I’ve spoken several times with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Abbott of Australia.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy. We are united in our view that the situation in Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically and that a sovereign, independent Ukraine is no threat to Russian interests.  But we’ve also made it clear, as I have many times, that if Russia continues on its current path, the cost on Russia will continue to grow.  And today is a reminder that the United States means what it says.  And we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world.

Today, and building on the measures we announced two weeks ago, the United States is imposing new sanctions in key sectors of the Russian economy:  energy, arms, and finance.  We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector.  We’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies.  And we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia.

At the same time, the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia — its most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date. In the financial sector, the EU is cutting off certain financing to state-owned banks in Russia. In the energy sector, the EU will stop exporting specific goods and technologies to Russia, which will make it more difficult for Russia to develop its oil resources over the long term. In the defense sector, the EU is prohibiting new arms imports and exports and is halting the export of sensitive technology to Russia’s military users.

And because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we’re announcing today will have an even bigger bite.

Now, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that we’ve already imposed have made a weak Russian economy even weaker. Foreign investors already are increasingly staying away. Even before our actions today, nearly $100 billion in capital was expected to flee Russia. Russia’s energy, financial, and defense sectors are feeling the pain. Projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero. The major sanctions we’re announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies that are supporting Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.

In other words, today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress. And it doesn’t have to come to this — it didn’t have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made. There continues to be a better choice — the choice of de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation, a choice in which Russia recognizes that it can be a good neighbor and trading partner with Ukraine even as Ukraine is also developing ties with Europe and other parts of the world.

I’m going to continue to engage President Putin as well as President Poroshenko and our European partners in pursuit of such a diplomatic solution. But it is important for Russia to understand that, meanwhile, we will continue to support the people of Ukraine, who have elected a new President, who have deepened their ties with Europe and the United States, and that the path for a peaceful resolution to this crisis involves recognizing the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and the independence of the Ukrainian people.

Today, the people of Ukraine I hope are seeing once again that the United States keeps its word. We’re going to continue to lead the international community in our support for the Ukrainian people, and for the peace, the security, and the freedom that they very richly deserve.

Thanks very much.

Q Is this a new Cold War, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s not a new Cold War. What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.

And I think that if you listen to President Poroshenko, if you listen to the Ukrainian people, they’ve consistently said they seek good relations with Russia. What they can’t accept is Russia arming separatists who are carrying out terribly destructive activities inside of Ukraine, thereby undermining the ability of Ukraine to govern itself peacefully. That’s something that no country should have to accept.

And the sooner the Russians recognize that the best chance for them to have influence inside of Ukraine is by being good neighbors and maintaining trade and commerce, rather than trying to dictate what the Ukrainian people can aspire to, rendering Ukraine a vassal state to Russia — the sooner that President Putin and Russia recognizes that, the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that doesn’t result in the tragic loss of life that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine.

Q. So far sanctions haven’t stopped Vladimir Putin. Are sanctions going to be enough? And are you considering lethal aid for Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind, the issue at this point is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight separatists. They are better armed than the separatists. The issue is how do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. We’re trying to avoid that. And the main tool that we have to influence Russian behavior at this point is the impact that it’s having on its economy.

The fact that we’ve seen Europeans who have real, legitimate economic concerns in severing certain ties with Russia stepping up the way they have today I think is an indication of both the waning patience that Europe has with nice words from President Putin that are not matched by actions, but also a recognition as a consequence of what happened with the Malaysian Airlines flight that it is hard to avoid the spillover of what’s happening in Ukraine impacting Europeans across the board.

And so we think that the combination of stronger U.S. and European sanctions is going to have a greater impact on the Russian economy than we’ve seen so far. Obviously, we can’t in the end make President Putin see more clearly. Ultimately that’s something that President Putin has to do by — on his own. But what we can do is make sure that we’ve increased the costs for actions that I think are not only destructive to Ukraine but ultimately are going to be destructive to Russia, as well.

All right. Guys, I’ve got to get going.

3:49 P.M. EDT