Tag Archives: EU

#Russia wins concessions by getting #Ukraine, #EU to delay start of free-trade pact until 2016

by Katya Gorchinskaya.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso speaks to the press following talks with the Ukrainian president in Kyiv on Sept. 12.European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso speaks to the press following talks with the Ukrainian president in Kyiv on Sept. 12. © AFP

In a concession to Russia, Ukraine and the European Union agreed delay implementation of a major trade agreement until the start of 2016, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. They also appeared to be preparing to make more concessions after the ratification of the agreement, scheduled for next week.

EU Trade Commissioner Karl de Gucht said in Brussels that Ukraine, Russia and EU also agreed on extending unilateral trade preferences for Ukraine until the end of 2015 as well. They allowed Ukraine to boost exports to EU by 14 percent in the first half of this year, Barroso said.

De Gucht said these measures “give breathing space to discuss whatever problem may arise and then it will be up to the three parties concerned to see what they do after Jan. 1, 2016. I hope by then we come to a solution,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

The EU member states are yet to agree to the delayed start, which Barroso called “a compromise” among Ukraine, Russia and EU during trilateral consultations.

The three sides also agreed to continue discussing Russia’s complaints about the effects of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement on its markets on Nov. 17, President Petro Poroshenko said in Kyiv. He said the issues will be raised at the Association Council, the only body that can amend the text of the agreement after it is ratified and comes into effect. It was originally designed to fine-tune such agreements.

Both the Ukrainian and the European Parliament are preparing to ratify the Association Agreement, an overarching political agreement, on Sept. 16 in a synchronized session, which will be broadcast via video links, President Poroshenko announced at Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv.

“I am sure that will be one of the most important historic moments,” Poroshenko said.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia's war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

The delays are part of Russia’s campaign to thwart Ukraine’s democratic progress and aspirations for closer EU integration, a drive that began after the EuroMaidan Revolution forced President Viktor Yanukovych out of power on Feb. 22. The most extreme aspects, of course, are Russia’s military invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the Kremlin’s backing of a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. But Russia has also used trade as a weapon and cut off supplies of Russian natural gas to Ukraine while imposing import bans on many Ukrainian products.

The EU-Ukraine trade agreement was signed in June, and the technical preparation for its ratification by the European parliament is being done in record terms – 10 days instead of the usual three months. Its provisional application was supposed to start on Nov. 1, but after the new deal only the political part of the deal will start to work on that date.

A part of the reason for the rush with ratification was to cut time for Russia to bully Ukraine into backing out of the agreement, or amending the text to incorporate Kremlin’s suggestions.

Russia has been trying to derail the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union for years, using increasingly more aggressive tactics, from trade wars to real war in Donbass. It has also threatened to impose additional tariffs and other barriers on Ukraine, allegedly to protect its markets from illegal European goods. Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Sept. 12 Russia was preparing a response in case the trade deal comes into effect.

In the meantime, Russia also rolled out close to 2,400 objections and suggested amendments to the Association Agreement, which was initialed and sealed by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Poroshenko said that there will be no changes to the text of the Association Agreement before ratification. However, this might change soon after ratification once the Association Council starts its work.

Although Ukraine’s foreign ministry said that the decision to postpone application of DCFTA was a “gesture of solidarity with Ukraine,” many in Ukraine and abroad saw it as another diplomatic victory by Russia, and feared that more is yet to come at the Nov. 17 Association Council, the body that typically starts to tweak association agreements to fix parts that prove dysfunctional after a year or more in operation. In Ukraine’s case, the first meeting is set just 17 days after the Association Agreement comes into effect.

“We tried to do our best to prevent this scenario, but couldn’t, ” one EU country diplomat said in Kyiv.

(Kyiv Post deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at katya.gorchinskaya@gmail.com).

Kyiv Post.

#EU holds back on new #Russia #sanctions to assess #ceasefire

A local resident carries a toy bear as a Ukrainian serviceman patrol on Sept. 8, 2014 near a residential building damaged during recent shelling in the Avdeevka, 5 kilometres north of Donetsk © AFP.A local resident carries a toy bear as a Ukrainian serviceman patrol on Sept. 8, 2014 near a residential building damaged during recent shelling in the Avdeevka, 5 kilometres north of Donetsk © AFP.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union formally adopted a package of new sanctions against Russia on Monday, but said their entry into force would be delayed to leave time to assess whether a ceasefire in Ukraine is holding.

“The entry into force (of the new sanctions) through the publication in the Official Journal will take place in the next few days. This will leave time for an assessment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace plan,” EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement.

“Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part,” he said.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Andrew Roche).

Yahoo Finance.

Inquisitive Pskov Lawmaker Beaten Unconscious #Russia #Pskov

 Alexey Eremenko.Lev ShlosbergLev Shlosberg.

A Pskov region lawmaker was found stumbling through the streets covered in blood on Friday, after having called attention to reports that local paratroopers may have been deployed to war-torn Ukraine.

Lev Shlosberg sustained temporary amnesia, head injuries, a broken nose and numerous bruises, Igor Yakovlev, an associate in the social-democratic party Yabloko, said on his Facebook page Saturday.

The lawmaker eventually recovered enough to claim he had been attacked from behind by three thugs who beat him unconscious, Yabloko head Sergei Mitrokhin said.

“The rascals tracked Shlosberg to his house, assaulted him without a word … beat him up for several minutes and only fled when witnesses appeared,” Mitrokhin said on Yabloko’s website.

Local police launched a case based on charges of “hooliganism resulting in minor bodily harm,” which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Mitrokhin’s call to append the case to include the more serious charge of “attack on a state or public figure,” which carries up to a life sentence, had gone unheeded as of Sunday.

Pskov authorities assigned hospital guards to Shlosberg, who is well known in Russia for his crisp and balanced criticism of Kremlin policies.

Shlosberg, 51, spearheaded an investigation into the troops from the elite Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division who were buried in the region earlier this month under mysterious circumstances amid persistent rumors that they died in Ukrainian infighting.

The lawmaker, who directly linked the attack to the investigation in a brief interview with Flashnord.ru on Saturday, is not the first person who was allegedly attacked after looking into the paratroopers’ fate.

Reporters with independent media outlets Dozhd and Fontanka claim to have been assaulted by unidentified thugs in the Pskov cemetery last week while looking for the paratroopers’ graves. They drove away, allegedly before any serious harm could be inflicted.

Official Kiev, NATO, the EU and the U.S. all claimed last week, with varying degrees of certainty, that Russia had sent its troops to aid the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The insurgents have launched a surprising counteroffensive in recent days after appearing to have teetered on the brink of defeat for weeks.

Ukrainian officials blamed the separatists’ victories on an influx of heavy military equipment from Russia, complete with troops to operate them.

A senior NATO official estimated on Thursday that Russia had deployed about 1,000 soldiers. Russian NGO Soldiers’ Mothers Committee estimated that there had been about 400 Russian military casualties in Ukraine, and Shlosberg claimed on Ekho Moskvy radio hours before the attack on him that the 76th Airborne alone had lost at least 100 troops in Ukraine so far.

President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia had provided any military help to the rebels, and so did the Defense Ministry, which said the allegations “aren’t even funny anymore.”

Putin, however, called in an interview aired by Channel One television on Sunday to end hostilities and begin talks on “eastern Ukraine’s statehood.”

The call echoes the pro-separatist sentiment promoted by Channel One and other pro-Kremlin state media since the civil war’s outbreak last spring. Official Kiev has so far been refusing to discuss the “statehood” of the breakaway eastern provinces.

via Inquisitive Pskov Lawmaker Beaten Unconscious | News | The Moscow Times.

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.