Russia President, Putin Renounces Right To Send Troops To Ukraine

Russian President Putin attends a state awards ceremony in the KremlinRussia President, Vladimir Putin, have  asked the Upper House, on Tuesday, to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

This step by Putin would certainly be welcomed by the West as a sign that Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

“The president has filed a proposal to the Federation Council on cancelling…the resolution on the use of Russia’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Federation Council Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, said that the chamber would discuss Putin’s request on Wednesday.

Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia now expected Kiev to respond with measures of its own, without specifying what these should be.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine described it as “first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for easternUkraine.

In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in the country normalises”.

That resolution, with the eventual annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.

European Union foreign ministers, on Monday, had held out the prospect of further sanctions if Russia did not do more to support a peace process in eastern Ukraine, and had also asked it to revoke the March 1 resolution.

Like many of eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers, Moscow was infuriated by the toppling in January of President Viktor Yanukovich, after he pulled out of an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

 

Ukraine Crisis: Russia ‘Open To Dialogue’ With New Leader

Petro-PoroshenkoAs initial results tipped Petro Poroshenko to win Ukraine’s election, Russia said that it was “open to dialogue” with the new president of the crisis-torn country.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that military action must end against separatists in the east.

Mr Poroshenko said that he would meet Russian leaders soon but vowed to take a tough line on any armed separatists.

Unrest continues in the east, with pro-Russia militiamen halting flights at Donetsk airport.

Meanwhile election observers said Sunday’s vote was a genuine one that largely met international standards.

The mission from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) also said it gave the new President “legitimacy” to open a dialogue with separatists in the East.

Petro Poroshenko is a confectionery tycoon who backed the pro-European street protests that ousted Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich from Presidency.

He was the only Ukrainian strongman to swiftly throw his weight behind the popular uprising that started late 2013, devoting his ‘5th Channel’ TV station to the coverage of the protests.

A seasoned politician who served as Foreign Minister and Economy Minister in previous administrations, Poroshenko’s chain of confectionery shops has put the billionaire on Ukraine’s top 10 rich list, earning him the nick-name “Chocolate King”.

Poroshenko, whose chocolate manufacturer, Roshen is one of the world’s top 20 confectionery firms, backs Ukraine’s integration with the west and his firm has been targeted in Russia.

Obama Imposes Sanctions On 11 Russians And Ukrainians Over Crimea Move

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the crisis in Ukraine from the White House in Washington March 17, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the crisis in Ukraine from the White House in Washington March 17, 2014.

U.S. President, Barack Obama on Monday (March 17) imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for Russia’s military incursion into Crimea, including two top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sanctions were the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s attempt to absorb the Crimea region of southern Ukraine, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

The U.S. sanctions came in an executive order signed by Obama a day after Sunday’s (March 16) Crimea referendum aimed at allowing Russia to annex the region, a vote that the United States says was illegal and would never be recognized by Washington.

Obama’s order freezes any assets in the United States and bans travel into the country of seven high ranking Russian government officials and four individuals identified as Crimea-based separatist leaders.

Ousted Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich was among those sanctioned along with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and Crimean Parliament Speaker, Vladimir Konstantinov.

The United States also reached deep into Putin’s inner circle by naming presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and adviser Sergei Glazyev.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Rogozin, and two state Duma deputies, Leonid Slutsky and Yelena Mizulina also were targeted.

Rogozin, shrugged off the sanctions in a tweet.

“Comrade Obama, what should those who don’t have any assets or property abroad do? Or you didn’t think about that?” Rogozin tweeted.

Two members of Russia’s Federation Council that approved deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine were named, including speaker, Valentina Matviyenko and Senator Andrei Klishas.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the penalties said they were the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War.

A senior official said Obama’s order clears the way for sanctions on people associated with the Russian arms industry and targets “the personal wealth of cronies” of the Russian leadership.

Putin himself was not sanctioned. A senior Obama administration official said it would have been a highly unusual step and extraordinary to target a Head of State.

Officials warned more sanctions would follow if Russia proceeds with the formal annexation of Crimea, which officials said they believe Putin may announce in a speech on Tuesday (March 18).

President Putin Backs Military Force In Ukraine

Members of Vienna's Ukrainian community protest against Russian troops in Ukraine outside the U.S. embassy in ViennaPresident Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, said that Russia would only use military force in Ukraine as a last resort.

This is in line to ease the East-West tension over fears of war in the former Soviet Republic.

Russia, however, reserved the right to use all options in Ukraine to protect its compatriots there who were living in “terror”, Putin said. His comments lifted Russian bond markets after a panic sell-off on Monday.

While Putin said sanctions being considered against Russia would be counter-productive, a senior U.S. official said that Washington was ready to impose them in days rather than weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry arrived in Kiev and announced an economic package and technical assistance for Ukraine in a show of support for its new government.

Putin said that there had been an unconstitutional coup in Ukraine and ousted leader, Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of Russia, was still the legitimate leader of the country, despite giving up all power.

February’s ousting of Yanukovich after months of street protests in Kiev, and Russia’s bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region prompted a confrontation between Moscow and the West, widely seen as the most serious since the end of the Cold War.

The West has been alarmed at the possibility that Russia might also move into eastern and southern Ukraine, home to many Russian speakers.

More Of Lavish Yanukovich Properties Revealed In Ukraine

Local Ukrainian media reported on several more properties owned by ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, on Monday (February 24) including a massive country residence under construction in Sevastopol, in the Crimean penninsula.

There is frenzy and fascination in the Ukrainian media about where all the country’s money has gone as the economy is in dire straits. Reporters have flocked to Yanukovich’s properties looking for any information they can on what the ousted president – now wanted for mass murder – wasted state money on.

Overlooking the Black Sea the huge residence has also angered locals because they say the construction company destroyed valuable and endangered trees.

“I am in complete shock about the trees. They are on the endangered species list and it takes many lifetimes to grow them and sometimes they can be completely eradicated,” said a local man, Dmytro Vorobyov.

“This shows a total disregard for nature, law and human beings; to build a five-storey house that is three times bigger than the local youth hall,” said a local woman, Olena Prokhina.

This comes just two days after the private residence of disgraced president, whose whereabouts are still unknown, was opened to visitors near Kiev.

The sprawling forested estate of graceful waterways and summer houses on land half the size of Monaco stands as a symbol of the folly of Ukraine’s fugitive president.

And yet it appeared it was not enough for him as it appeared he also planned to enjoy a giant holiday home in the beautiful and wooded Sevastopol hills.

His hunting lodge was also on display in Sukholesye.

Ukrainians are rapidly finding out about Yanukovich’s outstanding wealth and want to know how he financed these properties.

Anger has welled up as Ukrainians whose average salary is 500 U.S. dollars a month find out their taxes appear to have been squandered on Yanukovich’s entertainment.

This as the EU is discussing emergency financial aid for Ukraine to raise short-term funding as the country needs 35 billion U.S. dollars to survive 2014 and 2015.

Protests Continue In Ukraine, As President Returns To Work

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich returned to his desk on Monday after four days of sick leave, while the political opposition pressed for further concessions to end more than two months of street protests.

“He is back at work,” a presidential spokesman said.

Protesters have occupied city streets and public buildings President anukovich’s decision in November to spurn a trade deal with the EU and accept financial aid from Moscow.

He is caught in a tug of war between Russia and the West, as he seeks a way out of a sometimes violent confrontation with protesters.

His first urgent task, after returning from an absence that some saw as a tactic to gain time, is to name a new prime minister to succeed Mykola Azarov, who stepped down on January 28 under pressure from the protest movement.

The speaker of parliament, an ally of Yanukovich, told lawmakers on Monday ahead of a new session of the legislature starting on Tuesday that the president was still planning to discuss the choice of premier with opposition leaders.

“He is preparing these proposals this week,” Volodymyr Rybak said, explaining that so far, no nomination papers have been sent to parliament.

In other concessions, Yanukovich last week approved the repeal of recent anti-protest laws and offered a conditional amnesty to activists who have been detained in the unrest.

But opposition leaders, who have received huge backing and promises of financial support from the United States and EU governments, were pressing on Monday for further concessions.

The opposition wants a broader amnesty to free all those detained and a return to an earlier constitution, which would curb Yanukovich’s presidential powers and give greater control to parliament over the formation of governments.

Ukraine Protests: President Yanukovych Pledges Government Reshuffle

Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, amid violent protests against his rule, has pledged on Friday to reshuffle the government next week and to amend sweeping anti-protest laws.

Protesters in Ukraine have been skeptical that talks between an opposition leader and President Viktor Yanukovych can make progress.

The demonstrators yelled and whistled down one of the opposition leaders, Oleg Tyag-ny-bok, as he tried to communicate that the talks would reduce bloodshed. Others went ahead to set fire to tyres near opposition barricades.

Another opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, said that the President had made no concessions in the talks, and contrary to the message which Oleg passed, the boxer-turned-politician said that he feared further bloodshed.

Mr Klitschko believes that the atmosphere is still tense and that the outcome of the talks was rather disappointing for the protesters.

In what appeared to be an offer of concessions to the opposition, Yanukovich made his offer in comments to church leaders as the protesters erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building in Kiev ahead of what is expected to be another hot weekend of anti-government rallies.

Hundreds of protesters and scores of police officers have been injured in clashes around independence square during the week.

Officials confirmed two bodies were found with bullet wounds close to the scene of clashes on Wednesday.

The president’s Party of the Regions confirmed reports that two months of protests had spread to other parts of Ukraine, particularly to pro-European Union western regions, where it said “extremists” had seized administrative buildings.