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    Ukraine Tag

    The crisis in Ukraine again further escalated this weekend after a group of armed men seized the police station and a security services headquarters in an eastern Ukrainian city. From Reuters:
    Armed men seized official buildings in a city in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and hoisted the Russian flag, deepening a stand-off with Moscow which, Kiev warned, was dragging Europe into a "gas war" that could disrupt supplies across the continent. At least 20 men armed with pistols and rifles took over the police station and a security services headquarters in Slaviansk, about 150 km (90 miles) from the border with Russia. Officials said the men had seized hundreds of pistols from arsenals in the buildings. The militants replaced the Ukrainian flag on one of the buildings with the red, white and blue Russian flag. On a road leading into Slaviansk, other members of the group, armed with automatic rifles, set up a roadblock and checked vehicles entering the city, a Reuters reporter said.
    Ukraine is in the process of recapturing the buildings as of this writing, according to reports. The Associated Press offered some additional details about the individuals involved in the incident.

    Ukraine warned on Wednesday that pro-Russia protesters have two days to vacate buildings they’ve occupied or they will face forced eviction. From The Independent:
    Ukraine’s Interior Minister has warned separatists occupying state buildings in its eastern regions to leave within two days or face forced eviction, risking the anger of Moscow which has warned against any violence towards pro-Russian protesters. Security forces have so far refrained from using force in the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, wary of warnings from Russia that military action remains on the table if ethnic Russians come under attack. But the Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, was clear that the occupations which began on Sunday would not be tolerated for much longer. “I want to repeat that there are two options: political settlement through negotiations and the use of force,” Mr Avakov told reporters. “We are ready for both options.”
    The NY Times also reports that protesters were being pressured to stand down by other local political influences as well.

    As Ukrainian authorities cracked down on pro-Russia protesters Tuesday after recent unrest that escalated over the weekend, Russia issued a warning against the use of force and also alleged that a private U.S. military contractor is assisting Ukraine. From the LA Times:
    Ukrainian riot police on Tuesday cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters, detaining scores in the process, officials said. “Seventy criminals were taken into custody during the operation,” Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, told the parliament in televised remarks Tuesday morning. In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts. “According to our information, Ukraine Interior Ministry and National Guard troops including militants of the illegal armed group the Right Sector are being brought to the southeast regions of Ukraine,” read a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's official website Tuesday. "A special concern is connected with the fact that about 150 U.S. experts from the private military organization Greystone dressed in the uniforms of [Ukraine] special unit Sokol are involved in the operation.” “The organizers and participants in the operation are assuming huge responsibility for the creation of threats to rights, freedoms and lives of peaceful residents of Ukraine,” the statement said.
    Further, Russia warned that use of force in the attempts to quell the unrest “could lead to civil war,” according to CNN. In response to Russia's accusations of the involvement of Greystone, a representative from the company told the Wall Street Journal, "We do not have anyone working in Ukraine nor do we have any plans to deploy anyone to the region." Meanwhile, just as on Monday, Washington DC again warned of potential additional sanctions against Russia should its forces move into eastern Ukraine.

    Tensions continued to escalate in eastern Ukraine Monday on the heels of protests over the weekend in which pro-Russia protesters seized government buildings in several cities. From CNN:
    Ukraine's acting president accused Russia on Monday of trying to "dismember" his country, warning that uprisings in three cities echoed the events leading to the Russian annexation of Crimea three weeks ago. Pro-Moscow protesters seized government buildings, raised Russian flags and declared new governments in the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkov on Sunday. In a televised message, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the revolts were led by "separatist groups coordinated by Russian special services." "Enemies of Ukraine are trying to play out the Crimean scenario, but we will not let this happen," Turchynov said. And Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the goal of the protesters is "to destabilize" the country, allowing "foreign troops to cross the border and seize the territory of the country." "We will not allow it," Yatsenyuk said.
    In some of these incidents, protesters demanded a referendum like the one recently seen in Crimea, according to the Washington Post.

    Pro-Russia protesters stormed government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities Sunday, further inflaming tensions there. From CNN:
    Demonstrators stormed a provincial administration building in eastern Ukraine on Sunday and raised the Russian flag atop it, demanding the release of riot police accused of killing protesters in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in February. Police were negotiating with the demonstrators, who have called for supporters to rally around the Regional Security Administration building in Donetsk, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the Russian border. Video of the negotiations was being streamed live online by local news outlets. The protest is the latest challenge to Ukraine's embattled new government, which took power after a revolt that toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February. There was no immediate response to the seizure from top officials in Kiev, where the jailed police are accused of killing protesters during the uprising against Yanukovych.
    Similar incidents were also reported in Kharkiv and Luhansk, according to the BBC. Reuters reports that Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and ousted Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich of agitating the actions.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for about four hours on Sunday, where they discussed the situation in Ukraine and reportedly agreed at least on the need for a diplomatic solution. From USA Today:
    Secretary of State John Kerry says the Russian buildup of troops on its border with Ukraine is creating a climate of fear and intimidation in that country. Kerry spoke after meeting Sunday night in Paris with Russian Foreign MinisterSergey Lavrov and said he told the diplomat that Ukrainians must be the ones who decide their own future. "The United States is is [sic] consulting with Ukraine at every step of this process, and we will not accept the path forward if the legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table,'' Kerry said. Kerry described his talks with the Russian diplomat as "a frank conversation" about Russia's moves in Crimea and the large gathering of troops along the border with Ukraine. "I made clear the United States still considers the Russian actions to be illegal and illegitimate,'' Kerry said.

    On CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning, host Bob Schieffer spoke with guest Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, about the situation in Ukraine and President Obama’s response to it.  Romney was highly critical of Obama's handling of Russia's actions in particular, noting “the president's naiveté with regards to Russia, as well as the president’s “faulty judgment about Russia's intentions and objectives.” Schieffer began the interview by reminding Romney of his previous comments about Russia, which came up during one of the presidential debates in 2012. “During the campaign, and I want to start with this, you took a lot of heat for saying that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe. In the third debate, the president came down pretty hard on you about that,” Schieffer began. After playing a video clip of that portion of the aforementioned debate, Schieffer asked Romney his thoughts on the situation today. “I'm sure, Governor, you're tempted this morning to say, "I told you so." But do you really believe that what happened in Ukraine had anything to do with what President Obama has or hasn't done?” Schieffer asked. Romney’s response was critical of Obama’s handling of the situation in Ukraine, and more specifically, the president's assessment of Russia's intentions.

    President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a new round of expanded sanctions in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. The additional sanctions target 20 Russian officials and influential individuals, as well as a Russian bank, according to Obama's statement and a list published by the Treasury Department.  These follow an initial round of sanctions announced earlier in the week that targeted 11 Russian and Ukrainian individuals. Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House Thursday, the president again denounced Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine, including its move to annex Crimea, and he outlined additional sanctions the United States would be imposing in response. “Over the last several days, we’ve continued to be deeply concerned by events in Ukraine,” Obama said. “We’ve seen an illegal referendum in Crimea, an illegitimate move by the Russians to annex Crimea, and dangerous risks of escalation, including threats to Ukrainian personnel in Crimea and threats to southern and eastern Ukraine as well.  These are all choices that the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community, as well as the government of Ukraine.” “And because of these choices, the United States is today moving – as we said we would – to impose additional costs on Russia. Based on the executive order that I signed in response to Russia’s initial intervention in Ukraine, we’re imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government. In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals.” The president’s announcement came shortly after Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday approved a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine. From Reuters:

    With ongoing developments on the crisis in Ukraine, here are some news updates from Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a draft treaty making Crimea part of Russia. From CNN, Ukraine cries 'robbery' as Russia annexes Crimea:
    Never mind what the West thinks -- the Kremlin says Ukraine's Crimea region is now part of Russia. A signing ceremony Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Crimea and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol made it official, the Kremlin said in a statement. The territory, ceded to Ukraine in the Soviet era, is now part of the Russian Federation, it said. The annexation -- which had not been expected to occur until Russian lawmakers met later this week -- was met with a howl of protest in Kiev, where Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called it "a robbery on an international scale."
    Additional details also at CBS News. Also Tuesday, a Ukrainian soldier was reported to have been killed on a base in Crimea and another wounded, though some of the details appeared to be unclear at the time of this writing. From AFP:

    Following Sunday's referendum vote in Crimea to break from Ukraine and join Russia, President Obama on Monday announced a series of new sanctions. (Video at end of this post). From Reuters:
    U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians on Monday blamed for Moscow's military seizure of Crimea, including ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, and Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev, two aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to reconstitute as much as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian authority, was not on the blacklist. In Brussels, the EU's 28 foreign ministers agreed on a list of 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to be subject to travel bans and asset freezes for their roles in the events. The EU did not immediately publish their names. Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the coming days if Russia does not back down and formally annexes Crimea. "Today's actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation," the White House said. A senior Obama administration official said there was "concrete evidence" that some ballots in the Crimea referendum arrived in some Crimean cities pre-marked.
    Speaking from the White House this morning, President Obama said, “as I told President Putin yesterday, the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian Constitutions and international law, and it will not be recognized by the international community.” Obama then went on to outline “a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia and on those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine.” Among those measures are sanctions on a number of specific individuals and entities, as well as continued consultations with European partners on additional measures. From Obama’s statement Monday (transcript from the Washington Post):

    In what will likely come as little surprise to anyone who has been following the events in Ukraine, Russian state media are reporting that early exit polls show Crimea has voted to break with Ukraine and join Russia.  Official results are expected later. From Reuters:
    Russian state media said Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia on Sunday, as Kiev accused Moscow of pouring forces into the peninsula and warned separatist leaders "the ground will burn under their feet". RIA news agency said 93 percent backed annexation, citing an exit poll released as voting ended at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Another Russian agency said turnout was over 80 percent. Caught in an East-West crisis reminiscent of the Cold War, Kiev said Russia's build-up of forces in the Black Sea region was in "crude violation" of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard to defend the nation.
    The White House had already denounced the vote ahead of the official results, calling the referendum illegal and citing Russian intimidation.

    Tensions are mounting ahead of a planned referendum Sunday to determine whether or not Crimea will break from Ukraine and join Russia. A few updates on the situation... From AFP via Yahoo News:
    Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of invading a region bordering Crimea and vowed to use "all necessary measures" to ward off an attack that came on the eve of the peninsula's breakaway vote. The dramatic escalation of the most serious East-West crisis since the Cold War set a tense stage for the referendum on Crimea's secession from Ukraine in favour of Kremlin rule -- a vote denounced by both the international community and Kiev. The predominantly Russian-speaking Black Sea region of two million people was overrun by Kremlin-backed troops days after the February 22 fall in Kiev of a Moscow-backed regime and the rise of nationalist leaders who favour closer ties with the West. President Vladimir Putin defended Moscow's decision to flex its military muscle by arguing that ethnic Russians in Ukraine needed "protection" from violent ultranationalists who had been given free reign by the new Kiev administration. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had told Secretary of State John Kerry in London on Friday that Moscow "has no, and cannot have, any plans to invade the southeast region of Ukraine."
    The full statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine website demanded Russia withdraw forces from the territory of Ukraine immediately.

    NOTE: for previous coverage of the situation in Ukraine/Crimea, you can follow this live coverage post. Putin is no doubt quaking in his boots at this warning issued by President Obama:
    "We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine," Obama said in a hastily arranged public statement from the White House briefing room. "Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," the president warned.
    Costs...costs...what could they be? Here are some possibilities:
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