Crimea’s Supreme Council Makes Fundamental Decision To Join Russia As Federal Subject

SIMFEROPOL-The Supreme Council of the Crimea on its session has made a fundamental decision for the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea to join Russia as a federal subject. First Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Rustam Temirgaliyev told this Itar-Tass on Thursday.

Addressing the audience at the building of the Supreme Council, one of the deputies said: “Firstly, we’ve taken a decision to be part of the Russian Federation as Russia’s subject. Secondly, the referendum will take place on March 16."

Russian Foreign Ministry : Extremists in Syria try to foil local reconciliation agreements

MOSCOW, (ST) _The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that terrorist and extremist groups in Syria are trying to thwart efforts to implement local reconciliations and new agreements to this end.

In a statement today, the ministry indicated  the continued operations by the outlawed armed groups in Syria, including those involving international terrorists and extremists, against the Syrian army in certain areas in Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called on international partners and opposition politicians who have a say on what is happening in Syria to support reconciliation processes which help saving thousands of people and alleviate the suffering of civilians.

The Russian ministry also announced that the extremist and terrorist groups, particularly the so-called "state of Islam in Iraq and the Levant ", " al-Nusra Front " and " Islamic Front " are attempting to thwart the implementation of local reconciliation agreements.

The ministry pointed out that these attempts took place in the suburbs of Damascus, especially in Duma, Daria, Barzeh, Qudsia, Babila and Beit Sahm where extremists more than once launched fire provocatively and attacked the humanitarian convoys of the Syrian Red Crescent which deliver humanitarian aid to civilian population.

The statement continued that news about the breach by al-Nusra front militants of February 11 agreement provided for their withdrawal from al Yarmouk refugee camp and the resumption of clashes with factions of the Palestinian People army groups raised serious concern in Moscow, referring to the armed groups continued bombardment of residential areas in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, resulting in daily casualties.

The Russian ministry emphasized the political solution to the crisis in Syria and the impossibility of resorting to the military option, insisting that " violence can not be stopped,  nor ending  the suffering of Syrian civilians only by resorting to political and diplomatic means through continuation of talks in Geneva, which we support its urgent resumption as soon as possible."

T. Fateh

Putin: Deploying military force is last resort, but we reserve right

Russia will not go to war with the people of Ukraine, but will use its troops to protect citizens, if radicals with clout in Kiev now try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians, particularly ethnic Russians, Putin told the media, according to RT.

Putin, who was given a mandate by the Russian senate to use military force to protect civilians in Ukraine, said there is no need for such an action yet.

Putin cited the actions of radical activists in Ukraine, including the chaining of a governor to a stage as public humiliation and the killing of a technician during an opposition siege of the Party of Regions HQ, as justification for Russia to be concerned for the lives and well-being of people in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia is not planning to go to war with the Ukrainian people, Putin stressed, when a journalist asked if he was afraid of war. But Russian troops would prevent any attempts to target Ukrainian civilians, should they be deployed.

Putin dismissed the notion that the uniformed armed people without insignia who are currently present in Crimea are Russian soldiers. He said they are members of the Crimean self-defense forces and that they are no better equipped and trained than some radical fighters who took part in the ousting of Yanukovich.

He assured that the surprise military drills in Russia’s west which ended on Tuesday had nothing to do with the Ukrainian situation.

Sanction threats are counterproductive

Asked about criticism of Russia over its stance on Ukraine, Putin dismissed the accusations that Russia is acting illegitimately. He stated that even if Russia does use force in Ukraine, it would not violate international law.

At the same time he accused the United States and its allies of having no regard to legitimacy when they use military force in pursuit of their own national interests.

As for the sanctions Russia faces over Ukraine, Putin said those threatening them should think of the consequences to themselves if they follow that path. In an interconnected world a country may hurt another country if it wishes, but it would be damaged too.

Threats are counterproductive in this situation, Putin warned. He added that if G8 members choose not to go to Sochi for a planned G8 summit, that would be up to them.

Putin sympathies with Maidan protesters, rejects coup

Putin stressed that the Ukrainian people had a legitimate reason to protest against Yanukovich’s power, considering the overwhelming corruption and other faults of his presidency.

But he objected to the illegitimate way his ouster took place, because it undermined the political stability in the country.

He said that while he personally was not fond of months-long streets protests as a means to pressure the government, he sympathized with the Maidan demonstration members, who were genuinely outraged with the situation in Ukraine.

But at the same time he warned that what happens in Ukraine now may be a replacement of one group of crooks with another, citing the appointments of certain wealthy businessmen with questionable reputations.

Asked about the presence of snipers during the violent confrontation in Kiev last month, Putin said he was not aware of any order from the Yanukovich government to use firearms against the protesters. He alleged that the shooters could have been provocateurs from one of the opposition forces. He added that what he was sure of is the fact that police officers were shot at with lethal arms during the confrontation.

Yanukovich is certainly powerless in Ukraine, but legally speaking he is the legitimate president of the country, Putin said. The way the new authorities in Kiev replaced him did not enhance their credibility.

Asked if he felt for Yanukovich, Putin said “Oh, no. I have absolutely different feelings.” But he declined to publicly explain what those were. He also refrained from commenting on what mistakes he saw in Yanukovich’s actions, explaining that it would not be proper for him to do so.

At the same time Putin does not see any political future for Yanukovich, which he told the ousted Ukrainian president himself. He added that Russia allowed him to come to its territory for humanitarian reasons, because if he remained in Ukraine he could have been summarily executed.

 

Ibrahim Zaaboub

Syria Submits Revised Proposal to OPCW for Removal of Chemicals

The Syrian Arab Republic has submitted Tuesday, 04 March 2014,  to the OPCW a revised proposal that aims to complete the removal of all chemicals from Syria before the end of April 2014., a statement released by OPCW stated.

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission also verified that two more consignments of chemicals have left the port of Latakia, including a quantity of mustard gas - a Priority 1 chemical - which was previously reported last Wednesday. Another movement, a significant consignment of other Priority 1 chemicals, is scheduled to arrive in Latakia during this week, which will bring the total number of movements thus far to six.

The six movements represent more than 35% of all chemicals that must be removed from Syria for destruction, including 23% of Priority 1 chemicals and 63% of Priority 2 chemicals. In addition, the OPCW has verified that Syria has destroyed in situ more than 93% of its stock of isopropanol.

In his report to the opening session of the Executive Council, Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said that all materials and equipment required by Syria are now in place for the expeditious removal of its remaining chemicals, including armoured jackets for the protection of containers.

“Given delays since the lapse of the two target dates for removal, it will be important to maintain this newly created momentum,” the Director-General told the Council. “For its part, the Syrian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the removal operations in a timely manner.”

The Special Coordinator for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, Ms Sigrid Kaag, also briefed the Council on recent progress in the Syria mission.

"Nearly one third of Syria's chemical weapons material has now been removed or destroyed," the Special Coordinator told the Council. "This is good progress and I expect further acceleration and intensification of effort."

Prior to initiating operations in January to remove its chemicals, in late 2013 Syria completed the functional destruction of its chemical weapons production facilities, mixing and filling equipment, and all of its munitions that were designed for use with chemical warfare agents.

M.A.

Kerry's threats vs Russia unacceptable,West sides with neo-Nazis - Russian FM

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said “unacceptable threats” by US Secretary of State John Kerry over Crimea failed to take into account the violent power seizure in Kiev carried out by radicals.

In the statement released Monday and published by RT (Russian TV), the ministry said Kerry’s “Cold War” rhetoric would do nothing to punish “radical extremists” who carried out the coup, but rather sought to put the focus on Russia. It was also critical of the G7’s decision to suspend preparations for the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, saying the move was unjustified.

The Foreign Ministry accused Washington and its allies of turning a blind eye to the excesses of what it called militant, Russophobic and anti-Semitic forces operating on Kiev’s central Independence Square, which pushed for the ouster of Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

“Not bothering to make any effort to understand the complex processes occurring within Ukrainian society or make an objective assessment of the environment, which is furthering the degradation following the forceful seizure of power in Kiev by radical extremists, [Secretary of State John Kerry] operates with a ‘Cold War’ stamp, offering not to punish those who carried out the government overthrow, but the Russian Federation,” the statement said.

"And while glossing over this, the USA and its allies have closed their eyes to the excesses of the radical fighters on Maidan, their bullying of political opponents and ordinary citizens, as well as their anti-Semitism and militant Russophobia.”

Moscow further accused European powers of standing idly by while the “newly born Kiev regime” trampled on the EU mediated agreement of February 21, in which Yanukovich reached a deal with the opposition to settle the crisis. The ministry noted the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland had signed off on the document which was thrown out of the window when opposition forces seized power the next day. In the process, the West has effectively allied itself with neo-Nazis who are smashing up Orthodox churches and synagogues while “declaring war on the Russian language.”

On Sunday, Kerry threatened to isolate Russia economically and politically for deploying troops in the Crimea to protect the majority Russian speaking population, which Moscow says is under threat.

"You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests,” Kerry said during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

“There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine, there could be business drawback on investment in the country,” he continued. “There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans.”

G8 gambit

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Monday warned that suspending preparations for the upcoming Group of 8 summit in Sochi would not only damage the member states, but the entire international community.

"In connection with a number of well-known statements from Group of Eight members, the decision to suspend work within the framework of the Russian presidency in the international structure will motivate nothing,” the spokesman said.

“It is not only politically defective, but also contrary to the principles of constructive cooperation of this format, which is oriented towards using the combined potential of the G8 in the interests of development, global stability, and the fight against transnational challenges and threats.”

Lukashevich said that he hopes that as opposed to the prevailing politicized climate in some capitals, they member states would be able to continue working together in the G8.

“The Russian side is ready for this,” he said.

On Sunday, the G7 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission condemned Russia for what it called a"clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

"Russia's actions in the Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."

Kerry issued a starker warning, saying that not only the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, but Russia’s membership in the global forum, were at risk.

“He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry said. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”

The 40th G8 summit is to be held on June 4-5 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. If the meeting goes ahead, the leaders are expected to focus on responses to new global threats.

 

M.A.

Russian FM: West must set aside geopolitical games, keep in mind Ukraine's interests

 GENEVA-Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov has called on his Western partners to set aside geopolitical interests in relation to the situation in Ukraine and take into account the interests of the Ukrainian people, according to the Voice of Russia.

 "Those who try to interpret the situation as an act of aggression and threaten us with all sorts of sanctions and boycotts are the same our partners who persistently encouraged political forces close to them to deliver an ultimatum and refuse to negotiate, to ignore concerns of southern and eastern parts of Ukraine and as result it led to the polarization of Ukrainians," Lavrov said.

"We urge the West to show a responsible approach and set aside geopolitical interests and put in the highest consideration the interests of the Ukrainian people," he added, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

According to Lavrov, it’s necessary to bring into effect the terms of the agreements signed on February 21, including a Constitution reform which will be debated by all the Ukrainian regions and then put to a universal referendum.

Lavrov also said that Russia is against the use of human rights as a pretext for intervention with the purpose of a regime change, in Ukraine.

"Human rights is too serious an issue to use it in geopolitical games, for forcing your will on others, let alone operations to change regimes. The available experience shows that intervention under the pretext of defending the civilian population, which in reality leads to a change of regime, produces the opposite result and increases the suffering of civilians, depriving them of their right to life, which is a basic human right," Lavrov clarified.

Medvedev: Ukraine remains Russia’s important partner

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on the Twitter micro blog on Monday that Ukraine remains Russia’s very important partner.

 “There are obligations, which were signed earlier and which should be carried out,” the Russian premier said.

H.M

Lavrov to Discuss Syria with UN's Ki-moon, Brahimi in Geneva

MOSCOW- The situation in Syria and efforts to resume talks of Geneva 2 conference will be the main issue to be discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Syria Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during their meeting in Geneva on Monday at a human rights council session.

Lavrov is leaving for Geneva on Monday, where he will participate in the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Committee.

According to Itar Tass, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that human rights should not be used for changing legitimate governments.

"Any attempts to introduce political or economic sanctions under the pretence of human rights reasons are categorically unacceptable," the foreign ministry said. "We are confident that such sanctions can only exacerbate the situation in a country and facilitate further human rights violations."

H.M

Yanukovich denies ouster, says 'ashamed & guilty' for not preventing chaos

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledges to fight for Ukraine. He addressed a press conference in southern Russia, appearing in public for the first time since he fled Kiev amid bloody riots, according to Russian Television (RT).

Dozens of international reporters have flocked to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after the fugitive Ukrainian president announced he would hold a press conference there.

Before anyone was allowed to ask questions, Yanukovich decided to set the record straight, saying he considers himself the only legitimate president of Ukraine.

“No one has ousted me,” he told reporters. “I had to leave Ukraine because of a direct threat to my life and the lives of my family.”

It is the current Ukrainian parliament that is “not legitimate,” the Ukrainian leader said, adding that the people who took power in Kiev are “spreading the propaganda of violence.”

“As you know, the power in Ukraine has been seized by nationalist fascist-like fellows representing the absolute minority of Ukrainians. The only existing way out of the situation is fulfilling all that was stipulated in the [February 21] agreement between the president of Ukraine and the opposition with participation of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, and a representative of the Russian Federation,” Yanukovich said.

He described the situation in Ukraine as “complete lawlessness,” “terror” and “chaos”, saying that the politicians, including MPs, have been threatened and are facing threats of violence. It has nothing to do with the unity government that was negotiated with the opposition, he added.

According to Yanukovich, the early Ukrainian elections announced for May 25 are also completely “illegitimate” and he will not take part in them.

Despite that, the ousted leader said he will “remain in politics,” “keep on fighting for the future of Ukraine” and return to his home country as soon as he receives “international safety guarantees.”

‘Irresponsible politics of the West’

Yanukovich left Ukraine’s capital Kiev amid the worst surge of violence in the country’s post-Soviet history, which left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. The pro-Maidan opposition immediately capitalized on his absence from the city, dominating the parliament, which then voted to strip the president of his powers and announced early elections. It also placed the full blame for the tragic events in central Kiev on Yanukovich, making it a nearly indisputable allegation in local and Western media.

Yanukovich gave his own clear assessment of the events for the first time in weeks, drawing a very different picture. The violence and deaths in Ukraine are the “result of the irresponsible politics of the West, which has encouraged Maidan,” Yanukovich said.

US and other Western countries’ representatives “must take full responsibility” for the fact that the agreement between the president and the opposition leaders was not honored, he said.

There remains, however, a chance for the country to change its course and not to slip into chaos, Yanukovich said.

‘I lacked strength, I am sorry’

When asked if he feels ashamed of any of his own actions, Yanukovich replied that he feels both ashamed and sorry for “not having been able to stabilize the situations and stop the mayhem” in Ukraine.

“I want to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what has happened in Ukraine and that I lacked strength to maintain stability,” he said.

Yanukovich also apologized to the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, for having to “suffer” while doing their duty of maintaining peace and order. Police officers were “burned and poured over by petrol bombs,” were “fired at and killed by rifles” but still stood their ground, he said.

The Ukrainian leader then said he had not given any order for police to fire live rounds until the rioters started using firearms, putting the officers’ lives under threat.

Yanukovich refused to comment on the Ukrainian parliament’s intention to try him in the International Criminal Court, saying that an independent investigation has to be carried out first. However, he stressed that “the scenario of bloodshed… was drafted not in Ukraine.”

‘Crimea part of Ukraine, Russian presence a rumor’

Even as Yanukovich was speaking, the situation in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Autonomous Republic of Crimea was increasingly getting out of the capital’s control. The Crimean parliament was forming a new regional government while local "self-defense squads" started actively patrolling strategic sites to prevent provocations from Ukrainian radical groups.

Yanukovich said he understands the concerns of Crimeans, who want to “protect their homes and families” from “bandits.”

However, he then urged the people of Crimea not to let any bloodshed or civil war happen. Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine while maintaining broad autonomy, Yanukovich said.

The fugitive president ruled out any possibility that he will ask Russia for military help to resolve the situation there. Also, there is no confirmed information about Russia’s alleged military presence in the region, Yanukovich said.

“I do not have any such official information,” he said. “I did not have it back then [in Ukraine], and there isn’t any now. This all has been on the level of some rumors spread by somebody,” he told journalists.

Yanukovich made it to Russia from Crimea thanks to “patriotically-minded officers,” who helped to “save his life.” He has not yet met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but they have already talked over the phone.

When asked why he chose to leave Ukraine for Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said that he has “an old friend there,” who can provide him with a “temporary safe haven.”

‘Russia cannot abandon Ukraine’

Yanukovich received a lot of questions on Russia’s role and possible actions in the Ukrainian crisis.

While saying “it is not correct” to tell Moscow what to do, Yanukovich said he believes “Russia cannot abandon Ukraine to its fate and should use all possible means to prevent chaos and terror in its neighboring country.”

With that, Yanukovich made it clear he was “categorically against any intervention into Ukraine and breach of its territorial integrity.”

“The truth will prevail,” Yanukovich said in an emotional conclusion to his comments to journalists, urging the politicians that have seized power in Kiev to “leave” for the sake of the Ukrainian people.

So far, there has been no indication that the new Ukrainian authorities are considering returning to a dialogue with what they consider an overthrown rival. A Kiev court on Friday issued an order for Yanukovich’s arrest, while the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) earlier voted in favor of trying him at the ICC in The Hague for alleged “crimes against humanity during the recent peaceful protests.”

M.A.