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« Reply #75 on: Apr 20, 2014, 06:43 AM »

This is how the PIG rules ....

Pro-Russian Forces Work on Consolidating Power

APRIL 19, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — Just before the most important religious holiday of the year for both Ukrainians and Russians, the Orthodox Christian Easter celebration on Sunday, pro-Russian militant groups have paused what had been the daily expansion of their territory in eastern Ukraine.

They have turned instead to consolidating political power over areas already under their control. In a string of midsize mining and industrial towns that form the core of the area under pro-Russian militant control, centered on the town of Slovyansk, pressure mounted on dissenters and the media in ways that are commonplace in Russia but had not been in Ukraine until now.

Internet connections went dead on Saturday in Slovyansk, local news media reported, while Ukrainian television channels blinked off the air, replaced by Russian channels. Pro-Russian militants reportedly accomplished this by seizing a broadcasting tower that was also a telecommunications hub. Also in Slovyansk, local newspapers were not distributed after it became clear that at least some editors and reporters did not support the Russian-backed takeover of the town, and intended to write critically about it.

In another sign of pro-Russian forces’ consolidating politically, they announced Friday that Slovyansk’s elected mayor, who had waffled in her support of their armed seizing of the town and had then mysteriously disappeared, was in fact in their hands, and had not been seen in public because she was recovering from a medical operation.

Russia has massed troops on its side of the border, about 120 miles from Slovyansk. In a departure from earlier explanations that the troops are on a military training exercise, President Pig V. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Saturday that at least some of the troops were deployed there in response to instability in Ukraine. The government reinforced garrisons in the area “against the backdrop of what is happening in Ukraine,” Mr. Peskov told Russian Channel 1 television.

With militants vowing to ignore a diplomatic agreement reached in Geneva on Thursday by the United States, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine, but also halting the expansion of their territory, officials in Kiev had expressed some hope that a settlement was still possible. So the tightening of the separatists’ political grip appeared to be a setback.

In Slovyansk, the pro-Russian militants who a week ago overran City Hall first said the mayor, Neli Shtepa, would continue in her position, but work in a separate building.

By midweek, this arrangement appeared to be unraveling. On Thursday, journalists who checked the new building, a dance hall, found it eerily empty except for a woman in a cloakroom who said nobody had shown up to re-establish the old City Council. Soon enough, all pretense of allowing the elected local government to continue functioning vanished, and then so did the mayor.

“She is with us,” Vyachislav Ponomaryov, who has declared himself the new mayor, the “People’s Mayor,” announced late Friday on a loudspeaker set up in front of City Hall, masked gunmen standing behind him.

“She’s in a normal condition,” Mr. Ponomaryov said, according to Donbass, an online news portal covering eastern Ukraine. “It’s just that yesterday she had a small crisis. She is recovering from an operation. She doesn’t feel well. She signed a letter of resignation.”

He said pro-Russian militants were protecting Ms. Shtepa from the central government, as Ukraine’s domestic security service had opened a criminal case against her after she initially issued a statement in support of the armed men.

Later, though, she strayed from that message by publicly confirming what was obvious to everybody in the town: that the men in masks and unmarked uniforms were certainly not local, and that support for their cause of closer alliance with Russia was hardly unanimous in Slovyansk.

“It’s a dark forest,” she said of the masked men in one interview with a Russian television station. “I don’t know who they are, or what they are.” Soon afterward, she vanished.

On Saturday, newsstands in Slovyansk displayed notices saying “no local press,” the online news portal of Ukrainska Pravda reported. One newspaper editor said last week that he intended to publish his weekly with the headline “Occupiers in Slovyansk,” which, not surprisingly, did not make it to newsstands.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, told the BBC that the security services had suspended operations against the separatists for Easter, but that military action would resume if they continued to occupy government offices.

Armed pro-Russian militants have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6. Though the holiday and the agreement in Geneva appeared to have paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the Donetsk region, it was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to loosen their grip on areas already seized.

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« Reply #76 on: Apr 20, 2014, 12:13 PM »

Ukraine PM Says Russia Undermining Global Stability

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 April 2014, 20:43

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned in an interview that aired Sunday that Russia is undermining global stability and nuclear nonproliferation efforts amid an ongoing crisis between Kiev and the Kremlin.

Ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, he also called for financial and economic support and help modernizing Ukraine's military -- while stopping short of asking for weapons.

"The world has a reason to be concerned about the Pig's intentions because what (the) Russia Federation did, they undermined the global stability," Yatsenyuk told NBC's "Meet the Press" show, in remarks taped Saturday.

"They actually eliminated nuclear nonproliferation programs," he added in reference to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum under which Ukraine handed over its nuclear weapons in return for guarantees of sovereignty from Moscow and Western powers.

"Russia violated this deal, and Russia undermined the entire program of nuclear nonproliferation," Yatsenyuk said.

"And it's crystal clear that for today Russia... is the threat to the globe and the threat to the European Union and a real threat to Ukraine."

With Biden expected in Kiev this week, Yatsenyuk said that, in addition to financial and economic support, the Ukrainian military needed an "overhaul."

However, he refused to be drawn on whether Kiev needed weapons.

"We need to be in very good shape in order to stop Russia, and for this shape we need to have and to get the real support from our Western partners," he told NBC.

"We need financial economic support, we need to modernize the Ukrainian military and to overhaul all structures of (the) Ukrainian defense system."

In the same interview, Yatsenyuk accused Pig of harboring expansionist ambitions.

"The Pig has a dream to restore the Soviet Union, and every day he goes further and further, and God knows where is the final destination," he said.

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, hit back at the accusation.

"Any statements about us having dreams of restoring (the) Soviet Union is a false notion in its very nature," Kislyak said in an interview with "Fox News Sunday."

The exchange comes as pro-Kremlin rebels in east Ukraine appealed for Russian "peacekeepers" to sweep in after a deadly gunfight killed at least two of their militants, shattering an Easter truce and sparking "outrage" in Moscow.

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« Reply #77 on: Apr 20, 2014, 12:18 PM »

Is Bulgaria the Next US-Russia Flashpoint?


Will Bulgaria be the next testing ground in the escalating confrontation between Putin’s Russia and the West—and why should you care?

The answer may have something to do with gas.

Follow the Pipelines

“If the Russians get their way in Ukraine, we will be the next country they will turn their attention to,” said Evgeniy Dainov, a political science and sociology professor at New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.

He is a staunch critic of the Kremlin who nevertheless refuses to support a Western initiative to wean Bulgaria off Russian energy by letting big American companies such as Chevron “frack” in its most fertile land.

Just like Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine, where clashes are currently taking place, Bulgaria has considerable shale gas reserves—and these reserves are near the heart of the East-West dispute.

A Russian Trojan Horse?

Bulgaria was once the Soviet Union’s most loyal ally—now it’s a member of the European Union and NATO but it continues to have close economic and cultural ties with Russia. So much so, in fact, that some Europeans worry that having Bulgaria in their midst will prove to be a “Trojan horse” from Russia.

The Bulgarians—along with the rest of Europe, and the West—are nervous about what they view as Russia’s intensifying expansionism: Kremlin influence inevitably follows direct investments and business deals with Russian entities. These can quickly morph into channels of political pressure—as in the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, when the Russians cut off the gas to 16 European Union countries.

Those Who Can Be Intimidated

A senior fellow and head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Bulgarian office, Dimitar Bechev explained to WhoWhatWhy his view on how Russia wields its power:

“The Russian regime has a very cynical attitude and divides people into two categories: those who can be intimidated and those who can be bought.”

Those who can be intimidated would include the Bulgarians, for many reasons. One reason: they depend on Russia for 90 percent of their natural gas, and they saw what happened during the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute (see map below).

Those Who Can Be Bought

There seems to be no limit to those who can be bought. Though Russia complains about “Nazis” in Ukraine, it has been funding extreme-right movements around Europe, which helps explain why the main ultranationalist party in Bulgaria just threatened to bring down the Sofia government if it approves sanctions against Russia.

“It is obvious that Russia is co-opting people and buying influence—these methods are much more visible in the former Soviet countries, but are also being implemented throughout the Balkans, in Bulgaria as well as in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and elsewhere,” Bechev said.

Russian money has helped produce an odd-fellows alliance between the far right and the left in Bulgaria—though in the case of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which controls the current coalition government and is also widely perceived as a conduit of Russian influence, there is more than money involved. It is the successor of the former Communist Party, whose graying constituency remembers fondly the old regime.

Western Interference Not Welcome Either

However, it’s not just financial self-interest or a kind of institutional nostalgia that leads Bulgarians to be suspicious of the West and its own brand of neo-liberal expansionist policies. Many Bulgarians have bitter personal memories of Western interference in their affairs in the post-Communist era. Indeed, Western-supported “economic liberalization” focused on the fire sale of state-owned industries contributed to the country’s financial ruin in the 1990s. As an editor for Anthropology News observed : “Thugs were everywhere. In almost every nice restaurant I visited, there were thick-necked former wrestlers with handguns shoved into the backs of their pants, bodyguards of the new super rich. Rapid economic liberalization created economic growth, but this wealth was concentrated in the hands of a new domestic pack of oligarchs. Western investors had no problem doing business with these robber barons, people who did not innovate or produce, but who bribed and stole their way to wealth. Government regulators were happy to sell off state assets at reduced prices as long as they were given their generous slice of the spoils.”

Then, once the failure of the precipitous “economic liberalization” was clear, the IMF came in 1997 and imposed fiscal austerity on the country—in effect, punishing ordinary Bulgarians for the economic collapse brought on by the previous Western-imposed policy. “Fiscal austerity” involved cutting budget deficits through reduced government spending, which meant, among other things, lower incomes for Bulgarian workers.

“Bulgaria provides stark evidence that an economic strategy based on low wages and labour market flexibility will fail,” the International Trade Union Confederation wrote  in a prescient report in 2012. “For more than a decade Bulgaria has been encouraged to pursue such a strategy by both the IMF and the European Union…. The Bulgaria record demonstrates that the draconian labour market reforms being forced on workers in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and other peripheral countries in Europe are misplaced.”

Just a year after the report was published, the failure of this second Western-imposed policy had resulted in daily protest marches in front of Parliament. Sociologists from the Sofia-based polling agency Alpha Research concluded in a report that “Bulgarian society is sliding down the spiral of institutional and political collapse.”

If parts of this story sounds similar to Ukraine’s, it is hardly a coincidence. When Ukraine, mired in financial trouble, applied to the IMF for financial aid last year, the IMF demanded painful austerity reforms, among them an end to fuel subsidies to Ukrainian families. The Ukrainian government refused  and turned to Russia, which offered $15 billion with foreign policy strings attached but no demands that would hurt the average Ukrainian. The rest is history. (It bears noting that the new revolutionary government finally forced the subsidy cut through last month.)

It’s no surprise, then, that at a recent pro-Ukraine demonstration in Bulgaria, few people viewed things as black and white. One demonstrator articulated his nuanced frustration this way: “I am here to protest the interference of all foreign powers in Bulgaria, as well as in Ukraine.”

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« Reply #78 on: Apr 21, 2014, 05:25 AM »

Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia

APRIL 20, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

And Ukraine’s state security service has identified one Russian reported to be active among the green men as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence operative in his mid- to late 50s. He is said to have a long résumé of undercover service with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian general staff, most recently in Crimea in February and March and now in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

“There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this, which is why U.S. officials have continued to make that case,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Sunday.

The question of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine has a critical bearing on the agreement reached Thursday in Geneva among Russian, Ukrainian, American and European diplomats to ease the crisis. American officials have said that Russia would be held responsible for ensuring that the Ukrainian government buildings were vacated, and that it could face new sanctions if the terms were not met.

The Ukrainian government provided these photographs last week to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. Ukraine says the photographs document that the armed men who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine are Russian combatants. The State Department, which has also alleged Russian interference, says that the Ukrainian evidence is convincing.

The equipment, including the helmets, used by the Donbass self-defense forces appears similar to that of the Russian special operations forces.

The Kremlin insists that Russian forces are in no way involved, and that Mr. Strelkov does not even exist, at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble. “It’s all nonsense,” President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday during a four-hour question-and-answer session on Russian television. “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in at least 10 towns across eastern Ukraine also deny getting help from professional Russian soldiers or intelligence agents.

But masking the identity of its forces, and clouding the possibilities for international denunciation, is a central part of the Russian strategy, developed over years of conflict in the former Soviet sphere, Ukrainian and American officials say.

John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer who now teaches at the Naval War College, calls it “special war”: “an amalgam of espionage, subversion, even forms of terrorism to attain political ends without actually going to war in any conventional sense.”

And one country, Mr. Schindler noted in an article last year in which he coined the term, that particularly excels at special war is Russia, which carried out its first post-Soviet war to regain control of rebellious Chechnya back in 1994 by sending in a column of armored vehicles filled with Russian soldiers masquerading as pro-Moscow Chechens.

Russia’s flair for “maskirovka” — disguised warfare — has become even more evident under Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer whose closest advisers are mostly from that same Soviet intelligence agency.

For nearly two months now, the shaky new Ukrainian government has been left to battle phantoms, first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine, where previously fringe pro-Russian political activists have had their fortunes lifted by small but heavily armed groups of masked men.

In the eastern city of Slovyansk, under the control of pro-Russian insurgents for more than a week now, the green men have worked hard to blend in with locals but have occasionally let the mask slip, apparently to send a clear message that any push to regain control by Ukrainian forces would risk bringing down the wrath of the Russian military.

A gradation of forces control the city and other areas now in the hands of separatist rebels, ranging from clearly professional masked soldiers and unruly groups of local men in camouflage, rifles slung over their shoulders, to teenage boys in sweatpants carrying baseball bats or hunting knives. At most times, only the local toughs are visible on the streets.

But when a woman sidled up to one of the masked gunmen in the city’s central square last week and asked where he was from, she got an answer that summed up Russia’s bedeviling and constantly shifting disguises. The gunman initially said he was “from Russia,” but when pressed, said coyly that he was “from New Russia,” a long-forgotten czarist-era term revived last week by Mr. Putin to describe a large section of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Asked by the woman what would happen if the Ukrainian Army attacked, he replied, “We have to stand for only 24 hours, to tend the fire, and after that, a one million man army will be here.”

When a Ukrainian armored column approached the town last Wednesday and then swiftly surrendered, a group of disciplined green men suddenly appeared on the scene and stood guard. Over the course of several hours, several of them told bystanders in the sympathetic crowd that they were Russians. They allowed themselves to be photographed with local girls, and drove an armored personnel carrier in circles to please the crowd.

A visual survey of the continuing dispute, including satellite images of Russian naval positions and maps showing political, cultural and economic factors in the crisis.

“It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, wrote in a blog post on the alliance’s website.“It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized, and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”

His evidence, however, was mostly circumstantial: Pro-Russian gunmen “exhibit telltale military training and equipment”; they handle weapons like professional soldiers, not new recruits to a pickup “self-defense” force; they carry weapons and equipment that are primarily Russian Army issue, not gear “that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers.” General Breedlove conceded that such points, taken alone, might not prove much, “but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.”

Heightening skepticism of Russia’s denials is also the fact that Mr. Putin, after denyingany Russian link to the masked gunmen who seized government buildings in Crimea and blockaded Ukrainian military bases there, last week changed his story and said, “Of course, Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces.”

More direct evidence of a Russian hand in eastern Ukraine is contained in a dossier of photographs provided by Ukraine to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Vienna-based organization now monitoring the situation in Donetsk and other parts of the country. It features pictures taken in eastern Ukraine of unidentified gunmen and an earlier photograph of what looks like the same men appearing in a group shot of a Russian military unit in Russia. 

One set of photographs shows what appears to be the same gunman in pictures taken in the Crimean annexation and more recently in Slovyansk. Another features a portly bearded man photographed in Slovyansk on April 14, wearing a camouflage uniform without insignia, but six years earlier, had been photographed during Russia’s invasion of Georgia with a Russian special forces patch on his left arm.

Another character in Ukraine’s case against Russia is Mr. Strelkov, the alleged military intelligence officer who Kiev says took part in a furtive Russian operation to prepare for the annexation of Crimea and, more recently, in insurgent action in Slovyansk.

No photographs have yet emerged of Mr. Strelkov, but the Security Service of Ukraine, the successor organization to what used to be Ukraine’s local branch of the K.G.B., has released a sketch of what it says is his face.

The security agency, known by its Ukrainian abbreviation S.B.U., first identified him publicly early last week after releasing an audio recording of what it said was a recording of an intercepted communication between Russian operatives in eastern Ukraine and their controller back in Russia.

In the recording, a man nicknamed “Strelok” — who the Ukrainian agency says is Mr. Strelkov — and others can be heard discussing weapons, roadblocks and how to hold on to captured positions in and near Slovyansk with a superior in Russia.

The superior, clearly anxious to keep Russia’s role hidden, can be heard ordering his men on the ground in Ukraine not to identify themselves and to find someone with a Ukrainian accent who can give an interview to a Russian television channel. It was very important, he added, to say on air that all the pro-Russian insurgents want is “federalization,” or constitutional changes to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.

Military analysts say the Russian tactics show a disturbing amount of finesse that speak to long-term planning.

“The Russians have used very specialized, very effective forces,” said Jacob W. Kipp, an expert on the Russian military and the former deputy director of the United States Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“They don’t assume that civilians are cluttering up the battlefield; they assume they are going to be there,” he said. “They are trained to operate in these kind of environments.”

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« Reply #79 on: Apr 22, 2014, 04:35 AM »

Under Russia, Life in Crimea Grows Chaotic

APRIL 21, 2014

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — After Russia annexed Crimea practically overnight, the Russian bureaucrats handling passports and residence permits inhabited the building of their Ukrainian predecessors, where Roman Nikolayev now waits daily with a seemingly mundane question.

His daughter and granddaughter were newly arrived from Ukraine when they suddenly found themselves in a different country, so he wonders if they can become legal residents. But he cannot get inside to ask because he is No. 4,475 on the waiting list for passports. At most, 200 people are admitted each day from the crowd churning around the tall, rusty iron gate.

“They set up hotlines, but nobody ever answers,” said Mr. Nikolayev, 54, a trim, retired transportation manager with a short salt-and-pepper beard. 

“Before we had a pretty well-organized country — life was smooth,” he said, sighing. “Then, within the space of two weeks, one country became another.” He added, “Eto bardak,” using the Russian for bordello and meaning “This is a mess.”

One month after the lightning annexation, residents of this Black Sea peninsula find themselves living not so much in a different state, Russia, as in a state of perpetual confusion. Declaring the change, they are finding, was far easier than actually carrying it out.

The chaotic transition comes amid evolving tensions in nearby eastern Ukraine, where the possible outcomes include a Crimea-annexation replay.

In Crimea now, few institutions function normally. Most banks are closed. So are land registration offices. Court cases have been postponed indefinitely. Food imports are haphazard. Some foreign companies, like McDonald’s, have shut down.

Other changes are more sinister. “Self-defense units,” with no obvious official mandate, swoop down at train stations and other entry points for sudden inspections. Drug addicts, political activists, gays and even Ukrainian priests — all censured by either the government or the Russian Orthodox Church — are among the most obvious groups fearing life under a far less tolerant government.

In fact, switching countries has brought disarray to virtually all aspects of life. Crimeans find themselves needing new things every day — driver’s licenses and license plates, insurance and prescriptions, passports and school curriculums. The Russians who have flooded in seeking land deals and other opportunities have been equally frustrated by the logistical and bureaucratic roadblocks.

“The radical reconstruction of everything is required, so these problems are multiplying,” said Vladimir P. Kazarin, 66, a philology professor at Taurida National University. (The university’s name, which derives from Greek history, is scheduled to be changed.) “It will take two or three years for all this chaos to be worked out, yet we have to keep on living.”

On a deeper level, some Crimeans struggle with fundamental questions about their identity, a far more tangled process than merely changing passports.

“I cannot say to myself, ‘O.K., now I will stop loving Ukraine and I will love Russia,’ ” said Natalia Ishchenko, another Taurida professor with roots in both countries. “I feel like my heart is broken in two parts. It is really difficult psychologically.”

The Crimean government dismisses any doubts or even complaints.

“Nonsense!” said Yelena Yurchenko, the minister for tourism and resorts and the daughter of a Soviet admiral who retired in Crimea. These “are small issues that can be resolved as they appear,” she said, adding, “It might result in certain tensions for the lazy people who do not want to make progress.”

Legions of Russian officials have descended on Crimea to teach the local people how to become Russian. In tourism alone, Ms. Yurchenko said, Crimea needed advice about Russian law, marketing, health care and news media.

“Can you imagine how many people need to come to work here for just that one sector?” she said in an interview, explaining why even her ministry could not help anyone find a hotel room in Simferopol. “We also have transportation, economy, construction, medicine, culture and many other things.”

Other changes in national identity elsewhere, like the “velvet divorce” of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, happened with more advance planning. Crimeans feel as if they went through the entire reverse process in 1991, when Ukraine left the Soviet Union, which had transferred the peninsula to Ukraine from Russia in 1954. Confused? So are they.

For Crimeans, every day overflows with uncertainty.

Food imports, for example, have dwindled in the face of murky, slapdash rules. The Crimean authorities recently banned cheese and pork from Ukraine, then announced that full Russian border controls would be put in effect on Friday. Shoppers are suddenly finding favorite brands of ordinary items like yogurt unavailable.

Citing logistical problems, McDonald’s closed. Metro, a giant German supermarket chain, also shut down. Most multinational businesses want to avoid possible sanctions elsewhere for operating in Crimea.

Flight connections have been severed except to Russia. Crimea officially moved an hour ahead to Moscow time, but cellphones automatically revert to Ukrainian time.

In Dzhankoy, about 55 miles north of this capital city, Edward A. Fyodorov, 37, has been selling ice cream since he was 9 years old. Those sales eventually led to a fleet of 20 refrigerated trucks. He used to import all manner of food from Ukraine, including frozen buns and salad fixings for McDonald’s, plus various goods for Metro supermarkets and 300 smaller grocery stores.

Business is off 90 percent, he said. Five to seven truckloads a day have diminished to about one a week. He has been looking for Russian suppliers, but products cost about 70 percent more and transportation issues are thorny.

Crimea lacks a land border with Russia, about 350 miles away through Ukraine. The lone ferry crosses to Crimea from an obscure corner of the Caucasus. An expensive bridge promised by the Kremlin is years away.

“It is impossible to make any plans or forecasts,” said Mr. Fyodorov, voicing an almost universal lament. Even if he found work, he said, closed banks make payments impossible.

Long lines snake outside the few Russian banks operating. (Some Crimeans waiting in line resorted to a Soviet-era tactic of volunteering to maintain epic lists — at one passport office the list stretched to more than 12,000 names.) President Vladimir V. Putin announced Thursday that he hoped to have Russian banks functioning normally in Crimea within a month.

The Kremlin, which has announced plans to make Crimea a gambling mecca, set an official deadline of Jan. 1, 2015, for the transition. The initial cost allocated “to all Crimean programs” this year will be $2.85 billion, Mr. Putin said, but given the promises the Kremlin has made for everything from infrastructure to doubling pensions, the eventual annexation bill is expected to climb far beyond that.

Prices are often quoted in both Ukrainian hryvnias and Russian rubles, but the exchange rate fluctuates constantly. Even the simplest transactions like paying taxi fares result in haggling by calculator.

Land sales, despite surging demand from Russians wanting seaside dachas, have stalled because land registration offices are closed.   

Maxim and Irina Nefeld, a young Moscow couple, had dreamed about living near the sea for so long that they were on Crimea’s southern coast seeking land on March 18, the day Mr. Putin announced the annexation.

They found a pine-covered lot, a third of an acre with a sea view, for $60,000. They agreed to buy it, but could not complete the deal without the land office, or find a bank to transfer the money.

The next day the owner asked for $70,000. Mr. Nefeld went back to Moscow to get it in cash. When he returned on April 10, the landowner demanded $100,000.

Russian laws leave some groups out in the cold. Russia bans methadone to treat heroin addiction, for example. As local supplies dwindle, the daily dosage for 200 patients at the clinic here has been halved.

“It is our death,” said Alexander, 40, declining to identify himself publicly as a recovering addict. Unaware that methadone was illegal in Russia, he voted for annexation.

Crimeans are occasionally alarmed by armed men in uniforms without insignia who materialize at places like Simferopol’s train station, inspecting luggage and occasionally arresting passengers. Various people detained in protests against the referendum a month ago have not resurfaced.

When confronted, the uniformed men tell Crimeans that they are “activists from the people” who are “preserving order.”

Archbishop Kliment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, vilified by its Russian counterpart, said Russian priests with armed supporters had threatened to confiscate churches in at least two villages. His 16 priests sent their families and their most valuable icons to the Ukrainian mainland for protection, he said.

Natalia Rudenko, the founding principal of the capital’s one Ukrainian school, said city officials fired her shortly after a member of the self-defense forces visited, demanding to know why the school was still teaching Ukrainian and not flying the Russian flag. Ms. Yurchenko, the tourism minister, said the school could continue to teach Ukrainian, since the new Constitution protected the language, but it would need to add Russian classes.

It is hard to tally the many branches of government not functioning.

Court cases have been frozen because the judges do not know what law to apply. Essential procedures like DNA testing must now be done in Moscow instead of Kiev.

One traffic officer confessed he had no idea what law to enforce — he was being sent to school two hours a day to learn Russian traffic laws.

Lawyers, their previous education now irrelevant, plow through Russian legal textbooks wrestling with the unfamiliar terms. “I won’t be able to compete with young lawyers who come from Russia with diplomas in Russian law,” said Olga Cherevkova, 25, who was previously pursing a Ph.D. in Ukrainian health care law.

She is weighing whether to abandon the land of her birth, of her identity.

“Maybe I should just pack my suitcase and move to Miami,” she laughed, then caught herself. “I am laughing, but it is not really a joke. I want to live in a free country. Still, for me as a lawyer, it is interesting, if a bit strange.”
Correction: April 22, 2014

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the origin of the name of Taurida National University. It  derives from Greek history, not Crimean Tatar history.


Russia Bans Tatar Leader from Crimea

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 April 2014, 12:07

Russia on Tuesday banned the leader of Crimea's pro-Kiev Tatar community from entering the Black Sea peninsula for five years, the Tatar assembly said.

Mustafa Dzhemilev was handed an official order barring him from returning to Crimea as he crossed to mainland Ukraine from the territory that Moscow controversially annexed last month, the assembly said in a statement.

Dzhemilev, also a member of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada parliament, condemned the decision as "an indication of what a 'civilized' state we are dealing with".

Dzhemilev pledged he would ignore the ban and return to Crimea.

Crimea's 300,000 Muslim Tatars, who make up around 12 percent of the peninsula's population, largely boycotted a disputed referendum last month in which nearly 97 percent of voters chose to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

In an attempt to appease the community, Russian President Pig Putin said Monday he had signed a decree rehabilitating Crimea's Tatars, who were deported under Stalin over accusations of Nazi collaboration and who fiercely oppose the region's new Moscow-backed authorities.

The overture looks unlikely to satisfy the Tatars, who eye the Kremlin with distrust and have recently said they will consider holding a plebiscite on broader autonomy.
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« Reply #80 on: Apr 22, 2014, 04:46 AM »

Ukraine crisis: US warns of dangerous precedent for other territorial disputes

US officials asked Asian countries not to seek to take commercial advantage of sanctions against Russia on eve of Obama Asia trip

Dan Roberts in Ukraine, Monday 21 April 2014 13.27 EDT      

Joe Biden in Kiev Joe Biden is greeted by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia at Borispol airport outside Kiev. Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

The White House has warned of the danger of worsening tension in Ukraine setting precedents for other territorial disputes around the world as it reacted for the first time to fresh clashes over the weekend with pro-Russian forces.

Speaking on the eve of a trip to Japan and Korea by Barack Obama that is likely to be overshadowed by the ongoing crisis, US officials said it was imperative that Asian countries did not seek to take commercial advantage of sanctions against Russia.

“International order is at stake,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser. “Our policy on Ukraine is not targeted at Russia specifically, it is targeted at upholding the international order that we believe has been violated.”

US secretary of state John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to defuse the crisis. State department spokesman Jen Psaki said Kerry spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and "urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically."

The administration believes widespread international condemnation of Russia at the United Nations, including abstention by China on a critical vote, has been driven partly by anxiety in Asia about the repercussions for other flashpoints such as the South China Sea and Korean peninsula.

“One of the reasons you saw that vote in the UN was that Asian nations don't like precedent being set that a sovereign nation's territorial integrity can be violated with impunity,” added Rhodes.

But the White House was cautious on Monday in its first reaction to fresh clashes between Ukrainian security personnel and pro-Russian forces at the weekend which resulted in several deaths.

“We are looking into it,” said Rhodes. “We have been very clear that we do not support any types of violence and we want to see de-escalation.”

Officials in Washington are anxious to hold onto a diplomatic agreement made last week in Geneva and said the incident was a sign of why it should be implemented rather than indication it was already breaking down.

“The road map laid out in Geneva requires pro-Russian forces to lay down their arms and vacate those buildings. As long as they are there, the risk of this type of confrontation is acute,” added Rhodes.

“We have seen the Ukrainian government begin to follow through on their commitments and this is where we have a difference with [Russian] foreign minister Lavrov.”

Officials travelling with vice-president Biden on his way to Kiev described the situation in eastern Ukraine as “still very murky” despite claims by the Ukrainian government that it was a provocation by pro-Russian forces.

A senior administration official said the US doesn't have any evidence that there was any Ukrainian security service involvement or involvement from people coming from Kiev.

"We have nothing that suggests that there was either but we don't have 100% of the facts on that," he told pool reporters travelling with Biden.

But the US official acknowledged it has not seen the kind of progress required under the Geneva agreement "and we've seen certain activities that have been discouraging."

The US will impose "costs" on Russia in coming days if that doesn't change, he added. "This is not going to be an open-ended process. This is going to be a situation where we take stock and determine in the relatively near term what our next step should be."

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