News / Europe

Kerry to Russia: Don't Sabotage Ukraine Poll

West Warns Russia Against Derailing Ukraine's Electioni
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Zlatica Hoke
May 07, 2014 1:01 PM
The United States and European Union are warning Russia against derailing Ukraine's presidential election set for May 25. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Kyiv's intention to hold an election during the turbulent times, which many blame on Moscow. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Washington and Brussels will act in unison to penalize Russia if it interferes with the election. Zlatica Hoke reports.
West Warns Russia Against Derailing Ukraine's Election
VOA News
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday again warned Russia of increased sanctions if it tries to sabotage presidential elections in Ukraine, while on Capital Hill some lawmakers expressed frustration with what they see as the Obama administration's incremental measures.

"We are not going to sit idly by while Russian elements fan the flame of instability," Kerry said Tuesday, speaking at the State Department in Washington after meeting with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
 
"Ukraine has shown remarkable restraint. They have been committed to move their country forward through nonviolence," said Kerry expressing concern over efforts by pro-Russian separatists to "contrive a bogus independence referendum."
 

"The choice is Russia’s. We are going to stand united in support of Ukraine," added Kerry.

Ashton called Ukraine's May 25 presidential election an important step toward stabilization. She said the Ukrainian people will decide what Ukraine is and what it will be.

Kerry said Russia's support for presidential elections in Syria, where violence in much worse, is at odds with its opposition to election in Ukraine. "Reconcile that one, please," he said.

Kerry said he would meet European counterparts next week to discuss appropriate next steps on Ukraine.

Impatience in Congress

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, another top U.S. official defended the administration’s policy.
 
Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that sanctions were working. “Russia’s economy is already showing that this model [of territorial aggression] does not lead to a great Russia, it leads to a broke one,” she said, citing a drop in that country’s credit rating as one measure of the sanctions' impact. 
 
But on both sides of the aisle, some lawmakers called for tougher measures on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies before Ukraine’s elections.
 
Sen. Bob Corker, the committee’s top Republican, urged sanctions on Russian banks and other economic sectors. Sen. Robert Menendez, the committee’s chair, called for military reinforcements for NATO states.

Separately, on Tuesday, NATO's top commander, General Philip Breedlove, said the alliance may have to permanently station troops in Eastern Europe.
 
The general said NATO has to look at its responsiveness, readiness and positioning of forces because of the new example shown by what has happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine calls for new Geneva talks

Ukraine is ready to back a new round of talks in Geneva in a bid to de-escalate a political crisis with Russia as long as Moscow supports presidential elections, Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, said on Tuesday.

“If Russia is ready to commit itself to support these elections and to eliminate this threat and eliminate its support for the extremist elements in Ukraine, we are ready to have such a round of meetings,” he said at a news conference after a Council of Europe meeting in Vienna on the crisis in Ukraine.

Deshchytsia said his government could support another round of Geneva talks if all the parties agreed to implement any agreement made there.

“But ... the priority for Ukraine is to hold the presidential elections,” Deshchytsia said.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in Vienna it would be “unusual” to hold a presidential election in Ukraine while the government was deploying the army against some of its people.

Lavrov said opposition groups in Ukraine would have to take part in any new round of talks.

The BBC reported that Lavrov had ruled out holding a new round of talks in Geneva, saying they'd be pointless because last month's accord among the United States, the European Union and Russia had not been implemented.

However, Russia said Lavrov and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, agreed Tuesday that it was important to promote dialogue to defuse the situation in Ukraine.

Lavrov and Steinmeier, meeting on the sidelines of a Council  of Europe session, underscored "the need to continue joint efforts by Russia, the United States, the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to foster the start of a Ukraine-wide national dialogue in the interests of resolving all existing problems,'' the Foreign Ministry said.
 
  • A pro-Russian gunman speaks by phone in front of the city hall decorated with the flag of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russia man takes cover from the rain with a piece of wood at the barricades surrounding the Donetsk administration building after a press conference to inform the media about a referendum, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian gunman atop a car patrols through the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • The mother of a Cossack man killed in the burning of the trade union on May 2 holds a candle while crying next to his coffin during the funeral in Odessa, Ukraine, May 8, 2014.
  • A pro-Russia rebel wearing a gas mask places a Russian flag on the balcony of the city hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 7, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian flag burns outside the city hall in Mariupol, May 7, 2014.
  • A woman looks at a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, May 7, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian soldier talks to a man at a checkpoint near the town of Slovyansk, May 7, 2014.
  • An armed pro-Russian man guards the local administration building behind barricades, with a helmet bearing a flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Slovyansk, May 6, 2014.
  • A worker walks past an information board displaying flight delays and cancellations at the international airport in Donetsk, May 6, 2014.

'Risk of civil war'

Tuesday was generally quiet in Ukraine's eastern and southern parts, though tensions erupted in the eastern port of Mariupol, according to local media.

The website 0629.com showed images of tires burning near the city council building previously taken over by pro-Russian protesters. People reporting hearing gunfire near a military base. 

The deadliest few days since the separatist uprising began have transformed the conflict, hardening positions and leaving little room for peaceful resolution.
 
Both sides have been burying their dead this week as Ukraine slides further toward war, with supporters of Russia and of a united Ukraine each accusing the other side of tearing the country apart.

French President Francois Hollande warned Tuesday that there will be "chaos and the risk of civil war" if the May 25 presidential vote is not held.

The next few days could prove decisive. Pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donbass region plan to hold a referendum on secession on May 11, a move similar to what preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Two days before that, on May 9, is the annual Victory Day holiday celebrating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. Moscow has been openly comparing the government in Kyiv to the Nazis, and Ukrainian officials are worried that the day could provoke violence.

Insurgents killed Monday


Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Arakov said on Tuesday that 30 pro-Russian insurgents were killed during Monday's military assault to expunge anti-government forces in the eastern town of Slovyansk.

Avakov said that four government troops also died and another 20 were injured during the gun battles.

The Associated Press reported that Ukrainian forces had taken hold of a key checkpoint north of Slovyansk on Tuesday morning, dealing a blow to insurgent lines of communication. The checkpoint had come under repeated attack since the government offensive began.
A mourner carries the picture of regional parliament member Vyacheslav Markin, in Odessa, Ukraine, May 5, 2014. Markin, who was known for speaking out against the government in Kyiv.A mourner carries the picture of regional parliament member Vyacheslav Markin, in Odessa, Ukraine, May 5, 2014. Markin, who was known for speaking out against the government in Kyiv.
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A mourner carries the picture of regional parliament member Vyacheslav Markin, in Odessa, Ukraine, May 5, 2014. Markin, who was known for speaking out against the government in Kyiv.
A mourner carries the picture of regional parliament member Vyacheslav Markin, in Odessa, Ukraine, May 5, 2014. Markin, who was known for speaking out against the government in Kyiv.


In southwest Ukraine, Kyiv authorities announced the firing of the acting governor in Odessa. He was replaced with Ihor Palytsya, a member of parliament. Odessa's police chief was also fired over the weekend.
 
The actions in the predominantly Russian-speaking region come after 46 people died Friday, many in a building fire, after a pro-Ukraine march turned violent.
 
'Steps away' from military action

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned in interviews with four European newspapers published on Tuesday that Ukraine is close to war.
 
“The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation,” Steinmeier told El Pais, Le Monde, La Repubblica and Gazeta Wyborcza. He added that the conflict had taken on an intensity “that a short time ago we would not have considered possible.”

Russia announced on Tuesday that it will abide by a 2010 strategic arms reduction treaty with the United States despite their differences over the crisis in Ukraine, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
 
Signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 2010 as part of a general improvement in bilateral ties with Moscow was hailed in Washington as a major success for President Barack Obama.
 
But relations between Russia and the United States have since soured over the war in Syria, with both sides pulling out of various forms of cooperation, and are now at their lowest since the Cold War due to the crisis in Ukraine.
 
In March, Russian news agencies quoted a source as saying the Defense Ministry was considering suspending on-site inspections under START.
 
However, Ryabkov told RIA Novosti news agency, "There are no reasons today not to fulfill the treaty."

Black Sea fleet bolstered

Also on Tuesday, Russia said it would beef up its Black Sea fleet this year with new submarines and warships, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying.
 
New air defense and marine infantry units would also be deployed at the fleet's bases, which include Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March.
 
The fleet, which analysts say comprises around 40 frontline warships, is seen as a guarantor of Russia's southern borders and a platform for projecting power into the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

The West has imposed sanctions on Russian officials, businessmen and companies in response to the Crimea annexation, and Washington and Berlin have threatened more penalties if Moscow disrupts Ukraine's presidential elections scheduled for May 25.
 
Leaders of the anti-government movement say they plan to hold a referendum on autonomy for eastern regions on May 11.

Elsewhere, Ukraine's parliament is holding an emergency session to discuss the escalating crisis in the east of the country.

Ukrainian media reported on Tuesday that security chiefs are expected to brief lawmakers of the Verkhovna Rada behind closed doors on the situation in the east, where pro-Russian forces have seized government buildings and police stations in a string of cities and towns.
 
Some information for this report provided by RFE/RL, Reuters, AP.
 

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by: Matvey Tarasov from: Volgograd
May 08, 2014 9:43 AM
'Ukraine Poll' is a farce. Just at this moment ukrainian army is fighting against own citizens in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and other cities. You seem to be adults and don't understand such simple thing. I really can't figure why so. There are numerous videos, pictures etc. from Ukraine. Did you give yourself task to see them? And if not, why you are speaking about it at all? Who do you believe? Politicians? Journalists? Or your own eyes? Are you all blind?


by: Wiktor Protsenko from: Kyiv
May 07, 2014 4:02 PM
In its unannounced war against Ukraine, Russia relies on covert operations which fall squarely within the definition of "international terrorism" under 18 U.S.C. § 2331.
Please sign the petition urging the White House to officially designate Russia as "State sponsor of terrorism” - http://wh.gov/lwuL9
Such status of country would outlaw business of American companies with Russia. Even considering of the petition by Senate and President of USA creating great inconvenience Russian authorities.


by: melwin from: India
May 07, 2014 12:55 PM
I am really happy for Mr.Putin decision for supporting Ukraine elections.


by: Al Neuman from: US
May 07, 2014 7:50 AM
How about the US government stop: sabotaging legally elected Ukrainian Presidents (Yanukovych) by staging a coup, installing a puppet regime, then orchestrating a sham election where political opponents (Oleg Tsarov) are physically assaulted.

In Response

by: Sgt. John from: United States of America
May 07, 2014 12:18 PM
No one in America believe we or the E.U. are doing any thing unjust to Heir Putin and mother Russia, they deserve everything they get they broke there treaty with Ukraine as was promised with E.U. and the U.S.A. when they gave up there nuclear arsenal to protect from invasion, and who invades none other then Russia. you people who speak on this forum can not be true Americans! We back our own, and most vets i talk to agree, so take all that tripe and talk it to your Russian cronies. God Bless America


by: Mark from: Mount Pleasant
May 07, 2014 7:44 AM
I'm warning you. I'm warning you. I'll tell barack about you. Don't cross the line. Don't. Putin is laughing at you and obama.


by: johnnome1221
May 07, 2014 5:53 AM
Deputies of the Donetsk city council appealed to the Kiev authorities to stop the military action in the eastern regions of Ukraine. This was during a press conference, said the mayor of Donetsk Alexander Lukyanchenko.


by: Dai Viet from: Vietnam
May 07, 2014 1:51 AM
Kerry, we know very clearly who helped those in Kiev to overthrow a democratically elected government in Ukraine by force and violence. So you have not a single right to blame Russia for anything happening to the coming so-called "poll". Those who are preparing the "poll" have no legitimate right to organize it because they are like pirates. They are killing civilians in the South East of Ukraine. It is Russia who has shown remarkable restraint while innocent russian speaking people are being killed with tanks, helocopters and heavy weapons.


by: Al Tinfoil from: North America
May 07, 2014 1:39 AM
The US is in deep economic trouble, and is trying the old tactic of stirring up a conflict to get its military industry humming. A new Cold War would suit the US just fine, as it would force the EU to buy arms and support the US dollar. Obama, Kerry, Biden, and the military head of NATO have been beating the war drums and urging EU nations to increase military budgets and prepare for "invasion by Russia into Europe".
Ukraine was peaceful until Yanukovich rejected the very one-sided EU Association Agreement and accepted a better offer from Russia. The US went ballistic and staged a bloody coup to take over Ukraine. Putin reacted to protect the Russian Black Sea base, using the procedure developed by the US in Kosovo, and approved by the International Court of Justice.
The people of east Ukraine are ethnically and linguistically Russian, and depend on industries that need cheap oil and gas from Russia, and access to Russian markets, to survive. Also, the austerity imposed by the IMF will impoverish the people of Ukraine.
The new Kiev junta is strongly anti-Russian and contains ultra-nationalists strongly in favor of ethnic cleansing. These ultra-nationalists in the Svoboda and Right Sector are now being used to brutalize the people of east Ukraine. See Veterans Today report "Kiev and Right Sector Kristallnacht Odessa" for eye-witness reports on brutal attacks and murders of civilians by the Right Sector from Kiev in Odessa.
http://www.veteranstoday.com/?p=300705
http://rt.com/news/154452-right-sector-yarosh-unit/
http://ersieesist.livejournal.com/813.html

The CIA, FBI, and Blackwater mercenaries are now active in Ukraine on behalf of Kiev. Kiev is pressing ahead with its attacks in east Ukraine, and the population does not have the arms or military equipment necessary to defend themselves. Perhaps their greatest strength comes from soldiers from the Ukrainian army who have deserted to the eastern side rather than fire on civilians in support of the Kiev junta.
The aim of the US is to provoke Putin into sending in the Russian army, in order to escalate the conflict into a full-blown military confrontation and rebuild the Cold War against Russia.


by: gen from: Japan
May 06, 2014 11:14 PM
For pro russisn,Ukraine presidential election will be forced by west and ultra nationalists illegal government in kiev.
The governnent in kiev decided to relax
the requirement of the establishment of the coming presidential election.They already know the eastern pro russian will not participate in the presidenctial election.Now the eastern pro russian are being attacked by ukraine army by the instruction of illegal right sector government in kiev.For eastern pro russian,this is like a presidetial election surrounded by Hitlers.
Is it democracy forced by guns? This is new one , democracy forced by guns.Who invented the politics system like this in 21Century?
A civil war would be much more complicated and worse.
It lost a negociation table between kiev and pro russian.They would have no choice to bring guns. West is going to produce more killing fields in Ukraine?
The presidential election would be a mere ritual for making alliance between West and Kiev.So Pro russian will make a ritual for alliance with Russia.It would be decision of independece from kiev.


by: joe from: yuma
May 06, 2014 10:16 PM
Obama, Kerry and H. Clinton need to be kicked out of Washington DC for good.

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