World News

Russian FM: Western Support for Ukrainian Protests a 'Bad Example'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the West set a "bad example" by supporting Ukrainian protesters that Russia has accused of an "unconstitutional" coup.

Lavrov spoke Wednesday in Madrid alongside his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo. Lavrov is meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later in the day in Paris, where both officials will be attending a conference on Lebanon.

Western leaders have been calling for a de-escalation of tensions sparked when Russian forces moved into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula late last week. The West has suggested the crisis could be resolved if Russia pulls back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea peninsula and allows in international monitors.

But Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed forces in Crimea, which he described as "self defense" forces, back to bases, because they are not Russian forces. He said Russia's Black Sea fleet personnel are in their normal positions.

And he said allowing international monitors into Crimea is not Russia's decision, but the decision of Ukrainian and Crimean authorities.

NATO said Tuesday the Russian military presence in Ukraine presents "serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area."

The Western defense alliance and Russia have agreed to meet Wednesday in Brussels for talks on the crisis in Ukraine -- their first public contact since the Crimea crisis began.

Kerry was in Kyiv on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian officials and said the United States wants to see a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

"It is diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century. President Obama and I want to make it clear to Russia and to everybody in the world that we are not seeking confrontation. There's a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine."

At a fundraiser Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said Russia is breaching international law and using troops to "try to force the hands of the Ukrainian people." He told reporters earlier in the day that the international community wants to make sure the rights of Ukrainians are upheld.

"I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state."

He called on Russia to open talks with the interim Ukrainian government, and to allow international monitors to determine whether ethnic Russians in Ukraine are under threat, as alleged by Moscow.

Mr. Obama's comments followed a news conference in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who defended his country's military intervention in Crimea.

The Russian leader said he reserves the right to protect Russians in Ukraine. But he also insisted that gunmen blocking Ukrainian military units in the region are "local self-defense forces," not Russian soldiers.

President Obama countered that Moscow has no legal right to intervene militarily, while acknowledging that Mr. Putin "seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations."

The Obama administration also announced a $1 billion energy subsidy package for Ukraine, which is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Crimean peninsula was placed under Ukrainian control in 1954 by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It remained part of Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Crimea has a tiny border with Russia on its far eastern point, and the Crimean port of Sevastapol is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.

Most residents of Crimea are ethnic Russians, but the region also is home to ethnic Muslim Tatars, who generally show disdain for Russia.

Ukrainian officials say Moscow has sent 16,000 troops into Crimea since last week.

Ukraine's troubles began in November, when president Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties and economic aid from Russia. The move triggered weeks of pro-Western anti-government demonstrations in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine, and forced the pro-Russian Yanukovych to flee the capital in late February.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs