News / Europe

    Kerry to Russia: Don't Interfere in Ukraine Poll

    • A Ukrainian army armored fighting vehicle patrols north of the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, May 13, 2014.
    • An effigy of a Ukrainian soldier hangs above a pro-Russian checkpoint as a local woman cycles by the entrance of the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, May 13, 2014.
    • A car passes by barricades with a Russian national flag on a road leading into Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 13, 2014.
    • Yevgeni Kharkovski, 75, surveys the damage caused to his home by mortar shelling two nights ago, Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 12, 2014.
    • Alexander Malykhin, head of a local election committee, announces the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region, in Luhansk, Ukraine, May 12, 2014.
    • This multistory apartment block was destroyed by an explosion, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, May 12, 2014.
    • Firefighters work outside a multistory apartment block that was heavily damaged by an explosion. At least three people died in the explosion, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, May 12, 2014.
    • People gather near a multistory apartment that was destroyed by an explosion, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, May 12, 2014.
    • Mourners carry a coffin containing the body of Rodion Dobrodomov, a member of the Ukrainian National Guard killed during a battle in Mariupol on May 9, at his funeral, in Kyiv, May 12, 2014.
    • A pro-Russia rebel takes a front line position behind railway cars following early morning shelling by Ukrainian forces, south of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, May 12, 2014.
    Growing Tensions in Ukraine
    VOA News
    In another sign of support for Ukraine and warning to Russia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that with upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, its people should be able to forge their own destiny.

    Ukraine's future absolutely should not be determined "at the barrel of a gun" or "by ballots marked in Moscow," said Kerry speaking at the State Department at a joint press conference with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

    Cautioning Russia not to interfere in the May 25 balloting in Ukraine, he said the U.S. and the West stand united in defense of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    "Russia faces a choice," said Kerry, adding that the people of Ukraine need to be given the "ability to breathe through the democratic process."

    He welcomed additional sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russian officials involved in the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninusla.

    Kerry also expressed support for ongoing efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to assist Kyiv in realizing constitutional reforms needed to diffuse internal tensions in Ukraine.

    Speaking about the United States' commitment to its allies in Europe, Kerry warned Moscow that NATO territory is inviolable and that "we will defend every piece of it."

    Rebel ambush

    Seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven wounded on Tuesday when their armored column was ambushed by pro-Russian separatists near Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said.
     
    It was the biggest single loss of life by the Ukrainian army since soldiers were sent into the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country to break up armed separatist groups who have seized control of towns and public buildings in a bid to further demands for autonomy.
     
    The ministry, in a statement published on its website, said an armored column came under fire as it approached a bridge near a village 20 kilometers from Kramatorsk, one of several hot spots in the region where the army has had only limited success against the separatists.

    About 30 rebels, who had taken cover among bushes along a river, attacked with grenade launchers and automatic weapons, immediately killing two soldiers and wounding three others, the ministry said.
     
    Diplomacy

    The incident took place on the same day Germany's foreign minister traveled to Ukraine to push for a negotiated solution to the country's crisis. 
     
    Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after arriving in Kyiv he hoped this week's government-sponsored "round table," involving Ukrainian politicians and civic groups from across the country, would help disarm pro-Russian separatists before presidential and mayoral elections later this month.
     
    Steinmeier met with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at Kyiv's Borispol Airport before traveling to the southern port city of Odessa, where street fighting escalated into a building fire on May 2 that killed more than 40 people, most of them separatist supporters. The German foreign minister said the situation in Ukraine remains "dangerous and threatening."

    The German minister's trip is aimed at supporting a "road map" for settling the crisis outlined by the OSCE.  It calls for both sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence, an immediate amnesty for those involved in the fighting, and talks on decentralization of the country and the status of the Russian language.

    Top US official in Kyiv

    Meanwhile, Richard Stengel, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, voiced strong U.S. support for elections in Ukraine, saying Russia could face more sanctions if it attempts to disrupt the vote.

    "We want to help foster a free and fair election in any way we can," Stengel said in an interview with VOA's Ukrainian Service during a visit to Kyiv.
    U.S. Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel (frame-grab) - Ruslan Deynychenko/VOA UkrainianU.S. Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel (frame-grab) - Ruslan Deynychenko/VOA Ukrainian
    x
    U.S. Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel (frame-grab) - Ruslan Deynychenko/VOA Ukrainian
    U.S. Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel (frame-grab) - Ruslan Deynychenko/VOA Ukrainian


    He said the U.S. looks warily at what Russia might do in eastern Ukraine during the election, stressing that both President Barack Obama and Kerry have urged Moscow not to interfere.

    If it interferes, Stengel said the U.S. might consider imposing stricter or even sectoral sanctions.

    Stengel also took issue with what he called the "Russian propaganda machine" distorting the real picture in Ukraine.

    Moscow's efforts need to be countered, he said: "You have to combat lies with the truth, you have to combat fiction with reality, and that is something we are trying to do."

    Stengel is also due to visit Brussels and Riga, Latvia, as part of U.S. efforts to foster greater regional engagement in support of Ukraine’s election, according to a State Department release.
     
    Self-rule votes

    The diplomatic push by Germany and the U.S. follows declarations of independence Monday by two regions of eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, where separatists held self-rule referendums on Sunday. 

    After declaring independence from Ukraine, separatist leaders in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic asked Moscow to consider formally "absorbing" the region into the Russian Federation.
     
    Russia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it expects the pro-Russian "self-defense forces" in eastern Ukraine to "react appropriately" if Kyiv agrees to halt "punitive actions" there and withdraw its military forces, as well as right-wing paramilitary forces and "mercenaries," from the region.
     
    Moscow has not yet responded to the Donetsk request for absorption. It said it respects the results of Sunday's referendums and called for a "dialogue" between the Ukrainian government and the two breakaway regions.

    Russia retaliates for sanctions

    Moscow retaliated for U.S. sanctions on Tuesday, casting doubt on the long-term future of the International Space Station, a $100 billion,15-nation project that was supposed to end the space race of the Cold War era.

    Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would reject a U.S. request to prolong the orbiting station's use beyond 2020. It would also bar Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites.

    “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicizes everything,” Rogozin told a news conference.

    Washington wants to keep the space station in use until at least 2024. But since the end of the U.S. space shuttle program, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft have been the only means to get there.

    The U.S. space agency NASA is working with companies to develop space taxis with the goal of restoring U.S. transport to the station by 2017. The United States currently pays Russia more than $60 million for each astronaut it flies to the station.

    No sign of troop movements

    The U.S. government released new satellite pictures on Tuesday which it said showed Russian forces were still near the Ukrainian border in recent days, contradicting Russian assertions they had been withdrawn.

    President Vladimir Putin announced last Wednesday that the troops had moved, but NATO and the United States both said they had seen no sign of a Russian withdrawal from the frontier.

    NATO officials have previously estimated Russia has around 40,000 soldiers close to Ukraine's border, exacerbating the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

    Colonel Martin Downie, spokesman for Allied Command Operations at NATO, said recent comments by Russia's leadership on a troop withdrawal did not reflect realities on the ground.

    “The reality is that Russia continues to have 40,000 high readiness troops massed on Ukraine's border and another 25,000 troops in Crimea. The units on the latest satellite pictures show mechanized infantry, armored vehicles and combat helicopters,” he said in a statement.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jose from: Mexico
    May 14, 2014 4:20 PM
    I would agree with Kerry if he includes USA, EU and NATO along with Russia in his demand: do not interfere in Ukraine.

    by: Sergey from: SPb
    May 14, 2014 4:04 AM
    Demagogic declarations about "ballots marked in Moscow" and "at the barrel of a gun" can't stop the violance in Ukrain.
    The same is about blaming Russia in provokation, establishing and escalation of the crisis.
    Please produce proofs.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 14, 2014 10:35 AM
    The whole world is watching on what happens in Ukraine, and the US losses more (credibility) everyday, with their name calling, finger pointing, sanctions, threats of red lines, and other propaganda... (The US is reduced to using "Hashtag Diplomacy" -- because the US with the greatest military force in the history of the world, can't win a single conflict or war they ever took part in, and now use kiddie schoolyard tactics against the Russians?).... REALLY?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 14, 2014 12:31 AM
    The US and the western news media, win the battles for name calling, finger pointing, threats and propaganda, -- (BUT?) -- it pales in comparison to Putin and Russia winning the real Ukraine battles from "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.....
    Anybody who leads a column of armored vehicles, (in an enemies territory), down a road without infantry support is a fool, because the enemy has the terrain on their side.. --
    (And he who underestimates his enemy, and overestimates himself, shall surely pay the price for his folly?)... "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu....

    by: gen from: Japan
    May 13, 2014 11:23 PM
    Mr Kerry.What did he say? "Ukraine need to be given the abilty to breath DEMOCRATIC process". I think it is a misprinted? I think it is "DEMON process".No offence.Though US ignored Russian speaking minorty's referendum.
    Everybody understand US 's democracy means democray only in favor for US and Ultra right sector,neo-Nazi.
    How do we understand "the democray ignoring residents's referendum"?
    How do we explain childen such a new democracy.

    by: Mrs. Direhours from: USA
    May 13, 2014 11:09 PM
    Kerry is the ULTIMATE SCUMBAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    VOA GROVELS TO HIM.

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    May 13, 2014 3:59 PM
    While the US is combating lies with truth, fiction with reality, the Ukrainians are combating each other with bullets. It has become a bloody affair, and will become even bloodier from now on. This crisis has escalated beyond the point where dialogue is going to fix anything, and further sanctions will only worsen the relationship between Washington and Moscow, and at a time when both sides need to keep a working relationship alive. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in another Cold War. Instead of moving forward, all parties are falling back to the way things used to be in the '70s and '80s, full of distrust, suspicion and ideological rhetoric.
    History repeats itself. Prepare for Round Two.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 14, 2014 1:02 AM
    Mark -- Negotiations between the pro-western and pro-Russian Ukrainians will now be possible since the votes to become autonomous regions or independent states was successful...
    Borders must be drawn, territorial boundaries must be agreed on, and if they will be autonomous regions of Ukraine, or independent states, or a part of the Russian Federation? -- There are a lot of things that need to be negotiated on? --- But now peace is possible -- (BECAUSE, the vote to become independent states was needed to be successful), because it was the only way to get both sides to the negotiating table... REALLY
    In Response

    by: htinlinaung from: Yangon,Myanmar
    May 13, 2014 9:34 PM
    Tell me more history. I want to know what would become.

    by: Baldur Dasche from: Botwana
    May 13, 2014 3:46 PM
    Payback for yesterday's mortar 'stonk' on the civilian checkpoints outside tthe city?

    It seems that the military presence is now governed by the principle that he who shoots first does best.

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