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Four-party Geneva talks on Ukraine are working on a written "solution to the problem": diplomatic source with knowledge of the talks
NATO denies Putin's allegation that Rasmussen secretly taped a conversation with him, says Russia seeks to divert attention from its actions in Ukraine
Russian airline says Ukraine will restrict entry of Russian men
MOSCOW - Aeroflot on Thursday said Ukraine has informed the Russian airline it will impose tight restrictions on the entry of Russian men into the country, where pro-Russian separatist rebellions have broken out.
"Aeroflot is informing passengers about strict restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian authorities on entry into the country," the company said in a statement. It indicated men between the ages of 16 and 60 would be denied entry unless they had proof of a reason to visit, such as family ties or an invitation from a business or individual, or were traveling with their families.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Steve Gutterman)
People attend Russian President Vladimir Putin's live broadcast nationwide phone-in in Moscow April 17, 2014. Putin on Thursday did not rule out sending Russian troops into eastern Ukraine but said he hoped he would not need to, and that diplomacy would serve to resolve the crisis there. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
EU agrees to Putin's call for gas security talks
The European Union told Russian President Vladimir Putin it is willing to hold talks with Moscow and Kiev on gas security as the bloc scrambles to defuse a deep political crisis over Russia's annexation of Crimea.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, replying to a letter Putin sent last week to 18 EU countries, accepted Putin's proposal for three-way talks.
U.S. government is in talks with business community about Russia sanctions but has not specifically asked companies not to invest there: administration officials
NATO agrees steps to bolster security of eastern allies
BRUSSELS - Military alliance NATO said on Wednesday it had decided on a series of immediate steps to reinforce its forces in eastern Europe because of the Ukraine crisis.
"You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land to take place immediately, that means within days," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference after the decisions were taken by NATO ambassadors.
NATO fighter aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region, allied ships will deploy to the Baltic sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, and allied military staff will be sent out to improve NATO’s preparedness, training and exercises, Rasmussen said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft)
Russia mulls lawsuit against United States in WTO over sanctions
MOSCOW - Russia is looking at the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the United States in the World Trade Organisation over sanctions hitting Russian banks, Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Wednesday, according to Russian news agencies.
St Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya was sanctioned alongside its chairman and largest shareholder Yuri Kovalchuk in March as part of punitive measures by Washington over Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Russian bank SMP was also indirectly affected as co-owners Boris Rotenberg and his older brother Arkady fell under U.S. sanctions. SMP chief executive Dmitry Kalantyrsky has said that an estimated 9 billion roubles ($249 million) had been withdrawn after the sanctions were imposed.
"The WTO gives us some additional possibilities," Ulyukayev was quoted by Interfax as saying on Wednesday. "We at the WTO council in Geneva talked about the possibility of filing lawsuits against the U.S. over the sanctions against Russian banks and we hope to use the mechanism of the WTO to keep our partners in check regarding this issue."
In an April 9 bulletin on its website detailing a meeting regarding the council for trade in goods, the WTO said that Russia had expressed concern about a recent Executive Order signed by U.S. President Barack Obama regarding "listed persons of Russian Federation whose bank accounts were blocked".
Russia was "closely monitoring the effect of this measure on Russian operators and on the potential violation of WTO Agreements" and "urged other members not to be drawn to political motivations when it comes to trade," the WTO statement said.
The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it anticipates more Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia but suggested no action was likely before a diplomatic meeting in Geneva this week.
(Reporting by Megan Davies; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Giles Elgood)
Local residents bring flowers to place them on armoured personnel carriers in Slaviansk April 16, 2014. At least three armoured personal carriers that were driven in to the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk had been under the control of Ukrainian armed forces earlier on Wednesday, Reuters photographers said. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighter flies above Slaviansk April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Crimea on bumpy road to becoming a Russian province
By Alissa de Carbonnel
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea - Natalia Rudenko's ears were still ringing from being shouted at by a father demanding that the Ukrainian-language school she has run for 17 years in Crimea's capital now teach in Russian when local officials turned up at her office to dismiss her.
Their message: Rudenko and her school dedicated to sending students to Ukrainian universities no longer have a place in a society that voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia last month after Moscow deployed troops across the Black Sea peninsula.
As shocked staff and parents gathered in her office, bringing flowers, the matronly 62-year-old was overcome with emotion: "I built this school from the ground up," she said.
Rudenko's dismissal is part of a colossal reshuffling managed from the Kremlin in the wake of Crimea's annexation to hurriedly remake the Ukrainian region of some 2 million people into a Russian territory populated by Russians.
It's a baffling, monumental task pro-Russian leaders are rushing to complete during a "transition period" that lasts until January 1, 2015 - in many cases cutting corners and dispensing with niceties.
Armed men stand near armoured personnel carriers, with a Russian flag on top one of the vehicles (R), in Slaviansk April 16, 2014. Six armoured troop carriers entered the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk on Wednesday carrying the Russian national flag and the banner of pro-Russian separatists, a Reuters eyewitness said. The sign on the building reads, "White Night cafe". REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Russia and Ukraine ambassadors trade accusations at emergency U.N. meeting. Katie Sargent reports.
Moody's downgrades Kiev and Kharkiv to CAA3 from CAA2; outlook negative
Ashton, Kerry, foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine will meet next week to discuss Ukraine: EU statement
The "what if?" scenario
Ukrainian police removed 70 pro-Russian protesters from the city of Kharkiv today, after a short-lived occupation of the town. But the pro-Moscow movement has retained its foothold in two other towns, Luhansk and Donetsk.
This raised red flags for some western leaders, who accused the Kremlin of influencing the unrest. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for Russia to "step back" from Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian operatives of stirring the pot in the former Soviet state. Perhaps even more damningly, Kerry called out Russia for alleged "clear and unmistakable involvement in destabilizing" parts of Eastern Ukraine.
In a day of increasingly dire rhetoric, it's difficult not to speculate on the "what if" scenarios. Which is exactly what Vox did in a post entitled (yep) "Here's what could happen if Russia invades Ukraine":
Military cooperation with the West had made Ukraine's military stronger than you might think, so Russia would take real losses in an invasion That being said, Ukraine doesn't stand a chance in a real conflict. Ukraine has a lot of old-Soviet era equipment, and their defense budget is 1/40th of Russia's. And Russia has seven times as many troops, twice as many tanks, and six times as many combat aircraft.
(You can read the rest of Vox's piece here.)
Things don't sound so hot for Ukraine.
Time, however, pointed out that pushing further into Ukraine could pose greater complications for Russia:
Eastern Ukraine is not like Crimea. It is far bigger, more diverse, better integrated into Ukraine’s economy and more vital to its survival than Crimea, and if the action proceeds again toward a Russian invasion of these territories, the Kremlin’s choreographers will have a much harder time pulling it off. The stakes this time are incomparably higher.
(Click here to read the rest of Time's piece.)
Kazakhstan nervous of tougher Russia/Ukraine oil sanctions
ASTANA/MOSCOW - Kazakhstan, which has backed close ally Russia's actions in Ukraine, is seeking alternative routes for its oil exports which may fall if the West decides to toughen sanctions against Russia, a major transit route of Kazakh crude to world markets.
A vast steppe nation of 17 million, Kazakhstan is Central Asia's largest economy and the second-largest post-Soviet oil producer after Russia, with which it participates in a customs union and plans to form the Eurasian Economic Union this year.
Russia's annexation of Crimea in neighboring Ukraine has so far only elicited targeted sanctions against certain Russian and Ukrainian individuals and many believe major crude producer Russia's key position in world energy markets makes heavier sanctions very unlikely.
Click here to read more.
Video: Economic war risks over Ukraine
Ukraine to get help from new EU support group
BRUSSELS - The European Union will set up a special support group to help Ukraine stabilize its precarious economy and political situation, an EU diplomat said on Tuesday.
Concern is growing that Moscow could be preparing for further military action in Ukraine and on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian agents and special forces of stirring separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine.
The support group, whose creation is expected to be announced on Wednesday, would bring together "several dozen people" to work out priorities for Ukraine, an EU diplomat said, asking not to be named.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Adrian Croft)
Ukraine Says Separatists Hold Hostages; Activists Deny Charge
LUHANSK - Ukraine's state security service on Tuesday said that pro-Russian separatists had placed explosives in a building they seized in the eastern city of Luhansk and were holding 60 people hostage.
But the activists, who have controlled the region's state security headquarters since storming it on Sunday, denied both charges. They said they had no explosives, but had seized an armoury full of automatic rifles.
"The criminals have rigged the building with explosives ... and are holding around 60 people, threatening them with weapons and explosives," the SBU security service said in a statement. "They are using terrorist measures."
But one of the protest leaders told Reuters that there were no explosives and that no one was being prevented from leaving the building.
Read more here.
Protesters In East Ukraine Deny Having Explosives, Holding Hostages
LUHANSK - Protesters occupying the state security building in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday denied a charge that they had wired the building with explosives and were holding people against their will.
"There are no explosives, no hostages. We do not need hostages to get what we want," said Anton, one of the protesters who described himself as a coordinator of the action.
Earlier Ukraine's state security service said the protesters were using weapons to hold about 60 people against their will.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Conor Humphries)
Russia is not much concerned at inconvenience or short-term financial costs if it makes long-term strategic gains.Many indicators and warnings of preparation for a possible invasion are in place, including logistics, food supplies, medical services, and interior troops which would be used for control of occupied areas.But this is not necessarily an indication that Russia will invade, simply that Russia wishes to be prepared to do so given the opportunity or the perceived necessity.-- Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, a group specializing in Russian military affairs, from the BBC story "Is Russia ready to move into eastern Ukraine?"
Russia's Lavrov, EU's Ashton discuss Ukraine crisis
MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday discussed possible international efforts to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis, the Russian ministry said in a statement.
In a telephone conversation initiated by Ashton, Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's proposal for "an authentic Ukraine-wide dialogue involving all political forces and regions" aimed at reaching agreement on constitutional reforms, it said.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
Secretary of State John Kerry pauses as he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 8, 2014. Kerry squarely blamed Russian agents on Tuesday for separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, saying Moscow could be trying to lay the groundwork for military action like in Crimea. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Protesters in Luhansk, Ukraine, deny having explosives and holding hostages in state security building: Reuters
In sniper deaths, Yatseniuk puts blame on Yanukovich
Ukraine's prime minister told Reuters today that he believes ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich was behind the mid-February sniper shootings in Kiev that killed dozens of protesters. Yatseniuk also alluded to possible Russian involvement in the operation, noting that some members of Russia's security force had been in the Ukrainian security service headquarters at the time.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that 12 snipers had been identified and arrested, BBC reported.
In the meantime, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov delivered a wicked burn on the U.S. over Crimea, telling western officials, in essence, to get over it. "What can one advise our U.S. colleagues to do?" Ryabkov asked, rhetorically, to Interfax. "Spend more time in the open, practice yoga, stick to food-combining diets, maybe watch some comedy sketch shows on TV."
Keep reading for more live news and updates throughout the day. And for those of you not too busy stretching out in a downward dog, munching on your food-combining diet meal or watching "Saturday Night Live" reruns, here are a few Reuters stories to get you started:
- NATO accuses Russia of breaking international commitments
- Russia protests over German minister's Nazi-Crimea comparison
- Video: Dark cloud over Crimea's tourism coast
Russia raises gas prices for Ukraine by 80 percent
Russia raised the gas price for Ukraine on Thursday for the second time this week, almost doubling it in three days and piling pressure on a neighbor on the brink of bankruptcy in the crisis over Crimea.
The increase, announced in Moscow by Russian natural gas producer Gazprom, means Ukraine will pay 80 percent more for its gas than before the initial increase on Monday.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the latest move, two weeks after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, was unacceptable and warned that he expected Russia to increase pressure on Kiev by limiting supply to his country.
"There is no reason why Russia would raise the gas price for Ukraine ... other than one - politics," Yatseniuk told Reuters in an interview in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Click here to read more.
A woman takes a 'selfie' with a mobile phone in front of activists from the Internet Party of Ukraine during a rally near the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission in Kiev April 3, 2014. The party leader "Darth Vader" has submitted documents to the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission to register as a candidate for Ukraine's May 25 presidential election. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
Russia detains 25 Ukrainians suspected of attacks: agency
MOSCOW - Russia has detained 25 Ukrainians suspected of preparing terror attacks in the southern and central part of the country, RIA news agency quoted a statement by the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying on Thursday.
The detained, who were reported as being members of ultra-nationalist movements, were planning attacks between March 14 and 17, it said. The press service of the Ukrainian state security service (SBU) dismissed the report as "nonsense".
The announcement came hours after the SBU said FSB staff had been present at the SBU headquarters during of anti-government protests in Kiev.
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
Deutsche Post stops accepting Crimea-bound letters
FRANKFURT - Deutsche Post is no longer accepting letters bound for Crimea after its Ukrainian counterpart told the Geneva-based Universal Postal Union (UPU) that delivery to the region was no longer guaranteed, the German postal company said on Thursday.
A Deutsche Post spokesman said that Ukraine's advisory to the UPU after Russia's annexation of Crimea also affects delivery of parcels and packages sent via the traditional postal networks of both countries.
The UPU is a United Nations agency that coordinates postal policies among member nations and the worldwide postal system.
The spokesman said that urgent documents and goods shipped via the DHL express courier unit of Deutsche Post were not affected because DHL has its own private logistics network in Ukraine and could therefore continue deliveries.
Deutsche Post, the world No. 1 postal and logistics group, still dominates the German mail market but generates the bulk of its revenue from its DHL logistics divisions.
(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Writing by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by David Goodman)
Ukraine security official: Yanukovich responsible for mass killings
Report of Ukrainians planning attacks on Russia is "nonsense": Ukrainian state security services
Russian tank crew members wait for their T-72B tank to be ready to move off a train shortly after Russian tanks arrived at a train station in the Crimean settlement of Gvardeiskoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 31, 2014. Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from a region near Ukraine's eastern border, the Russian Defence Ministry was quoted as saying by state news agencies on Monday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
White House: Kerry to speak to Lavrov again about Ukraine
WASHINGTON - The White House said on Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had agreed to speak again about ways to resolve the crisis in Ukraine but that no date for such a conversation had been set.
Kerry and Lavrov spoke by phone about the issue earlier on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also noted reports of possible drawdowns by Russian troops on the Ukraine border but said the administration had not seen that yet.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Secretary Kerry and Russia's foreign minister have agreed to speak again about Ukraine crisis: White House
That's a wrap on Hagel. Thanks for watching.
Buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine border numbers in the tens of thousands: Hagel
Ukraine parliament fails to support first bid to pass anti-crisis law required for IMF deal, deputies continue discussion
Senate is on a quorum call. Vote on Ukraine bill expected at 12 noon EDT.
I think that Putin right now doesn't yet know himself what he's going to do relative to south and eastern Ukraine: Sen. Corker
The events in Ukraine continue to unfold - so I hope we'll come back again, as changes occur: Sen. Corker
What we need to do as a nation again [...] we're supporting Ukraine with this bill. We're also authorizing some assistance to our allies in the region: Sen. Corker
I do hope we'll turn the volume up. And I do hope we'll go ahead and [add sanctions] to some additional companies in Russia: Sen. Corker
If you throw everthing but the kitchen sink on the front end, then Russia really doesn't have anything to lose: Sen. Corker, on sanctions
MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would send ideas to Washington within a week to follow up his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on the Ukraine crisis.