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Merkel, Hollande push for Ukraine sanctions

Merkel, Hollande push for Ukraine sanctions

Paris and Berlin have agreed on possible sanctions after at least 25 people died in violent clashes in Kyiv. The EU is preparing to push through emergency measures following the bloodshed on Tuesday.
Merkel und Hollande PK 19.02.2014 Paris

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for targeted sanctions against Ukraine’s leadership at a joint press conference in Paris on Wednesday.

The two said the measures were part of an approach to promote a compromise leading to constitutional reform and elections.

“What is happening in Ukraine is unspeakable, unacceptable, intolerable,” said Hollande.

Merkel also said sanctions against Ukraine’s leadership would show the EU was serious in pressing for a political solution. She told waiting reporters that they were talking to all sides in the crisis, including Russia.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron called on Kyiv to pull back security forces surrounding protesters in the capital.

In a statement released by Downing Street on Wednesday, Cameron said “I am deeply concerned by the scenes we are witnessing in Ukraine.”

“President [Viktor] Yanukovich should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable,” Cameron continued.

In a further development on Wednesday evening, the president replaced the chief of Ukraine’s armed forces.

The move was announced in a presidential decree and came as the acting defense minister said the army could take part in a nationwide anti-terrorist operation to restore order.

Foreign ministers head to Ukraine

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be joined by his French and Polish counterparts in Kyiv on Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed they would go to Ukraine ahead of talks in Brussels.

“With my Polish and German colleagues we have decided to go to Kyiv tomorrow morning … to gather the latest information before the meeting in Brussels,” Fabius said alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on an official trip to Paris.

Kerry also said the US was working closely with the EU on the Ukraine crisis.

“We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise,” he said.

Emergency EU talks

Speaking from Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy confirmed that “our ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council will at their meeting tomorrow (Thursday) examine targeted measures, such as financial sanctions and visa restrictions against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force.”

EU diplomats are reported to be already in the process of drafting sanctions against those behind fresh violence and continued use of excessive force in Ukraine.

Last week, Europe’s foreign ministers promised they would “respond quickly to any deterioration on the ground,” but the implementation of sanctions needs the unanimous backing of all 28 member states.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said, “It was with shock and utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine.”

“There are no circumstances that can legitimize or justify such scenes,” he added.

Barroso echoed the international community’s reaction to the deaths of at least 25 people, including nine police officers, in violent clashes on Independence Square – also known as Maidan – in Kyiv on Tuesday. Hundreds were reported to have been injured.

Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank (EIB) said it had frozen its activities in Ukraine due to the recent violence.

Three months of unrest

In November, initial peaceful protests were held in Kyiv after Yanukovych rejected an EU deal in favor of strengthening ties with Russia.

In mid-December, the president had struck a multi-billion dollar bailout agreement with Moscow to a backdrop of increasing unrest.

By then, a reported 300,000 people had joined the demonstrations in the capital – police brutality and use of excessive force became the main media focus in the biggest rallies since the Orange revolution in 2004.

lw/dr (dpa, Reuters, AP)

Europe its time to act. Will the duo of Merkel and Hollande stand-up to Putin. Europe show your resolve for freedom and democracy -SANCTIONS NOW!

Blood and Berkut Sniper Bullets on the President’s Hands

Blood and Berkut Sniper Bullets on the President’s Hands
18.02.14 | Halya Coynash

Two of those whom the authorities call "extremists"

Two of those whom the authorities call “extremists”

The first reports that Berkut riot police were positioned on roofs and aiming rubber bullets and grenades at protesters came early on Tuesday. They almost certainly preceded the later disturbances and the two women who received wounds were very clearly peaceful protesters.

This soon changed, and the conflict became ugly. As of 1 a.m. on Wednesday, at least 20 people are reported dead and the centre of Kyiv is burning.

It is those later images that have been published in the world media and that have prompted European and North Atlantic countries to issue statements condemning the violence and calling for “both sides” to renounce force and sit down at the negotiating table. Ukrainian oligarchs have also grabbed the opportunity and called for “an end to violence”.

Some western commentators are refreshingly blunt. David Kramer from Freedom House has stated that “legitimate democratic leaders do not order riot police to attack protesters asking for a more open government, Yanukovych has forfeited his legitimacy and needs to step down”.

The following are just a few of the day’s events that strip any regime of its legitimacy. More will become clearer over the coming days and weeks. Time however is not on Ukrainians’ side now that the president, Viktor Yanukovych, doubtless buoyed – or bound – by yesterday’s 2 billion loan from Russia has chosen bloodshed.

The reports from Tuesday morning showed ordinary protesters preparing for a march on parliament. The pro-presidential Party of the Regions was blocking attempts to even table a draft law proposing changes to the Constitution. Berkut riot police blocked the streets to prevent the protesters even approaching parliament. Judging by those early reports, and confirmed by photos, Berkut snipers began shooting (then only rubber bullets) and hurling grenades very early on.

This is indeed not the behaviour of a legitimate democratic government, but there is more. There have been reports from morning of large number of titushki or hired thugs in the centre. They were seen provoking conflict, looting and some reports suggest that they may have shot at Berkut officers. There is also a video clip which appears to show a protester injured, perhaps killed, by fire from titushki.

Can such reports be treated as standard attempts to blame the other side for any escalation? There is ample evidence of such use of titushki over recent months, as was noted by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner during his visit to Ukraine. The assertion by the police that 7 officers have been shot and killed seems at least strange since none of the western or Ukrainian media reports speak of protesters using firearms.

The government has tried to present the protesters as “extremists”, and has called the use of force to clear the EuroMaidan demonstrators on Maidan Nezalezhnosti “an anti-terrorist” action. Despite the violence and the number of deaths, the numbers on Maidan have not abated. Some thirty thousand people simply by virtue of their numbers can hardly be called “terrorists”. They do not fit the description in any other way either. Through the evening, they have been singing the Ukrainian national anthem, taking part in public prayer and listening to addresses, including one from Mustafa Jemilev, veteran defender of the rights of the Crimean Tatars and Soviet political prisoner, who expressed pride in his fellow Ukrainians.

These “terrorists” are being treated, when injured, by a medical service made up solely of volunteers, some of whom have themselves come under attack. The EuroMaidan Civic Sector reports that with Berkut setting protesters’ tents and some buildings on fire, the medical unit has been forced to move to the Myhailivsky [St Michael’s] Cathedral. A large number of people have been detained, with lawyers not allowed to see those held at 5 police stations

During meetings with EU and Council of Europe representatives at the end of January, EuroMaidan and human rights activists spoke of credible rumours that a crackdown would be attempted after the middle of February. The timing was linked with the fact that the Sochi Olympics would then be drawing to an end, and Russia would not need to fear any boycott of its games. Over the weekend that danger seemed to have abated with Maidan and opposition negotiators showing readiness to comply with the notorious “hostage law” by vacating government buildings, clearing part of the road, etc, in order to get the charges against a huge number of protesters waived.

The announcement on Monday that Yanukovych had agreed another loan of 2 billion from Russia led to considerable speculation as to what the agreement had entailed.

Tuesday began with Ukrainians of different ages, professions, ethnic origin and faiths endeavouring to present demands which are legitimate in any democratic country. The descent into violence and bloodshed is indeed a cause of deep concern. It is surely time, however, for that concern to be translated into action by those who hold democratic values dear.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.


We need a Marshall Plan to fix Ukraine

We need a Marshall Plan to fix Ukraine


Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Feb. 13 2014, 10:07 AM EST

The turmoil in Ukraine, now in its third month, will be not be resolved without robust intervention on the part of its key western partners, the European Union, the United States and Canada
. The crisis began when Ukrainians swept into the streets to protest President Yanukovych’s abrupt refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Explaining that Ukraine was bankrupt and required an immediate cash injection that the EU was unprepared to provide, the president gratefully accepted a $15-billion bailout from an obliging President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

While the protests have morphed into a countrywide revolt against cronyism and corruption, a political resolution is currently deadlocked, while Ukraine’s beleaguered currency remains in freefall and its bankrupted economy faces imminent collapse. A bellicose Mr. Putin is using the unfolding drama to suborn Ukraine economically and politically, in much the same way that Stalin attempted to leverage the devastation in Europe to advance communism after the Second World War.

These circumstances pose a clear geo-strategic choice to the EU, U.S. and Canada: can the West afford a poor, politically unstable, autocratic, economically derelict nation of 46 million potential refugees on Europe’s eastern border tethered to a poor, but aggressive Russia; or is it in the West’s collective interests to embrace a prosperous, democratically confident and economically stable Ukraine firmly integrated into Europe?

Indeed, as pithily explained by geo-strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, the ultimate prize for the West is not even a stable Ukraine, but a democratic Russia; a peaceful, prosperous European Ukraine destroys Mr. Putin’s residual imperial ambitions and provides Russia with an opportunity to eventually transform into a democratic, responsible and peaceful partner, sharing common values.

This outcome requires the development of a comprehensive assistance plan for Ukraine modelled on the post-war European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan. In 1948, facing the dual threats of Soviet expansionism and the total collapse of Europe’s economies, the United States pumped $15-billion (roughly $148-billion in today’s terms) into modernizing and integrating Europe’s economies. This far-sighted strategic decision resulted in the total political reconstruction of Western Europe, leading to decades of unprecedented growth and prosperity on the continent.

The recovery plan for Ukraine (let’s call it the Ukraine Recovery Program, or URP) should take this same bold, strategic approach. It should be based on the following framework: in return for starting to implement pre-agreed structural reforms (and only then), a new reform-oriented Ukrainian government demonstrably committed to (and capable of) implementing reforms should be offered a substantial three-to-four-year aid package that 1) facilitates the democratic transformation of Ukraine’s governing institutions; 2) stimulates the modernization and competitiveness of the Ukrainian economy; and 3) by offsetting the adverse socio-economic consequences of Russian economic retaliation, provides a social cohesion cushion in three key sectors: energy, state-owned enterprises, and the pension system. Social cohesion assistance in the following areas would cost between $21-25-billion, comprised of stand-by money to be used to backstop the plan agreed with the government to modernize the economy.

Moreover, a detailed outline of the URP, beyond vague promises, should be announced immediately. The impact of the EU, U.S. and Canada demonstrating their willingness to stand behind Ukraine with a massive program of assistance will help break the political logjam and provide a framework for the outcome of the current negotiations. It will 1) reassure Ukrainians of the West’s seriousness in helping Ukraine integrate into Europe; 2) build support among Ukrainians for a European future; 3) assuage the fears, stoked by the governing party and Russia, among Ukrainians (especially in the densely populated and heavily industrialized eastern part of Ukraine) of losing their jobs and pensions during the integration process; and 4) undermine the specious arguments that Ukraine’s only hope of economic salvation lies with Russia.

With this plan the West reaffirms its position as an honest broker to the current dispute, as the URP would be politically neutral and addresses the concerns of all sides.

Notwithstanding the hobbling economic problems in the West, the URP is worth the investment; the cost of containing the long-term fallout from economic collapse in Ukraine will be significantly higher. For the West, Ukraine is too big to fail. Moldova and Georgia may also lay claims for massive assistance, but their own viability as independent states may depend on whether or not Ukraine falls back into Russia’s orbit. Only Ukraine has the heft to block Russia’s imperial aspirations.

Ultimately, the URP will reassure the Ukrainian people that they can enter through Europe’s “open door” not as paupers, but as proud partners.

Finally, the EU, backed by the U.S. and Canada, should take the long overdue, and now obvious step of explicitly promising to open talks with Ukraine on EU accession following implementation of the reforms.

Ukrainians have shown the world that they are prepared to die for the values behind the original Marshall Plan – they have certainly earned the right to be integrated back into Europe.

Daniel Bilak is an international lawyer based in Kiev and a former UNDP senior governance advisor to the government of Ukraine.

It is important for the Western World to act decisively and support the evolution of a prosperous, democratically confident and economically stable Ukraine firmly integrated into Europe!