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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Paul Craig Roberts

Washington’s plan to seize Ukraine and to evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base has come amiss. But as Lenin said, “two steps forward, one step back.”

Do you remember all the tough talk coming from John Kerry, the White House Fool, Hilary Clinton, and the lickspittle Merkel about the harsh sanctions that would “badly damage” the Russian economy unless Russia prevented the referendum vote in Crimea? Well, it was all bullshit, more hot air from the White House sock puppet and the lickspittle German chancellor who is a disgrace to the German nation. As the Russians kept telling John Kerry, sanctions on Russia would destroy Europe and do little damage to Russia.

I wish the Russians had kept this to themselves. I was looking forward to the Washington morons destroying NATO by closing down the European economy.

Of course, after pretending that they were macho tough guys, something that Washington’s presstitute media could hype as sanctions had to be imposed, so Washington came up with sanctions, not on Russia, but on eleven individuals: the deposed Ukrainian president, an advisor to the deposed president, 2 Crimean officials, and 7 Russians.

The choice of the officials is an utter mystery. The seven Russians are a Putin aid, a Putin adviser, four members of the Russian parliament (Duma) and a deputy prime minister. What any of these people had to do with the referendum in Crimea, no one knows.

Moreover, the sanctions only apply to foreign bank accounts that these 11 individuals might have outside Russia. Most likely, that means only the deposed Ukrainian president, if we are to believe all the propaganda about him. Other reports say that the sanctions are only for the next six months.

If the Washington and EU criminals steal any money from these persons, the Russian central bank can replenish their stolen accounts.

The people who decided that Crimea would disassociate from Ukraine and return to Russia were the people themselves. Under the wording of Obama’s stupid sanctions, his sanctions should apply to the Crimean people who voted to disassociate from the US stooge government in Kiev.

Additionally, Obama’s sanctions apply to himself and to his regime and to its NATO puppets as it was the West that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine, not Russia or Crimea. The Americans, of course, never apply law to themselves.

In other words, the sanctions are totally meaningless. Yet, the White House Fool declared: “If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”

Obama’s hypocrisy makes a person want to puke. It is the White House Fool who is interfering in Ukraine. It was Washington that financed and organized the overthrow of the elected Ukraine government, using well organized and well armed neo-nazis to intimidate the unarmed police and ruling party, thus clearing the way for Washington to set up an unelected government of its well-paid stooges.

What the incompetent White House Fool overlooked is that southern and eastern Ukraine are Russian, not Ukrainian, so the fool’s coup has caused Crimea to depart and is causing widespread protests in eastern Ukraine against Washington’s stooge unelected government in Kiev. Washington’s stooge Kiev government has appointed unelected Ukrainian multibillionaire oligarchs, who have their own private security forces, as mayors of the Russian cities to put down the protests. If the oligarchs use violence against the Russian people, the likely result will be that the Russian Army will take control of eastern Ukraine, which in every essential way is Russian.

If eastern Ukraine returns to Russia, Washington will be left with the ultra-nationalists of western Ukraine, people who fought for Hitler during World War 2. The EU doesn’t want ultra-nationalists as the EU is busy stamping out nationalism and the sovereignty of European countries. Nevertheless, Washington will have gained a strategic advantage over Moscow, as Washington can place anti-ballistic missile and other military bases on western Ukraine’s border with Russia, thus completing Washington’s encirclement of Russia with hostile military and missile bases.

Russia will neutralize the US bases by targeting them with Iskander missiles, which cannot be intercepted by ABMs.

All that the White House Fool will have achieved is to further make clear to Russia, and to China, that Washington has both on its target list, because both are in the way of Washington’s world hegemony.

One can only wonder why Putin doesn’t preempt the coming US military attack on Russia by destroying NATO economically without firing a shot. All Putin needs to do is to cut Europe off from energy. It would take Washington three years to create the capability to deliver US natural gas, achieved by fracking’s destruction of US water supplies, to Europe. By that time NATO governments would likely have been overthrown by mass unemployment and economic suffering. Putin could also seize all foreign assets in Russia and rapidly complete the arrangements with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa to abandon the use of the US dollar in international settlements.

The US dollar as world reserve currency is the source of American imperialism. The five countries that comprise the BRICS have half of the world’s population. They can conduct their economic affairs without the dollar.

The world needs to understand that the neoconservative US government is the Third Reich on steroids. It is a malevolent force with no sense of justice or respect for truth, law, or human life. Just ask the residents of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Honduras, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran. Even the deluded western Ukrainians will soon catch on.

Obama himself declared that the US is “the exceptional nation.” This is the neoconservatives version of Hitler’s declaration that the German nation was exceptional and, therefore, above all others. The only difference between Washington and National Socialist Germany is that Washington has a far more powerful police state and nuclear weapons.

The hubris and arrogance that arises from Washington’s belief that it is the government of the “indispensable and exceptional nation” means Washington has no respect for any other country, nor for law whether its own or international. Washington can invade countries without cause, a war crime. Washington can kidnap and torture people, a crime under US and International law. Washington can ignore the self-determination of peoples, such as Crimeans. Who are mere Crimeans to vote on their own future without Washington’s consent, without Washington determining the outcome? Washington declares the Crimean people’s self-determination “illegitimate and illegal,” and refuses to recognize self-determination, while pretending to be the home of “freedom and democracy.”

No government in human history can come close to the hypocrisy and malevolence of Washington. Armed with nuclear weapons and a military doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear first strike, Washington alone stands as the threat to life on earth.

Ukraine Says It Has Repelled A Russian Army Attempt To Enter Region Adjacent To Crimea | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Says It Has Repelled A Russian Army Attempt To Enter Region Adjacent To Crimea | Zero Hedge.

With a day left until the critical, if widely expected, results from the Crimean referendum are revealed, it is worth recalling the main footnote in last night’s State Department travel alert for Russia: “all U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to the border region, specifically the regions bordering Ukraine in Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov Oblasts and Krasnodar Krai, should be aware of the potential for escalation of tensions, military clashes (either accidental or intentional).” See, for the purpose of a military provocation, “accidental” will do. It is therefore not surprising to see that moments ago all major news wires blasted the following headline, quoting the Ukraine ministry of defense:

  • UKRAINIAN MILITARY REPELS ATTEMPT BY RUSSIAN FORCES TO ENTER REGION ADJACENT TO CRIMEA-UKRAINE’S DEFENCE MINISTRY

The incursion allegedly took place in the Ukraine region of Kherson, neighboring the Crimea.

Here is the full google translated statement from the Ministry website:

Another provocation on the part of members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has failed.

 

Today, 15 March 2014, forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine halted the penetration of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Kherson Oblast from the “Arabatka.” Response was made immediately.

So the official line is that the Ukraine repelled a Russian “military force” in a region inside east Ukraine and out of Crimea the day after Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov said Russia has no plans to Invade Ukraine? Call us cynical, but something tells us if Russians wanted to “penetrate” east Ukraine, the would have done so without “being repelled.”

Either way, here is Reuters’ take:

Ukraine’s military scrambled aircraft and paratroops on Saturday to repel an attempt by Russian forces to enter a long spit of land belonging to a region adjacent to Crimea, Ukraine’s defence ministry said.

 

“Units of Ukraine’s armed forces today…repelled an attempt by servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation to enter the territory of Kherson region on Arbatskaya Strelka,” a ministry statement said. “This was repelled immediately.”

 

It said the Ukrainian military used aircraft, ground forces and its aeromobile battalion in the operation. The territory in question is a long spit of land running parallel to the east of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, now controlled by Russian forces.

But just so Russia isn’t accused of being inert, moments ago it too re-escalate the war of words and provocations, either accidental or intentional, and stated that:

  • RUSSIA’S FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS REQUESTS FOR DEFENCE OF PEACEFUL CITIZENS IN UKRAINE WILL BE CONSIDERED

Specifically, the Russian Foreign Ministry says in website statement that it will examine Ukrainians’ requests. Armed radicals are heading to eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Lugansk. Radicals provoked 2 deaths at pro-Russian rally in Kharkiv. The full statement is below:

On March 14 in Kharkov Ukraininan elements including the “Right Sector” arranged provocation against peaceful demonstrators who came to express their attitude to the so-called new government. As a result, the militants opened fire, killing two people, some were injured.

 

Of disturbing information that from Kharkov Donetsk and Lugansk left column with armed mercenaries “right sector” , whose leaders have announced the opening of the “Eastern Front” , and on one of the garment factories in Russia urgently sew uniforms.

 

At the risk of making the Verkhovna Rada of legitimizing the “right sector ” and other radicals by converting them into system power structures like the National Guard

paid attention Secretary of State John Kerry Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in London on 14 March . of While Lavrov urged John Kerry to use Washington’s influence on Kiev to curb rampant ultra- nationalists.

 

Russia To receive many calls asking to protect civilians. These applications will be considered.

Meanwhile in Crimea, the Russian flag is already flying above the Crimean Supreme Council:

And finally, just in case things weren’t exciting enough, the US appears to finally be flexing its muscles too.

  • U.S. WARSHIP TRUXTUN TO CARRY OUT FURTHER EXERCISES WITH ALLIES IN BLACK SEA-COMMANDER

From Reuters:

The USS Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, will carry out more exercises with allied ships in the Black Sea, its commander said on Saturday, in a further sign of the international response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Commander Andrew Biehn was briefing reporters aboard the 300-crew destroyer as it lay docked in a Bulgarian port.

 

The USS Truxtun last week took part in drills with Romanian and Bulgarian ships a few hundred miles from Russian forces that entered Ukraine’s Russian-majority of Crimea after mass protests toppled the country’s pro-Moscow president.

If all this has happened while it is still light in Ukraine and before the Crimean referendum, we can’t wait until darkness falls on Sunday night.

Ukraine Says It Has Repelled A Russian Army Attempt To Enter Region Adjacent To Crimea | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Says It Has Repelled A Russian Army Attempt To Enter Region Adjacent To Crimea | Zero Hedge.

With a day left until the critical, if widely expected, results from the Crimean referendum are revealed, it is worth recalling the main footnote in last night’s State Department travel alert for Russia: “all U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to the border region, specifically the regions bordering Ukraine in Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov Oblasts and Krasnodar Krai, should be aware of the potential for escalation of tensions, military clashes (either accidental or intentional).” See, for the purpose of a military provocation, “accidental” will do. It is therefore not surprising to see that moments ago all major news wires blasted the following headline, quoting the Ukraine ministry of defense:

  • UKRAINIAN MILITARY REPELS ATTEMPT BY RUSSIAN FORCES TO ENTER REGION ADJACENT TO CRIMEA-UKRAINE’S DEFENCE MINISTRY

The incursion allegedly took place in the Ukraine region of Kherson, neighboring the Crimea.

Here is the full google translated statement from the Ministry website:

Another provocation on the part of members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has failed.

 

Today, 15 March 2014, forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine halted the penetration of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Kherson Oblast from the “Arabatka.” Response was made immediately.

So the official line is that the Ukraine repelled a Russian “military force” in a region inside east Ukraine and out of Crimea the day after Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov said Russia has no plans to Invade Ukraine? Call us cynical, but something tells us if Russians wanted to “penetrate” east Ukraine, the would have done so without “being repelled.”

Either way, here is Reuters’ take:

Ukraine’s military scrambled aircraft and paratroops on Saturday to repel an attempt by Russian forces to enter a long spit of land belonging to a region adjacent to Crimea, Ukraine’s defence ministry said.

 

“Units of Ukraine’s armed forces today…repelled an attempt by servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation to enter the territory of Kherson region on Arbatskaya Strelka,” a ministry statement said. “This was repelled immediately.”

 

It said the Ukrainian military used aircraft, ground forces and its aeromobile battalion in the operation. The territory in question is a long spit of land running parallel to the east of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, now controlled by Russian forces.

But just so Russia isn’t accused of being inert, moments ago it too re-escalate the war of words and provocations, either accidental or intentional, and stated that:

  • RUSSIA’S FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS REQUESTS FOR DEFENCE OF PEACEFUL CITIZENS IN UKRAINE WILL BE CONSIDERED

Specifically, the Russian Foreign Ministry says in website statement that it will examine Ukrainians’ requests. Armed radicals are heading to eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Lugansk. Radicals provoked 2 deaths at pro-Russian rally in Kharkiv. The full statement is below:

On March 14 in Kharkov Ukraininan elements including the “Right Sector” arranged provocation against peaceful demonstrators who came to express their attitude to the so-called new government. As a result, the militants opened fire, killing two people, some were injured.

 

Of disturbing information that from Kharkov Donetsk and Lugansk left column with armed mercenaries “right sector” , whose leaders have announced the opening of the “Eastern Front” , and on one of the garment factories in Russia urgently sew uniforms.

 

At the risk of making the Verkhovna Rada of legitimizing the “right sector ” and other radicals by converting them into system power structures like the National Guard

paid attention Secretary of State John Kerry Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in London on 14 March . of While Lavrov urged John Kerry to use Washington’s influence on Kiev to curb rampant ultra- nationalists.

 

Russia To receive many calls asking to protect civilians. These applications will be considered.

Meanwhile in Crimea, the Russian flag is already flying above the Crimean Supreme Council:

And finally, just in case things weren’t exciting enough, the US appears to finally be flexing its muscles too.

  • U.S. WARSHIP TRUXTUN TO CARRY OUT FURTHER EXERCISES WITH ALLIES IN BLACK SEA-COMMANDER

From Reuters:

The USS Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, will carry out more exercises with allied ships in the Black Sea, its commander said on Saturday, in a further sign of the international response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Commander Andrew Biehn was briefing reporters aboard the 300-crew destroyer as it lay docked in a Bulgarian port.

 

The USS Truxtun last week took part in drills with Romanian and Bulgarian ships a few hundred miles from Russian forces that entered Ukraine’s Russian-majority of Crimea after mass protests toppled the country’s pro-Moscow president.

If all this has happened while it is still light in Ukraine and before the Crimean referendum, we can’t wait until darkness falls on Sunday night.

Crimea votes to join Russia as EU leaders push Ukraine diplomacy | Reuters

Crimea votes to join Russia as EU leaders push Ukraine diplomacy | Reuters.

BY ALISSA DE CARBONNEL

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine Thu Mar 6, 2014 6:16am EST

Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014. REUTERS-Vasily Fedosenko

(Reuters) – Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

The sudden acceleration of moves to formally bring the Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, under Moscow’s rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation.

The Crimean parliament voted unanimously “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation”, the RIA news agency reported. Its vice premier said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16.

The announcements, which diplomats said could not have been made without Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.

EU leaders had been set to warn but not sanction Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine after Moscow rebuffed Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea back to their bases. It was not immediately clear what impact the Crimean moves would have.

French President Francois Hollande told reporters on arrival at the summit: “There will be the strongest possible pressure on Russia to begin lowering the tension and in the pressure there is, of course, eventual recourse to sanctions.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to meet his new Ukrainian counterpart or to launch a “contact group” to seek a solution to the crisis at talks in Paris on Wednesday despite arm-twisting by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European colleagues. The two men will meet again in Rome on Thursday.

Tension remained high in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region, where a senior United Nations envoy was surrounded by a pro-Russian crowd, threatened and forced to get back on his plane and leave the country.

The EU summit in Brussels seemed unlikely to adopt more than symbolic measures against Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, because neither industrial powerhouse Germany nor financial centre Britain is keen to start down that road.

U.S. READY TO SANCTION

The United States has said it is ready to impose sanctions such as visa bans, asset freezes on individual Russian officials and restrictions on business ties within days rather than weeks.

Russia’s ruble currency weakened further on Thursday despite central bank intervention due to what analysts at VTB Capital called the political risk premium.

The short, informal EU summit will mostly be dedicated to displaying support for Ukraine’s new pro-Western government, represented at the Brussels talks by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who will attend the lunch although Kiev is neither an EU member nor a recognized candidate for membership.

After meeting European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Yatseniuk appealed to Russia to respond to mediation efforts to end the crisis.

The European Commission announced an aid package of up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) for Ukraine over the next couple of years provided it reaches a deal with the International Monetary Fund, entailing painful reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Diplomats said that at most, the 28-nation EU would condemn Russia’s so far bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Black Sea province and suspend talks with Moscow on visa liberalization and economic cooperation, while threatening further measures if President Vladimir Putin does not accept mediation efforts soon.

But they will hold back from further reaching steps both in hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough to ease tensions in Ukraine and out of fear of a tit-for-tat trade war with Russia, a major economic partner of Europe.

France has a deal to sell warships to Russia that it is so far not prepared to cancel, London’s banks have profited from facilitating Russian investment, and German companies have $22 billion invested in Russia.

Before the summit, European members of the Group of Eight major economies will meet separately, diplomats said, in an apparent effort to coordinate positions towards Russia, due to host the next G8 summit in Olympic venue Sochi in June. They have so far stopped participating in preparatory meetings and Canada has said G7 countries may meet soon without Russia.

ILLEGITIMATE

The crisis began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, under strong Russian pressure, turned his back on a far reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Moscow. That prompted three months of street protests leading to the overthrow of Yanukovich on February 22.

Moscow denounced the events as an illegitimate coup and refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities.

Russia kept the door ajar for more diplomacy on its own terms, announcing on Thursday a meeting of former Soviet states in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Ukraine, for April 4 and saying it would be preceded by contacts between Russian and Ukrainian diplomats.

Lavrov said attempts by Western countries to take action over the Ukraine crisis via democracy watchdog OSCE and the NATO military alliance were not helpful.

“I want to very briefly say that we had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the situation in Ukraine in relation to the actions that our partners are trying to take via the OSCE, the NATO-Russia council and other international organizations – action that does not help create an atmosphere for dialogue and constructive cooperation,” he said in a statement issued by the ministry on Thursday.

In a move that may alarm some of Russia’s neighbors and the West, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced steps to ease handing out passports to native Russian speakers who have lived in Russia or the former Soviet Union.

Putin has cited the threat to Russian citizens to justify military action in both Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine now.

After a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris on Wednesday, Lavrov refused to talk to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchitsya, whose new government is not recognized by Moscow.

As he left the French Foreign Ministry, Lavrov was asked if he had met his Ukrainian counterpart. “Who is that?” the Russian minister asked.

He stuck to Putin’s line – ridiculed by the West – that Moscow does not command the troops without national insignia which have taken control of Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces, and hence cannot order them back to bases.

Kerry said afterwards he had never expected to get Lavrov and Deshchitsya into the same room right away, but diplomats said France and Germany had tried to achieve that.

Western diplomats said there was still hope that once Lavrov had reported back to Putin, Russia would accept the idea of a “contact group” involving both Moscow and Kiev as well as the United States and European powers to seek a solution.

The European Union formally announced it had frozen the assets of ousted Ukrainian president Yanukovich and 17 other officials, including former prime minister Mykola Azarov, suspected of human rights violations and misuse of state funds.

“RUSSIA! RUSSIA!”

In an awkward coincidence, just as EU leaders were gathering in Brussels, German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel traveled to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart and Putin.

Reflecting concern about how the long-planned trip might be seen in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Gabriel dropped at the last minute plans to take along German industrialists with him. Germany has been accused in some quarters of soft-pedaling on sanctions in the light of its close economic ties to Russia.

Officials close to Gabriel said he was hoping to keep a low public profile on the trip, but if he meets Putin, as scheduled, he may have to appear in front of TV cameras.

U.N. special envoy Robert Serry had to abandon a mission to Crimea after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting “Russia! Russia!” The Dutch diplomat flew to Istanbul after the incident.

In eastern Ukraine, a pro-Russian crowd in Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home town, recaptured the regional administration building they had occupied before being ejected by police. But police loyal to the new authorities in Kiev raised the Ukrainian flag over the building again on Thursday.

Putin has said Russia reserves the right to intervene militarily in other areas of Ukraine if Russian interests or the lives of Russians are in danger.

Dropping diplomatic niceties on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department published a “fact sheet” entitled “President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims about Ukraine.”

“As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, ‘The formula “two plus two equals five” is not without its attractions,'” the State Department said in the document.

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow, Tim Heritage in Kiev, John Irish and Lesley Wroughton in Paris; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Anna Willard)

Crimea votes to join Russia as EU leaders push Ukraine diplomacy | Reuters

Crimea votes to join Russia as EU leaders push Ukraine diplomacy | Reuters.

BY ALISSA DE CARBONNEL

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine Thu Mar 6, 2014 6:16am EST

Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014. REUTERS-Vasily Fedosenko

(Reuters) – Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.

The sudden acceleration of moves to formally bring the Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, under Moscow’s rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation.

The Crimean parliament voted unanimously “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation”, the RIA news agency reported. Its vice premier said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16.

The announcements, which diplomats said could not have been made without Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.

EU leaders had been set to warn but not sanction Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine after Moscow rebuffed Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea back to their bases. It was not immediately clear what impact the Crimean moves would have.

French President Francois Hollande told reporters on arrival at the summit: “There will be the strongest possible pressure on Russia to begin lowering the tension and in the pressure there is, of course, eventual recourse to sanctions.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to meet his new Ukrainian counterpart or to launch a “contact group” to seek a solution to the crisis at talks in Paris on Wednesday despite arm-twisting by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European colleagues. The two men will meet again in Rome on Thursday.

Tension remained high in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region, where a senior United Nations envoy was surrounded by a pro-Russian crowd, threatened and forced to get back on his plane and leave the country.

The EU summit in Brussels seemed unlikely to adopt more than symbolic measures against Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, because neither industrial powerhouse Germany nor financial centre Britain is keen to start down that road.

U.S. READY TO SANCTION

The United States has said it is ready to impose sanctions such as visa bans, asset freezes on individual Russian officials and restrictions on business ties within days rather than weeks.

Russia’s ruble currency weakened further on Thursday despite central bank intervention due to what analysts at VTB Capital called the political risk premium.

The short, informal EU summit will mostly be dedicated to displaying support for Ukraine’s new pro-Western government, represented at the Brussels talks by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who will attend the lunch although Kiev is neither an EU member nor a recognized candidate for membership.

After meeting European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Yatseniuk appealed to Russia to respond to mediation efforts to end the crisis.

The European Commission announced an aid package of up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) for Ukraine over the next couple of years provided it reaches a deal with the International Monetary Fund, entailing painful reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Diplomats said that at most, the 28-nation EU would condemn Russia’s so far bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Black Sea province and suspend talks with Moscow on visa liberalization and economic cooperation, while threatening further measures if President Vladimir Putin does not accept mediation efforts soon.

But they will hold back from further reaching steps both in hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough to ease tensions in Ukraine and out of fear of a tit-for-tat trade war with Russia, a major economic partner of Europe.

France has a deal to sell warships to Russia that it is so far not prepared to cancel, London’s banks have profited from facilitating Russian investment, and German companies have $22 billion invested in Russia.

Before the summit, European members of the Group of Eight major economies will meet separately, diplomats said, in an apparent effort to coordinate positions towards Russia, due to host the next G8 summit in Olympic venue Sochi in June. They have so far stopped participating in preparatory meetings and Canada has said G7 countries may meet soon without Russia.

ILLEGITIMATE

The crisis began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, under strong Russian pressure, turned his back on a far reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Moscow. That prompted three months of street protests leading to the overthrow of Yanukovich on February 22.

Moscow denounced the events as an illegitimate coup and refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities.

Russia kept the door ajar for more diplomacy on its own terms, announcing on Thursday a meeting of former Soviet states in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Ukraine, for April 4 and saying it would be preceded by contacts between Russian and Ukrainian diplomats.

Lavrov said attempts by Western countries to take action over the Ukraine crisis via democracy watchdog OSCE and the NATO military alliance were not helpful.

“I want to very briefly say that we had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the situation in Ukraine in relation to the actions that our partners are trying to take via the OSCE, the NATO-Russia council and other international organizations – action that does not help create an atmosphere for dialogue and constructive cooperation,” he said in a statement issued by the ministry on Thursday.

In a move that may alarm some of Russia’s neighbors and the West, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced steps to ease handing out passports to native Russian speakers who have lived in Russia or the former Soviet Union.

Putin has cited the threat to Russian citizens to justify military action in both Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine now.

After a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris on Wednesday, Lavrov refused to talk to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchitsya, whose new government is not recognized by Moscow.

As he left the French Foreign Ministry, Lavrov was asked if he had met his Ukrainian counterpart. “Who is that?” the Russian minister asked.

He stuck to Putin’s line – ridiculed by the West – that Moscow does not command the troops without national insignia which have taken control of Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces, and hence cannot order them back to bases.

Kerry said afterwards he had never expected to get Lavrov and Deshchitsya into the same room right away, but diplomats said France and Germany had tried to achieve that.

Western diplomats said there was still hope that once Lavrov had reported back to Putin, Russia would accept the idea of a “contact group” involving both Moscow and Kiev as well as the United States and European powers to seek a solution.

The European Union formally announced it had frozen the assets of ousted Ukrainian president Yanukovich and 17 other officials, including former prime minister Mykola Azarov, suspected of human rights violations and misuse of state funds.

“RUSSIA! RUSSIA!”

In an awkward coincidence, just as EU leaders were gathering in Brussels, German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel traveled to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart and Putin.

Reflecting concern about how the long-planned trip might be seen in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Gabriel dropped at the last minute plans to take along German industrialists with him. Germany has been accused in some quarters of soft-pedaling on sanctions in the light of its close economic ties to Russia.

Officials close to Gabriel said he was hoping to keep a low public profile on the trip, but if he meets Putin, as scheduled, he may have to appear in front of TV cameras.

U.N. special envoy Robert Serry had to abandon a mission to Crimea after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting “Russia! Russia!” The Dutch diplomat flew to Istanbul after the incident.

In eastern Ukraine, a pro-Russian crowd in Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home town, recaptured the regional administration building they had occupied before being ejected by police. But police loyal to the new authorities in Kiev raised the Ukrainian flag over the building again on Thursday.

Putin has said Russia reserves the right to intervene militarily in other areas of Ukraine if Russian interests or the lives of Russians are in danger.

Dropping diplomatic niceties on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department published a “fact sheet” entitled “President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims about Ukraine.”

“As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, ‘The formula “two plus two equals five” is not without its attractions,'” the State Department said in the document.

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow, Tim Heritage in Kiev, John Irish and Lesley Wroughton in Paris; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Anna Willard)

US Warship Given Permission To Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge

US Warship Given Permission To Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge.

Yesterday it was two Russian and one Ukrainian warships which had crossed the Bosphorus in direction Crimea, today it is the Americans. As Hurriyet reportsTurkish authorities have given permission to a U.S. Navy warship to pass through the Bosphorus within the next two days as fears grow that the standoff between Russia and Ukraine and the West over Crimea could soon become militarized.

Turkish sources, speaking with the Hürriyet Daily News on March 5, declined to elaborate on the name of the U.S. warship. The same officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, noted that it was not the USS George H.W. Bush nuclear aircraft carrier as suggested in some news reports, as it did not meet the standards specified by the 1936 Montreux Convention in terms of weight.

The U.S. Navy ship to pass through the straits will conform to the convention’s standards, the sources said.

According to the Montreux Convention, the total weight of military ships that non-littoral states to the Black Sea may deploy to the body of water cannot exceed 45,000 tons.

As a reminder we have been tracking the CVN-77 for the past week, ever since it crossed the straits of Gibraltar and as of yesterday it was in Piraeus, Greece. It is also worth noting that while the Montreux Convention provides guidelines, it is not restrictive, which means that should the US really want to, it will have no problems getting its aircraft carrier into the Black Sea.

That said, even a simple frigate or cruiser in proximity to a boatload of Russian and Ukraine warships already on edge, will make an already combustible situation extremely volatile with an abundance of false flag provocation opportunities, which those who are most interested in escalating military events, will be delighted to take advantage of.

US Warship Given Permission To Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge

US Warship Given Permission To Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge.

Yesterday it was two Russian and one Ukrainian warships which had crossed the Bosphorus in direction Crimea, today it is the Americans. As Hurriyet reportsTurkish authorities have given permission to a U.S. Navy warship to pass through the Bosphorus within the next two days as fears grow that the standoff between Russia and Ukraine and the West over Crimea could soon become militarized.

Turkish sources, speaking with the Hürriyet Daily News on March 5, declined to elaborate on the name of the U.S. warship. The same officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, noted that it was not the USS George H.W. Bush nuclear aircraft carrier as suggested in some news reports, as it did not meet the standards specified by the 1936 Montreux Convention in terms of weight.

The U.S. Navy ship to pass through the straits will conform to the convention’s standards, the sources said.

According to the Montreux Convention, the total weight of military ships that non-littoral states to the Black Sea may deploy to the body of water cannot exceed 45,000 tons.

As a reminder we have been tracking the CVN-77 for the past week, ever since it crossed the straits of Gibraltar and as of yesterday it was in Piraeus, Greece. It is also worth noting that while the Montreux Convention provides guidelines, it is not restrictive, which means that should the US really want to, it will have no problems getting its aircraft carrier into the Black Sea.

That said, even a simple frigate or cruiser in proximity to a boatload of Russian and Ukraine warships already on edge, will make an already combustible situation extremely volatile with an abundance of false flag provocation opportunities, which those who are most interested in escalating military events, will be delighted to take advantage of.

Ukrainian, Russian Warships Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge

Ukrainian, Russian Warships Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge.

The Bosphorus has been a busy place today where first two Russian ships, the Alligator Class landing ship 150 Saratov and the Ropucha class landing ship 156 Yamal have passed the Turkish strait in a northerly, Black Sea, direction, followed promptly by the Ukrainian frigate U130 Hetman Sahaydachniy. Full steam ahead to a Sevastopol rendezvous? Find out in a few hours.

Photos and captions courtesy of Bosphorus Naval News:

Saratov passing through Bosphorus on 4 March 2014. Photo TRT

 

Yamal passing through Bosphorus on 4 March 2014. Photo AA

 

Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny is passing through Bosphorus with Ukrainian flag hoisted.

h/t @Saturn5_

Ukrainian, Russian Warships Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge

Ukrainian, Russian Warships Cross Bosphorus, Enter Black Sea | Zero Hedge.

The Bosphorus has been a busy place today where first two Russian ships, the Alligator Class landing ship 150 Saratov and the Ropucha class landing ship 156 Yamal have passed the Turkish strait in a northerly, Black Sea, direction, followed promptly by the Ukrainian frigate U130 Hetman Sahaydachniy. Full steam ahead to a Sevastopol rendezvous? Find out in a few hours.

Photos and captions courtesy of Bosphorus Naval News:

Saratov passing through Bosphorus on 4 March 2014. Photo TRT

 

Yamal passing through Bosphorus on 4 March 2014. Photo AA

 

Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny is passing through Bosphorus with Ukrainian flag hoisted.

h/t @Saturn5_

Ukraine Denies Russia's Denial, Claims Ships Threatened With Seizure | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Denies Russia’s Denial, Claims Ships Threatened With Seizure | Zero Hedge.

Minutes after Russia denied it had issued an ultimatum to the Ukraine navy, Ukraine’s acting president has just denied the denial.

  • UKRAINE’S TURCHYNOV SAYS SHIPS THREATENED IF ARMS NOT LAID DOWN
  • UKRAINE’S TURCHYNOV SAYS SHIPS THREATENED WITH SEIZURE
  • UKRAINE’S TURCHYNOV SAYS SITUATION AROUND FLEET IS DANGEROUS
  • UKRAINE’S TURCHYNOV SAYS RUSSIA INCREASING CRIMEA FORCES
  • UKRAINE’S TURCHYNOV SAYS RUSSIAN BLACK SEA FLEET HAS BLOCKED UKRAINIAN NAVY VESSELS IN SEVASTOPOL BAYS
  • TURCHYNOV SAYS SITUATION DIFFICULT IN EASTERN UKRAINE
  • TURCHYNOV CALLS ON RUSSIA TO STOP AGGRESSION

What is curious here is that while it is clear why Russia would benefit from an escalation in hostilities in the Crimea, on which it did not “start” – i.e., allowing it a clear pretext to enter the “east” and “protect” its citizens – what is becoming clear is that it is Ukraine that is desperate to raise the level of hostilities. Why – if it is to force the hand of NATO, EU or the west in providing assistance, this is a wild gambit, which will backfire massively.

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