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Angolan oil will peak in 2016, IMF says – International | IOL Business | IOL.co.za

Angolan oil will peak in 2016, IMF says – International | IOL Business | IOL.co.za.

March 25 2014 at 08:00am
By Colin McClelland


br angolaBloomberg

A construction crane stands above a building site near the shoreline in Luanda. Angola’s crude oil output will decline from 2017 unless new fields are found, so it must make stronger efforts to diversify its sources of revenue, the International Monetary Fund advises. Photo: Bloomberg

Luanda – Economic growth in Angola will slow in 2017 as oil output declines, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The economy is forecast to expand by 5.3 percent this year, and by 5.5 percent and 5.9 percent in the following two years before the rate slows to 3.3 percent in 2017, IMF figures show.

Crude oil production in Africa’s second-largest producer is set to decline to 1.77 million barrels a day in 2017 from 1.9 million barrels a day in 2016.

“This reflects the expectation that oil production from currently known reserves will peak and then start to fall,” Nicholas Staines, the IMF representative in Angola, said last week.

“The timing of this turnaround could well be pushed back as new reserves are discovered.”

Angola produced 1.69 million barrels of oil a day last month. The country is attempting to diversify its economy away from oil, which accounts for about 80 percent of tax revenue and 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The government is targeting $4 billion (R43.5bn) a year in foreign investment in areas including mining, agriculture, transport and hotels, but so far it has attracted about half of that amount.

The IMF forecasts economic growth of 6.4 percent this year in non-oil industries as the country boosts spending on infrastructure.

Growth excluding crude oil may reach 6.7 percent next year, followed by 7.1 percent in 2016 and 7.7 percent the year after, IMF data show.

The diversification effort “is behind expectations and a stronger effort is clearly needed”, Staines said.

“This is particularly important in the context of higher government spending, softening oil revenue projections and, now, fiscal deficits.”

IMF forecasts for non-oil growth were lower than the government’s because the bank saw potential difficulties in large capital projects and was more cautious about their spillover effects, Staines said.

For 2015 to 2017, the government forecasts 10.3 percent non-oil growth in GDP, while the IMF projects 7.2 percent.

The government had a budget deficit of 1.5 percent of GDP last year – the first since 2009, when the IMF began a $1.4bn loan programme to help Angola weather an oil price drop. This year’s budget deficit is expected to reach 2 percent and the fiscal balance will not be in surplus until 2019, the IMF believes.

The IMF expressed disappointment over the government’s inaccurate reporting of data on domestic arrears during 2010 and accounts payable the following year, which breached the terms of the loan agreement. The fund said it also regretted continued weaknesses in public financial management and called for decisive efforts to address arrears.

Angola “is very committed to address these difficulties” and passed legislation last year to improve arrears accounting and to give more oversight to the finance ministry, Staines said.

Domestic arrears should not have an effect on plans by the government to issue a $1.5bn eurobond in the third quarter.

“The international financial environment is currently difficult and perhaps not the best of times for Angola to consider a eurobond issue,” Staines said. “The government will presumably seek the advice of its capital market advisers to get a sense of the right timing.”

Economic growth probably slowed to 4.1 percent last year from 5.2 percent in 2012 as a drought slowed agricultural expansion, the IMF said.

“Addressing capital infrastructure constraints in transport, water and electricity will go a long way and should have positive spillover effects on the economy,” Staines said. “But the full benefits will require a much stronger effort to address the structural constraints summarised in Angola’s very low ranking in the World Bank’s cost of doing business index.”

The index ranks Angola 179th of 189 countries benchmarked to June last year.

Angola is estimated to have recoverable oil reserves of 12.7 billion barrels, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy published in June.

Drillers including Statoil and ConocoPhillips are testing the Atlantic mirror theory and plan to spend $3bn on more than 32 wells this year in Angola’s largest exploration campaign.

They are searching for structures similar to those off Brazil, where Petrobras is developing the western hemisphere’s largest oil find in three decades, estimated at 20 billion barrels. – Bloomberg

Harold James examines the real story behind the international response to the near-meltdown in 2008. – Project Syndicate

Harold James examines the real story behind the international response to the near-meltdown in 2008. – Project Syndicate.

The Secret History of the Financial Crisis

PRINCETON – Balzac’s great novel Lost Illusions ends with an exposition of the difference between “official history,” which is “all lies,” and “secret history” – that is, the real story. It used to be possible to obscure history’s scandalous truths for a long time – even forever. Not anymore.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in accounts of the global financial crisis. The official history portrayed the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and other major central banks as embracing coordinated action to rescue the global financial system from disaster. But recently published transcripts of 2008 meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s main decision-making body, reveal that the Fed has effectively emerged from the crisis as the world’s central bank, while continuing to serve primarily American interests.

The most significant meetings took place on September 16 and October 28 – in the aftermath of the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers – and focused on the creation of bilateral currency-swap agreements aimed at ensuring adequate liquidity. The Fed would extend dollar credits to a foreign bank in exchange for its currency, which the foreign bank agreed to buy back after a specified period at the same exchange rate, plus interest. This gave central banks – especially those in Europe, which faced a dollar shortage as US investors fled – the dollars they needed to lend to struggling domestic financial institutions.

Indeed, the ECB was among the first banks to reach an agreement with the Fed, followed by other major advanced-country central banks, including the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of Canada. At the October meeting, four “diplomatically and economically” important emerging economies – Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, and South Korea – got in on the action, with the Fed agreeing to establish $30 billion swap lines with each of their central banks.

Though the Fed acted as a kind of global central bank, its decisions were shaped, first and foremost, by US interests. For starters, the Fed rejected applications from some countries – whose names are redacted in the published transcript – to join the currency-swap scheme.

More important, limits were placed on the swaps. The essence of a central bank’s lender-of-last-resort function has traditionally been the provision of unlimited funds. Because there is no limit on the amount of dollars that the Fed can create, no market participant can take a speculative position against it. By contrast, the International Monetary Fund has finite resources provided by member countries.

The Fed’s growing international role since 2008 reflects a fundamental shift in global monetary governance. The IMF emerged at a time when countries were routinely victimized by New York bankers’ casual assumptions, such as J.P. Morgan’s assessment in the 1920’s that Germans were “fundamentally a second-rate people.” The IMF was a critical feature of the post-WWII international order, intended to serve as a universal insurance mechanism – not one that could be harnessed to advance contemporary diplomatic interests.

Today, as the Fed documents clearly demonstrate, the IMF has become marginalized – not least because of its ineffective policy process. Indeed, at the outset of the crisis, the IMF, assuming that demand for its resources would remain low permanently, had already begun to downsize.

In 2010, the IMF made a play for resurrection, presenting itself as central to solving the euro crisis – beginning with its role in financing the Greek bailout. But here, too, a secret history has been revealed – one that highlights just how skewed global monetary governance has become.

The fact is that only the US and the massively over-represented countries of the European Union supported the Greek bailout. Indeed, the major emerging economies all strongly opposed it, with the Brazilian representative calling it “a bailout of Greece’s private debt holders, mainly European financial institutions.” Even the Swiss representative condemned the measure.

As fears of a sudden collapse of the eurozone have given way to a prolonged debate about how the costs will be met through bail-ins and write-offs, the IMF’s position will become increasingly convoluted. Though the IMF is supposed to have seniority over other creditors, there will be demands to write down a share of the loans that it has issued. Poorer emerging-market countries would resist such a move, arguing that their citizens should not have to foot the bill for fiscal profligacy in much wealthier countries.

Even the original advocates of IMF involvement are turning against the Fund. EU officials are outraged by the IMF’s apparent effort to gain support in Europe’s debtor countries by urging write-offs of all debt that it did not issue. And the US Congress has refused to endorse the expansion of IMF resources – part of an international agreement brokered at the 2010 G-20 summit.

While the outrage that followed the appointment of another European as IMF Managing Director in 2011 is likely to ensure that the Fund’s next head will not hail from Europe, the IMF’s fast-diminishing role means that it will not matter much. As 2008’s secret history shows, what matters is who has access to the Fed.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/harold-james-examines-the-real-story-behind-the-international-response-to-the-near-meltdown-in-2008#EYtp3dyZ7LsmTwgc.99

Ukraine Acting President Calls Emergncy Meeting Of Security Chiefs; Russia Threatens To Cut Off The Gas | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Acting President Calls Emergncy Meeting Of Security Chiefs; Russia Threatens To Cut Off The Gas | Zero Hedge.

All the dominoes are tumbling now. Moments after the Russian upper house of parliament approved the decision to use Russian troops in the Ukraine as expected, Ukraine’s acting president called an emergency meeting of security chiefs according to his spokeswoman. Oleksander Turchinov summoned his Security Council after Russian President Vladimir Putin sought parliamentary approval to deploy Russian forces in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. At this point the biggest and perhaps final wildcard is whether NATO does or does not get involved. If it does, and if Russia does not back off – which it has clearly telegraphed it won’t – futures may be looking at a limit down open on Sunday.

And while military escalation is now an official reality instead of merely YouTube clips of unidentified crap troops , Russia just sent another major warning shot across the bow when it issued several warnings on Saturday that Ukraine may lose a discount to the gas price it now pays to Gazprom due to Kiev’s outstanding gas debt. Russia’s state gas company Gazprom estimates Ukraine’s outstanding gas debt at $1.55 billion for 2013 and gas deliveries so far this year. This of course, was Russia’s trump card from the very beginning. Via Reuters:

“It seems that with such gas payments and fulfilment of its obligations Ukraine may not keep its current gas discount. The gas discount agreement assumed full and timely payment,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Reuters.

A price increase would deepen Ukraine’s already dire cash situation and could lead to a new “gas war” between Kiev and Moscow as well as interrupt gas shipments to Europe, which gets around third of its gas from Russia.

In December, Russia agreed to reduce gas prices for Kiev by about a third, to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres from around $400 which Ukraine had paid since 2009, after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties to Moscow.

The deal allowed for the price to be revised quarterly between the 5th and 10th day of the first month every quarter.

The news agency Interfax cited a representative of the Russian energy ministry as saying on Saturday that Moscow sees no reason to extend the discount to Ukraine for the second quarter – because of the outstanding debt.

If this continues to happen, is there any point in continuing the existing agreement on gas supplies at discount prices? No,” the agency cited an unnamed ministry representative as saying.

“It is important that the proposal for a reduced gas price is confirmed quarterly. It would be stupid and wrong to extend it to the second quarter.”

Ukraine’s newly appointed Energy Minister Yuri Prodan told reporters on Saturday that the price for Russian gas would stay unchanged in March but it could jump to around $400 per 1,000 cubic metres in the second quarter if the two sides fail to sign an agreement.

Ukraine, which has seen its currency spiralling down and cash and gold reserves falling significantly as a result of the political protests that led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich last weekend, is in dire need of cash.

It faces a further $6 billion in foreign debt payments this year and has asked the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance of at least $15 billion. Ukraine’s newly appointed leaders estimated Kiev’s needs at around $35 billion.

Prodan told journalists that the Ukrainian energy firm Naftogas is in “active talks” with Gazprom over pricing. Ukraine consumes about 55 billion cubic meters of gas each year, and more than half of this amount is imported from Russia.

But far more important than Ukraine, which is merely a sacrificial lamb in the latest proxy war between east and west, is the Russian hint that what is likely to happen to Ukraine’s gas may soon hit Europe too if it also gets involved.

Apart from through Ukraine, Russian gas flows to Europe via Belarus and two subsea pipelines – under the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. Gazprom plans to build another subsea pipeline – the South Stream – to bypass Ukraine by 2016.

So check to you NATO: will you defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine even as NATO actively pushed for a split in Yugoslavia some 15 years ago, or will it do the “right” thing… in the dark?

Ukraine Acting President Calls Emergncy Meeting Of Security Chiefs; Russia Threatens To Cut Off The Gas | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Acting President Calls Emergncy Meeting Of Security Chiefs; Russia Threatens To Cut Off The Gas | Zero Hedge.

All the dominoes are tumbling now. Moments after the Russian upper house of parliament approved the decision to use Russian troops in the Ukraine as expected, Ukraine’s acting president called an emergency meeting of security chiefs according to his spokeswoman. Oleksander Turchinov summoned his Security Council after Russian President Vladimir Putin sought parliamentary approval to deploy Russian forces in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. At this point the biggest and perhaps final wildcard is whether NATO does or does not get involved. If it does, and if Russia does not back off – which it has clearly telegraphed it won’t – futures may be looking at a limit down open on Sunday.

And while military escalation is now an official reality instead of merely YouTube clips of unidentified crap troops , Russia just sent another major warning shot across the bow when it issued several warnings on Saturday that Ukraine may lose a discount to the gas price it now pays to Gazprom due to Kiev’s outstanding gas debt. Russia’s state gas company Gazprom estimates Ukraine’s outstanding gas debt at $1.55 billion for 2013 and gas deliveries so far this year. This of course, was Russia’s trump card from the very beginning. Via Reuters:

“It seems that with such gas payments and fulfilment of its obligations Ukraine may not keep its current gas discount. The gas discount agreement assumed full and timely payment,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Reuters.

A price increase would deepen Ukraine’s already dire cash situation and could lead to a new “gas war” between Kiev and Moscow as well as interrupt gas shipments to Europe, which gets around third of its gas from Russia.

In December, Russia agreed to reduce gas prices for Kiev by about a third, to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres from around $400 which Ukraine had paid since 2009, after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties to Moscow.

The deal allowed for the price to be revised quarterly between the 5th and 10th day of the first month every quarter.

The news agency Interfax cited a representative of the Russian energy ministry as saying on Saturday that Moscow sees no reason to extend the discount to Ukraine for the second quarter – because of the outstanding debt.

If this continues to happen, is there any point in continuing the existing agreement on gas supplies at discount prices? No,” the agency cited an unnamed ministry representative as saying.

“It is important that the proposal for a reduced gas price is confirmed quarterly. It would be stupid and wrong to extend it to the second quarter.”

Ukraine’s newly appointed Energy Minister Yuri Prodan told reporters on Saturday that the price for Russian gas would stay unchanged in March but it could jump to around $400 per 1,000 cubic metres in the second quarter if the two sides fail to sign an agreement.

Ukraine, which has seen its currency spiralling down and cash and gold reserves falling significantly as a result of the political protests that led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich last weekend, is in dire need of cash.

It faces a further $6 billion in foreign debt payments this year and has asked the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance of at least $15 billion. Ukraine’s newly appointed leaders estimated Kiev’s needs at around $35 billion.

Prodan told journalists that the Ukrainian energy firm Naftogas is in “active talks” with Gazprom over pricing. Ukraine consumes about 55 billion cubic meters of gas each year, and more than half of this amount is imported from Russia.

But far more important than Ukraine, which is merely a sacrificial lamb in the latest proxy war between east and west, is the Russian hint that what is likely to happen to Ukraine’s gas may soon hit Europe too if it also gets involved.

Apart from through Ukraine, Russian gas flows to Europe via Belarus and two subsea pipelines – under the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. Gazprom plans to build another subsea pipeline – the South Stream – to bypass Ukraine by 2016.

So check to you NATO: will you defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine even as NATO actively pushed for a split in Yugoslavia some 15 years ago, or will it do the “right” thing… in the dark?

Ukraine: The East-West tug of war – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English

Ukraine: The East-West tug of war – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English.

As tension continues in Ukraine, we analyse why the country remains economically torn between Russia and the EU.

 Last updated: 01 Mar 2014 09:38
It was the bloodiest week in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history. The president fled, an opposition leader left jail after three years and, with the dust now settling, a clearer picture is emerging about the dire state of the country’s finances.Ukraine’s political crisis began with the economy; ousted president Viktor Yanukovich wanted to align with Russia, while his opposition was looking to Europe – which prompted what almost amounted to a bidding war.

On the Russian side, Moscow had earmarked $15bn to inject into the Ukrainian economy.

The European Union had offered just $800m and while Ukraine would get great access to EU goods and services, it would not actually be able to get its own products into the continent.

Things are now worse, as Ukraine says it needs $35bn over two years, and Standard & Poors says the country, the central bank and its state-owned oil companies have about $13bn worth of debt to repay. Although it has $18bn in reserves, that is not enough to run an economy.

On this week’s Counting the Cost, we look how Ukraine remains torn between Europe and Russia and which side offers the best deal. We speak to Dmirty Sologoub formerly an economist with the IMF, but now head of research Raiffesien Bank Aval in Ukraine.

Nigeria’s ‘missing money’ 

In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the central bank for “financial recklessness and misconduct”.

Sanusi had earlier exposed all sorts of corruption in Nigeria’s oil industry, alleging that $20bn had gone missing from oil sales.

Speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege in Lagos, Sanusi said the money that disappeared in the last 19 months was supposed to be given to the central bank by the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

His allegations mean losses in public money could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The ex-governor says he will not be surprised if he is jailed for speaking out.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of state revenue, although as little as one percent of Nigerians are thought to benefit from the wealth.

Many people we spoke to in Abuja about Sanusi’s ouster told us they thought the missing money might be used to fund election campaigns. Nigerians go to the polls next year to vote in presidential elections. But Sanusi thinks the public money may have already been squandered.

Ndege also spoke to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister.

Over-fishing in Indonesia

In Indonesia, over-fishing is depleting fish stocks. The government has introduced marine-protected areas, but for some fishermen that is not enough.

They are using increasingly aggressive means to put fish in their nets, and food on their tables. Many fishermen, who wish not be identified, admit they use explosives.

Despite using desperate measures they still cannot compete with the big boats catching all the fish. They also now have to travel a lot further to find tuna.

Millions of Indonesians are dependent on fish for their income and nutrition. The government has introduced measures to make sure fish populations will grow back, but this might be too little too late. With aggressive fishing techniques not being banned, traditional fishermen have only a slim chance to pass on their skills to the next generation.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from Benoa, Indonesia.

Cyprus throws out vital privatisation bill – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Cyprus throws out vital privatisation bill – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Privatisation of state-owned companies is a critical element of the 10 billion-euro rescue package [EPA]
The Cypriot parliament has thrown out a vital privatisation bill the country needs to secure the next batch of international bailout money to avoid bankruptcy.

The country’s opposition-dominated parliament will vote again next week on a proposed road map for the sale of state assets following concerns that workers’ rights will not be safeguarded.

Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said on Friday that the legislation would be amended to accommodate concerns over rights and submitted to the House of Representatives again.

Prodromos Prodromou, the spokesman for the ruling right-wing Democratic Rally party, told The Associated Press news agency that politicians would re-convene on Tuesday, a day before the deadline set by creditors in order to release a 236 million-euro ($326 million) instalment.

The privatisation of state-owned companies is a critical element of a 10 billion-euro ($13.81 billion) rescue package for Cyprus, which agreed to the measures a year ago in a deal with other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

However, opposition to the privatisation plans has become strong, especially from left-wing parties that fear mass layoffs and the sale of national wealth. Workers at the state electricity, telecommunications and ports authorities have staged strikes to protest the bill.

‘Clear obligation’

The setback was particularly galling for the Cypriot government, which has repeatedly earned praise from lenders for exceeding its reform targets.

“Privatisations are a clear obligation,” Finance Minister Harris Georgiades recently said. “We have to understand that that if we sink, then we’ll all go down together.'”

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who brokered the initial accord with lenders a year ago, said reforms would continue. “I am determined that the country continue its path towards stabilisation and recovery,” he said on his official Twitter account.

Reform efforts were almost derailed in September when parliament again vetoed a bill recapitalising cooperative banks, before another hastily-convened session later approved it.

The terms of the rescue package took a huge toll on Cypriot banks after authorities seized large chunks of uninsured deposits, shut down the second largest lender and imposed capital controls.

Ukraine Central Bank Promises Liquidity To Local Banks, With One Condition | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Central Bank Promises Liquidity To Local Banks, With One Condition | Zero Hedge.

While the “developed” world scrambles to find a way to provide Ukraine with a bailout in such a way that Russia doesn’t turn off the gas, Ukraine is doing some scrambling of its own to assure the local banks, which have been plagued by both bank runs and a collapse in the currency to record lows over the past few days, that it will be there to provide funding on a business as usual basis. Itar-Tass reports that “Ukrainian banks will be provided with necessary liquid assets, including cash.” But there is a condition: the funding will only come “if they will remain under open control of the National Bank of Ukraine, the newly-appointed NBU Chairman Stepan Kubiv is quoted as saying on the bank’s official website.”

From Itar-Tass:

“Financial and payment systems, which are of vital importance, operate normally, as well as the open market operations do. The situation is under control. We are getting feedback from all of the country’s banks, regardless their size”, he said.

Kuvib stressed that the National Bank’s gold reserve includes high-liquidity assets. He mentioned such priorities of the Ukrainian banking system as the protection of clients’ interests, as well as the resumption of negotiations with external creditors, the International Monetary Fund in the first place, right after the country’s new government is formed and elaboration of a strict new plan for economic and financial reforms.

“We are very determined regarding the measures, which will be applied to those who break the mandatory requirements and are involved currency speculations. I am certain the National Bank’s measures will calm the markets and the people and ease devaluation fears”, the bank’s chief said.

In other words, any and all banks that want to continue operating must pledge allegiance to the brand new central bank governor Kubiv, who previously did not work for Goldman Sachs, but instead was one of the commendants for the EuroMaidan demonstrations. That is not say he has no banking experience at all: previously he used to be head of Kredbank. Who is Kredbank? As it turns out, it is the bank with the largest Polish investment in banking institution in Ukraine. Kredobank national network contains central branch and 130 outlets throughout Ukraine. Today, European investment is 99.6% in the share capital of Kredobank, Ukrainian capital is 0.4%.

At least it is clear where the Ukrainian central banker’s allegiances lie, and under whose “open control” suddenly the entire Ukrainian banking sector has fallen under. And just like that, Europe knows everything these is to know about all assets held within the Ukrainian banking system by the local population.

Pro-Russian Gunmen Seize Ukraine Crimean Parliament; Russia Puts Jets On High Alert; Hryvnia In Record Plunge | Zero Hedge

Pro-Russian Gunmen Seize Ukraine Crimean Parliament; Russia Puts Jets On High Alert; Hryvnia In Record Plunge | Zero Hedge.

All those clips we showed in the past few days of Russian forces amassing in the Crimean (such as this one)? Well, turns out they were all predictive of what has just happened in the Crimean region parliament at Simferopol, where around 120 pro-Russian Gunmen occupied the parliament building and raised the Russian flag. The scene was the site of Wednesday’s scuffles between Tatar groups and pro-Russian supporters. As Euronews reports, local Tatar leader Refat Chubarov posted that the buildings have been occupied by men in uniforms bearing “no recognisable insignia.” Kyiv says it would regard any movements by Russian military in Crimea outside Moscow’s Black Sea Base in Sevastopol as an act of aggression. Following the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych divisions in Ukraine have come to the fore. All this happens as Russian troops in the area are building up and at the same time as Russia put fighter jets on combat alert,according to Interfax.

The Russian flag flies atop the parliament building:

Euronews clarifies that the 120 men that seized Crimea parliament “have enough weapons to defend [the buildings] for a month” according an MP quoted by Interfax agency. Former Crimean Prime Minister and UDAR MP Serhiy Kunitsyn said to the agency that he spent all the night in contact with the armed group, “These professionally trained people are armed. They brought weapons – automatic weapons, grenade launchers, and machine guns,” he said, while speaking from the Ukraine parliament on Thursday.

According to Bloomberg, the group is allowing deputies to enter the legislature in the city of Simferopol for a possible vote on the status of Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Center of Journalist Research said. Ukraine prosecutors began a terrorism probe. .

“Provocateurs are on the march,” Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook Inc. page as police cordoned off the block around parliament. “It’s time for cool heads, the consolidation of healthy forces and precise actions.”

At the same time Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry summoned Russia’s acting envoy in Kiev for immediate consultations.

“I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet,” said Olexander Turchinov, acting president since the removal of Viktor Yanukovich last week. “Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression

Reports Reuters:

There were mixed signals from Moscow, which put fighter jets along its western borders on combat alert, but earlier said it would take part in discussions on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial package for Ukraine. Ukraine has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to stave off bankruptcy. The fear of military escalation prompted expressions of concern from the West, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urging Russia not to do anything that would “escalate tension or create misunderstanding”.

 

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski called the seizure of government buildings in the Crimea a “very dangerous game”. “This is a drastic step, and I’m warning those who did this and those who allowed them to do this, because this is how regional conflicts begin,” he told a news conference.

 

It was not immediately known who was occupying the buildings in the regional capital Simferopol and they issued no demands, but witnesses said they spoke Russian and appeared to be ethnic Russian separatists.

 

Interfax news agency quoted a witness as saying there were about 60 people inside and they had many weapons. It said no one had been hurt when the buildings were seized in the early hours by Russian speakers in uniforms that did not carry identification markings.

 

“We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol … we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window,” Leonid Khazanov, an ethnic Russian, told Reuters. “They’re still there … Then the police came, they seemed scared. I asked them (the armed men) what they wanted, and they said ‘To make our own decisions, not to have Kiev telling us what to do’,” said Khazanov.

 

About 100 police were gathered in front of the parliament building, and a similar number of people carrying Russian flags later marched up to the building chanting “Russia, Russia” and holding a sign calling for a Crimean referendum. One of them, Alexei, 30, said: “We have our own constitution, Crimea is autonomous. The government in Kiev are fascists, and what they’re doing is illegal … We need to show our support for the guys inside (parliament). Power should be ours.”a

As a reminder, so far Putin has been silent on his views about the sovereignty of the Crimean region which is host to the critical Russian Sevastopol naval base. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ignored calls by some ethnic Russians in Crimea to reclaim the territory handed to then Soviet Ukraine by Soviet Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. The United States says any Russian military action would be a grave mistake. But Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Moscow would defend the rights of its compatriots and react without compromise to any violation of those rights.

Russian Lenta, citing the Crimean information agency, reports that the Crimean deputees have begun a referendum on the status of the Crimean autonomy, which is not quite a secession. Yet.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s deposed president, who as we reported first some time ago had fled to Russia, reappeared, as expected in Russia, and claimed legitimacy to his post saying the Ukraine’s “mob” actions were illegal . From Reuters:

Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich said on Thursday he was still the legitimate president of his country and that people in its southeastern and southern regions would never accept the “lawlessness” brought by leaders chosen by a mob. Russian news agencies quoted a statement by Yanukovich as saying he had asked Moscow to guarantee his personal safety.

 

The statement could not be independently verified and it was not clear where Yanukovich was, although some media groups have suggested he is in Moscow after fleeing Ukraine, where he was toppled by opposition forces at the weekend.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said he had no information and could not comment on the statement.

 

“I, Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich appeal to the people of Ukraine. As before I still consider myself to be the lawful head of the Ukrainian state, chosen freely by the will of the Ukrainian people,” he was quoted as saying.

 

“Now it is becoming clear that the people in southeastern Ukraine and in Crimea do not accept the power vacuum and complete lawlessness in the country, when the heads of ministries are appointed by the mob.”

 

“On the streets of many cities of our country there is an orgy of extremism,” he said, adding that he and his closest aides had been threatened physically.

 

“I have to ask the Russian authorities to provide me with personal safety from the actions of extremists.”

 

Russian television showed what it said was a copy of the statement.

 

Interfax news agency quoted a source in the authorities as saying Moscow would ensure Yanukovich’s safety on the Russian territory.

 

“In connection with the appeal by president Yanukovich for his personal security to be guaranteed, I report that the request has been granted on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the source was quoted as saying.

And just to make sure tensions reach a fever pitch, Interfax reported a few hours ago that Russian fighter jets along the Western Border were put on high alert:

The crews of fighter jets deployed in Russia’s Western Military Districts have been placed on high alert as part of surprise combat drills ordered by Russian President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.

 

“Our fighter jets are constantly patrolling the airspace over border districts,” the ministry said in a press release, seen by Interfax-AVN on Thursday. “As soon as they were put on high alert, aviation units of the Western Military District redeployed to their operative air fields,” it said.

 

At the moment, “the district’s bombers are tackling combat training tasks targeting an imaginary adversary at aviation training ranges,” the ministry said.

Not surprisingly, the Ukraine economy, already in critical condition, is shutting down and the Hryvnia is imploding: Ukraine’s currency weakened 10.3 percent to 11.2 per dollar at 12:21 p.m. in Kiev, the lowest level since it was introduced in 1996, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The central bank imposed capital controls this month to stem its decline.

Finally, the story in pictures as reported by Euronews:

Russia’s deterrent? Nikolai Valuyev former boxer & now Russian MP arrives in Sevastopol to “support” Russian speakers pic.twitter.com/UR9VWUmOFy

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) February 27, 2014

Speaker of Crimea Parliament confirms: No hostages, negotiations are under way, gunmen “are not showing any signs of aggression.” #Ukraine

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 27, 2014

Two deaths in clashes near Crimean parliament; gunmen seize government headquarters (PHOTOS) http://t.co/CokqJftk3q pic.twitter.com/sCzaXriuUH

— KyivPost (@KyivPost) February 27, 2014

“It’s a message to Kiev not to impose its rule in Crimea by force” says @DmitriTreninhttp://t.co/G1UdZvkJaF #Ukraine

— Carnegie Russia (@CarnegieRussia) February 27, 2014

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#??????????? pic.twitter.com/ZwGG2SL5X8

— Vagabond (@kenzolika) February 27, 2014

Downtown #Simferopol empty. Few cops guard access to #Crimea parliament, center, behind clump of trees. #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/lKhPpO63Bu

— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim) February 27, 2014

Ukraine Bonds Re-Collapse As Russia Warns Of “High Chance Of Default” | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Bonds Re-Collapse As Russia Warns Of “High Chance Of Default” | Zero Hedge.

Russian bonds had rallied for 2 days on the heels of the ouster of Yanukovych and a hope-fueled strategy (supported by Goldman’s buy-buy-buy recommendation) that Europe or the IMF would save the day and fund them back to solvency. However, Russian deputy finance minister Storchak has a different perspective…

  • *UKRAINE FACES HIGH PROBABILITY OF DEFAULT: RUSSIA’S STORCHAK
  • *RUSSIA AGAINST INCLUDING $3B UKRAINE DEBT IN ANY RESTRUCTURING
  • *RUSSIA: NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO GIVE UKRAINE REMAINING BAILOUT

And that has sent 3-month Ukraine bond prices tumbling once again…

 

Russia Fires First Retaliatory Salvo, May Limit Ukraine Food Imports | Zero Hedge

Russia Fires First Retaliatory Salvo, May Limit Ukraine Food Imports | Zero Hedge.

Russia represents over 25% of Ukraine’s exports and is the divided nation’s largest trade partner. As Ukraine remains deep in its self-described “pre-default” state, the economy languishes vainly in the hopes of a trade deal with ‘someone’ and a bailout from ‘someone’ else. However, the IMF’s first move to bail the nation out has now been met by a subtle punch to the country’s kidneys as Interfax reports that Russia threatens to limit food imports on the basis of “veterinary and phytosanitary risks.”

Via Interfax,

Russia and the Customs Union could temporarily limit increased-risk food imports from Ukraine, given fears of loose safety control, said Sergei Dankvert, head of the Russian veterinary and phytosanitary oversight service Rosselkhoznadzor.

My Belarusian colleague and I are extremely concerned about the situation in UkraineWe do not rule out that curbs could be introduced on the imports of products of high veterinary and phytosanitary risks from Ukraine,” Dankvert told Interfax after talks with his Belarusian counterpart Yury Pivovarchik in Bryansk, and telephone talks with Ukraine’s Deputy Agrarian Policy Minister Ivan Bisyuk.

Restrictions could also be imposed on transit shipments, he said.

The conditions in which Ukrainian experts are working arouse queries and doubts that their work is being done properly, especially amid reports of African swine fever infections, he said.

Cooperation between veterinary and phytosanitary experts is largely based on trust, Dankvert said. If the conditions in which the Ukrainian service is working do not improve, moreover, if its leadership is replaced, the business contacts, built over the past few years, may be affected,” he said. “They were not always cloudless, but our Ukrainian colleagues were trying to work for expanding trade between our counties,” he said.

It might seem like an odd reason to suddenly do this but of course the timing is perfect – especally as the anti-Russian provinces tend to be the most agricultural and farming based – as opposed to the eastern (more industrial) regions that are wealthier and more pro-Russia.

But as a reminder, great deal of the nation’s wealth resides in non-pro-Europe eastern Ukraine

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