Canada announces more sanctions over Ukraine crisis
Ottawa (AFP) – Canada announced economic sanctions and travel bans on 11 Russians and Ukrainians, as well as a Crimean oil company, saying they facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.The move came as a unilateral ceasefire in the ex-Soviet state hung in the balance with clashes engulfing the separatist east and Russian President Vladimir Putin putting troops on „full combat alert.””Russia’s illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and provocative military activity remains a serious concern to the international community,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.”The measures we are announcing today against additional Russian and Ukrainian individuals and an entity that have facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial sovereignty will continue to increase economic pressure on those responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.”The company in question is Feodosia Enterprise.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered his forces to hold fire for a week on Friday as part of a broader peace plan to end the worst East-west standoff since the Cold War.”Canada also supports President Poroshenko’s peace plan,” Harper said, vowing that Ottowa would „continue to work with our allies to apply pressure against Russia.”The sanctions follow similar penalties imposed recently in coordination with the United States and the European Union.”We continue to monitor the situation and we are ready for further actions if necessary,” Harper said.
Putin Orders Central Russian Troops On ‘Full Combat Alert’
But he warned that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s blueprint for peace would not be viable without action to start peace negotiations.The qualified Russian backing for Poroshenko’s effort to halt the conflict was another in a series of shifting Kremlin moves and statements that leave unclear the level of Moscow’s commitment to de-escalating the conflict.Putin’s conciliatory words came on the same day he ordered large-scale military exercises that NATO criticized as likely to raise tensions. U.S. officials also accused Russian troops of moving back into positions near the border with Ukraine’s troubled east.The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin „calls on the opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table.”The statement said Putin supported Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to order Ukrainian troops to observe a unilateral cease-fire starting Friday night.View galleryA pro-Russian fighter holds a flower after taking an oath in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Saturday, June …But it added that Putin wanted to draw „attention to the fact that the proposed plan, without practical action directed at a beginning for a negotiating process, will not be viable or realistic.”Poroshenko bills the unilateral cease-fire as designed to inspire a wider peace plan that would include an amnesty for pro-Russian separatist fighters who disarm.Further steps would include joint security patrols, a buffer zone on the border, early regional and parliamentary elections, protections for the language rights of people who use Russian as their main language, and eventually changes in the constitution to permit more regional self-government.Ukrainian troops have struggled for weeks to suppress separatists who have seized buildings and declared independence in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions near the border with Russia.Ukraine and the United States have accused Russia of supporting the insurgency, including by permitting tanks to cross the border and wind up in the rebels’ arsenal. Russia counters that it is not supporting the insurgents and Russians who have joined the fighting are doing so as private citizens.View galleryPro-Russian leader, former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsarev, walks accompanied by pro-Russian fighters …U.S. and European leaders have called on Russia to play a constructive role in settling the conflict and halt what they say is support for the rebels. The U.S. and European Union have imposed financial sanctions on specific Russian officials but have held off on targeting entire economic sectors.It remains unclear whether Russia can or will influence the pro-Russian fighters to de-escalate the conflict. Putin has consulted with Poroshenko several times by phone on the Ukraine cease-fire initiative, but earlier Russian statements on the peace plan had criticized it sharply as an „ultimatum” seeking to pressure rebels to disarm.The more open-minded tone of the latest Kremlin statement contrasted with Putin’s move Saturday to order military forces in central Russia to go on combat alert and to launch an exercise for airborne troops.The combat alert in the central military district, which encompasses the Volga region and the Ural mountains but not western Russia, will last until next Saturday and involve 65,000 troops, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu on Saturday lamented Moscow’s military exercises, saying that „it can be seen as a further escalation of the crisis with Ukraine.”View galleryA woman takes pictures of pro-Russian fighters on an iPad with a flag of pro-Russian Donetsk republi …Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s embattled east have dismissed the cease-fire as fake — and continued to shoot at Ukraine border positions after the truce began Friday night.The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said six troops were wounded in attacks on border posts shortly before the truce’s start, while three others were wounded in later mortar and sniper attacks on two posts.Nonetheless, no large-scale fighting was reported Saturday, the first full day of what is to be a 6 ½-day stand-down by the Ukrainian military ending Friday morning.In Donetsk, a group of armed men gathered Saturday in the central square to take a military oath to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.Pavel Gubarev, who describes himself as governor of the breakaway republic, said there was no sign of any cease-fire near Slovyansk, scene of serious clashes for several months.”There is no cease-fire over there,” Gubarev said. „There is shooting all the time, and this cease-fire that Poroshenko is talking about is just fake. The Ukrainian forces are either not under his control, or he is just a liar.”Tension between Russia and Ukraine escalated sharply in February when protests in favor of closer ties with the European Union drove pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from power. Russia denounced the events as a coup and annexed Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking Crimea region. Rebellion in the eastern regions broke out shortly afterward, with Ukraine accusing Russia of supporting it._Associated Press reporter Marko Drobnjakovic in Donetsk contributed to this report.
Fresh clashes threaten Ukraine ceasefire
The resurgence of violence in the 11-week pro-Russian uprising threatening to splinter the ex-Soviet state came as Washington accused the Kremlin of covertly arming the rebels and sternly warned Putin against sending troops into Ukraine.But the Russian strongman appeared ready to continue sabre-rattling in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War by ordering units from the Volga to western Siberia to conduct snap military drills.”There is no ceasefire,” a woman named Lila Ivanovna said Saturday just four kilometres (two miles) southwest of the battled-scarred rebel stronghold city of Slavyansk.”They were shooting last night and I heard mortar and machinegun fire at four this morning. Nothing has changed.”Ukrainian border guards said the militia used sniper fire and grenade launchers to strike a base in the eastern Donetsk region four hours after President Petro Poroshenko declared a unilateral halt to hostilities that have claimed more than 375 lives.They said troops had to return fire when the same rebel unit mounted a second attack near a different Russian border crossing a few minutes later.View galleryA new army recruit of the self-proclaimed „Donetsk People’s Republic” holds a young bo …A spokesman for Ukraine’s „anti-terrorist operation” confirmed the battles around Slavyansk while the defence ministry said one of its anti-aircraft bases was assaulted by „50 men in camouflage”.Ukraine’s SBU security service said nine border guards were wounded in violence overnight.But the separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told reporters that Slavyansk had absorbed a heavy air and artillery assault from Ukrainian troops.Poroshenko ordered his forces to hold fire for a week on Friday evening as part of a broader peace plan that would eventually give more rights to eastern industrial regions where pro-Russian sentiments run high.- Canada imposes sanctions -But Poroshenko’s peace initiative includes a major caveat that allows the military to retaliate with equal force against any attack.View galleryA pro-Russian militant detains a man suspected of spying for Ukraine during a military oath taking c …”We know how to protect our nation,” he told wounded soldiers during a visit to a Kiev military hospital.The 48-year-old has followed through on his May 25 election promise to ignore Kremlin pressure and bring Ukraine into the Western fold by signing an historic EU trade agreement in Brussels on Friday.Putin issued a carefully-worded statement on Saturday saying he „supports… Poroshenko’s decision to halt fire in the southeast of Ukraine”.But the Kremlin chief stressed that any peace initiative „not aimed at starting the negotiating process will not be viable or realistic”.Putin also called on „the conflicting parties to halt all military activities and sit down at the negotiating table” — a comment that implied a degree of criticism for the rebels’ continued attacks.Meanwhile Canada announced economic sanctions and travel bans on 11 Russians and Ukrainians, as well as a Crimean oil company, saying they had facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.View galleryPhoto released by the presidential press-service on June 21, 2014 shows Ukrainian President Petro Po …”Russia’s illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and provocative military activity remains a serious concern to the international community,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.The sanctions follow similar penalties imposed recently in coordination with the United States and the European Union.- ‘Destabilising Russian presence’ -Poroshenko’s attempts to resolve the country’s worst post-Soviet crisis have also been complicated by a new deployment of Russian forces along parts of the border where the rebels mount the most frequent attacks.Putin appeared to be stirring tensions further on Saturday by ordering troops stretching from the Volga region in central Russia to the Ural Mountains and swathes of Siberia to go on „full combat alert” as part of a surprise readiness check.The Russian defence ministry said military exercises in the expansive region whose western-most edge lies 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Ukraine would involve 65,000 soldiers along with 60 helicopters and 180 jets.But both Kiev and its Western allies are also anxious about the presence of new Russian forces along the border amid charges of growing flows of heavy weapons crossing into rebel-held parts of the industrial east.A Russian defence ministry source told the RBK news agency this week that troops were prepared to enter Ukraine’s insurgent regions in order to „put up barriers between the civilian population and the Ukrainian army”.”We will not accept the use, under any pretext, of any Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that most of the equipment being gathered in southwest Russia was no longer used by its military.”We believe that Russia may soon provide this equipment to separatist fighters,” Psaki said.
Poroshenko’s Ukraine peace plan gets limited support from Putin
MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) – Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Saturday voiced limited support for Ukraine’s unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists, but told President Petro Poroshenko there had to be talks with the rebels to prevent the truce collapsing.The Kremlin set out Putin’s view after overnight fighting in Ukraine’s east in which pro-Russian separatists, according to Ukrainian government forces, attacked military bases and customs posts within hours of the ceasefire coming into force on Friday night.While welcoming Poroshenko’s truce, the Kremlin said Putin believed his peace plan should not be an „ultimatum” to the rebels and warned the ceasefire would not be „viable and realistic” unless there were practical moves to start talks between the opposing sides.Poroshenko, who has unveiled a 15-point peace plan to end the insurgency in the east, has met regional leaders and offered to respect the use of the Russian language in the east but has refused to enter into direct dialogue with separatist leaders.”The opportunity which the ceasefire opens up should be used to start meaningful negotiations and political compromise between the opposing sides in eastern Ukraine,” the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying.In an apparently conciliatory gesture, he called on „all parties to the conflict to cease fire and sit down at the negotiation table”.Poroshenko is gearing up for a diplomatic push to sell his plan but, with relations with Moscow at rock bottom and Kiev accusing Russia of fomenting the unrest, his biggest challenge will be to win over Putin.The week-long ceasefire announced by Poroshenko came under pressure overnight when separatists attacked Ukrainian posts on the border with Russia and a military base and tried to storm an air force base, government forces said.BORDER POSTS ATTACKED A government forces spokesman said the separatists used mortars and sniper fire to attack Ukrainian posts at Izvareno and Uspenka on the border, wounding nine Ukrainian officers.Rebels with large-calibre machineguns and grenade-launchers also attacked a Ukrainian position at Avdiyivka, near the main regional town of Donetsk, and a Ukrainian post at Kreminna.View galleryA pro-Russian fighter holds a gun and a rose after taking the oath of allegiance to the self-proclai …Separatists controlling Slaviansk also attacked Ukrainian forces on Karachun hill overlooking the town with mortars and grenade-launchers, the spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, said.”In all these episodes, the attacks of the (rebel) fighters were deflected” without loss, Seleznyov said.Poroshenko announced the week-long ceasefire on Friday night, urging the rebels to lay down their arms and warning that Ukrainian forces would hit back if attacked.Ukrainian forces also repelled two attacks by around 50 heavily-armed fighters in the early morning on an air defence base at Avdiyivka, which houses surface-to-air missiles, the defence ministry said. No Ukrainian personnel were hurt.The rebels, who have seized strategic points in major towns including Donetsk and set up „people’s republics”, saying they want to join Russia, insisted Ukraine had broken its own ceasefire.Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, told a news conference the ceasefire was not working and appealed to Russia to send in peacekeeping forces.”Since last evening, combat activities are continuing. Poroshenko’s artillery is bombing Slaviansk and the air force has made several raids. Words about a ceasefire as always were just that – words,” Borodai said.”The anti-terrorist operation against the people of the Donbass is in full swing,” he said.Pavel Gubarev, a prominent rebel leader, told Rossiya-24 TV channel that either Ukrainian troops were not obeying orders or Poroshenko „is lying”, adding: „There is no ceasefire at all.”The insurgency in the Russian-speaking east erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.Poroshenko has offered an amnesty to separatists who disarm voluntarily as well as corridors to allow fighters from Russia or pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists to leave safely for Russia.DEFIANCE Ukraine, meanwhile, expressed concern on Saturday about an increase in Russian movements near the border.”The continuing concentration of Russian armed forces and their heightened activity near the border with Ukraine causes special concern against a background of numerous facts that confirm weapons and military equipment are being supplied to the terrorists,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.In Donetsk about 100 troops of the self-styled separatist Donetsk People’s Republic took an oath of an allegiance, in apparent defiance of Poroshenko’s peace plan.In a ceremony on the town’s Lenin Square, armed fighters, some wearing masks, pledged they would „defend the Donetsk People’s Republic to the last drop of blood”.”We swear, we swear, we swear,” they chanted in unison.Alexei, a miner, said he decided to take up arms last week: „I am 43. I have children. I had a job but I dropped everything to defend the homeland.”A number of women, many in tears, rushed to hug troops and give them flowers. „A great day, a great day, we love our army. They will protect us from fascists,” said Nastya, 32, holding hands with a masked soldier.Across the square, far from the crowd, Mykola, a 23-year-old student from Donetsk, said he despised the rebels.”They are stupid and short-sighted and brainwashed by Moscow’s propaganda and common people will continue to suffer.” He refused to give his full name, saying he feared reprisals for his pro-Ukrainian position.(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Lina Kushch in Donetsk, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Richard Balmforth Editing by Andrew Roche)
As Ukraine Announces Cease-Fire, White House Points Finger at Russia
Credit Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press WASHINGTON — On a day that the Ukrainian government announced a unilateral cease-fire in its battle with separatists in the country’s east, the Obama administration raised the stakes with Russia on Friday, accusing the Kremlin of continuing to covertly arm the rebels.A spokesman for the Ukrainian military, Vladislav Seleznyov, said the cease-fire would begin at 10 p.m. local time on Friday. Ukraine’s new president, Petro O. Poroshenko, has stressed that the plan hinges on the sealing of the porous border with Russia, to prevent the flow of fighters and arms.There was no immediate reaction from separatist leaders, but the Kremlin issued an angry statement complaining about artillery fire that struck a Russian border post, with demands for an investigation and an apology.Related CoverageAs Military and Rebels Clash in Ukraine, Doubt Falls on Cease-Fire ProspectsUkraine Suspects Terrorism in Pipeline Explosion“The statement by the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, on the temporary cessation of hostilities was accidentally or deliberately made against the backdrop of shelling of Russian territory,” the Kremlin said in its statement, adding that a building at the border post had been destroyed and a customs agent seriously injured. “The Russian side is waiting for an explanation and an apology,” the Kremlin said, adding, about the cease-fire, “The initial analysis, unfortunately, shows that this is not an invitation to peace and negotiations but an ultimatum for the militias of southeast Ukraine to surrender.”Photo Credit Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated PressIn addition, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, spoke by phone with the new Ukrainian foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, and Mr. Lavrov complained about demands that Russian tighten control of its border with Ukraine.Mr. Lavrov, in the call, again insisted that Russia did not control — or speak for — the separatist rebels. Russia’s vehement reaction was somewhat surprising, given that the halt in military operations was part of a broader peace plan that Mr. Poroshenko has been developing in recent weeks in consultation with Russia and Western leaders.In Washington on Friday, American officials added another element to an increasingly complex situation, accusing Russia of working to undermine the prospects for peace even as President Vladimir V. Putin consulted with Mr. Poroshenko virtually daily on his peace proposal. President Obama warned Mr. Putin this month that the West would impose “additional costs” on Russia if its provocations were to continue.“We have information that Russia has redeployed significant military forces to its border with Ukraine,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters on Friday. “Russian Special Forces are also maintaining points along the Ukrainian border to provide support to separatist fighters.”200 milesBELARUSRUSSIASeverskKievKrasny LimanSlavyanskUKRAINEDonetskMOLDOVACRIMEABlack SeaThe State Department reported last week that three aging Russian T-64 tanks had been sent to Ukraine, and Ukrainian officials recently told Western officials that 10 more Russian tanks have been provided to Ukrainian separatists. Adding to Western concerns, the senior Obama administration official said, artillery has been moved to a deployment site inside southwest Russia and may soon be shipped across the border.American officials said Russia was providing older weapons that its forces had phased out but that were known to remain in the Ukrainian military’s inventory.“The desire here is to mask the Russian hand” by allowing Ukrainian separatists to claim the weapons were captured on the battlefield, the administration official said. The official asked not to be identified by name, in line with the Obama administration’s protocol for briefing reporters.Mr. Putin appears to be calculating that he can continue to provide military support to the separatists without triggering tough economic reprisals as long as the Kremlin denies that it is involved and avoids obvious provocations, like sending conventional Russian military units into eastern Ukraine, American officials said.Photo Credit Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated PressTo date, the United States and European allies have imposed only limited sanctions, directed at Russian individuals or specific companies, in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea and allegations that it is linked to the violence in eastern Ukraine. The next stage would involve tougher sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy like finance, energy and defense industries.On Friday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on seven Ukrainian separatists, including Vyacheslav Ponomarev, once the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, and Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.The White House said Friday night that Mr. Obama had called Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France, and that the three leaders had agreed the United States and the European Union would impose additional sanctions “should Russia fail to take immediate, concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine.”Before the cease-fire was announced, skirmishes for control of Krasny Liman, a railroad hub north of Donetsk, stretched into a second day. The Ukrainian military deployed both air and artillery strikes to oust pro-Russian separatist fighters, said Vladislav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.Ukraine Crisis in Maps Mr. Seleznyov said seven government soldiers had been killed and 30 injured since fighting over a conduit road into the town began Thursday morning. He also said 300 rebel fighters had died in the fighting since Thursday, a figure that could not be independently verified. Mr. Seleznyov said the number was a “hard number,” not propaganda. But that figure was far higher than those provided Thursday night by rebel forces, which said their number of dead and injured was in the single digits.Mr. Poroshenko had said he would call a unilateral cease-fire when he was ready to announce what has been advertised as a 14-point plan. Details from the initial draft that have leaked in the Ukrainian news media so far include some measure of decentralization, new elections and a more robust border with Russia.The fighting in Ukraine this week also prompted Mr. Putin to call Ms. Merkel Mr. Hollande to express his “grave concern” about Ukraine’s continuing military operations, the Kremlin news agency said. While denying any role in directing the separatist violence, Russia has acknowledged that it has forces near Ukraine’s border.“Given the situation in the east, the tightening of Russian border security requires certain measures,” Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, told the Rossiya 24 cable news channel. “The armed forces are being called in.”The senior Obama administration official told reporters that some Russian forces near Ukraine had taken up positions that “are within a handful of kilometers of Ukrainian territory, the closest that they’ve been since the invasion of Crimea.”“We also have information that additional forces are due to arrive in coming weeks,” the senior administration official added.Correction: June 20, 2014 An earlier version of the contributor list with this article misstated the middle initial of the contributor from Moscow. He is David M. Herszenhorn, not David S.Michael R. Gordon reported from Washington, and David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow. Andrew Roth contributed reporting from Donetsk, Ukraine, and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow.A version of this article appears in print on June 21, 2014, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Ukraine Calls Cease-Fire; Russia Says Post Was Hit.Photo