The chopper downing, in which nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed, could torpedo hopes that Ukraine’s Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko — having ordered a one-week unilateral ceasefire Friday that the rebels accepted on Monday — will be able to negotiate an end to 11 weeks of violence that has claimed 435 lives, according to UN figures and an AFP count.Biden „offered condolences for the deaths of Ukrainian service members, including the shooting down of a Ukrainian transport helicopter in eastern Ukraine,” a White House statement said of the third call with Poroshenko in as many days.Biden „underscored the importance of having monitors in place to verify violations of the ceasefire, as well as the need to stop the supply of weapons and militants from across the border. The two leaders agreed to remain in close contact,” it added.Separately, President Barack Obama spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the Ukraine crisis.Obama and Cameron „agreed that should Russia fail to take these immediate steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union would work to implement additional coordinated measures to impose costs on Russia,” a White House statement said.The Donetsk region where the helicopter was hit and the neighboring Lugansk province proclaimed independence in May in the wake of the February ouster in Kiev of a pro-Russian president.But Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to follow up his March annexation of Crimea by claiming control over the two territories in a land-grab that could have plunged Europe into all-out war.He took another step aimed at appeasing the West by asking lawmakers on Tuesday to rescind their March 1 authorization for Kremlin forces to occupy parts of Ukraine.The Kremlin chief’s decision came with Russia facing the threat of devastating Western economic sanctions unless Putin took immediate steps to de-escalate the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Russia’s Putin renounces right to send troops to Ukraine
MOSCOW/VIENNA (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin asked Russia’s upper house on Tuesday to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there.Minutes before he spoke, Kiev said pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine had shot down a military helicopter, most likely killing all nine on board. It was the most serious breach of a temporary ceasefire agreed in talks between government and rebels less than 24 hours earlier. (Full Story)Putin’s move received a cautious welcome in the West as a sign Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called it a „first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for eastern Ukraine.But later he told security chiefs to „open fire without hesitation” if government forces came under attack, and „did not rule out bringing the ceasefire regime to an early end” if rebels continued to breach it, his press service said.Putin himself said he now expected Ukraine to begin talks on guaranteeing the rights of its Russian-speaking minority, which Russia would continue to defend.”It is not enough to announce a ceasefire,” he told reporters on a visit to Vienna. „A substantive discussion of the essence of the problems is essential.”View galleryPro-Russian demonstrators shout slogans in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, June 23, 2014. Leaders …In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to „use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in that country normalises”.That resolution, together with Russia’s March annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.The Federation Council was due to discuss the reversal requested by Putin on Wednesday and expected to approve it.NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: „We expect Russia to withdraw its troops and military infrastructure from the Ukrainian border, end its support for armed separatist groups, and the flow of weapons and mercenaries across its border, as well as denounce publicly separatist violence in Ukraine.”EU SANCTIONSA spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declined comment when asked whether Putin’s step would reduce the likelihood of tougher sanctions being agreed at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday.-The White House welcomed Putin’s backing for the ceasefire, but said there must be „tangible actions” to defuse the crisis.View galleryGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshen …U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Poroshenko on Tuesday and „underscored the importance of having monitors in place to verify violations of the ceasefire, as well as the need to stop the supply of weapons and militants from across the border,” the White House said.Even the limited sanctions already imposed by Washington and the EU have chilled investor sentiment in Russia at a time when its economy is already on the brink of recession.However, signs that the crisis in eastern Ukraine may be easing have helped markets regain ground. News of Putin’s decision on Tuesday pushed the rouble-based MICEX .MCX up 2.2 percent to its highest level since November, and the dollar-denominated RTS index .IRTS up 3.8 percent to its highest close since January.At 1730 GMT, the rouble RUB= was up 0.9 percent against the dollar, which fell below 34 roubles for the first time since January.There was no word on the progress of peace talks, at which Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe are represented alongside rebel leaders and Kiev’s representative, former president Leonid Kuchma.But it was clear that the ceasefire, due to expire on Friday morning, was under heavy strain.The Ukrainian helicopter downed near the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk was carrying technicians who were installing equipment to monitor violations of the peace plan, the government said.Petro’s Peace Plan Play VideoIgor Strelkov, the top rebel commander in Slaviansk, was quoted on a rebel Facebook page as saying: „Talks with them (the Kiev government) are possible only from a position of strength.”Elsewhere, a witness said rebels had opened fire on two Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers leaving Donetsk airport, which is under government control. Kiev said three servicemen were killed in rebel attacks on military posts and checkpoints. But rebels accused government forces of firing first.Putin himself appeared to cast doubt on a central element of Poroshenko’s plan: that rebels should lay down their weapons.He said it was „pointless” to demand this when far-right militants who had helped to topple Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich in February had not been disarmed by Kiev.Russia itself has already pulled back tens of thousands of troops it had moved close to the border earlier in the crisis.Those troops had also provided an unspoken threat to support the well-equipped but sometimes disunited rebels in eastern Ukraine against government forces trying to wrest back the towns and administration buildings they had seized.Like many of eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers, Moscow was infuriated by the fall of Yanukovich after he pulled out of an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer relations with Moscow, Kiev’s former master within the old Soviet Union.Russia denies accusations from Kiev and the West that it has helped foment the separatist unrest and knowingly allowed military equipment to cross into Ukraine or built up forces along the 1,900-km (1,200-mile) joint border.However, the election last month of billionaire businessman Poroshenko as president appears at least to have reduced fears in Moscow and eastern Ukraine that the ex-Soviet republic was being run by far-right nationalists ready to trample over the rights of the large Russian-speaking minority in the east.Since then, the rebels have been gradually losing ground in a conflict where scores have been killed on both sides.On Friday, Poroshenko is set to sign a free trade agreement with the EU – the very pact that Yanukovich rejected in January under heavy pressure from Russia, which had wanted Ukraine’s 45 million people to join its own Eurasian Economic Union.Russia is certain to respond by raising trade barriers to Ukrainian exports in order to protect its markets, further fraying an economic relationship already badly soured by Ukraine’s refusal to accept an increase in the price of Russian gas, imposed after Yanukovich was ousted.Russia’s Gazprom GAZP.MM has now cut off the gas, and its CEO Alexei Miller repeated on Tuesday in Vienna that Kiev must settle $1.95 billion of its debt and pay up front for future supplies before the taps can be reopened.(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel and Gabriela Baczynska; and Jeff Mason in Washington; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Ken Wills)
Ukraine helicopter downed by rebel fire, nine killed
KIEV/DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – Rebels shot down a Ukrainian helicopter carrying technicians who had been installing equipment to monitor violations of a peace plan in Ukraine’s rebellious east on Tuesday, killing all nine people on board, a military spokesman said.The technicians had been returning from setting up specialised equipment when their Mi-8 cargo helicopter was struck by a rebel missile near Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine, government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.”There were 9 people on board. According to preliminary information … all those on board were killed,” Seleznyov said on his Facebook page. The nine dead included a three-man crew.”The (rebel) fighters, having fired the rocket, hid in the nearby village of Bylbasovka,” he said.The incident took place just hours after pro-Russian separatists on Monday night announced a ceasefire until June 27 to match a week-long truce by government forces which has been ordered by President Petro Poroshenko.It was the second time a helicopter has been brought down by rebel fire from Slaviansk, a separatist stronghold. On May 30, rebels there also downed a military helicopter killing 14 servicemen, including one general.Dmytro Tymchuk, a military analyst known to have good sources in the armed forces, said the helicopter had been brought down by a missile fired from a shoulder-held launcher.The truce announcement on Monday night by separatist leaders had raised the first real prospect of an end to hostilities since the insurgency erupted in the largely Russian-speaking east in April.But Tuesday’s helicopter incident seemed certain to put the ceasefire on both sides under fresh pressure.Elsewhere, a rebel spokesman in Donetsk said a shootout broke out near the city’s airport, which is under Ukrainian control. Rebels opened fire on two Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers leaving the grounds of the airport, according to a witness.SAFETY CORRIDOR-Earlier on Tuesday Poroshenko, who is trying to secure national and international support for his plan to end two and a half months of fighting, had said the pro-Russian separatists had violated their own ceasefire with overnight attacks on military posts and checkpoints which killed one government soldier and wounded seven others.His plan would offer a safety „corridor” back to Russia for pro-Russian fighters who lay down their arms and has secured the backing of Western governments and qualified support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.About 150 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed as well as scores of other law-enforcement officials, rebel militia and civilians since pro-Russian separatist groups declared „people’s republics” in the east and said they want to join Russia. Some of the rebels say they will adhere to the ceasefire announced on Monday night after talks between separatist leaders and a „contact” group of officials who included a former Ukrainian president, Moscow’s envoy to Kiev and a high-ranking representative from the OSCE security and rights watchdog.But in the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk, near where the helicopter was brought down on Tuesday, separatists appeared to be dissociating themselves from the ceasefire agreement.”Talks with them (the Kiev government) are possible only from a position of force and no other way. We should not trust a single letter,” said Igor Strelkov, the top rebel commander in Slaviansk, as quoted on the Facebook page of Pavel Gubarev, the self-styled governor of the „Donetsk People’s Republic”.”They (Ukrainian troops) are trying to quickly and calmly take and reinforce new positions under the cover of the ceasefire treaty,” Strelkov was quoted as saying.(Writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by Ralph Boulton)
Europe Pro-Russian Rebels in Ukraine Match Government Cease-Fire
Credit Roman Pilipey/European Pressphoto Agency DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian separatists declared a cease-fire Monday in a surprise move that they said they hoped would lead to a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.The announcement came as rebel leaders met with representatives of the Ukrainian government in Kiev, including the former president, Leonid D. Kuchma, as well as the Russian ambassador to Ukraine and a representative of the acting chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.“In answer to the cease-fire by Kiev, we commit to a cease-fire from our side,” said Aleksandr Borodai, the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.Mr. Borodai, a Russian citizen, said the cease-fire would last until Friday, matching the timeline of the cease-fire announced last week by the new Ukraine president, Petro O. Poroshenko.Related Coverage Putin Attempts to Straddle a Divide He Helped to Pry Open in UkraineAs Ukraine Announces Cease-Fire, White House Points Finger at RussiaUkraine Crisis in Maps“We also hope that in the time of this bilateral cease-fire,” Mr. Borodai continued, “we can agree to begin consultations about the introduction of negotiations about a peaceful settlement of this conflict.”Photo Credit Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images The officials met in Donetsk, the regional capital, on the 11th floor of the regional administration building, which had been seized by separatist rebels and remains under their control.An aide to Mr. Borodai said that talks would continue on Tuesday.Mr. Poroshenko declared a unilateral cease-fire last Friday by government troops clashing with rebels in the country’s embattled east and unveiled a peace plan to bring an end to the conflict.The plan proposed amnesty for rebel fighters who had not committed serious crimes, as well as safe passage for those who wanted to return home to Russia. It also called for decentralization of the national government, which would allow for greater self-rule in the east, though the details of that plan are not yet final.The plan, however, did not call for negotiations between the government and the separatist leaders of the self-declared republics — a step that Mr. Poroshenko had ruled out in his campaign and since his inauguration on June 6.President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia gave cautious support to the peace plan, but said it must lead to talks between both sides. At the same time, the United States said last week that it had evidence that Russia was preparing to send more tanks and artillery to the fighters in eastern Ukraine.President Obama spoke by telephone on Monday with Mr. Putin, their first known conversation since a conversation at the D-Day anniversary commemoration in France this month. The White House said Mr. Obama pressed Mr. Putin to aid Mr. Poroshenko’s efforts to defuse the crisis.With tentative support from Russia and Ukraine’s Western allies, including the United States, the cease-fire provides a brief opportunity for the two sides to forge a more lasting agreement for the first time since gunmen seized cities throughout eastern Ukraine more than two months ago.Maintaining a truce in eastern Ukraine will not be easy. There is little trust between the government in Kiev and the patchwork of militias and rebellious political organizations that have laid siege to the east.Rebel leaders, including Mr. Borodai, had previously accused Kiev of violating its own cease-fire, and intermittent fighting between Ukrainian forces and rebel troops has continued since last Friday.Those present at Monday’s meeting called it a “consultation,” and underlined that the talks were not negotiations.Mr. Poroshenko had previously said he would not negotiate with “terrorists,” and just last week held a meeting in Kiev with what his administration called the “legitimate” leaders of eastern Ukraine to discuss the peace plan before he publicly declared the cease-fire.“I’m happy that these talks took place and that nobody undertook the resolution of the enormous complex of problems before us,” said Mr. Kuchma, who served as president of the country from 1994 to 2005.If the cease-fire holds, Mr. Kuchma said, then “God willing, a peace process will begin.”David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting from Moscow and Peter Baker from Washington.Photo
Rebels in Ukraine Break Ceasefire, Military Helicopter Shot Down
Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine have violated the ceasefire, according to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The ceasefire began June 20th and was meant to last until June 27th. Poroshenko announced the ceasefire unilaterally, though Russian backed rebels did not seem interested in it. Separatist leaders in two areas of the east did formally agree to the truce.The ceasefire is part of Poroshenko’s peace plan. He hopes to end the pro-Russian insurgency near the border, offering safe passage for pro-Russian fighters back into Russia as long as they go peacefully. Unfortunately, it lasted just under four days before Poroshenko deemed it formally broken. „Unfortunately there were violations of the ceasefire from the other side. Last night there were another eight cases, one soldier was killed, seven were wounded,” Poroshenko told German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.Rebels attacked military checkpoints with grenade launchers and mortars. Ukrainian government forces say they have held true to the ceasefire, not participating in any military actions since the 20th. The Ukrainian military also determined one of its helicopters was shot down by rebels on Tuesday. The crash was caused by a rocket and killed everyone on board, nine people in total. RELATED: UN Warns That Growing $213 Billion Poaching Industry Funds Armed ConflictsPoroshenko’s plans to retaliate are still unclear, though if he plans on keeping steady with his peace plan, we can expect a defensive, rather than offensive, approach to the rebels to continue.
With Putin in Vienna, Gazprom signs Austria pipeline deal
Vienna (AFP) – Coinciding with a visit to Vienna by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian energy giant Gazprom on Tuesday signed a deal with Austria’s OMV approving the EU country’s section of the controversial South Stream pipeline.The crisis in Ukraine has made the planned pipeline bringing Siberian gas to the European Union — bypassing Ukraine — a new focus of tensions between Moscow, Brussels and Washington.EU member Bulgaria earlier this month said it was suspending work on building its section of the multi-billion-euro (-dollar) project following pressure from the EU and the United States.The European Commission has called on all 28 member states to stand united in resisting pressure from the Kremlin over the project, saying the contracts Gazprom has signed on pipeline breach the bloc’s competition rules.Moscow says the pipeline will ensure European energy security and has accused Brussels of pressuring Bulgaria into suspending work in order to seek revenge over the Kremlin’s alleged role in supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.But South Stream has also exposed divisions within the bloc, with several states that depend on Russian gas transported via Ukraine supporting it, together with countries on the pipeline’s route.With an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic metres, the main pipeline will stretch nearly 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to end in Italy. It will also bring gas to Austria.Tuesday’s deal was signed in Vienna by Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller and his OMV counterpart Gerhard Roiss, the Austria PressAgency (APA) reported.”This is an investment in Europe’s energy security,” Roiss said. „South Stream will comply fully with European law.”
Watch the most awkward thing ever to happen in Congress It took a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. to bring Congress together
In the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, morning air strikes killed at least 19 people and wounded at least 17, officials said, while further raids in the evening killed six more.The officials said the dead and wounded were civilians, and it was unclear if there were any casualties among the militants who were the target of the strikes.State television said 19 „terrorists” were killed in the earlier set of Baiji raids.In the Husseibah area of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, another air strike killed seven militants and six civilians, witnesses said.Elsewhere in Anbar, security forces and allied tribesmen held off an assault on the strategic town of Haditha, located on the road to provincial capital Ramadi, a police officer said.Militants also launched a renewed push to seize Iraq’s largest oil refinery, which is located near Baiji, but the overnight attack was repelled by security forces, officials said.The refinery, which filled some 50 percent of Iraq’s demand for refined petroleum products in better days, has been the scene of heavy fighting since militants launched a major offensive on June 9, sending jitters through world oil markets.The militants, led by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have overrun major areas of five provinces and driven to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Baghdad.Security forces performed poorly during the initial onslaught, and are now struggling to hold their ground in the face of the relentless militant push.
John Boehner Is Getting Ready To Mount A Potentially Gigantic Lawsuit Against Obama
Last week, Bosnia-Herzegovina fell to Nigeria in a controversial match dotted with two separate referee incidents: an offsides call that negated a clear Bosnia-Herzegovina goal, and a no-call that allowed Nigeria to score. One could write both off to terrible officiating and unfortunate timing, were it not for the emergence of the above photo.The photo, which comes directly from Getty Images and is not Photoshopped, shows New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary, in black, apparently celebrating with Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. That was enough to incite the rage of Bosnian fans, who created a petition with 23,000 signatures demanding the removal of O’Leary and a change in the score from 1-0 Nigeria to 1-1. (Good luck with that, friends.)Petitions or not, the game burned in the hearts of both fans and players. „The referee was shameful,” said Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, who scored the goal that was called back. “We are going home and we are sad because of that but this referee should be going home too. He changed the result and he changed the game. That’s why we lost.”_Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.Follow @jaybusbee
How a US decision to allow oil exports could change the world’s energy balance