Crimea: Kremlin Mistreats Minorities

Pasted by: IIP State

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This is the fifth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Under Russia’s broad extremism law, the Russian government has sought to declare that minority religious groups in Crimea are “extremists”. Crimean Tatars, Catholics, and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful face harassment and the confiscation of property simply because of their faith.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stand United for Ukraine.
Stop Russian Aggression.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Forced into Russian Citizenship

Posted by ShareAmerica

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This is the fourth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. After the illegal referendum, it was nearly impossible for those Crimeans who wished to retain their Ukrainian citizenship to do so. They were forced instead to become Russian citizens.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian aggression.
Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Russia’s Illegal Occupation Tanks Tourism

Posted by ShareAmerica

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This is the third of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. Since then, the number of visitors to the once tourist hotspot has dropped by 45% – a tough statistic to live with when the income of one in three Crimean families depends on tourism.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.

Stop Russian aggression.

Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Costs to Crimea: 1 year after Russia’s occupation

Posted by ShareAmerica

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A woman holds a banner that reads “Putin is an Occupier” during a rally against Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea, March 11, 2014. (© AP Images)
A woman holds a banner that reads “Putin is an Occupier” during a rally against Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea, March 11, 2014. (© AP Images)

One year ago, on March 16, Russia orchestrated an illegal referendum in Crimea that violated the Ukrainian constitution and was condemned by the international community. This is the first of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

How did an illegal referendum come about?

In late February 2014, Russia began an aggressive campaign of military intervention in Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine. Russian forces wearing ski masks and combat uniforms without markings seized the Crimean regional parliament, several government

In late February 2014, Russia began an aggressive campaign of military intervention in Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine. Russian forces wearing ski masks and combat uniforms without markings seized the Crimean regional parliament, several government buildings and the airport. They installed checkpoints on Crimea’s boundary with its neighboring Ukrainian provinces and fired at unarmed Ukrainian military personnel.

Ukrainian Crimeans were given 10 days’ notice to vote in a public referendum, which gave them two choices for their future — to join Russia or become independent. Voters had no option to oppose either of the ballot questions or to maintain the status quo, which would mean remaining part of Ukraine.

The Kremlin claims that an overwhelming 97 percent voted to join Russia, even though a poll taken one month before the referendum showed that only 41 percent of Crimea’s population favored that outcome.

The White House called the referendum “contrary to Ukraine’s constitution” and said that “the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military” that is in violation of international law.

International response

In response to Russia’s illegal actions in Crimea, the U.S. and a broad coalition of countries imposed political and economic sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials responsible for orchestrating the Crimean crisis and undermining Ukrainian sovereignty.

Costs to Crimea

Under Russia’s occupation, the people of Crimea have suffered human, economic, political and social costs.

The U.S. continues to condemn Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. The U.S. calls for an end to the occupation.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine.

New Satellite Imagery Exposes Russian Combat Troops Inside Ukraine

Story by: SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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August 28, 2014

Mons, BELGIUM – NATO released new satellite images on Thursday, 28 August 2014, that show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside the sovereign territory of Ukraine. The images, captured in late August, depict Russian self-propelled artillery units moving in a convoy through the Ukrainian countryside and then preparing for action by establishing firing positions in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine.

Dutch Brigadier General Nico Tak, director of the Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre (CCOMC), Allied Command Operations said the images confirmed what NATO and its Allies had been seeing for weeks from other sources.

“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” said Brigadier General Tak. “The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” he said.

These latest images provide concrete examples of Russian activity inside Ukraine, but are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the overall scope of Russian troop and weapons movements.

“We have also detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defence systems, artillery, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Brigadier General Tak. “The presence of these weapons along with substantial numbers of Russian combat troops inside Ukraine make the situation increasingly grave,” he said.

Also released were images showing substantial activity inside Russia in areas adjacent to the border with Ukraine. NATO believes this activity is being conducted in direct support to forces operating inside Ukraine, and is part of a highly coordinated and destabilising strategy.

“Russia is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favouring the Ukrainian military,” Brigadier General Tak said. “Russia’s ultimate aim is to alleviate pressure on separatist fighters in order to prolong this conflict indefinitely, which would result in further tragedy for the people of Eastern Ukraine,” he added.

The source of the images is an independent firm named Digital Globe. The images have not been altered or changed by NATO. Additional information has been added to identify locations, dates and equipment. DigitalGlobe images can be independently verified:

Release of Satellite Imagery – 28 August 2014

Image #1 provided by Digital Globe
Image #1 provided by Digital Globe

Image 1 shows Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, well inside territory controlled by Russian separatists. The image was captured on 21 August 2014. There is confidence the equipment is Russian, since Ukrainian units have not yet penetrated this far into separatist controlled territory.

Image #2 provided by Digital Globe
Image #2 provided by Digital Globe

Image 2 shows Russian self-propelled artillery units set up in firing positions near Krasnodon, Ukraine. They are supported by logistical vehicles which are likely carrying extra ammunition and supplies. This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers. Russian artillery systems like these have recently shelled Ukrainian positions outside the city of Luhansk in conjunction with a separatist counteroffensive to attempt to break the Ukrainian siege of the city.

Image #3 provided by Digital Globe
Image #3 provided by Digital Globe
Image 3 includes two pictures (left and right) and shows a military deployment site on the Russian side of the border, near Rostov-on-Don. This location is approximately 31 miles or 50 kilometres from the Dovzhansky, Ukraine border crossing.
The image on the left was captured on 19 June 2014 and shows the area to be mostly empty at this time. The image on the right was taken two months later on 20 August 2014 and shows the same location. Russian main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, cargo trucks and tented accommodations can all be clearly seen. This is one example of the multiple encampments that Russia has positioned near its border with Eastern Ukraine. Many of these forces are deployed within a few kilometers of Ukraine, and are capable of attacking with little warning, and could potentially overwhelm and push-back Ukrainian units. Russia has also moved significant numbers of combat aircraft and helicopters to airfields along the border. Russian unmanned aircraft routinely cross into Ukrainian airspace.
Some equipment from these locations is moved across the border and is used to resupply and equip separatist forces operating in Ukraine. For months, Russia has provided separatist fighters with heavy equipment in the form of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers. Air defense systems have also been provided to separatists, even following the downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17.
Image #4 provided by Digital Globe
Image #4 provided by Digital Globe
Image 4, captured on 23 July 2014, depicts what are probably six Russian 153mm 2S19 self-propelled guns located in Russia near Kuybyshevo. This site is situated 4 miles, or 6.5 kilometres, south of the Ukraine border, near the village of Chervonyi Zhovten. The guns are pointed north, directly towards Ukrainian territory (see North indicator on image). See image 5 for an overview of where these guns are situated in relation to Ukrainian territory.
Image #5 provided by Digital Globe
Image #5 provided by Digital Globe

Image 5 shows a wider overview including the position of the self-propelled guns from image 4. Note the North indicator on this image, and remember that the guns are orientated in this location. It is clear that from this location, it would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory. This is clearly NOT an exercise; these guns are being used to support separatist forces operating in the territory of Ukraine.

Russia’s Continuing Support for Armed Separatists in Ukraine and Ukraine’s Efforts Toward Peace, Unity, and Stability

Posted by: Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State
July 14, 2014
Mortar Attack in Luhansk, Ukraine on July 14, 2014
Mortar Attack in Luhansk, Ukraine on July 14, 2014

The United States’ goal throughout the crisis in Ukraine has been to support a democratic Ukraine that is stable, unified, secure both politically and economically, and able to determine its own future. Therefore, we support ongoing dialogue among the foreign ministers from Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia to work toward a sustainable ceasefire by all parties in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine that would build toward a lasting peace. We should emphasize, however, that our ultimate goal is not just a temporary halt to violence. We want Russia to stop destabilizing Ukraine and occupying Crimea, a part of Ukraine’s territory, and allow all of the people of Ukraine to come together to make their own decisions about their country’s future through a democratic political process.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has proposed a detailed peace plan that includes a promise of amnesty for separatists who laid down their arms voluntarily, and who are not guilty of capital crimes, decentralization of powers within Ukraine, and protection of the Russian language. He also implemented a unilateral ten-day ceasefire on June 20 to create room for a political solution, which unfortunately was not reciprocated by the separatists and their Russian backers.

While Russia says it seeks peace, its actions do not match its rhetoric. We have no evidence that Russia’s support for the separatists has ceased. In fact, we assess that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons, other military equipment and financing, and continues to allow militants to enter Ukraine freely. Russia denies this, just as it denied its forces were involved in Crimea — until after the fact. Russia has refused to call for the separatists to lay down their arms, and continues to mass its troops along the Ukrainian border. Many self-proclaimed “leaders” of the separatists hail from Russia and have ties to the Russian government. This all paints a telling picture of Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine.

Here are the facts:

  • Russia continues to accumulate significant amounts of equipment at a deployment site in southwest Russia. This equipment includes tanks of a type no longer used by the Russian military, as well as armored vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, and air defense systems. Russia has roughly doubled the number of tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers at this site. More advanced air defense systems have also arrived at this site.
  • We are confident Moscow is mobilizing additional tanks that are no longer in the active Russian military inventory from a depot to send to this same deployment site.
  • We are concerned much of this equipment will be transferred to separatists, as we are confident Russia has already delivered tanks and multiple rocket launchers to them from this site.
  • Available information indicates Moscow has recently transferred some Soviet-era tanks and artillery to the separatists and that over the weekend several military vehicles crossed the border.
  • Social media videos of separatist military convoys suggest Russia in the past week alone has probably supplied the militants with at least two-dozen additional armored vehicles and artillery pieces and about as many military trucks.
  • Publicly available videos posted on July 14 of a Luhansk convoy on the road to Donetsk revealed at least five T-64 tanks, four BMP-2 armored personnel carriers (APC), BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, three towed antitank guns, two ZU 23-2 antiaircraft guns, and probably a 2B16 mortar.
  • A video of Krasnodon, near the Izvaryne border crossing, on 11 July showed two BTR armored personnel carriers, two antitank guns, and various trucks on a road heading in a westerly direction towards Donetsk.
  • A video filmed in Donetsk on 11 July showed a convoy of three BMD-2 APCs, two BMPs, one 2S9 self-propelled gun, and a BTR-60 APC.
  • In addition, after recapturing several Ukrainian cities last weekend, Ukrainian officials discovered caches of weapons that they assert came from Russia, including MANPADS, mines, grenades, MREs, vehicles, and a pontoon bridge.
  • Ukrainian forces have discovered large amounts of other Russian-provided military equipment, including accompanying documentation verifying the Russian origin of said equipment, in the areas they have liberated from the separatists.
  • Photographs of destroyed or disabled separatist equipment in eastern Ukraine have corroborated that some of this equipment is coming from Russia.
  • Recruiting efforts for separatist fighters are expanding inside Russia and separatists are looking for volunteers with experience operating heavy weapons such as tanks and air defenses. Russia has allowed officials from the “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” to establish a recruiting office in Moscow.
  • Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who has long had a distinguished career in the Ukrainian military, was taken by separatists in mid-June. She is now being held in a prison in Voronezh, Russia. According to the Ukrainian government, she was transferred to Russia by separatists.
  • Separately Russia continues to redeploy new forces extremely close to the Ukrainian border. We have information that a significant number of additional military units are also in the process of deploying to the border.

Ukraine’s Good-Faith Efforts: In a bid to unify the country, President Poroshenko outlined a comprehensive peace plan on June 7. President Poroshenko’s plan offers amnesty to separatists who lay down their arms voluntarily, and who are not guilty of capital crimes; commits to providing a safe corridor for Russian fighters to return to Russia; establishes a job creation program for the affected areas; includes an offer of broad decentralization and dialogue with eastern regions, including the promise of early local elections; and grants increased local control over language, holidays, and customs. President Poroshenko also has reached out to the residents of eastern Ukraine and is pursuing constitutional reform which will give local regions more authority to choose their regional leaders and protect locally-spoken languages.

President Poroshenko implemented a unilateral seven-day (later extended to ten days) unilateral ceasefire on June 20. He also proposed meeting with leaders from eastern Ukraine — including separatists — despite their stated unwillingness to abide by the cease-fire or to negotiate.

Yet Russia and its proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk did not act on this opportunity for peace. Hours after the ceasefire began, Russia-backed separatists wounded nine Ukrainian service members. During the course of the ten-day ceasefire, Russia-backed separatists attacked Ukrainian security forces over 100 times, killing 28 service members. The separatists continue to hold more than 150 hostages, mostly civilians, including teachers and journalists. Separatists have refused all offers by the Ukrainian government to meet.

This timeline of events leading to, during, and after the unilateral Ukraine ceasefire illustrates how the good-faith efforts of the Ukraine government and European leaders to broker a ceasefire with Russia and the separatists it backs have been rejected. Russia and the separatists they are supporting continued to destabilize Ukraine throughout the ceasefire, and continue to destabilize Ukraine today.

  • May 25: Petro Poroshenko, who had campaigned on a platform stressing reconciliation with the east and Russia, is elected by an absolute majority of voters in Ukraine.
  • June 8-17: President Poroshenko hosts five rounds of contact group talks, facilitated by the OSCE envoy, in the lead-up to his announcement of a ceasefire.
  • June 12: Poroshenko initiates a call to President Putin to open communication.
  • June 14: EU-brokered gas talks end with a final EU brokered proposal: Ukraine accepts the proposal, but Russia rejected it.
  • June 19: Poroshenko meets with eastern Ukrainian leaders, including separatists, in Kyiv.
  • June 20: Poroshenko implements a seven-day unilateral ceasefire. Hours later, nine Ukrainian service members are wounded by pro-Russian separatists, foreshadowing separatists’ 100 plus violent actions over the next 10 days.
  • June 23: The contact group meets in Donetsk.
  • June 25: NATO Secretary General Rasmussen notes that there are “no signs” of Russia respecting its international commitments with regard to Ukraine.
  • June 27: Ukraine provides constitutional reform provisions to the Venice Commission for review. This reform would allow for the direct election of governors and for local authorities to confer special status on minority languages within their regions.
  • June 27: Poroshenko extends the unilateral ceasefire another 72 hours to allow another chance for OSCE contact group negotiations to show progress.
  • June 28: Ukraine shoots down two Russian UAVs violating Ukraine’s airspace in the Luhansk region.
  • June 30: Due to the separatists’ refusal to abandon violence in favor of negotiation, President Poroshenko allows the cease-fire to expire.
  • July 3: President Poroshenko in a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Biden reaffirms that he is ready to begin political negotiations to resolve the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions without any additional conditions.
  • July 8: President Petro Poroshenko visits the former rebel stronghold of Slovyansk to meet with local residents after government forces recapture it from pro-Russian separatists.
  • July 9: Ukraine restores electricity and train service to Slovyansk, and Ukrainian security forces distribute food, drinking water, and humanitarian aid to the population.
  • July 11: The Ukrainian government establishes an inter-agency task force in Slovyansk that is conducting damage, security, and humanitarian needs assessments.
  • July 11: The Ukrainian government reports that it delivered over 60 tons of humanitarian aid supplies in Donetsk Oblast over the preceding 24 hours, bringing the five-day total to 158 tons. President Poroshenko announces that Ukrainian security forces had successfully cleared nearly 100 mines and roadside bombs from liberated territory.

As General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, stated on July 1: “The cease fire in Ukraine was not ended because of accusations; it was ended because Russian-backed separatists responded with violence while President Poroshenko tried to open a window for peace. Russia’s commitment to peace will be judged by its actions, not its words.” As the United States and our European allies have repeatedly stated, we call on the Russian government to halt its material support for the separatists, to use its influence with the separatists to push them to lay down their arms and abide by a ceasefire and to release all hostages. Only then can the process of bringing peace to Ukraine truly begin.


Behind Putin’s Cynicism and Hypocrisy

Posted by: Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Kremlin’s ruler wants to extend to neighboring countries the tyranny he imposes on his own people.

May 18, 2014 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

You can usually figure what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing and why by noting the actions and values he falsely projects onto others.

Over the past several weeks, for example, he has accused the Ukrainian government of stripping autonomy from Ukraine’s eastern regions, while moving to end local elections in Russia.

He has claimed U.S. “mercenaries” were operating alongside Ukrainian forces, while infiltrating Russian special forces to seize Crimea and organize violence in Ukraine’s east.

He has called the Internet a CIA creation, while trying to bring Russian social media under the control of a secret police-dominated state.

So when Mr. Putin justified intervention in Ukraine by accusing its government of human-rights abuses, it was a bad sign for the Ukrainians who would soon be subject to his rule.

The new authorities in Kiev aren’t perfect. But international organizations have found no evidence that they are or were suppressing the rights of the ethnic-Russian minority in Crimea or Ukraine’s east. Pro-Kremlin separatists, on the other hand, have been attacking their unarmed opponents with growing abandon. Every offense Russia falsely attributed to Ukraine’s Maidan is in fact being committed by its own forces and proxies.

The pattern began in Crimea. Shortly after Russia’s intervention, local authorities announced that ethnic Tatars—who had returned over the years to Crimea after their mass deportation by Joseph Stalin —would have to vacate their land. Before the deportation’s 70th anniversary this week, police conducted mass searches of Tatar homes.

On over a dozen occasions in the days that followed, armed men attacked or detained local and international journalists. Pro-Russian forces kidnapped and tortured Ukrainian civic activists. At least two were killed in detention, their bodies dumped in forests; more are still missing. International organizations report that around 5,000 people—including minority Christians, Jews and at least 3,000 Tatars—have fled Crimea and sought refuge elsewhere in Ukraine.

In Ukraine’s east, polls show that the great majority of people—whether they supported the Maidan revolution or not—don’t want to join Russia. But when the citizens of Donetsk, Slovyansk and Kharkiv have come out to oppose Moscow’s intervention, pro-Russian militias have repeatedly assaulted them; more than 100 peaceful demonstrators in the east have been hospitalized after such attacks.

Abductions, torture and killings have also intensified in the east. Three bodies of supporters of the Kiev government recently washed up on a riverbank in Slovyansk, bearing signs of torture. Acting on orders from the self-appointed “mayor” of Slovyansk, pro-Russian militias have begun to drive local Roma families from their homes.

In these and other ways, Mr. Putin is extending into eastern Ukraine the repression he has imposed inside Russia in recent years, in direct opposition to what eastern Ukrainians would enjoy as part of a united Ukraine: local autonomy, freedom of expression and internationally monitored free and fair elections. This isn’t just the effect of Mr. Putin’s intervention; it is arguably the intent. The example of Ukraine’s Maidan—of ordinary people overthrowing a corrupt, authoritarian ruler so that they could draw closer to European democracies—was a threat to the ruler of the Kremlin. For this, in Mr. Putin’s mind, Ukraine had to be punished and humiliated, if not carved into pieces.

Russia’s actions are a threat to a postwar international order designed to banish the old pattern of large powers swallowing small ones. But the crisis in Ukraine is also a contest of values. This isn’t a contest between the West and Russia, but between people everywhere—including in Moscow—who believe that states exist to serve their citizens, and regimes that think it should be the other way around.

The sanctions that Washington and Brussels have imposed to stop Russian aggression have costs. All sanctions do, and because the potential costs are higher for Europe, paying this price isn’t a mere gesture. But it is striking that in Europe, those most vulnerable to Russia’s countermeasures—from Estonia to Poland to the Czech Republic—have nonetheless been among the most vocal in pressing us to act.

The effect is even more pronounced among Russian dissidents I have recently met—men and women who are labeled “traitors,” “foreign agents” and “extremists” for questioning the Kremlin, but who still urge us to resist what their government is doing. The closer one is to the heart of the problem, the more one sees what’s at stake.

Those of us who live further away should see things as clearly. We were right to seek practical cooperation with Russia and to encourage its integration as a respected power into global institutions. I hope that the time will come when this is possible again. But in the current crisis, we are right not to make the mistake of projecting our hopes onto the ruler of Russia in the way he projects his cynicism onto us.