Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Russia alarmed over US-Nato military moves

Ukraine crisis: Russia alarmed over US-Nato military moves

US troops arrive at a Lithuanian air force base in Siauliai. Photo: 26 April 2014 The US and Nato have recently strengthened their military presence in eastern Europe
Moscow has voiced concern over an "unprecedented" increase in US and Nato military activity near Russian borders, amid an escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told US counterpart Chuck Hagel in a phone call to "tone down the rhetoric".

But the US said Mr Shoigu also pledged Russia would not invade Ukraine.

Pro-Russia activists have seized buildings in more than a dozen towns in the east and still hold seven European military observers in Sloviansk.

On Monday the US announced new sanctions on Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
The BBC's Sarah Rainsford witnesses pro-Ukrainian demonstrators being chased off by pro-Russians wielding metal bars

The sanctions target seven Russian individuals and 17 companies which Washington says are linked to President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle".

The European Union is also imposing new sanctions on 15 people who will be named on Tuesday.

'Provocative' In a statement, Mr Shoigu said he had a "candid" hour-long phone call with his American counterpart.

Mr Shoigu stressed that US and Nato military activity in eastern Europe was accompanied by "provocative" statements about the need to "contain" Russia.
A pro-Russian armed man sits in front of the city hall in Kostyantynivka Pro-Russian separatists seized a local government building in Kostyantynivka on Monday
An injured man is treated in Donetsk. Photo: 28 April 2014 A number of people were injured in clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin at the Kremlin (2 July 2013) Among the sanctions targets is Igor Sechin, who has worked for Vladimir Putin since the early 1990s
The US has sent 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states. Washington says it has deployed the extra troops to reassure Nato allies.

Mr Shoigu announced that Russian troops had returned to their "permanent positions" after conducting military exercises on the border with Ukraine.

But he did not say whether the overall number of Russian troops deployed in the region - said to be around 40,000 - had been reduced.

The Pentagon said Mr Shoigu had given "assurances that Moscow has no plans to invade Ukraine".

It said Mr Hagel had warned that Russia's continued aggression would result in more diplomatic and economic pressure.

He also called on Moscow to help secure the release of the seven military observers linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe who were seized by pro-Russian gunmen in Sloviansk last week.

Some 40 people, including journalists, pro-Kiev activists and three members of Ukraine's security service are being held there.

The Russian ambassador to the OSCE, Andrei Kelin, earlier said Moscow was taking "steps" to secure the observers' release.

Journalist's ordeal The US and EU first imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of senior Russian officials and companies after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last month.
US journalist Simon Ostrovsky tells of his ordeal at the hands of pro-Russian abductors
On Monday, Washington added to its sanctions list "in response to Russia's continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine's democracy".

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow's response would be "painful for Washington".

Among the individuals named are Igor Sechin, head of state oil giant Rosneft, and Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the committee of international affairs of Russia's lower house of parliament.

Gas producer Gazprom, whose chief executive was spared sanctions, warned in a statement on Tuesday that further measures could damage its business and the BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow says there is a sense of nervousness in Russia that sanctions may start to bite.
The US accused Russia of "doing nothing to meet the commitments it made" at a meeting with Ukraine, the US and EU in Geneva on 17 April, which it said had included refraining from violence or provocative acts.
Name Position Sanctioned by
Putin's 'inner circle'
Gennady Timchenko
Founder of Gunvor (oil and energy market trading)
Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg
Co-owners of SMP Bank and SGM Group
Yuri Kovalchuk
Largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya
Igor Sechin
Head of Rosneft (petroleum company)

Government officials

Sergei Ivanov
Chief of staff for Presidential Executive Office
Vladimir Yakunin
Chairman of Russian Railways
Vladimir Kozhin
Head of administration
Viktor Ivanov
Director of Federal Drug Control Service
Sergei Naryshkin
Speaker of the lower house of parliament
US and EU
Vladislav Surkov
Presidential aide and election adviser
US and EU
Dmitry Rogozin
Deputy Prime Minister
US and EU
Sergei Glazyev
Adviser on Ukraine policy
US and EU
Sergei Mironov
Member of Russian Parliament
Dmitry Kozak
Deputy Prime Minister
Sergei Chemezov
Director of Rostec (state high-technologies division)


Bank Rossiya
Russian bank
Dmitry Kiselyov
State television news anchor
Meanwhile, a US journalist who was kidnapped and held hostage for several days last week by pro-Russian activists has been speaking to the BBC.

Simon Ostrovsky said he was pulled out of his car at a checkpoint in Sloviansk.

"I was separated from my other colleagues and taken down into the basement, blindfolded. I had my hands tied behind my back. I was thrown on the floor and beaten up and held there for the next three days," he said.

But he said he was unable to confirm any of those involved were from Russia.
Map of towns in Ukraine reporting major protests by pro-Russian separatists


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