Thursday, February 20, 2014

Barack Obama criticises Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and Syria crises – video

» Barack Obama criticises Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and Syria crises – video
20/02/14 05:37 from World news: World news + Video |
The US president says he and the Russian president disagree about the fundamental rights of those suffering violence in Ukraine and Syria

» Ukraine president agrees truce with opponents as U.S. imposes visa bans
19/02/14 22:58 from Reuters: International
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he reached agreement with opposition leaders on a "truce" to halt fighting that has killed 26 people, even as the United States stepped up pressure by imposing travel bans on 20...

» U.S. Imposes Visa Ban on 20 Ukrainian Officials as Further Sanctions Are Threatened
19/02/14 18:57 from NYT > International
European Union officials, blaming Ukrainian leaders for the violence, will meet in emergency session on Thursday to consider penalties.

» Obama warns of ‘consequences’ in Ukraine as U.S. issues visa bans
19/02/14 18:04 from World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post
President Obama warned of “consequences” Wednesday if Ukraine failed to restore calm after a day of violence in the capital, while the State Department announced that it would bar 20 senior members of the country’s government from travel...

» Kremlin's Blaming of Opposition Highlights Gulf
20/02/14 03:12 from World News
The Kremlin denounced the escalation of violence in Kiev overnight but, unlike Western capitals, laid the blame on the Ukrainian opposition, highlighting the gulf in perceptions of the conflict.

» Violence in Ukraine Creates Deepening Clash Between East and West
19/02/14 22:22 from NYT > International
As Russia denounced what it called a coup by extremists, the United States and Europe threatened to impose sanctions on those responsibile for the violence — and each side accused the other of interference.

» U.S. Feels Putin's Sharp Elbows in Ukraine
20/02/14 03:01 from World News
For the Obama administration, the fires burning in Ukraine represent a new international crisis, but one resulting from an all-too-familiar source of consternation: Vladimir Putin.

» Ukraine President Fires Army Chief as Deadly Standoff Grips Kyiv
19/02/14 18:22 from Voice of America
Ukraine's embattled president fired his army chief Wednesday, as thousands of opposition protesters manned barricades in central Kyiv and the military announced a nationwide crackdown on what it calls "extremist groups."The firing of Gen...

U.S. Feels Putin's Sharp Elbows in Ukraine - WSJ

U.S. Feels Putin's Sharp Elbows in Ukraine

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Feb. 19, 2014 7:32 p.m. ET
Why are people protesting in Ukraine? Why has the conflict turned deadly? What are the geopolitics of the conflict? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.
For the Obama administration, the fires burning in Ukraine represent a new international crisis, but one resulting from an all-too-familiar source of consternation: Vladimir Putin.
In hot spots around the world, President Barack Obama repeatedly has encountered the sharp elbows of Mr. Putin: He has buttressed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, offered a lifeline to Iran and embraced a controversial Egyptian commander as the country's future leader.
Mr. Putin gave asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been leaking American surveillance secrets, and test-launched a new missile.
Similarly now in Ukraine, Washington is struggling to come to terms with the fact that Moscow under Mr. Putin is willing to spend a great deal to protect its interests and oppose U.S. goals. Mr. Putin pressured the Ukrainian government to abandon a free-trade deal with the European Union and forced President Viktor Yanukovych to choose aid from Russia over closer ties to the West.
Administration officials have defended their dealings with Mr. Putin, arguing that in some cases—such as international talks over the Syrian civil war and Iran's nuclear program—Russia's core interests have coincided at least partly with U.S. aims.
"American presidents, understandably for strategic reasons, want to forge a relationship with Russia that goes beyond Cold War paradigms," said Damon Wilson, a former Bush administration official now at the Atlantic Council, a think tank.
"But inevitably, they are dragged back to the reality that they are dealing with an interlocutor that isn't prepared to be a partner in that effort," Mr. Wilson said.
The realization that Moscow views the world in terms of "us or them" has been slow to dawn on the Obama administration, but is becoming more apparent to White House and national security officials, foreign-policy experts say.
The administration gave Moscow "every favorable interpretation, every benefit of the doubt" in its first years, said Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
But Mr. Obama has begun to change.
"Even in the administration, they are beginning to understand this is not a question of Putin's mood," Mr. Aron said. "This is the geostrategic framework that Putin operates. This is how he understands re-establishing Russian greatness."
Rebuilding Russia's position on the world stage and its dominance in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union have been a key part of Mr. Putin's agenda. Despite U.S. insistence that geopolitics isn't a "them-or-us," zero-sum game, Mr. Putin has made it clear he doesn't agree.
"If you look at Russian foreign policy it is a negative agenda," said Mr. Wilson of the Atlantic Council.
"The issue is restoring Russian influence by checking American power," Mr. Wilson said.
Asked to comment on the relationship between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama, Russian officials pointed to an interview Mr. Putin gave to Russian media and the Associated Press in September.
"President Obama was not elected by the American people to be pleasant to Russia, neither was your humble servant elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone," Mr. Putin said in the interview.
"We work, we argue, we are humans, and sometimes someone can get irritated. But I would like to repeat myself: I believe that global common interests are a good foundation for finding solutions together," Mr. Putin said.
Obama administration officials reject the idea that Mr. Putin is gaining the upper hand, noting the problems faced by the governments of Syria and Ukraine—both allies of Moscow.
"Neither of those situations advance Russia's interests in any way," a senior administration official said. "If anything, these and other events demonstrate that people want democracy, they reject corruption, and they want individual opportunity and integration into the global economy."
Still, U.S. officials expressed dismay Wednesday that Moscow has operated in secret in Ukraine while accusing the U.S. of meddling there. "They have not been transparent about what they've been doing in the Ukraine," a senior State Department official said. "And we would completely reject that it is we who have been interfering."
The U.S. took its first concrete steps against 20 Ukrainian officials Wednesday by imposing visa bans.
However, U.S. options beyond diplomatic pressure are seen as strictly limited and some government officials caution against courses of action that may not resolve the crisis.
"All that does is make you look impotent," said another U.S. official. "What can you do that will really make a difference in what is going on there? I am not sure anyone has identified anything."
Since Mr. Putin resumed the Russian presidency in 2012, relations between the two nations have been tense.
That culminated in the summer with Mr. Obama's decision to back out of a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Putin during a trip to Russia. The two instead met on the sidelines of an international summit, a meeting that came at the height of the dispute over Mr. Snowden and as Mr. Obama prepared for possible military strikes on Syria.
Still, some experts believe Mr. Obama must get more directly involved.
"The president has to be willing to get involved, get his hands dirty and be willing to engage with Vladimir Putin, " said Andrew Kuchins, the director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Write to Julian E. Barnes at and Carol E. Lee at
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Cossacks Attack Pussy Riot Members

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A group of Cossacks attacked members of the group Pussy Riot in Sochi as they began an anti-Kremlin display.

Pussy Riot criticize Russian Games in new video

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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Members of the all-women protest group Pussy Riot released a new music video on Thursday criticizing Russia's staging of the Winter Olympics and its human rights record, in a rare show of dissent during the Games.