Friday, September 12, 2014

EU Tightens Sanctions Against Russia

The European Union tightened economic sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to the country’s role in the Ukraine crisis, imposing additional restrictions on oil companies and extending asset freezes and travel bans to 24 more individuals. The measures, aimed at Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, will be reviewed by diplomats before the end of the month and could be revised swiftly if a cease-fire holds, European Union officials said on Thursday in announcing the broader action. The new round of sanctions significantly ratchets up restrictions on the Russian financial sector and prohibits European entities from buying debt with a maturity of more than 30 days, from issuing loans or from providing financial services to five banks, three oil companies and three defense firms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

EU to Assess Ukraine Cease-Fire as New Russian Sanctions Weighed

European Union governments reopen discussions about the viability of a cease-fire in Ukraine as the bloc weighs whether to pull the trigger on tougher sanctions against Russia. The scheduled talks in Brussels among diplomats from the 28 member nations follow the EU’s abrupt decision yesterday to put on hold for at least a “few days” a second package of economic penalities against Russia over its encroachment in Ukraine. The delay offered more time to assess the effectiveness of the cease-fire without risking further trade retaliation by the Kremlin. The planned sanctions -- originally due to be published in the Official Journal today -- include barring some Russian state-owned defense and energy companies from raising capital in the EU.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Obama: Russia is a Bad Bet for Investors

Speaking in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, US President Barack Obama said Russian aggression in Ukraine that threatens a Europe dedicated to peace will not be without consequences and Moscow is feeling the pinch: “Make no mistake, Russia is paying a price. Capital is fleeing, foreign investment is plummeting because investors know that today’s Russia is a bad bet,” said the president. He criticised Russia’s control of energy supply to manipulate Kyiv. Obama wants a change: “Diversify its energy sources, no country should be held hostage to another nation that wields energy like a weapon.” The US president then turned to NATO allies to show support to Ukraine at the upcoming summit: “So in Wales we will meet as an alliance with President Petro Poroshenko. It will show that our 28 nations are united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty with the right to defend its territory.”

Obama: NATO to Oppose Russian Aggression

Confronted by a Kremlin-backed military offensive in Ukraine, President Barack Obama and Western allies will approve plans this week to position at least 4,000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe, bolstering NATO's security commitments to nervous member states near the Russian border. In a speech in Tallinn, Obama said the vision of a Europe dedicated to peace and freedom is "threatened by Russia's aggression against Ukraine," but said NATO will not allow that aggression to go unchecked. "We will defend our NATO allies, and that means every ally," he said. "We will be here for Estonia. ... You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Medvedev to Conduct Snap Checks on Supermarket Food Prices

At a time when concerns about inflation in Russia are mounting, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to personally check the price of goods in supermarkets on a regular basis, his spokeswoman told Interfax on Monday. Following his visit to a school in the town of Korenovsk in the southern Krasnodar region on the first day of the academic year, Medvedev popped into a branch of supermarket chain Magnit and discussed the price of goods with shoppers, the report said. Spokeswoman Natalya Timakova was quoted as saying that Medvedev's price checks will be unscheduled, so shop owners will receive no prior warning of his arrival.

EU: Russia No Longer Strategic Partner

The European Union's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said sanctions imposed on Russia have to be part of an overall strategy to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine that brings about more rational behavior from the government in Moscow. "The point is whether the efficacy that the sanctions are having on the Russian economy results in rational behavior by [the Russian] leadership," she said in an interview published on Monday by Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "In this phase, the Kremlin is acting against the interests of its people." In the interview, Ms. Mogherini said the EU no longer considers it has a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin who hasn't respected Russia's commitments to the bloc. "[T]hat partnership is no longer there. Russia right now is no longer a strategic partner," she said in the interview.

Putin: I Can Take Kiev In Two Weeks If I Want

Vladimir Putin has boasted that he could take the Ukrainian capital Kiev in "two weeks", according to reports of a telephone conversation between Russia's president and the outgoing European commissioner. Putin, who has repeated his categorical denial that Russian troops are in Ukraine, despite evidence to the contrary from Ukraine's leadership, has been defiant in recent days about Moscow's right to protect its interests in the country. The respected Italian daily La Repubblica reported that in a conversation with outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Putin remarked: "If I want, I take Kiev in two weeks."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Poroshenko: Russian Forces Have Invaded Ukraine

Ukrainian President Poroshenko claimed Russian forces had invaded Ukraine Thursday, raising fears the crisis in the region was escalating. "I made the decision to cancel a working visit to the Republic of Turkey ... as an invasion of Russian forces has taken place,'' he said in a statement on the presidential website on Thursday, according to Reuters. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was holding an emergency meeting about the situation in Vienna. A pro-Moscow separatist leader earlier said Russian soldiers were fighting alongside rebels inside Ukraine – hours after the United States accused Russia of orchestrating a new military campaign in the country. "Among us are fighting serving soldiers, who would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom," east Ukraine rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said in an interview posted on the Internet site of a Russian television station. Up to 4,000 Russian volunteers are also fighting alongside the rebels, Zakharchenko claimed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Russian Soldiers Captured in Ukraine

A group of Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine had crossed the border "by accident", Russian military sources are quoted as saying. Ukraine said 10 paratroopers had been captured and has released video interviews of some of the men. One is quoted as saying "this is not our war". The incident comes ahead of a key meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents. Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin are at a summit in Minsk in Belarus. More than 2,000 people have died in months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. (video)