aside Breaking News: US Takes Hard Line With Russia Over Ukraine

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Crimea, Ukraine

On 2/1/17, The Guardian reported on the current escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine which most Americans were unaware of, as the US State Department had been mostly mum on the subject. But what a difference a day makes.

Last night (2/2/17), there was an United Nations emergency meeting about the recent increase in violence in Crimea, where the new US UN ambassador, Nikki Haley issued a harsh condemnation calling on Moscow to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine and saying that US sanctions against Moscow would remain in place until it withdraws from Crimea.Image result for photo of nikki haley at un

The following are excerpts from the article, “Ukraine clashes leave several dead and test Trump’s Russia stance,” by Shaun Walker:

“Parts of east Ukraine are on the brink of a humanitarian crisis as the worst violence for a year in the conflict between Kiev and Russia-backed separatists has left up to 19 dead and thousands of people without water and heating in freezing temperatures.”

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“The violence is an early test of (President) Donald Trump’s stated desire for better US relations with Russia. Kiev has watched nervously as Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and floated the idea of lifting sanctions.”

“The conflict in Ukraine has raged for nearly three years and cost more than 10,000 lives. A ceasefire was agreed in Minsk two years ago, and although little progress has been made since on a political solution, large-scale clashes have been rare over the past year.”

“However, in the last few days both sides have accused the other of using Grad systems, imprecise weapons that rain down multiple rockets over a wide area.”

“On Wednesday the Ukrainian military said three soldiers had died overnight, and separatist authorities claimed four civilians had been killed.”

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Mark Toner

“In a clear sign that US policy towards Russia could indeed be heading for a sharp change of course under Trump, the state department made no criticism of Russia or the separatist side, in contrast to most of its statements in response to similar spikes in violence in the past.”

“The acting state department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was “deeply concerned” by the violence and called for “an immediate, sustained ceasefire”. However, the statement stopped short of apportioning blame.”

Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, speaking at the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna,

“Russia’s state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta excitedly noted the change in tone. “Washington is not blaming the unrecognized republics for breaking the ceasefire, is not stating any support for Kiev, (Ukraine) is not saying a single word about the role of Russia … Different variations of these elements were, as a rule, a key part of all statements of Ukraine under Barack Obama’s administration.”

“The state department statement was markedly different in tone to comments from the US mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is staffed by career diplomats and may be out of step with the new mood in Washington.”

“Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avdiivka,” said the US chargé d’affaires to the OSCE, Kate Byrnes. “We call on Russia to stop the violence, honour the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons and end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact.”

“There are several rounds of US and EU sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and actions in east Ukraine. Trump has suggested it could be time to lift them, and has spoken of the potential for a grand deal with Putin. ”

“Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, said during a meeting with security officials on Tuesday: “The shelling is massive. Who would dare to talk about lifting the sanctions in such circumstances?”

A woman grieves over the body of her mother who was killed by shelling in Avdiivka, Ukraine
Avdiivka, Ukraine. Photograph: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

“Fighting has centred on the town of Avdiivka, which lies a few miles from the separatist capital, Donetsk, but is controlled by Ukrainian authorities. The violence has come during a cold snap, with temperatures falling as low as minus 18C.”

“Giovanna Barberis, Unicef’s representative in Ukraine, said: “Not only are the lives of thousands of children in Avdiivka, and on all sides of the conflict, at risk, but to make matters worse the lack of water and electricity means that homes are becoming dangerously cold and health conditions deteriorating as we speak.”

Also on Wednesday (2/1/17), Ukraine’s defense minister, Stepan Poltorak, claimed a Ukrainian military cargo plane had been shot at from a Russian-held gas rig on the Black Sea. “The shot damaged the plane. The crew were not hurt,” he wrote on Facebook.

“So far there has been no comment on the increased violence in Ukraine from Trump’s inner circle. The new US president has repeatedly made favorable statements about Russia and Putin and signaled a very different approach towards Moscow.”

“Diplomats who served during the Obama administration have cautioned against making deals with Russia. “For almost three years the United States has worked closely with our European partners to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict through full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including by using sanctions to encourage Putin to comply,” said Dan Baer, formerly the US ambassador to the OSCE. “This should continue to be US policy going forward; anything else would be irresponsible.”Related image

For additional background, BBC News has published on 11/13/14, a timeline of events surrounding the March 2014 Russian invasion into Crimea, Ukraine.

BBC timeline:

November 2014

November 12: Nato commander Gen Philip Breedlove says Russian military equipment and Russian combat troops have been seen entering Ukraine in columns over several days.

November 11: Dutch efforts to salvage wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines crash site stall  over disagreements with local rebel groups.

MH17 Dutch memorial day: Air disaster that touched a nation.

November 2-3: Separatists in eastern Ukraine elect new leaders in polls backed by Russia and denounced by the West. President Poroshenko accuses the rebels of jeopardising “the entire peace process” and says Ukrainian forces should prepare defences against separatist attack.

Summary justice in Ukraine’s rebel east

October 2014

October 31: Russia agrees to resume gas supplies to Ukraine over the winter in a deal brokered by the EU. 

Russia’s gas fight with Ukraine

October 26: Pro-Western parties win Ukraine’s parliamentary elections. 

October 21: Human Rights Watch says it has strong evidence Ukraine attacked populated areas of Donetsk with cluster bombs, banned by many other states.

October 12: President Putin orders thousands of troops stationed near the Ukrainian border to return to their bases. 

September 2014

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MH17 debris

September 24: Nato reports a “significant” withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine.

September 9: Dutch experts find that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 broke up in mid-air after being hit by “objects” that “pierced the plane at high velocity” in July.

September 5: Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels sign a truce in Minsk.

September 1: Ukraine says 700 of its men have been taken prisoner as pro-Russian rebels advance in the east.

August 2014

August 27-28: Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko says there are 3-4,000 Russian civilians in rebel ranks as the separatists open up a front on the Sea of Azov and capture Novoazovsk.

August 26: Ukraine releases videos of captured Russian paratroopers. They are later exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers.

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August 22: A huge Russian convoy delivers humanitarian aid to the government-besieged city of Luhansk without Ukrainian permission.

July 2014

July 30: The EU and US announce new sanctions against Russia.

July 17: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam is shot down near the village of Grabove in rebel-held territory, with the loss of 298 lives. 

July 5: Rebels abandon their command center at Sloviansk in the face of a government offensive.

June 2014

June 27: The EU signs a landmark association agreement with Ukraine.

June 25: Russia’s parliament cancels a parliamentary resolution authorizing the use of Russian forces in Ukraine. 

June 14: Pro-Russia separatists shoot down a military plane in the east, killing 49 people.

May 2014

May 25: Ukraine elects Petro Poroshenko as president in an election not held in much of the east.

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May 11: Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk declare independence after unrecognized referendums.

May 2: Clashes in the Black Sea city of Odessa, leave 42 people dead, most of them pro-Russian activists. Most die when they are trapped in a burning building.

How did Odessa’s fire happen?

April 2014

April 22: Ukraine’s acting president orders the relaunch of military operations against pro-Russian militants in the east.

April 17: Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU say they have agreed at talks in Geneva on steps to “de-escalate” the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Three people are killed when Ukrainian security forces fend off a raid on a base in Mariupol – the first violent deaths in the east.

April 15: Ukraine’s acting President, Olexander Turchynov, announces the start of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists. It quickly stalls.

April 7: Protesters occupy government buildings in the east Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, calling for a referendum on independence. Ukrainian authorities regain control of Kharkiv government buildings the next day.

March 2014

March 28: US President Barack Obama urges Moscow to “move back its troops” and lower tensions.

March 18: President Putin signs a bill to absorb Crimea into the Russian Federation.

March 17: The EU and US impose travel bans and asset freezes on several officials from Russia and Ukraine over the Crimea referendum. (Sanctions were established against Russia due to unmarked Russian soldiers seizing the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, an invasion that followed Ukraine’s ousting of the pro-Moscow leader, President Viktor Yanukovych.)

March 16: Crimea’s secession referendum on joining Russia is backed by 97% of voters, organizers say, but vote condemned by West as a sham.

March 1: Russia’s parliament approves President Vladimir Putin’s request to use force in Ukraine to protect Russian interests.

February 2014

February 27-28: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Unidentified gunmen in combat uniforms appear outside Crimea’s main airports.

February 23-26:

  • Parliament votes to ban Russian as the second official language, causing a wave of anger in Russian-speaking regions; the vote is later overturned
  • Parliament names speaker Olexander Turchynov as interim president
  • An arrest warrant is issued for Mr Yanukovych (pro-Russian candidate who won election in 2010. His campaign manager was none other than Paul Manafort.)
  • Arseniy Yatsenyuk is nominated prime minister.
  • The elite Berkut police unit, blamed for deaths of protesters, is disbanded. February 22: President Yanukovych disappears Protesters take control of presidential administration buildings. Parliament votes to remove president from power with elections set for 25 May.Mr Yanukovych appears on TV to denounce “coup”His arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko is freed from jail

February 21: President Yanukovych signs compromise deal with opposition leaders.

February 20: Kiev sees its worst day of violence for almost 70 years. At least 88 people are killed in 48 hours. Video shows uniformed snipers firing at protesters holding makeshift shields.

February 18: Clashes erupt, with reasons unclear: 18 dead.

February 14-16: All 234 protesters arrested since December are released. Kiev city hall, occupied since 1 December, is abandoned by demonstrators, along with other public buildings in regions.

January 2014

January 28-29: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns and parliament annuls the anti-protest law. Parliament passes amnesty bill but opposition rejects conditions.

January 16-23: Parliament passes restrictive anti-protest laws as clashes turn deadly. Protesters begin storming regional government offices in western Ukraine.

December 2013

December 17: Vladimir Putin throws President Yanukovych an economic lifeline, agreeing to buy $15bn of Ukrainian debt and reduce the price of Russian gas supplies by about a third.

Early December: Protesters occupy Kiev city hall and Independence Square in dramatic style. Some 800,000 people rally in Kiev.

November 2013

Late November: Protests gather pace, as 100,000 people attend a demonstration in Kiev. 

November 21: President Yanukovych’s cabinet abandons an agreement on closer trade ties with EU, instead seeking closer co-operation with Russia. Small protests start.


February: Viktor Yanukovych is declared the winner in a presidential election judged free and fair by observers. His main rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is arrested for abuse of powers and eventually jailed in October 2011. 


December: Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko tops poll in election re-run. Rival candidate Viktor Yanukovych challenges result but resigns as prime minister.

November: Orange Revolution begins after reports of widespread vote-rigging in presidential election nominally won by pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych. Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko leads mass street protests and civil disobedience. Supreme Court annuls result of poll.


August: Ukrainian parliament declares independence from USSR following attempted coup in Moscow. In a nationwide referendum in December, 90% vote for independence.

Related Article: 

The Russian-Ukrainian Connection With Presidents Putin And Trump On 1/10/16 BuzzFeed News published a controversial document…republican President-elect


    • Dear Keith,

      I was grateful to hear Nikki Haley as our new UN Ambassador, take a hard line v Russia over Ukraine.I would have liked to be a fly on the wall as this was discussed with the WH.

      Thanks for your gracious feedback.

      Ciao, Gronda


  1. My son was at the Kiev embassy when much of this started to play out in and around 2004. At that time he said the protests were very gentile, not like what we see in the US. It seems that eventually changed, but he was no longer there. Thanks for the info

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Joliesattic,

    Your son was observing history in the making.

    In 2004, the Pro-Russian Ukrainian presidential candidate who won the election by skulduggery, Viktor Yanukovych had to resign. But he is the same guy who ran in 2010 and who succeeded with the help of Paul Manafort to become the President of Ukraine. Later, he was kicked out by the peoples for reneging on his promise to have Ukraine become part of the EU.

    It was soon after Ukraine made it clear that it wanted to be part of EU v Russia, that Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.

    The same Paul Manafort who was manager of Viktor Yanukovych’s campaign became the manager for DT’s campaign until the summer of 2016 when his role with Russia came under scrutiny.

    It’s a small world.

    Hugs, Gronda


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