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Follow all the latest developments in Ukraine and beyond as Crimea moves to become part of Russia and military action begins in the region.

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  • The US State Department has hit back at the Russian Foreign Minister's claims that Washington was "running the show" in Ukraine. Spokesperson Jen Psaki called Sergei Lavrov's comments "ludicrous" [AFP]

  • Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east on Wednesday confirmed that they are detaining a US journalist who works for Vice News.
    The self-declared separatist mayor of Slaviansk told reporters that the journalist, Simon Ostrovsky, had been detained for reporting what he said was false information.

    [Photo: AP]
    [Text: Reuters]
  • The first of 600 US troops have arrived in Poland. Washington insists that they are not there to intervene, but the Kiev government hopes they will take action if Russia further provokes Ukraine.

    "We hope that if there is aggression from the Russian Federation that this assistance will be more substantial. At least we have the support of the United States, they will not leave us alone with the aggressor," said Vitaly Yarema, Ukraine's first deputy prime minister. [RTV]

    [AP] 

  • Russia's foreign ministry has accused Ukraine and the US of distorting last week's agreement aimed at calming the crisis. The Kiev government's "anti-terrorist" operation is supposed to target gangs, but some are concerned about the repercussions. In Slovyansk, pro-Kremlin activists say they remain unworried. Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from the eastern city.



  • Russia has insisted that Kiev pull back its troops from eastern Ukraine as it accused Washington of distorting an agreement to ease the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

    To read more, click here.
  • Foreign diplomats visit Moldova and Georgia

    [AP] 

    France and Germany's foreign ministers are making a joint visit to Moldova and Georgia, former Soviet republics, as unrest continues in Ukraine.

    Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and France's Laurent Fabius on Wednesday travelled to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.

    The trip, which will also include a visit to Tunisia, was planned at the beginning of the year as part of an effort to build stronger foreign-policy ties between Berlin and Paris.

    Germany and France "take very seriously the deep anxiety" with which their eastern partners view the situation in Ukraine, Steinmeier said.

    The EU is pushing ahead with association agreements with Moldova and Georgia.

    [AP]
  • Despite all the talk today, the resumption of hostilities has not actually resumed. Here's a rundown of what has happened:

    * The Ukraine government says its Easter truce is over. It says it has the backing of the US to launch "appropriate measures" against Pro-Russian separatists in the east.

    * A video has emerged of a pro-Kiev councillor being confronted by a pro-Russian mob, hours before he was allegedly kidnapped, tortured and murdered before being dumped.

    * Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that Russia would respond if its interests were threatened. He referenced the action Russia took when Georgia moved to reoccupy its pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008. Russian tanks were within a few dozen miles of Tblisi within five days).
  • A quick search of Youtube brings up a few more musical tributes to the "polite people". You can set anything to music these days.

  • The "Polite People" inspire Red Army tribute

    The Russian army choir has released a song
    glorifying the troops in unmarked uniforms who took control of Crimea ahead of its annexation by Moscow - swiftly nicknamed "the polite people" for their silent demeanour.

    The deep-voiced Alexandrov Ensemble, known internationally as the Red Army
    Choir, released "Polite People" on its official YouTube site accompanied by footage of the choir performing in Crimea this month.

    The heavily armed soldiers who appeared in Crimea in late February and surrounded government buildings and army bases gained the nickname "the polite people" because they refused to identify themselves but posed for publicity shots with children and women pushing prams.

    Those who opposed Russia's actions in the strategic Black Sea peninsula on the other hand describe them as "little green men".

    The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, even used the term, saying his allies who came under Western sanctions over actions in Ukraine were "polite people."

    The choir's song features lyrics praising the troops who "simply stand politely nearby, they simply carry guns," set to the strumming of balalaikas.

    The song reassures listeners with a rousing chorus: "The polite people will preserve the glory and honour of the fatherland." 

    Putin insisted at the time that the unmarked troops in Crimea were members of local self-defence brigades and suggested they bought their uniforms at army surplus stores.

    "Their helmets are polite, their faces are polite, even their steel vehicles are polite," the lyrics run, against a picture of a soldier in helmet and black mask, carrying a machine gun.

    The choir's website says the song was first performed in Crimea on a tour from April 10-14. 

    [AFP]
  • Well here's something not for the faint hearted. The "Red Army Choir" pay tribute to the masked militias who took over Crimea for Russia, calling them the "Polite People".

    I'll post a story to go with the video in a moment.

  • Read Al Jazeera English's latest story on the crisis at www.aljazeera.com

  • Here's Al Jazeera Englishe's latest video report from eastern Ukraine.


  • Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister has said some pretty powerful stuff on Ukraine in an interview with Russia Today. The video is to be broadcast tonight but excerpts of the transcript have been released early. He says:

    Russia sees the US hand in a new Ukraine offensive against pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine. 

    There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show.

    Russia will respond if its interests are attacked.

    If our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians, have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law.

    South Ossetia is a reference to the Georgian war of 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgia after Tblisi attempted to end separatist rebellions in two of its regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 

    This last one is fairly significant. Raising the spectre of the Georgian war in reference to Ukraine is particularly pointed. 

    Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation.

    Is Lavrov saying there are Russian citizens among the separatists in east Ukraine? Or that he considers those in the groups to be defacto Russian citizens? That statement's meaning is not entirely clear, even in the context of his other quotes. But it certainly sounds high-level dangerous.




  • A Ukrainian town councillor was mobbed by a hostile, pro-Russian crowd hours before he was kidnapped, tortured and apparently murdered, a video shows.

    The footage from Thursday on gorlovka.ua, posted to Youtube, shows angry scenes outside the town hall of Horlivka, between the separatist flashpoint cities of Donetsk and Slovyansk, as Volodymyr Rybak is manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse.

    Rybak had tried to remove the flag of the separatist Donetsk Republic, the website said. "Over my dead body will you take down that flag," one man in plain clothes yells at Rybak as the politician tries to gain entry to the town hall.

    After several minutes, Rybak appears able to walk away. Ukraine's Interior Ministry said he was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage later that day. His body was found on Saturday near Slovyansk.

    He and another, unidentified, man appeared to have been tortured and dumped alive in a river to drown, police concluded.

    [Reuters]

  • US to deploy troops to Eastern Europe
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube
    Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Washington on the deployment of US troops to Poland.

  • Ukraine orders military action in the east
    by Al Jazeera English via YouTube

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  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a telephone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday that Ukraine must take urgent steps to implement a deal aimed at defusing the Ukraine crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    Lavrov said orders for the army to be deployed in the crisis should be reversed, the Right Sector Ukrainian nationalist group should be disarmed, arrested activists in southeast Ukraine freed and constitutional reforms started, the ministry said.

    The call was a US initiative and the two men agreed to maintain contact, it said. 
    [Reuters]
  • Vice Magazine journalist Simon Ostrovsky has been reportedly "taken" by pro-Kremlin militia in the eastern town of Slavyansk.

    Vice Magazine has stated that it is in contact with the US State Department and other government authorities to secure the safety of their colleague.

  • Update: Ukraine's acting president has ordered a military operation against pro-Kremlin separatists in the east of the country after the body of a local politician from his own party was found showing signs of torture. To read more, click here.



  • The US Vice President, Joe Biden, has visited Ukraine in a public show of support for its embattled government.Biden met with Arseny Yatseniuk, Ukraine's acting prime minister, on Tuesday and said that Russia should stop talking and start acting to disarm pro-Russian activists. "No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation - no nation has that right - and we will never recognise Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world," Biden said. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from Kiev.

  • US is deploying approximately 600 troops to Poland and Baltic countries in a show of commitment to NATO allies amid tensions with Russia over the Ukraine, the Pentagon has said.

    A company of 150 soldiers from the US army based in Italy will arrive Poland on Wednesday, and roughtly 450 troops are due in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in the coming days. The deployments are part of a new series of exercises "scheduled to take place for the next few months and beyond," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

    -AFP
  • Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reporting from the Ukraine on recent developments:

    "Two dead bodies have been found, one reportedly a local politicians. His body has been found with signs of torture."

    In relaunching military operations against pro-Kremlin activists, "It seems to spell the death of the so-called Geneva accord. At the moment if anything, the situation seems to be becoming exacerbated instead of being calmed down."
  • Ukraine's acting president has ordered a military "anti-terrorism" operation against pro-Russian activists, after two "brutally tortured" bodies were discovered in the east. One of those killed was a kidnapped local councillor.

    "I demand the resumption of effective counter-terrorism measures to protect Ukrainian citizens in the east from terrorism," Oleksandr Turchynov said, according to a statement from his other office as parliamentary speaker.

    - Reuters
  • Pro-Kremlin protester waves a Russian flag near Lenin monument as they mark the Russian revolutionary's birthday in Donetsk, Ukraine. [EPA]

  • A Ukrainian military surveillance plane has been hit and damaged by small arms fire while on a reconnaissance flight over pro-Kremlin held town of Slavyansk, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

    The attack occurred just hours after US Vice President Biden left Kiev. The plane was landed safely and no crew members were hurt.

    -AFP
  • Joe Biden: "No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation - no nation has that right - and we will never recognise Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world."
  • US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia that "it's time to stop talking and start acting" if tensions are to be reduced.

    Speaking at a news conference in Kiev on Tuesday, Biden called on Russia to "stop supporting men hiding behind masks, in unmarked uniforms, sowing unrest in Eastern Ukraine."

    Standing with interim Ukranian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden has urged pro-separatists to vacate government buildings and checkpoints. Yatsenyuk also called for Russia to "stick to its international commitments and obligations" but was harsher in his characterisation of the country. "They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century," he said.

    Moscow rejected charges that it was behind the troubles in eastern Ukraine.

    -AP
  • Biden carries on about how Ukraine must be united and how the elections are important, and also how corruption must be stopped. 

    "Ukrainians are just sick and tired of corruption," he says. He adds that Victor Yanukovich, the former president, ran away because of the "staggering theft" of public funds. 

    Biden then says that the anti-Jewish sentiment has no place in a new Ukraine.

    He adds that the US is providing "non-lethal" equipment to Ukrainian forces - totaling  $20m. 

    Yatsenyuk then begins his speech in Ukrainian. Sadly that's not my strong suit.

    I'll be writing some of these comments into the main story on Al Jazeera English.
  • Here's Biden: 

    We just celebrated Easter. It is supposed to be a season of peace, family, a time when we come together. But today there are some trying to pull Ukraine apart.

    We do not recognise Russia's actions in Crimea. 

    You are in a struggle for the very future. 

    There has been a lot of talk of geopolitics. Here in Ukraine people know it is about something more fundamental: Unity, independence. Respect and dignity.

    For months, Ukrainians braved cold and stood down snipers in the Maidan. All Ukranians can agree on the core idea that government exist to serve the people. The people of the Ukraine should have the right to chose their own future.

    I came here to Kiev to let everyone know that the US stands with you. The road ahead is difficult and you should know you will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you.

    The ongoing threat to sovereignty and integrity. Ukraine is and must remain one country. One united Ukraine. The US supports a strong united Ukraine with productive relationships with the east and the west.

    No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation. We will never recognise Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world.

    No nation should threaten its neighbour by massing troops on the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces back. We call on Russia to stop supporting men, hiding behind masks, sewing unrest in eastern Ukraine.

    More provocation will lead to more cost and isolation. 

    We have heard a lot of talk from Russia, but it is now time for Russia to stop talking and start acting."

    (He's talking about the Geneva deal)

    We need to see these concrete steps without delay. We will not allow this to be an open-ended process.
  • Well Biden's now meeting the interim prime minister in Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. I'll update here with his comments.
  • Here is our latest story on Ukraine, with Biden's comments.


    You can read the story here.


  • Joe Biden arriving in Ukraine [AP] 


    Biden on Ukraine

    The US vice-president, Joe Biden, is on the second day of his visit to Ukraine. He's now speaking to the new guys in power in Kiev. Here's some snippets from Reuters:

    KIEV: U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT BIDEN SAYS MAY 25 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WILL BE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN UKRAINE HISTORY

    BIDEN SAYS U.S. READY TO HELP UKRAINE'S LEADERS TO SEIZE OPPORTUNITY OF
    GENERATING A UNITED UKRAINE

    BIDEN SAYS UKRAINE LEADERS MUST FIGHT ENDEMIC "CANCER OF CORRUPTION" 

    Reuters continues: Saying Ukraine faced humiliating threats and daunting problems, Biden said  the United States was ready to assist its leaders in seizing a chance to create national unity.
  • Pro-Russia protesters sing and dance near a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk:

    [Reuters] 




  • The US State Department has released images of soldiers in eastern Ukraine that it says are Russian forces, showing militants wearing similar uniforms and brandishing Russian weapons.

    The pictures mark the latest effort by the West to prove that Moscow is using its military to stir unrest in Ukraine.

    A copy of the 11-page State Department document was given to reporters.

    More soon.


  • The State Department has released images of soldiers in eastern Ukraine that it says are Russian forces, showing militants wearing similar uniforms and brandishing Russian weapons.

    The pictures mark the latest effort by the West to prove that Moscow is using its military to stir unrest in Ukraine.

    Meanwhile, John Kerry urged Russia to help implement the Ukraine agreement.

    "The secretary urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically."


    Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki 
  • Opinion: What is the UN doing about Ukraine?

    In effect, the UN has not offered any proposal on the resolution on the Ukrainian crisis that might have been considered even remotely workable. Total silence really - more of a 'we are working hard behind the scenes' thing.


    Click here for full piece


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