Afternoon Update: Confusion About The Ultimatum, EU Foreign Ministers Meet In Brussels, Pro-Russian Protests In Eastern Ukraine

 

Sometimes, the best way for journalists to report on stories responsibly is to take a deep breath and think for a moment before reporting. A crisis like the one in the Ukraine is very fluid. The situation changes at a breathtaking pace. The media is having a difficult time keeping pace with events in the Crimea. The stories about a Russian ultimatum to Ukrainian forces on the peninsula are a perfect example of this. Around three hours ago reports began to filter in about a Russian ultimatum to the Ukrainian military units in the Crimea: Surrender or face a ‘Military Storm.’ Shortly afterward, spokesmen from various Russian government agencies issued  statements denying that such an ultimatum was issued. Western media outlets continued to insist otherwise. Finally, the Associated Press reported that the ultimatum actually did happen. But it was made by the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (In reality more of a squadron than a fleet) to the captains of two Ukrainian warships in Sevastopol harbor. He wanted the screws of both ships to surrender themselves or the Russians would storm both ships.

 

The emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers has concluded in Brussels. Conclusions from the meeting have been posted online and are available below. In short, the EU is hanging on to the hope that diplomacy can somehow bring the situation under control. It cannot, but the EU is trying nevertheless.

 

Main Conclusions From The EU Meeting In Brussels

1. The European Union strongly condemns the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces as well as the authorisation given by the Federation Council of Russia on 1 March for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. These actions are in clear breach of the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, as well as of Russia’s specific commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997. These actions are also a clear breach of the Ukrainian constitution which specifically recognises the territorial integrity of the country and states that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea can only organise referenda on local matters but not on the modification of the territorial configuration of Ukraine.

2. The EU calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its armed forces to the are as of their permanent stationing, in accordance with the Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet stationing on the territory of Ukraine of 1997. Russia should also without delay agree to the request by Ukraine to hold consultations, as foreseen in the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, and to take part in urgent consultations among all signatories and adherents of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.

3. The EU calls for a peaceful solution to the current crisis and full respect of the principles of and obligations under international law.

 

In the eastern Ukraine,  pro-Russia demonstrations are beginning to take place in the city of Donetsk. Protesters have stormed a government building and taken control of it. Keep in mind how events began to unfold in the Crimea. Now we’re seeing the same seeds planted in eastern Ukraine…another area where Moscow has much popular support.

The pieces are beginning to come together now. Putin’s knife is out, but his intention is not to stab the Ukraine to death. He wants to carve it up instead.

One comment

  1. If you believe Putin is as smart as they say he is, he will know not to take what he cannot defend. But he can still pull off a massive fake-out. This is speculative, of course.

    Putin has learned much from tactics used by the US in Iraq — use of cash as a weapon (bribe your opponents to join your side), letting locals do your dirty work, using the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and pre-emptive action and war-on-terror to justify forceful imposition of a friendly democracy where there was once a hostile foreign government, destabilizing your enemies to make yourself look better.

    There is one other power move he could copy from the US playbook, if he were so inclined.

    He can mass his forces near Eastern Ukraine and make the East Ukranians think he will back them up. Then the East Ukranians pick a fight with the West Ukranian Nationalists. The West Ukranian nationalists send in the thugs- the militant wings of their revolutionary movement, some of who sometimes dress up in neo Nazi costumes, but “not in a serious way”.

    If a fight breaks out — and here’s the really sleazy thing the US has sometimes done with great success — allow a fight to break out. then either stand back, or help just enough so the US makes a public commitment to the West Ukranians, and also to ensure that it’s an even battle. AND THEN the play says, you back out, and allow your guys to LOSE! … If Putin’s opponents (extremists in the west Ukranian nationalist movement) commit atrocities, it will discredit them for good and ensure that future generations remember the West Ukranians as the bad guys in this situation.

    Normally the enemies of the US have fallen for this one every time. It’s not clear if the US will fall for this trick.

    Or maybe Putin is the one who is currently being entrapped in this game. Or maybe neither the US nor Russia are smart enough to look past the immediate present. I guess we’ll see.

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