The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times

Russia has sent thousands of additional troops to its border with Ukraine following the Kiev leadership’s announcement that it will sign an economic association pact with the European Union next week.

The NATO chief reporting the renewed Kremlin troop buildup called it “regrettable” and warned that it might be a prelude to an invasion by Russia should the separatist rebellion fail to wrest from Kiev’s control the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, where vital military hardware is produced for Russia.

It was the decision by then-President Viktor Yanukovich to scrap the European Union association agreement in November that ignited rebellion in Ukraine. Pro-Europe demonstrators angered over his move to keep Ukraine in Russia’s economic orbit ousted Yanukovich in February, setting off Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula and the separatist battles raging in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in an address to agricultural industry leaders on Wednesday that Ukraine’s refusal to join the Russia-led Eurasian Union — the economic alliance he created to rival the EU — threatened the customs-free trade between the two former Soviet republics, especially imperiling the market for farm products.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with politics or with the options one or another state selects, because each sovereign state has the right to choose its original pathway,” Putin said in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western accusations that he was trying to pressure Kiev to abandon alliance with the Western European bloc.

But Putin’s comments followed by mere hours Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s announcement that he would sign the economic pact on June 27 during a Ukrainian-EU summit in Brussels.

Putin “stressed Russia’s right to defend its own economic interests,” the Voice of Russia said of the Kremlin leader’s address to an agricultural forum in the southern farm belt center of Stavropol.

Russia maintained more than 40,000 troops along its border with Ukraine over the past three months but had reportedly begun withdrawing them to their bases ahead of Poroshenko’s June 7 inauguration. However, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a London visit Thursday that the alliance has observed a fresh buildup of thousands of additional troops along the border.

“I consider this a very regrettable step backward. It seems Russia keeps the option open to intervene further in Ukraine,” Rasmussen said in an exchange with journalists after a speech at London’s Chatham House think tank. He warned that NATO “would have to respond in a firm manner” if Moscow further interferes in the conflict convulsing eastern Ukraine.

Russian media reported Thursday that Putin had agreed with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to engage in three-way talks with the EU and Ukraine “in the context of the forthcoming signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.” The reports gave no further details of Russia’s agenda in the talks reportedly to start with economic experts from each of the three participants.

As the leaders and diplomats weighed in on Ukraine’s economic reorientation, fighting between government troops and the pro-Russia rebels in the east continued despite Poroshenko’s offer this week of a unilateral cease-fire. Separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are home to 6.5 million people, rejected his call to surrender their arms and negotiate their grievances in a peaceful and European-mediated forum.

Russia Today television reported a sharp worsening of the “humanitarian crisis” confronting those living in the beleaguered eastern areas, where water and power supplies have been disrupted in rebel-occupied towns and a gas shortage hampers emergency medical aid and civilian evacuations.

The state-controlled broadcaster also reported an “unprecedented” exchange of bodies of those killed in recent clashes, including the 49 Ukrainian troops who perished when rebels shot down a transport plane Saturday. Russia Today film showed unarmed men carrying white flags meeting on a bridge near Donetsk as trucks with containers said to be bearing corpses crossed the span.

Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov via AFP

Interested in world news? Sign up for our daily newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Youtube Screenshot

Donald Trump has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a civil case, and if he ever stands trial on criminal charges, neither a judge or a jury may take that as evidence of guilt. But in the court of common sense, we are entitled to reach the obvious conclusion: Trump has committed crimes and wants to keep them secret.

The Fifth Amendment privilege, after all, is not to refuse to exonerate oneself. It's to refuse to incriminate oneself. Answering questions truthfully, as a rule, is incriminating only to someone who has done something wrong.

Keep reading... Show less

A pro-Trump demonstrator outside FBI office in Phoenix, Arizona with tactical gear and weapons

Youtube Screenshot

Video captured by the independent media site News2Share shows supporters of former President Donald Trump armed with guns, waving confederate and American flags outside of the FBI office in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday.

"We're here in support of Trump, for what happened to him, the unlawful search with the FBI at his Mar-a-Lago home," someone at the demonstration told News2Share. "We are sick and tired of this tyrannical government called the Biden regime. We will not stand by and we will not stand down.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}