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Tensions eased over the last few hours in Ukraine following Putin's recent call to Obama as solidarity between pro-Maidan elements is growing. Russia Today reported on their conversation along with the BBC. First of all, RT:

The leaders spoke for about an hour on Friday, discussing the situation in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin drew Obama’s attention to the continuing acts of intimidation against civilians as well as government and law enforcement agencies conducted by extremists in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.
We would like to see these allegations by Putin documented. There is little documentation of these allegations; there is nothing on Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or any other such group about the Right Sector or any other nationalistic group in Ukraine engaging in any such abuses recently. They have been there, like the seizure of a TV station that nationalists thought was too sympathetic to Russia. But even RT did not have any stories on its website today about any such activities by far-right elements.

The UN Security Council held another meeting over Ukraine; afterwards, the Russian ambassador said that a lot was a matter of the two sides talking past each other.

“Someone must seriously think through what they are doing and the consequences of certain actions they are advocating,” Churkin said. “Our international partners insist that the only way out is to have this presidential election on May 25. In a situation of political chaos in the country? What will be the effect of those elections if some of the regions do not participate or turnout is very low in the course of those elections?”
Interesting that Churkin is all of a sudden concerned about elections after the controversial election in Crimea. There has been ample time for parties to debate in the runup to the May 25th election that the West is supporting, unlike the one in Crimea.
“There is no political leader in sight who might be able to unite the country. All the politicians one can hear about are extremely divisive for the Ukrainian society,” Churkin explained. “The other thing that is going to come up in the next couple of months is most likely dramatic decline of the living standards of people, because of IMF package which now has been proposed to them.”
Timoshenko is extremely divisive, even more so than the Right Sector. Yastenuk or Klitschko might be the least polarizing choices. Churkin is right about the upcoming decline of living standards.
“If you want dialogue, please respond to what we’ve been saying. They are responding, sometimes, but the response is that: ‘Well, but you know, the Ukrainians.. We understand the importance of constitution, but how can they do it now? Can they do this constitutional assembly? There is no one to organize the constitutional assembly!”

“Well, if there is nobody to organize, maybe this is exactly the role of the international community? This Compact support group we have been proposing to help them organize those things if there is nobody currently in Ukraine who can take this responsibility,” Churkin said.

“Our position is very clear,” Churkin said, adding it is “disappointing that those things which are obvious to us do not seem to sink in in the minds of our international interlocutors and our Ukrainian colleagues.”

The BBC says that this move means tentative progress towards a diplomatic solution. They also report that a phone conversation took place between Putin and Ban Ki-Moon of the UN in which Putin said that Russia "had no intention to make any military move" towards Ukraine. Whether you believe that depends on whether you believe Putin is a man of his word. But the more Ukraine's situation stabilizes, the less likely Putin is to invade Eastern Ukraine. And the more that chaos like what happened earlier in the week ensues, the more likely that Putin will invade Ukraine.

But one piece of evidence that tensions may finally be easing is evidenced by RT's coverage. They report that Right Sector protestors have surrounded the Parliament building for a second day. But they put the number today at hundreds after putting it at 2,000 yesterday. For a long time, one of their favorite references had been to the "self-proclaimed government" of Kiev; those references were dropped in the two articles reported. And RT acknowledges that there are elements within Ukraine that are seeking to crack down on the far right:

Amid the confrontation an unconfirmed report claimed that the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are debating whether they should issue sanctions against Right Sector or completely outlaw it.

The idea is reportedly supported by the chair of the Ukrainian national security service Andrey Parubiy, who also happens to have strong links with the main competitor of the Right Sector among radical activists, the Maidan Self-Defense. Members of the alternative organization are being recruited en mass into the freshly created Ukrainian National Guard, while Right Sector activists are reportedly reluctant to join in.

The Ukrainian parliament has made no move to fire the interior minister, whom protestors have said is personally responsible for the killing of Aleksandr Muzychko, a nationalist who fought against the Russians in Crimea. This killing suggests that certain elements may have done so in order to send a message to Russia that they are cracking down on far right elements that Russia says are wreaking havoc.

Maidan Translations says that the occupation of Crimea is already wreaking havoc on the economy of Russia and that Ukraine is planning military exercises near Kharkiv.

The outflow of capital from the Russian Federation has reached USD 70 billion, since the beginning of this year. Today, the World Bank announced a forecast (as reported by the Wall Street Journal): if Putin continues to escalate the situation, Russian GDP will drop by 1.8% in 2014. Compared to the 1.3% growth in the previous year, that’s quite a difference.

Today [March 26th], the President of the EU Council [Herman] van Rompuy, the US President [Barack] Obama and the President of the European Commission [José Manuel] Barroso made a solemn vow: if Putin continues messing about, the EU and the US are prepared to unleash the full extent of sanctions.

he Armed Forces of Ukraine will conduct ”Spring Rain” military exercises in Kharkiv oblast.

The military, and the political importance of military exercises, in eastern Ukraine cannot be overestimated right now. Our army – slowly and gradually, with moans and groans, with exploding tanks and crashing planes – is waking up from its 20-year-long lethargy. For the first time since the years of Ukrainian independence, it [the army] is starting to understand why it even exists. The same can be said for our entire country.

We all hope that this epiphany hasn’t come too late. But, in any case – this is a huge lesson for us all, for decades to come.

And in Crimea, the Crimean Tartars are allowing the Orthodox priests to hold services in their mosques.
The priests of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate in Crimea are ready to accept the offer made by Crimean Tatars, said archbi shop Yevstratiy Zorya, the spokesperson of Kyiv Patriarchate.

Two priests have fled from Crimea already; eleven more, headed by archbishop Klyment, continue to serve there, although the entire Crimean clergy of Kyiv Patriarchate chose to evacuate their families from the peninsula. If threatened or driven out from their churches, the priests and lay believers of Kyiv Patriarchate will accept the Tatars’ invitation to use the premises of their mosques for worship.

So what we are seeing is that the invasion of Crimea is already becoming costly for Putin. It is triggering the very sort of solidarity that is necessary to wage a long, protracted campaign against Russian occupation should it become necessary. We were willing to do the same thing back in 1776; had Washington needed to, he would have gone across the mountains and fought for as long as he needed to in order to harry the British and make them leave. And it is creating a drag on Russia's economy, especially since they pay pensioners three times as much as they do in Ukraine.

Tass reports that OSCE monitors will arrive in Ukraine starting tomorrow for the purpose of monitoring the country for human rights violations, including violations against ethnic Russians, which is Putin's main concern. As quoted, Russia's ambassador to OSCE is hopeful that their work will lead to an easing of tensions:

Russia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation has expressed hope that the OSCE mission to Ukraine will ease tensions and normalize the situation.

"Initially, the mission will include 100 civil observers. Then the number will increase. We hope that they will be up to 500,” Russian permanent representative to the OSCE Andrei Kelin said on Friday.

“Observers will stay across the country, both in the east and west - in ten cities, including Odessa, Kiev and Kharkiv. Any changes will be made by the OSCE Standing Committee,” he said.

So the groundwork for the easing of tensions is taking place. OSCE monitors report on human rights violations throughout Ukraine. This is similar to many situations where impartial election monitors are used to ensure free and fair elections. In another move that will ease tensions, Parliament passed a law that will improve transparency by the new government, OSCE reports. The real winners after all is said and done could be the OSCE. Parties to the organization reached a unanimous deal last week to send monitors to Ukraine, something that had been talked about for a while and was finally agreed to. From a March 21st post:
The decision of the Permanent Council of the OSCE today to deploy a Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was welcomed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter.

Consensus on the mandate could be reached today due to the readiness of all participating States to continue dialogue and search for compromise even under difficult circumstances, Burkhalter said. All sides will benefit from this decision, he continued. Once more, the OSCE has proven to be a vital framework to foster dialogue, identify common ground, and accomplish meaningful results despite differences. “The OSCE and the Swiss Chairmanship”, Burkhalter added, “will continue their efforts to rebuild bridges and find cooperative solutions to the major political and security challenges that Europe is now confronted with.”

The Permanent Council decided in a special session on Ukraine today to deploy an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission of international observers to Ukraine: the mission’s aim is to contribute to reducing tensions and fostering peace, stability and security.

Throughout the country, the mission will gather information and report on the security situation as well as establish and report facts regarding incidents, including those concerning alleged violations of fundamental OSCE principles and commitments. It will also monitor the human rights situation in the country, including the rights of national minorities. Facilitating dialogue on the ground to promote normalization of the situation is a further task of the mission.

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Comment Preferences

  •  wow! (11+ / 0-)

    This may get the award for both the most informative post on the subject and some of the best Kremlinology for the analysis of RT.

    Easing of tensions, receeding of the power of the far right, less beligerence from Puting, all are very, very welcome and unlooked for (by me, anyway).

    I hope that this doesn't turn into a false dawn.


  •  I think that anyone who expects Ukraine to get (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, Simplify, koNko

    Crimea back by any means other than violence is severely mistaken. Russia has seen far worse than some sanctions from the EU, and the EU likely won't even go that far.

    It's good to hear that tensions in Ukraine are down, and seeing the government take action against Pravy Sektor was reassuring, although I haven't seen anything about the attacks on the press by Svoboda being prosecuted. This diary really glosses over that.

    I'd expect Russia to stay put unless there is some sort of political instability again. That's been Putin's MO over the years. Don't invade unless you're sure of a victory and the place you're invading is distracted with other stuff.

    If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

    by AoT on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:55:30 PM PDT

  •  I don't see them as easing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, jayden, bear83

    I see Ukraine taking steps to improve the situation in Ukraine. But, I'm afraid nothing Ukraine can do will satisfy Putin.

    Go back to Putin's March 18th speech in his annexation of Crimea. He channel's his triggers for invading Ukraine:

    Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.
    So, here Putin is telling Ukraine that he will respect Ukraine sovereignty IF Ukrainian ethnic Russians rights and interests are fully protected - a rather subjective criteria.

    Since that speech, we've seen him, his ambassador to the UN and US, and his propaganda mouthpiece continue to make the case that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are being brutalized and attacked. Yet, there is no evidence of it. But, he continues to make that case up to and including today in his phone call with Obama, a phone call Putin placed. From your RT link:

    Vladimir Putin drew Obama’s attention to the continuing acts of intimidation against civilians as well as government and law enforcement agencies conducted by extremists in Ukraine
    From your BBC link:
    The Kremlin said in a statement that the Russian president drew Mr Obama's attention to "the continued rampage of extremists" in Kiev and various regions of Ukraine.
    So, I don't see this as tensions easing, but as Putin continuing to build his case which will justify his invasion of Ukraine based on the trigger he defined in his March 18 speech.

    KOS: "Mocking partisans focusing on elections? Even less reason to be on Daily Kos."

    by fcvaguy on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:45:32 PM PDT

    •  As long as thousands of Russian troops (0+ / 0-)

      are massed on Ukraine's border, I wouldn't say that tensions are easing much.

      “Our international partners insist that the only way out is to have this presidential election on May 25. In a situation of political chaos in the country? What will be the effect of those elections if some of the regions do not participate or turnout is very low in the course of those elections?”
      This makes it sound like the Russian ambassador is both dismissing the May 25 elections and working up an excuse for further Russian military intervention.

      Election Day is Nov 4th, 2014 It's time for the Undo button on the 2010 Election.

      by bear83 on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 05:48:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a relief. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thomask, offgrid, koNko

  •  One other factor... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope, bear83

    Karl Volok (not of The Volokh Conspiracy) notes that Obama paid a little visit to Saudi Arabia, perhaps threatening Putin with the ultimate sanction:  cheap oil.  

    The difference between $120 oil and $100 oil for Russia is growth versus stagnation.  The difference between $100 oil and $80 oil is something worse.  

    (Of course, if the Saudis can take it below $75  they make the tar sands can dream...)

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 12:43:30 AM PDT

    •  hmmmm (0+ / 0-)

      so simple. Guess Saudi Arabia is the US's bitch. What kind of relationship is that? Aren't they a souvereign nation? Do they have to say "yes, master.." and follow whatever the US dictates?

      Maybe so.

      But, wouldn't that be exactly the same relationship that Russia hopes to have with its "friends", neighbors and "sattelite" states?

      Geopolitics is not a very fair game. It is fought by the rich for the rich and we get to comment on it as we become poorer and lose our freedoms.

  •  Let' see: the 20billion package from the IMF and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alhambra, LanceBoyle, unfangus

    others is meant to ensure that Ukraine doesn't default, which means in practice that it will go mostly to pay off what Ukraine owes to Western investors and Russian banks.

    Very little of it is meant to boost the Ukrainian economy which is not likely to pick up in the near future.

    At the same time the austerity measures demanded by the IMF will mean a further decline in the already very low Ukrainian standard of living, and the working class and the poor such as the elderly will be particularly hard hit.

    Perhaps there's another revolution coming up, one that will look back (rightly or wrongly) with nostalgia at the "good old days" of the Soviet Union...

    I wouldn't bet a $3 bill on what will happen in Ukraine over the next six months or so.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 01:12:02 AM PDT

  •  What is the vision for an outcome? (0+ / 0-)

    Return Crimea to status quo ante?  Russia withdraws and returns civil control to Ukraine?  Or write it off and move on?

    Deter Russia from further expansionist adventures?

    What is the goal here?  

  •  The Candyman Can (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, Eternal Hope

    One encouraging development: Klitchko has thrown his support to Petro Poroshin (the confectionary king) for the May elections. Poroshin is very popular and should be able to defeat the corrupt and unhinged Tymoshenko. So Ukraine might actually end up with saner political leadership in a few months.

  •  Good Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Well researched, thanks for the effort.

    I do not see Russia backing down and handing Crimea back to Ukraine simply because of sanctions or for any other reason.

    One, the majority Russian ethnic population.

    Two, it's planting a flag for the West about NATO expansion into what it sees as its sphere of influence.

    Whether or not the second proves to be effective is another matter, but it's clear Putin will not budge and if anyone tries to force this on Russia/Crimea even after Putin leaves the scene it would become a bloody mess.

    Pretty much fait accompli.

    The more important and immediate task for the West is to get Russia to back away from the rest of Ukraine, and I'm pretty sure that has already been accomplished as well.

    Let Putin build a bridge is he cares to.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:38:06 AM PDT

  •  Poll show Crimea strongly favored Russia over EU (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    See Figure 2 here:  

    Also, what kind of a vote did Nuland's unelected Yats take
    before signing the Association Agreement with the EU?

  •  Not sure I am seeing the same thing (0+ / 0-)

    I see tensions increasing, and Ukrainian solidarity under extreme pressure.  

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