Friday, June 22, 2018

EU freezes assets; diplomacy struggles

An effort by the United States to broker the first face-to-face diplomatic meeting between Russia and Ukraine over the Crimea crisis failed Wednesday, but Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart announced more discussions in the days ahead.

Their remarks left open the possibility of progress toward a solution to defuse one of the most serious East-West confrontations since the Cold War.

Late Wednesday, the European Union announced that it was seizing the assets of 18 people it accused of embezzling Ukraine's funds, including the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, his son and a list of other officials and Yanukovych's closest aides.

The failure of a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers reflected the tensions over Russia's refusal to recognize the interim government in Kiev that replaced Yanukovych, who fled last month but is regarded by Russia as Ukraine's rightful leader .

Asked if he had met his Ukrainian counterpart, Lavrov said: "Who is it? I didn't see anyone."

New York Times, Associated Press

Diplomacy

NATO APPLIES PRESSURE

The alliance tried to apply pressure on Moscow in its own talks with Russia in Brussels. The alliance's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said ambassadors for the 28 member states decided after a meeting with their Russian counterpart to suspend plans for a joint mission as well as all civilian and military meetings. The Pentagon announced that six U.S. F-15 fighters and one KC-135 refueling plane would be sent to reinforce the four F-15s that police the airspace of Baltic nations. A program to carry out joint training with Poland's air force will also be expanded, the Pentagon said.

SANCTIONS and threats

The European Union froze the assets of 18 people it holds responsible for embezzling state funds in Ukraine, including the country's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. The 28-nation bloc revealed the names of those targeted by its sanctions early Thursday. Russia has suggested that it will meet any sanctions imposed by Western governments with a tough response.

UKRAINE BAILOUT

The three months of protests that triggered Ukraine's crisis erupted when President Viktor Yanukovych accepted $15 billion in aid from Putin in exchange for dropping an economic partnership deal with the EU. On Wednesday, the EU matched the aid — which the Russians withdrew after Yanukovych's downfall — and the U.S. topped that up with an additional $1 billion.

Tensions persist

pro-russia PROTESTS

On the ground in Ukraine, volatility reigned. Hundreds of demonstrators — many chanting "Russia! Russia!" — stormed a government building in eastern Ukraine, spreading concern that turmoil could engulf other Russian-dominated parts of the country.

ENVOY THREATENED

In Crimea, U.N. special envoy Robert Serry was threatened by 10 to 15 armed men as he was leaving naval headquarters in Crimea, said U.N. deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson. When the men ordered Serry to go to the airport, Serry refused — but then found himself trapped because his car was blocked, Eliasson said.

The Dutch envoy was later spotted by reporters in a coffee shop, as men in camouflage outfits stood outside. He got into a van with the men, and was taken to Simferopol airport.

Later, an AP reporter found Serry in the business class lounge of the Simferopol airport.

"I'm safe. My visit was interrupted for reasons that I cannot understand," the Dutch diplomat said.

Associated Press

The events happening in Ukraine are unfolding quickly and so is the political rhetoric. We summarize six recent fact-checks at PolitiFact.com.

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