WARSAW (AFP) – A Polish-Russian lawyer has been sentenced to four years in prison for spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, a Warsaw court said Monday.The lawyer, a man with dual citizenship identified only as Stanislaw Sz. for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty at the trial held behind closed doors. He can appeal the verdict.
Judge Agnieszka Domanska said the man gave Russia information on Poland’s energy sector, in particular regarding a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Swinoujscie on the Baltic coast, according to the Polish news agency PAP.
He notably got hold of a secret report by the national audit chamber NIK on natural gas contracts and the launch last June of the Swinoujscie terminal, which Poland built to ease its dependence on Russian gas.
Poland currently relies on Russia for about forty percent of its gas, with a third coming from domestic sources and 20 percent from central Asia.
Stanislaw Sz. was arrested in October 2014, at the same time as a Polish officer, Zbigniew J., who was sentenced last year to six years in prison by the Warsaw military court for spying for Russia.
Their cases were related but the two men did not work together, according to Polish media reports.
People walk outside PGE National Stadium, the venue of the NATO Summit, in Warsaw, Poland July 8, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama urged NATO leaders on Friday to stand firm against a resurgent Russia over its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, saying Britain’s vote to leave the European Union should not weaken the western defense alliance.
In an article published in London’s Financial Times newspaper as he arrived for his last summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation before leaving office in January, Obama said America’s “special relationship” with Britain would survive the referendum vote he had sought to avoid.
“The special relationship between the US and the UK will endure. I have no doubt that the UK will remain one of NATO’s most capable members,” he said, adding that the vote raised significant questions about the future of EU integration.
The 28-nation NATO alliance will formally agree on Friday to deploy four battalions with 3,000 to 4,000 troops in the Baltic states and eastern Poland on a rotating basis to reassure eastern members of its readiness to defend them.
“In Warsaw, we must reaffirm our determination — our duty under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty — to defend every NATO ally,” Obama said, saying the West must help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by keeping sanctions on Moscow until it fully complies with a ceasefire agreement.
“We need to bolster the defense of our allies in central and eastern Europe, strengthen deterrence and boost our resilience against new threats, including cyber attacks.”
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland requested a permanent NATO presence amid fears that Moscow could seek to destabilize their pro-Western governments through cyber attacks, stirring up Russian speakers, hostile broadcasting and even territorial incursions. Critics say the NATO plan is a minimal trip wire that might not deter Russian action.
The Kremlin denies any such intention and says NATO is the aggressor by moving its borders ever closer onto former Soviet territory which it regards as its sphere of influence.
President Vladimir Putin has made several gestures that seem aimed at defusing tension ahead of the summit, even as Moscow highlights its intention to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between NATO nations.
Putin agreed to a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council next week, the second meeting this year of a consultation body that was put on ice after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea in 2014. Russia allowed a U.N. resolution authorizing the EU to intercept arms shipments to Libya in the Mediterranean, and Putin talked by telephone with Obama in the run-up to the NATO meeting.
However, a White House spokesman said they reached no agreement on cooperation in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria during that call on Wednesday.
Outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his intention to resign after losing the referendum on EU membership last month, will seek to underline active commitment to Western security at his final NATO summit, to offset likely concerns about Europe’s biggest military spender leaving the EU.
“The backdrop to this summit is the historic decision taken last month to leave the European Union but this summit will be an opportunity for us to demonstrate the enormous contribution that Britain makes to Europe’s and NATO’s security and that we will continue to do so even outside of the EU,” a British government official said.
Ironically, the first agenda item at the summit is the signing of an agreement on deeper military and security cooperation between the EU and NATO. The U.S.-led alliance is expected to announce its support for the EU’s Mediterranean interdiction operation.
NATO is also supporting EU efforts to stem a flood of refugees and migrants from Turkey into Greece in conjunction with an EU-Turkey deal to curb migration in return for benefits for Ankara.
Obama and the other NATO leaders will have a more unscripted discussion of how to deal with Russia over dinner in the same room of the Polish Presidential Palace where the Warsaw Pact was signed in 1955, creating the Soviet-dominated military alliance that was NATO’s adversary during the Cold War.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sought to temper the beefed-up military deployments and air patrols close to Russia’s borders by stressing the alliance would continue to seek “meaningful and constructive dialogue” with Moscow.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters before leaving Ankara to attend the summit that NATO also needed to adapt to do more to fight a threat from Islamic State militants, accused of last week’s deadly attack on Istanbul airport.
“As we have seen from the terrorist attacks first in Istanbul and then in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, international security is becoming more fragile,” Erdogan said.
“The concept of a security threat is undergoing a serious change. In this process, NATO needs to be more active and has to update itself against the new security threats,” he said.
Host nation Poland sought on the eve of the summit to defuse U.S. and European criticism of its moves to shackle the independent constitutional court by rushing through an amendment to its court law, although critics said it did not address the main concerns. The European Commission is conducting an official investigation into the rule of law in Poland over the issue.
(Additional reporting by Wiktor Szary and Robin Emmott in Warsaw and Elizabeth Piper in Lodon; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Toby Chopra)
A massive demonstration has taken place in the Polish capital to show support for the EU. Poland’s conservative government has alienated many on the right and the left, as well as Brussels.
An anti-government rally in Warsaw
Around 240,000 people marched through Warsaw on Saturday, the same day a smaller, pro-government rally took place.
The rally of nearly a quarter of a million people gathered in the Polish capital to express support for both democracy and the EU, as the country’s right-wing government, headed by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), continues to draw criticism for suppressing opposition and alienating Brussels.
Anti-government rally in Warsaw
People march during an anti-government demonstration organized by the main opposition parties in Warsaw
“We are here because we believe in Polish law, Polish freedom and common action in the EU,” ex-President Bronislaw Komorowski told demonstrators.
At the same time, anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 nationalists gathered in the city to protest what they saw as the EU’s interference in Polish life.
. Hand-picked news
PiS drew strong condemnation earlier this year when its representatives signed into law a bill that allows the government to hand-pick officials in charge of state-run news organizations. Critics – including Reporters Without Borders, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) – have said the measures curtail free speech.
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski raised eyebrows across the 28-member bloc when he said that EU criticism of the bill was hypocritical.
“In the past eight years there was no pluralism in the public media [in Poland] and no EU Commissioner deplored it,” he told German newspaper “Bild.”
A giant Polish flag provides a backdrop for demonstrators
A giant Polish flag provides a backdrop for demonstrators
He went on to say that PiS wanted to cure Poland of “some diseases,” insisting the country was on its way to becoming a world of “bikers and vegetarians,” things that “had nothing more to do with traditional Polish values.”
. Former presidents speak out
In April, Komorowski and fellow former presidents Lech Walesa and Aleksander Kwasniewski had a letter published in Polish daily “Gazeta Wyborcza,” arguing that PiS has “no intention of abandoning this path of demolishing the constitutional order” and “paralyzing the work of the Constitutional Tribunal and all of the judicial authorities.”
The three leaders also reiterated their support for both the EU and NATO, saying that under PiS, “we’re on our way to becoming a nation of sorrow.”
blc/jm (dpa, AFP)
Tens of thousands of Poles waving national flags staged a huge protest march through Warsaw on Saturday, accusing the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party that took power last year of undermining democracy and putting Poland’s European future at risk.
A man holds a poster depicting the leader of the Law and Justice party Jaroslaw Kaczynski as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during an anti-government demonstration organized by main opposition parties in Warsaw, Poland May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
WARSAW: Tens of thousands of Poles waving national flags staged a huge protest march through Warsaw on Saturday, accusing the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party that took power last year of undermining democracy and putting Poland’s European future at risk.
The throng stretched at least 3 km (2 miles) along a ceremonial boulevard leading past the presidential palace, and Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a member of the opposition centrist Civic Platform (PO), put the number of demonstrators at 200,000.
Critics say the nationalist-minded administration is curbing democratic checks and balances and driving a wedge between Poland and its allies in the European Union, which it joined in 2004.
They also say the PiS’s euroscepticism could push Poland, a former Soviet satellite, back into the Russian sphere of influence. PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna told the crowd it was the largest demonstration since Poland threw off communist rule in 1989.
Some PiS actions, including attempts to take more direct control of the judiciary and public media, have prompted the EU’s executive Commission to launch a “Rule of Law” procedure, which could result in a suspension of Poland’s voting rights.
The economically left-leaning PiS says it has to strengthen its hold over state institutions to share out the benefits of economic transformation more evenly, and that Poland needs to defend its interests more assertively in the EU.
While anti-government rallies are frequent, the PiS continues to enjoy strong popular support. A recent poll put it at 33 percent, only a few points down from October’s election, and still well ahead of the largest opposition party in parliament, the PO.
Saturday’s march was organised by various pro-European groupings and parliamentary opposition parties, including the PO and the liberal Modern (Nowoczesna) party, led by a former World Bank economist.
Waving Polish white-and-red and EU flags and chanting “we are and will be in Europe”, the protesters demanded the PiS respect EU standards of governance.
“By not respecting European values, PiS is ensuring that we will first find ourselves on the fringes of the European Union, and then outside of it,” Modern party spokeswoman Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz told the protesters.
“Only two trains leave from the historic station at which Poland is standing. One is the European Express. The other is the Trans-Siberian Railway.”
The PiS released a video on Saturday in which party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of late president Lech Kaczynski, said that “today, being in Europe means being in the EU”.
“We want to be a member of the European Union, because we want to have an influence on Europe’s fate. But our position depends above all on our strength. We have to gain a strong position, become a strong, European nation,” Kaczynski said.
(Writing by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
By By REUTERS February 6,, 2016, 12:30 P.M. E.S.T.
DRESDEN, Germany — Germany’s anti-Islam PEGIDA movement staged rallies in several cities across Europe on Saturday to protest against the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
The movement, whose name stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, originated in the eastern German city of Dresden in 2014, with supporters seizing on a surge in asylum seekers to warn that Germany risks being overrun by Muslims.
Police officers detain an activist who was taking part in a demonstration against migrants, which was organized by the anti-Islam group PEGIDA, near the railway station of Calais, France, February 6, 2016.
After almost fizzling out early last year, the movement has regained momentum amid deepening public unease over whether Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country during 2015.
The alleged involvement of migrants in assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve has also spurred PEGIDA, which says it is proof that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees is flawed.
“We must succeed in guarding and controlling Europe’s external borders as well as its internal borders once again,” PEGIDA member Siegfried Daebritz told a crowd on the banks of the River Elbe who chanted “Merkel must go!”
Supporters of the anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) hold posters depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a demonstration in Dresden, Germany, February 6, 2016.
Police in Dresden declined to estimate the number of protesters. German media put the number at up to 8,000, well below the 15,000 originally expected by police.
Hundreds of counter-demonstrators also marched through Dresden under the motto “Solidarity instead of exclusion”, holding up placards saying “No place for Nazis”.
Far-right groups see Europe’s refugee crisis as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-immigrant message. There were 208 rallies in Germany in the last quarter of 2015, up from 95 a year earlier, Interior Ministry data showed.
Protests also took place on Saturday in other cities, including Amsterdam, Prague and the English city of Birmingham.
In Calais, in northern France, more than a dozen people were arrested during a protest that was attended by more than a hundred people despite being banned, local authorities said.
Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East camp out in Calais, hoping for a chance to make the short trip across the English Channel to Britain.
In Prague, an estimated 2,200 people including both supporters and opponents of Pegida held a series of rival demonstrations around the Czech capital. Police had to intervene in one march when supporters of the migrants came under attack from around 20 people who threw bottles and stones.
An activist against migrants is seen with a French flag as he argues with gendarmes while participating in a protest organized by the anti-Islam group PEGIDA, in Calais, France, February 6, 2016.
Later, around 20 masked assailants threw Molotov cocktails during an attack on a center that collects donations for refugees, forcing the evacuation of the building and injuring one person who was hit by glass, police said.
In Warsaw, hundreds of people waved Polish flags and chanted “England and France are in tears, that’s how tolerance ends”.
“We’re demonstrating against the Islamisation of Europe, we’re demonstrating against immigration, against an invasion,” Robert Winnicki, leader of Poland’s far-right Ruch Narodowy (National Movement), told demonstrators.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have together taken a tough stance on migration and have been largely opposed to taking in significant numbers of refugees.
(Reporting Caroline Copley and Reuters TV; Additional reporting by Wiktor Szary in Warsaw, Petra Vodstrcilova and Michael Kahn in Prague, Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Estelle Shirbon in London and Pierre Savary in Calais; Editing by Gareth Jones and Toby Chopra)
12 December 2015 – 17H45People hold Polish national flags and European flags during an anti-government demonstration in central Warsaw on December 12, 2015
WARSAW (AFP) – Some 50,000 people rallied in central Warsaw on Saturday to “defend democracy”, denouncing the new conservative government which took office a month ago.Brandishing Polish and European Union flags and shouting slogans such as “Liberty, Equality, Democracy,” the marchers said they felt their basic rights were under threat now.
“It’s not Budapest here, it’s Warsaw,” youth protestors shouted outside the presidential palace, referring to Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom critics accuse of stifling human rights and democracy in his country.
The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party won the October general election after eight years in opposition and wasted no time in replacing the heads of the country’s secret services.
The eurosceptic party also has plans to overhaul state media and at the moment has the Constitutional Court in its crosshairs.
PiS-backed Andrzej Duda, who was elected in May, maybe president and PiS colleague Beata Szydlo prime minister, but the undisputed boss of Poland’s populist, Catholic right is former premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The demonstrators also called for Duda’s resignation on the ground that he had violated the constitution.
The Constitutional Court this month found fault with several sections of a law introduced by the PiS in November just three days after its government was sworn in.
The legislation had allowed it to elect five new partisan judges to the Constitutional Court, even though the previous liberal parliament had already approved five new candidates of its own choosing.
Duda swore in the PiS-backed judges in a hasty late-night ceremony. Legal experts have condemned Duda’s handling of the saga, accusing the president — a trained lawyer — of violating the constitution.
“My freedom and everybody else’s freedom is in danger,” said Bartosz Kaminski, a man in his forties.
“Communism fell 26 years ago and we thought we would be free … we have to fight again,” he said.
The march was called by a spontaneous civic movement called the Committee for the Defence of Democracy and was attended by the leaders of opposition parties from all hues of the political spectrum.
“I fear that we will become an intolerant country where minorities are oppressed,” said 35-year-old trader Karol Katra.
The demonstrators also called for the respect of the constitution and for the indepedendence of the Constitutional Court.
“The majority don’t want a dictatorship,” said Mateusz Kijowski from the Committee for the Defence of Democracy.
Sofia, Bulgaria — DURING the recent electoral campaign in Poland, a constant question raised by pundits and politicians was not whether the country would go right, but whether it would go wrong.
Would the conservative Law and Justice Party, the expected victors in the poll, go the way of Viktor Orban’s increasingly authoritarian Hungary, or would it stay closer to the center? Given the nationalist, anti-liberal slant of the party’s campaign platform, could Poland’s seemingly consolidated liberal institutions reverse course? Law and Justice won decisively, and after only three weeks we have an answer: a distressing yes.
The new government has pushed forward three staggering changes. The man chosen to oversee police and intelligence agencies is a party stalwart who received a three-year suspended sentence for abusing power in his previous role as head of the anti-corruption office, signaling that political loyalty is above the law.
The government has purged European Union flags from government press briefings, demonstrating that it sees Polish national interests in opposition to European values.
And it has weakened the country’s separation of powers by rejecting the previous Parliament’s nominees to the constitutional court — and instead appointed its own candidates, provoking a constitutional crisis.
Why has Poland, the poster child of post-Communist success and Europe’s best economic performer of the last decade, suddenly taken an illiberal turn? Why, despite the profound public mistrust of politicians, are people ready to elect parties eager to dismantle any constraints on government’s power?
For one thing, the Law and Justice Party bet on a form of illiberal democracy because it succeeded in Hungary. The Orban model of rebuking the European Union while accepting billions in aid money has worked. So have Mr. Orban’s efforts to consolidate power by demonizing his political opponents. Hungary’s economy has not collapsed as critics predicted; nor did Mr. Orban’s party lose at the ballot box.
Of course, the more countries that follow Mr. Orban’s lead, the less successful his model will become: At some point there will be no European Union to blame. Indeed, Poland’s drift may result in a backlash by Western Europe; already, one hears rumblings in Paris and Berlin that it was a mistake to give the new, Eastern entrants the same power within the European Union as the established members of the eurozone.
But the core question is why Poles voted for a party that has a dismal governing record. After Law and Justice won its first term in 2005, its public standing dropped precipitously and it was forced into early elections two years later, and lost. (And Poles are hardly anti-democratic; a recent poll showed a majority are concerned that Polish democracy is in danger.)
The answer is simple, and it is a version of what we are seeing across Europe. Even a party as historically unpopular as Law and Justice can win these days by running not just against the left, but against liberal democracy. It is transparent in its aversion to independent institutions like the courts, the central bank and the media.
These populist and radical parties aren’t just parties; they are constitutional movements. They promise voters what liberal democracy cannot: a sense of victory where majorities — not just political majorities, but ethnic and religious ones, too — can do what they please.
The rise of these parties is symptomatic of the explosion of threatened majorities as a force in European politics. They blame the loss of control over their lives, real or imagined, on a conspiracy between cosmopolitan-minded elites and tribal-minded immigrants. They blame liberal ideas and institutions for weakening the national will and eroding national unity. They tend to see compromise as corruption and zealousness as conviction.
What makes anxious majorities most indignant is that while they believe that they are entitled to govern (they are the many after all), they never can have the final say. And so they are ready to blame the separation of powers and other inconvenient principles of liberal democracy for their frustration — and readily endorse parties like Law and Justice that run against those principles.
In a recent paper entitled “The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy,” the economists Sharun Mukand and Dani Rodrik argue that the question is not why so few democracies are liberal, but why liberal democracies exist at all. In the best of times, it’s an idle question. And maybe Poland will do the right thing, again, and throw the bums out after two years. Or perhaps the enigma of liberal democracy will cease to be an idle question, and become, for Europe, an existential one.
Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a contributing opinion writer.
U.S. President Barack Obama gives the commencement address at the graduation ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 28, 2014 in West Point, New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) 2014 Getty Images
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama heads to Warsaw, Brussels, Paris and Normandy this week where he is expected to elaborate on the U.S. commitment to counter Russian moves against Ukraine and reassure nervous allies the United States has their backs.
In Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbor, Obama meets with Eastern European leaders – including Ukraine’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, on Wednesday – and is expected to address criticism he has not done enough to push back against Moscow after it annexed Crimea in March.
The president’s trip follows a speech at the U.S. Military Academy last week in which he argued that American leadership in the world should be exercised mainly by diplomacy, multilateral action and economic pressure, as in Ukraine, rather than through military might.
“Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions,” Obama said.
But when Obama meets in Warsaw with leaders from 10 nations from Central and Eastern Europe, analysts say he will be urged to articulate a clearer plan to help prevent more instability in the region.
“There’s a concern that we will disappear, we will fade, when the next crisis hits us,” said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Obama has long faced calls from Eastern European statesmen to be more forceful, including from Lech Walesa, who led Poland’s Solidarity trade union movement that played a critical role in the overthrow of communism in the 1980s.
Walesa, a former Polish president, said in an interview on Poland’s TVN24 television network last week that he was disappointed in what he considered Obama’s insufficiently robust approach to the Ukraine crisis.
“The superpower has not been up to the job, and therefore the world is at a dangerous point and maybe it really is the case that lots of bad things are happening in the world because there is no leadership,” Walesa said.
Americans supported pro-democracy activists during martial law that was imposed in Poland in 1981, and backed their struggle for the first free elections 25 years ago, recalled Ryszard Schnepf, who was part of the Solidarity movement.
Obama’s visit is “kind of a sentimental treat to Poland” on the “Freedom Day” anniversary of those elections, Schnepf, now Poland’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview.
Poland is grateful for U.S. support in the current crisis, but leaders want more, he said. “We are supporting the idea of more engagement of the United States in the region,” he said.
Obama is slated to give an address on U.S.-European relations on Wednesday at the “Freedom Day” celebration.
The White House is considering ideas for more military “rotational deployments” or additional personnel in the region, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters.
But Obama is not expected to make major announcements on the trip. Rather, his mission is one of reassurance.
“What you’ve got with each stop is a lot of symbolism,” said James Goldgeier of American University’s School of International Service.
G7, NOT G8
After Poland, Obama heads to Brussels to meet with the G7. The summit of the major economic powers had originally been planned for Sochi in Russia until Moscow was suspended from the group – then the G8 – over the Ukraine crisis.
Russia has since taken steps to pull back troops it deployed at the border earlier this year and Ukraine’s presidential election went ahead without major problems, so it appeared unlikely the G7 would push for further economic sanctions against Moscow.
“At present, all partners are agreed that the goal is to move toward a de-escalation and no new sanctions are envisaged at this time,” an official in French President Francois Hollande’s office told Reuters.
“The idea is more to do all that we can to restore dialogue,” the official said.
Obama then heads to France on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches in the invasion that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will attend the ceremonies, is due to meet with Hollande in Paris on Thursday. Obama is also slated to dine with Hollande that evening, but the White House said Obama and Putin had no formal meetings scheduled.
(Additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw and Julien Ponthus in Paris; Editing by David Storey and Peter Cooney)
President Vladimir Putin has fiercely defended Russia’s move to annex Crimea today as Ukraine gears up for war.
In a televised address to the nation, he said that Crimea’s vote Sunday to join Russia is in line with international law, reflecting its right for self-determination.
He pointed at the example of Kosovo’s independence bid, supported by the West, and said that Crimea’s secession from Ukraine repeats Ukraine’s own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mr Putin denied Western accusations that Russia invaded Crimea prior to the referendum, saying Russian troops were sent there in line with a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a draft Bill for the annexation of Crimea
‘Don’t believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea,’ Putin said. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this.’
He also accused the United States of being guided in its foreign policy not by international law but by the ‘rule of the gun.’
‘Our Western partners headed by the United States prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun,’ he told a joint session of parliament.
‘They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.’
‘The (Crimean) issue has a vital importance, a historic importance for all of us,’ Mr Putin said after a standing ovation in an address to a joint session of parliament after approving a draft treaty to make Crimea part of Russia.’
He added: ‘Relations with Ukraine and the brotherly Ukrainian people have always been, remain, and will always be most important and crucial for us, without any exaggeration.’
Earlier, Mr Putin formally approved Russia’s annexation of Crimea by signing a decree which was then posted on the official government website. It is one of the steps which would formalise the annexation of Crimea.
The speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matvineko, told state-run Russia-24 TV that the process need not take long, the official news agency Itar-Tass reported.
The first volunteers enroll in the Ukraine National Guard in Kiev (left) and (right) pro-Ukrainian activists demonstrate during the European foreign affairs ministers council, near EU headquarters in Brussels
A man holding a Soviet era red flag salutes in front of the parliament building after the end of the referendum in Simferopol, Crimea
SHOTS FIRED AND UKRAINIAN AIR COMMANDER TAKEN IN CRIMEA
Armed men came to a Ukrainian military airfield in the Crimean peninsula, fired shots in the air and took away the base’s commanding officer, a military spokesman said.
The incident happened late on Monday at Belbek airport just outside the naval port of Sevastopol.
‘Unknown armed people came to the base late on Monday, shots were fired in the air and the commanding officer was taken away in an unknown direction,’ Vladislav Seleznov, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.
In a separate incident on Tuesday, a group of about 30 members of the so-called ‘Crimean Self-Defense’ came to a compound of apartment blocks that houses families of Ukrainian servicemen and took its commander away, Seleznov said.
‘They were there about 30 minutes … They took away the commander of the compound, Lt. Colonel Vladislav Nechiporenko, in a yellow mini-van,’ he said.
The two incidents could not be independently verified.
Seleznov could not say whether the incidents amounted to a violation of last week’s truce in Crimea reached between the defence ministries of Ukraine and Russia that is scheduled to last until March 21.
‘We shall be acting strictly in compliance with the law. The procedure will not take long. All can be done rather promptly,’ she is quoted as saying.
It comes as the leaders of the G8 world powers said today they have suspended Russia’s participation in the club amid the tensions, France’s foreign minister said today.
The other seven members of the group had already suspended preparations for a G8 summit that Russia is scheduled to host in Sochi in June.
France’s Laurent Fabius went further today, saying on Europe-1 radio that ‘concerning the G8… we decided to suspend Russia’s participation, and it is envisaged that all the other countries, the seven leading countries, will unite without Russia’.
Also today, Serhiy Taruta, governor of the eastern city of Donetsk, warned: ‘We’re going to have a war. Our people will take up arms and they will protect our country.
‘A short distance away, thousands of Russian troops have been carrying out manoeuvres for the past few days.
‘If they decide to come into Ukraine, this is the way they’ll come – and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.’
Today, Ukraine unveiled the first 500 recruits to its newly-formed National Guard and paraded them on Kiev’s Independence Square.
Ukraine’s military is trying to raise a force of 40,000.
The nation has only some 6,000 combat-ready soldiers, but parliament on March 17 approved $670million (£400million) in emergency funding.
On Sunday, Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. The West and Ukraine described the referendum, which was announced two weeks ago, as illegitimate.
A Ukrainian interim forces officer (right) talks to recruits during their exercises not far from Kiev
Ukraine’s parliament has approved the partial mobilisation of troops to counter ‘Russian interference’ on its soil
A Ukrainian interim forces officer (left) supervises recruits during a shooting exercise
THE KOSOVO WAR: FEBRUARY 1998 TO JUNE 1999
Kosovo is the disputed land which lies on the border of Serbia and Albania.
War broke out there in February 1998 when forces under Yugoslav President Solbodan Milosevic tried to suppress an campaign for independence by the ethnic Albanians in the country. Fighting continued in the region until June 1999.
A deal to end the crisis – negotiated by the international community in 1999 – was rejected by Milosevic.
His continued persecution of the Albanians prompted NATO to intervene, launching air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March of that year.
At the same time a campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting Kosovo Albanians began.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled across the border to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
After 11 weeks of Nato bombings, Milosevic was forced to withdraw his troops. The UN was put in charge, until agreement could be reached on whether Kosovo would become indepdent or revert to Serbian control.
In May 1999 Milosevic became the first serving head of state to be indicted for crimes against humanity, by the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Yesterday, the United States and the European Union announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimean crisis.
President Barack Obama warned that more would come if Russia did not stop interfering in Ukraine. Russian troops have been occupying the region for more than two weeks.
But the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin spoken out defiantly on the sanctions, threatening to move business elsewhere.
Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s largest oil company, told Russian news agencies today that he is not afraid of potential sanctions, calling them ‘evidence of powerlessness’.
Rosneft and Russian companies should not fear sanctions either, Mr Sechin insisted, saying ‘Russian companies can move their business elsewhere’ away from the US and Europe. Russia is a major oil supplier for Europe.
Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, told the BBC the sanctions were ‘pathetic’.
He said: ‘All that the international community has done so far is implement visa sanctions and asset freezes on 22 or 23 individuals – that is a pathetic response.’
Mr Rifkind, a senior lawmaker in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party, said the United States and European Union should get tougher with Putin, preferably with ‘very robust financial sanctions’.
‘Now it may be that as a result of what might happen that there will be a much tougher response including financial sanctions. If so that will be the right response,’ he said.
‘But I hear very disturbing signs that it is unlikely there will be European consensus on that: that we might say ‘well only if Russia invades eastern Ukraine will it be necessary to go further’. That would be a shameful and very dangerous response.’
Russia, however, still has a chance to back off. The treaty to annex Crimea has to be signed by leaders of Russia and Crimea, approved by the Constitutional Court and then be ratified by the parliament.
Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954.
Both Russians and Crimea’s majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.
Ukrainian interim forces officer new recruits learn techniques of unarmed combat
Kiev had called last week for the initial mobilisation of reservists and approved the creation of a new National Guard of 60,000 volunteers, as Russian forces encircled Ukrainian military bases in Crimea
New recruits: The nation has only some 6,000 combat-ready soldiers
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has hailed Crimea’s vote to join Russia as a ‘happy event’.
Mr Gorbachev said in remarks carried by online newspaper Slon.ru today that the vote offered Crimean residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will.
He said Sunday’s referendum showed that ‘people really wanted to return to Russia’ and was a ‘happy event’.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves as he arrives at the Okecie military airport in Warsaw, Poland
Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet President, has praised Mr Putin’s stance over the Crimea
He added that the Crimean poll has set an example for people in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, who should also decide their fate.
Mr Gorbachev, 83, who resigned as the Soviet president on Christmas Day 1991, has voiced regret that he was unable to stem the Soviet Union’s collapse.
He has criticised Mr Putin’s authoritarian policy, but said today that he supports his course in the Ukrainian crisis.
Ukrainian border guards patrol the road on the administrative border of Crimea and Ukraine not far the village of Strilkove in the Kherson region
Ukrainian border guards search a truck at a check point on the administrative border of Crimea and Ukraine
UKRAINE ‘WON’T SEEK MEMBERSHIP OF NATO’, NEW LEADERS SAYS
Ukraine’s new pro-Western leadership is not seeking membership of NATO, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said today.
Yatseniuk, who came to office after the removal of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, also said decentralisation of power was a key plank of government policy, adding Kiev’s efforts to integrate with Europe would take into account the interests of Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking industrial east.
‘Strictly with a view to maintaining Ukraine’s unity, the question of joining NATO is not on the agenda,’ Yatseniuk, who normally speaks in Ukrainian, said in a 10-minute televised appeal delivered in Russian.
‘The country will be defended by a strong, modern Ukrainian army.’
Kiev pursued a policy of closer ties with the U.S.-led NATO alliance before Yanukovich took power in 2010. Yanukovich then formally scrapped the idea of Ukraine’s eventual membership of NATO, declaring ‘non-bloc’ neutrality for his nation of 46 million sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.
Ukraine’s turmoil, which began in November with a wave of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and accelerated after he fled to Russia in late February, has become Europe’s most severe security crisis in years.
Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers have responded caustically to Western sanctions against officials involved in moves to annex Crimea, urging the United States and European Union to impose the same penalties on hundreds more members of parliament.
A declaration adopted unanimously by the State Duma lower house said: ‘We propose to Mr Obama and the … Eurobureaucrats to include all State Duma deputies who voted in favour of this resolution on the list of Russian citizens affected by U.S. and EU sanctions.’
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Poland on a trip designed to show America’s resolve against Russia’s intervention in neighbouring Ukraine.
He landed in Warsaw, where he planned to have talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski. He will also meet Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
The meetings with the Nato allies are part of a broader US campaign to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to back off in Ukraine. The US is imposing the most comprehensive sanctions against Russian officials since the Cold War.
Later today, Mr Biden will fly to the Baltic nation of Lithuania to meet President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.
Latvia and Estonia share borders with Russia, and Poland and Lithuania are nearby.
A man looks on as he walks past a billboard at a central business district in Beijing. Yuan-denominated debt sold by companies in the international market rose to 221 billion yuan ($36 billion) this year, from 16 billion yuan in 2009. Photograph by: WANG ZHAO , AFP/Getty Images
Traders say the yuan’s rise as the biggest move in global currency since the euro’s introduction
By Ye Xie, Maria Levitov and Fion Li, Bloomberg
Evidence the yuan is becoming truly global can be found in Rongrong Huo’s passport, which shows the HSBC banker bouncing from Switzerland to South Africa fielding inquiries from a growing number of clients on how they can trade China’s currency.
“The market potential is huge,” Huo, who heads HSBC’s yuan business development for Europe, said in an interview after returning to London from Warsaw. “Companies are asking, how can we make progress on this front? And investors are asking, how can we bring the yuan into our asset allocation? It’s encouraging to see the engagement. It’s about the future.”
Three years after China allowed the yuan to start trading in Hong Kong’s offshore market, banks and investors around the world are positioning themselves to get involved in what Nomura Holdings Inc. calls the biggest revolution in the $5.3 trillion currency market since the creation of the euro in 1999.
Daily yuan transactions surged to $120 billion in April from $34 billion in 2010, making it the ninth most-traded currency in the world, according to a September report by the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.
Merk Investments LLC in Palo Alto, Calif. said it’s adding “as much as” it can of offshore yuan to its $450 million of funds. Union Bank NA, a unit of Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., is pushing wealthy clients to diversify their savings into yuan deposits, while CME Group Inc., the largest futures exchange, began offering trading in offshore yuan derivatives in February.
International use of the yuan is increasing as the world’s second-largest economy opens up its capital markets. In the first nine months of this year, about 17 per cent of China’s global trade was settled in the currency, compared with less than one per cent in 2009, according to Deutsche Bank AG.
Yuan-denominated debt sold by companies in the international market rose to 221 billion yuan ($36 billion) this year, from 16 billion yuan in 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show. HSBC is the biggest underwriter of Dim Sum bonds, or debt denominated in yuan and sold offshore by issuers from French carmaker Renault SA to Seoul-based Korea Development Bank.
“The development of the yuan market is the biggest story for the foreign-exchange market in many years,” Stuart Oakley, Nomura’s head of currency cash trading for Asia outside Japan, said in an Oct. 24 phone interview from London. “I would compare it to the inception of the euro in terms of its significance.”
A sign of the currency’s growing global acceptance is that trading in offshore yuan forwards has eclipsed that of non- deliverable contracts, the dominant instrument for foreign investors to speculate on the exchange rate since the 1990s. The NDFs are settled in dollars, skirting China’s capital controls.
HSBC estimates the average daily trade in deliverable yuan forwards was $10 billion in October, up from $6 billion a year earlier, while it was little changed at $3 billion for NDFs.
“I prefer using the deliverable yuan for hedging because that market is now much deeper,” Ken Hu, who manages this year’s best-performing Dim Sum bond fund as chief investment officer at BOCHK Asset Management, said in an Oct. 22 phone interview. “The deliverable market is more about real commercial users so it’s more representative, while the non- deliverable ones are dominated by hedge-fund flows.”
While rising, the yuan’s share of global currency trading is still only about two per cent, compared with 87 per cent for the dollar, according to the BIS report. Daily volumes are less than for Mexico’s peso and about half those of Canada’s dollar.
Many banks and companies have yet to set up the necessary infrastructure to facilitate transactions, according to Derek Sammann, a senior managing director at Chicago-based CME.
“As part of the internationalization of any currency, you need global banking facilities to handle the payment of the underlying currency,” Sammann said in an Oct. 22 interview.
Kate McNally, a vice president at San Francisco-based Union Bank, said her bank is making progress in its push for offshore yuan business, with 150 per cent more transactions handled in the first nine months of this year than in the same period of 2012. She declined to disclose specific figures.
“Everyone is getting more comfortable with the currency and looking at it as a viable currency to diversify their portfolio,” McNally said in an Oct. 29 interview.
HSBC’s Huo said their presentations in smaller developing countries such as Turkey and Poland were met with similar interest to those in global financial centers, drawing thousands of corporate treasurers, lawyers, government officials and trade groups.
“It’s very broad interest,” Huo said. “The yuan business is linked so closely with the China story. You have to get there early.”
The People’s Bank of China now has currency-swap lines with more than 20 overseas counterparts, encouraging greater overseas use of the yuan for trade and finance.
In October, a 350 billion-yuan swap was agreed with the European Central Bank, while London won an 80 billion-yuan quota for the city’s investors to buy assets in China’s domestic markets and Singapore got a 50 billion-yuan limit. Plans were also announced to introduce direct trading with the yuan for both the British pound and Singapore dollar.
China’s currency has gained 2.1 per cent to 6.0992 per dollar in Shanghai this year, making it Asia’s best performer, and reached a 20-year high of 6.0802 on Oct. 25. The offshore exchange rate advanced 2.2 per cent.
Merk Investments boosted assets denominated in offshore yuan, known as CNH, to 31 per cent of its $44 million Asian Currency Fund as of Sept. 30, from 4.5 per cent a year earlier.
“We are using the CNH market as much as we can,” Axel Merk, founder of Merk Investments, said in an Oct. 21 phone interview. “The Chinese are taking all these small steps to open up the market.”
(Note: The following are remarks delivered by President Ronald Reagan on June 6, 1984 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy.)
We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.
Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.
Pointe du Hoc
And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”
I think I know what you may be thinking right now — thinking “we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.” Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren’t. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.
Lord Lovat was with him — Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, “Sorry, I’m a few minutes late,” as if he’d been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he’d just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.
There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.
All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland’s 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots’ Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England’s armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet,” and you, the American Rangers.
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought — or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.
Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: “Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.” Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.
When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance — a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.
In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They’re still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.
We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.
It’s fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.
We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.
We’re bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we’re with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States.