Ukraine Liveblog Day 23: Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Meets Obama

March 12, 2014 protest of internet censorship in Russia
"I'm Russian, my country is Ukraine and I love her" | @BSpringnote

“I’m Russian, my country is Ukraine and I love her” | @BSpringnote

The Ukrainian Prime Minister meets with President Barack Obama, while the Russian government works to control the message on Ukraine.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see see our latest podcast.

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Below, we will be making regular updates throughout the day:

1915 GMT And then there’s this…

1903 GMT: More evidence of Russian troops on the move north of Kharkiv, close to the border with Ukraine:


And a reader sends us this video:

We’ve yet to geolocate these troop movements, but they are now fairly widely reported.

Meanwhile, a journalist has filmed a column of 20 armored personnel carriers 1 kilometer ferry crossing in Crimea. The convoy may have landed in Crimea today, and is staging nearby:

1855 GMT: VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky travels to the front lines of both the Ukrainian military and the Russian and pro-Russian military near the intersection of Crimea and mainland Ukraine. It’s a must-watch:

1846 GMT: Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and a member of the Ukrainian Rada, has reported to journalists on a phone conversation with Vladimir Putin. Echo Moskvy reports that:

As Dzhemilev told Ukrainian journalists, in Putin’s words, Ukraine’s self-declaration of independence was not entirely consistent with Soviet norms, which provided a procedure for seceding from the Union.

1844 GMT: Aleksandr Lukashenko, President of Belarus, has come out in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in a move designed, according the BBC Russian Service, to “spite the Kremlin”. Lukashenko, who has remained in power as a dictator since the fall of the USSR, had previously asserted the necessity of Ukraine’s territorial integrity on February 23, prior to Russia’s invasion:

Ukraine must be whole. Nobody should split up this great country

At a meeting today of the Belarusian Security Council, Lukashenko reiterated his support for Ukraine’s integrity, rejecting criticism that he was under thumb of the Kremlin:

There is no pressure on me, noone from the Kremlin or anywhere else ever pressured me.

He said that Belarus would continue to supply and assist Ukraine with food, energy and humanitarian needs.

However Lukashenko’s opposition to the Kremlin’s line comes on the same day that he asked Russia to provide up to 15 additional fighter jets for Belarus’ air defence, as reported by The Moscow Times:

“There is in fact an escalation of the situation near our borders. … We will respond to it appropriately,” Lukashenko told a meeting of the Belarussian Security Council.

He proposed asking Moscow for additional combat aircraft to reinforce the four Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jets based at the Baranovichi airbase.

“It could be some 12-15 planes for now. … They could be put on patrols,” Lukashenko said.

1825 GMT: Russian troops are reportedly on the move near the border with Ukraine. This picture was reportedly taken today in the Belgorad Oblast, about 20 kilometers from the border with Ukraine near Kharkiv (approximate map):


In the same area, pictures and video show large quantities of troops, tanks, and armored vehicles on the move:


On the border with Crimea, Ukrainian troops are also reportedly digging in. Belcat News, an independent news station from Belarus, gives this report (with English subtitles) though we have not yet found a second source to confirm the position of the Ukrainian military near the border with Crimea:


Meanwhile, in Crimea:



1615 GMT: Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister is meeting with US President Barack Obama today, and will be speaking later:

1547 GMT: A snapshot of the Russian economy in three charts. Government bonds are way down:


The Russian MICEX index is down another 2.77% today, following a fairly consistent trend over the last several weeks:

INDEXCF Quote   MICEX Index   Bloomberg

And the Russian ruble has lost some additional value today. Though the loss is not significant, the trend is:


1534 GMT: The Kyiv Post has a very interesting article containing multiple CCTV feeds from outside Yanukovych’s residence. One may recall that the ousted President met with opposition leaders on February 21st, signed a deal with them, and then fled the capital city that night. He now resides in Russia, and says that he fled Kiev when protesters threatened to storm his offices the following day.

But this new evidence may poke holes in that timeline:

The series of closed-circuit videos show the deposed president had plenty of help planning his Kyiv exit days in advance and even oversaw the operation himself in the hours ahead of his final departure late on Feb. 21, following negotiations with opposition leaders and foreign ministers earlier in the day, at which time an exit strategy to the more than three-months-long political conflict was agreed upon.

Some screenshots from one of the videos, showing some of the weapons evacuated from Yanukovych’s home:

yanukovych guns

yanukovych gun

If Yanukovych was planning on fleeing Ukraine before he met with the opposition leaders, this undercuts his argument that he only fled when the opposition failed to live up to its side of the bargain.

1519 GMT: The Russian Defense Ministry says that the attempt by the “illegitimate Kyiv authorities” to prosecute the Russian commander of the Black Sea Fleet is a provocation that could destabilize Crimea, ” the calmest and most stable region of Ukraine.”

“The Black Sea Fleet commander does his duties on lawful grounds and in strict compliance with the Russian-Ukrainian agreements regarding the deployment of the Russian fleet on the Ukrainian territory and the Russian Armed Forces regulations,” [Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov] said.

“Against the backdrop of constant threats of violent actions of ultra-nationalists, he is taking necessary measures to protect the sites of deployment of Black Sea Fleet units and residencies of servicemen and their families and to give them reliable protection and security,” the deputy minister said.

1507 GMT: A deescalation? RT reports:

In a confidence-building step, Russia’s Defense Ministry has given permission for a surveillance flight by Ukraine over Russian territory near the border between the countries. Kiev had claimed Moscow was building up its military presence there.

“The Ukrainians have asked for an unscheduled observation flight over our territory,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Moscow.

Russia and Ukraine are entitled to surveillance flights over each other’s territories following the Open Skies treaty signed in 1992, but Antonov said that Kiev had never asked for one before, and that he was “under no obligation” to allow it immediately.

“We have decided to allow such a flight. We hope that our neighbors are assured that there is no military activity that threatens them on the border.”

1450 GMT: Lenta’s well-respected editor has been replaced by a pro-Kremlin manager:

1430 GMT: We’re starting today with some media news. Russia has very few independent media outlets, and despite the fact that we’ve been covering the Russian media for some time, we’ve never really seen the Russian state-controlled media on the same page like it has been during this crisis. In other words, though the Russian state-controlled media often echoes the “party line,” it’s usually far less obvious that it is constantly receiving specific marching orders.

So this news about, an independent media outlet, is disturbing. The outlet was given a warning from the Russian government because of an interview they conducted with the leader of Ukraine’s Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh. Kyiv Post reports:

It said the edition published Ilya Azar’s interview with Andriy Tarasenko, the leader of the Kyiv branch of Ukraine’s nationalist organization Right Sector, on March 10. The interview was entitled, “We are not armed forces.”

“The interview contained a link to the material ‘Dmytro Yarosh: We are Destined to Fight the Moscow Empire Sooner or Later,'” the press service said.

“The texts of the aforesaid materials contained wording that incites ethnic discord. The publication of nationalist appeals of the leaders of the informal extremist group, one of whom has been put on the international most wanted list by the Russian law enforcement authorities, violates a number of provisions of the Russian laws ‘On the Deterrence of Extremism,’ ‘On Information, Information Technologies and Information Security’ and ‘On Mass Media,'” Roskomnadzor stressed.

Now Lenta’s editor has apparently been forced to resign:

We have translated an article that was published by the Russian government-operated daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, seen as a direct mouthpiece for the Kremlin. It talks. It talks at length about Yarosh, and his desire to run for President, but it is filled with inaccuracies and distortions, some of which we have pointed out.

Read Yarosh is Spoiling for a Fight: Russian media launches a full attack against the leader of Ukraine’s Right Sector