Ukraine round-up

A pro-Russian man looks through a wall after breaking into the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Ukraine March 19, 2014

Ukraine PM says Crimea conflict enters military stage: Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Tuesday that the conflict in its Crimea peninsula, now under Russian control, had entered a military phase and accused Russia of committing a “war crime” by firing on Ukrainian servicemen.

Moscow signals concern for Russians in Estonia: Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian.

Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Crimean parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov and Sevastopol Mayor Alexei Chaliy shake hands after a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow March 18, 2014

Russia’s defence ministry says no more military checks from OSCE: Russia’s Defence Ministry was quoted as saying on Wednesday that the signatories of a 2011 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe agreement had exhausted their quotas to inspect Russian military facilities and a planned inspection in the coming days would be the last.

Russia, West trade accusations over 1994 Budapest Memorandum: Russia accused Western states of violating a pledge to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and political independence under a 1994 security assurance agreement, saying they had “indulged a coup d’état” that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich last month.

An Ukrainian soldier stands near an armored personnel carrier at a checkpoint near the village of Salkovo, in Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, March 18, 2014. The Latin words on his arm read: “If you want peace, prepare for war”

Rosneft warns West over Crimea sanctions, woos Japan: Igor Sechin, head of Russia’s state energy company Rosneft, warned the West on Wednesday that expanding sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region would only make the situation worse.

European leaders seek ways to curb dependence on Russian gas: European leaders will seek ways to cut their multi-billion-dollar dependence on Russian gas at talks in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, while stopping short of severing energy ties with Moscow for now.

An estimated 2,000 mourners gathered at Simferopol’s Abdal cemetery to lay Tatar Reshat Ametov to rest

Crimean Tatar community mourns death of tortured local activist

Russia’s Rosneft says no plans to cut activity in Ukraine

EU gives Ukraine 1 billion euros in aid, calls for economic reforms

Russia to cover Crimea’s $1.5 billion budget deficit with state funds

The Economist: The economic battleground:

The Ukrainian economy is a mess. Its currency, the hryvnia, has lost almost 20% of its value in the past month. Foreign-exchange reserves have tumbled to $15 billion, despite the imposition of capital controls. Bank deposits fell by more than 3% in the first half of February and, since the revolution, the government has imposed limits on further withdrawals. Tax revenues have collapsed and pension payments have been delayed.

The country was in poor-enough economic shape before all this: it was one of the reasons why Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed president, chose $15 billion in Russian loans over a deal with the European Union—the decision that led to his downfall. Having propped up the Ukrainian economy, Russia seems to have the power, as energy provider, trading partner and creditor, to cripple it.
[…]
Russia’s legal poison pills could make dealing with Ukraine’s debts harder at a time when they are sure to grow; without loans from the West the government will run out of money. If Ukraine had sensible economic policies such loans would be easily made, since the country’s current debt burden, at 47% of GDP, is not excessive. But Ukraine has almost never had sensible policies; it has profligate ones, and the investors who used to support that profligacy when Ukraine offered high interest rates and a stable currency are now nowhere to be seen…

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