Archive for February, 2014

February 28, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: Will Russia invade Ukraine?

BBC News - Asia

Ukraine Crisis:  Will Russia invade Ukraine?

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By Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent

Could Russia intervene militarily in Crimea to safeguard its strategic interests? Or, to put the question a different way, has Russia already intervened?


  • Autonomous republic within Ukraine
  • Transferred from Russia in 1954
  • Ethnic Russians – 58.5%
  • Ethnic Ukrainians – 24.4%
  • Crimean Tatars – 12.1%

Source: Ukraine census 2001

Nobody yet knows the identities of the armed men who seized control of Simferopol airport.

But their equipment, their vehicles and their behaviour all signal that this is a trained military unit, not a rag-tag group of pro-Russian loyalists.

“These men look like a formed and organised body of troops. They appear to be disciplined, confident and uniformly dressed and equipped,” says Brigadier Ben Barry, a land warfare expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

“Irregular militia may obtain bits of official kit but they tend to look like a military jumble sale.”

All we know is that what looks to be a military unit has secured the airport in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital.

This comes against a background of deepening tensions, with the Russians working through a predictable play-book of threats and menaces aimed at the new interim authorities in Ukraine.

Combat aircraft in areas bordering Ukraine are on alert. Snap military exercises have been held to demonstrate the readiness of Russian forces.

Misleading comparisons

There have been economic threats too, for example to increase customs duties at the two countries’ border along with widespread rhetoric warning of the threats to Russian minorities, orthodox religious shrines and so on.

An unidentified armed man patrols a square in front of the airport in Simferopol
Nobody yet knows who the armed men at Simferopol airport are

So far, it looks much like the preliminaries to the Russian assault on Georgia back in 2008.

Then, of course, the Georgian military did the Russians the favour of moving first into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia sparking a furious Russian response.

But comparisons can be misleading.

Georgia was a small country that had deeply irritated Moscow and one that could do little to respond against Russia’s overwhelming military might.

Many experts believe a similar full-scale Russian intervention in Ukraine is unlikely.

Given the size of Ukraine and the divisions within its population, it would simply saddle Russia with involvement in what might rapidly become a bitter civil war.

Russian pressure at the moment serves a different goal.

Ukraine is heading towards bankruptcy. It needs outside funding. Moscow knows that Western financial institutions must play some kind of role.

Its concern is to underline in as clear terms as possible that any future Ukrainian government should tilt as much towards Moscow as it does to the EU.

Russia’s bottom line is that Kiev should resist any temptation to draw towards Nato.

Map of Black Sea Fleet key locations

Crimea though is another matter. For a start the Russian military does not need to invade – it is already there, leasing facilities from the Ukrainian authorities.

The bulk of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea with its headquarters in Sevastopol.

Russian naval personnel come and go in Sevastopol as if it were a Russian city. The navy dominates the town.

While largely made up of naval personnel, the Black Sea Fleet also has a contingent of marines and there have been a series of reports suggesting that Russian forces in and around Sevastopol have been bolstered in recent days.

Crimea has a very large pro-Russian population, who are probably in the majority.

Many Russian naval personnel have retired there – and it is distanced physically and politically from Kiev.

Russian pressure in Crimea again serves Moscow’s wider purpose of reminding Ukraine’s new rulers that Moscow’s concerns must be considered in any future economic and diplomatic arrangements.

February 28, 2014

OPINION: Can the protests fix Thailand’s inequality?

OPINION: Can the protests fix Thailand’s inequality?

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Tan Hui Yee
The Straits Times, Asia News Network.  February 28, 2014 1:00 am

The events unfolding in Bangkok have all the elements of a slow-motion finale to Thailand’s political drama: The civil court has banned the caretaker government from dispersing street protesters who have been targeted by armed men.

Angry rice farmers are demanding overdue payments from a government that cannot sell stockpiled rice fast enough. And Premier Yingluck Shinawatra stands to be relieved of her duties after an unusually snappy investigation into her alleged negligence.

Protest leaders tout this as an uprising by the muan mahaprachachon, the people, against her brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who calls the shots for the ruling Pheu Thai party from abroad. A comparatively silent swathe of Thailand’s population sees it as a veiled effort by elites to impose their views on the electoral majority.

The intriguing part of this divisive landscape is that everyone agrees Thailand seriously needs reform. Asean’s second largest economy is one of the most unequal societies in Asia. In 2011, the most recent year for which official figures are available, its Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of inequality, stood at 0.484. This was lower than Hong Kong’s 0.537 that year, but higher than the United States’ 0.475. The Gini yardstick ranges from zero to one, with higher values meaning more inequality. Singapore’s Gini coefficient last year was 0.463.

Chulalongkorn University economist Pasuk Phongpaichit laid bare more figures in a forum last month: About 100,000 bank accounts, each with more than US$300,000, account for nearly half the value of all bank deposits in the country. Yet these accounted for just 0.5 per cent of the total number of bank accounts. The top 10 per cent of landowners own 61 per cent of total title land, she noted.

Land that is not put to commercial use is subject to negligible taxes but there have been no serious attempts to raise them because most politicians are among the top landowners, said Pasuk.

Respected economist Ammar Siamwalla said that people fixated with the idea of a class war tend to forget that politicians themselves form “a very deep important class”. “These guys are very expensive to maintain, and there are so many of them.”

According to latest figures filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Yingluck is worth Bt603 million ($18 million), while Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has assets worth Bt54 million. Protest spokesman Akanat Promphan, a former Democrat legislator, has net assets of Bt101 million and drives a 4.4-million-baht car.

Very unequal societies, say academics, are prone to populism because such policies give quick relief to a broad base of low-income earners. Hence the Pheu Thai government’s two-year-old programme to buy rice from farmers at overly inflated prices, or its tax rebates for first-car buyers.

But these ailments are not exclusively associated with any particular political party. And they have bred a deep cynicism among Thais about the state of the country’s politics, a cynicism that has helped to swell the ranks of protesters.

Last month, 50-year-old Wanvipa Chokmongkol was among the tens of thousands who flooded Bangkok to “shut down” the city. She declared: “I don’t want elections; they have never given us a good government.”

She did not vote in the last election in 2011, because she did not think any party was good enough.

This view is fairly typical among the first-time protesters interviewed by the Straits Times. Sick of politicians, they had joined the whistle-blowing crowds in the hope of overhauling the entire system.

While they did not entirely trust protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban – a former Democrat tainted by graft allegations – they had warmed to his vow to give up politics after forcing Yingluck out. To them, Suthep was somewhat less repugnant than ousted former premier Thaksin, who lives in Dubai to evade a jail sentence for corruption.

Seasoned observers of Thailand’s political upheavals say the crisis is simply part of the growing pains of a young democracy.

Tos Chirathivat, the chief executive of the Central retail and hotel group whose flagship CentralWorld mall in downtown Bangkok was torched during the last bout of protests in 2010, hopes it will create more accountability. In the long term, “the people will be better in terms of choosing the candidates and the candidates will be better in terms of serving the people”, he says.

How Thailand eventually gets there is the question. Reversing inequality takes years if not decades, and the steady hand of a government with a genuine mandate. With the February 2 polls sabotaged by the protesters, Yingluck being hounded out of her temporary office, and a slew of names for a “credible” unelected replacement being increasingly bandied about, the fear is that genuine reform will once again be held hostage to politics.

February 28, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: Yanukovych says he will not ask Russia to intervene militarily in Ukraine

Yanukovych says he will not ask Russia to intervene militarily in Ukraine

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By , Updated: Friday, February 28, 9:44 AM

MOSCOW — Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych said Friday he had no intention of asking for Russian military intervention in Ukraine, blamed the chaos there on Western manipulation and said he would not return to his country until his security could be guaranteed.

Speaking in Russian at a news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on–Don, Yanukovych insisted he remains the legitimate president of Ukraine and that he did not order police to fire on demonstrators. He said Russia should intervene in the Ukrainian crisis, although he said he could not say how.

“It would not be correct on my part to say what Russia needs to do,” Yanukovych said in his first public appearance since he fled Ukraine, turning up in Moscow this week. “But Russia cannot stand aside, it cannot be indifferent to the destiny of such a big partner as Ukraine,” he said.

“Russia needs to use all the leverage it has to prevent the chaos and terror in Ukraine,” he added. “It’s hard for me to give any kind of tips. I do not accept any attempt at intervention that would violate the integrity of Ukrainian sovereignty.”

“I believe that Russia will act,” he said. “Since I know the character of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I am surprised he has kept silent. This is a big question.”

Yanukovych said he never ordered police to shoot at demonstrators in Kiev. Nearly 90 people were killed last week when security forces cracked down on anti-government demonstrators, opening fire on them in bloody street clashes.

He complained that an agreement he signed with opposition leaders Feb. 21 had not been enforced, talking as if the events of the last week — notably his ouster by a parliamentary vote and the selection of a new president and cabinet — had never happened.

“No one has deposed me,” he said. “I was forced to leave Ukraine because of the threat to my life and the lives of my relatives.”

He said he left the country by making his way by car from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine to the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous region with a largely pro-Russian population.

“Here’s how I came to Russia,” he said. “I came here thanks to patriotically minded officers. That’s how I’m going to put it. They did their duty and they helped me stay alive.”

He said he had not met Putin since his arrival in Russia.

“When I ended up in Russia, I had a phone call with him,” Yanukovych said. “We agreed once the president of Russia has an opportunity, we will meet, but I don’t know when this will happen.”

Yanukovych said he was in Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border, because he had a friend who lives near there.

Authorities in Switzerland and Austria, meanwhile, moved Friday to block any assets that Yanukovych and his son Aleksander might have hidden in those countries, news agencies reported. The Swiss launched a corruption investigation against them focused on what prosecutors described as “aggravated money laundering.”

Austria said it was freezing the bank accounts of the Viktor and Aleksander Yanukovych and 16 other people linked to Ukraine’s former government pending a European Union decision on whether to impose sanctions on them.

February 28, 2014

Ukraine crisis: Ukrainian ex-leader Viktor Yanukovych vows fightback


Ukraine crisis: Ukrainian ex-leader Viktor Yanukovych vows fightback

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28 February 2014 Last updated at 09:51 ET

Viktor Yanukovych said he would continue to fight for Ukraine’s future

Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych has made his first public appearance since being ousted last week, telling a news conference in Russia he would fight for his country.

He said he was “not overthrown”, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life.

Those who drove him from power were “young neo-fascist thugs”, he said.

He said current tensions in Crimea were “understandable” but stated his desire for Ukraine to remain united.

The focus of unrest in Ukraine has shifted to the Russian-majority Crimea region since Mr Yanukovych was ousted by Western-leaning opponents last Saturday.

It followed a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters who had taken over central Kiev since Mr Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in favour of one with Russia last November.

On Friday, Ukraine accused Russia of carrying out an “armed invasion” in Crimea by sending naval forces to occupy Sevastopol airport. Moscow has denied the claims.


“I intend to continue to struggle for the future of Ukraine, against terror and fear,” Mr Yanukovych told the news conference in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

“I can’t find words to characterise this new authority. These are people who advocate violence – the Ukrainian parliament is illegitimate.

“What’s going on now is lawlessness, lack of authority, and terror. Decisions in parliament were taken under duress.”

He apologised to the Ukrainian people for not having “enough strength to keep stability” and for allowing “lawlessness in this country”.

He insisted he did not “flee anywhere”, explaining that his car was shot at as he left Kiev for the north-east city of Kharkiv and he was forced to move around Ukraine amid fears for the safety of himself and his family.

He said he arrived in Russia “thanks to a patriotically minded young officer” and was given refuge in Rostov, near the Ukrainian border, by an old friend.

Speaking in Russian, Mr Yanukovych said he would return to Ukraine “as soon as there are guarantees for my security and that of my family”.

But he ruled out taking part in elections planned for 25 May, describing them as “illegal”.

And he made clear his view that the only way out of the crisis is to implement an EU-backed compromise agreement he signed with opposition leaders last week before he was deposed.

He said the current turmoil in Crimea was “an absolutely natural reaction to the bandit coup that occurred in Kiev” and added that he was surprised by the restraint shown by Russian President Vladimir Putin so far.

But he also stressed that “military action in this situation is unacceptable” and said he wanted Crimea to remain part of Ukraine.

Earlier, Ukraine’s general prosecutor said he would ask Russia to extradite Mr Yanukovych on suspicion of mass murder following the deaths of more than 80 people in last week’s violent clashes between protesters and the police.

In other developments:

  • Amid fears of hyperinflation, Ukraine’s central bank has put a 15,000 hryvnia (1,000 euro; £820) limit on daily cash withdrawals
  • Ukraine’s parliament calls on the UN Security Council to discuss the unfolding crisis in Crimea.
Armed men patrol at the airport in Simferopol, Crimea on 28 February  2014.
Armed men carrying Russian navy flags arrived at Simferopol airport in several trucks
Armed man at Simferopol airport
They have declined to say who they are, and are wearing no identifying insignia
Unidentified men - whom the Ukrainian interior minister says are Russian Naval troops - block a road to a military airport Belbek not far from Sevastopol
Men whom Ukraine says are Russian naval troops have also blocked roads to Sevastopol airport
February 28, 2014

I’m Little…But I’m a Great Winner

Save Our Beautiful Nature

(Laos is our beautiful Mother land)

Music composed by Ennio Morricone
Song by Celtic Women
For 2 years in Quebec, the population of this magnificent butterfly whom is the Monarch decreased in 80 %, because of the global warming
Thank you so much for your action for save our planet…Please share this video
If you like our Earth

I’m Little…But I’m a Great Winner

National Geographic does some incredible work, I should say their camera man does the incredible work.

Save our Mother Earth

A wonderful video you made ..Mother Earth is Beautiful …thank you for sharing
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