vladamir putin

Truce Declared, Forgotten in Chaotic Ukraine

Earlier today, protesters and the Ukrainian regime reached a fragile truce, so that negotiations could take place, but the truce seems to have gone up in flames. Protesters, wary that police would use the truce to move in on their positions and not allow them back, started tossing Molotov cocktails and more at the police, who responded with live fire.

Early estimates, admittedly from a medic working with the protesters, has up to 100 dead and many more wounded. According to the AP:

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood.

One of the wounded, volunteer medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, sent out a brief Twitter message — “I’m dying” — after being shot in the neck.

Protesters are believed to have somehow captured at least 67 police officers, who were seen being led by their captors to occupied city hall, where they are being held.

With today’s heavy tolls, at least 101 people have been killed so far this week in the country of 46 million. Today, the Western region of Lviv, situated closest to Europe, declared independence from Ukraine and its President Victor Yanukovich.

For those just noticing the escalating violence in the Eastern European country of Ukraine, protesters began in earnest several weeks ago, when Yanukovich spurned a $50 billion trade deal with the European Union, and instead renewed a trace pact with the country’s historic patron, Russia. Many in Ukraine, especially in Western regions, feel their country should integrate with the European Union and the West in General, while others remain loyal to Russia and President Yanukovich.

As always, this situation is developing extremely quickly, so stay tuned.


Sweet Dreams 2/19/2014

– Despite reports to the contrary, Scott Brown has renewed his contract with Fox News, indicating that he may have been scared away from running in his new-old home state of New Hampshire. When we last left him, conservative groups in the state were preparing ads to “dissuade” the former Massachusetts Senator from running one state to the north.

– As predicted, the 27,000 pages of emails, texts, and more surrounding an investigation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) have started to harvest some interesting material thanks to reporters who have, no doubt, been reading for hours. Of note: the investigation that spawned these 27,000 pages of documents was actually much wider than expected, as a local judge expanded the search to four of the Governor’s aides from the original one.

Possibly most damagingly, Walker aide Tom Nardelli, who since resigned his “$90,000 per year position” just days after taking it, sent an email that read:

“Say it isn’t so!!! I can handle being a black, disabled, one armed, drug-addicted, Jewish homosexual on a pacemaker who is HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, lives in a slum, and has a Mexican boyfriend, but please, Oh dear God, please don’t tell me I’m a Democrat.”

Yeesh, tough to imagine a message like that having much appeal to independents that want to see less venom in politics if Walker ever decides to run for some national office or something…

– Texas Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is getting a lot of grief, even from some on the center-right, for campaigning with unhinged right-wing nutjob Ted Nugent today. The belief that rhetoric like Nugent’s, such as “Subhuman Mongrel”, is what the Republican voters of Texas want to hear, is depressing. Abbott apparently believes Nugent is there to talk about the second amendment, not as an anti-Obama dog whistle to the right, “Sen. Davis knows she is suffering with voters because of her flipping and flopping on 2nd Amendment gun laws, and she knows that Ted Nugent calls her out on her disregard for Second Amendment rights”.

– Both the House and Senate are already considering sanction votes against the Ukraine in response to clashes in the country that killed at least 25 in the last two days. On the Senate side, Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut and John McCain of Arizona of the European Affairs Subpanel said:

“We have begun working together on legislation that would impose targeted sanctions on government officials and other persons who have committed, ordered, or materially supported acts of violence against peaceful citizens in Ukraine, or who are complicit in the rollback of Ukraine’s democracy,” McCain and Murphy said in a statement Wednesday. “These sanctions should not, and will not, target the people or the country of Ukraine as a whole. Instead, they will be narrowly focused on those individuals who must be held accountable for violating human rights and undermining democracy. We remain in contact with the Administration and look forward to working together on this legislation.”

Meanwhile, President Obama has promised “consequences” for those who “step over the line” in Ukraine, but no word yet on what that means, or if economic sanctions are on the table.


Ukraine Erupts With Violence, Protests

For at least three months, there has been a simmering showdown in the Ukraine (which is not weak!) between activists seeking to chart a new, more European, course for their country, and those loyal to the current regime and its leader, Viktor Yanukovych.

In the last two days, those simmering protests have erupted into wide scale violence across the country. Last night, as I watched the evening news here in America, I saw the country’s capital city, Kiev, alight with massive rows of fire, Molotov cocktails flying through the air in a hellish scene, all at around 4:30 in the morning Kiev time.

At last count, as a result of the violence of the last two days, at least 25 people have been killed and over 250 wounded. As of today, the countries embattled president named a new head of the Armed Forces to try and quell the “terrorist” uprising.

Of course, with protest movements as diverse and disparate as this one, listing grievances can be difficult, but in general, this situation boils down to the direction the country is headed. All of those protesters in the street would like to see Ukraine become more a part of the West and the European Union, and President Yanukovych, largely considered a puppet of Russian President Vladamir Putin, would seemingly like to remain, as they have been since the fall of the USSR, a satellite state of Russia.

The situation finally came to a head when Yanukovych turned down a $50 billion dollar trade pact with the European Union which Putin had been publicly critical of, and instead re-upped their $15 billion trade pact with Russia.

According to the European Commission, this is a partial list of things the Ukraine turned down in deciding to reject the European Union trade deal:

– “An eventual free trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU would save the country $670 million annually because of reduced EU import taxes. Ukraine would lose around $538 million in import duties coming from the EU.”

– “Ukraine’s agriculture sector would have benefited from cuts in duties: $45 million for agriculture products and $72 million for processed agriculture products. In addition, new market opportunities in the EU and higher production standards would help investment, stimulate the modernization of agriculture and improve labor conditions. Agriculture makes up 10 percent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product, a much higher share than in the major Western economies (in the U.S. it’s 2 percent).”

– “The industrial sector would have also benefited from the reduction of taxes on machinery and appliances by at least $103 million. Ukraine would also be able to cut duties on vehicles by $161 million.”

But what’s a billion dollars here or there when you get to have a good buddy like Putin?