Night Watch

Russian officials have arrived in Crimea with the message that Crimeans could claim Russian citizenship. Russian sailors and soldiers from the Russian Black Sea Fleet have been reported in Crimea, which some Ukrainians considered abnormal. However, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based at Sevastopol under a leasing arrangement with Ukraine.

Comment: Russia and Crimea appear to be preparing for Crimean secession from Ukraine and affiliation with Russia. If so, this would be the same punishment strategy that Russia used in Georgia. Russian annexation of Crimea in response to a local government request would be easier and easier to defend because of the presence of the Black Sea Fleet. Russian military forces do not need to invade to respond to a Crimean request for protection because they are already there.

Russian MFA Statement. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement of the Russian position on Ukraine. Excerpts follow. Grammar and awkward translations are as published by the Russians.

"Russia is extremely concerned about the development of the situation in Ukraine."

"There have been armed confrontations between violent youths, extreme right nationalist organizations and units of law enforcement agencies, who defended peaceful civilians and interests of the state, in the capital and several other cities recently."

"The agreement on settlement of the crisis in Ukraine of the 21 February is not observed despite the fact that its signature was certified by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Poland and France; in addition the United States, the European Union and other international bodies welcomed this document."

"Militants have not been unarmed; they refuse to leave the streets of cities, which are actually under their control; refuse to free administrative buildings; and continue acts of violence."

"We are surprised that several European politicians have already sprung to support the announcement of presidential elections in Ukraine this May, although the agreement of the 21 February envisages that these elections should take place only after the completion of the constitutional reform. It is clear that for this reform to succeed all the Ukrainian political forces and all regions of the country must become its part, but its results should be approved by a nationwide referendum. We are convinced that it is necessary to fully take into account concerns of deputies of eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, the Crimea and Sevastopol, which were expressed at the conference in Kharkov on the 22 February."

"We are deeply concerned about the actions in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (parliament) in terms of their legitimacy. Actually referring to the "revolutionary appropriateness" only, they are stamping "decisions" and "laws", including those aimed at deprivation of humanitarian rights of Russians and other national minorities living in Ukraine."

"There are calls to prohibit the Russian language almost fully, lustration, liquidation of parties and organizations, closing of undesirable mass media, removal of restrictions for propaganda of Nao-Nazi ideology."

"The course is to suppress those, who do not agree to this, in different Ukrainian regions by dictatorship and even terrorist methods. There are threats to Orthodox sanctities (sic). National radicals continue to scoff at monuments in different Ukrainian cities, while like-minded persons in some European countries besmear memorials to Soviet warriors."

"Such development of events disrupts the Agreement of the 21 February, discredits its initiators and guarantors, and creates a threat to civil peace, stability in the community and safety of nationals."

"We are forced to note that some of our western partners are not concerned about the fate of Ukraine, but rather their own unilateral geopolitical considerations. There are no principled assessments of criminal actions of extremists, including their Neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic manifestations. All the more so, such actions are intentionally or unintentionally promoted."

"We cannot but get a sustainable impression that the Agreement of the 21 February with silent consent of all its external sponsors is used as a cover only to promote the scenario of change of Ukrainian power by force through the creation of 'facts on the ground', without any wish to search for a Ukraine-wide consensus in the interests of national peace. We are especially worried about the attempts to involve international structures, including the UN Secretariat, into the approval of this position."

"We insistently appeal to all those who are part of this crisis in Ukraine to demonstrate maximum responsibility and to prevent further degradation of the situation, to return it to the ambit of the law, and to decisively stop those extremists, who are seeking power."

Comment: The statement makes clear that the Russians judge that European and US officials used the 21 February agreement as cover for a lawless takeover of government and that was a betrayal of trust. They note that lawlessness continues, including by neo Nazis and anti-Semites, who still want power. They judge the actions of the Ukrainian parliament are not legitimate.

Russia's relations with Europe and the US have sustained a major setback.

Russia-Ukraine war of words.

Russia. Members of the Russian parliament have made strong statements of commitment to Russians in Ukraine. One example follows.

On 25 February the chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots said, "In this situation, we will not only not abandon those who have found themselves in such a situation. In the next few days, literally, in the State Duma we will work out an effective set of measures that will enable not only Crimeans, but also all Russians in Ukraine, those who do not want to break away from the Russian world, from Russia... (sic)."

"We will be able to make sure that all these problems are overcome. I think that in the event of any provocation against residents of Ukraine's east, south-east and the Republic of Crimea, we will also take appropriate measures."

"We are here today to stress once again that we have always been and will be together with our brothers, together with Crimeans," the Russian MP noted.

Ukraine. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the Fatherland faction in the Ukraine parliament, reminded Russia about the guarantees of Ukraine's territorial security enshrined in the Budapest Memorandum and called on Moscow not to abuse the complicated situation in Sevastopol." He called on all the signatory nations of the Budapest Memorandum to respect guarantees of territorial security.

Comment: Crimea is emerging as the focus of confrontation and the prize.

Iran-Iraq: News services reported that Iran has signed an agreement to sell arms and ammunition worth $195 million to Iraq. The spokesperson for the US State Department said, "If true, this would raise serious concerns. ... Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of UNSCR 1747. We are seeking clarification on the matter from the government of Iraq and to ensure that Iraqi officials understand the limits that international law places on arms trade with Iran."

Comment: The spokesperson noted that the US has provided more than $15 billion in arms aid to Iraq. If Iran and Saudi Arabia are making long term contingency preparations for a Sunni vs Shiite showdown in the future, the US as well as China will have armed both sides of the fight.

As for the Iranian sale, it is probably faster and easier for Iraq to buy ammunition from Iran than from any other vendor.

South Sudan: Colonel Philip Aguer Panyang, Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesperson, briefed the public on a rebel attack under the supervision of rebel leader Riek Machar near the SPLA position in Golguk yesterday morning and said the attack was repulsed and 70 rebel soldiers were killed. General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of the Republic of South Sudan, congratulated the SPLA officers.

Comment: This is the second defeat for Machar's fighters in a week.

Venezuela: For the record.Only sporadic protests were reported in Caracas in middle class neighborhoods and some looting in other towns. President Marduro has called for a peace conference on Mondayand invited all concerned groups. Thus far, the opposition leadership has declined the invitation.

Maduro is considering declaring Thursdayand Fridaynational holidays in anticipation of Carnival next week, apparently judging that a long holiday will ease tension.

End of NightWatch

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