Ukraine rebels defy Moscow, plan Sunday plebiscite on independence

posted at 8:41 am on May 8, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Has Vladimir Putin’s writ stopped running in eastern Ukraine? Probably not, even though the separatists in eastern Ukraine hoisting the Russian flag on government buildings refused to take his advice offered yesterday to postpone a referendum on independence. Forces in Donetsk and Luhansk announced that the plebiscite would take place anyway, although the methodology will hardly be credible:

Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine decided to go ahead with a Sunday referendum on greater local powers, they said Thursday, defying a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone the vote.

Putin had urged the pro-Russia sympathizers to delay the May 11 referendum in order to give dialogue “the conditions it needs to have a chance.”

Representatives from the council of the self-declared Donetsk’s People’s Republic and separatists from Luhansk told reporters they have voted to press ahead with the referendum to ask eastern Ukrainian residents living there if they want sovereignty from Kiev. …

Asked about Putin’s plea on Wednesday as pressure mounts to defuse the escalating Ukrainian crisis, Denis Pushilin, the self-declared chairman of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said the comments were “surprising” but he respected him.

Just how, exactly, will this plebiscite take place? Who gets to vote, and how? Rebels may have taken over government buildings, but they haven’t assumed governance yet. Ukrainian security forces are still within the “precincts,” which will make organizing a vote in three days just a wee bit problematic, to say the least. Putin’s “advice” was more than just a late nod to diplomacy; it also was a recognition of reality.

The West continued to be unimpressed with Putin as well. This morning, NATO’s top civilian officer said he sees no evidence that Putin has withdrawn Russian forces from the border of Ukraine, nearly a day after Putin claimed to have done so:

“Let me assure you that if we get visible evidence that they are actually pulling back their troops, I will be the very first to welcome it,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Warsaw.

“I have to repeat that while we have noticed the Russian statements that they have started to withdraw troops, so far we haven’t seen any, any indications that they’re pulling back,” he said after talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Late yesterday, Barack Obama withdrew Russia’s favored trading status two years ahead of schedule, increasing the economic pressure on Putin — at least a little. Obama didn’t mention the Ukraine crisis in his letter informing Congress of the change, but the White House connected the dots afterward:

President Obama on Wednesday announced that he was removing Russia from a list of countries whose exports receive preferential treatment when entering the U.S. Goods coming from countries that are part of the Generalized System of Preferences are allowed into the U.S. on a duty-free basis in order to “promote economic growth in the developing world,” according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

In a message to Congress delivered Wednesday, The President wrote, “I have determined that it is appropriate to withdraw Russia’s designation as a beneficiary developing country under the GSP program because Russia is sufficiently advanced in economic development and improved in trade competitiveness that continued preferential treatment under the GSP is not warranted.”

Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said that Russia had been scheduled to come off the list in early 2016, but that the president had determined to make the move ahead of schedule. “Russia’s actions regarding Ukraine, while not directly related to the president’s decision regarding Russia’s eligibility for GSP benefits, make it particularly appropriate to take this step now,” she said.

While not a crippling blow, trade with the U.S. accounts for a non-trivial 5 percent of Russia’s total exports, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Observatory of Economic Complexity.

It’s not a crippling blow, but it’s the first indication we’ve seen of systemic sanctions against Moscow rather than just targeted sanctions against Putin’s cronies. It also signals that the White House isn’t buying Putin’s claims of withdrawal. This moves comes late, but it’s still worth taking — and hopefully will soon be followed by more economic isolation to slow down Putin’s ambitions for a new Russian empire.


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Nope

50sGuy on May 8, 2014 at 8:44 AM

“Defy” should be in scare quotes. Putin’s call for a delay is merely for foreign consumption.

Steve Eggleston on May 8, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Yawn – Putin

workingclass artist on May 8, 2014 at 8:51 AM

The sheer idiocy of sanctions against Russia is a delusion supported by the administration and cheerfully maintained by useful idiots on the right. How can the sanctions possibly harm the Russian regime? The only exports they have are of oil, gas, and metals – goodies that Chinese will welcome with open arms if Europe refuses. As for imports, China can supply Russians with pretty much anything. The only possible action that would dent The Bear is confiscation of bank assets and real estate owned by Russians but that will at best lead to reciprocal confiscation of all American assets and intellectual property, and at worst would be seen as a declaration of war.

Rix on May 8, 2014 at 8:53 AM

I thought Obama was still spiking the football over this?

ConstantineXI on May 8, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Donetsk People’s Republic

Terrific

forest on May 8, 2014 at 8:53 AM

The US should offer up Jimmy Carter as a poll watcher.

Happy Nomad on May 8, 2014 at 8:54 AM

“Defy” should be in scare quotes. Putin’s call for a delay is merely for foreign consumption.

Steve Eggleston on May 8, 2014 at 8:49 AM

I’m not buying it either. Now he can just shrug and say, “Gee whiz, I told them not to, but they just wouldn’t listen.”

forest on May 8, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Just how, exactly, will this plebiscite take place? Who gets to vote, and how?

It’ll be just like elections in democrat precincts here. No ID check, but there will be armed men in the doorway deciding who can come in.

forest on May 8, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Barack Obama withdrew Russia’s favored trading status two years ahead of schedule, increasing the economic pressure on Putin

According to the Census Bureau, for all of 2013 we exported $11.2 billion of goods (mainly machinery) to Russia while importing $27 billion (almost all oil). In contrast, our export/import amount with Mighty Mexico was $226 bn/$280 bn.

Yeah, Putin’s really quaking in his furry boots over this.

dreadnought62 on May 8, 2014 at 9:08 AM

I’m sure that the New Black Panther’s will be there to assist…

PatriotRider on May 8, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Russia also held military drills simulating a Russian retaliatory nuclear ICBM strike in Kamchatka.

antisense on May 8, 2014 at 9:18 AM

dreadnought62 on May 8, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Zerohedge had a great breakdown of this last week that showed all the major Russian companies targeted have more than enough reserve money to stay afloat, and new opportunities to trade with the other BRICs. This is why sanctions are a joke in todays global economy.

Scottie on May 8, 2014 at 9:19 AM

This is why sanctions are a joke in todays global economy.

Scottie on May 8, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Sanctions: The preferred action for those petrified of taking action.

dreadnought62 on May 8, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Dog Eater is beating the living hell out of that reset button right about now.

“What the eff is WRONG with this thing??? Work, damn you!”

Bishop on May 8, 2014 at 9:31 AM

See those soviet bloc concrete apartments behind the protesters in the pic on the main page? That is precisely how the democrat leadership thinks each and every one of you should live.

Murphy9 on May 8, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Putin’s “advice” was more than just a late nod to diplomacy; it also was a recognition of reality.

Gawd, I hate to say it, but every day I have more of a grudging respect for the man…

JohnGalt23 on May 8, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Murphy9, good point. The new import/export agreement being held out as a carrot to Putin is, in exchange for millions of their prefab concrete bloc (hee) ‘apartments’, we’ll send them all of our latest technology. O’s new and improved Fair Trade Agreement.

vnvet on May 8, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Dog Eater is beating the living hell out of that reset button right about now.

“What the eff is WRONG with this thing??? Work, damn you!”

Bishop on May 8, 2014 at 9:31 AM

You’re assuming he wants a reset.

Steve Eggleston on May 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

See those soviet bloc concrete apartments behind the protesters in the pic on the main page? That is precisely how the democrat leadership thinks each and every one of you should live.

Murphy9 on May 8, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Here in MN the lefties call it “Smart Growth”, curiously enough it resembles the Khmer Rouge plan except everyone is herded into cities rather than the country.

Bishop on May 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM

The White House gang had to think about this for awhile to decide whether or not doing it would be good for them.

crankyoldlady on May 8, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Crimea, UA
27m
US State Department warns citizens to defer non-essential travel to Ukraine, warns against all travel to Crimean Peninsula, eastern Ukraine, Odessa – statement via @NBCNews
end of alert
=============

http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/ukraine-protests-over-eu-agreement-delay/

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 10:14 AM

1m ago
Attorney General Eric Holder says the White House continues to hear ‘troubling’ reports of school districts raising barriers to enrollment for children brought into the US illegally – @AP
read more on bigstory.ap.org

This regime hates you. They will take your money, but they hate your guts.

Murphy9 on May 8, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
15m
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., at House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Ukraine: ‘We must stop reacting to Putin’s moves, while waiting patiently for the Europeans to join us’ – @mozgovaya

https://twitter.com/mozgovaya

Tweets All / No replies

Natasha Mozgovaya ‏@mozgovaya 2m

.@USRepKeating: “#Putin’s intentions unclear. I am troubled by separatists announcement they’ll move 4wd with referendum (May 11)” #Ukraine
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Natasha Mozgovaya ‏@mozgovaya 4m

.@USRepKeating praises work of US Embassy in #Ukraine, Amb. @GeoffPyatt. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing
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Reply
Retweet
Favorite
Natasha Mozgovaya ‏@mozgovaya 6m

.@DanaRohrabacher: “situation in #Ukraine much murkier than we ar presented, It began when elected president was forced”
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Natasha Mozgovaya ‏@mozgovaya 14m

.@RepEliotEngel: “#Ukraine did not want #Russian interference, they reject Russian attempts to tear country apart.”
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Natasha Mozgovaya ‏@mozgovaya 17m

.@RepEdRoyce: “We must also expand & sharpen our intl broadcasting 2 #Russia, #Ukraine & others in the region. We r in information war…”

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 10:34 AM

read more on bigstory.ap.org

This regime hates you. They will take your money, but they hate your guts.

Murphy9 on May 8, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Murphy9:Ya,this is nuts, (illegal part)!:)

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Putin: We are withdrawing our troops, so Ukraine must do so also.

Putin this week: There is too much instability to hold the May 11 referendum.
Putin in two weeks: there is too much instability to hold the May 25 election.

agmartin on May 8, 2014 at 10:45 AM

It’s not a crippling blow, but it’s the first indication we’ve seen of systemic sanctions against Moscow rather than just targeted sanctions against Putin’s cronies. It also signals that the White House isn’t buying Putin’s claims of withdrawal. This moves comes late, but it’s still worth taking — and hopefully will soon be followed by more economic isolation to slow down Putin’s ambitions for a new Russian empire.

Better late than never. How about a 50% tariff on Russian goods exported to the United States? We don’t really need Russian oil or gas, and it might be a little inconvenient for vodka drinkers, but if it cuts Russia’s export revenues by 5%, that might get Russians wondering whether eastern Ukraine is really worth it.

Steve Z on May 8, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Dog Eater is beating the living hell out of that reset button right about now.

“What the eff is WRONG with this thing??? Work, damn you!”

Bishop on May 8, 2014 at 9:31 AM

It’s less effective than the Easy button from Staples. Wannabe tsars are not swayed by wishful thinking. Ask Napoleon and Hitler.

Steve Z on May 8, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
2m
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland says Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Ukraine’s PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk Thursday – @mozgovaya
end of alert
===============

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
8m
Russia retaliates against sanctions from US and Canada by expanding lists of American and Canadian officials barred from Russia – @Reuters

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM

ship travel
5h
Russia’s aircraft carrier and missile carrying nuclear cruiser enter English Channel – Interfax
end of alert

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 11:37 AM


https://twitter.com/russiannavyblog

Retweeted by russian navy blog
Pavel Podvig ‏@russianforces 4h

Russia conducts multiple missile launches during a command and control exercise http://russianforces.org/blog/2014/05/multiple_missile_launches_duri.shtml
==========================================

Multiple missile launches during a command and control exercise

On May 8, 2014 President of Russia took part in a command and control exercise conducted by the Russian armed forces. Among its main goals, the exercise was devoted to “coordinating actions of various units in countering a large-scale missile- and air-attack.” Also, the exercise checked the procedures for launching a “massive launch-on-warning (ответно-встречный) missile strike and countering a nuclear attack by the means of the Moscow missile defense system.”

As part of the exercise, the Strategic Rocket Forces launched a Topol/SS-25 ICBM from the Plesetsk test site to the Kura test site in Kamchatka. The warhead was reported to have successfully reached its target.

The Tula submarine of the Project 667BDRM class performed a successful launch of its R-29RM missile from the Barents Sea to the Kura site. Another submarine, Podolsk of the Project 667BDR class, launched a R-29R missile from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Chizha test site at the Kanin Peninsula. Note that this is the first launch of an SLBM from the Podolsk submarine in more than a decade – until recently all launches at the Pacific Fleet were performed from the Sv. Georgiy Pobedonosets submarine.

The exercise also tested communication between the national command authorities and strategic bombers. A Tu-95MS bomber launched six cruise missiles “against ground targets at the Western military district test site.”

At the Priozersk (Sary-Shagan) test site a short-range interceptor (apparently 53T6, known as Gazelle) of the Moscow ABM system was reported to successfully intercept a target that imitated a ballistic missile. Last time the interceptor was tested during the October 2013 exercise.

http://russianforces.org/blog/2014/05/multiple_missile_launches_duri.shtml
=========================================

russian navy blog ‏@russiannavyblog 4h

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/putin-oversees-russian-nuclear-forces-exercise-23634900 … As expected, Russia launched an ICBM from Plesetsk & 1 SLBM each from SSBNs Tula and Podolsk
View summary

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
8m
Russia retaliates against sanctions from US and Canada by expanding lists of American and Canadian officials barred from Russia – @Reuters

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Oh noes! Canadians can’t ski at Sochi and sample the brown water, vacation on the sunny Baltic, or enjoy the charming street markets in Moscow! What ever will you do for vacay?

slickwillie2001 on May 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

“Defy” should be in scare quotes. Putin’s call for a delay is merely for foreign consumption.

Steve Eggleston on May 8, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Ding ding ding. Putin is still playing the West like a fiddle.

LukeinNE on May 8, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Wow. The unimpressed West isn’t ready to welcome Putin’s actions. I mean, if this doesn’t make Putin stop what he’s doing, I don’t know what else we could try.

PBH on May 8, 2014 at 1:26 PM

The bear in our backyard: Return of the Cold War as Royal Navy confronts Russian aircraft carrier group in the English Channel for the first time in years

Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s largest warship, led six other vessels through the Channel last night
A Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Dragon, was dispatched from Portsmouth to escort the task group
‘Routine’ passage comes amid period of heightened tension over troubles in Ukraine

By Sam Webb

Published: 15:59 GMT, 8 May 2014 | Updated: 17:56 GMT, 8 May 2014
*****************************************************************

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2623480/The-Cold-War-really-IS-Russian-aircraft-carrier-group-Soviet-era-ships-escorted-English-Channel-state-art-Royal-Navy-destroyer.html

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 2:05 PM

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Oh noes! Canadians can’t ski at Sochi and sample the brown water, vacation on the sunny Baltic, or enjoy the charming street markets in Moscow! What ever will you do for vacay?

slickwillie2001 on May 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

slockwillie2001: Go out,…for a Beaver Hunt, er,,,,,,:)

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 2:06 PM


https://twitter.com/NATOSource

NATOSource ‏@NATOSource 4h

US General: Russia Flying Sorties Near California, Linked to Ukraine Crisis http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/us-general-russia-flying-sorties-near-california-linked-to-ukraine-crisis … pic.twitter.com/lKJyHHyhzh

https://twitter.com/NATOSource/status/464428406659358720/photo/1/large

canopfor on May 8, 2014 at 3:46 PM