Ukrainian Government Issues Arrest Warrant for Aksyonov

The latest in a series of futile gestures surrounding the situation in the Crimea is a warrant for the arrest of the Crimea's new prime minister, issued by the central government in Kiev:

 

 

 

 

 

“A court in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev has issued arrest warrants for the prime minister and parliament speaker of the country's autonomous republic of Crimea, the Prosecutor General's office said Wednesday.

Criminal charges had been brought against them and some other politicians in Crimea, said Ukraine's acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnytsky.

Last Thursday, the regional parliament of Crimea appointed Aksyonov, leader of the Russian Unity party, as prime minister in a closed session and announced that a referendum would be held over the future status of the territory on March 30.

Aksyonov said Saturday that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to help ensure peace in the pro-Russian region. Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Alexandr Turchynov, who is also the country's acting president, later signed a decree to reject Aksyonov's new capacity.

 

(emphasis added)

Our guess is that Aksyonov's resolve has just been strengthened immeasurably. If they really mean it, then he has henceforth nothing left to lose. Just as Kiev thinks his government is illegitimate, so he believes the Kiev government to be illegitimate. The irony is that both governments were proclaimed by the same methods: First, protesters took over government buildings and thereafter, the respective parliamentarians appointed a new government. Both were slightly dubious affairs from a legal standpoint.

 

Reductio ad Hitlerum

That didn't take long. First, Saddam was declared to be Hitler. Then, Ahmedinejad became Hitler. Thereafter, Gadaffi became Hitler. Not long after that, Assad became Hitler. And Kim Jong-Un has of course always been Hitler (it may have been more fitting to transform that one into Stalin). Hitler is everywhere!

We knew we should have taken bets on how speedily Putin's transformation into Hitler would be performed. Hillary Clinton evidently knows her Hitlers when she sees them. Oddly enough, rather obvious fascists like Tyagnybok and Yarosh are still getting a pass.

 

“Vladimir Putin is a tough but thin-skinned leader who is squandering his country’s potential, Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday, a day after she likened the Russian president’s actions on the Crimean peninsula to those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.”

 

We're certainly not exactly big fans of Leo Strauss,  but he had the number of people who drag Hitler out of their hat at every opportunity:

 

“According to Strauss,  Reductio ad Hitlerum  is a form of  ad hominem or ad misericordiam, a fallacy of irrelevance, in which a conclusion is suggested based solely on something's or someone's origin rather than its current meaning. The suggested rationale is one of guilt by association. Its name is a variation on the term reductio ad absurdum.

Reductio ad Hitlerum is sometimes called "playing the Nazi card." According to its critics and proponents, it is a tactic often used to derail arguments, because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.”

 

Hillary argues that because Hitler used the 'I need to protect Germans in Czechoslovakia and/or Romania' argument to invade these countries, Putin's invoking of the need to protect Russians in the Ukraine proves he is Hitler. It doesn't.

 


 

Vladimir HitlerMeet Vladimir Hitler, as he appeared to Hillary in a vision.

(Image via back2stonewall.com / Author unknown)

 


 

Of course the Washington Post thinks Hillary is on to something because 'many other people have also compared Putin to Hitler'. It could of course also be that it merely proves that logical fallacies like company.

 

Sanctions Against Russia?

The next exercise in futility is all the empty blather about imposing sanctions against Russia. In the UK, newspapers inform us: “The majority of Brits want economic sanctions to be imposed on Russia for invading Crimea – but NOT if they hurt us”. Don't worry ye money-launderers in the City, no-one's going to banish the wads of cash arriving in nice suit-case sized portions from Russian  oligarchs. Abe is on the case too: “Japan Is Worried That Western Sanctions On Russia Would Hurt Tokyo”. We are probably safe in assuming that Japan will avoid imposing any sanctions.  The EU isn't all that eager either – and neither are some in the US Congress, as it turns out:

 

“The Obama administration's plans to impose punitive economic sanctions on Russia — potentially its strongest response to Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine — already are facing resistance from administration allies in Congress and Europe.

Although administration officials say they are prepared to freeze assets of top Russian officials and possibly target state-run financial institutions, European allies – who are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas supplies – signaled they aren't ready to follow suit.

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill also are split, with some, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, arguing that the administration should wait for European support to give the sanctions more bite.

[…]

But key European governments, including those in Germany, Britain, France and Italy, indicated in emergency meetings in Brussels that, for now at least, they prefer other routes of persuasion.

The split underscores a broader divide between the United States and Europe, partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance for 65 years, over how to deal with Moscow.

The Europeans, closer and more intertwined economically with Russia, don't share the U.S. enthusiasm for sanctions as a diplomatic tool, and worry that curbing trade and business could hurt them without persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Russia is the European Union's No. 3 trading partner, following only the United States and China. Trade totaled $462 billion in 2012, more than 10 times America's $40 billion in trade with Russia, mostly between banks, energy companies and consumer products concerns. Europe has little alternative to Russian energy.

[…]

Even authorities in Poland, which this week called for consultations with NATO's North Atlantic Council because Warsaw said it felt threatened by Moscow's moves in the region, "fear that it's not useful to push hard," Techau said.

 

(emphasis added)

Russian indifference to US threats is likely a result of the ongoing campaign to isolate and encircle Russia. In so many words, Putin and the Russian leadership more generally do not feel they have much to lose by being obstinate. As one observer notes:

 

“Weiss says that the Russians discount U.S. threats.

The White House threatened to isolate Russia in August 2008 after its military fought a five-day war with Georgia over a breakaway province, but then-President George W. Bush ultimately took little action. Five months later, newly elected President Obama proposed a "reset" in relations with Moscow.

Now when U.S. officials condemn Russia, "you get a sense of Russian indifference," Weiss said. "It's just not that important to them what the U.S. thinks. … They are less invested in good relations with the U.S. than at any point, arguably, since the end of the Cold War."

 

(emphasis added)

Well, here you are. How does that 'reset' help now?

Incidentally, German TV stations report this morning that the sniper ammunition that killed the demonstrators on Maidan square has turned out to be the same ammunition that killed the policemen on the square.  Suspicions that the right-wing factions in the new Kiev government 'may have had a hand' in the shootings are openly voiced. We take this as a sign that there are factions in the EU's power elite that are trying to find a way of distancing themselves from Kiev, at least a little bit, by creating a backdoor that can be used as necessary. They probably want to avoid having their hand forced.

Besides, as Pierre Briancon remarks, the imposition of the type of sanctions mulled by supporters of such moves stands on a very weak legal foundation:

 

The main question is who to punish. Under a rule-of-law – the sort that Western governments and investors rightly urge Russia to adopt – there is no such thing as collective guilt. The issue recently appeared in Ukraine. It was one thing to freeze the assets of deposed leader Viktor Yanukovich and his immediate family, as countries, including Switzerland, have already done. Another to decide which of the Ukrainian oligarchs, always quick to switch allegiances, should also be held responsible.

A suggestion after Crimea has been to freeze the assets of Russian government officials – cabinet ministers and members of the parliament that approved Vladimir Putin's request for military options in Ukraine. But since a Putin edict prohibiting ministers and civil servants from holding assets abroad, much of the money has been siphoned off into front companies. Tracing it will require high-level financial forensics – and generate endless lawsuits.

Finally, a blanket asset freeze will trigger reprisals and much collateral damage among the companies with a significant presence in Russia.”

 

We find it interesting that Putin issued an “edict prohibiting ministers and civil servants from holding assets abroad”. Apparently he is not a big fan of corruption among officials. Who would have thought? And while this is neither here nor there, let is not forget that under Putin, Russia's citizens pay a 13% flat tax. Perhaps someone should tell him that it is very un-Hitlerite of him to allow so much economic freedom.

Anyway, whatever is being done, nobody should give the Ukrainians missiles. These guys simply have no idea of how to aim them. Back in 2001, they shot down a passenger airliner and flattened a block of flats to boot. It took them a while to admit it as well.

 

How Many Russians See Things

Russians for the most part think the West is hypocritical and should butt out. That is not a big surprise, per se, but we saw very little mention of this, so we thought we'd provide some color on it. Vladimir Pozner took the time to explain this to CNN. Here is a video showing the interview he gave to CNN. A summary of what he said:

 

“The West wasn’t an onlooker in the Ukrainian crisis but was directly involved in it, prominent Russian journalist and TV celebrity Vladimir Pozner told CNN. Many Russians think likewise, convinced that the West uses double standards towards Russia, he said. Russia regards its actions in Crimea as a kind of rescue operation, Pozner said. He believes that the West has no moral right to accuse others of interfering in Ukraine.

Some Russians hold a different view and are saying it openly and there have even been protest actions to that effect, but the majority of Russians, if asked, will say that there has been no invasion, what’s more, they will say that the West uses double standards towards Russia and is trying to tear Ukraine away from Russia, pursuing its own goals whatever they are, Pozner said.

Many in Russia do not doubt that the West did have a part to play in the crisis by actually encouraging an anti-government coup, that the West did not stay aloof or was a mere onlooker but acted in the epicenter of the events, he went on.

Western countries kept sending their ministers who addressed crowds in Independence Square in Kiev, actually instigating them. In that way, the West actively influenced the situation, which leaves many Russians worrying, Pozner remarked. He brushed off allegations of Russia trying to annex Crimea. The future of Crimea will be decided at a referendum at the end of March, Pozner said.”

 

(emphasis added)

We actually think he's right – not only about what Russians in general think about the situation, but more importantly with what he says about the Crimea: namely that the territory's fate is going to be decided in the planned referendum. And quite likely, that is what is indeed going to happen. However, a compromise that nevertheless ends with the Crimea remaining part of the Ukraine seems quite possible, even likely (see further below).

 


 

Vladimir Pozner, prominent Paris-born Russian journalist in exile, who used to explain the Soviet Union to Americans way back when.

(Photo source: The Web / Author unknown)

 


 

A Few Additional Tidbits

A few interesting excerpts from a Washington Post article on the situation (which largely show that one needs to essentially discount most of the tough talk, no matter from whence it emanates). First on the Crimea, Aksyonov and the not-so-tough stance of the new Ukrainian government:

 

“The new government is under enormous pressure from the Russian intervention and from unrest in eastern cities, coupled with a financial crisis. It is treading carefully. As Crimea slipped further into Russian control Tuesday, Ukrainian military units there stood their ground but were careful not to provoke a conflict.

In Ukraine’s parliament, there was talk of finding a way to give Crimea more autonomy if it agrees to remain a part of Ukraine. The region has scheduled a March 30 referendum on independence or accession to Russia, although Aksyonov, Crimea’s new leader, said Tuesday that he wants to hold the vote sooner.

[…]

It has been, all around, an unusual confrontation. After a week of deadly fighting in the streets of Kiev led to Yanu­kovych’s overthrow, the Russian takeover of Crimea has been swift yet bloodless. The atmosphere in Kiev is hardly that of a capital dealing with an intervention by a powerful neighbor.

Aksyonov said Tuesday that most of the Ukrainian military forces in Crimea have sworn allegiance to his new regional government. Officials in Kiev said that is not true.

 

(emphasis added)

It seems to us that since Aksyonov is a bit closer to the action, he is in a better position to judge the situation, but of course not all the military forces in the Crimea have switched sides. It is interesting that the government in Kiev is pondering a compromise. If it can compromise on Crimean autonomy, perhaps it can do the same on the language question as well? Just wondering out loud.

It is also quite interesting what Putin actually had to say, especially his remark that he thinks one set of thieves has been replaced by another (probably correct) and his view on the general state of corruption in the Ukraine, which he deems somewhat worse than in Russia (thereby admitting that it is also a problem in Russia) and the worries he expresses about the extreme right-wing nationalists. Besides, it seems not true that the new government in Kiev and Moscow are not talking to each other (we mention this because it keeps getting parroted in the media that there is no contact, but that seems not to be the case).

 

Putin said the whole operation is a friendly one, designed to help out a fraternal nation. But he described Ukraine as deeply troubled, telling his interviewers that corruption and social stratification there are even worse than in Russia.

“Out there, they are beyond anything we can imagine,” he said. “This revolutionary situation has been brewing for a long time.”

So it’s understandable why the protesters on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, wanted an uprising, he said. But they went about it the wrong way, he said, and now Ukraine has swapped one “set of thieves” — Yanukovych’s — for another, a reference to the present government.

Putin said that if he decides to send in the Russian military, he would have legal grounds to do so. Russia has displayed a letter from the ousted president asking for military help in suppressing the revolt. The current government is illegitimate, Russia contends, because Yanukovych was not properly removed from power in a formal impeachment.

“What is our biggest concern?” Putin asked. “We see the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.”

“We understand what worries the citizens of Ukraine, both Russian and Ukrainian, and the Russian-­speaking population in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine,” he said. “It is this uncontrolled crime that worries them. Therefore, if we see such uncontrolled crime spreading to the eastern regions of the country, and if the people ask us for help, while we already have the official request from the legitimate president, we retain the right to use all available means to protect those people. We believe this would be absolutely legitimate.”

Yet, the Russian government and the interim Ukrainian government have been in contact. “I’d say that they are quite sluggish, but the first steps have been taken,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said. Consultations have been held on the ministerial level.

“Ukraine is ready to build a new style of relations with the Russian Federation,” Yatsenyuk said, based on Russia’s respect for Ukraine’s right to determine its own policies.”

 

(emphasis added)

We would tend to agree with those who say that Putin's conclusion that the situation gives him a legal basis for 'rushing to the aid' of people in the Eastern provinces of the Ukraine is erroneous. This idea is hardly compatible with international law as it is currently understood, regardless of the checkered history of how today's territory of the Ukraine came into being. The Crimean quasi-occupation is in a bit of a gray area, because Russian troops were already officially stationed there and the Crimea is historically and in terms of its autonomous status quite distinct from the rest of the Ukraine.

However, he may merely be making such assertions based on certain political calculations. It is well known that there is a linguistic split and that many in the Eastern Ukraine are against a government led by parties only the Western Ukraine actually votes for. There is a danger that this situation could escalate. It may eventually be necessary for the Ukraine to split up, unless a modus vivendi can be found against all experience to date (it is however probably not completely impossible to find one). It is therefore not necessarily so that Putin really aims to send his military into the Eastern regions on the flimsy pretext that Yanukovich (whom he actually despises) asked him to.

More likely such statements are designed for a domestic audience on the one hand,  so as to satisfy both hardliners in Moscow and mollify Russian citizens who think he should intervene. On the other hand, he probably wants to send a message to the hard-core violent nationalists in the Ukraine at the same time, in order to keep them from starting the civil war they were openly pining for not too long ago.

If one thinks all of this through, then it seems that this is a situation that could easily be settled to everyone's satisfaction by ignoring all hardliners (regardless which side they are on), and engaging in a little give and take. Hardly anything worth getting exercised over. Western powers should be very careful not to throw gasoline on the fire by getting overly pushy. In the end, everybody must be given a chance to save face.

 


 

yatsenyuk

Ukraine's prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, who is evidently a cheap-skate and visits the same barber we employ

(Photo by Andrew Kravchenko / Pool / AP)

 


 

PutinPutin in typical cool cucumber pose, showing off his Ray-Bans.

(Photo via comedycentral.com / Author unknown)

 


 

trimmer

The above-mentioned barber.

(Photo credit: Panasonic)

 


 

Hryvnia, 5 hourlyThe Ukrainian hryvnia, 5 hourly chart – as more pledges of financial help have been announced by Western government, the currency continues to strengthen from its panic sell-off – no doubt to the great relief of numerous bankers – click to enlarge.

 


 

ruble, dailyThe ruble, daily –  evidently not out of the woods yet, as the trend remains intact in spite of the slight strengthening on Tuesday – click to enlarge.

 


 

Source of the Sniper Claims

Turns out we should have listened more closely as to the source of the sniper claims discussed above. Another leaked phone call!

A very interesting conversation between Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The call took place after Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25, following the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital. The entire call is well worth listening to, but here are a few of the juicier tidbits:

 

Paet: “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition”  

Ashton: “I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,”

Paet: And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets] told as well that all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,”

Ashton; Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.”

Paet: “So that she then also showed me some photos she said that as a medical doctor she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened,”

 

And once again, it turns out that things were not what they seemed. And thanks to the intertubes, we all know now.

 


 

The next leaked phone call … Paets sounds quite perturbed by what he learned.

 


 

 

Charts by: Investing.com


 

 

 

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