Gazprom Pipeline Runs Dry

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 08:05 p.m. DST, 21 June 2014

"CIMG0406"  Photo by: JanChr KIEV, Ukraine -- The violent conflict between Russian separatists and Ukrainian militias is slowing down, if only momentarily, due to a ceasefire declared by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, 18 June. While bloodshed may be decreasing, Russia has initiated a new economic offensive, shutting off the primary gas pipeline running between the two nations.

According to Russian officials, Ukraine has run up an oil bill totaling more than $4 billion, although Poroshenko's administration denies this figure. The issue at hand is not whether Ukraine owes its northeastern neighbor for unpaid gas, but rather the size of the debt. Ukrainians have been vocal about Russian price-gouging, claiming that exports to Ukraine are sent at a steep premium when compared to other countries. Also, according to Poroshenko the value of Russian oil fluctuates at president Vladimir Putin's convenience.

While Russia closed the tab on 16 June, the move will not immediately impact the Ukrainian markets. Like much of Russian diplomacy, shutting off the pipeline is more a show of power than anything else. For now, the gas reservoirs throughout Ukraine are full and will provide energy for months. Even so, winter months are brutal in Ukraine, and officials will need to act fast to secure reliable gasoline preserves for wintertime.

The feud impacts communities outside of Russia and Ukraine. Gazprom, the corporation responsible for the supply termination, is the largest gas company in Russia and one of the largest international suppliers. European Union nations rely largely on the circulation of Gazprom oil through Ukraine, which is then sold and traded further west into EU countries. The uncertain relationship between Russia and Ukraine, especially in light of the ongoing Ukrainian civil war, leaves EU member nations at the mercy of regional stability.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, EU representatives have tried to middleman a compromise between Ukrainian and Russian executives, to no avail. Gazprom will require Ukraine to pay at least half of the debt before any more oil crosses the border. Ukraine has dismissed the offer, citing the longstanding price inflation and demanding that the costs be set at a rate consistent with the international market.

At the end of the day, both Ukraine and Russia have much to gain by cooperation, and more to lose if the regional friction continues to silence synergy. A good portion of Gazprom revenue comes from Ukrainian consumers and the network of markets throughout the EU. And similarly, Ukrainian winters could prove dangerous without the necessary raw materials.

The stalemate is expected to drag on, as both parties are sure of their facts and figures regarding oil transactions. Russia and Ukraine will both plead their case to international mediators in the coming months, but considering the average length of arbitration and settlement agreement, it will likely come down to the combined efforts of Kiev and Moscow to resolve the dispute and steady the market.

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US Hypocritical Response to Ukraine Conflict

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 08:57 a.m. DST, 13 May 2014

IMG_5823  Photo by: Christiaan TriebertDONETSK, Ukraine -- On Sunday, 11 May, two Ukrainian provinces conducted supposed democratic referendums to determine their international identity. The motions were suspicious at best, as 90% of votes counted in Donetsk favored withdrawal from Ukrainian authority and turnout in Luhansk determined 96 of every 100 voters supported provincial autonomy.

Certainly the numbers appear exaggerated. These reports of airtight consensus must be questioned by the rational world. Dissent is pervasive throughout much of Ukraine. So when voting officials came forward on Monday with claims of unprecedented solidarity, the West responded as would the teacher of the struggling student who scores 105% on a self-graded assessment.

But the conflict in Ukraine covers more ground than the Western press are willing to turn over. A thoughtful discussion of modern Ukraine can not endorse the interim Kiev government wholesale, nor should it condemn all separatists as patent burglars. Both approaches are reductive towards the legacy of corruption and organized injustice in Ukraine.

In spite of Western backing, the previous Ukrainian establishment and the placeholder administration are fraught with human rights violations. And while Vladimir Putin exploited political rifting in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, perhaps the United States should also be concerned that Moscow has obviously made off with a whole chapter from the American playbook on how to seize foreign land.

The history of the United States is a clinic on nabbing territory illegally while simultaneously claiming martyrdom. In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo came to symbolize the American attempt to play martyr, while illegally holding Mexican land by whatever means necessary. In the same year, Texans fought the Mexican military in the Battle of San Jacinto and established Texan sovereignty. The slaughter lasted a matter of minutes and left over 600 dead, all but nine were fallen Mexican soldiers.

During the early 19th century, Americans began occupying Texas legally, but it did not take long for the Anglo residents to begin defying Mexican prohibition of slavery and other important legal codes. Americans continued to flood the region and soon outnumbered ethnic Tejanos 4 to 1. With some exception, the Texan army was American born and armed by the mother country, which in 1845 would welcome Texas into the union.

Unlike the takeover of Texas, Moscow did not inundate eastern Ukraine with Russian militants. They have been living in Ukraine for generations. Pro-Russian rebels represent the fragmentation of the Republic, not the forced entry exercised by American citizens and weaponry throughout its history.

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Published: 13 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

Perhaps more egregious than the theft of Texas is the coup d'état of the Kingdom of Hawaii, organized by Americans and flanked by US Marine encroachment on the islands.  Wanting to spare bloodshed, Queen Lili'uokalani surrendered her crown and was placed under arrest. The United States' intent to annex the Kingdom was explicit, and during the in-no-way democratic proceedings, a provisional government took charge until American lawmakers brought Hawaii into the fold.

The Crimean Peninsula at the heart of the Ukraine conflict has a joint identity as a Ukrainian and Russian region. During the Soviet era, Crimea was nominally transferred within Ukraine's demarcation. When the Soviet Union disbanded, Ukraine maintained jurisdiction of the region. The peninsula remains divided in terms of religion, ethnic makeup and political affiliation. If the United States is so concerned with the will of the people, there are several well-documented injustices ongoing within American boundaries that could be addressed immediately.

The United States practices selective attention--joining the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russian involvement in the Ukrainian arm wrestle, while downplaying the United Nations when they become critical of America's parallel behavior. A recent report by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations shows both the longstanding injustice experienced by indigenous peoples in North America and the irony in the United States searching the globe to point out instances of criminality and misconduct.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are some of the oldest mountains in North America and are considered sacred ground to the Lakota-Sioux people. At first, white settlers were uninterested in the land, until surveyors began trespassing on the terrain in 1849. Through a series of treaties, the land was promised to the Sioux, and later expressly removed from Sioux possession when gold prospectors found valuable deposits in the Hills.

Since then, the Black Hills have been the subject of desecration, as the United States government thought it appropriate to carve out the faces of Anglo oppressors into the mountains that the Sioux people so revere. Mount Rushmore stands as a permanent reminder of white tyranny, and an obvious symbol of the ongoing violation of Sioux religious freedom.

In the ongoing international debate over the Ukraine conflict, the United States has very little legal or moral footing on which to base their criticism of Russia. Each day, the United States affirms the right for an empire to occupy land against international law. While the global community generally recognizes Putin's exploits as unjust, the White House has long modeled similar undertakings. The oligarchies in America and Russia imitate each other more than either would like to admit.

What makes the plight of one people more pressing than another?

Washington's unbalanced attention to the sister concerns does not appear very democratic. For the most part, America cannot change the course of action in Ukraine. But if politicians are so bothered by illegally seized land, there are plenty of instances to address within their own jurisdiction. Start with the Black Hills.

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Portrait of a Fugitive. Deposed Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych Flees

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KIEV, Ukraine - Days following a truce announcement which ended the bloody riots which rocked the Ukrainian capital, news outlets are reporting that the ousted leader is in fact now a fugitive.

As the sign held by the protesters to the right depicts, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych's flight into hiding came just hours before a warrant was issued for his arrest. By fleeing, Yanukovych conferred upon himself a dubious honor, as he joins the ranks of fallen leaders who failed to heed the voice of the people.

Leaders who may have transitioned from power with dignity, but chose to resist compromise, a position which ultimately paved the way for their own destruction.

Courtesy of the Global Post, recent despots who retreated in ignominy are listed below:

  1. Nicolae Ceaucescu, Secretary General of the Romanian Communist Party (1965 – 1989)
  2. Saddam Hussein, deposed President of Iraq (1979 – 2003)
  3. Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libyan Dictator (1979 – 2011)
  4. Hosni Mubarak, deposed president of Egypt (1981 – 2011)
  5. Ben Ali, deposed President of Tunisia (1987 – 2011)

On Friday, 21 February 2014, after meeting with opposition leaders, President Yanukovych, announced that he had signed a peace deal. However, it appears that shortly after closing the deal, Yanukovych recognized the writing on the wall and chose to flee into hiding.

There is speculation that Moscow, a once staunch supporter of Yanukovych during the deadly three-month standoff which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries, recognized the futility of its calculated bid to bring the ex-Soviet nation back under its control. Yanukovych must have realized that he had lost both their confidence and support, and this may have been a deciding factor in his decision.

The peaceful uprising that turned violent earlier this month was triggered when Yanukovych under pressure from Russia, opted to cease political and trade deal discussion with the EU, in lieu of a $15 billion bailout to Ukraine from Russia. Ukranian citizens viewed this as a subversive effort by Russia to undermine Ukraine’s growth toward increased democracy.

Most Ukranians believed that this financial dependency would erode decades of political autonomy, economic expansion, and democratic freedoms realized since gaining their independence in 1990. Russia's offer of financial support was, in the opinion of most, a bid to once again impose a draconian style of rule reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

During the violent unrest, Moscow publicly decried the “treasonous” activities of the opposition, yet stopped short of sending military support to keep Yanukovych in power. When Yanukovych acquiesced to the opposition’s demands, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev immediately put distance between Russia and Ukraine by declaring that his government could not have full ties with a leader who was being tramped on like a "doormat.” The unrest in Ukraine is seen as a potentially destabilizing influence that could adversely impact Russia's interests.

It would seem that Yanukovych’s inability to suppress the opposition through any means necessary, no matter how heinous or distasteful, has been interpreted by the Kremlin as “biting the hand that fed him.” A new Ukrainian leader has not been appointed, and at this point Russia views any interim government as illegitimate. It remains to be seen if Moscow will honor its promised financial support or abandon all efforts to manipulate this sovereign nation back under its control.

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Deadly Ukrainian Riots Cease as President Yanukovych Declares Truce

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:35 a.m. EDT, 20 February 2014

Ukrainian Riots , Independence Square, Kiev, Photo Courtesy of The Global MovementKIEV, Ukraine - Protesters who had been barricaded in the city’s trade union building which they were using as an operation base, remain steadfast in their cause, despite security forces deadly attack against them. Casualties have ensued on both sides as Tuesday at least 11 demonstrators and seven police officers were killed in the ensuing confrontations.

Security forces are reported to have set fire to the building, with the intent of forcing protest leaders out into the open where snipers could have a clear shot. According to The Independent, “opposition leader Aleksandr Turchinov was among those said to have been shot as he stood on the stage, but it was unclear how seriously he was hurt.”

Despite mounting pressure and international condemnation of the suppressive measures instituted by President Viktor Yanukovych, both sides remain resolute in their positions, as fires back-light the historic city of Kiev, and the epicenter of the violence – Independence Square, also known as the Maidan.

The opposition leaders are at least open to talks, and even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged that the protestors have “legitimate grievances” which need to be addressed. According to The Independent, Biden called Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych and urged him to meet with and seriously consider the proposals for political reform that would lead to an end of the violence.

At issue is Ukraine’s potential return to Soviet governance, if not in fact, then as a political and economic expediency. Ukraine gained its freedom as an autonomous nation on 16 July 1990, when its’ parliament adopted “the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. The declaration established the principles of the self-determination of the Ukrainian nation, its democracy, political and economic independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law on the Ukrainian territory over Soviet law. (Source: Wikipedia)

With the global economic meltdown, Ukraine, like many other countries suffered severe financial instability which required large amounts of capital infusion to keep the government solvent. Two solutions were on the table, and to the chagrin and amazement of the citizenry, President Yanukovych spurned a historic trade and political agreement with European Union in favor of a £9bn financial bailout from Russia.

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Published: 20 February 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

His decision effectively halted Ukraine’s steady march toward modernity and democracy, in favor of a return to the autocracy of the past. In response to his decision, and despite freezing temperatures, Ukrainians took to the streets in peaceful protest, but after nearly 5-months of silence from the government, peaceful demonstrations turned violent as frustrations grew with Yanukovych’s refusal to meet with opposition leaders or even discuss alternative solutions to solve the country’s financial problems.

The clashes ensued on Monday the 17th following an announcement that Russia's Finance Minister offered to deliver additional bailout funds to Ukraine, sparking fears that the move could pave the way for a Moscow loyalist as the new prime minister. (Source: The Independent)

The two opposition leaders - Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were finally called to the President’s office for talks, but it is clear that both parties are on extreme ends of the spectrum with regard to a solution to cease the violence. Klitschko and Yatsenyuk are calling for President Yanukovych to resign and call early elections in advance of 2015 election cycle.

President Yanukovych remains defiant and has yet to publicly outline a plan to address the Ukrainian citizenry’s concern about the erosion of their civil rights. Nor has he openly admitted the high probability of the loss of Ukrainian autonomy should his government become deeply in debt and dependent upon the financial largess of Moscow. However, as of a few hours ago, a truce has been called and rioting has ceased as each side tries to stem the tide of violence.

It remains to be seen whether this ceasefire will last, but the issue of getting into bed once again with Russia is critical, though it will probably not be resolved during this first round of negotiations. Regarding Moscow, Yanukovych would do well to remember the following adages - relationships are like glass, sometimes its better to leave them broken, because when you try to pick up the pieces you always end up getting hurt; and if you bite the hand that feeds you punishment is sure to follow.

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