Archive for North America
Members of the Marine Corps’ new Security Augmentation Unit have been dispatched to shore up security at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, as the country is on the brink of a meltdown following weeks of violent unrest after a growing protests over agreements made between the former president and Russian leaders. Marine security guards based in Quantico, Va., have deployed to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official would not provide the number of Marines requested by the department, but NBC News reported that nine have deployed. There’s no indication that any additional U.S. military forces in the region have been tapped to ready for any further action, according to the State Department official. The members of the Marine Security Augmentation Unit — or MSAU — will assist the existing detachment of Marines guarding the embassy, according to the official. The unit was created as part of the service’s response to boost diplomatic security capabilities following the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The MSAU is made up of specially trained Marine security guards. The unit dispatches squad-size teams wherever and whenever a need for reinforcement arises, and can respond directly to calls from the ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer at an embassy that’s in trouble. The unit has been tapped to boost security at diplomatic posts at least a dozen times since it was stood up last year.
After losing a key ally in his quest to reassert Russian dominance over eastern Europe, could Vladimir Putin invade Ukraine? Retiring U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul repeatedly refused to rule it out, noting that “things here remain very tense” and there’s been a “lot of very heated rhetoric” over this weekend’s revolution. McCaul spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper, who began by highlighting comments from National Security Advisor Susan Rice calling any possible invasion “a grave mistake.” “Mr. Ambassador, how likely do you think it is that Russia would send troops in,” Tapper asked, “especially considering the fears of Ukrainian unrest spreading across the border?” The diplomat’s response wasn’t exactly reassuring. “I can tell you that things here remain very tense, in what government officials are saying about what’s happening in Ukraine,” he began. “On the television channels you’re seeing a lot of heated rhetoric because of what they call their ‘special relationship’ with Ukraine, especially those regions in the east.” Reports on Monday indicate that Russia is moving a large contingent of warships to their base in southern Ukraine, and has begun issuing passports to Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens in the southern region of Crimea. The country reacted similarity in the run-up to invading the Caucasus nation of Georgia in 2008.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Canada says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau should apologize for a joke suggesting that Russia may intervene in Ukraine after failing to medal in hockey at the Sochi Olympics. Vadym Prystaiko said while hockey is important to Russians, its relationship with Ukraine is much more important. On Sunday, Trudeau gave an interview to Radio-Canada’s humour-tinged current events program “Tout Le Monde en Parle” in which he was asked about the current upheaval in Ukraine. The anti-government protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in favour of closer economic ties with Russia, and have since descended into violence and left dozens of police and civilians dead. Trudeau answered a question about what Canada could do in Ukraine by saying Canada “should do more.” After saying that Yanukovych, who is now in hiding, is “illegitimate,” he joked that Russia could channel its disappointment in finishing out of the medals in men’s hockey by intervening. “It’s very worrisome,” Trudeau said.” Especially since Russia lost in hockey, they will be in a bad mood. We are afraid of a Russian intervention in Ukraine.” Prystaiko said he didn’t believe Trudeau intended for his comments to be offensive, but he hopes the Liberal leader will apologize.
Former U.S. Senator Max Baucus was sworn in by Vice President Joseph Biden on Friday as the country’s new ambassador to China. The ceremony was held at the State Department and closed to the press. Secretary of State John Kerry also had a swearing-in for Baucus, press reports said. Baucus, a 72-year-old Democrat from Montana, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and later held the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. His nomination as ambassador to China was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 6. He had pledged to work hard to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship, which he called “one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.” He will succeed Gary Locke who had announced his intention to step down in November.
Canada has closed its embassy in Kiev and is threatening to bring in sanctions against Ukraine, after a crackdown by authorities on long-running protests left more than two dozen people dead. A voice message at the Canadian embassy and its website both indicate the closing, but don’t say when it took place. “The Embassy of Canada in Kiev is closed until further notice for security reasons,” according to a recorded message on the embassy’s phone lines. The message said embassy staff continue to provide consular services, and asks Canadians in the country to contact the department if in need of help. The decision to close the embassy comes after authorities on Tuesday stormed a camp of activists, triggering fiery clashes that killed at least 26 people. Adam Hodge, a spokesman for Foreign Minister John Baird, said “all Canadian personnel are safe and accounted for.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada will be providing further assistance to make medical care available for Ukrainian activists. In a release condemning the violence that left at least 18 dead in street battles in Kyiv on Tuesday, Baird said a contribution will be made to a Ukrainian non-governmental organization. A handful of anti-government protesters have taken shelter inside the Canadian embassy in Ukraine’s capital after riot police barged into a large opposition camp with stun grenades and water cannon. Fewer than a dozen protesters sought refuge Tuesday in the reception area of the embassy in Kyiv to escape the violent crackdown. Baird’s office says they are peaceful and have not caused any damage or harm to staff. Canadian embassy workers are safe and accounted for, spokesman Adam Hodge said. “We hope that the situation improves quickly so that they can safely leave the embassy premises at the earliest possible opportunity,” Hodge said in an email.
The US Embassy in Ukraine has warned its citizens about the dangers of staying in Kiev and other cities of the country because of the dangerous and unpredictable situation. “US Department of State informs US citizens of the growing risks of staying in Ukraine due to the ongoing political unrest and violent clashes between the police and the demonstrators,” warns American embassy. Embassy also advised US citizens in Ukraine not to go out . ” The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and can change quickly,” the warning says.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government gave three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave the country, accusing the Obama administration of siding with student protesters that Venezuela accuses of inciting violence. The announcement by Foreign Minister Elias Jaua came amid fears that renewed clashes could erupt Tuesday when both pro- and anti-government activists hold demonstrations in the capital. Jaua said the senior U.S. consular officers were trying to infiltrate Venezuelan universities, the hotbed of the recent unrest, under the cover of doing visa outreach. Repeating charges by Maduro, who has expelled American diplomats twice before, Jaua said the U.S. is conspiring with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and student activists in an attempt to oust the socialist president. The U.S. denied the charges, and is expressing concern about rising violence that led to three deaths last week during anti-government demonstrations and about the government’s attempts to block peaceful protests.
After several days of student-led protests against his government, President Nicolás Maduro said Sunday that he was expelling three American consular officials who he said had been visiting universities here. He did not say exactly what the officials had done to deserve expulsion, nor did he identify them, saying they had claimed to be visiting private universities to offer visas to students. Mr. Maduro, a socialist who was elected in April, has often said the United States is seeking to oust him from office; Sunday was the third time in less than a year that he has announced the expulsion of American officials. Mr. Maduro kicked out the American chargé d’affaires and two other embassy officials in September. In March, on the same day that he announced the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, Mr. Maduro expelled two American military attachés. In both those cases he said the officials had been conspiring against the government, charges that Washington denied. Mr. Maduro also said Sunday that a State Department official had contacted Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington and warned of negative consequences if Venezuela arrested a prominent opposition politician, Leopoldo López. He said Mr. López was responsible for violence tied to the recent demonstrations.
Russia has summoned a U.S. diplomat to demand diplomatic and medical access to a Russian drug smuggler who is imprisoned in the United States. Moscow alleges that Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot who is serving 20 years for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States, was tortured when he was arrested in 2010. Yaroshenko’s lawyer Aleksei Tarasov says his health has been worsening in prison — prompting Russia’s Foreign Ministry to call for a Russian doctor to be allowed to examine him. Tarasov claims that Yaroshenko experienced symptoms of a heart attack in prison but was not being helped. Tarasov has suggested that Yaroshenko could die within days.