Poland to create joint military unit with Lithuania and Ukraine

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Christian Lowe)

He said the aim of the project is to create a unit that could take part in peacekeeping operations, as well as creating the basis to build a NATO battle group should a decision be taken to do that in the future.

A Polish defense ministry spokesman told Reuters that the planned brigade will comprise of Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish soldiers who will be located in their home countries, while it will be commanded from Lublin.

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will create a joint military unit with Lithuania and Ukraine, with its command headquarters in the eastern Polish city of Lublin, the Polish president’s office said on Thursday.

Ukraine Leader Urges Congress to Arm His Soldiers Against Russia

“Live free must be the answer,” he declared. “Live free must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.”

In concluding his remarks, Mr. Poroshenko used the phrase “live free or die,” a motto associated with the American Revolution. He said that the phrase could also be applied to the Ukranian soldiers who were fighting against Russian-backed foes on the battlefields in Eastern Europe.

“I assure you that all aid received from the west will be utilized by noncorrupt institutions,” he said.

He acknowledged Ukraine’s history of corruption and bureaucracy — a legacy, he said of the country’s ties to Russia — but he pledged that any assistance from the United States would not be wasted.

In addition to military support, Mr. Poroshenko called on Congress to establish a special economic fund to support investment in Ukranian companies as a way of helping to build up the country’s civil society and economy.

“Hybrid proxy war, terrorism, national radical and extremist movements, the erosion of the national and international agreements, the blurring and even erasing of the national identities — all these threats now challenge Europe,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “If they are not stopped now, they will cross European borders and spread, absolutely, throughout the world.”

In his remarks in Congress, Mr. Poroshenko offered thanks for that help, but he said it was not enough. He said the Russian aggression in his country would threaten European nations and the rest of the world if it was not stopped.

“It’s simply the judgment of the president that the best way for the situation in Ukraine to be resolved is through negotiations,” Mr. Earnest said.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, stressed that the United States has provided a long list of equipment to the Ukrainians, including body armor, helmets, night-vision goggles, radar equipment and vehicles. But he said Mr. Obama was not inclined to go further.

White House officials said the United States did not believe that providing heavy equipment and lethal weapons would help to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“I am satisfied with the level of cooperation with the United States of America in the defense and security sector,” he said. “I cannot say more, but I am satisfied.”

Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Poroshenko said he was not disappointed with the president’s decision.

“During this meeting we reaffirmed this assistance to Ukraine and we are providing additional assistance,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama offered words of encouragement but did not promise the lethal military aid that his counterpart wants.

In the White House meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Porosheko thanked the United States for “defending democracy and freedom” and told Mr. Obama that “You are a friend.”

On Wednesday, the White House pledged an additional $46 million in security assistance that it said would help support Ukraine’s military and border guards. The United States will also send an additional $7 million to international relief agencies to be spent on humanitarian needs in the eastern part of Ukraine, the White House said.

President Obama’s administration has not yet agreed to that request. The United States has provided about $70 million in nonlethal assistance to Ukraine and Mr. Obama has led a coalition of European countries that have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in the hopes of bringing the conflict to an end.

“They need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal,” he said. “Please understand me correctly. Blankets, night vision goggles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets.”

Speaking in English, he urged the United States to come to the aid of Ukrainian soldiers who are battling with Russian-backed forces in the eastern part of his country.

“Over the last month, Ukranians have shown that they have the courage to stand up,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “We will never obey or bend to the aggressor. We are ready to fight.”

Mr. Poroshenko, appearing for the first time before a joint session of Congress earlier in the day, pleaded for America’s help in countering what he called “one of the most cynical acts of treachery in the modern history.” He described the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine as a stab in the back from a once-supportive neighbor.

“I got everything possible,” he said.

But after meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office later in the day, Mr. Poroshenko said he was satisfied with American support of his military that falls short of his request. Asked whether he had gotten what he wanted, Mr. Poroshenko appeared pragmatic.

WASHINGTON — President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine on Thursday implored the United States Congress to provide Ukraine’s soldiers with heavy military equipment as his country seeks to repel what he called an ongoing invasion by Russian forces.

John Baird says sanctions lifted on 2 Russian banks after new information

Earlier this week, Canada announced more sanctions and travel bans aimed at ratcheting up the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Baird says that’s one of the reasons why Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who addressed a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday, is so thrilled with Canada.

And he defends the government’s sanctions record, saying Canada has imposed 189 sanctions on Russia — nearly twice as many as the United States and the European Union.

Baird says the banks were removed after analysis of new information found they were “sufficiently divorced” from the events surrounding the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Baird made the admission in the House of Commons after a question from NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada has removed two banks from its list of sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine Leader Urges Congress to Arm His Soldiers Against Russia

“Live free must be the answer,” he declared. “Live free must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.”

In concluding his remarks, Mr. Poroshenko used the phrase “live free or die,” a motto associated with the American Revolution. He said that the phrase could also be applied to the Ukranian soldiers who were fighting against Russian-backed foes on the battlefields in Eastern Europe.

“I assure you that all aid received from the west will be utilized by noncorrupt institutions,” he said.

He acknowledged Ukraine’s history of corruption and bureaucracy — a legacy, he said of the country’s ties to Russia — but he pledged that any assistance from the United States would not be wasted.

In addition to military support, Mr. Poroshenko called on Congress to establish a special economic fund to support investment in Ukranian companies as a way of helping to build up the country’s civil society and economy.

“Hybrid proxy war, terrorism, national radical and extremist movements, the erosion of the national and international agreements, the blurring and even erasing of the national identities — all these threats now challenge Europe,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “If they are not stopped now, they will cross European borders and spread, absolutely, throughout the world.”

In his remarks, Mr. Poroshenko offered thanks for that help, but he said it was not enough. He said the Russian aggression in his country would threaten European nations and the rest of the world if it was not stopped.

“President Obama looks forward to discussing with President Poroshenko efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine as well as our continued support for Ukraine’s struggle to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in its statement.

Mr. Poroshenko, who took office in the spring, is scheduled to meet with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, where he is likely to repeat his requests for assistance. In a statement ahead of the meeting, the White House reiterated America’s “firm commitment” to stand with Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the White House pledged an additional $46 million in security assistance that it said will help support Ukraine’s military and border guards. The United States will also send an additional $7 million to international relief agencies to be spent on humanitarian needs in the eastern part of Ukraine, the White House said.

President Obama’s administration has not yet agreed to that request. The United States has provided about $70 million in nonlethal assistance to Ukraine and Mr. Obama has led a coalition of European countries that have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in the hopes of bringing the conflict to an end.

“They need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal,” he said. “Please understand me correctly. Blankets, night vision goggles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets.”

Speaking in English, he urged the United States to come to the aid of Ukrainian soldiers who are battling with Russian-backed forces in the eastern part of his country.

“Over the last month, Ukranians have shown that they have the courage to stand up,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “We will never obey or bend to the aggressor. We are ready to fight.”

Mr. Poroshenko, appearing for the first time before a joint session of Congress, pleaded for America’s help in countering “one of the most cynical acts of treachery in the modern history.” He described the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine as a stab in the back from a once-supportive neighbor.

WASHINGTON — President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine on Thursday implored the United States Congress to provide Ukraine’s soldiers with heavy military equipment as his country seeks to repel what he called an ongoing invasion by Russian forces.

Poland Wants United Nations to Limit Russia’s Influence

But Mr. Komorowski is confident that one of the outcomes of the Ukraine crisis has been a growing realization that Russia remains a palpable security threat — as Polish leaders had warned for two decades. “We know this is not the right time to reset relations with Russia,” he said. “This is not the right time to limit any commitment to Euro-Atlantic relations. No, just the reverse. This is an important moment to contain Russia from any dangerous expansion in order to pursue its neo-imperial vision.”

Russia has shown that it intends to “rebuild its imperial position and far-reaching zone of influence” with the clear intention of growing “back to the size of a superpower,” he said.

“I think it is the type of operation and reaction that can be an effective answer to the kind of nonclassical threats that we have seen happening on the Russia-Ukraine border,” Mr. Komorowski said. “That being said, we must regularly take stock of the security situation along the Eastern flank. Something that is sufficient nowadays may need to be expanded in the future.”

Poland was largely pleased with the outcome of the recent NATO summit meeting in Wales, he said, including the alliance’s decision to establish military supply installations in Eastern Europe on which NATO troops could descend in response to an emergency.

“This is a permanent tenet of our foreign policy, to remind the Western world that the very foundation of freedom will be safe and unshaken as long as we have cooperation between Europe and America,” Mr. Komorowski said. “This is the cornerstone of our commitment, and that is why we also expect, by way of reciprocity, that the United States will sustain its interest in upholding the security of the Western world.”

At a time when many European states have drifted away from strong support for the European Union, Poland has been among the most vociferous voices for strengthening it.

Sipping tea in the White Room of the presidential palace, overlooking gardens and surrounded by aides and security officers, Mr. Komorowski reiterated Poland’s commitment to strengthening European unity as well as trans-Atlantic business, political and military ties.

A former defense minister, Mr. Komorowski became acting president of Poland in 2010 after the plane crash that killed his predecessor, Lech Kaczynski, and later won his own four-year term that year. Mr. Komorowski has not officially announced his intention to pursue another term in national elections next year, though he is widely expected to run.

Mr. Komorowski will make his call in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, part of the parade of dignitaries that ushers in every September assembly gathering. It is part of an official visit by the Polish head of state that will include a stop at Fort Bragg, N.C., and an address to the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University, as well as a tour of the university’s Polish studies program.

The most visible sign of this was last month’s election of Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, as president of the European Council. “Next to his personal merits, which are very significant, this is a reflection of the attitude of the Western world to Poland and to Polish achievements,” Mr. Komorowski said. “It is a source of great satisfaction that our voice is better heard and the Polish prominence in European politics is growing.”

With a thriving economy — Poland was the only nation in Europe to go through the recent economic downturn showing growth in every quarter — it has become a more prominent voice in European Union and NATO affairs, particularly on issues concerning the region’s eastern flank.

Still, Mr. Komorowski’s call is a sign of Poland’s unease over the international response to the Ukraine conflict and the country’s growing confidence and rising profile in European and trans-Atlantic affairs.

In other words, Russia has a veto over removing its own veto.

Like the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France and the United States — Russia has the power to veto any of the Council’s actions. But actually removing Russia’s veto on the Council is nearly impossible. Under Article 108 of the organization’s charter, removing the right to veto would require both a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly and ratification by whatever constitutional process is in place in two-thirds of the member nations, including all five permanent Council members.

“My main message will be that perhaps the United Nations should be reformed to make the institution capable of addressing the threats that really exist today,” Mr. Komorowski said in an interview this week at the presidential palace here in advance of his visit to the United Nations in New York next week. “I think blocking the Security Council on Ukraine is a token, a symptom, of the general weakness of the U.N.”

WARSAW — Frustrated by the United Nations’ passive response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland has said he intends to call on the organization to change its rules to prevent Moscow from vetoing Security Council actions on the region.

BBC team attacked in southern Russia ‘by at least three men’

Steve Rosenberg reports.

Russian servicemen, according to the official line, are not involved in Ukraine, unless they go on holiday or in their spare time.

The team was investigating reports of Russian personnel being killed near the border with Ukraine.

The cameraman was beaten up and the camera smashed during the attack.

The BBC has lodged a formal protest with the Russian authorities after a news team from the BBC’s Moscow bureau was attacked in the south of the country.

18 September 2014 Last updated at 12:51 BST

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Poroshenko: Ukraine can’t win war ‘with blankets’

He stated the need for lethal and non-lethal military equipment insisting the war could not be won “with blankets”.

Mr Poroshenko was addressing Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has appealed to the US and the international community for more weapons to help in its fight against pro-Russian separatists.

18 September 2014 Last updated at 16:40 BST

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Vladimir P. Evtushenkov Is Accused of Laundering Money

“If Yevtushenkov can make a deal, then he should do it,” Mr. Khodorkovsky said. “If he has a chance to appeal to Putin, he should do so. Of course, it is better to agree with Putin because at least he won’t deceive, and these people will deceive.”

The Russian business daily Kommersant, citing anonymous sources, said that Mr. Yevtushenkov had been unsuccessfully trying to meet with Mr. Putin since the middle of June.

Mr. Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in prison under Mr. Putin and now lives in Switzerland, told the RBK television channel that he believed Mr. Yevtushenkov was under attack from Igor Sechin, a longtime ally of Mr. Putin and the head of Rosneft.

Aleksandr Kornilov, an analyst on the oil and gas sector for Alfa Bank, said that the announcement was bound to scare some investors. “Property rights in Russia are already quite shaky, and the trial makes people worried,” he said.

Mr. Peskov allowed that markets may have an “emotional” reaction to the news of the arrest, but added, “that is not a reason for law enforcement not to be able to fulfill its necessary investigative actions.”

The arrest of Mr. Yevtushenkov seemed certain to alarm foreign investors already nervous about the sanctions imposed by the West on the country’s largest banks and energy producers in response to Moscow’s role in the conflict in southeastern Ukraine.

“The size of your business should be matched by the size of your political influence,” Mr. Yevtushenkov said then. “If your political influence is smaller than your business, it will be taken away from you. If your political influence is bigger than your business, then you are a politician.”

In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Yevtushenkov spoke about the tightrope powerful businessmen had to walk in Russia.

The ties between politics and business have grown vastly during Mr. Putin’s 14 years in power, during which the state-run energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft have risen and some of Mr. Putin’s oldest allies, who control the state companies, have been enriched.

“You give up your assets, the Russian government is happy that you leave, and you can stay free,” Mr. Guriev said.

More than a Khodorkovsky-like affair, the arrest of Mr. Yevtushenkov may fit a more familiar story line drawn from crony capitalism, in which an oligarch threatened by an investigation agrees to sell assets to a politically connected firm for a fraction of their value.

“Sistema’s management believes that the acquisition of Bashneft group was legal and transparent,” the company said Wednesday in a statement.

A Rosneft spokesman also denied that the company had any connection with the arrest or had held talks with Bashneft, the oil company in which Mr. Yevtushenkov’s company holds a controlling stake. Sistema’s shares in Bashneft were frozen by a Moscow court in July in connection with an inquiry into the company that was opened earlier this year.

“Any attempts to paint this story with political colors have no right to exist,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, the personal spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Tuesday.

The Kremlin denied on Tuesday that politics had played a role in the arrest and said that Mr. Yevtushenkov’s guilt or innocence would be established in court.

“In Yukos, the most important motivation was to punish Khodorkovsky,” Sergei M. Guriev, an economist and former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow who fled Russia last year, said by telephone Wednesday. Mr. Guriev added: “Yevtushenkov has never been vocal or active in politics. And this is related to business apparently.”

Mr. Yevtushenkov, whose worth is estimated by Forbes Russia at $9 billion, is the richest man in Russia to face prosecution since Mr. Khodorkovsky, who was the owner of the Yukos oil company and the country’s wealthiest individual when he was arrested in 2003. Unlike Mr. Khodorkovsky, however, he has never dabbled in opposition politics, fueling speculation that business interests, possibly involving the Russian state oil company Rosneft, loomed behind Mr. Yevtushenkov’s recent legal troubles.

Vladimir P. Yevtushenkov, the majority shareholder in the conglomerate Sistema, was accused of money laundering in connection with the company’s acquisition of shares in the oil producer Bashneft, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement Tuesday night.

MOSCOW — The house arrest of a billionaire sent shock waves through the Russian stock market on Wednesday in a case that for its sheer size, if nothing else, was already drawing comparisons to the jailing of the oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky.