Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ukraine Muslims Oppose Russian Intervention

"With cries of “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” thousands of protesters in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, a tinderbox of ethnic, religious and political divisions, added an Islamic voice on Wednesday to the tumultuous struggle for Ukraine that last weekend drove the president from power and that has pushed Russia and the West into a face-off reminiscent of the Cold War". New York Times Feb 27, 2014

Crimean Tartar Muslim Leader Refat Chubarov
Ukraine is a deeply divided country. Though the majority of Ukrainians claim to be secular, the western part of the country has been mostly Catholic and supports integration with the West. The eastern part, on the hand, is made up of pro-Russia Orthodox Christians. Crimea has a majority Russian-speaking population which favors close ties with Russia. The Crimean peninsula also has significant  pro-West Catholic and Muslim minorities. About 10,000 Muslim Tartars rallied in Crimean capital of Simferopol in support of pro-West interim government in Kiev which Russia opposes.

Crimea is strategically important to Russia. Russian Navy has a large naval base at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. It helps Russia project its power in the Mediterranean Sea. A substantial amount of Russian natural gas exports flow through Crimea and other parts of Ukraine via pipelines to Western Europe.

European Dependence on Russian Gas
Crimea was a majority Muslim Khanate in the Ottoman Empire before it was overrun by the Russian empire. After defeating the Ottoman Empire in Crimea, the Russian empire expelled large numbers of Turkic Muslims and brought ethnic Russians to settle there, reducing Muslim population to about 12% now. It was transferred by Soviet Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.

Here's an except of a New York Times story on Tartar Muslims in Crimea:

"The minority Tatars, however, have little love for Moscow after being deported en masse by Joseph Stalin and, now back in their homeland, want to carve out their own space inside Ukraine. “We have a long memory of what Russia did to us Tatars,” Refat Chubarov, a member of the Crimean Legislature and a Tatar community leader. Pro-Moscow members of the assembly, furious at the cancellation of an extraordinary session they had called to discuss a response to events in the capital, accused Mr. Chubarov of using a mob to derail democracy. Most people on both sides of the Russia-Ukraine divide have no interest in violent confrontation, but small militant groups have been increasingly active in trying to rally people for battle. In Sevastopol, Crimea’s biggest city, pro-Russian groups have been signing up residents for so-called “self-defense” units while hard-line Cossack organizations, recalling past campaigns to expand and secure Russia’s borders, denounced politicians who call for calm as cowards. A small number of militant Tatars, encouraged by extremists abroad, have tried over the years to recruit Crimea’s Muslims for jihad, but their efforts have fallen flat. Any move to restore Crimea to Russian rule, however, would risk breathing life into such calls for extremism".

Russia has offered evidence of western intervention in recent days in the Maidan uprising in Kiev. It has released a voice recording of a telephone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador in Kiev discussing the composition of future government of Ukraine while pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was still in charge as the pro-West protests raged against his government.

In response to the installation of a new pro-West interim government in Kieve, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ordered massive military exercises close to the Ukrainian border as a warning to the West to stop interfereing. US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia not to intervene in Ukraine. The situation is very tense. Putin could complicate US efforts in Iran nuclear talks and resolution of Syrian crisis in response to US intervention in Ukraine.

US and EU need to tread very carefully in Ukraine which Russia sees as its backyard. Any missteps could lead to a larger international crisis far beyond Europe.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Putin Challenges US Exceptionalism

Syrian Crisis

Hui Muslims in China

Turkish Soaps in Pakistan

Muslims Demographics in West

Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

US Dollar is Global Currency


Mayraj said...

Ukraine is an economic basket case like Greece with 30 million more population. EU enlargement has not been kind to workers. Their wages have stagnated or gotten worse. Meanwhile when the workers migrate to Europe they are called job stealers, benefit tourists, etc and discouraged from coming.

By the way what is seldom mentioned is that Opposition used neo nazis which maybe in control;

Democracy Murdered By Protest
Ukraine Falls To Intrigue and violence

Anonymous said...

Crimea has been part of Russia proper for atleast the past 200 years.

It was put into Ukrainian SSR by Nikita Kruschchev in 1954 for administrative convenience.During USSR collapse the region remaind with Ukraine which has no right on it whatsoever.Most people >70% in Crimea are ETHNIC RUSSIAN who want to merge back into Russia.(NOtice the Russian flags)

The is the West's idea of payback for the humiliating checkmate in Syria.

It will backfire spectacularly.
1.Ukraine will be partitioned just like Ossetia in Georgia

2. Russia will charge market price of gas to Ukraine and impose sanctions.

3.The EU which can barely manage Greece doesn't have the guts to take in Ukraine.

4.The winter olympics went very well with Russia finishing #1 with zero incidence.

Anonymous said...

For Ukraine’s Muslims, the ongoing political crisis should not directly affect their 500,000 member community, according to the country’s grand mufti. However, according to observers, a Russia-leaning swing in politics could be “totally suicidal” for Ukrainian Muslims.

The crisis in Ukraine, which reflects the conflict between those who want the country to remain aligned with Russia and those who want closer integration with western Europe, could threaten to split the public over the contentious issue. Such a division would “not [be] in the interests” of the nation, Europe, its neighbor Russia, or the United States, said U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice earlier this week.

Such a split, which could see areas of the country be lapped up by Russia, would be “totally suicidal” for the country’s Crimean Tatar Muslim minority, said Hakan Kirimli, an international affairs advisor in the Crimean Tatar National Movement. Many Muslims, he added, were expelled by the Soviet Union in 1944 under the pretext of allegedly collaborating with occupying Nazi Germany.

“They are for (pro) staying in Ukraine and by no means [wish to go to] Russia,” he said

However, the county’s grand mufti is cautious about the protests’ effects on Ukraine’s Islamic community.

“The recent events will not affect the Muslims of Ukraine differently than any other component of Ukrainian society,” said Grand Mufti Ahmed Tamim to Al Arabiya News. “The government and political positions in Ukraine aren’t divided on religious grounds,” he added.

Tamim said that the Muslim community – largely made up of members of the Tatar ethnic group residing in the Crimean region – will support any legitimate new leader, regardless of the official’s religious convictions.

“We will support anyone who will work for the welfare and prosperity of Ukraine and its people,” he said.

Marc Schneier, a New York-based rabbi who has worked with the Ukrainian Jewish Committee to fight against both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the country, said that “it’s too early to tell” whether the unrest will have a negative effect on the country’s Muslims.

“We have to be vigilant and monitor the situation, so that Muslims – particularly in the Crimea – will not be targeted in any xenophobic or any negative way,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

All of this chaos has raised new questions over the status of Crimean peninsula located in Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast. The peninsula, which is the homeland of the Crimean Tatars, was hotly contested between the Ottoman Empire and Russia during the Turkish-Russian wars of the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are already some analysts saying that in the event of Ukraine breaking up, Crimea would be ceded to Russia. However, should this happen, Turkey has a card up its sleeve in the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca of 1774, which states that Crimea, which was Ottoman territory at the time, would not become independent from the empire, nor would it be annexed by another country.
However, Russian journalist and member of the International Maritime Law Organization, Sergey Aprelev, said that Crimea, which was annexed by Ukraine in 1954, would be given back to Russia if Ukraine was to split. Aprelev also noted that besides the Kiev government, the only other obstacle to Russia reclaiming Crimea would be Turkey.
In 1991 as the Soviet Union was breaking up, paving the way for an independent Ukraine, Turkey presented the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca to claim that they had the right to ask for Crimea to be given back to them. However, at that time Turkey was satisfied with simply campaigning to ensure the rights of their fellow Turkic brethren, the Crimean Tatars, were secured under the new state.

CanadianBoy said...

Well if Russian want another semi-permanent hostile regions on their borders like North Caucasus then they should annex the Crimean peninsula, we all know Russians have a very impressive history of gaining new territory and not losing the ones they already has :-)

CanadianBoy said...

Super-Power Indian Solider kills five colleagues in , himself in Kashmir:
-BBC: World 9th Largest economy's soldiers stationed in the region often complain of long working hours, poor conditions....
-Hindustan-Times:Stress levels are high among the armed forces, especially in the valley, where they have to work amidst a HOSTILE CIVILIAN POPULATION over extended periods of times....
-Indian Authorities say since 2009 more Indian forces have died killing their fellow Indian colleagues and themselves then while fighting militants and rebels.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Telegraph blog in Ukraine situation:

Crimea lies at the heart of a region that is, and has always been, hugely strategic. This picturesque peninsula has seen centuries of conquest, be it at the hands of Greeks or Scythians, the Byzantines or the British. It was the importance of the Black Sea ports to the grain trade, after all, that provoked the Anglo-Russian Crimean War under Queen Victoria.
Today, too, the economic and geopolitical stakes in Crimea are sky-high, if not focused on agriculture (although Ukraine is once again among the world’s top grain producers). It’s the West’s fear of a resurgent Russia that now prevails, fuelling our determination to contain the old Cold War enemy. Mixed into this complex post-Soviet rivalry, as well, are nagging concerns about West European energy security and the systemic fall-out if a near-bankrupt Ukraine defaults on its sovereign debt.
The West’s response to Russia’s Crimean adventures has so far centred on rhetoric and symbolism. The likes of the US, Germany and Britain are threatening to boycott the G8 summit in June, set to be hosted in Russia. Along with Mr Hague’s strong words, the UK has also cancelled a visit by the Earl of Wessex to Sochi, which he was due to undertake next week as patron of the British Paralympic Association.
A few days into this crisis, economic sanctions against Russia hardly seem necessary, as the markets are doing the work of those wanting to pressurise Putin. The main Russian stock market index plunged 12 per cent yesterday, wiping out $58.4 billion of shareholder value, more than was spent on the Sochi Olympics. State-owned companies such as Gazprom and financial services monolith Sberbank were particularly badly hit.
The rouble has also plunged in recent days, with Russia’s Central Bank being forced to raise interest rates “temporarily” from 5.5 per cent to 7 per cent. ---
Satisfying as that may be to Western diplomats, economic sanctions will be extremely difficult to impose on Russia and are, for all their symbolism, likely to be counterproductive. For one thing, as is clear to anyone who knows Russia’s commercial landscape, many large and powerful Western companies have invested heavily in this vast, resource-rich country and won’t want their interests harmed.
Post-Soviet Russia has attracted huge foreign direct investment, going way beyond oil and gas. Western car-makers, retailers and household product companies have piled in, keen to tap into Europe’s second most valuable retail market and Russia’s highly educated and relatively cheap workforce. The likes of VW, Ford, Renault and German engineering giant Liebherr have invested billions in production facilities. Other thoroughbred Western corporates such as Pepsi, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Boeing are also heavily committed – all of which will seriously complicate any attempt to impose economic sanctions on Russia...
Another tool in Moscow’s anti-sanctions armoury is its own fiscal strength. While the Russian economy has lately slowed, with growth currently bumping along at 1.5 per cent, it has expanded tenfold in dollar terms since the late Nineties. This has allowed Putin to pay off almost all the country’s debts – gross government liabilities are less than 10 per cent of GDP, by far the lowest of any major economy, and in net terms Russia is one of the world’s few sovereign creditors. In addition, Moscow has reserves totalling $450 billion, the world’s fourth-largest haul.
As such, Russia holds most of the cards when it comes to rescuing Ukraine from its budgetary predicament. Long before the Kiev protests began, the Ukrainian economy was in trouble. World prices for steel, its biggest export, had fallen by half since 2011...

Anonymous said...

The decision of the new Ukrainian authorities to repeal a law giving regional rights to minority languages is a bad move, said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. He also criticized a bill which would ban Russian media in Ukraine.

“Languages used by the people must be respected. And I totally agree with those who say that if a law limiting the use of languages is accepted it's wrong,” he told a media conference in Moscow following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov

The now-repealed language law, which was adopted in Ukraine in 2012, gave legal grounds for local government to conduct business in the languages of local minorities. This mostly affected the Russian-speaking minority, which is concentrated in the east and south of the country, but also affected Romanian and Hungarian-speaking minorities in the south-west.

Repealing the law was one of the first actions of the Ukrainian parliament, after the opposition took control over it in the wake of ousting President Viktor Yanukovich. Oleg Tyagnibok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda Party, said as he was advocating the cancelation that the law was adopted with violations and promised that it would eventually be replaced with a new one.

Asselborn’s words confirm the assessment of Lavrov on the issue, who said, “We voiced our concern. I am worried that the EU has a similar concern – they can have none of it.”

The two diplomats also agreed in their attitude towards a bill currently floating in the Ukrainian parliament, which would effectively ban all Russian media in the country. Authors of the bill, who are members of Svoboda, justified the move by what they called biased and untruthful coverage of the Ukrainian protest.

The bill would ban all media from countries which have not ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, from broadcasting in Ukraine. Russia signed the convention, but has not ratified it so far.

“Russia is not a party to the convention, but it does not prevent us from broadcasting all across Europe. No EU member makes any problems for our broadcasts. If such a decision is taken in Ukraine, it would be a serious violation of the freedom of speech,” Lavrov said.

Asselborn agreed that the freedom of media is a key component of the democratic values the European Union is advocating.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: ""

Indians reads more than Americans and Europeans? And you believe that?

This can't be true with India having few libraries and bookstores and being home to the world's largest population of illiterates.

CanadianBoy said...

Wait i am confused, if number of people reading is a positive development then why are Korea and japan,two of the richest nations on earth with least numbers of readers, and UK,USA,Germany and Canada in the lower-middle. Because reading fiction-digests/contents-of-your-food box/romance-novels/Bollywood-tabloids doesn't make your nation advance. Quality over quantity.

Anonymous said...

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Ali Aliev was a 9-year-old when German troops occupied Crimea during World War II, and he still remembers the day he and others in his village in the southeastern Sudak region of the peninsula gathered in a schoolyard to wait for their liberators, the returning Soviets.

There he learned that the indigenous Crimean Tatar population was being rounded up and sent away.

“We didn’t know where, just somewhere,” he said, now in his 80s and living in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.

His people were loaded onto empty train carriages — women, children and elders crammed together. When the train stopped, the Soviets opened the doors, threw dead bodies over the side of the platform and restarted the train.

After 22 days on board, Aliev ended up at a labor camp in the Ural region in the center of the USSR. This was Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s punishment for the Crimean Tatars, citing Tatar collaboration with the Nazi invaders, despite the fact that many had served in the Red Army.

Descendants of the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan, the Crimean Tatars are Turkic-speaking Muslims and the peninsula’s indigenous inhabitants. The Soviets left them scattered in labor camps across the barren steppes of Central Asia. Thought to number approximately 200,000 at the time, almost half the population died from hunger, thirst and disease in their first year of exile.

“They threw us aside to exterminate us from the earth,” Aliev said. “But despite what we lived through, the people never forgot their homeland. We went to sleep at night dreaming of Crimea.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Tatar population has slowly returned to an entirely different homeland from the one they were forced to leave, one dominated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Since the Tatars’ homecoming, they have been fighting for their rights, but with the newest Russian incursion, the Crimean Tatars here says they feel hemmed in from all sides.

Memetova’s children do not speak the Tatar language because they spend all day in Russian-language schools while she is at work. “When my daughter started day care, she spoke Tatar. Within a month she started speaking to me in Russian,” Memetova said. They worry that their the language and culture is slowly being eroded.

These days, cultural concerns have taken a backseat to developments in Kiev and Moscow. The Tatars came out in Simferopol on Feb. 26 to support the Kiev protests after Yanukovich was ousted. So far, the Tatars say they have not seen signs of support from the government in Kiev. “Just as we’ve had to do everything ourselves, so it will continue,” Memetova said...

Mayraj said...

Neo-Nazi party has 6 major ministries in interim Govt!

One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels – he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.
Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?
Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.
Ukrainian ultra-rightists given major Cabinet posts in government
America’s Staggering Hypocrisy in Ukraine
Some top neocons want a new Cold War, but they don’t want anyone to note their staggering hypocrisy
The clash in Crimea is the fruit of western expansion
The external struggle to dominate Ukraine has put fascists in power and brought the country to the brink of conflict
Op-Ed: Tea With Neo-Nazis: The Violent Nationalism in Ukraine
The violence in Ukraine is a show case of the pan-European rise of race hatred. Europe is engaging in a risky blindness. Again.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian piece on the situation in Ukraine:

Public clashes between Ukrainians and Russians in the main square in Sevastopol. Ukrainians protesting at Russian interference; Crimean Russians demanding the return of Sevastopol to Russia, and that parliament recognise Russian as the state language. Ukrainian deputies barred from the government building; a Russian "information centre" opening in Sevastopol. Calls from the Ukrainian ministry of defence for an end to the agreement dividing the Black Sea fleet between the Russian and Ukrainian navies. The move is labelled a political provocation by Russian deputies. The presidium of the Crimean parliament announces a referendum on Crimean independence, and the Russian deputy says that Russia is ready to supervise it. A leader of the Russian Society of Crimea threatens armed mutiny and the establishment of a Russian administration in Sevastopol. A Russian navy chief accuses Ukraine of converting some of his Black Sea fleet, and conducting armed assault on his personnel. He threatens to place the fleet on alert. The conflict escalates into terrorism, arson attacks and murder.

Sound familiar? All this happened in 1993, and it has been happening, in some form or other, since at least the 14th century.

Instead of blustering into their microphones in a frenzy of self-righteous indignation, the leaders of the US and EU would do well to spend a few minutes swotting up on the history of this volatile region. They would learn that Crimea has a long history of conflict between its Ukrainian, Russian and Tartar communities, and has been ping-ponging back and forth between Ottoman, Russian and Ukrainian jurisdiction for years. The last time the British got involved was in 1853-6, and that, too, was a shambles. This time, the west's intervention has been foolish and inept, and its hypocrisy is shameful.....

Riaz Haq said...

Speaking in The Hague today, President Obama called Russia a "regional power". It's important to remember that Russia is a vast country with 11 time-zones and 12 neighbors spread around the globe: Azarbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland, and Ukraine. US, just across the 82 km wide Bering Strait, could be considered a Russian neighbor as well.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Tariq Ali's Op Ed in The Guardian on the Ukraine situation:

Once again, it seems that Russia and the United States are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with their respective ambitions. This clash of interests is highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. The provocation in this particular instance, as the leaked recording of a US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, saying "Fuck the EU" suggests, came from Washington.

Several decades ago, at the height of the cold war, George Kennan, a leading American foreign policy strategist invited to give the Reith Lectures, informed his audience: "There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentric than embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision … Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side is the centre of all virtue."

And so it continues. Washington knows that Ukraine has always been a delicate issue for Moscow. The ultra-nationalists who fought with the Third Reich during the second world war killed 30,000 Russian soldiers and communists. They were still conducting a covert war with CIA backing as late as 1951. Pavel Sudoplatov, a Soviet intelligence chief, wrote in 1994: "The origins of the cold war are closely interwoven with western support for nationalist unrest in the Baltic areas and western Ukraine."

When Gorbachev agreed the deal on German reunification, the cornerstone of which was that united Germany could remain in Nato, US secretary of state Baker assured him that "there would be no extension of Nato's jurisdiction one inch to the east". Gorbachev repeated: "Any extension of the zone of Nato is unacceptable." Baker's response: "I agree." One reason Gorbachev has publicly supported Putin on the Crimea is that his trust in the west was so cruelly betrayed.

As long as Washington believed that Russian leaders would blindly do its bidding (which Yeltsin did blind drunk) it supported Moscow. Yeltsin's attack on the Russian parliament in 1993 was justified in the western media. The wholesale assaults on Chechnya by Yeltsin and then by Putin were treated as a little local problem with support from George Bush and Tony Blair. "Chechnya isn't Kosovo," said Blair after his meeting with Putin in 2000. Tony Wood's book, Chechnya: The Case for Independence, provides chapter and verse of what the horrors that were inflicted on that country. Chechnya had enjoyed de facto independence from 1991-94. Its people had observed the speed with which the Baltic republics had been allowed independence and wanted the same for themselves.

Instead they were bombarded. Grozny, the capital, was virtually reduced to dust as 85 percent of its housing was destroyed. In February 1995 two courageous Russian economists, Andrey Illarionov and Boris Lvin published a text in Moscow News arguing in favour of Chechen independence and the paper (unlike its Western counterparts) also published some excellent critical reports that revealed atrocities on a huge scale, eclipsing the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre in Srebrenica. Rape, torture, homeless refugees and tens of thousands dead was the fate of the Chechens. No problem here for Washington and its EU allies.

In the calculus of western interests there is no suffering, whatever its scale, which cannot be justified. Chechens, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis are of little importance....
If the US insists on using the Nato magnet to attract the Ukraine, it is likely that Moscow will detach the eastern part of the country. Those who really value Ukrainian sovereignty should opt for real independence and a positive neutrality: neither a plaything of the west nor Moscow.

Riaz Haq said...

Powerful multi-billionaire Muslim Crimean Tatar, Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine, may also hold the balance of power Eastern Ukraine's tensest standoff since the Cold War.

Here are excerpts of a Washington Post report:

"Two days after Akhmetov deployed workers from his steel plant to restore order in a region torn by separatist violence, calm appeared to return Friday to the center of this eastern city. A few steps from a recent deadly clash, people lunched on sushi as a song by Katy Perry played. Near the scorched city council building that had been held by pro-Russian militants, a group of Akhmetov’s unarmed steelworkers lounged and smoked cigarettes as they kept watch."

A few blocks away, at the ruins of the city police building where at least seven people died last week, retired steelworker Oleg Krivolapov welcomed Akhmetov’s intervention.

“He has his factories, his industries, a lot of money — he could do a lot,” said Krivolapov, who trusts that his former colleagues at Akhmetov’s Ilych Factory can keep the peace. “Of course, he should have done something sooner.”

The steelworkers’ patrols seem to mark a turn in the conflict, but Akhmetov’s decision to use his clout may be more significant. Since the fall of his longtime ally, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Akhmetov has restrained himself from pulling out all the stops to try to restore order. But with his decision to put his workers on the street, he may be saying enough is enough with the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

A king among men here, his empire of steel plants, factories and coal mines spreads across Donbas — as many Ukrainians refer to their nation’s industrial heartland. Akhmetov is its largest private employer and is known as the “shadow governor” for his links to local and regional politicians. His businesses also maintain their own private, well-trained security force of more than 3,000, including former elite Ukrainian commandos.

Should he go all-out — a level of commitment that still remains unclear — observers believe he has the power and influence to turn the tide.

“He controls everything in that region,” said Alexander Paraschiy, head of research at Concorde Capital, a Kiev-based brokerage and analytical firm. “If Akhmetov decides to stop this separatist show, he would be able to do it in a couple of minutes.”

Riaz Haq said...

Trouble in Ukraine was started by US by orchestrating the removal of President Yanukovych seen as pro-Moscow by the West. There were leaked taped phone conversations of a US State Dept official and US Ambassador to Ukraine which showed US picking a replacement while Yanukovych was still in charge. Putin is reacting to it in ways that the West did not expect. The West badly miscalculated Putin's strong reaction in spite of earlier warning signs seen when Georgian President made provocative moves in Abkhazia in 2008.