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Kiev capitulates to ultra right radicals, legalises Donbass blockade

Ukraine does as radicals demand, legalises their blockade of Donbass and prepares to close Russian banks.

Alexander Mercouris

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Weeks after ultra right radicals began blocking coal deliveries to Ukraine from Donbass, and after weeks of calling on the radicals to end the blockade, Ukraine’s government in the form of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council has legalised it, declaring all transport links with Ukraine blocked as of this afternoon.

The statement signed off by the Council’s head Alexander Turchinov, the hardline Ukrainian official who as Acting President of Ukraine launched the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” (“ATO”) to suppress the Donbass back in early 2014, attempts to link the legalisation of the blockade to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics’ retaliatory nationalisation of Ukrainian enterprises on their territories.

The statement reads in part as follows:

Taking into consideration that Ukraine’s enterprises have been seized and the security situation has worsened in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation, the National Security and Defense Council has made a decision to suspend movement of cargos through the contact line.  Following a decision by the National Security and Defense Council, all highways and railroads leading to the line of disengagement will be blocked today at 1pm (2pm Moscow Time) by the National Police and the National Guard.

This is a pathetically weak decision.  As everyone knows the reason the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics nationalised Ukrainian enterprises on their territories was because of the illegal blockade imposed on them by Ukraine’s ultra radicals.  Yet instead of ending that blockade – which is causing severe damage to Ukraine’s economy – as it has repeatedly intimated it wanted to do, the government has instead legalised it.  By doing so it has exposed its inability to control the radicals, upon whom it increasingly relies for its existence, and has exposed the extent to which it has lost the political initiative to them.

As for the Donbass, the Ukrainian blockade will undoubtedly cause short-term hardship.   However it also will speed the integration of Donbass’s economy into Russia’s.  Since Russia’s economy is vastly bigger and richer than Ukraine’s, that can only be to Donbass’s not so long term economic advantage.

In their reactions to Ukraine’s announcement today the Russians have pointed out that Ukraine’s action directly violates the Minsk II Agreement.  Boris Gryzlov, Russia’s representative on the Contact Group – the body which is supposed to be searching for ways to end the conflict in Ukraine – had this to say

“The Kiev authorities’ inability to fight against the outrage of nationalists affects Ukraine itself. This is especially dangerous as the tendency is confirmed by other steps of officials,” Gryzlov said.

The envoy also said that “instead of restoring the financial system in Donbass, in line with the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian authorities are destroying their own banking system.”

Gryzlov’s reference to Ukraine’s commitment to “restore the financial system in Donbass” refers to a commitment Ukraine’s President Poroshenko made at the meeting in Minsk in February 2015 where the Minsk II Agreement was agreed to restore full operation of the financial system in Donbass.   As Gryzlov essentially says, the Ukrainians have never carried out that commitment any more than they have carried out any of their commitments they made in Minsk.

Gryzlov’s reference to “the Ukrainian authorities destroying their own banking system” refers to action Ukraine is now contemplating against Russian banks operating on Ukrainian territory.  This follows protests by Ukrainian ultra right radicals who since 13th March 2017 have blocking access to the central office in Kiev of the local branch of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank.

Gryzlov’s claim that the action Ukraine is contemplating against Russian banks operating in Ukraine would destroy Ukraine’s banking system may be overstated.  Russian banks account for roughly 10% of Ukraine’s banking sector, supposedly holding $425 million in private customer deposits and a further $276 million in deposits held on behalf of business customers.  Though these are large sums, they do not look large enough to cripple the Ukrainian economy as a whole, even if the money in the deposits were to disappear along with the banks, which of course is unlikely.

Having said this, launching an assault on Russian banks just 3 months after Ukraine nationalised PrivatBank, its own largely bank, hardly looks like a good idea, and at a time of economic crisis it is certainly not a move best calculated to inspire confidence in Ukraine’s banking system even if talk of it triggering a cascade effect may be overstated.

However in Ukraine ideology invariably wins any battle against rational economic good sense, and the coal blockade, extended and legalised today, and the pending attack on the Russian banks, are just further examples of this.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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