Tensions Rise As The U.S. Imposes Laughable Sanctions On Russia – Episode 319

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youtube_more_sanctions_on_russia_economic_collapse2Cyprus housing market is declining as capital controls continue to be implemented. The Greece people are staging protest on Government enforced austerity. The US housing market is imploding on itself and the outlook for spring, blame it on weather. Facebook has been busted, they allow the NSA to spy on the American people. The US imposed additional sanctions on a select group of Russians and Ukrainians. Russia has now retaliated and imposed sanctions on a select group of Americans. Tensions between Russia and American are increasing and the war drums are beating louder. Be prepared for an event to start the war.

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Current News – 03.20.2014


Economy

House and flat prices plunge in fourth quarter of 2013

  • Residential prices for both houses and flats fell by 1.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively during the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013, the latest RICS Cyprus’ Property Price Index, published on Tuesday showed.
  • The biggest drops were in Larnaca (1.4 per cent for houses) and Nicosia (6.8 per cent for flats). Values of retail properties fell by an average of 3.2 per cent, whilst those of offices and warehouses fell by 1.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.
  • “Nicosia is clearly feeling the impact on the government and banking sector (the two sectors who dominate the local employment market), whilst other cities are progressively bottoming out,” said the RICS report.
  • The majority of asset classes and geographies continue to be affected, with areas that had dropped

Source: cyprus-mail.com

‘People are just being murdered’: Fresh EU funds for Greece do little to stop misery

  • Greek streets thronged with disillusioned crowds, as some three thousand union members hit the streets, fed up with austerity measures just as the country secured a fresh rescue loan of 8.5 billion euro coupled with further spending cuts and unemployment.
  • And now for the bad news
  • The population is experiencing its sixth straight year of recession. Unemployment currently stands at a record 28 percent, and the under-25s experiencing the sharp end of it, with youth unemployment rates now at 60 percent.
  • A total of 1.38 million Greeks are unemployed. The banks aren’t lending. Small and mid-size business closures are steadily rising.
  • Since this isn’t the first time the country was hit by EU-imposed austerity, its economy continues to shrink; it has done so by25 percent in four years.
  • The optimistic tone of the report may well be true, but experts say the tiny 0.6 percent growth rate is negligible at a time when even 5 percent annual growth would still take the debt-stricken country 20 years to even start tackling unemployment.

Source: rt.com

President Obama Explains How He’s Improving The Economy For All

  • that jobs are being created (but could do better), and how middle-class opportunity is right around the corner if it wasn’t for them dastardly Republicans…

Continuing Claims Miss By Most In 8 Weeks As Initial Claims Rise

  • Initial jobless claims rose for the first time in 4 weeks – with, oddly, no upward revision of previous data – but beat expectations for the 3rd week in a row. In the prior week the best state was New York, where claims dropped by 17,548 due to “Fewer layoffs in the transportation and warehousing, educational services, and food services industries.” However, the rise in continuing claims – the most in over 2 months – is perhaps the most notable – missing expectations by the most in 8 weeks. This is notable since this week was the survey period for the all-important Non-Farm Payrolls (well less important now given Yellen’s comments).
  • Initial claims rose from an oddly not-upwardly revised previous week.

Source: zerohedge.com

  • WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study documents the bleak plight of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months: Just 11 percent of them, on average, will ever regain steady full-time work.
  • The findings by three Princeton University economists show the extent to which the long-term unemployed have been shunted to the sidelines of the U.S. economy since the Great Recession. The long-term jobless number 3.8 million, or 37 percent of all unemployed Americans.
  • “The long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely” to stop looking for a job than to find one, according to the paper co-written by Alan Krueger, formerly President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser. “And when they exit the labor force, the long-term unemployed tend to say they no longer want a job.”
  • Up to 2 million Americans who would have benefited from the emergency benefits program have lost that assistance, according to the National Employment Law Project. One of the requirements for receiving benefits was that a recipient look for a job. With the loss of benefits, many have likely ceased their job searches and are no longer counted as unemployed.

Source: cnsnews.com

Existing Home Sales Lowest In 19 Months, Cheapest Home Sales Tumble 18%; Weather, Student Loans Blamed 

  • 20 percent of buyers under the age of 33, the prime group of first-time buyers, delayed their purchase because of outstanding debt. 56 percent of younger buyers who took longer to save for a downpayment identified student debt as the biggest obstacle.” Oops.

Source: zerohedge.com

Stick A Fork In The “Housing Recovery” (Spoiler Alert: Blame Record Student Debt)

  • The chart below from Bank of America – showing the progression of first-time US homebuyers in recent months – should scare everyone who still believes that there is some sort of “housing recovery” in the US.
  • The NAR essentially confirmed this (something Zero Hedge readers have known for nearly a year), when it reported that “all-cash sales comprised 35 percent of transactions in February, up from 33 percent in January and 32 percent in February 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 21 percent of homes in February, compared with 20 percent in January; they were 22 percent in February 2013. Seventy-three percent of investors paid cash in February.
  • Read that last sentence again: 73% of investors, i.e. speculators who now account for a greater portion of total purchasers than first time home buyers, paid cash!
  • So what explains this collapse in the traditional housing pathway, where people buy houses to live in them? Simple. Record debt. Only not the credit card debt variety which historically was the biggest impediment to large purchases and was among the reasons for the 2007 credit bubble pop. This time it is all student debt.
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  • NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors in Dayton, Ohio, said student debt appears to be a factor in the weak level of first-time buyers. “The biggest problems for first-time buyers are tight credit and limited inventory in the lower price ranges,” he said. “However, 20 percent of buyers under the age of 33, the prime group of first-time buyers, delayed their purchase because of outstanding debt. In our recent consumer survey, 56 percent of younger buyers who took longer to save for a downpayment identified student debt as the biggest obstacle.”
  • Brown notes the survey results are for recent homebuyers. “It’s clear there are other people who would like to buy a home that are not in the market because of debt issues, so we can expect a lingering impact of delayed home buying,” Brown added.
  • As a reminder, in Q4 student debt rose to a record $1.08 trillion, and continues to rise at a breakneck pace.
  • But… but… what happened to the whole “the US consumer has deleveraged and can’t wait to go on a spending spree” fable again?

Source: zerohedge.com

 

Analysis: Rising prices, harsh winter may dampen U.S. home sales in spring

  • Higher prices appear to be chasing some first-timers from the market. First-time buyers made up about 28 percent of purchases in February, down from 30 percent a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors.
  • With fewer entry-level buyers, the U.S. homeownership rate could slide further as more Americans opt to rent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 65.2 percent of Americans owned their homes in the fourth quarter of 2013, below a 2004 peak of 69.2 percent.
  • WINTER’S TALE
  • A severe winter kept many Americans from listing their homes for sale. The number of previously owned homes available for sale at the end of February improved but stood at a relatively low 2 million, representing a 5.2 months’ supply. Economists say a market needs about a six- to seven-month supply to have a healthy balance between buyers and sellers.
  • “We are battling heavy snow and just wondering when the winter weather will finally ease,” said Judy Boyle, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Signature Properties in Northborough, Massachusetts. “Now we have pent-up demand from buyers, since the heavy snow is preventing sellers from listing properties.”
  • “We held off listing our home, since we weren’t confident we could make a profit last year,” said Stierwalt. “After waiting through the winter, the market is back up, so we’re ready to sell and soon retire.”
  • Warmer temperatures may boost sales as more homes like the Stierwalts’ come on the market and as the jobs picture improves. But it may be too late to rescue what is shaping up to be a disappointing spring sales season.

Source: reuters.com

Caterpillar Global Retail Sales Continue Sliding, Drop For 15th Month In A Row; LatAm Tumbles

  • Any minute now…
  • Just like with the fabled Abenomics recovery which is said to be just around the corner, so Caterpillar, whose stock has discounted a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes, continues to disappoint month after month, with no actual pick up in sales, and as was just released moments ago, in February the heavy industrial equipment maker posted the 15th consecutive decline in global retail sales, which declined 8% from February of 2013, which in turn was a 13% decline from 2012.

Source: zerohedge.com

Bank of America to cut fewer than 5 percent of jobs at two units: Bloomberg

  • (Reuters) – Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) is laying off workers at its global trading and investment banking divisions, Bloomberg reported quoting three people with direct knowledge of the decision.

Source: reuters.com

US Postal Service – Trim Workforce by 10,000 in 2015

NZ signs historic currency deal with China

  • New Zealand’s economic ties with China have been strengthened with a deal to allow direct trading of the New Zealand dollar against the Chinese currency the renminbi or yuan.
  • Currency facts
  • # The New Zealand dollar has become only the sixth currency to be directly traded with the renminbi or yuan and only the 4th currency to be granted ‘market maker’ status allowing trade on China’s forex system.
  • # Direct convertibility between the NZ dollar and renminbi cuts out the requirement and additional cost of converting via the US dollar for exporters and importers

Source: nzherald.co.nz


Rights

White House Launches Climate Change Website

  • A White House news release on March 19 announced that the Obama administration is launching the Climate Data Initiative, a key part of which is a new government website to make access to the administration’s selective data on climate change more readily available.
  • Despite that fact that a large body of scientific evidence exists to dispute that so-called climate change is anthropogenic (caused by humans), the administration has chosen to ignore the dissenting opinions and proceed full speed ahead as if such change (and its alleged causes) is indisputable. It also plans to spend a large amount of the taxpayers’ money to finance the government-approved solution. The White House release notes that the president’s proposed FY15 budget includes “a new $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund, within a fully paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, that expands on existing climate-change preparedness programs to ensure we are doing everything we can to support the safety and security of our communities and resources.”

Source: thenewamerican.com


Police State

Busted! – U.S. Tech Giants Knew Of NSA Spying Says Agency’s Senior Lawyer

  • This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.
  • The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.
  • I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.
  • So it’s up to us — all of us — to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I‘m committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.
  • – Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg in a post last week
  • Last week, Mark Zuckerberg made headlines by posting about how he called President Barack Obama to express outrage and shock about the government’s spying activities. Of course, anyone familiar with Facebook and what is going on generally between private tech behemoths and U.S. intelligence agencies knew right away that his statement was one gigantic heap of stinking bullshit. Well now we have the proof.
  • Earlier today, the senior lawyer for the NSA made it completely clear that U.S. tech companies were fully aware of all the spying going on, including the PRISM program (on that note read my recent post: The Most Evil and Disturbing NSA Spy Practices To-Date Have Just Been Revealed).
  • So stop the acting all of you Silicon Valley CEOs. We know you are fully on board with extraordinary violations of your fellow citizens’ civil liberties. We know full well that you have been too cowardly to stand up for the values this country was founded on. We know you and your companies are compromised. Stop pretending, stop bullshitting. You’ve done enough harm.
  • From The Guardian:
  • The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting month of angry denials from the firms.
  • Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.
  • Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”
  • When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL –claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had “never heard” the term Prism.

Source: zerohedge.com


War

  • The Italian region of Veneto, with the capital of Venice, is also holding a referendum on secession from Italy. The referendum will last 5 days, until March 21st. The vote is not legally recognized, but it doesn’t stop the campaigners – they believe it would help them legitimize calls for an official referendum.Venetian people think about this topic because we have seen it also those time, Italian media are trying to hamper in some way our aims and our efforts. So, we have seen already more than 1 million people in Venice that is about 30 percent of people having the right to vote that has already expressed their preference. And this is completely legal because the referendum follows all the rules to be accounted as an official vote. But anyway it may also serve as a tool of pressure in case we find it hard to get it approved, if the Italian state is going to make some claims against this vote. But another law is ready to be passed. It is called 342 in original council and they are going to discuss about it in a few days. So, another referendum with traditional modalities is going to take place in case this is going to fail or it doesn’t reach the 50% of the voters. The intentions are anyway really serious and we think that it will be possible to declare independence within one year.

Source: voiceofrussia.com

Casualties feared as gunmen open fire in popular Kabul hotel

  • Injuries are feared as gunmen have entered the luxurious Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital and opened fire, witnesses said.
  • Many foreign observers are staying at the hotel, which is located near the presidential palace, ahead of the April 5 election. The building is now surrounded by the security forces.
  • Afghan Security officials have confirmed that gunmen are in #SERENA hotel in #Kabul and fight is still happening and I heard huge Bangs
  • — Sabawoon Sadiq (@SabawoonSadiq1) March 20, 2014
  • A senior Kabul police official said there were three attackers, The Wall Street Journal reports. As clashes ensued, guests were herded into safe rooms.
  • A woman, who was taken to safety along with other guests, told Reuters that the shooting appeared to begin in the hotel’s restaurant.
  • Earlier in the day, the Taliban killed 10 Afghan policemen and one civilian in an assault on a police base in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
  • This is not the first attack to take place at the hotel; the building came under rocket attacks in 2009 and 2010.

Source: rt.com

  • Kiev’s threat to confiscate Gazprom property will lead to chain reaction, from wich Ukraine will not benefit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
  • The threats of the current Ukrainian authorities to take hold on Russian property, including property of Gazprom, could lead to a chain reaction, from which Ukraine will not benefit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Source: voiceofrussia.com

  • Europe may start selling natural gas to Ukraine at market prices of $370-400 per 1,000 cubic meters in case they resume reverse supplies. The money equals the price tag that Russia’s energy giant Gazprom put on its gas deliveries to Ukraine before the agreed discount. This is according to Ukraine’s energy ministry Yuri Prodan.
  • “Gas should be sold at market prices… They range from around $370 per 1,000 cubic meters to some $400,” he said.
  • Last December, Russia and Ukraine agreed to slash gas prices for Kiev in 2014 to $268.5, but this deal was to be re-affirmed every four months.
  • In 2013, Ukraine’s state-run Naftogas received some 13 billion cubic meters from Russia at $400 on average.
  • According to Prodan, starting on April 1, Gazprom’s prices for Ukraine’s gas deliveries may hike up to $380 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Source: voiceofrussia.com

Ukraine Goes Cyprus 2.0, To Tax Deposits Over 100,000 Hryvnia (To Appease IMF?)

  • It would appear the IMF’s dirty little fingerprints are all over this latest piece of legislation in Ukraine. The Ukraine Finance Ministry is proposing to take a very-similar-to-Cyprus approach to bailing in its despositors:
  • *UKRAINE PROPOSES NEW TAX ON DEPOSITS EXCEEDING 100,000 HRYVNIA
  • *UKRAINE TAX PROPOSAL WOULD INCLUDE 1.5% OF ALL DEPOSITS
  • This would appear a measure designed to stabilize the budget for potential IMF negotiations and fits perfectly with what the IMF has consistently hinted as the next steps for many nations.
  • This is further to the news last week that a 25% deposit “tax” was being considered…
  • Via Tax News,
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  • Ukraine’s parliament is to consider draft laws which would ban foreign-currency bank deposits and introduce a 25% tax on interest on deposits in banks and other financial institutions in circumstances where the interest received is more than 5% above the rate set by the National Bank of Ukraine.

Source: zerohedge.com

US official accuses Russia of firing at Ukrainian troops, refuses to explain herself

  • A State Department spokeswoman claimed that Russia ‘shot first’ in an incident in Crimea, which left two people killed near a military facility. But when asked to back the allegations with facts or at least explain herself, she just said to move on.
  • The incident on Tuesday happened near a military cartography facility in Simferopol. Local authorities are currently investigating the shooting, which also left two people injured. But they said the fatalities and injuries came after a third party opened fire on a Ukrainian serviceman and a Crimean Self-Defense trooper.
  • Russia considers the shooting a provocation, and Crimean authorities are openly saying that it bears resemblance to the deaths in Kiev in February, where snipers allegedly killed both protesters and police amid a bloody confrontation.
  • Commenting on the incident on her Twitter account, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said:
  • Stop the shooting in #Simferopol. Clear that #Russia shot first, and now must show restraint.#Ukraine@UkrProgress
  • — Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) March 19, 2014

Source: rt.com

Ukraine Military Concedes on Crimea as Russia Tightens Grip

Crimea is now part of Russia and there is no reason for Ukraine troops to be in Crimea. Crimea is telling the Ukrainian troops to leave and go back to Ukraine peacefully. Russia will not invade Ukraine, this is propaganda, the same propaganda they were using when they said Russian troops were invading Crimea. The Ukrainian acting President and PM Yatz (who were not elected) are pushing the propaganda which they receive from the central bankers/US/EU governments.

  • Ukraine said it plans to reinforce its eastern border with Russia and withdraw troops from Crimea, ceding control of the Black Sea peninsula as tensions remained high over Russian moves to annex the breakaway region.
  • Demilitarizing Crimea “is the best way to de-escalate the situation,” Andriy Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters in Kiev yesterday. He declined to say when forces would leave, and his announcement came as pro- Russian civilians overran bases in the region and temporarily detained Ukrainian personnel, including its navy chief.
  • The Ukrainian military in Crimea have been actively taking the Russian side, the regional authorities said. “One can talk about thousands,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told Interfax on Thursday.
  • Three-quarters of the Ukrainian military who were stationed in Crimea are ready to go over to the Russian side, he said. The overwhelming majority of the military bases are already controlled by the Crimean self-defense forces, Aksyonov said.
  • “Talks are now being held on all the bases. The coordinators are talking. Anyone ready to leave without a weapon will be allowed to do so,” he said.

Source: voiceofrussia.com

Obama Authorizes Sanctions on Russia That ‘Could Also Be Disruptive to the Global Economy’

Meanwhile: Sanction tit-for-tat: Moscow strikes back against US officials.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry has published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: Senator J. McCain; senior adviser to President Obama, D. Pfeiffer; and leading adviser on international economics, C. Atkinson.

  • After Russian officials laughed off the first round of sanctions imposed by the United States — and amid fears that Russia may encroach further into Ukraine — President Obama announced on Thursday that he is “now moving…to impose additional costs on Russia.”
  • Among other steps, Obama said he signed a new executive order Thursday “that gives us the authority to impose sanctions, not just on individuals, but on key sectors of the Russian economy. This is not our preferred outcome,” he said.
  • “These sanctions would not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy but could also be disruptive to the global economy.”
  • Obama said “further escalation” by Russia will only lead to its further isolation from the international community.
  • He said Russia must show “respect” for sovereignty and territorial integrity — as well as “the notion that nations do not simply re-draw borders or make decisions at the expense of their neighbors simply because they are larger or more powerful.”.

Source: cnsnews.com

Executive Order 13661

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America,
hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in
Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, and expanded by
Executive Order 13661 of March 16, 2014, finding that the
actions and policies of the Government of the Russian
Federation, including its purported annexation of Crimea and
its use of force in Ukraine, continue to undermine democratic
processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace,
security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and
contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby
constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national
security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly,
I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property
that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the
United States, or that are or hereafter come within the
possession or control of any United States person (including any
foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not
be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt
in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in
consultation with the Secretary of State:

  • Moscow is studying Washington’s list of individuals against whom sanctions were imposed, and already puzzled by some of the names, Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
  • “One can say straight away that we are extremely bewildered by the presence of some names on the list,” Peskov said.
  • “So far I cannot say what the reaction is of other people on the US list but Ivanov perceived the news with humor,” the president’s press secretary said.
  • Ivanov spent 20-odd years serving in the KGB’s First Main Directorate and later in the Russian External Intelligence Service, Peskov recalled.
  • “As a result of his intelligence activities he was already banned entry to a majority of countries in the West. So he is quite accustomed to this situation,” Peskov said.
  • “Whatever names figure on this list, the very practice of appearance of any lists is unacceptable for us,” he added.
  • “At any rate, Russia’s reaction to these lists will be based on the principle of reciprocity and will not take long,” the presidential spokesperson said. At the moment, “we need to understand exactly what these sanctions (imposed by the US against Russian officials) are about,” Peskov added.

Source: voiceofrussia.com

S&P Brings Out The Big Policy Guns – Downgrades Russia To Outlook Negative 

  • S&P, still deep in the mire of a legal battle with the US government, has decided now is an opportune time to cut the ratings outlook on Russia:
  • *RUSSIAN FEDERATION OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY S&P
  • *S&P SEES EU-U.S. IMPOSING FURTHER SANCTIONS
  • Russia remains a BBB credit (but with the outlook shift remains open to a downgrade with 24 months). S&P has cut 2014 GDP forecast to 1.2% and 2015 to 2.2%. Of course, we are sure, this would have nothing to do with currying favors with the US government (who threatened them when they downgraded the USA). Full report below.
  • The outlook revision reflects our view of the material and unanticipated economic and financial consequences that EU and U.S. sanctions could have on Russia’s creditworthiness following Russia’s incorporation of Crimea, which the international community currently considers legally to be a part of Ukraine.
  • In February 2014, pro-Russian forces took control of Crimea. As a consequence, on March 6, the European Union (EU) and the U.S. agreed on an initial round of sanctions, as part of a staged approach to imposing sanctions on Russia. On March 16, a referendum was held in Crimea in which approximately 97% of voters reportedly were in favor of Crimea joining Russia. The following day, the EU and U.S. announced that they viewed the referendum as illegitimate and sanctioned certain Russian and Ukrainian nationals through travel bans and asset freezes. On March 18, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation which was ratified by parliament today.
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Ukraine’s new National Guard raises fears in country’s east

  • The new army of the coup-imposed government in Ukraine has begun training exercises outside Kiev. Although the National Guard’s roles are law enforcement and border protection, many in the country’s east fear the military unit will work against them.
  • Concerns over the loyalty of the Ukrainian army and security agencies have pushed Kiev to start forming an additional armed branch, which it will fully control.
  • The National Guard is designed to be 60,000-strong and completely independent from the country’s military and police.
  • Recruitment across Ukraine began on March 13, with around 20,000 people already joining the new uniformed service.
  • Most volunteers have battle experience. Most of them protected the rights and freedom of citizens of Ukraine at Maidan,” Stepan Poltorak, a commander with the Ukrainian Interior Troops, told RT
  • Members of a “Maidan” self-defense battalion take part in weapons training at a Ukrainian Interior Ministry base near Kiev March 17, 2014. (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)
  • But many of the recruits taking part in the first National Guard exercises, which are underway at the internal troops training center near Kiev, admit that their military background is sorely lacking.
  • There are many guys who haven’t used a submachine gun for a long time,” one of them said.
  • Another volunteer described the exercises as a “course of a young soldier. We have two weeks to learn gun, tactics, and discipline.”
  • National Guard recruits are being handed serious military equipment – armored vehicles, rocket launchers, machine guns, and grenades are being used during training.
  • RT contacted the National Guard recruitment office in Donetsk to find out just how easy it is to sign up for the force.
  • “You conclude a contract on a term of five or three years,” the operator on the phone said. “Salary is 1,800 hryvnas (around US$300). You have to be suitable in health and have no convictions or fines with the police. You should be from 18 to 40 years old,” the office stated over the phone
  • The coup-imposed government says the National Guard will be tasked with law enforcement duties, protecting the country’s borders, and fighting terrorism.
  • However, many in Ukraine – especially in the country’s southeast – fear the new force will eventually turn their weapons against them.

Source: rt.com

Russia Warns It May Play The ‘Iran Card’ Over Ukraine Sanctions

  • A senior Russian diplomat signaled a possible shift Wednesday in Russia’s position on the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks amid tensions with the United States and other Western countriesaccording to The Associated Press.
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by the Russian news organization Interfax as saying the recent sanctions announced by the European Union and U.S. may force Russia to retaliate by altering its stance on the Iran talks. Such a move would dramatically escalate tensions between Russia and the West, which are already high amid Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Tuesday.
  • “We wouldn’t like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington,” said Ryabkov, who is Russia’s envoy to the ongoing Iran talks.
  • “But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well. The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue.”
  • This brings up the possibility of colliding two of the most sensitive geopolitical issues of President Barack Obama’s second term. Thus far, Russia and President Vladimir Putin have cooperated with the West on the Iran talks.
  • The move would put Obama in a corner. He wants a permanent deal with Iran — so much so he has threatened to veto any congressional bill that could collapse the talks. He also needs Putin and Russia as his ally in the talks, along with a variety of high-profile foreign policy issues like in Syria and Afghanistan. Together, this reduces the U.S.’s overall leverage in slapping any harsh sanctions or other measures on Russia in response to its moves in Ukraine.

Source: businessinsider.com

US-NATO is Losing Covert War on Syria

  • Recent Victories Betray Last Year’s WMD Lies
  • Since the beginning of 2013, Syrian troops had begun an irreversible push to take back territory overrun by foreign-backed militants, including along Syria’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan. Today, cities long lost to these militants once again have the Syrian flag waving above them, their people liberated, and the deadly toll of occupation finally being tallied before the global public.
  • The strategic turn in Syria’s favor was noted by geopolitical analysts long before the Damascus chemical weapons attack in the summer of 2013. When Western nations used “desperation” as a motive for the attack, which they squarely blamed on the Syrian government, those watching Syria’s systematic victories against the West’s proxy militants immediately suspected a false flag attack – one that was carried out by either the West, or one of its regional collaborators.

Source: globalresearch.ca