Posts Tagged Georgia

Trump and Clinton Expected to Win Big in Super Tuesday Contests

Americans began voting Tuesday in what is deemed the most pivotal day in the presidential nominating process, with frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hoping to wipe out their rivals.

Voters in a dozen states will take part in “Super Tuesday” a series of primaries and caucuses in states ranging from Alaska to Virginia, with Virginia the first to open its polling stations at 6:00 am (1100 GMT).

If Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump an outspoken billionaire political neophyte who has unexpectedly tapped into a vein of conservative rage at conventional politics win big, it could spell doom for their challengers.

Hours before polls opened, the duo made last-ditch appeals to supporters ahead of a day like few others on the calendar leading up to the November election for the White House.

Trump’s Republican rivals, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, were frantically trying to halt the real estate magnate’s march toward nomination, seeking to unite the party against the man they see as a non-conservative political interloper.

Clinton is riding high after thrashing rival Bernie Sanders in South Carolina over the weekend, securing an astronomical 86 percent of the African-American vote in her third win in four contests.

Should she win black voters by similar margins in places such as Alabama, Georgia and Virginia, she should dominate there to become once again the inevitable candidate.

That was her status at the start of the campaign before the rise of Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

She was leaving nothing to chance, traveling to multiple states on Monday to urge a strong turnout.

Clinton also took aim at the increasingly hostile campaign rhetoric on the Republican side led by Trump.

– Scapegoating, finger-pointing –

“I really regret the language being used by Republicans. Scapegoating people, finger-pointing, blaming. That is not how we should behave toward one another,” she told hundreds gathered at a university in Fairfax, Virginia.

“We’re going to demonstrate, starting tomorrow on Super Tuesday, there’s a different path that Americans ought to take.”

Trump’s incendiary campaign has infuriated Republican rivals, including mainstream favorite Rubio who has intensified his personal attacks and stressed Trump would have trouble in a general election.

The Florida senator warned supporters in Tennessee that US media and Democratic groups will jump on Trump “like the hounds of hell” if he wins the nomination.

But Trump is clearly in the driver’s seat. He is leading in polls in at least eight of the 11 Super Tuesday states.

And a new CNN/ORC poll shows the billionaire expanding his lead nationally, earning a stunning 49 percent of support compared to second place Rubio, at 16 percent.

Cruz of Texas is third, at 15 percent, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent and John Kasich at six percent.

Trump punched back against Rubio, calling him “Little Marco,” mocking him for sweating on the campaign trail and warning that he could not stand up to strong men like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, in which he has accused Mexico of sending rapists across the border, mocked women and the disabled and urged a ban on Muslims entering the country, would have been the undoing of a normal candidate.

But the 2016 cycle has been anything but normal, with a furious electorate keen to back an outsider who scorns the political establishment.

“I’m representing a lot of anger out there,” Trump told CNN.

“We’re not angry people, but we’re angry at the way this country’s being run.”

In the latest controversy, Trump came under withering criticism for not immediately disavowing the support of David Duke, who once led the Ku Klux Klan.

Rubio said Trump’s failure to promptly repudiate Duke, who has expressed support for Trump, makes him “unelectable.”

Some conservatives have said they will shun Trump if he is the nominee.

“This is the party of Abraham Lincoln,” said Senator Ben Sasse, accusing Trump of being a non-conservative plotting a “hostile takeover” of the party.

Trump supporters “need to recognize that there are a whole bunch of other people who say, if this becomes the David Duke/Donald Trump party, there are a lot of us who are out,” he told MSNBC.

If Trump sweeps the South, where many of the Super Tuesday races are taking place, it could be lights out for his Republican challengers.

Texas is the largest prize on Tuesday, and Cruz is banking on winning his home state. He trails in nearly all other Super Tuesday states.

595 Republican delegates are up for grabs Tuesday, nearly half the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination.

Some 865 Democratic delegates are at stake, 36 percent of those needed to win.

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Hillary Clinton Assumes Control After Dominant South Carolina Victory over Bernie Sanders

HIllary South CarolinaHillary Clinton is now in firm command of the Democratic race for president after a loud statement of a victory in South Carolina.

Clinton leaves the state with a growing delegate lead that she is increasingly unlikely to ever surrender. Bernie Sanders leaves with neither momentum nor math on his side, and without a clear path to capturing the nomination.

“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” Clinton said tonight in her victory speech.

Indeed, she’s better positioned for a national campaign. She also has a regional advantage that’s likely to become evident on Super Tuesday, where seven of the 11 states with Democratic contests are in the South.

The first four contests give Clinton three wins and one lopsided loss. They also answer some of the broadest questions about her ability to turn out Barack Obama’s old base answers that are starting to break in Clinton’s favor.

African-American voters constituted a larger share of the electorate in South Carolina this year than they did in 2008, despite the obvious historic nature of Obama’s candidacy. Clinton carried black voters by more than 70 percentage points on Saturday, a week after winning African-Americans in Nevada by north of 50 points.

Just days before the Super Tuesday “SEC” Democratic contents, Hillary Clinton holds at least a 20-point lead in three of the key states Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. Majorities of Democratic primary voters in these states have made up their minds as to whom to vote for.

As the race shifts to the South, the Democratic contest will now feature states with larger percentages of African American voters especially in Georgia, where they made up just over half of those voting in the Democratic primary in 2008. This year, while white voters are somewhat divided between Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders in these three states, three in four black voters are supporting Clinton.

Sanders maintains his a large lead among voters under thirty, but Clinton is beating him among voters between 30 and 44 in all three states, an age group that Sanders won easily in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Clinton has an even larger lead among voters 45 and older. Men are divided between the two candidates, but Clinton has a strong lead among women.

Most voters think both candidates understand people like them, but they have more confidence in Sanders when it comes to favouring regular people over big donors, and Sanders is generally seen as the more principled candidate. Honesty is an even bigger concern when it comes to Hillary Clinton: though two-thirds of Democratic voters say Sanders is honest, just over a third of voters say the same for Clinton. Even among black voters, less than half describe her as honest.

But Clinton is generally seen as more qualified to be president — particularly in Georgia, where less than half of Democratic voters view Sanders as qualified. As a result, Clinton is seen as better able to handle a number of issues, including improving race relations in America, gun policy, being commander-in-chief, health care, and standing up on to a Republican Congress. In Texas and Virginia, Sanders does better on fixing income inequality, but in Georgia with its higher proportion of black voters Clinton wins on this issue as well.

Clinton and Sanders supporters have different priorities: most Clinton supporters are backing her because they think she gives the Democrats a good chance to win in November, while Sanders supporters are more concerned with accomplishing a progressive agenda. Clinton supporters tend to want to continue the policies of Barack Obama, while Sanders supporters overwhelmingly want to switch to more progressive policies than that of the current administration.

Looking ahead to the general election, Clinton may have some trouble garnering the enthusiasm of Sanders supporters should she win the nomination. Sanders supporters are more likely than Clinton supporters to say the Democratic Party doesn’t represent them, and less than half of Sanders supporters are even somewhat enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, though most would still vote for her.

 

 

 

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Cruz and Rubio Plot Trump Downfall in CNN GOP Presidential Debate

marco rubio and Ted cruz in iowaOutside Challenger Donald Trump’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination growing increasingly stronger, the billionaire businessman’s rivals get one more chance to challenge the GOP front-runner on the debate stage before next week’s slate of Super Tuesday contests.

The situation is likely more dire for the other GOP candidates than they’d like voters to believe. Yet Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have so far shown little willingness to take on the former reality television star when the national spotlight shines brightest.

That could change Thursday night in Houston.

“The vast and overwhelming majority of Republicans do not want Donald Trump to be our nominee,” Rubio told NBC, suggesting that Trump is winning only because the other candidates are splitting up the majority of the electorate.

For his part, the New York billionaire predicted the relative civility between Rubio and himself is about to disappear. The ninth Republican debate of the presidential campaign will take place just a few days before 11 states hold GOP elections that will either cement Trump’s dominance, or let his rivals slow his march to his party’s presidential nomination.

Both Cruz and Rubio know full-well that the strategy of ignoring the front-runner is not working. How they tackle Trump remains to be seen, to date, Trump has proved largely immune to traditional political attacks, something he reveled in on Wednesday. “I seem to have a very good track record when to do go after me,” the New York real estate mogul told NBC.

The task is made more complicated by the shift from single-state campaigns to a new phase of the race, where the candidates must compete across several states at the same time. Next Tuesday features voting in a mix of states that include Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Virginia, with more to come in the weeks after.

Trump won Nevada’s presidential caucuses on Tuesday with more than 45 percent of the vote, scoring his third consecutive primary victory in dominant fashion. Rubio edged out Cruz for runner-up for the second consecutive race, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson far off the pace.

As they seek to become the Trump alternative, Cruz and Rubio have significant liabilities of their own.

Cruz comes into the debate at the weakest point of his presidential campaign after a staff shakeup and three consecutive third-place finishes.

The Texas senator ousted a senior aide on Monday after the aide promoted an inaccurate news report that Rubio had condemned the Bible during a chance encounter with Cruz’s father. The aide’s dismissal helps legitimize Trump and Rubio charges that Cruz has been running an unethical campaign.

Even while vulnerable, Cruz signaled an aggressive stance heading into the debate. He lashed out at Trump and Rubio as “Washington dealmakers” while talking to reporters in Houston on Wednesday. Rubio, Cruz said, had worked with Democrats to craft an immigration overhaul, while Trump has given money to Democrats and backed their priorities at times in recent years.

“I don’t think the people of Texas and I don’t think the people of this country want another Washington dealmaker to go and surrender more to the Democrats, giving in to the failed liberal agenda,” Cruz said.

Rubio, meanwhile, is just one debate removed from a primetime meltdown. The Florida senator repeated himself several times in a New Hampshire debate less than three weeks ago, triggering what he now calls “the New Hampshire disappointment.” He avoided a similar mistake in the subsequent debate, but critics in both parties will be laser-focused on anything that suggests the 44-year-old legislator isn’t sufficiently prepared to move into the White House.

But Rubio, who has been reluctant to publicly talk about Trump by name, stepped up his aggressiveness Wednesday.

In an appearance in Houston, he criticized Trump for what Rubio said was a failure to strongly oppose the federal health care law derided by critics as “Obamacare.”

The Florida senator also said “the front-runner in this race, Donald Trump, has said he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians because he wants to be an honest broker.”

Rubio said there was no such thing “because the Palestinian Authority, which has strong links to terror, they teach little kids, 5-year-olds, that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews.” He also named Trump in accusing him of thinking “parts of Obamacare are pretty good” drawing boos.

Emboldened by the recent departure of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the race, Rubio has fresh momentum after two consecutive second-place finishes. His team is convinced they must dispatch with Cruz before turning their full attention to taking down Trump.

Rubio also said that he’d respond to Trump and Cruz if attacked in Thursday’s debate, but that, “I didn’t run for office to tear up other Republicans.”

And after eight debates, it’s unclear what sort of attacks could work against Trump. As his resume would suggest, he’s proven to be a master showman on primetime television.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter Labels China and Russia Threats to World Order

Ash Carter

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Saturday accused Russia of endangering world order, citing its incursions in Ukraine and loose talk about nuclear weapons, and said the U.S. defense establishment is searching for creative ways to deter Russian aggression and protect U.S. allies.

In remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after eight days of travel in Asia, Carter also expressed concern about China’s expanding influence and growing military might. But he reserved his stronger words for Russia.

Carter said Russia is undertaking “challenging activities” at sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace.

“Most disturbing, Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises questions about Russian leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons,” he said.

His remarks were perhaps the strongest he has expressed about America’s former Cold War foe.

“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia,” he said. “We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”

The backdrop to Carter’s remarks is the reality that after more than two decades of dominating great-power relations, the United States is seeing Russia reassert itself and China expand its military influence beyond its own shores. Together these trends are testing American preeminence and its stewardship of the world order.

Carter cited several pillars of the international order that he argued should be defended and strengthened: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, and freedom of navigation.

“Some actors appear intent on eroding these principles and undercutting the international order that helps enforce them,” he said. “Terror elements like ISIL, of course, stand entirely opposed to our values. But other challenges are more complicated, and given their size and capabilities, potentially more damaging.”

“Of course, neither Russia nor China can overturn that order,” he said. “But both present different challenges for it.”

He accused Russia of stirring trouble in Europe and the Middle East.

“In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose.”

Carter made clear that Russia is at the forefront of Washington’s concern about evolving security threats.

“We are adapting our operational posture and contingency plans as we – on our own and with allies – work to deter Russia’s aggression, and to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners,” he said.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin is challenging the U.S. in many arenas, including the Arctic, where last year Moscow said it was reopening 10 former Soviet-era military bases along the Arctic seaboard that were closed after the Cold War ended in 1991. Russia also is flying more long-range air patrols off U.S. shores.

Carter left open the possibility that Russia’s role in Syria could evolve into one the U.S. can embrace.

“It is possible, we’ll see Russia may play a constructive role in resolving the civil war,” he said.

In a question-and-answer session with his audience, Carter said he believes Putin “hasn’t thought through very thoroughly” his objectives in Syria. He called the Russian approach there “way off track.”

In his speech, Carter said the U.S. will take a balanced approach by working with Moscow when productive and appropriate.

As Russia makes what Carter characterized as threatening statements about its potential use of nuclear weapons, the U.S. is modernizing its entire nuclear arsenal, not only the submarines, bomber aircraft and land-based missiles that are armed with long-range nuclear weapons, but also the weapons themselves.

“We’re investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations, such as new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones I really can’t describe here,” he said.

Carter said China is the single most influential player in Asia’s future, and he noted that earlier this week he went aboard an American aircraft carrier in the South China Sea to demonstrate U.S. commitment to freedom of navigation. The U.S. objects to China’s claims of territorial limits around disputed artificial islands there.

“As a rising power, it’s to be expected that China will have growing ambitions and a modernizing military,” he said. “But how China behaves will be the true test of its commitment to peace and security.”

He said the U.S. has been shifting its focus toward the Asia-Pacific, including sending its best naval and other military weapons, ships and equipment to that region.

“We are also changing fundamentally our operational plans and approaches to deter aggression, fulfill our statutory obligations to Taiwan, defend allies, and prepare for a wider range of contingencies in the region than we have traditionally,” he said.

 

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Governor Romney in High Demand to Stump for GOP Mid-term Candidates

Romney midtermAlmost two years after his Election Day defeat, Governor Mitt Romney is the Republican man in demand.

The twice-defeated White House contender is campaigning across seven states this week, covering nearly 6,000 miles in five days to raise money and energy for Republican midterm candidates from Georgia to Colorado.

Romney has repeatedly insisted he’s not running for president again, and his closest aides laugh off a possible 2016 bid. But top GOP strategists and donors suggest his continued high profile in Republican politics highlights the party’s murky future and a crowded 2016 field that is both flawed and without a clear front-runner

Just a month before the unofficial beginning of the next presidential primary season, Democrats have already begun to rally behind prospective candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The race for the Republican nomination, however, is as wide open as most political veterans can remember.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had begun to assume a party leadership role before a traffic scandal tainted his brand. Major questions persist about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s commitment to the 2016 contest. And the rest of the potential field features conservatives, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who have yet to demonstrate widespread appeal.

That leaves Romney as this season’s strongest draw for Republican midterm candidates battling for control of Congress.

He earned a rock star’s reception on Wednesday at The Varsity, a landmark Atlanta restaurant, where he campaigned alongside Attorney General Sam Olens after headlining a closed-door fundraiser for Senate candidate David Perdue.

Romney shook hands and autographed paper plates at The Varsity before ordering a hot dog and onion rings as diners snapped pictures.

In thanking Romney for making the trip, Olen said, “I wish you were on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

“I’m just sad I’m not able to be there either,” Romney said, responding to a reporter’s question about his interest in another run. “I’d like to be in the White House. I wish I would have had the chance.”

The appearance was one leg in an aggressive five-day campaign swing covering some of the nation’s premier midterm battlegrounds: Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana. Having swapped his private campaign plane for commercial travel, Romney is working long days to attend private fundraisers and public rallies to help leading Republican governors, Senate candidates and former allies like Olens.

Talking to reporters Wednesday, Romney downplayed his role in a Republican Party that has “a whole series of different voices that are pulling in different directions.”

“My role is just as one more voice,” he said. “I was honored to become the Republican nominee, so I continue to have some voice. But I’m not running for anything, just trying to run to help people who are running for something, and I’m making my effort known in the states that welcome me.”

Thursday he headlines a GOP rally in Michigan before a Kentucky fundraiser to benefit Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s the kind of schedule usually reserved for a political party’s elite, not a twice-defeated elder statesman who insists his political career is over.

“The wandering eyes for Romney are a byproduct of the uncertainty of the field,” said former Romney aide Kevin Madden, who described Romney as a “known commodity.”

Even as the GOP’s prospects this fall look good, polls suggest the party’s brand is unpopular. And Republican leaders have ignored recommendations to address key issues such as immigration legislation ahead of the next presidential contest.

Still, donors say they aren’t yet worried. All the Republican hand-wringing, he said, is like retailers worrying about Christmas sales in July.

 

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Obama Gets Backlash From Both Sides Over Delayed Immigration Action

Obama immigrationPresident Barack Obama postponed executive action on immigration, but Democrats want voters to know the delay isn’t his fault.

Blame Republicans instead, according to the latest Democratic latest talking points.

Obama had weighed action on immigration including moves that could allow a path to legal status for millions of undocumented workers, after congressional action on the issue stalled.

The President took the brunt of criticism immediately after the White House announced Saturday he is delaying any unitary action on immigration until after November’s midterm elections.

He faced accusations of betrayal, bitter disappointment and frustration.

And those are from the President’s allies, Democrats and immigration reform proponents who lead communities that voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Since the weekend, Democrats began targeting House Republicans.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-California, said Monday ” that she is frustrated with the President but added: “The real reality is that these House Republicans have refused to work with us, to move a bill that would solve this issue.”

Last year, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill that would provide a path to legal status for millions of long-term undocumented immigrants while also strengthening border security.

House Republicans refused to consider the Senate bill, which Obama and Democrats claim would pass if put to a vote.

Rep. Tony Cardenas, also a California Democrat, said the “first blame” should lie with Congress for not doing taking up immigration legislation.

“Now the President is forced to have to take a measure like executive actions,” Cardenas said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The President’s delayed action could protect Democrats in competitive Senate races in conservative states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. By focusing blame on Republicans, Democrats likely are trying to placate anger in immigrant communities.

But the relationship between those communities and the administration is strained. Immigration advocates are pointing to the 60,000 family members that could be deported before the end of the year as an unfortunate outcome of the President’s political calculation.

“Republicans killed the best chance in a generation to enact landmark immigration reform legislation,” Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration reform group America’s Voice said in a statement.

“President Obama, however, has deported more than 2 million people and failed to deliver on promises of reform, including most recently when he publicly promised to take executive action by the end of the summer.”

There’s no question, Republicans are still blaming the President.

 

 

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President Obama warns Moscow “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes …

Obama flagUkraine accused Russia on Saturday of sending thousands of additional troops to the southern Crimea region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population, and said it had placed its military in the area on high alert.

Russia said unidentified gunmen sent by Kiev had attempted overnight to seize the Crimea region’s Interior Ministry offices and that people had been wounded in the attack. It accused Kiev of a “treacherous provocation”.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk urged Moscow to cease what it called provocative actions, echoing a warning by U.S. President Barack Obama who said any military intervention following the overthrow of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich would have costs for Moscow.

Armed men wearing combat uniform with no identification markings control two airports in Crimea, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and have taken over the regional parliament in what Kiev described as an occupation by Moscow’s forces.

“It is unacceptable when armoured Russian military vehicles are out in the centre of Ukrainian towns,” Yatseniuk said at the start of a government meeting in Kiev.

“We do not give in to provocative actions, we do not use force and we demand that Russia stop its provocative actions and return the troops to base.”

Russia says any movements by its military in Crimea are in line with agreements with Ukraine in the lease of the naval base in the port city of Sevastopol and accused Kiev of trying to destabilise the Black Sea peninsula.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Kiev-backed gunmen had attempted to take over the offices of the Crimean Interior Ministry. It said people had been wounded but gave no details. There was no confirmation of such an action from other sources.

“With decisive actions by self-defense groups, the attempt to seize the interior ministry building was averted. This confirms the desire of prominent political circles in Kiev to destabilise the peninsula,” it said in a statement.

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, said on Friday that Russia was following a scenario like the one before it went to war with fellow former Soviet republic Georgia in 2008 over two breakaway regions. The regions are now fully beyond the control of Tbilisi.

Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh told Saturday’s government meeting that Russia had “recently” brought 6,000 additional personnel into Ukraine and that the Ukrainian military were on high alert in the Crimea region.

Several military transport planes and about 10 military helicopters had entered Ukrainian airspace on Friday without permission, he said.

The crisis, which began after Yanukovich triggered protests by spurning a political and trade deal with the European Union, is stoking tensions in a geopolitical battle between East and West that has echoes of the Cold War.

“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” Obama told reporters in Washington.

“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be “deeply destabilising,” he said.

Obama and European leaders would consider skipping a G8 summit this summer in the Russian city of Sochi if Moscow intervened militarily, a senior U.S. official said.

The G8 includes the world’s seven leading industrial nations and Russia. Putin considers hosting such events as a way to show how far Russia has come since the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991.

Washington’s relations with Moscow are already cool because of differences over the conflict in Syria, Putin’s record on human rights and Russia’s decision to harbour former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The removal of Yanukovich from power has been accepted across Ukraine, even – grudgingly – in the eastern, mainly Russian-speaking regions that were his powerbase. But the new Ukrainian leader, Turchinov, faces a challenge in Crimea, the only region in the country that has an ethnic Russian majority.

Crimea was a Russian territory in the communist Soviet Union before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gifted it to Soviet Ukraine in 1954. Some ethnic Russians want Russia to reclaim it now.

In a sign of defiance, Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Russia prime minister of Crimea, has put himself in charge of all military forces, police and other security services in the region.

He has appealed to Putin for “assistance in guaranteeing peace and calm” there and Interfax news agency quoted a Kremlin source as saying the appeal would be considered by Moscow.

Gunmen took over the regional parliament in Crimea on Thursday, and have controlled the main international airport in Simferopol, the main regional centre, and a military airfield near Sevastopol since Friday.

A representative of Acting President Turchinov said 13 Russian aircraft had landed with 150 personnel on each plane.

A local television station reported that another military aerodrome had been taken over by armed men overnight, but the report was not independently confirmed.

Phone lines have been severed in some areas and witnesses say they have seen armoured personnel carriers on the move.

There has been no bloodshed and no military clashes since Yanukovich’s flight from Kiev last week although Ukraine’s leaders say about 100 were killed, some by police snipers, during protests in Kiev that began last November.

Yanukovich, 63, resurfaced in southern Russia on Friday after a week on the run, defiantly telling a packed room of journalists that he was still leader of the sprawling former Soviet republic of 46 million.

“Russia cannot be indifferent, cannot be a bystander watching the fate of as close a partner as Ukraine,” Yanukovich told a news conference. “Russia must use all means at its disposal to end the chaos and terror gripping Ukraine.”

Putin has said nothing in public about the crisis since Yanukovich was ousted a week ago.

A Kremlin statement this week offered conciliatory remarks about international cooperation over heavily indebted Ukraine but Russian officials have blamed the crisis on the West and accused it of meddling in what Moscow considers its back yard. Loss of influence in Ukraine is a bitter blow for Putin.

Moves are under way, however, to prop up Ukraine’s economy. The new Ukrainian leadership has said the country needs about $35 billion over the next two years to stave off bankruptcy.

It said on Friday it hoped to get financial aid soon and was prepared to fulfil the reform criteria of the International Monetary Fund, which will visit Kiev next week.

The fate of a $15-billion Russian bailout package is unclear, with only about $3 billion of it released so far.

 

 

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