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US House urges Obama to send arms to Ukraine

by on Mar.25, 2015, under News Events

Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

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The US House has passed a resolution calling on President Barack Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, despite the fragile truce in the eastern part of the country.

The non-binding resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority of 348-48.

Sending weapons to the Kiev government would not mean involvement in a new war for America, claimed US Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who sponsored the document. “The people of Ukraine are not looking for American troops,” Engel said. “They are just looking for the weapons.”

According to Engel, “this war poses the greatest threat to European security since World War II, and we shouldn’t take it lightly, and we shouldn’t be idle, and we shouldn’t sit back, and we shouldn’t let other countries tell us what to do.”

It comes as the White House is unwilling to make any radical moves on Ukraine, and follows German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to persuade Obama to commit to Ukraine’s truce plan during her February visit to the US.

Back in September, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested Congress to authorize a delivery of US military equipment to the Ukrainian government. So far, Obama has only signed off on non-lethal aid and sanctions against Russia – which Kiev and Washington claim is involved in the conflict, despite giving no evidence to support the notion.

The Ukrainian military launched an operation in the country’s southeast last April, after the Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognized the new authorities in Kiev which were installed during the February 2014 coup.

A woman reacts as she passes a destroyed house in the town of Debaltseve, north-east from Donetsk, March 17, 2015. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)

A woman reacts as she passes a destroyed house in the town of Debaltseve, north-east from Donetsk, March 17, 2015. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)

The death toll in the Ukraine conflict has exceeded 5,800 people, many of them civilians, while another 14,000 have been injured, according to a February UN report.

The Donetsk airport has remained a battlefield in the conflict since May 2014. The international airport – which used to handle some five million passengers annually – now lies in ruins.

The Donetsk region witnessed daily shelling before the latest Minsk ceasefire agreement on February 12. Civilians were killed when shells hit residential buildings, schools, hospitals, and public transport. Pro- and anti-government forces also fought around Debaltsevo, a strategic railway hub connecting the breakaway regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Germany and France to take action against Kiev’s non-compliance with the Minsk peace agreement. According to Lavrov, Kiev didn’t make an effort to start dialogue with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk on the modalities of elections there.

READ MORE: ‘Glaring breach’: Minsk ‘violation’ sees Russia urge France, Germany to act on Ukraine

Moreover, Lavrov said on Saturday that the EU would not comply with Kiev’s request to send a peacekeeping force to Ukraine unless the rebels endorse such a mission. “I believe there are no madmen in the EU. [The EU previously deployed peacekeepers] only in situations in which, as in the Balkans, all sides of a conflict agreed to it,” Lavrov said in an interview to Rossiya 1 channel.

UK military personnel have arrived in Ukraine and are beginning their training mission there, Britain’s Ministry of Defence announced last week. US training will begin in April, as America has committed nearly 300 paratroopers to the mission.

READ MORE: UK troops start training Ukraine’s army, US confirms own mission

Russia has supported the Minsk peace plan and has been vocal in its opposition to sending lethal aid to Ukraine.

Washington’s decision to supply Ukraine with ammunition and weapons would explode the whole situation” in eastern Ukraine and Russia would be forced to respond “appropriately,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the end of February.

“It would be a major blow to the Minsk agreements and would explode the whole situation,” TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying.

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Obama signs sequester bill

by on Mar.03, 2013, under News Events

Published time: March 02, 2013 05:39
Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Austerity has hit the United States as President Barack Obama signed into law a directive ushering in significant cuts to federal agencies’ budgets and triggering the sequester that has been debated in Washington during the last several weeks.

In the White House on Friday, President Obama inked his name to the order, and with it signed off on automatic budget cuts that the country’s political class say will save the United States over $1 trillion over the course of the next decade. In doing so, though, $85 billion will be erased from this year’s budget and a number of government departments will see their funding slashed immediately.

 

Through the sequester deal, roughly half of all cuts will be imposed on the Pentagon, drastically reducing funding for America’s defense. While uniformed personnel are protected from the directive, civilian employees and contractors across the world will be faced with layoffs and furloughs. The Department of Defense has already published a plan explaining who exactly will be impacted, and at its worst it could mean roughly $500 billion dollars cut from the Pentagon during the next decade.

 

The second half of all cuts triggered by the sequester will be implemented on domestic non-military spending. While crucially important programs like Social Security are exempt from the changes, practically all federal departments and agencies will face some degree of slashed funding. The Departments of Education, Agriculture and dozens of other agencies will see serious changes during the coming days, weeks, months and years. Many have already announced that the order will bring dire consequences. The Department of Transportation, for example, has warned that budget cuts might affect its ability to control air traffic; cuts to the Department of Homeland Security will mean longer lines at international borders and airports due to personnel layoffs. Rollbacks on education are expected to cause as many as 40,000 jobs to disappear nationwide, and more than half of a million women and children across the US will no longer have access to food aid due to reductions in the Women, Infants and Children program.

 

With the sequester deal essentially effecting each sector and every US resident alike, lawmakers in Washington have hoped to find another solution for solving the country’s ever-increasing economic woes. During an address from the White House Friday morning, though, Obama blamed Congress for not being able to prevent the cuts.

 

What I can’t do is force Congress to do the right thing,” said the president. “The American people may have the capacity to do that, but in the absence of a decision on the part of the speaker of the House and others . . . we are going to have these cuts in place.”

 

The Obama administration has come under fire as of late for blaming the sequester deal on House Republicans. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed,” the president said last year. By some reports, though, the budget cuts were brought to the table by White House officials during the president’s first term in office. A bipartisan commission chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles offered a way to cut America’s ever-growing deficit. Under this proposal, Congress and the president would have to both raise taxes and cut spending across the board. Knowing that neither party was willing to agree on these measures, lawmakers and Obama agreed on a law that would trigger automatic cuts beginning March 1, 2013, unless a deal could not otherwise be reached. Back then, it was seen as a sword of Damocles that would prompt action from either party.

 

Nobody who ‘agreed’ to sequestration actually wanted it to happen,” reports Molly Ball of The Atlantic. “The supercommittee was supposed to forge the deal that Obama and House Speaker John Boehner could not in their July 2011 debt-ceiling talks. It was this hypothetical future deficit reduction that got Republicans, grudgingly, to agree to raise the debt limit,” she says.

 

As time passed, though, the lawmakers that agreed to make the sequester an option stopped searching for other solutions. A failure to find a compromise between lawmakers on the Hill left the spending cuts scheduled for March 1 inevitable, and as the clock wound down on Friday the only option left was to slash the budget.

 

“In the end, nobody could agree, and nobody took the deadline very seriously anyway,” adds Ball.

 

While the sequester officially starts today following President Obama’s signature on the directive, most government agencies won’t feel the pinch until later in the year. Many departments have already published their plans for handling the crisis, including outlines of how spending will be conducted during the coming months. But with funds drying up quickly and a further deal reversing the sequestering uncertain, the impact of the cuts are likely to only increase over time.

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Journalist jailed for recording police

by on Aug.17, 2012, under News Events

RT has been following the case of Adam Mueller, a New Hampshire man who has been sentenced to almost three (continue reading…)

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