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CIA Brennan Visited Kyiv, Ukraine PR Said Only in Russia Comments

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 -- After the Ukraine meeting of the UN Security Council on April 13, Inner City Press asked Ukraine's long-time Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev about the reported visit to Kyiv of US Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan.

   Sergeyev replied, "It happened only in some comments from Moscow." Video here.

  Well, not anymore. At the US State Department briefing on April 14, spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed that CIA's Brennan was in "Kiev this weekend." She also said that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Ukraine's acting prime minister Yatsenyuk earlier in April 14 that there was not yet any read-out.

   Also on April 14 Oleksandr Turchynov, acting president of Ukraine, in a telephone call with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, suggested a joint "counter-terrorism" operation in Eastern Ukraine with UN peacekeepers.

  This and much reporting on it ignored that all UN peacekeeping operations require authorization from the Security Council, in which Russia (and China) have veto rights.

  Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to confirm Turchynov's peacekeeping suggestion -- Dujarric declined -- and whether any deployment would require a UN Security Council vote. On the latter, Dujarric said yes, such a vote would be required.

  Turchynov's suggestion and most of the reporting on it also ignored how the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has lost any semblance of impartiality under Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head DPKO.

  Counter-terrorism has an echo of Mali, where first the French Serval forces, then later a "re-hatted" UN Mission under Ladsous, MINUSMA, are un-transparently in northern Mali.

  Last week, Ladsous refused to answer Press questions about UN Peacekeepers charged with gang rape in Mali, and before that about his Congo mission belatedly going after the Hutu FDLR militia in Eastern Congo.

  In this context, the idea of a UN Peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine is, well, laughable.

   When the UN Security Council met to exchange speeches late on April 13, it was two hours before a deadline by Ukraine's president to use force in Eastern cities.

   Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who had requested the meeting, tweeted photo here, said he hoped his "Western colleagues" would get on the phone and try to get this "criminal degree" rescinded.

   Several speakers cited the meeting slated for Geneva on April 17. But Churkin said if force is used, why would Russia sign off on that meeting?

  US Ambassador Samantha Power among other things cited to funding, saying the $1 billion US loan guarantee goes into place on April 14 and the US wants the International Monetary Fund to move forward. She said, "On Monday, we will conclude the $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine... We strongly support concluding the agreement between Ukraine and the IMF so the international community can bolster Ukraine’s economy."

   After the meeting Inner City Press asked Churkin if Russia was aware of any "Western colleagues" behind the scenes asking for an extension of the deadline. Churkin's answer mentioned, skeptically, US Secretary of State John Kerry.
   When Ukraine's long-time Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev came to the stakeout microphone as the second and last speaker there, Inner City Press first asked him about any extension - no, he said, this was the last deadline -- and about Crimea. Video here.

  On the latter Sergeyev pulled out a sheet of paper from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and cited 4000 displaced people, using the word genocide.  As the last question, Inner City Press asked about the CIA's John Brennan. "It happened only in some comments from Moscow," Sergeyev said. And then he was gone, less than two hours before the deadline.  Video here. Watch this site.

  Inner City Press had arrived at the Security Council at 7 pm and was reliably informed that there will be an open meeting, and a briefing by UN Assistant Secretary General Taranco (and not Under Secretary General Feltman, who traveled to Ukraine with Ban Ki-moon when he met the leader of the Svoboda Party, and stayed behind for days.

   Still, just before 7 pm there were only three cars parked in front of the UN, tweeted photo here, and no UNTV at the stakeout.

  It was only Friday April 11 when Sergeyev was slated to give a talk promoted by UN scribes  at Rutgers University in Newark entitled "Seeing Through the Spin: Sorting Fact from Fiction in Public Information."

   UN deputy human rights official Ivan Simonovich's report on Ukraine is slated to be heard, also behind closed doors. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke on another topic, Western Sahara, with Morocco's King on Saturday but the UN refused to give a read-out, click here for that. Watch this site.

  Back on March 30 it was midnight in Paris when US Secretary of State John Kerry came to take two questions from two media about his meeting with Russia's Sergey Lavrov. One of the two asked about Palestine, Israel and prisoners. That, Kerry declined to answer, saying only that he spoke with Benyamin Netanyahu fifteen minutes before.

   Kerry was asked what was said about the "Russian troops." He replied those troops are on Russian soil, so it's not about legality. To some, this implies that Crimea, or at least Russian presence there, is off the table.

   On Crimea, as if in a parallel universe the UN Security Council will hold an "Arria formula" meeting on March 31 featuring a Crimean Tatar and a journalist from Crimea, organized by Council member Lithuania, it was confirmed to Inner City Press.

   Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev has been calling for another referendum in Crimea.  This meeting comes a day after US Secretary of Stat John Kerry and Russia's Sergey Lavrov meeting at the Russian Ambassador's residence in Paris. While the US talked Crimea, Russia moved on to Moldova.

   Russia's read-out of Putin's call to Obama raised the latter issue and was silent on the former. Much was made of this by talking heads on US Sunday morning shows.

   Perennial David Gergen mocked Kerry for turning his plane around to meet with Lavrov, asking rhetorically if this is the promised diplomatic isolation. A pair of Michaels, Hayden and Morell, mused about a commitment for Ukraine not to join NATO, or even the European Union. But what about the IMF deal?

  Soon to be former elected official Mike Rogers, headed to talk radio, went beyond dark talk of a land bridge to Moldova to speculate about Russia moving from South Ossetia to Armenia. He's running for the Republican Presidential nomination, it seems.

   On March 28 while at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took selective questions from the press about Ukraine (and Venezuela), the US White House issued a read-out of a call between President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin, here.  Russia issued a different read-out, here. So how relevant is the UN?

   Later a Senior Administration Official explained,

We’re not going to get into the details, but they discussed the latest iteration of a working document that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been working on to de-escalate the situation, which has been the guiding concept of our approach.

As you know, previously we discussed general elements of an off-ramp, including: international monitors, pull back of Russian forces, and direct Russia-Ukraine dialogue - supported by the international community - taking into account the Ukrainian government's openness to constitutional reform and upcoming Ukrainian elections. Throughout this process, we have been coordinating closely with the Ukrainians, including on this diplomatic proposal.

And later still:

The U.S. de-escalation proposal was fully coordinated with the Ukrainian government, and responded to points raised in a March 10 Russian paper.  We are awaiting a response from the Russians.

  Back at the UN, Ban Ki-moon mentioned the word "radical."

  It was inevitable: as Inner City Press first reported, while in Kyiv Ban met with the leader of the Svodoba Party, adjudged as both racist and anti-Semitic and most recently beating up a television executive then getting the footage censored from YouTube via a bogus Millennium Digital Copyright Act complaint.

  In fact, on March 27 at the UN General Assembly stakeout Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Inner City Press Ban's meeting was "disturbing" and that he looked forward to an explanation in the March 28 Security Council consultations.  Video here. (We hope to have more on this.)

  At the March 28 noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if Ban had known in advance that Svoboda's leader would be present, and if he would address it at the stakeout. Video here.

  Haq declined to provide anything more than the list of parties Ban met with, which was provided after Inner City Press repeatedly asked over two days.

   But when Ban came to speak after briefing the Council, the questioners chosen were AP, CBS (or, the UN's Censorship Alliance), Bloomberg and Voice of America. While noting as an aside that Voice of America tried ot get the investigative Press thrown out of Ban's UN, in a request to Ban's now-spokesman, click here, big picture, all four questioners selected by / for Ban were Western -- all US-based, in fact. Ban was not asked about the Svoboda meeting.

   Moments later, Inner City Press asked outgoing Security Council president for March Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg about Ban meeting Svoboda. She said, among other things, that You should have asked the Secretary General.

  But how? We'll have more on this.

   On March 27 when the UN General Assembly voted on a resolution rejecting the Crimea referendum, it was far from unanimous. There were 100 countries for, 11 against and fully 58 abstaining.

  Afterward, Inner City Press asked Russia Ambassador Vitaly Churkin about citation in the meeting of Kosovo as a precedent, and about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon having met the leader of the Svoboda Party.

  Churkin took issue with a high US official claiming there was a referendum in Kosovo, and expressed concern about Ban meeting with a party deemed among other things racist and anti-Semitic.

   Inner City Press ran, before 12:10 pm, to the UN noon briefing in order to ask these and other questions. But Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had begun and ended the briefing before 12:09.

   This contrasts to Ban's Spokesperson's Office having, for example in October 2013, delayed the noon briefing so that a(nother) country's speech could be covered, click here for that.

  When asked on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access what the Spokesperson's Office policy is, Haq said, "You want a policy where it's all about you." We'll have more on this.

  In the GA meeting beyond Kosovo, Nicaragua cited the Honduras coup as an analogy. St. Vincent's cited Grenada, saying the positions are reversed but abstaining because the Ukraine resolution is about the principals, not the principles.

  Uruguay cited Kosovo and also the referendum carried out in the Malvinas / Falkland Islands. UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was in the room, and tweeted at; if there's a response we'll publish.

   Earlier it was 4:25 am in New York and Washington when the International Monetary Fund announced its preliminary agreement for a $14 - $18 billion loan program with Ukraine.

 Inner City Press asked the IMF to confirm or comment on reports that the Ukrainian "increase the price of natural gas for household consumers by an average of 50%" is attributable to the IMF.

  At the IMF's 9:30 am embargoed briefing, IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray read out the question then said that the program has five components, including energy sector reform.

  He said Ukraine will reduce subsidies to the energy sector, and that current prices in Ukraine are two to three times lower than in neighboring countries. He said, as it did to other questions, that responses were given in a press conference in Kyiv.

 In New York at the UN, a General Assembly meeting started at 10 am. Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin recounted history and said radicals "called the shots" in the change of government. We've noted that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with the leader of the Svoboda party while in Kyiv.

  In Washington later on March 27 the US Congress is expected to act on a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine, but not on the IMF changes the Obama administration requested. Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement welcoming the IMF preliminary deal, concluding that "We also remain committed to providing the IMF with the resources it needs – in partnership with Congress – to provide strong support to countries like Ukraine as well as reinforcing the Fund’s governance to reflect the global economy."
  Two weeks ago on March 13, the day after several US Senators argued that International Monetary Fund quota reform would have to be approved by Congress to enable the IMF to meaningfully assist Ukraine, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice if this is true. Video here, from Minute 12:05.

  Rice genially said several times that the question couldn't or wouldn't be answered while the IMF mission is “in the field” in Ukraine. He initially gave the same answer to Inner City Press' question that had nothing to do with Ukraine: is it true, as Russia reportedly argued at the most recent G-20 meeting, that quota reform could be accomplished without US approval, under some set of rule changes?

  Rice during the briefing repeated this could not be answered while the mission is in Ukraine. Later it was conveyed that the reform is not possible without US approval. The answer is appreciated: a benefit of asking in person. But Inner City Press (and the Free UN Coalition for Access) hope to make the online asking of questions work better from now on.

 And on March 27, for example, IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray read out this question from Inner City Press:

"On Zimbabwe, please confirm IMF is re-opening its office and respond to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa saying part of the deal included cutting Zimbabwe's wage bill from 70 percent of the budget but this pledge will not be met, 'addressing it overnight would mean very drastic measures which I indicated to them (IMF) I am not prepared to take. That would mean retrenchment of civil servants.'"

  On March 27, Murray said he would not comment directly on what the Finance Minister said, but pointed to a press release we will add a link to.

  Back on March 13 in another non-Ukraine question, Inner City Press asked Rice about a book published earlier this week in Hungary, that the then-economy minister in 2011 told Goldman Sachs that the government would be going to the IMF for a program. Since much currency trading ensued, Inner City Press asked if the IMF has any rules limiting its government interlocutors from trading on or sharing insider information.Video here, from Minute 31:12.

  Rice said there are confidential provisions. But are those only for the contents of communication and not the existence of communications or negotiations? We'll see.

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