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In Ukraine, Churkin Says Serry Got Played, No Funds Until Know More

By Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press Follow Up

UNITED NATIONS, February 28 -- After US Ambassador Samantha Power emerged from the Security Council and spoke to the press about a mediation mission to Ukraine involving Robert Serry, Russia's Vitaly Churkin raised questions about the plan.

  He noted that Serry on February 22 was quoted as supporting the process -- that is, the violation even then of the February 21 agreement.

 The subtext, still audible, was the leaked audio about former US now UN official Jeffrey Feltman "getting" Ban Ki-moon to send Serry to Ukraine. This may resonate for some time.

  Inner City Press asked Churkin of reports Russia would participate closely in the accelerating International Monetary Fund process. Churkin said Russia is open to helping, but only when more is known about what kind of government Ukraine's will be. One might think the IMF would be similarly cautious. But one might be wrong.

  Nearly simultaneous with Samantha Power at the UN, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House. As sent out, he said, "It would be a clear violence of Russiaís commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws." Seems "violation" was meant -- a Freudian slip?

  When UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him too about the IMF, which which his foreign secretary William Hague met this week. Lyall Grant distinguished between the financial and the political mediation process. But some say they are intimately connected. From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: Your Foreign Secretary was in Washington and met, among other people, with the International Monetary Fund. Whatís the relationship between that process and either the mediation process thatís proposed, or trying to address issues in the Crimea.

Amb Lyall Grant: There are a number of challenges facing the new government in Kyiv. One of them is the economy. My Foreign Secretary, as you said, went to see the IMF in Washington, because we believe the IMF needs to take the lead in putting together a financial package to help the Ukrainian government to recover from the economic crisis that itís in and to help the Ukrainian government take the necessary tough decisions for the structural reforms that are required to put the economy back on track. So this is not directly linked to any political mediation, but it is to address one of the key challenges that the new government in Kyiv faces.

   Lithuania's Permanent Representative Raimonda Murmokaite, who as we noted yesterday had yet to do a question and answer stakeout after Council consultations during her month as Council president, finally did. Inner City Press asked her of the mediation mission cited by Samantha Power would require a Security Council resolution or other action.

  Raimonda Murmokaite said that a proposal had just been made. But moments later, Lyall Grant said he didn't think any UNSC approval was needed for Serry to go to Crimea.

   Churkin, on the other hand, said only if the Crimeans want him, no imposed mediation. That leaked audio resonates still.

   Earlier Ukraine's Ambassador to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev came to the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Council. Inner City Press asked him three rounds of questions, ranging from the International Monetary Fund to the International Criminal Court, military presence to Viktor Yanukovych's press conference earlier in the day.

   Sergeyev called the press conference "comedy," emphasizing the Yanukovych left the country (and arguing more seriously that he thereby violated the February 21 deal.)

   On the IMF, Sergeyev said the Fund's team will be "on the ground" early next week. He was asked about austerity but dodged it; he said that the key is that money doesn't "disappear" as he said that from Russia did.

  While standing at the stakeout, a supporter of the ICC tweeted at Inner City Press if Sergeyev raised it in the Council. Inner City Press asked about the ICC and the extradition request to Russia. Sergeyev said the ICC is complex and that he favors a Ukrainian process first.

  Sergeyev said that Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters have crossed into Ukraine; he referred to illegal presence. Inner City Press asked if by this he meant Russia's existing bases.

   He replied that Russia has violated agreements about where its forces can go. He emphasized: he is not calling it an aggression. Everything but.

  He said detailed military presence information would go online soon.

 For now we note: while the UN in Ukraine has a Twitter account, @UN_Ukraine, it has not tweeted since February 19 -- that is, before the February 21 agreement.

  A question left hanging in the air: it's no longer armed forces that go in, at least in or near Europe: it's the IMF. On that, we'll have more.

  It was six hours after a surreal press conference by Viktor Yanukovych in Rostov on Don in Russia, the UN Security Council in New York convened for a "private" meeting about Ukraine, requested by the Ambassador who used to represent Yanukovych at the UN, Yuriy Sergeyev.

3:25 pm --  Listed as briefing was UN official Oscar Fernandez Taranco, and not his supervisor, former US official Jeffrey Feltman. Some wondered if Feltman is staying away after he appeared in the leaked "F*** the EU" audio (click here for that) "getting" UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send Robert Serry to Ukraine.

  But why not patch in Serry, who's IN Ukraine, by video?

3:15 pm --   On his way in, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was asked what he thought would be accomplished in the meeting. "I have no idea," he said.

  UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called for de-esclation, and said he would speak at the stakeout after the meeting. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague already met with in Washington with the International Monetary Fund.

 One wag quipped that the IMF on Ukraine is playing or trying to play the role that NATO did in Libya.

    Earlier on Friday in Rostov on Don, Yanukovych reappeared with a week-long travelogue and a call for Crimean autonomy but not independence.

    Yanukovych said the February 21 agreement, involving three European foreign minister, was immediately violated. "We need to come back to it," he said.

   A self-described Ukrainian journalist asked if Yanukovych used a submarine to flee, and if he's met with Putin. (Then he was cut off.)  Yanukovych said he spoke with Putin by telephone; he did not answer on the submarine.

   How fast could post Yanukovych Ukraine get US money or loan guarantees? On the afternoon of February 26 came this on the record statement by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki:

"The United States is continuing to consider a range of options, including loan guarantees, to support Ukraine economically. But no decision has been made and the next step is the formation of a multi-party, technical government. Once that government is formed we will begin to take immediate steps, in coordination with multilateral and bilateral partners, that could compliment an IMF package, to support Ukraine."

  There was a lot of chatter about a $1 billion US loan guarantee, including from a roundtable by Secretary of State John Kerry held after he did an interview with Andrea Mitchell. Oh, This Town or #ThisTown. So which is it?

  On February 27, the IMF's Christine Lagarde announced that the new Ukraine has asked for an IMF program; her spokesperson Gerry Rice said an IMF team on be 'on the ground' next week.

   On February 25 the shift in Ukraine was echoed on the US Eastern seaboard. At the UN in New York, Ukraine's Yanukovych-era Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev canceled his 11 am press conference - though we can now link to this video of his "I am with you" moment with demonstrators outside the Ukrainian mission in New York.

  Two hours after his February 25 cancellation, in Washington, journalists Inner City Press knows from covering the International Monetary Fund took the short walk to the US State Department's briefing to ask about pre-conditions. Follow the money.

  Back at the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky said he didn't know how long Ban's Middle East coordinator Robert Serry will stay in Ukraine. (He was still there on February 26.)

  Just how high profile there does Serry's past stint as Dutch Ambassador in Kyiv make him? What similar former ambassador might Ban Ki-moon have to offer in Thailand? Just how (un) relevant has the UN become?

   Back on Sunday morning US John Kerry spoke with Russia's Sergey Lavrov and, according to a senior State Department official, expressed hope

"that the Russian Federation will join with us, the European Union and its member states, and other concerned countries to help Ukraine turn the page and emerge from this crisis stronger... He also underscored the United States' expectation that Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic freedom of choice will be respected by all states."  

   Later @JohnKerry himself tweeted kudos to previous Secretary of State nominee Susan Rice, how well she had done on Ukraine NBC's Meet the Press. (As noted, David Gregory said one million have died in Syria, click here for that.)

  There, Rice mentioned working with the EU and the International Monetary Fund. Yes, it's the IMF that's meant by "appropriate international organization," and not the United Nations.

  What David Gregory gleaned from the leaked call to Geoff Pyatt was that Russia leaked it -- no mention of the plan, at least at that time, to use the UN to F- the EU. How much has change since then - including the UN being back on the margins.

  And so it occurs to ask: could Russia benefit from Ukraine being raised in the UN Security Council, where it has a veto, as it doesn't (but the US does) at the IMF? Could the UN oversee a deal, on which Russia says the opposition has already reneged?

  Then again, if Russia were to "pull an Abkhazia" (or South Ossetia) in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, it could be the Westerners trying to get the UN to condemn it. But in the Security Council, Russia has a veto. Again: UNrelevant.

As with the State Department's February 22 Kerry - Lavrov readout, it might be surprising to some that Sunday's does not include anything on Syria, on which the UN Security Council passed a resolution on February 22. But left unmentioned even as to Ukraine is the East / West split, particularly with regard the Crimea, Donetsk and the wider Donbass. Could Ukraine's "territorial integrity," the mantra at the UN, be in jeopardy?

  Back on Friday February 21, Presidents Obama and Putin had a phone conversation which a Senior US State Department Official called "positive" and at the US' initiative.

  The official said that Yanukovych has gone on a trip to Kharkiv in his eastern base in the country, "for some kind of meeting that's taking place out there," and recounted a rumor that the deposed interior minister has fled to Belarus.

  US State Department official William Burns will be heading to Ukraine; Vice President Joe Biden has spoken nine times with Yanukovych: twice in November, once in December, three times in January and on February 4, 18 and 20. Even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel finally got through to his Ukraine's counterpart, Lebedev.

  Amid the self-congratulation, the United Nations was once again on the margins. The UN has made much of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's talk with Yanukovych at the Sochi Olympics, and another phone call today.

  But tellingly, the Senior US State Department Official while citing a "good offices" role for "the international community" did not mention the UN once, in opening remarks nor in response to the eight questions taken. (Two were from the New York Times, the second of which referred to Putin's call with "President Bush.")  An overly long question from Le Figaro was cut off.

 Back on February 19 when Lithuania's foreign minister Linas Linkevieius came to the UN Security Council stakeout, that country seemed to be the one to ask him about. Inner City Press asked Linkevieius about his visit to Washington; he replied among other things that there is a need for "more coordination." Video here.

  Later on February 19 a US Senior State Department Official told the press that "Russia has not been transparent about what they are doing in Ukraine," citing that Russia for example does not provide read-outs of its contacts in Ukraine.

  The US' own high level contacts have gotten more difficult: "they are not picking up the phone," the official said, adding that three European Union foreign ministers are on their way.

  Of the four questions Linkevieius took at his UN stakeout, one was on the UN's North Korea report, another on Venezuela. A Russian reporter waiting at the stakeout with his hand raised was not given a question. This is the UN.

  Moments later at the UN's February 19 noon briefing, outgoing UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky was asked about a perceived double standards in responses to Bosnia and Ukraine. (The question was echoed on February 20, comparing Ukraine with Bahrain). Nesirky said every situation is different -- of course -- and also said the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had met for 90 minutes in Sochi with President Yanukovych.

  Ironically the US Senior State Department Official on February 19 was asked about Yanukovych becoming more hardline after his visit to Sochi. From Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the view is different -- in the case of the UN, often marginal and self-serving. For example, Ban Ki-moon gave no read-out of his beginning of the year call with the president of his native South Korea.

 
Ah, transparency. Watch this site.

Footnote: On the Obama - Putin "positive" call, Inner City Press muses it may signal a 15-0 vote in the UN Security Council on the Syria humanitarian resolution about which Inner City Press asked State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf earlier on February 21, click here for that.


 

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