RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 7, 2014

TODAY: Pro-Russia protesters storm Ukraine government buildings, Kiev blames Putin; Nato urges members to boost armed forces, Georgia and Azerbaijan worried; Merkel says E.U. ready with sanctions; Yatsenyuk rejects new Gazprom prices; Bush paints Putin.

Ukraine’s acting president, Olexander Turchynov, called an emergency meeting after pro-Russian rallies in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Lugansk ended with protesters storming regional government buildings, and reportedly demanding a referendum on joining Russia.  (Some footage is available here.) Ukraine accused President Vladimir Putin of ‘order[ing] and pa[ying] for the latest wave of separatist disorder.’ The Times called the protests ‘an echo of the demonstrations that preceded last month’s annexation of Crimea’.  The Secretary-General of Nato says its members countries must boost their armed forces to protect against the threat of Russian aggression.  Both Georgia and Azerbaijan are reportedly worried about Russia’s next moves: ‘Azerbaijan’s position is complicated by the fact that it […] has pursued an independent foreign policy.’  Surrounding regions need U.S. support, says this piece.  Europe’s foreign ministers met in Athens to discuss the crisis, concluding that Russia needs to defuse tensions, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the E.U. would make good on its promise to introduce tougher sanctions if Russia makes any further moves into Ukrainian territory.  U.S. intelligence is apparently unable to predict Putin’s next moves, with further action widely expected but difficult to foresee.

Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected new gas price hikes by Gazprom, referring to them as ‘aggression’, and threatening arbitration.  ’Russia ranked 28th of 58 countries in an index meant to evaluate how effectively resource-rich countries use profits for the public good,notes this LA Times piece about oil dependence as sickness.  The Ukraine crisis has created friction with Russia’s Italian partners in the South Stream pipeline, but its German business associates are not wavering.  Gazprom Neft says it is ready to take its contracts to Asia and redirect oil flows away from the U.S. if necessary.

The exhibit of George W. Bush’s painted portrait of Vladimir Putin provides the former U.S. President with an opportunity to discuss their difficult relationship.  No more gay swan lake for Russia, says creator Matthew Bourne: ‘they have gone backwards’.

PHOTO: A pro-Russia protester scuffles with police near the regional government building in Donetsk April 6, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer