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29 Mar 14. Russia said on Saturday it had “no intention” of invading eastern Ukraine, responding to Western warnings over a military buildup on the border following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The comments by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were followed by news that he would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Sunday, as both sides moved to ease tensions in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War. Speaking on Russian television, Lavrov reinforced a message from President Vladimir Putin that Russia would settle – at least for now – for control over Crimea despite massing thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border. “We have absolutely no intention of – or interest in – crossing Ukraine’s borders,” Lavrov said. Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal, with the West alarmed at the threat to Ukraine’s eastern flank from what U.S. officials say may be more than 40,000 Russian soldiers. Lavrov added, however, that Russia was ready to protect the rights of Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as threats to the lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was deposed as president in February. (Source: Reuters)

29 Mar 14. US and Russia to discuss potential solution over Ukraine. The US and Russia have agreed to discuss a potential resolution to the Ukraine stand-off, after Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama in a move which may launch a fresh diplomatic effort to de-escalate the crisis.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops massing on the Ukraine border, Mr Obama told Mr Putin that he would support a diplomatic solution “only if [Moscow] pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”. The White House said that the two presidents had agreed that John Kerry, the secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, would meet “to discuss the next steps”. Mr Obama said the US had put a proposal to Russia ahead of the call and asked Mr Putin for a “concrete response”. The two leaders spoke for about an hour. Mr Obama spoke to Mr Putin from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A Russian summary of the call confirmed the Kerry-Lavrov meeting, without specifying a time or a place, but ominously quoted Mr Putin as warning about the “continued rampage of extremists” attacking peaceful residents in Ukraine “with impunity”.
(Source: FT.com)

28 Mar 14. Qatar in $23bn arms order including Apache and NH90 helicopters. Qatar has added to its defence spending with the agreement to buy helicopters from Boeing and the joint venture NH Industries as well as missiles from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The total spend by Qatar on defence equipment this week is believed to have topped $23bn
The announcements were made at the Dimdex conference in Doha. Qatar ordered 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and three B737 Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft from Boeing. Meanwhile, in Paris, the French defence ministry said Qatar would be buying 22 NH90 military helicopters from the Airbus led joint venture worth nearly $2.8bn. Twelve of the aircraft would be transport helicopters and the other 10 would be the frigate version. NHIndustries is 62.5 percent owned by Airbus’ Eurocopter helicopter unit, 32 percent owned by AgustaWestland, a unit of Italy Finmeccanica’s and 5.5 percent by Stork Fokker. Qatar is also buying the two MRTTs reported yesterday.
Qatar also committed to buy a Patriot missile defense system built by Raytheon equipped with PAC-3 missiles made by Lockheed; advanced daytime, high-definition sensors and radars for Apache helicopters; and Javelin missiles built by a Lockheed-Raytheon joint venture. There were no announcements regarding fighter aircraft. (Source: ArabianBusiness.com)

28 Mar 14. Ukraine’s ousted president demands regional referendums. Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich on Friday calle

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