BBG Watch Commentary
We have learned from China’s CCTV that on Friday afternoon U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke on the phone with Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev — a news development which U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) failed to report.
Obama, Putin urge quick implementation of Ukraine deal, CCTV, Feb. 21, 2014
While VOA reported on President Obama’s phone conversation with President Putin Friday, it has not reported on the phone conversation between U.S. Secretary of Defense and Ukraine’s Minister of Defense.
According to China’s CCTV, “Lebedev assured Hagel that the Ukrainian armed forces remain the protectors of the Ukrainian people and would not use arms against them.”
CCTV also reported that according to the Pentagon, Hagel commended the Ukrainian government’s decision to keep the military on the sidelines of the crisis thus far and urged continued restraint.
Voice of America had not reported on the earlier attempts by Secretary Hagel to arrange a phone conversation with Minister Lebedev.
“Despite repeated efforts, Hagel has not been able to speak to his Ukrainian counterpart Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev, the Pentagon said on Thursday. VOA did not have a news story on these earlier efforts by U.S. Department of Defense officials to arrange a conversation between Hagel and Lebedev, which finally took place on Friday.
“We are continuing our efforts to arrange for the secretary to communicate directly with Minister Lebedyev, but so far, the Ministry of Defense has been unresponsive to our requests,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said on Thursday.
“Hagel spoke to the minister in December, a month after the protests began to express concern then that Ukrainian troops stay out of the political arena,” the Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Friday afternoon, the Pentagon posted online an article by American Forces Press Service as well as a statement from the Department of Defense on the phone conversation earlier in the day. None of this was reported by VOA worldwide English news service. We could not find any evidence that the Hagel-Lebedev phone conversation was reported on the VOA Ukrainian Service news website or on the VOA Russian Service website.
The Voice of America Charter ( U.S. Public Law 94-350) says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”
Release No: NR-092-14
February 21, 2014
Readout of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s Phone Call with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Pavlo Lebedev
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby provided the following readout:
“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Pavlo Lebedev this afternoon.
“Minister Lebedev assured the secretary that the Ukrainian armed forces remain the protectors of the Ukrainian people, that their deployment inside the country has been focused on protecting defense facilities and equipment, and that his forces would not use arms against the Ukrainian people.
“Secretary Hagel said he was encouraged by the recent news that the Ukrainian government and the opposition leadership had reached an agreement on how to move forward without further violence. He commended the government’s decision to keep the military on the sidelines of the crisis thus far and urged continued restraint.
“Minister Lebedev expressed his appreciation for U.S. involvement in negotiations to resolve the situation in Ukraine.”
Hagel Given Assurances Ukraine Military Will Not Deploy Against Protesters
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been assured by his Ukrainian counterpart that the country’s military will not be used against anti-government protesters.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby says Hagel was given that assurance during a phone call with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Pavlo Lebedev this afternoon.
“Minister Lebedev assured the secretary that the Ukrainian armed forces remain the protectors of the Ukrainian people, and that their deployment inside the country has been focused on protecting defense facilities and equipment, ” Kirby said in a statement issued after the call. Lebedev, Kirby said, assured Hagel that the government in Kiev “would not use arms against the Ukrainian people.”
The conversation took place just hours after a reported settlement was reached between the Ukrainian government and protesters who for months have been occupying the center of Kiev demanding greater economic and political integration with Western Europe and that President Viktor Yanukovych step down.
Thursday, Kirby told reporters Hagel was deeply troubled by the escalating violence which has killed scores of people, and he urged Ukraine’s military not to intervene in the unrest.
Hagel Urges Ukrainian Military to Stay Out of Unrest
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is deeply troubled by the escalating violence in Ukraine and has urged the country’s armed forces not to get involved in the uprising unfolding in Kiev, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Hagel “is deeply troubled by the violence there and shares the outrage of so many over images of Ukrainian Ministry of Interior forces firing automatic weapons at their own people,” Kirby told reporters. “He urges the Ukrainian armed forces to continue to refrain from participating in the conflict, a conflict that can and should be resolved politically.”
Scores of people have been killed over the past two days in protests against the Ukrainian government by those demanding stronger trade and political ties with the European Union and for President Viktor Yanukovych to step down.
American embassy employees in Kiev indicate the Ukrainian armed forces are protecting military facilities, including weapons and ammunition storage facilities. Service members are not involved in the violence against protesters, Kirby said. “We certainly hope that remains the case,” he said during a news conference.
Despite repeated efforts, Hagel has not been able to speak to his Ukrainian counterpart Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev. “We are continuing our efforts to arrange for the secretary to communicate directly with Minister Lebedyev, but so far, the Ministry of Defense has been unresponsive to our requests,” Kirby said.
Hagel spoke to the minister in December, a month after the protests began to express concern then that Ukrainian troops stay out of the political arena.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has fired his chief of defense and replaced him with the Navy commander.
Despite the widespread violence in the heart of Kiev, the State Department has not requested military assistance of any kind, Kirby said. “But you know very well, we are a planning organization. That is what we do.,” he said. “Our job is to help provide options.”
U.S. European Command commander, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, has had military resources and assets available should there be a need. “There’s no specific planning being undertaken right now to evacuate American citizens from Ukraine,” Kirby said. “If they ever do get to the point in any country where they need to evacuate, they have many options at their disposal. We are only one of them, and we are usually not the first one.”