Ukraine accuses Russia of 'armed invasion'
Just when you thought things couldn't get any dicier in Ukraine, they do.
Amidst a slow motion meltdown of the economy, a deteriorating law and order situation, and a fugitive former president vowing to retake power, there comes news that "armed men" speaking Russian -- said to act and talk like professional soldiers - are now patrolling two airports in the Crimea. They apparently just showed up and bullied local police into backing off.
In Kiev, the speaker of Parliament, Oleksandr V. Turchynov who is also acting president, told parliament "Terrorists with automatic weapons, judged by our special services to be professional soldiers, tried to take control of the airport in Crimea.”
On his Facebook page, interior minister, Arsen Avakov wrote that the government believed that the units at the airport were Russian military.
Mr. Avakov wrote that the men blocking the airport were also wearing camouflage uniforms with no identifying insignia, but he added, “They do not hide their affiliation.”
Mr. Avakov said that the airport was not functioning but that “There is no armed conflict yet.”
At the international airport, Mr. Avakov said, the Ukrainian authorities confronted the armed men and told them, “You soldiers have no right to be located here.” The uniformed men responded curtly, “We do not have instructions to negotiate with you,” he added.
“Tension is building,” Mr. Avakov wrote on Facebook, adding: “I regard what is happening as an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international treaties and norms. This is a direct provoking of armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state.”
As with any fast developing story contradictory information is prevelant. There is a report from AFP that the Ukrainian government has retaken control of the airports:
Ukrainian authorities said Friday they had regained control of two Crimean airports seized during an "armed invasion" by Russian forces that prompted the country's new pro-EU leaders to appeal for protection from the West.
The spiralling tensions in a nation torn between the West and Russia are set to take another dramatic turn when ousted president Viktor Yanukovych briefs reporters in Russia on Friday after winning protection from Moscow.
The head of Ukraine's security and defence council said Russian soldiers and local pro-Kremlin militia were responsible for the dawn raids on Crimea's main airport and another base on the southwest of the peninsula where pro-Moscow sentiment runs high.
A spokesman for Russia's Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet denied any involvement in the airport occupations. But Ukraine's parliament immediately appealed to the US and Britain to uphold a 1994 pact with Russia that guaranteed the country's sovereignty in return for it giving up its Soviet nuclear arms.
Both lawmakers and UN Security Council chair Lithuania said they would also ask the world body to address the Crimea crisis at its next session -- a request that would need to gain support from veto-wielding members such as Russia.
Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov meanwhile attempted to regain control over unravelling security in the vast nation of 46 million by sacking the armed forces chief appointed by Yanukovych at the height of deadly protests last week.
Western governments have been watching with increasing alarm as Kiev's new rulers grapple with the dual threats of economic collapse and secession by Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions that had backed Yanukovych.
Russian President Vladimir Putin this week stoked concerns that Moscow might use its military might to sway the outcome of Ukraine's three-month standoff by ordering snap combat drills near the border involving 150,000 troops and nearly 900 tanks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to relieve diplomatic pressure in a crisis that has increasingly assumed Cold War overtones by announcing that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had assured him Moscow "will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine".
Kerry's entire statement has to be read to be believed. Does he really think there's no connection between the Ukraine crisis and the the Russian combat drills? Apparently yes,as Bridget Johnson reports in PJ Media:
Kerry said he and Lavrov “talked at some length about the transition and the events in Ukraine and in the region.”
“And I asked specifically that Russia work with the United States and with our friends and allies in order to support Ukraine, to rebuild unity, security, and a healthy economy. And we also discussed the very tense situation in Crimea. I think it’s very important to underscore that Foreign Minister Lavrov relayed to me directly from President Putin a reaffirmation of the conversation that President Putin had over the weekend with President Obama,” Kerry continued. “And he stated that both the military exercise which has been conducted is not related to the Ukraine and was previously scheduled, but also – importantly – reaffirmed President Putin’s statement that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
“And we believe that everybody now needs to step back and avoid any kind of provocations. And we want to see in the next days ahead, obviously, that the choices Russia makes conform to this affirmation that we received today. We are also making the same point about reducing tensions in Crimea to the Ukrainians, and it is very important that the process continue in a thoughtful and respectful way,” he added.
Poor, deluded fool. It is embarrassing to have someone so naive as Secretary of State. Someone might want to point out to Kerry that the Russians have apparently already violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine and are now well positioned to engineer secession of the peninnsula from the rest of Ukraine.
Speaking of delusion, Ukraine believes that the US and NATO will honor the treaty from 1994 guaranteeing Ukraine's territorial integrity. Good luck with that, guys. There is no way that any NATO country or the US will confront Russian troops in the Ukraine, or anywhere else for that matter. Putin will show that he has a free hand to act in his own backyard which means the sovereignty and independence of former Soviet republics is now an open question.
How much of Ukraine will Russia seek to bite off? Perhaps only the Crimea, although they may push for more autonomy for their ethnic cousins in the east. It's Putin who is driving this crisis now and no one appears to want to stop anything he may have planned.