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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ukraine: Crimean crisis becomes tenser amid Russian increasing of military presence and harsh Western reactions

Russian military troops in Ukrainian Crimea
(Image: Telegraph)
Russian military presence has significantly increased during the last night, with several new attacks against Ukrainian military bases and seizure of some administrative buildings, including Simferopol regional military recruitment office. Almost all the strategic objects on the Peninsula are being controlled by Russian military forces, with the local TV channels offices also occupied and coverage cut off.

In addition to that Russia has deployed additional troops and military technique in Crimea and allegedly started its movement towards the mainland Ukraine, according to the reports of Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the eyewitnesses, reported, that Russian soldiers are being assaulting Ukrainian border military bases and destroying the equipment. The field on the border with Khersonska governorate, which is the beginning of the mainland Ukraine, is mined by Russian military. The situation escalates, as the special mission of OSCE was prevented again from entering Crimea.

Meanwhile Ukrainian military forces have started their movements in the direction of the Eastern borders of Ukraine and Crimea. Border service are taking extraordinary measures on the border with Russia as the situation escalates again and threatens with the possible beginning of the full-scale conflict.

Western countries though including USA, EU and Canada have increased their pressure on Russia and Putin’s regime using more harsh language and warning Russia with the new and more serious sanctions and total political and economic isolation, if it will not de-escalate situation in Crimea and withdraw its troops.

US President Barak Obama has warned Russia of sanctions and
total political and economic isolation
(Image: BBC)
US President Barak Obama has an extraordinary meeting with the representatives of several EU countries, including Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Holland and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Mr.Obama had earlier conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and heads of Baltic countries including Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All of these countries have assured of their position which haven’t changed: Russia must stop its aggression against Ukraine immediately and withdraw the troops from Crimea. USA and EU warn Russian leadership of imposing new sanctions, which could affect not only Russian political figures and officials, but also oligarchs and businessmen as well. Barak Obama has also a phone talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin and warned him that Russia will become in a total political and economic isolation if it will try to annex Ukrainian Crimea. Western countries also declared that Crimean referendum to be held on 16 March is totally illegitimate and couldn’t not be recognized by any country.

US State Secretary John Kerry in his turn has warned Russian officials of the possibility of total cutting of diplomatic relations with Russia. During his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov John Kerry stated again that Russia must immediately withdraw its troops from the territory of the sovereign country and de-escalate the situation. In case Russia will try to annex Ukrainian Crimea, USA will totally cut all the diplomatic relationship with Russia. It’s worth mentioning, that USA, Canada, Great Britain and several European countries have already recalled their ambassadors from Moscow.

USA and EU though insist on the peaceful solution and negotiations to be held between Ukraine and Russia with the mediation of the Western countries and western observers. Special contact group could be formed for this. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated on Saturday, that Russia could agree on the talks with the new Ukrainian government only under the condition, that Russia won’t be considered being an “aggressive side of conflict” and called again to come back to the 21 February agreements, which haven’t been signed by the Russian side, by the way.

US State Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov
(Image: Yahoo News)
USA Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has declared on Saturday, that American Armed Forces and NATO are ready to support Ukraine in case the situation will escalates, as Russian aggression threatens not only Ukraine, but European countries as well, including the countries members of NATO. Military operation remains among the possible options, stated Mr. Dempsey, and US Army and NATO have sent a clear signal to Russia about it. But of course the best option is a peaceful and diplomatic one, and all the Western countries are calling on Russia to start the peaceful talks in order to resolve the crisis.

Thus, the situation is still extremely tense and complicated, but there are clear signals that Western countries will not leave Russian intervention and attempts to annex Ukrainian territories without reaction and taking appropriate measures. There is still a chance of the peaceful solution, as the talks on the level of the ministers and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Russia have already started, according to Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile, EU has expressed its total support of Ukraine and is ready to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine immediately, declared on Saturday President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

UPDATES.

Despite the increasing pressure of the Western countries and demands of Ukrainian government to withdraw the troops and calls to start political dialogue, Russia continued to deploy new troops and military technique in Ukrainian Crimea, as Russian soldiers and pro-Russian activists seized several military and border bases and objects. Russian military continues to control almost all the strategic objects in Crimea, as Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded by Russians and blocked. Local people and self-defense units support Ukrainian soldiers bringing them supplies. Ukrainian swoldiers in their turn remain patient and avoid reacting on the Russian provocations, as any shoot from Ukrainian side could become a cause for the beginning of the conflict.

Video: Ukrainian military movements (Video by Andriy Grachev)

Crimean separatist self-proclaimed leaders Aksyonov and Konstantinov state that the referendum will be held, as the ballots have been reportedly printed and delivered to Crimea. Big boards about the referendum started to appear in Crimean cities, and a lot of them contain extremsit content comparing Ukraine to fascists and picturing Russia as savior. IN addition to that eyewitnesses and journalists from Crimea report that absolutely all Ukrainian TV-channesl are cutt off in Crimea and replaced with the Russian ones. 

Among the worrying things is also increasing of the cases of kidnappings of and attacks against the journalists in Crimea. Thus, unknown armed men have kidnapped two Automaidan activists and one journalist accompanying them on Sunday. One day earlier a group of journalists was violently beaten close to the military base in Sevastopol.

Western countries are increasing their pressure on Russian leadership demanding immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine and calling for the talks. USA Administration stated that USA are ready to impose additional, more harsh sanctions on Russia in case of annexion of Crimea, what could happen this Monday, if Russian Parliament will vote for the annexion. In this case USA warns Russia of total cutting of all the diplomatic and political relaionships and isolation of Russia. EU warned of imposing the similar sanctions.

NATO and US Armed Forces have stated earlier that they are ready to support Ukraine in case Russia will escalate the conflict, and military operation is also on the table. USA, Bulgaria and Romania have started on Sunday their joint military trainings close to Ukraine, in Ukrainian waters. US navy ships have crossed earlier Bosporus and are currently in the Black Sea as well.

Ukrainian military troops and technique is also being deployed to Crimea, as the armed forces troops have started their movement towards Crimea and Easter and Southern regions of Ukraine.

Russia though remains defiant, despuite the growing pressure. 

It's worth mentioning also, that Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy yatsenyuk is expected to visis USA on 12 March and to meet Barak Obama and US officials. 

EU in its turn stated that the political part of the AQssociation Agreement with Ukraine will be signed over the coming days.