Ukraine Says Russia Has Sent in Troops, Obama Appeals to Putin
Kiev – Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of sending thousands of additional troops to the southern Crimea region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population, and said it had placed its military in the region on high alert. Russia said unidentified gunmen sent by Kiev had attempted overnight to seize the Crimea region’s Interior Ministry offices and that people had been wounded in the attack. It accused Kiev of a “treacherous provocation”.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk urged Moscow to cease what it called provocative actions, echoing a warning by U.S. President Barack Obama who said any military intervention following the overthrow of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich would have costs for Moscow.
Armed men wearing combat uniform with no identification markings control two airports in Crimea, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and have taken over the regional parliament in what Kiev described as an occupation by Moscow’s forces. “It is unacceptable when armored Russian military vehicles are out in the centre of Ukrainian towns,” Yatseniuk said at the start of a government meeting in Kiev.
“We do not give in to provocative actions, we do not use force and we demand that Russia stop its provocative actions and return the troops to base.” Russia says any movements by its military in Crimea are in line with agreements with Ukraine in the lease of the naval base in the port city of Sevastopol and accused Kiev of trying to destabilize the Black Sea peninsula.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Kiev-backed gunmen had attempted to take over the offices of the Crimean Interior Ministry. It said people had been wounded but gave no details. There was no confirmation of such an action from other sources.
“With decisive actions by self-defense groups, the attempt to seize the interior ministry building was averted. This confirms the desire of prominent political circles in Kiev to destabilize the peninsula,” it said in a statement. Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, said on Friday that Russia was following a scenario like the one before it went to war with fellow former Soviet republic Georgia in 2008 over two breakaway regions. The regions are now fully beyond the control of Tbilisi.
Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh told Saturday’s government meeting that Russia had “recently” brought 6,000 additional personnel into Ukraine and that the Ukrainian military were on high alert in the Crimea region. Several military transport planes and about 10 military helicopters had entered Ukrainian airspace on Friday without permission, he said. (Reuters)