1 Mar 2014

Ukraine on full combat alert as Russia prepares to move in

The Ukrainian government has put the army on full combat alert and warned invasion would lead to war, after Putin obtained the permission of his parliament to send soldiers into Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said he had urged Russia to return its troops to base in the Crimea region in a phone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and called for talks. “Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia,” Yatseniuk told reporters.

“Military intervention would be the beginning of war” Ukrainian PM

Putin gets Russian parliament’s backing to invade Ukraine

The Russian upper house of parliament has approved a request from President Vladimir Putin to send soldiers into Ukraine.

Earlier, the lower house of the Russian Parliament had requested that Mr Putin take action to “stabilise” Ukraine – but that vague statement has been replaced by authorisation from the parliament’s upper house to send the Russian army into Crimea.

An approximate 6,000 troops are already in Crimea, a Ukrainian region on the coast of the Black Sea with a 70 per cent Russian population, though there has been no official identification of the soldiers as Russian troops.

‘Threat to the lives of Russian citizens’

President Putin’s request flies in the face of appeals from the USA, and western Europe to calm the situation and to refrain from intervention in Ukraine, where street protests have just ousted a pro-Russian President.

The request implies a limited use of force but all the conditions are at Russia’s discretion – and according to the Ukrainian government – there has been no consultation at all with the Ukrainian government on this plan to send the Russian Army into the Crimea.

The Federation Council voted overwhelmingly to authorise President Putin’s request to use force in Ukraine:

“In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory (in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) … I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in the that country”.

Russia flies in the face of western warnings

The German Foreign Minister accused Russian President Putin of “pouring oil onto the flames” by sending in troops to Ukraine and urged him to clarify Russia’s intentions in the region.

In the past two days Russian soldiers have seized key buildings in the Ukrainian border province of Crimea, including the Parliament and an airport.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave Putin a warning:

“Whoever pours more oil onto the flames now, with words or actions, is consciously aiming for further escalation.”

“We are holding the Russian government to its public statements… this entails also that Russia provides without delay complete transparency over the movements of its troops in Crimea, as well as its goals and intentions.”

The Foreign Ministers of Britain and France have both asked for a “de-escalation” in Ukraine and asked Russia to respect Ukraine’s integrity. The statements from European powers come after President Obama’s warning to Russia last night not to intervene in the Ukranian state.

Kiev ‘very worried’

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrij Deshchitsya said the Kiev government was “very worried” that Russia has refused to hold consultations with Kiev on guaranteeing Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Military presence in Crimea has already caused major parts of the region to shut down and seen skirmishes break out between gun-men from both sides.

The peninsula’s main civil airport at the fleet town of Simferopol announced it had closed its airspace. Russia accused Kiev-backed gunmen of attacking the Interior Ministry building and wounding personnel in “treacherous provocation”, amid a flurry of claims and counter-claims.