18 Mar 2014

‘Unknown forces’ kill Ukrainian soldier in Crimea base

Ukraine’s military says that a serviceman has been killed after a Ukrainian base in the Crimean capital Simferopol came under attack.

Military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said one serviceman at the base had died of his wounds and a second man, a captain, was injured.

Seleznyov said it was unclear who had staged the assault, but described the attackers, as “unknown forces, fully equipped and their faces covered”.

Some Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea have been under the control of Russian forces for several weeks after Russian troops poured into the Black Sea peninsula ahead of a referendum at the weekend that handed over control from Ukraine to Russia.

No amount of sham and perverse democratic process… can make up for the fact that this is an incursion into a sovereign state and a land grab. William Hague

There was no immediate evidence that Russian soldiers were involved in Tuesday’s incident, witnesses said.

It was not possible to see far into the compound, because streets leading to it had been blocked by so-called “self-defence” units of pro-Russian volunteers who have been patrolling the streets of Crimea in the run-up to the referendum.

‘Perverse democracy’

Earlier on Tuesday the British government suspended military co-operation with Russia because of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

The British foreign secretary said on Tuesday that as a part of the suspension of bilateral military co-operation, the UK would cancel a planned French-Russian-UK-United States naval exercise and suspend a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to St Petersburg.

Mr Hague told the House of Commons that Europe now faces its most serious security test this century, and that it was “necessary to increase the pressure” in order to prevent Russia from riding “roughshod” across all principles of international law and threatening “the future of Ukraine”.

“No amount of sham and perverse democratic process or skewed historical references can make up for the fact that this is an incursion into a sovereign state and a land grab of part of its territory with no respect for the law of that country or for international law,” he said.

He said Vladimir Putin had chosen the path of “isolation” by signing a treaty which would make Crimea a part of Russia.


Earlier, a defiant Vladimir Putin mocked western opponents and said Crimea has “always been an inalienable part of Russia” as he pushed ahead with annexation of the Crimea region.

The Russian president emphasised historical ties with Crimea and the illegitimacy of Kiev’s new government in what could be viewed as a victory speech to the Russian parliament.

We are not just neighbours with Ukraine, we are one nation. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Vladimir Putin

Russian politicians rose to their feet to give President Putin a standing ovation at least 30 times in the 47-minute speech. President Putin was met with rhythmic clapping as he said he would submit a draft law bringing Crimea into Russia (see video, below).

“The (Crimean) issue has a vital importance, a historic importance for all of us,” he said. “In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inalienable part of Russia.

“This commitment, based on truth and justice, was firm, was passed from generation to generation.”

He added that Russia had “robbed” itself of Crimea when it let it join Ukraine.

And President Putin went further, saying that the whole of Ukraine is a part of “one nation”.

“We are not just neighbours with Ukraine, we are one nation,” he said. “Kiev is the mother of Russian cities.”

Our western partners, headed by the United States, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. Vladimir Putin

With the Russian national anthem playing, President Putin signed a treaty with Crimea’s Russian-installed leader to make Crimea part of Russia. His move follows the disputed referendum on Sunday in which it was reported that 97 per cent of Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation.

The Russian president said the referendum was held “in full accordance with democratic procedures and international legal norms”. He depicted Crimea as a “holy place” for Russians, and said that western powers had “crossed a red line” and had behaved “irresponsibly”.

“Our western partners, headed by the United States, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun,” he said.

“They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.”

He said the west needs to stop its “cold war rhetoric” and respect Russia’s “right” to defend its interests. He also said that the west was saying something is “black one day and white the next” – refering to its attitude towards self-determination.

President Putin argued that the west had backed self-determination in Kosovo, but then opposed it for the people of Crimea.

He added that Russia had been “co-operating” with western partners over major issues – a possible reference to the Syrian civil war, among other issues – but that “time and again we were deceived”.

He said western efforts to sanction Russia would be seen as an act of aggression, and that Moscow would retaliate.


The United States and European Union have responded with sanctions against a number of individuals.

US President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for the military seizure of Crimea, including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, and two aides to Putin – Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev.

The EUs 28 foreign ministers have agreed sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials including Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov.

There were only three names in common on the lists. The US list appeared to target higher ranking Russian politicians who are close to Putin, whilst the EU list targeted mid-ranking figures thought to be directly involved in the Crimean crisis.

Japan joined the sanctions on Tuesday, announcing the suspension of talks on investment promotion and visa liberalisation with Russia. France warned that it could suspend a €1.2bn helicopter-carrier contract if the Crimean crisis continues.

‘Flagrant disregard’

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday night: “The UK condemns in the strongest terms Russia’s flagrant disregard of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. For the UK and her allies the Crimea remains part of Ukraine.

“We are witnessing a clear attempt to pave the way for the annexation of part of the sovereign territory of an independent European state, through military force and an illegal and illegitimate referendum.

“The UK calls again on Russia to enter into dialogue with Ukraine and with the international community to resolve this crisis through diplomacy and in accordance with international law, not to exacerbate it further through unilateral and provocative actions.

“Continuing to ignore those calls will bring serious consequences for Russia. We will urgently consider our response to this latest escalation with our allies and partners, including at the European Council this week.”