Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ukraine Creates National Guard Ahead of Crimea Vote

March 13 (BBC News Europe) Ukraine’s parliament has voted to create a 60,000-strong National Guard to bolster the country’s defences. The vote came ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, now controlled by pro-Moscow forces, on whether citizens want to join Russia. President Vladimir Putin insists Russia is not to blame for the crisis. But Germany’s Angela Merkel says Moscow faces “massive” political and economic damage if it refuses to change course. The US has also threatened action.
The new National Guard is expected to be recruited from activists involved in the recent pro-Western protests as well as from military academies. Ukraine’s national security chief Andriy Parubiy said the Guard would be deployed to “ensure state security, defend the borders, and eliminate terrorist groups”. The Russian military and pro-Russian armed men moved in to seize key sites in Crimea – an autonomous region of Ukraine whose population is mainly ethnic Russian – in late February after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych.
But Mr Putin told Paralympic delegates in the Black Sea port of Sochi on Thursday: “Russia was not the initiator of the circumstances that have taken shape.” But the German chancellor said on Thursday that Russia was exploiting the weakness of neighbouring Ukraine, rather than acting as a partner for stability. She has threatened an escalating series of EU measures if Russia does not relax the tension in Ukraine.
In a statement to the Bundestag, she said political and diplomatic measures, rather than military action, were the way to resolve the crisis. ”If Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine,” she said.