Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ukraine warns Russia that Crimea intervention will lead to war

(March 2 Reuters) Ukraine has put its armed forces on full alert and warned Russia that military intervention will lead to war shortly after Vladimir Putin gave the green light for an invasion as the upper house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved his request to send troops into the neighbouring state. On Sunday morning reports said Russian military servicemen had seized weapons from a radar base and naval training facility in Ukraine's Crimea region where they urged personnel to side with the peninsula's "legitimate" leaders; while other Russian troops were said to have removed weapons from a Ukrainian navy training centre in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. After a three-hour meeting with security and defence chiefs on Saturday, prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk said he had called for talks and urged Russia to return its soldiers to base in the Crimea region during a phone call with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. "Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia," Yatseniuk said. Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said he had put the armed forces on full readiness because of the threat of "potential aggression" as 15,000 Russian troops were said to have joined those who have effectively seized Crimea. Speaking live on TV, Turchynov said he had also ordered stepped-up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure.

The Russian press is continuing to paint a picture of ethnic Russians under siege in Ukraine. Itar-Tass news agency, which describes itself as “the state central information agency”, reports that Russia’s border guard service said some 675,000 Ukrainians have left for Russia in January and February this year and warned that there are signs of a “humanitarian catastrophe”. Tass quotes the service as saying: “If ‘revolutionary chaos’ in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions”. 

Members of Ukraine’s infamous Berkut riot police from all over the country are seeking Russian passports along with their families, the major of the Crimean Berkut detachment Viktor Denisenko told journalists, Ria Novosti reports. Previously, the Moscow police announced they would form a special unit from former members of Berkut, which had answered directly to President Viktor Yanukovych and was a main instrument of violence against protestors in Kiev but was disbanded last week, after the ousting of Yanukovych.