Tensions Rise between Russia and Ukraine
By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
According to the BBC, “Ukraine’s acting President Oleksander Turchynov has accused Russia of deploying troops to Crimea and trying to provoke Kiev into ‘armed conflict.’” Turchynov said in a televised address that Russia hopes to provoke conflict with the Ukraine’s interim government in order to gain control over the Crimean region. As unconfirmed reports come in that Russia has flown hundreds of troops into Crimea, potential Russian loyalists have reportedly taken control of key areas in the region. In light of these reports, Turchynov called on Russia to “stop provocations and start negotiations.”
He claimed that Russia is once again acting as it did in Georgia in 2008, when it sent troops into regions with high Russian ethnic populations such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Crimea also has a high Russian ethnic concentration. Turchynov said “They are implementing the scenario like the one carried out in Abkhazia, when, after provoking a conflict, they started an annexation of the territory.”
This statement followed only a few hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin had reportedly emphasized the “extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence” in telephone conversations with other international state leaders. Despite the contradictory nature of the reports, the Crimean airport in Simferopol has shut down both incoming and outgoing flights.
Sergiy Kunitsyn, a senior Ukrainian official, expressed to news media that “13 Russian aircraft carrying nearly 2,000 suspected troops had landed at a military air base near Simferopol.” Russian armoured vehicles and helicopters were also reportedly seen around Russia’s Black Sea Fleet base around Simferopol and Sevastopol. According to the BBC, “Armed men in unidentified military uniforms have moved in on Crimea’s parliament, state television building and telecommunication centres,” and are “also patrolling the airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol.” Ukraine has officially lodged a complaint against Russia over the suspected incursions into its territory, which it claims is not in accordance with an agreement between the two states on Russia’s ability to post troops in Crimea.
On 28 February, recently ousted former President of the Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych made a public appearance at a news conference in Russia. He “apologized for not ‘having enough strength to keep stability’ in Ukraine and called his usurpers ‘young, neo-fascist thugs.’” He also said he planned to “continue to struggle for the future of Ukraine.” Ukraine is currently demanding his extradition from Russia.
Tensions are running high between these two countries, which already have a long and conflicted history, further complicating matters between them. The outcome of this conflict will likely be felt throughout Europe, and will be closely watched around the world.