Russians strike Ukraine army post in Crimea. Kiev fears Ukraine army putsch. US warships on standby
March 1, 2014
As Moscow’s master plan for Ukraine continued to unfold, Russian forces Saturday, March 1, staged their first attack on a Ukraine military installation in Crimea, while completing their takeover of the region and its severance from Ukraine. Interfax reported from a Ukrainian source that 20 soldiers had entered an anti-aircraft missile command post in western Crimea and that negotiations rather than a clash were under way.
Earlier Saturday, Crimea’s new pro-Moscow prime minister Serhiy Aksyonov asked President Vladimir Putin for help in “maintaining peace in the region,” saying he was in control of the region’s interior ministry, armed forces, fleet and border guards.
The invitation set the scene for Russian military intervention in Crimea at the request of its government. Moscow said the appeal would not go “unnoticed,” while the Russian foreign ministry declared itself “extremely concerned” by developments in Crimea – cynically echoing US President Barack Obama’s expression Friday of “deep concern” about Russian military movements inside Ukraine and his warning of “costs.”
The Crimean premier, appointed Thursday by parliament in Simferopol, later announced that a referendum would be held on March 30 to determine the peninsula’s status. Meanwhile, he said, Russian Black Sea fleet servicemen were guarding important buildings.
In Kiev, interim defense minister Igor Tenyukh, addressing the first new cabinet’s first meeting, accused Russia of an armed invasion of Ukraine and pouring an additional 6,000 troops into the peninsula. Western correspondents reported that Crimea is now cut off from the rest of Ukraine after “unidentified troops” in combat fatigues, armed with automatic rifles, machine guns or RPGs, seized control of Crimea’s sea and air ports and its main road network in the last 24 hours.
Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told the Kiev cabinet that Ukraine forces were on alert, but he would not be ”drawn into a military conflict by Russian provocations in the Crimea region.”