Ukraine and Crimea: Latest Developments
- Russian Federation deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin and Ukrainian ambassador to Moscow Volodymyr Yelchenko met in Moscow today (March 8) to discuss the situation. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia willing to enter talks about situation provided they are “partner-like” (BBC).
- Russian defense ministry says it is considering halting international inspections of strategic weapons sites (BBC).
- Russian “activist” and military pressure on Ukrainian military, journalists and prominent foreigners in Crimea seems to be increasing. Poland has pulled its consul from Sevastopol due to increasing danger of situation. There were overnight attacks on Ukrainian military units by Russians, albeit without use of firearms. Several journalists have been attacked by pro-Russians. An OSCE delegation of military observers was for the third time turned back at the frontier (BBC).
- Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov charged that the new Ukrainian government is dominated by the far-right Right Sector (also connected with the Svodoba Party). The Right Sector has de facto veto over ministerial appointments and controls the security forces in Kiev. Lavrov points out that in 2012 the EU parliament condemned Svoboda, but now turns a blind eye to its activities. Svoboda calls itself a “social-nationalist party” that wants to make Ukraine a “truly national state”. Its platform includes measures such as ending Crimean autonomy, joining NATO, and creating a compulsory system of internal passports similar to the Soviet, in which every person’s nationality would be registered. Svoboda commentators also oppose “fake” Ukrainian nationalists who support capitalism and democracy. At present Svoboda controls four out of twenty ministerial posts in the Ukrainian government, including Ecology and Natural Resources, Agrarian Policy, and most importantly, Defense — there is also a Svoboda deputy prime minister. The key Ministry of Internal Affairs (police, etc.) is controlled by the relatively moderate nationalist party Batkivshchyna (to which Yuliia Timoshenko and current president Artseniy Yatsenyuk belongs).
- The Kiev newspaper Delo reports that Russian forces fired on a light Ukrainian border patrol aircraft near Armiansk.
- Delo also reports that Russian forces combining uniformed military with “activists” are trying to “storm” various Ukrainian border control points and Ukrainian military facilities inside Crimea. These attacks involve hand to hand combat, without use of firearms. Success varies. Last night soldiers at a Ukrainian air force facility in Sevastopol repelled an attack. Elsewhere Russian special force commandos succeeded in seizing one crossing point (Shshcelkino) and isolating others.