Mar 04, 2014
By Jane Brown
Russia’s President says that his country is ready to use all means to protect Russians in Ukraine, but he hopes he won’t have to use force in the eastern part of the country. Vladimir Putin has made his first public comments since deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv 10 days ago. He said Ukraine has witnessed an “unconstitutional coup” and “armed seizure of power.” Putin also explained that while the Ukrainian parliament is legitimate, the acting president is not. He said Yanukovych is the only legitimate leader of Ukraine.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul finds Putin’s most recent statements about Ukraine troubling. “He threatened the more use of force. Secondly, he said there was a revolution in Kyiv and therefore previous commitments that Russia had to respect Ukrainian territorial integrity are no longer valid. That was very disturbing,” McFaul explained.
Putin also warned the West that any sanctions it places on Russia will backfire. The United States is coming to the aid of Ukraine as that nation tries to extract itself from Russia’s influence. U.S. officials say the White House is announcing an aid package to Ukraine of $1-billion in lost energy subsidies. The announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in the capital Kyiv this morning to show American support for Ukraine’s military and political struggle against Moscow.
There has been no fighting in Crimea. Two Ukrainian warships remain anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, a day after Ukrainian authorities claimed that Russian forces had issued an ultimatum for the ships to surrender or be seized. Late last night, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Vladimir Anikin said no such ultimatum had been issued. In a separate incident, Pro-Russian troops who’ve taken control of an air base have fired warning shots into the air as 300 Ukrainian soldiers demanded their jobs back.
In a late development, Crimea’s new Prime Minister is declaring independence from Ukraine. At a press conference, Sergey Akenov said the new government in Kiev is illegal and mad. He’s asked all Ukrainian military forces in Crimea to lay down their arms and leave their bases as Crimea forms its own military.