Armed Takeover of Crimean Airport: Interim Leader Accuses Russia

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Update: A man working with a Crimean TV news team, Andriy Ignatov, has made statements about the military forces taking over locations in Crimea, claiming that “their uniforms are Russian military. They use weapons used by Russian forces,” adding that they have coordinated with local militias so they don’t have to communicate with more people and expose their accent, reports Kyiv Post. Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, claims that Russia is trying to “deprive Ukraine of political independence and threaten its territorial integrity.” In a side development, Crimea’s new prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, has pushed forward a vote from May 25 to March 30 to decide if Crimea should remain a part of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s relationship with Russia sees continued tension as Russia is accused of being involved with a military move on the Sevastopol airport in Crimea. The interim Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has claimed that the armed individuals presently controlling the international airport are Russian troops. “What is happening can be called an armed invasion and occupation. In violation of all international treaties and norms. This is a direct provocation for armed bloodshed in the territory of sovereign state,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

Further complicating the issue, the ex-president, Viktor Yanukovych, voted out of office last week by Ukrainian parliament, has been given shelter in Russia, where the BBC reports he will be hosting a news conference in a region near the border. Yanukovych, who claims he is still the rightful president of Ukraine, has been accused by the new acting government of mass murder, with a warrant released for his arrest. The General Prosecutor of Ukraine has said he will request that Russia extradite Yanukovych should his presence there be confirmed.

Read on for some background information on the conflict:

  • BBC reports that Ukraine’s central bank has a 15,000 hryvnia ($1,507.5) limit on cash withdrawals.
  • Ukraine’s poor economic situation has complicated its historic relationship with Russia; its heavy debt cannot be handled without international aid or the previously promised installments of a $15 billion loan from Russia, which is now in question.
  • Russia has been at odds with the European Union and United States over Ukraine’s future, with many critical that Russia is seeking too much control and involvement in the nation’s future. Russia, meanwhile, insists it will continue its policy of non-intervention
  • Putin has ordered a military excercise, continuing till March 3, with ground forces mobilized along the Ukrainian bordered western portion of Russia, and its air force on the move worldwide, leading to strong international reaction.
  • Protests that led to the eventual removal of the Prime Minister and President Yanukovych were partly sparked by the government’s decision to pass on long desired EU relations for the sake of trade agreements with Russia, as well as anti-democratic legislation passed, altering its constitution.
  • After much violence, and many civilian deaths, protests in Kiev were ended by a signed agreement between opposition leaders and the former president which organizes for the restoration of the 2004 Constitution until a new one can be decided upon, with a national unity government in place until elections can be held.
  • While some groups accepted the agreement as a positive move towards a transitional government and reformed constitution, others, such as those in western Ukraine, are displeased, leading to concerns of a east-west civil war.
  • Crimea is reportedly becoming a hinge between Ukraine and Russia, with Russian sympathizers within the historically related Crimean region seeking release from the opposition leaders of Ukraine’s new transitional government via Russia, while others heartily oppose its interference.
  • Deaths and human rights violations are still being investigated following the protests.

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