Ukraine Orders Troops to Full Readiness as Russia Enters Crimea
Late Saturday night, acting president of the Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov, ordered the country's armed forces to full readiness in response to aggression from Russia, whose parliament voted unanimously in favor of troop deployment yesterday after covertly entering the Crimean peninsula.
As the Ukraine's deposed former president Viktor F. Yanukovych has fled Kiev with no trace, Turchynov has assumed governing responsibilities, through which he has ordered "stepped-up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure." Turchynov has expressed fears of separatism spreading throughout the Ukraine, and especially in the Crimean peninsula, whose population is 60% ethnically Russian.
Protesters on the southern peninsula have staged rallies against Ukraine's new leaders and a Russian-speaking mayor has been appointed in Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based.
Some 20,000 people turned out at another rally in the city on Monday, chanting "Russia" as they called for secession from Ukraine. The previous day saw an even bigger demonstration.
In addition to Crimea, government buildings in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa, and Dnipropetrovsk are now all flying Russian flags.
Meanwhile, the international community has responded swiftly and critically of Russia's decision to take action in the Ukraine. After President Obama warned that there "will be costs" for Russian intervention, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Face The Nation this morning with more direct criticisms.
"It's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another country. You just don't in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."
Additionally, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed concern over the quickly escalating crisis, stating that "the world is watching." The UK, the US, France, and Canada have all suspended preparations for the G8 summit, which was scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia this June.
President Putin has responded to a 90-minute meeting that he and President Obama held yesterday, claiming that "Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas."
Tensions continue to rise in the Crimean peninsula, however, as Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Russian Prime Minister of Crimea, declared that anyone who disagrees with his decision to order "regional armed forces, the Interior Ministry troops, the Security Service, border guards and other ministries" under his direct control, will be asked to leave the service. In response to Aksyonov's Russian takeover, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk called on the Russian govermment to "immediately withdraw its troops, return to the place of deployment and stop provoking civil and military confrontation in Ukraine."
As the world watches Crimea, NATO called an emergency session yesterday, after which NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke to the press in Brussels, declaring Putin's decision an international violation.
"What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and threats."
NATO officials are continuing discussions on Russia's mobilization, details of which are yet to come.