Monday, March 3, 2014

Amid Escalation Fears, Russia Says Kiev Sent Fighters to Crimea

MOSCOW, March 1 – Armed men dispatched from Kiev to the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea attempted an overnight storm of the local Interior Ministry, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday. 
Situation in Crimea
“As a result of this perfidious provocation several people were injured,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“This confirms that certain well-known political circles in Kiev are striving for the destabilization of the situation… we call on all those giving such orders from Kiev to show restraint.”

The allegation comes as international media report large scale Russian military movements in Crimea that have included tanks, helicopters and troops. In recent days heavily armed soldiers in unmarked uniforms have occupied the region’s parliament, airports and other strategic points across the peninsula. Reports from the regional capital of Simferopol on Saturday suggested that the military presence had been strengthened with the appearance of several manned machine gun positions around the parliament, which is flying the Russian flag after it was seized by unidentified gunmen earlier this week.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of seeking to provoke a conflict. World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have expressed their deep concern about the apparent Russian incursion into Crimea. Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said Saturday that Russia should immediately recall all its troops to the bases where they are normally located.

“If not, the responsibility for any armed confrontation provoked by the radicals being de facto supported by the Russian military will lie with the Russian leadership,” Yatsenyuk said.

Russia maintains that any military movements in Crimea are within the framework of a 1997 agreement regulating its use of Black Sea naval bases on the peninsula that it leases from Ukraine. Self-defense squads, which maintain that they will resist orders from Kiev, have been forming in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine since the opposition swept to power in Kiev last weekend The Foreign Ministry said that the alleged assault on the Interior Ministry in Crimea on Saturday was fought off by some of these pro-Russian self defense squads. It did not specify which side suffered the casualties.

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