ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ukraine. La Crimée est-elle en cours d’annexion ?
Translated Tuesday 4 March 2014, by
Parliament has approved “recourse to the Russian army in the Ukraine” following a request from president Vladimir Putin, while the situation is worsening in the Crimea, and separatist turbulence is spreading in other pro-Russian parts of the Ukraine.
Early on the afternoon of March 1, Russian president Vladimir Putin asked the Council of the Federation (the upper chamber of Parliament) to approve “recourse to the Russian army in the Ukraine” until normalization of the situation.
“Due to the extraordinary situation in the Ukraine and the threat against the lives of Russian citizens, our fellow-citizens, and Russian armed forces deployed in the Ukraine,” Mr. Putin asked the Council of the Federation to authorize “recourse to the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian soil until the normalization of the political situation in that country,” according to a Kremlin press service communiqué.
Earlier, the president of the Russian senate, Valentina Matvienko, said she thought “we must protect our citizens.” According to Matvienko, it is “possible, due to the situation, to send a limited contingent (of troops) to guarantee the security of the Black Sea fleet and the Russian citizens who live in Crimea.”
Earlier on March 1, the new prime minister of the Crimea, Sergei Axionov, who is not recognized by Kiev, requested Vladimir Putin’s aid in restoring “peace and quiet” in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula. Russia has a non-negligible armed force in Crimea, in the southern Ukraine: the Russian Black Sea fleet includes some 20,000 men and is based in Sebastopol, in accordance with a treaty between Moscow and Kiev.
More and more hot points in the Russian-speaking southern and eastern parts of the Ukraine.
Dozens of people were injured in Kharkov (in the eastern Ukraine) during a pro-Russian demonstration, in the course of which some 300 demonstrators took the seat of the regional administration by storm. Partisans of the new pro-Western authorities in Kiev are said to have barricaded themselves there.
Over 10,000 people waving Russian flags demonstrated in Donetsk against the new Kiev authorities on the morning of March 1. Donetsk, in the eastern Ukraine, is the stronghold of deposed president Viktor Ianukovich. From an improvised podium, the speakers stated they backed “Crimea’s aspiration to become a part of Russia again.”
Kiev accused Russia of deploying thousands of additional men. “Russia has increased (the number of) its troops by 6,000 men” in Crimea, defense minister Igor Teniukh stated. Nearly 30 armored vehicles were also deployed, he said, condemning a “gross violation” of the treaties that provide for the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea.
“The inadequate presence of Russian soldiers in Crimea is a provocation,” but “the attempts to make the Ukraine react with force have failed,” Prime Minister Arseni Iatseniuk warned. According to him, Russia is now trying to repeat the scenario used in 2008 in the Georgian separatist region of Southern Ossetia, where Russia had launched a lightning military operation against the Tiflis authorities, and whose independence Russia eventually recognized.
Due to the presence of its Black Sea fleet, Russia has the right to move troops on the Crimean peninsula, but Russia must inform the Ukrainian authorities of these movements 72 hours beforehand, which was not done, according to the Ukrainian foreign affairs minister, Andrei Deshchitsa.
Several strategic sites on the Crimean peninsula are now under the control of uniformed armed men, but who bear no insignia that would allow them to be identified. They control the airports in Simferopol, the Crimean capital, and in Sebastopol and Kirovske. They also control downtown Simferopol and have raised the Russian flag on several government buildings. In Sebastopol, where the Russian fleet is anchored, a commando unit of about 300 men, who said they were acting on the orders of Russian defense minister Sergei Shoïgu, besieged the headquarters of the Ukrainian coast guard in the morning. The assailants said the minister had ordered them “to occupy this unit.”
France is worried…
France is “extremely worried by the information coming from the Crimea, which indicates significant movements of armed forces,” French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius stated in a press release. “We call on all sides to abstain from actions that are likely to increase tension and to violate the territorial integrity of the Ukraine,” he added.
French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that “the territorial integrity of the Ukraine must be respected.”
The co-president of the Party of the Left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said on March 1 that he thought it is “absolutely foreseeable” that Russia would take “protective measures” in Crimea against the new Ukrainian government, which he described as “putschist.” Questioned in Toulouse during a demonstration against the French responsibility pact, Jean-Luc Mélenchon stated that since “the Crimean ports are vital to Russia’s security, it is absolutely foreseeable that the Russians will not let themselves be pushed around, and they are taking protective measures against an adventurist putschist government, in which the neo-nazis have a thoroughly detestable influence,” he stated.
… as are Berlin, Washington, London and Warsaw
U.S. President Barack Obama stated in the night of Feb. 28 – March 1 that he is “deeply worried” about the information on Russian troop movements in the Ukraine and that he had warned Moscow against any “military intervention.” “The United States will be in solidarity with the international community to recognize that there will be a cost to any military intervention in Ukraine” he said.
Barack Obama let it be known that he might abandon participating in the G8 summit scheduled in Sochi (Russia) in June due to the gravity of the situation, a top U.S. official, who requested anonymity, said. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations announced on Feb. 28 that the United States was requesting the urgent sending of an ”independent and credible” “international mediation mission,” to Crimea “to begin to lower tension” in the region.
On March 1, Berlin asked Moscow to explain its troop movements in the Crimea, and London called for a de-escalation in this southern Ukrainian autonomous region, where tension suddenly worsened in the past few hours. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign affairs minister, considered that the situation in the Ukraine was becoming dangerous and asked Russia to state its intentions regarding its troops based in Crimea. “The situation in Crimea in particular has become considerably more acute. Whoever pours more oil onto the flames now, with words or actions, is consciously aiming for further escalation of the situation,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated.
For his part, Foreign Office secretary William Hague stated on his Twitter account that he had spoken by telephone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov “to call for de-escalation in Crimea and respect for sovereignty and independence of #Ukraine.”
Warsaw called on March 1 for a halt to any “provocative movement” of the armed forces in Crimea, in an official statement, while the head of Polish diplomacy, Radoslaw Sikorski, decided to shorten his visit to Iran because the situation had become “critical.” “We call for stopping provocative movements of troops on the Crimean Peninsula,” says a communiqué published on the website of the Polish foreign affairs ministry. “Any decisions that will be taken in the coming days, including of military nature, could have irreparable consequences for international order,” Warsaw insisted. Poland again called upon the signatory countries to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum (Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom “to respect and realize their commitments” to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine.