Ukraine: Putin Orders 150,000 Russian Troops To Alert Status; U.S. Warns Russia Against Intervention

John Kerry tells Moscow to be ‘very careful’ as it flexes military muscle with   war games in western Russia, near Ukraine’s border

By Hannah Strange, and Roland Oliphant in Simferopol

John Kerry via AFP

Vladimir Putin puts troops in western Russia on alert and orders drill to   test combat readiness

Protesters   are involved in a confrontation outside the regional city in the Crimean capital of Simferopol

New  Ukraine authorities due to unveil cabinet after disbanding Berkut riot police

Russian  foreign minister condemns “rise of fascism” in western Ukraine

William   Hague and John Kerry say Ukraine must not be a battleground between East and   West

The US warned Moscow to be “very careful” in its judgements after   Vladimir Putin put armed forces in western Russia on alert, as tensions   mounted in the pro-Russian Crimea over the overthrow of Moscow ally Viktor   Yanukovych by pro-European protesters.

Amid fears the country could fragment in the struggle between its pro-Russian   and pro-European regions, Mr Putin flexed his military muscle by ordering   war games involving 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, raised the spectre of an East-West   standoff as he insisted the US and Russia did not need to get into an “old   cold war confrontation” over the country. He called on the Kremlin to “keep   its word” over the unity of Ukraine, as the White House urged “outside   actors” in the region to respect the country’s sovereignty.

NATO also turned up the pressure on Russia, saying it would continue to   support “Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity,   democratic development and the principle of the inviolability of frontiers”.

The Russian military exercises further raised the temperature in the heavily   pro-Russian Crimean peninsula where supporters and opponents of the   revolution were today locked in an ugly stand-off.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, said Moscow was “carefully   watching what is happening in Crimea” and that measures were being   taken to ensure the security of the facilities and arsenals of its Black Sea   naval fleet, which is based in the fiercely pro-Russian Crimean city of   Sebastopol.

He denied that the drill was, “generally speaking”, linked to events   in Ukraine. But he said it would include military exercises “on   Russia’s borders with other countries, including Ukraine”.

Forces must “be ready to bomb unfamiliar testing grounds” as part of   the drill, Mr Shoigu told a Defence Ministry meeting.

A historical flashpoint, the autonomous eastern region of Crimea was part of   Russia until 1954 and remains home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and a heavily   ethnic Russian population who have been deeply angered by events in Kiev.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, supporters of Ukraine’s revolution and   their pro-Russian opponents were today embroiled in a confrontation outside   the regional assembly, where members were holding an emergency session to   discuss the crisis gripping the country.

A crowd of several thousand people shouting pro and anti-revolutionary slogans   have gathered outside the assembly, which pro-Russian protesters claim they   are defending from the “fascists” who have taken power in the rest   of the country. Small scuffles broke out as the two sides pushed and shoved   each other, wielding pepper spray and batons. An elderly man reportedly died   of a heart attack in the melee.

Pro-European demonstrators, most of them ethnic Tatars, rallied under a   pale-blue flag, shouting: “Ukraine! Ukraine!” and the Maidan’s   refrain of “down with the gang!”

The pro-Russian crowds, some of them cossacks in silk and lambswool hats,   shouted back “Crimea is Russian!”.

Activists hold Crimean Tatar (C-L) and Ukrainian national flags (C-R) as   they shout slogans such as ‘Crimea is not Russia, Glory to Ukraine’ during a rally in Simferopol, Crimea (EPA)

But the head of the regional assembly rejected demands to discuss a possible   split from Ukraine at today’s emergency session, saying such a move would be   a “provocation”.

Earlier, Cossack protesters hung the Russian flag across the assembly’s   facade, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency, calling on the   government to ignore what they regard as illegal resolutions by the new   authorities in Kiev.

Moscow has denounced the removal of Mr Yanukovych as tantamount to a coup, and   has become increasingly concerned by swift moves by Ukraine’s parliament to   break away from the Russian sphere of influence.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement today that extremists were “imposing   their will” and whipping up religious tension in the country – where   there are deep-running rivalries between Orthodox Christian churches –   threatening to tear “an even bigger schism in Ukrainian society”.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister has said that Moscow’s “policy   of non-intervention” will continue, a stance reaffirmed today by the   speaker of the upper parliament, Valentina Matviyenko.

But the combat drills in the western district bordering Ukraine are likely to   inflame tensions.

“They wouldn’t have done it now unless they wanted to have a political   effect. If they had a planned exercise at this time in that command they   would have cancelled it – if they wanted to de-escalate the situation,”   a former British Army commander said. “The converse is obviously true.”

The Telegraph’s David Blair in Kiev said: “Russia’s decision to place   its forces near the Ukrainian frontier on high alert sends another pointed   signal to its western neighbour. The Kremlin wants no-one to misunderstand   its strength of feeling over the downfall of a friendly pro-Russian regime   in Kiev, and the possible emergence of a new pro-Western government in   Ukraine.

“But military alerts of this kind have been ordered before – and the   term itself means little. What exactly will the armed forces in western   Russia be doing today that they weren’t doing yesterday?

“Vladimir Putin’s latest decision is best viewed in the same light as   the withdrawal of Russia’s ambassador from Kiev. The goal is to send a   pointed message, perhaps timed to coincide with the possible formation of   Ukraine’s new government. But the alert probably means nothing more than   that. In particular, it emphatically does not suggest that Russian tanks are   about to start rolling over the border.”

The United States has warned Russia against interference in the crisis, saying   military intervention by Moscow would be a “grave mistake”.

Today three of Ukraine’s post-Soviet leaders – who included former Moscow ally   Leonid Kuchma – issued a joint statement accusing Russia of “resorting   to direct intervention in the political life of Crimea”.

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2 Responses to “Ukraine: Putin Orders 150,000 Russian Troops To Alert Status; U.S. Warns Russia Against Intervention”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on

  2. AKA John Galt Says:

    Reblogged this on U.S. Constitutional Free Press.

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