Crisis in Crimea - 5 March 2014
Over the last two days there have been few changes to the Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Foreign Leaders have conducted public and private meetings to discuss the current state of affairs and although little diplomatic movement has been made there have been no serious instances of increased militarization. Many European countries have bolstered their own defense systems but full or partial mobilizations have not been seen.
Meanwhile, the greatest threats could potentially be increased public outcries. On the local level there have been two instances of aggression by protestors or armed civilians, one toward a government building, another toward a United Nations official.
The identity of the occupying forces remains one of the most noteworthy questions as Russian officials deny involvement with the troops, while pro-Ukrainian officials and media continue to suggest the forces are Russian-owned.
Key Events of 5 March
--During a press conference in Madrid, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “we will not allow bloodshed. We will not allow attempts against the lives and well-being of those who live in Ukraine." He claimed that Russia does not control the unmarked forces in Crimea stating they are local defense forces in which Russia has no authority over. He also stated that the Russian ships occupying the Black Sea are in their normal positions. Lavrov remained firm on the Russian claim that the recent overthrow of the Ukrainian president was an “armed coup d’etat” and supporters of the overthrow set a bad example. This ecchoed the previous day's quote by Vladimir Putin who does not recognize the legitimacy of the new regime.
--French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius voiced that “We are not going to declare war on the Russians but what they are doing is unacceptable. It is the invasion of one country by another.”
--European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced that the European Union is prepared to offer 11 billion euros to Ukraine over the next couple years in aid for helping rebuild its government but will include stipulations.
--In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a Ukrainian flag replaced the Russian flag atop a government building, the same building which reportedly received reports of a bomb threat and that the building had been "booby-trapped". Later in the day, a Russian flag was re-hoisted atop the building following 2000 pro-Russian protesters retaking it. According to Sky News, Donetsk is the “political support base” of recently ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
--The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed that it will send 35 unarmed military personnel to observe the tensions in Crimea.
--According to CNN reports, Russian lawmakers are developing a law which would permit Russia to legally confiscate American and Europen assets.
--In an interview with the Associated Press, new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that in the future Crimea may be granted more local powers and “additional autonomy” will be considered for the area. He went on to deny working with the US about deploying US missile defense systems or military forces.
--According to Interfax reports, Ukrainian forces relinquished control of a naval air base in Saki. Prior to leaving the base, the Ukrainian military removed four of its MI-8 helicopters and three planes to the Ukrainian mainland. Russian forces seized two Ukrainian missile defense battalions.
--Reports that UN chief representative Robert Serry had been kidnapped have since been denied by the UN. It is believed that Serry's transport vehicle was swarmed by armed protestors who were shouting pro-Russian chants. Additionally, reports revealed Serry had also been trapped by protestors inside a restaurant. Eventually, the action of the protestors forced Serry to call off his diplomatic mission.
--A US Defense official confirmed that the US will send six F-15s and one KC-135 to Lithuania adding the already four F-15s currently there. The official went on to state these aircraft are being sent at the request of Baltic allies.
--After meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry said “[all parties] would rather talk than fight.” Lavrov also spoke, stating that the talks will continue “in the days to come to see how best we can help stabilize the situation and overcome the crisis.” Without announcements of major agreements the talks have been seen as largely inconclusive.
--Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stated that it was crucial to promote stability in Ukraine and that “Russia must stop pin-pricks that could lead to destabilization.”
Closing the Day
The ground swell of public opinion is showing signs of breaking into two separate support groups: pro-Ukrainian/Kiev and pro-Russian. Aside from the takeover of the Ukrainian naval air base in Saki, the most aggressive action has been portrayed by combative civilians.
As delegators look forward to continued talks an irate public, seemingly impatient for results from its leadership, is beginning to warn that it is not afraid to take action into its own hands. Without definitive answers from meetings with world leaders who have done little else than deny each others testimonies we could be looking at a window opening to a Ukraine where civilians begin making decisions for themselves.