Russians Seize Base As Troops Amass On Border
Russian troops have seized a Ukrainian naval base in Crimea amid growing fears of a fresh Russian incursion into Ukraine.The base, in Feodosia, was one of the last few military facilities flying a Ukrainian flag after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
A Ukrainian military spokesman told Reuters the Russian soldiers forced their way in with the help of helicopters.
Russian troops violently flushed out other remaining pockets of Ukrainian military influence in Crimea on Saturday, smashing armoured vehicles through the walls of Belbek air force base in a swift takeover.
As G7 leaders are prepare to discuss the crisis at a summit, Nato’s top commander in Europe has warned that Russia’s military force massing on Ukraine’s border was “very, very sizeable and very, very ready”.
General Philip Breedlove said he was worried the Russian military could make a move for Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region.
“There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniestria if the decision was made to do that and that is very worrisome,” he said.
Transdniestria, a narrow strip of land to Ukraine’s southwest, already has a Russian military presence and most people there favour a union with the country.
White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken echoed the suggestion that President Putin could be plotting further action.
“It’s deeply concerning to see the Russian troop build-up on the border,” he told CNN.
“It creates the potential for incidents, for instability. It’s likely that what they’re trying to do is intimidate the Ukrainians. It’s possible that they’re preparing to move in.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week signed papers making Crimea part of Russia, saying it was complying with international agreements and had no plans to invade.
It has also called the soldiers who took over Ukrainian bases in Crimea “self-defence forces”.
Most experts agree there is no way of winning back Crimea from Russia.
Today leaders of the G7 nations will hold emergency talks on the crisis on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague.
The US and European Union have already targeted some of Mr Putin’s closest political and business allies with personal sanctions and have threatened broader economic sanctions if his forces encroach on other parts of Ukraine with large Russian-speaking populations.
Germany, which has close trade ties with Moscow, said the EU was united in its readiness to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary.
“None of us wants to escalate, but if Russia changes things unilaterally, then it must know that we won’t accept it and that relations will be bad,” German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has even suggested that Russia could be expelled from the G8 bloc of nations.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, accepted that Crimea was now “de facto” a part of Russia, but said the annexation set a “bad precedent”.
Speaking to Sky News, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK, Volodymyr Khandogiy, said European powers had not done enough to help his country.
“The US is more resolute in their actions and words. We appreciate what Europe is doing (but) we would have liked a more aggressive approach,” said Mr Khandogiy.
“If I’m asked if Europe has done enough I would say no.”