Masked Forces Storm Ukrainian Navy HQ, Raise Russian Flag and Detain Commander – The Blaze
Masked Russian-speaking troops on Wednesday seized control of Ukrainian naval headquarters in Crimea after it was stormed by militiamen. Pro-Moscow Crimean authorities also detained the Ukrainian navy commander and reportedly blocked the defense minister and another government official from traveling to the peninsula in what they said was a bid to defuse tensions.
Ukraine’s military, which is heavily outnumbered in Crimea, has come under increased pressure since the region was nominally incorporated into Russia on Tuesday.
Members of the Crimean pro-Russian self-defense forces climb up to take down a Ukrainian flag, right, and a Ukrainian navy flag, left, at the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Crimea’s self-defense forces on Wednesday stormed the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, taking possession without resistance a day after Russia signed a treaty with local authorities to annex the region. In center is a Russian flag. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
Crimean pro-Russian volunteers in military fatigues line up in a square in front of a statue of Vladimir Lenin, next to the Council of Ministers of Crimea’s building, in Simferopol, on March 14, 2014, two days ahead of the referendum over Crimea’s bid to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 14 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make no decision on Ukraine until after Sunday’s referendum on the region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL OLIVAS AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Russian soldiers stand guard near Ukranian soldiers walking inside the Ukranian navy headquarters in Simferopol on March 18, 2014. Russia’s Constitutional Court unanimously ruled on March 19, 2014 that President Vladimir Putin acted legally by signing a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia, in an essential step in the Russian legal process towards ratifying the treaty. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE
The several hundred militiamen who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and tens of thousands of Russian-led troops are now patrolling Crimea.
It came a day after a confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian militia left two dead.
The Russian-speaking troops, who arrived on the base after the storming, wore helmets, flak jackets and uniforms with no identifying insignia. By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set of three-story boxy white concrete buildings with blue trim. It was not immediately clear how many, if any, Ukrainian servicemen remained on the base.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said no one was injured in the raid, which it said was led by pro-Russian militiamen and Cossacks.
The ministry said in its statement that Rear Adm. Sergei Haiduk was detained by unknown people after the storming of the fleet headquarters. The Russian state ITAR-Tass news agency reported that he was being questioned by Crimean prosecutors.
Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in what they said was a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities.
The prime minister in Crimea warned after the announcement of their departure that they would be turned back, however.
“They are not welcome in Crimea,” Sergei Aksyonov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “They will not be allowed to enter Crimea. They will be sent back.”
Interfax later cited Welfare Minister Lyudmila Denisova as saying the officials had been denied entry to Crimea. She said an emergency session of the National Security and Defense Council will held in response.
At the Ukrainian navy headquarters, an Associated Press photographer said the militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters.
The unarmed militiamen waited for an hour on the square and, following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, they took over the building.
The AP photographer was able to enter the headquarters and saw the militia roaming around while the Ukrainian servicemen were packing up and leaving.
On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia following a referendum Sunday in which residents of the region overwhelmingly backed the move.
Jubilant crowds in Moscow and other cities across Russia hailed the annexation, while Ukraine’s new government called Putin a threat to the “civilized world and international security,” and the U.S. and the European Union threatened tougher sanctions against Moscow. On Monday, Washington and Brussels targeted Russian and Crimean officials with visa bans and asset freezes.
Russian news agencies on Wednesday cited Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin as saying the treaty signed by Putin has been ruled valid, thus formally clearing another hurdle for Moscow to annex Crimea. The treaty now only requires ratification by the Russian parliament.
A Ukrainian serviceman and a member of a militia were killed by gunfire in the incident in Crimea on Tuesday.
It is unclear whether the militiaman was a Ukrainian citizen. Although Moscow has insistently denied it has not deployed its own troops in Crimea, people in the peninsula have reported seeing a large number of military vehicles with Russian plates.
Thousands of troops under apparent Russian command took over Crimea two weeks before Sunday’s hastily called referendum, seizing Ukrainian military bases, blockading others and pressuring Ukrainian soldiers to surrender their arms and leave.
Putin insisted Russia’s military presence in Crimea was limited to those stationed under the terms of a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea fleet base. Ukraine claims that Russia deployed further forces, however, and expressly went against its request for troops to remain confined within their barracks.
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Russia Confiscates Half Of Ukrainian Fleet In Crimea Including Submarine – Gateway Pundit
Twenty Ukrainian ships were confiscated by the Russians.
(Article was translated)
Those ships and vessels, which are now in the Crimea will formally first in the so-called “maritime self-defense force” of the Crimea, and then in the Battle of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia.
Up to 20 warships and support vessels of the Naval Forces of Ukraine (VMSU) may enter into operation in the Black Sea Fleet of Russia, told RIA Novosti Chairman of Russian State Duma Committee on Defense, former Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov.
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Biden’s Turn To Warn Russia With A Sternly Worded Statement – Weasel Zippers
I’m sure Russia is riddled with fear.
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) – Issuing an outright warning to Moscow, Vice President Joe Biden declared Wednesday the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, as Russia’s neighbors looked warily to the escalating crisis in nearby Ukraine.
Standing side by side with a pair of Baltic leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden said the U.S. was “absolutely committed” to defending its allies, adding that President Barack Obama plans to seek concrete commitments from NATO members to ensure the alliance can safeguard its collective security.
In a jab at Russia, he said the U.S. stands resolutely with Baltic states in support of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression.
“Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior,” Biden said, after meeting in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.
Biden’s comments came at the close of a two-day trip to Lithuania and Poland with a two-pronged theme: Sending a stern message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. won’t abide Russian intervention in Ukraine, and reassuring fretful NATO allies that the U.S. and others will come to their defense if necessary.
“We’re in this with you, together,” Biden said.
Amid the tough talk from Biden and the Baltic leaders, Russia’s annexation of Crimea was increasingly looking like a foregone conclusion.
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Jubilant Putin Urged To Snatch Back Belarus And Kazakhstan As Demonstrations Celebrating Crimea Secession Erupt Across Russia – Daily Mail
Russian politicians and media were last night demanding Vladimir Putin goes further by grabbing back more former Soviet regions and states.
The nationalistic frenzy whipped up by the return of Crimea – in defiance of the West – has led to calls on state-run TV for Moscow to take back oil and gas-rich Kazakhstan and authoritarian Belarus as well as more slices of a battered Ukraine, already filleted by the Kremlin.
Putin was last night riding the crest of an adulatory wave after righting what many Russians see as an historical wrong and reintegrating Crimea and the Black Sea fleet headquarters of Sevastopol back in to Russia after a gap of 60 years.
Senior politicians openly mocked Western sanctions and discounted Putin’s assertion that he did not seek more of Ukraine as long as the West stops seeking sway in his backyard.
The Russian strongman defiantly told a joint session of the Russian parliament that he would not accept NATO ‘next to our home or on our historic territories’.
Accusing the West of hypocrisy in pushing for self-determination for Kosovo but denying Crimea, he said the peninsula had been ‘robbed’ from Russia in Soviet times while ‘regions of Russia’s historic south’ were only now Ukrainian because of a Bolshevik blunder.
In an emotional and historic address he said: ‘In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia.’
Putin has succeeded in uniting many of his foes behind him but last night it also appeared he had unleashed a tidal wave in favour of more land grabs.
Senior politician Sergei Mironov hailed ‘the great day when the gathering of Russian lands began’.
Sergey Zheleznyak, deputy chairman of lower house, demanded Russian ‘support’ for other Ukrainian regions.
‘We cannot feel calm and happy as long as we realise how our brothers in other regions of Ukraine are suffering,’ he said.
A prime time TV talk show speculated about restoring the sovereign states of Belarus and energy-rich Kazakhstan in a substantial remaking of the Soviet Union, while also calling for the historically Russian cities of Donetsk and Odessa in Ukraine to be returned.
Meanwhile a campaign was underway for the breakaway republic of Transdniestria – in Moldova – to follow Crimea back into the embrace of the Russian bear.
With some parliamentarians in tears during Putin’s historic speech – when he officially welcomed Crimea and Sevastopol back to Russia – only his prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, caught napping during the barnstorming address, failed to join the patriotic fervour punctuated by standing ovations.
Politicians queued up to pour scorn on Western sanctions with deputy speaker Sergey Zheleznyak branding them a ‘kindergarten measure’ and close Putin ally Igor Sechin accusing the U.S. and EU of ‘hysteria’.
Stage-managed patriotic celebrations were marked across Russia’s nine time zones yesterday.
In Moscow, residents were urged by officials to fly Russian flags from their balconies to ‘celebrate’ the return of Crimea.
Ukraine watched helplessly as Putin and Crimean leaders penned an agreement restoring the territory to Russia.
Senior diplomat Yevhen Perebyynis warned: ‘What has made the entire world shudder is the real rebirth of Russian imperialism, for which nothing is sacred, neither internationally recognised borders of sovereign states, nor the rights and freedoms of citizens, nor international obligations.’
Kiev protested that the move ‘has nothing in common with law or democracy or common sense’.
But in a warning to the world, the country’s foreign ministry said: ‘Putin’s address very clearly demonstrates just how real the threat is that Russia poses to international security and international security.’
Ukrainian volunteers were queuing to sign up for a newly-created National Guard amid fears that the threat of invasion from Russia remains, or that Putin will use alleged ‘saboteurs’ to spark riots and political protests in major cities.
Kiev claimed it had uncovered ‘convincing evidence of the participation of Russian special services in organizing unrest in the east of our country.’
Last night it was claimed a Ukrainian naval officer was shot twice in the leg seeking to defend a naval facility from pro-Moscow attack in Crimea.
But Putin insisted: ‘The residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia with a request to protect their rights and their lives. We could not have rejected their appeal and left them in trouble.’
He complained that the fall of the USSR left Russia ‘the biggest divided nations in the world’ with millions of compatriots waking up in a foreign country.
In Ukraine, ethnic Russians were undergoing ‘forced assimilation’ in a country where ‘neo-Nazis’ played a key role in decision making.
Western diplomats saw him as using rhetoric which could act as justification for future military adventures to restore other areas of the old USSR.
But Putin told Western leaders to ‘stop the hysteria’ and respect his country’s national interests. ‘They keep trying to drive us into a corner’, and could have grabbed Sevastopol for themselves.
NATO members ‘are great guys, but it’s better for them to come visit us in Sevastopol, than for us to visit them there’.
Crimean clocks are to be switched back two hours later this month, so they tick by Moscow time. Putin ordered three official languages in his new province – Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.
The Kremlin last night began pouring roubles into Crimea but was eyeing the seizure of 20 warships in the Ukrainian navy which are stranded here.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev – often seen as a Putin critic – hailed Crimea’s vote to join Russia as a ‘happy event.’
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The British House of Commons Supports Additional Sanctions Against Russia – Washington Free Beacon
While answering questions in the British House of Commons Prime Minister David Cameron was asked by Opposition Leader Ed Miliband, “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the referendum was illegal, and in direct violation of the terms Ukrainian constitution? Does he all so share my deep concern following the news that a Ukrainian servicemen were shot and killed at a military base in Crimea yesterday?”
Prime Minster David Cameron responded, “Well the right honorable gentleman is absolutely correct that the referendum in the Crimea was illegitimate and illegal. It was brought together in the 10 days and held at the point after Russian Kalashnikov. This can not be accepted legitimatized by international community.”
When asked if he would support further sanctions on the Russia Federation David Cameron answered:
We said if the Russian Federation did not take part in a contact group with the Ukrainian government to take forward discussions, then asset freezes travel bans should follow. Those have been put in place at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday. And I believe further action should be taken at the European Council of Ministers which I will take part in on Thursday. I also think we should be responding to the fact of this annexation. That we said that if there was further action to destabilize the Ukraine and this annexation is that action, further consequences need to follow. We need to set that out, on Thursday, in concert with our European partners and at the same time I think we need to put down a very clear warning that if there was further destabilization for instance, going into the eastern Ukraine in any way, then we would move to a position of sorts of economic sanctions that we discussed in The House last week.
Opposition Leader Ed Miliband told Prime Minster Cameron that he would have the full support of the House of Commons to enact, “for the toughest possible diplomatic and economic measures against the Russian Federation given the totally illegitimate actions they have taken.”
Prime Minster David Cameron finished his remarks by indicating he would be open to expelling Russia from the G-8.
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Beaten Obama Turns His Back On The World – Michael Goodwin
The words came out of my mouth before I could stop them. “I feel sorry for Obama,” I said. As my wife looked at me in disbelief, I quickly added a correction. “Well, almost.”
Beset by failures at home and abroad, the president cuts a lonely and sad figure these days. His aura of grief reflects his profound loss.
His worldview crashed headlong into reality, and reality won. Obamaism is dead, may it rest in peace.
That’s sad for him, but hold the tears – his loss is mankind’s hope. If Obama wakes from his utopian visions and faces the truth, there is a fighting chance to reverse America’s slide and keep the peace.
But first, he must come to grips with the historic dimensions of what has happened, and I’m not sure he’s capable of it. The signs aren’t encouraging.
In many ways, Vladimir Putin’s grab of Crimea is as significant as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 35 years ago.
Then-President Jimmy Carter quickly understood he had been wrong to trust the Soviets, and shifted to offense. His January 1980, speech was defiant and bold. Compared to Obama’s timid rebukes of Putin, Carter sounded like Churchill rousing Great Britain against Hitler.
Obama is still stuck in the belief that Putin is either crazy, or secretly looking for a way to save face and end the confrontation. He hasn’t accepted Putin for what he is because to do so would mean acknowledging that Obama’s whole approach to international relations has been a mistake.
The world, meaning friend and foe alike, already knows the president is uncomfortable with American power. The result is that his once-magical ability to inspire with words is now an international punch line because they are just words. He promised change and delivered disaster.
From Syria and Iran to North Africa and North Korea, the abdication of American leadership is proving calamitous. And now Putin’s move in Europe demolishes once and for all any illusion that Obama’s election would herald a turning point for mankind. Instead of people the world over beating their swords into plowshares, the 21st century is turning out to be a chaotic and bloody mess.
“The tide of war is receding,” Obama insisted.
Like so many of his pronouncements, he was confusing the ideas in his head with reality. It is not clear if he knows the difference.
The world looks to America, and America looks away. “It it is time to focus on nation-building here at home,” he declared, as though the Earth would take care of itself in a one-big-happy-family kind of way.
It turns out that the committee system is no better at running the global order than it is at running a corner grocery.
Somebody has to take the lead and assume responsibility for success. Somebody has to set the rules and enforce them.
That somebody used to be America, and it is no accident that when America led, the Earth became a better place for more people. The seven decades after World War II marked a historic era of peace and stability around the globe.
As Robert Kagan wrote in “The World America Made,” his 2012 book, “The most important features of today’s world – the great spread of democracy, the prosperity, the prolonged great-power peace – have depended directly and indirectly on power and influence exercised by the United States.”
But the reverse is also true, and that is what we are witnessing today. As Kagan put it, “when American power declines, the institutions and norms American power supports will decline too.”
All is not lost – yet. But Obama must take off his rose-colored glasses and face the facts.
Putin is his most immediate test. The president’s wrist-slap sanctions at a few functionaries were predictably dismissed, and widely regarded as a sign of weakness. That can only embolden the would-be czar.
Even worse was the timing, with talks on Iran’s nuclear program starting again. Bet the farm the mullahs will take their cue from whether Putin pays a serious price for carving up a country.
If he gets away with it, the Iranians won’t even bother to pretend to care what Obama says. Why should they?
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