Tensions in Ukraine intensify over Crimea invasion

by | Mar 3, 2014 | News

by Kait Morris

Russian forces have demanded the crew of two Ukrainian warships surrender or else Russia will seize the ships and crew, the Associated Press reported. 

According to Interfax-Ukraine, Aleksandr Vitko, the Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander, delivered an Ultimatum to the Ukrainian military in Crimea. “If by 0500 tomorrow (March 4) they do not surrender, a real assault on the units and detachments of the armed forces of Ukraine will start across Crimea,” the ministry said, according to the Kyiv Post. Russia denies making any such ultimatum.

According to a press release from the Council of the European Union, Russia’s actions are in violation of the UN Charter and OSCE Helsinki Final Act and commitments from Russia to respect the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and a the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership. It calls for Russia to withdraw its armed forces and return to their stations.

Christine Czoli, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Student Union, is pleased with the reaction of the international community, but feels more needs to be done and quickly:  “I do worry that the situation will continue to escalate, as it has in the past few days,” she told Humber News in an email.

“The prospect of war instigated by the Russian Federation is an option that cannot be discounted, and should be prevented by all means possible. The Ukrainian government’s reaction to the crisis is commendable, as they are calling for Ukrainians not to give into provocations and maintain peace. The international community should do its part to help and support Ukraine in this situation.”

Joan DeBardeleben, Chancellor’s Professor in the Department ofPolitical Science and the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University, said “it’s difficult for the international community to decide how to respond.”

When it comes to repercussions, Czoli thinks everything should be considered.

“I think that all measures should be employed, given the gravity of the situation, and the rapidity with which the Russian Federation has escalated its aggressive actions. President Putin has shown what he is capable of when he invaded Georgia in 2008. Given this precedent, I think the G7 leaders and other nations should respond quickly and effectively to prevent the situation in Crimea from worsening – by this I mean seriously considering all potential measures,” said Czoli.

“Consequences of a military conflict would be unthinkable,” said DeBardeleben. That leaves economic and diplomatic avenues. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is on the same page.

The EU is adept in using soft power and economic tools, said DeBardeleben, and is quick to point out that economic and diplomatic repercussions are “all things that don’t really compel Russia to change its behaviour, it persuades Russia to change it’s behaviour.”

The international community has reacted strongly to news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

According to DeBardeleben, Russia’s pretext for invading Ukraine was ultranationalist threats to the Russian people living there. This is a pretext she finds disturbing, as it could potentially be used in any country with a large Russian population.

Protests in Ukraine broke out in the wake of former president Viktor Yanukovych abandoning an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and instead choosing to strengthen ties in Russia on Nov. 21. Since then, the movement has evolved into a fight for greater freedoms in the Ukraine. 

“Although the ousting of Yanukovych was an important and crucial achievement for Ukraine, many did not interpret this as a final victory,” Czoli said. “The current Ukrainian government has a very challenging road ahead of it, which is in no way made easier by Russia’s recent actions. After going through three months of dramatic protests, the instability and prospect of war that Russia is fomenting is horrific. War is not in any nation’s nor any individual’s interests.”

“It is anguishing to know that they are experiencing a crisis. I keep in touch with them regularly, and this has again increased since late November. They are constantly in my thoughts and prayers,” she said about friends and family in Ukraine.

For more coverage of #Ukraine, check out Humber Online articles here, here, and here.

Between Feb. 29 and Mar. 3 

Armed men took control of two airports in Crimea where eight Russian transport planes landed with Russian marines.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Russian president Vladimir Putin Sunday, expressing his concern over the compromising of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement after emergency meetings on the situation in Ukraine: “Canada has suspended its engagement in preparations for the G-8 Summit, currently planned for Sochi, and the Canadian ambassador in Moscow is being recalled for consultations.” 

In a statement, the G-7 re-iterated this statement, saying that they are united in supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will suspend participation in preparation of the scheduled G-8 summit in Sochi here.

Russian fighter jets violated Ukrainian airspace and left Ukraine’s air force scrambled an interception and prevented any provocative actions.

Ukraine called for the international communities assistance to protect its nuclear assets. Ukraine does not have nuclear weapons following the signing of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

A Ukrainian Army base at Pervalnoe in Crimea was surrounded by Russian troops.

Russian warships were spotted off the coast of Crimea and Russian forces took control of Coast Guard offices in Balaklava.

The Ukrainian Navy chief defected to Crimea pro-Russia authorities.

Many governmental delegations are saying they will stay away from the Sochi Paralympics.

Pro-Russian troops took control of a ferry terminal on the tip of Crimea.


**feature image courtesy of Ivan Bandura, flickr creative commons.