FoxNews on March 14, 2014, reported that Russia says deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine overnight show the Ukrainian government has lost control, and Moscow has the right to protect its people there. Excerpts below:
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement March 14 that said the nation reserved the right to intervene to defend ethnic Russians being threatened in eastern Ukraine. At least one person was killed and 29 injured in violence when a hostile pro-Russian crowd confronted pro-Ukrainian activists in the city of Donetsk.
“Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take people under its protection,” the statement said.
Ukraine responded by calling the Russian statement “impressive in its cynicism.”
“(The Donetsk clashes had) a direct connection to deliberate, destructive actions of certain citizens of Russia and some Russian social organizations, representatives of which are present in our country to destabilize the situation and escalate tensions,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Evgeny Perebiynis said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Also on March 14, Russian military training missions began over the Mediterranean Sea, a Russian navy spokesman told Interfax, according to a Reuters report. Spokesman Vadim Serga said the Northern Fleet’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was involved in the exercises, which included tactics for engaging aerial targets and other battle strategies.
Russia has sent thousands of troops to its border with Ukraine, a move that U.S. officials have described as an intimidation tactic cloaked as military exercises.
The vote on the strategic Black Sea peninsula of 2 million people is widely expected to back secession and, potentially, annexation with Russia. The U.S. and EU say the Crimea vote violates Ukraine’s constitution and international law.
The…government in Kiev believes the vote is illegal, but Moscow says it does not recognize the new government’s leader as legitimate.
If Crimea secedes, the U.S. and European Union plan to slap sanctions as early as March 17 on Russian officials and businesses accused of escalating the crisis and undermining Ukraine’s new government.
The showdown between Russia and the West has been cast as a struggle for the future of Ukraine, a country with the size and population similar to France, which is caught between its long-standing ties with Russia and residents’ desire for more democratic and economic opportunities in the West.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.