In Crimea today, soldiers wearing Russian uniforms stormed a Ukrainian army base and took its commander captive, killing one Ukrainian officer, according to the Ukrainian government, while a Crimean news agency reported that a pro-Russian defense force member had been shot and killed. These events came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making Crimea a part of Russia, while every country other than Russia condemned Crimea and Russia for creating a situation which could lead to greater conflict.
The first shooting death of the conflict in Crimea took place when two unmarked vehicles arrived at the Ukrainian army base and armed men in Russian uniforms and ski masks stormed the base, firing automatic weapons. A Ukrainian junior officer was killed, and another Ukrainian officer was wounded. A third Ukrainian serviceman was wounded when he was beaten with iron bars. The unit commander was captured. The weapons and money of the Ukrainian soldiers were confiscated. These details were reported by the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian interim president Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the shooting death a “war crime.”
The pro-Russian defense force member’s death was announced by Kryminform, a Crimean news agency.
Neither report is yet independently verified. It is also uncertain whether the two deaths resulted from the same incident.
Concern regarding Ukraine-Russia relations has also been expressed in relation to Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russia has amassed a large military contingent. The amassed Russian force is composed of some 80,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks, aircraft, warships, artillery, and other equipment.
Putin has announced that he does not wish to “split up Ukraine.” Putin said that Russia “[doesn’t] need that.” He told the Russian parliament not to believe “those who scare you with Russia” by expressing concern that other regions will follow Crimea.
Ukraine, however, is preparing for war. Ukraine has already mobilized 40,000 army reserves and is training the first 500 near Kiev–Ukraine currently has only 6,000 combat-ready soldiers. Ukraine has allotted the equivalent of $600 million dollars to mobilizing its defense forces to “full readiness.” Following this mornings attack and shooting deaths, the Ukrainian government authorized its troops to fire in self-defense. At an emergency meeting of the Ukrainian government, Yatsenyuk stated, “The conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage.”
America is also preparing for further conflict. The U.S. has sent 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland, along with two transport planes, to engage in war games. The U.S. is providing more aircraft to NATO for air policing missions in the Baltic. The U.S. aircraft carrier, USS George HW Bush, which had been stationed in the Mediterranean for exercises planned previous to the Crimean conflict, will be staying in the Mediterranean to reassure America’s eastern European allies, according to the White House. The vessel is carrying 90 military aircraft.
For now, though, the U.S. and the EU are pursuing economic sanctions in the hopes of bringing Russia to the negotiating table to talk about what the nations disagree on so strongly. Ukraine today also announced its willingness to engage in peaceful talks with Russia, but only if there was no intimidation and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was not questioned. The U.S., EU, Canada, and Japan have all begun sanctions against Russia. The sanctions are very low-level, but have been intended since the start to be only the bare minimum. Russian officials have shown they are unconcerned about the current sanctions, and world leaders are announcing that they will step up sanctions. The G7 and EU will meet again next week in the Hague to discuss the crisis.
By Day Blakely Donaldson