In spite of Putin’s rhetoric calling for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Ukraine, Russian troops tightened their grip on on the Crimean peninsula. This is in response to what it calls “lawlessness” and “chaos” in the eastern part of Ukraine caused by Ultra-Nationalist elements in the region, which Putin says the U.S.-backed government in Kiev has done nothing to reign in.
On Sunday, troops and militiamen from Russia laid siege to the last military airfield left in the hands of the Ukrainian military, demanding the Ukrainian personnel surrender their arms and leave the facility.
By mid afternoon on Sunday most Ukrainian broadcasts were being jammed with only two stations left available inside Crimea.
Russian troops have also moved into the town of Chongar in the Kherson Region and set up what has been described as a minefields in between Ukraine proper and the Crimean peninsula.
According to official estimates from Kiev, an additional 18,000 troops moved into the Crimean peninsula on Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m. fanning across the region.
Five unarmed men appeared at a military hospital in the region’s capital and forced the hospital’s director to resign before appointing an new director, who later met with the hospital’s staff.
All across the region, armed men calling themselves Crimean Self Defense Forces have taken over military bases ordering the Ukrainians to surrender their weapons and leave the bases.
At one military base, a half hour from Sevastopol, the group has stationed itself outside, claiming to be protecting it from “terrorist attacks,” said the Ukrainian base commander, Col. Andrei Ivanchenko.
The Crimean government is no longer recognizing the authority of the Ukrainian government and has declared itself to be an autonomous state until a referendum can be passed on whether or not to join the Russian Federation as a subject state.
Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed not to give up “one centimeter of Ukrainian land” at the rally to remember the bicentennial of the birth of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most noted poet and Nationalist.
The European Union has vowed political and financial support to stabilize Ukraine and President Obama has invited the Prime Minister to the White House for a visit in order to show his commitment to the nation during its current conflict and internal strife.
The financial package offers 11 billion euros in direct aid and trade deals. “Three billion euros of these funds will be drawn directly from the EU budget to support democratic reforms and the modernization of the country’s economy,” José Manuel Durão Barroso said.
This comes as a welcomed relief to Ukraine’s Prime Minister who welcomed the package and the visit to the White House scheduled for Wednesday.
Ukraine has previously enjoyed a deep and eternally bound relationship with Russia, with close economic and ethnic ties. The majority of people in Crimea are either Russian or Russian speakers. Russia has long used Ukraine as a route to export nuclear fuel rods and import nuclear waste for its customers in Europe and many Ukrainians work in Russia.
By Cory Clark