Russian forces have seized a Ukrainian gas facility. The crisis in the Ukraine continues to escalate as Russian military forces, supported by armored vehicles and helicopter gunships, seized a village and a natural gas distribution center on a narrow strip of land that borders Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, denounced the Russian incursion as a military invasion.
The Russian incursion marked for the first time that Russian military forces have actually penetrated Ukrainian territory, beyond the Crimean Peninsula. This latest provocation comes right on the eve of a referendum to be held in Crimea, determining whether Crimea will cede from Ukraine, and become part of the Russian Federation. This latest Russian standoff suggests that Moscow is testing the will of Ukraine, amid concerns of further aggression in Ukraine’s eastern and southern provinces that possess large numbers of Russians.
A combat force of 120 Russian soldiers and armored personnel carriers, supported by four helicopter gunships, seized the natural gas distribution facility in the village of Streilkoveye. The Russians seized the gas facility out of concerns that it was a target for terrorists. The Russians refused Ukrainian requests to leave the property. No reports of gunfire were reported. It has been reported that Ukraine has mobilized its military forces in a nearby city. It has also been reported that Ukraine has been moving troops, tanks and artillery units north of Crimea, on the border with Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry officials in Kiev made demands that the Russians withdraw immediately, and that Ukraine has the right to use whatever measures needed to stop the military invasion. It has not been established whether the Russian forces that seized the Ukrainian gas facility were a foreword reconnaissance unit that would spearhead additional Russian military forces, or was a just a probe of Ukraine’s military readiness.
In Washington, national security advisers were in the White House to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and were keeping President Obama constantly updated. The Russian incursion into Ukraine came as European and American diplomats were preparing a resolution in the United Nations, declaring the referendum in Crimea as illegal. The White House announced this latest Russian move would only increase the likelihood of sanctions.
Russia has shown no indication of backing down in its efforts to annex Crimea, or defuse brewing tensions with Ukraine. Russian forces added additional troops on Saturday, in Crimea’s regional capital of Simferpol. They stationed armored vehicles in two locations in the center of the city. They previously kept all troops outside the city. They also parked two armored personnel carriers just outside the office of the election commission’s headquarters.
Russian forces seize Ukrainian gas facility in just the latest in a series of provocative moves made by the Russians in what officials claim to be Putin’s long time goal of annexing any Ukrainian provinces that possess a Russian majority. These provinces border on Russia’s western and southern frontiers, including the Crimea. These measures appear to be mirroring incidents that sparked World War Two. German moves into Poland and Czechoslovakia, were claimed to be justified to repatriate German-speaking majorities. Putin seems to be following the same plan as Russian forces probe Ukraine.
By John J. Poltonowicz