Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree today recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state, while the Ukrainian government made statements affirming that Ukraine would not cede any Ukrainian territory and was preparing for war.
“Our army should be ready for combat,” said Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko. Petrenko stated that the most important issue for Ukraine at present is to restore the country’s military might.
The Ukrainian parliament has called up 40,000 army reserves for active duty and has voted to provide Ukraine’s defence forces with the equivalent of $600 million dollars. The amount is for the next three months. Ukraine’s armed forces will be mobilized to “full readiness,” according to Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh, speaking from the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.
“Crimea was, is, and will be our territory,” Tenyukh stated.
Interim president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, said that everything possible would be done to prevent war, but stated that the threat of war is real. Turchynov said that Ukraine is ready to defend its territory.
Russia has barred Ukrainian forces from entering the Crimean peninsula since early this month, when the Crimean legislature voted to join the Russian Federation, at which time the Crimean local government announced that the only lawful armed forces in Crimea were the Russian armed forces. The Crimean government stated that any other forces are occupiers, and that the Ukrainian army had to lay down their weapons, accept Russian citizenship, find other jobs or join the Russian military, or leave. The Crimean government has offered Ukrainian soldiers, penned into the peninsula’s 13 Ukrainian army bases, safe passage out of Crimea.
However, after Sunday’s near-unanimous referendum, and Russia’s announcement that it would recognize Crimea as a sovereign state on the basis of the vote, the Ukrainian government announced its refusal to evacuate any troops from what it considers Ukrainian land.
On the roads between mainland Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, lines of entrenched Ukrainian forces sit not far from lines of entrenched Russian forces. Some shots have been fired on the lines, but only as warnings. The U.S. estimates Russia now has 22,000 troops in Crimea, almost double the regular amount agreed upon in Ukrainian-Russian treaties, and significantly more than the remainder of the original 15,000 Ukrainian troops, after some have deserted to join the Crimean army.
Meanwhile, along the 2,300 kilometer (1,400 mile) Ukraine-Russia border, Russia has amassed 80,000 soldiers, according to Ukrainian security spokespeople. The amassed force also includes 270 tanks, 180 armored vehicle, 18 multiple-launch missile systems, 90 helicopters, 140 combat aircraft, and 19 warships. Russia began drilling troops along the border for combat readiness as early as Feb. 26.
The U.S., who along with the U.K. and Russia in 1991 convinced Ukraine to give up the world’s third largest stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons, engaged in war games with Poland, Bulgaria and Romania in the Black Sea last Wednesday. To convince Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons, the U.S., U.K., and Russia signed a declaration promising undefined security assurances that Ukraine’s integrity and political independence would be guaranteed against threats or other force by any of the signatories. Besides the three original signatories, China and France later signed. The U.S. is also seen to be one of the main supporters of Ukraine’s Maidan protests and recognizes Ukraine’s current government. The U.K. has also been working with the interim Ukrainian government.
Ukraine and Russia have a “peace treaty” that ends March 21, after which time Ukraine must withdraw its troops from Crimea, according to Russian demands. No information has been provided for what action Crimean and Russian forces will take against Ukrainian soldiers who remain in Crimea after the deadline.
By Day Blakely Donaldson a prayer: SOS