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Mixed Reaction to Russian Troop Presence in Crimea

  • Elizabeth Arrott

A Pro-Russian “Self Defense” patrol outside parliament in Simferopol, March 3, 2014 (Sebastian Meyer/VOA)

A Pro-Russian “Self Defense” patrol outside parliament in Simferopol, March 3, 2014 (Sebastian Meyer/VOA)

Ukraine's interim goverment ordered a full military mobilization on Sunday following Russia's deployment of troops in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk decried the Russian move as an act of war.

The United States and others have condemned Russia for what they call acts of aggression in Crimea. But many in the largely ethnic-Russian Ukrainian republic have welcomed what's been a largely bloodless break from Kyiv.

Days after what are widely assumed to be Russian troops took control of key installations, Ukraine's new navy chief pledged allegiance to Crimea's pro-Russian local prime minister.

Some Ukrainian military personnel and police have followed suit. Others are remaining on their bases, not confronting the pro-Russian forces surrounding them.

With Crimea now fully beyond it's orbit, Kyiv is scrambling to keep pro-Russian sentiment at bay in eastern Ukraine, giving local billionaires in the heavily ethnic-Russian region key political positions.

But Ukraine's new government, which ousted pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych last month, has also ordered a full military mobilization - just in case.

Ukraine's military is no match for Russian forces - but the psychological conflict appears as important as any physical one. Russian media has relentlessly portrayed the uprising against Yanukovych as led by Western-backed extremists and thugs. And its lawmakers have approved troop movement into Ukraine to protect Russian interests.

Kyiv's new leaders are seeking support from the West. Closer integration with Europe helped spark the uprising against Yanukovych. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has threatened financial and political sanctions against Moscow, is set to arrive in Kyiv Tuesday.