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Ukraine's Defense Minister Says 'Detente' with Russia Holding

  • Daniel Schearf

Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh speaks during a news conference at a hotel in Kiev, March 17, 2014.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh speaks during a news conference at a hotel in Kiev, March 17, 2014.

Ukraine's defense ministry says an agreement with Russia's military in Crimea to cease provocations appears to be holding. But the ministry says Russia has built up 60,000 troops in the separatist southern territory and along Ukraine's borders, which it vowed to defend.

Acting defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh, told journalists a week-long detente agreed with Russia's military is holding in Crimea.

During a briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Tenyukh said Russian forces are no longer blockading Ukrainian bases in Crimea and are allowing soldiers there to re-supply.

He says the detente means there are no more provocations, attempts to storm Ukrainian military bases, or pressure on their servicemen and on their Navy and Air Force.

But the truce ends Friday and Crimea's Moscow-backed authorities say Ukrainian troops who do not join them will eventually be kicked out of the peninsula.

Tenyukh says Ukrainian troops will never withdraw from Crimea and Kyiv would not accept it becoming part of Russia.

He says Moscow continues to build up its military forces and has amassed 60,000 troops in Crimea and along Ukraine's borders.

Ukraine is responding by mobilizing its military as well as training a recently established national guard.

Though they are much smaller in numbers and capabilities, Tenyukh says they are preparing to fend off any attacks.

He says the armed forces of Ukraine have been brought up to full readiness. This concerns their armed forces situated alongside Ukraine's eastern borders, he says. They have already taken their positions, so as to be ready, and they are ready. He says they will carry out their orders once the political leadership makes a decision.

Thinly veiled Russian forces backed pro-Russia separatists in Crimea who took over the parliament in February and surrounded Ukraine's military bases.

Russia's agreement to back away from the bases came the same day that Crimea's Moscow-backed authorities declared an overwhelming vote to break away from Ukraine. Moscow's parliament, the Duma, is expected to soon vote on whether or not to annex the territory.

The controversial vote in Crimea was condemned by Ukraine's acting government, the European Union, and the United States as illegal and illegitimate.

Washington called the referendum, and the Russian military build-up, dangerous and destabilizing provocations. The United States and European Union have announced sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian leaders involved in the rebellion.

Moscow claims the actions are necessary to protect ethnic Russians from persecution by Ukrainian nationalists in Kyiv's transitional government.

Ukraine's current leaders came to power after months of protests against former President Viktor Yanukovych for pulling out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of Russia.

Yanukovych fled to Russia after 100 people were killed in clashes with riot police, and was removed from office by Ukraine's parliament.

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