News / Europe

Russian Forces Kill Ukrainian Soldier - Report

Armed Russian forces arrest Ukrainian army officers during an operation in Simferopol on March 18, 2014.
Armed Russian forces arrest Ukrainian army officers during an operation in Simferopol on March 18, 2014.
VOA News
Ukraine's prime minister said Tuesday that the conflict in Crimea has entered a military phase and accused Russia of commiting a "war crime" by firing on Ukrainian servicemen.

A military spokesman said one soldier was killed and another injured. Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea have now been authorized to use their weapons in order to defend their lives.

"The conflict is moving from a political one to a military one because of Russian soldiers," Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at a meeting at Ukraine's defense ministry. "Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and this is a war crime without any expiry under a statute of limitations."

The serviceman was shot and killed while manning a tower overlooking a vehicle pool at the base, according to a defense ministry statement. It said the attackers wore Russian military uniforms.

Yatsenyuk has reportedly ordered Ukraine's defense minister to call a meeting with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Russia - signatories to a 1994 agreement guaranteeing Ukraine's borders - to prevent an escalation of the conflict.

Absorbing Crimea

The incident came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty to make the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian Federation, a move the White House immediately condemned. 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (L) and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor (R), sign a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (L) and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor (R), sign a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (L) and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor (R), sign a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (L) and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor (R), sign a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.
"This action...will never be recognized by the United States and the international community,'' spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney said the administration is preparing to expand sanctions it imposed on Monday along with the European Union.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Western sanctions were unacceptable and would not remain without consequences, the Russian ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Lavrov and Kerry spoke by telephone after the treaty signing.

President Barack Obama has invited G-7 allies to meet next week to consider further response to the Crimea crisis. ​The meeting will take place on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit at The Hague that Obama plans to attend.

The Russian parliament is expected to begin the process of ratifying the treaty within days, the Itar-Tass news agency cited a senior lawmaker as saying.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it does not recognize the treaty.

  • A pro-Russian crowd watches a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea, in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 18, 2014. 
  • City council workers clear a barricade on a road leading to Kyiv's Independence Square, Ukraine, March 18, 2014. 
  • An elderly woman holds a calendar depicting Soviet leader Josef Stalin while watching a broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea, as thousands of pro-Russian people gathered to watch the address, in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 18, 2014.

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, March 18, 2014. 
  • Police look at portraits of missing political activists and journalists that protesters pasted on the gate of the Crimean Interior Ministry in Simferopol, March 18, 2014.
  • Members of a "Maidan" self-defense battalion take part in a training exercise at a Ukrainian Interior Ministry base near Kyiv, March 17, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian serviceman guards a checkpoint near the village of Strelkovo in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, March 17, 2014.
  • Members of a Crimean self-defense unit speak with a motorcyclist waving a Russian flag in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 17, 2014.
  • Armed men, believed to be Russian, dig trenches near the Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 17, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian crowd celebrates in the central square in Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 16, 2014.
  • People wrapped in Russian flags watch fireworks during celebrations after the preliminary referendum results were announced in Lenin Square in the Crimean capital Simferopol, March 16, 2014.
  • A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the Crimean referendum, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 16, 2014.

In a referendum Sunday, widely believed to have been orchestrated by Moscow, Crimean voters backed the peninsula's secession from Ukraine. The U.S. and the European Union declared the vote illegal and in violation of Ukrainian and international law.

Crimean officials said the final ballot count showed 97 percent of voters favoring independence from Ukraine.

President Obama's Steps to Support Ukraine and Isolate Russia

  • Imposing sanctions on those responsible for undermining Ukraine's government and territorial integrity
  • Expanding scope of sanctions to include Russian officials
  • Continuing consultations with European partners, who imposed their own sanctions
  • Warned Russia that continued provocations in Crimea will result in further isolation
  • Sending US Vice President Joe Biden to Europe to meet with allies
  • President Obama traveling to Europe for talks next week
However, senior White House officials told reporters they have concrete evidence that some ballots in the referendum were pre-marked when they arrived in cities before the vote.

US, NATO allies condemn Russia

Vice President Joe Biden called Russia's annexation of Crimea a "land grab" and said Washington is committed to defending the security of its NATO allies on Russian borders.

Biden flew from Poland to Lithuania on Tuesday after meeting with Polish leaders and the leader of Estonia. Tomorrow he will meet with the presidents of Lithuania and Latvia.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) waves as he meets Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw March 18, 2014.U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) waves as he meets Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw March 18, 2014.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) waves as he meets Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw March 18, 2014.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) waves as he meets Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw March 18, 2014.
Biden said the U.S. is considering sending troops for war games in the Baltic states bordering Russia, in a move aimed at reassuring NATO allies alarmed by Moscow's actions regarding Crimea.

Separately, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia was going down a "dangerous path" by annexing Crimea.
He said on Tuesday Russia has disregarded all calls to step back into line with international law. Fogh Rasmussen stressed that no NATO ally will recognize what he called an illegal and illegitimate action.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned Russia's actions.

"The crisis in Ukraine is the most serious test of European security in the 21st century so far," Hague said.

The White House says President Barack Obama spoke by phone Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and agreed on the need to immediately send international monitors to southern and eastern Ukraine.

US Navy runs Black Sea exercise

The Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, started a one-day military exercise with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies in the Black Sea on Wednesday, a U.S. Naval Forces official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Ukraine's Crimea peninsula juts into the north of the Black Sea. The U.S. military has described it as a “routine” deployment scheduled well before the crisis in Ukraine.
“There are many reasons for exercises with allies, it allows us an opportunity to assure our NATO allies that we support them,” Shawn Eklund, a public affairs officer for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, told Reuters.

Rising concern

Calling Kyiv the cradle of Russian civilization, Putin expressed hope Russia and Ukraine can continue to co-exist.

US Freezes Russians' Assets As Ukraine Crisis Deepensi
Luis Ramirez
March 17, 2014 11:05 PM
President Obama has imposed sanctions against seven Russian officials and four Ukrainians who supported Sunday's Russian-sponsored referendum that called for Crimea to secede from Ukraine. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
US Freezes Russians' Assets As Ukraine Crisis Deepens
But with reports of several incursions by Russian or Russian-backed armed personnel in eastern Ukraine, outside of Crimea, there is rising concern throughout the country whether Russia will be satisfied with only annexing Crimea.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk says there is "convincing evidence" Russian special services are organizing unrest in the eastern part of the country.

"There are saboteurs who have been arrested," Yatsenyuk said. "There is no place in Ukraine for these warmongers."

Some Ukrainians tell VOA their families, even in the central part of the country, are stocking up on bread, water and medications, due to concerns tensions will escalate in the next several months amid worries there could be war.

Putin says Moscow has no designs on other parts of the former Soviet republic.

In 1954, then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gifted the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine, then part of the USSR.

Ukraine not seeking NATO membership

Ukraine's new pro-Western leadership is not seeking membership in NATO, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said on Tuesday, in comments intended to reassure Russia and Ukraine's large number of Russian-speakers.

"Strictly with a view to maintaining Ukraine's unity, the question of joining NATO is not on the agenda,'' Yatsenyuk, who normally speaks in Ukrainian, said in a 10-minute televised appeal delivered in Russian. "The country will be defended by a strong, modern Ukrainian army.''

Yatsenyuk also said decentralization of power was a key plank of government policy, adding that Kyiv's efforts to integrate with Europe would take into account the interests of Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking industrial east.

Local reactions

Ukrainians, from various cities of the country, reacted to Crimea’s annexation by Russia with outrage, some convinced it will only be temporary, others voicing concern that it represented only the beginning of Putin’s ambitions.

“[The Russians] will show off for a little while and then we will get Crimea back…. It will be Ukrainian. And the Crimeans - even those who are advocating for Russia - in a year or two will understand that life in Ukraine was much better,” said Yuriy Zborovsky from the central Ukrainian city of Kirovograd.

“I want [Vladimir Putin] to stop mocking our people. I want him to stay in Russia and govern [the Russians] and not touch our people and not torture Ukraine,” said Kyiv resident Lyubov Semenyaka.
“Without doubts it will not end here; Putin will continue to step over Ukraine because Crimea is not his ultimate goal. His ultimate goal is to invade all of Ukraine,” said Vasyl Pazenyak from the western city of Lviv.

VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report from Kyiv; some reporting by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
by: Simon Smith from: Australia
March 20, 2014 9:37 PM
What??? America under its constitution should be a light to the world…instead its news presenters can’t even get our Prime Ministers name right or the geography right. Is this arrogance or a hopeless education system? It’s embarrasing. These are the news outlets sprouting informed commentary on Libya and the Ukraine….???? guess the shift to Asia is still being cobbled together by the Obama administration. My advice to these reporters is not to ask John McCain or the Whitehouse for any details on this region…that could be more embarrasing.

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2014 2:35 PM
Lots of questions about sniper fire, both in this story and at Maidan. So far the best evidence I've seen as to where it's coming from is in this picture or the (pro-)Russian soldier carrying a sniper rifle. I think it might be a Dragunov SVU. I can understand why he might not want his picture taken.

by: Arminiy from: Tallin
March 19, 2014 4:21 AM
Please stop writing fabrication! Only foreign (American) provocateurs could killed Ukranian soldier. Why you did not write that there were killed both Ukranian soldier and Crimean militian? Please open your eyes and write objective facts. Thank you!

by: Andrey from: Russia
March 19, 2014 4:05 AM
Now comes the solemn meeting devoted to the reunification of the Crimea with Russia . Zyuganov told about visit US soldiers in Crimea. Ukrainian government has invited them to the Crimea. They landed in Feodosia on a military base . But Russians turned off electricity, shut off the water, and refused to cook them food . The Ukrainian government has apologized to the US troops and said we can nothing make with russians people that do not want serves american soldiers.
Americans moved to Alushta , but russian people again did the same. And US troops should go out from Crimea. So unarmed Russian people have expelled the US troops from Crimea. But US government do not talk about it. It's bad
Now snipers from " Right sector" began terror in the Crimea. They killed unarmed civilians . But we can find these bandits without US troops. And we punish them. I am sure

by: Sergey from: Russia
March 19, 2014 1:40 AM
no clear evidence that it was the Russian soldier! Again and again - provocations and subsequent propoganda from the western media...and will continue to insist that you have any sense of objectivity? Is that your democracy - to interpret the facts the way they are consistent with your interests? 97% of Crimean population said yes to Russia and it happened in presence of more than 120 observers from 21 countries, including EU and US!!! Why your media does not show them and does not point out this fact? Your media says - referendum is illegal because of the Russian troops staying in Crimea. But it is rediculous! How 25.000 soldiers can prevent about 2 mln.people from expressing theit will in presence of the same Ukrainian army on the peninsula without any shot??? Was the Ukrainian army blocked by the Russian troops? - this is another funny tale of the western media) How armed people may be blocked by other armed people??? I'm Ukrainian citizen of Russia and many many people both in Russia and Ukraine are feeling extremelly embarrassed about the terrible things your politicians do in Ukraine! This was the real intervention in the internal affairs of an indipendent country!!! Again and again after such "peaceful interventions" of the west (we saw them a lot during the last decades!!!) people suffer more and more at the end...hope this time your evil plans will fail and the justice will prevail!!!

by: Not Again from: Canada
March 18, 2014 11:03 PM
A dastardly criminal assesination has taken place against this Ukrainian Officer; given Russia's intelligence capabilities, and given the statements coming out of the Kiev gmt, it was very clear that the Ukrainian forces were forbiden to use their weapons. A criminal carried out this assasination of this unfortunate Ukrainian officer; the worst of it is that the criminals behind this assasination will get away with it. So much for Russia indicating that a truce was in place for 5 days; so much for Russia being a signator to the Budapest protocol, fully agreeing to respect the borders and integrity of the Ukraine. It is a bad situation, Putin now has zero credibility! History repeat itself, you can't trust dastardly authoritarian dictators.

by: Kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio, USA
March 18, 2014 10:16 PM
The best sanction against Russia is economic isolation -- and the market will take care of that on its own.
Anachronistic fools.
Just when it seemed we could do business, they hurried up and scared everybody away again.

by: uscitizen444 from: US
March 18, 2014 7:10 PM
Peace should be paramount. All are our friends.
I believe the votes in Crimea were swayed by a Russian military presence. The people of Crimea should be given a second vote when Russian forces have pulled back and Crimean's are not intimidated with by force.
Overly aggressive persons physically assaulting others should be incarcerated by local Ukraine authorities with Russian military help if needed.
I think U.S. should lift sanctions if Putin helps control violence and allows second vote.
In Response

by: uscitizen444 from: US
March 19, 2014 3:33 AM
Should they all smoke a joint and have a good laugh, Washington ?
In Response

by: Andrey from: Russia
March 19, 2014 2:30 AM
Your suggestion is absurd. Ethnic Russians are more than 60% among residents of Republic Krim. No doubt if voting will be once more - russians collect 60% as minimum. But many different ethnic people in Krym will vote as ethnic russians, because they name Russian language as native.
You suggest to incarcerate more than 80% residents of Krym before voting. Full absurd!
Also Ukraine is poor country with high level coruption and crimes. The Ukraine's social security system is very bad. The people in Krym have selected Russia as protest voting against poverty, corruption and crimes.
US have no chance to return Krym in Ukraine. The demands of President of Obama is equal next:
-inhabitants of Krym should live in poverty
-should forget native language
-should accept corruption and obey ethnic clearing
This is full absurd.
Nobody in Russia and in Republic Krym fear the President Obama. Russia is not Iraq or Afghanistan. President Obama can't to get win in these countries. It would be good idea don't get involved in Russian affairs.
Some activists of nationalistic ukrainian organisation "Right Sector" name themselves as ukrainian taliban. They controls ukrainian government. If US government want to have the second taliban on own neck . OK please.
I know that US government hides truth from americans. But this is trouble for americans not for russians.

by: Anonymous
March 18, 2014 6:50 PM
The world must now slam the door on Putin and not deal with him until Putin is ousted. The Russian people can overthrow putin. He doesnt deserve to run any country and should be fully investigated for many more crimes.

Europe has to stop doing business completely with Russia. Putin has to be punished now.

by: Mark from: Virginia
March 18, 2014 6:29 PM
Two quotes I would like to add here, after the 'update' of information from an earlier post.
First, from Hitler in 1937/1938..."I have no more territorial demands." A lie then, and a lie it remains today.
Second, from President Roosevelt in 1941..."History will little note who fired the first shot, but who fires the last shot".
History is full of repeats...and is repeated itself once more. When will we learn....?
Comments page of 3

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