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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by: Kate from: Russia, Saint Petersburg
March 18, 2014 6:15 PM
The only thing that matters is the will of Ukranians. Well, Crimeans in this case. If they want their land to become the part of Russia, so be it. Noone has right to interfere.
What concerns me is whether they do want it. The results of the referendum are quite conclusive, but it is very easy for me to believe that they were rigged. I can easy see how our Government manage to do something like that.
Too bad Russians are now looked down on. Though it happened before, who cares

by: Roman from: Russia, Saint-Petersburg
March 18, 2014 4:27 PM
Gentlemen Democrats. my country more than a thousand years. Crimea became into its composition in 1782. Tatarstan in 1552. Chechnya in 1781. Live together for a long time. Declaration of Independence of the United States written in 1776. You still have milk on the lips is not dried out, and already teach everyone how to live. and do not invent tales about my country, if you have never been in it. with respect. Putin fan.

March 18, 2014 4:08 PM
Vladimir Putin prevented US from teaching President Assad of Syria a lesson for using chemical weapons to send thousands of Syrians to their untimely grave. The same Vladimir Putin now quickly invaded Crimea, a territory of Ukraine and annexed it with impunity. This tantamounts to what Saddam Hussein did in Kuwait in 1991 but paid dearly for it. This is improper in this modern world and could breed war.
In Response

by: lim from: Malaysia
March 18, 2014 10:40 PM
Look first what US n EU did to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya n now Syria. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced and enduring suffering. All in the name of democracy. To date none of all those countries have enjoyed the fruits of democracy promised to them. There is only enmity between ethnics. No peace exists there. It is worst than the wild wild west of America those days. Compare to what Putin is doing is nothing. Some world power must take the first step to resist US n EU domination dictatorial leadership " do what I tell you to do. Do not do what I do.I m GOD! ".

by: Anonymous
March 18, 2014 2:47 PM
So it is okay for Taiwan to now have their own private referendum and seperate from China? Absolutely not...

Putin has to be held accountable, and the people of Russia will have to oust him for his behaviour on the world stage. No Russian people I know (Many) agree with, or like Putin, they say he is poison for their country. Any so called "leader" that jeopordizes their own people in world business markets, with world set sanctions is not someone who should be running a country and is not with the interests of their people.

Lets now go after assad for his crimes and investigate just how helpfull putin has been in the killing of thousands of civilians.

Oh and maybe the west should help Chechnya have their referendum. Would'nt Putin choke on his coffee?

by: Shaaven from: Finland
March 18, 2014 12:52 PM
Who allows Europeans to tell us that Viktor Yanukovych is pro-Russian president? Why they do not say that Yatsenyuk and co. are Nazi pro-American persons? Look, thugs with guns seized most of Ukraine and Europe only justify their. But there is another situation in Crimea. This is last Region where laws are due to the actions of local authorities.
So Foreign Media MUST be objective and not have to lie. (Those who need and so know the whole truth.)
Crimea is not for centuries Ukrainian territory. Well let people know that the plight of Ukraine staged a pro-foreign radicals. And let the Crimeans will be part of their homeland, mother of Russia as they want.

by: Doug from: Canada
March 18, 2014 10:54 AM
As this point its a done deal,Crimea will return to Russia and people living there expect that life and living standards will improve under Russian rule.Citizens of Crimea,the harsh brutal reality hasnt hit you yet but give it a few yrs and it sure will hit you hard.In the meantime though take a good look around Russia now and see the future that awaits you.They have a basketcase economy,widespread poverty,rampant corruption and the lack basic services and shortages of items for the oridinary Russia citizens that I can easily get in my country
not to mention the lack of democracy and freedom of speech.
that I also fully enjoy in my country.Yep Crimea citizens your really going to have a wonderful new life now.LOL!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: Roman from: Belarus
March 19, 2014 3:36 AM
yeah, you are right. But don't they have rights to chose what future they want?? And if you think that ukrainians live better you are wrong.

by: Mark from: Virginia
March 18, 2014 8:25 AM
It is a fact that politicians everywhere are not capable of learning, that an old dog certainly cannot learn new tricks. "If you do not learn from history, you will be forced to repeat it".
This is history revisited. 1938, Hitler used the same tactics to seize the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia and because the West did nothing (in fact, helped him along to avoid war) he seized the rest of that country. When Hitler tried to do the same with Poland, well, we know the rest. And the rest of that trouble has reverberated for decades and remains felt to this very day.
And now, that history is repeated itself all over again. Is Russia going to be 'content' with just the Crimean peninsula...? At first, perhaps. Then, while the Ukraine is still reeling economically and politically, he will use another excuse to send troops to 'protect Russian interest" and force another referendum to take the rest of the Ukraine.
Does the West want to risk a war with Russia..? Given the current administration, no. Does the EU wish to risk war without full American backing and cooperation? probably not. No one wants World War III. Not when you have countries carrying nuclear weapons around (Russia, China, America, who knows who else).
Its a real mess, and its going to get worse from here on out....

by: Ariel Beera Puoric from: Rumbek, South Sudan
March 18, 2014 7:50 AM
congratulation Crimeans for your determination of your destiny! It is time to restore USSR to its feet where president Putin must be credited and remembered.

by: Sergey from: Crimea
March 18, 2014 4:35 AM
This time is time of glory and justice! We've been waiting for so long to rejoin to our matherland!!! I'm very happy!!!
In Response

by: Pavlo from: Ukraine
March 18, 2014 9:02 AM
I'm sure that you are happy but my wife is from Kerch and she is not happy because of such people as you. Her relatives are frightened by the army of Russia. Only two questions. If Chechnya or Tatarstan want freedom from Russia, are you ready to make them as "happy" as you are? Of course, you aren't because you are very "fair". And don't forget to give Ukraine fair share of financial assets of ex-USSR.
In Response

by: Roman from: Kyiv
March 18, 2014 8:59 AM
I want to see your economic development as a part of RF.

by: Shintaro Sakamoto from: Japan
March 18, 2014 4:20 AM
Putin got the established fact. Obama failed to prevent it and almost lost. It will be hard to reverse the fact once established because it has already become a historical record for Russia. No one including Obama can revise this history unless defeating Russia by war.
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