News / Europe

Kerry Heading to Ukraine as Russia Tightens Grip on Crimea

  • Pro-Russian irregulars form self defense units in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, Ukriane, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).
  • Ukrainian sailors prepare their anti-submarine ship "Ternopil" in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 
  • Ukraine mobilised on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. Pictured here is a Zubr Class air cushion landing craft at the port of the Crimean port city of Feodosiya, Ukraine, March 2, 2014.


  • Unidentified gunmen guard Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 
  • A convoy of hundreds of Russian troops headed toward the regional capital of Ukraine's Crimea region, a day after Russia's forces took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula without firing a shot. Pictured here, a Russian convoy moves from Sevastopol to Sinferopol in the Crimea, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 




  • Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, a day after the Crimean prime minister called for Russian help, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).
  • People mourn at a make-shift memorial for those killed in recent violence at Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 
  • A Crimean self-defense group with shields painted as the flag of the contested Ukrainian autonomous republic, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
  • The Russian naval landing vessel "Georgiy Pobedonosets" enters one of the bays of Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 
  • People gather during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. 
  • People hold photos of their relatives killed during recent clashes during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2014.
  • Military personnel stand next to an armored personnel carrier (APC) in the Crimean port city of Feodosiya, Ukraine, March 2, 2014.
  • War and peace: as Russia mobilizes troops in Ukraine's Crimea, some in the regional capital enjoy a Sunday stroll, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
VOA News
Secretary of State John Kerry will be heading to Kyiv Monday for discussions there Tuesday, the U.S. top diplomat tweeted as Russia continued to assert increasing control over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

"Secretary Kerry will meet with senior representatives of Ukraine’s new government, leaders of the Rada (Ukraine's parliament), and members of civil society. The Secretary will reaffirm the United States' strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation," says a statement by the U.S. State Department.


Quoting a senior U.S. government official, the New York Times reports that the trip will be a gesture of support for the new Ukrainian government.

Also on Sunday, President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, according to senior administration officials. The purpose of the talks, they said, was to re-state the "complete illegitimacy" of Russian action in Ukraine and discuss available responses.
 
According to the officials, the U.S. and its allies are looking into offering an "off-ramp" if Moscow chooses to pursue its concerns diplomatically. International tools, they said, are available to President Vladimir Putin to address concerns about the safety of ethnic Russians, such as through the United Nations and/or through monitors from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe.

G-7 condemns Russia

The Group of Seven major industrialized nations (G-7) on Sunday condemned Russia's intrusion into Ukraine and canceled for now preparations for the G-8 summit that includes Russia and had been scheduled to take place in Sochi in June, the White House said.

”We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation's clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the G7 said in a statement.

We have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June,” the group said.

Ukraine mobilizes forces

Meanwhile, Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilization after Russian lawmakers authorized the deployment of troops on Ukraine territory.

Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said the Russian decision is a declaration of war. The pro-Western government in Kyiv, which ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych last month, has appealed to the international community for help.

Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said in an address from parliament Sunday "we are on the brink of disaster" and called for Russia to pull back its military and abide by international obligations.  Up to one million army reservists are to report to duty on Monday. 

In Washington, Secretary Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia's “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine and threatened economic sanctions by the United States and allies to isolate Moscow, but called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
 
“You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” Kerry told the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

News agencies in Moscow report Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President Obama, in a Saturday telephone call, Moscow reserves the right to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Situation in Crimea

Russian and pro-Russian forces appear in control of much of Crimea.  The autonomous Ukrainian republic, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, has an ethnic Russian majority and has historic ties to Moscow.  

Unidentified soldiers, widely believed to be Russian troops, took up positions around Simferopol.  Ukrainian soldiers and police seen on the streets appeared to be following an order from the region's pro-Russian prime minister to fall under his command or resign.

Russian political party flags and a Soviet banner fly at a war memorial in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)Russian political party flags and a Soviet banner fly at a war memorial in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
x
Russian political party flags and a Soviet banner fly at a war memorial in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
Russian political party flags and a Soviet banner fly at a war memorial in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, Ukraine, March 2, 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
Reports that Russian troops had surrounded several Ukrainian military bases on the peninsula added to the tensions, though there appears to be no direct conflict.

In a news conference Sunday, local parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov claimed the situation had "stabilized."

He dismissed the legitimacy of the new government in Kyiv, characterizing it as composed of extremists.

In Kyiv, meanwhile, prosecutors have opened a treason case against the newly-appointed head of Ukraine's Black Sea fleet, after he renounced his post and swore allegiance to pro-Russian leaders in Crimea.  Authorities said Admiral Denys Berezovsky, appointed Saturday, offered no resistance later in the day when his headquarters in Sevastopol were surrounded by Russian troops.

While the events in Crimea have as yet proved bloodless, fears are rising that in eastern Ukraine, with sizable factions both pro- and anti-Russian, any movement of Russian troops would provoke a far more inflammatory reaction.

NATO warning 

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Ramussen warned Moscow on Sunday it was threatening peace in Europe with its seizure of Crimea. He said NATO supports the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their future.  He said Ukraine is a "valued" NATO partner and urged Russia to "de-escalate" the tension in the region.

Ukraine withdrew its coast guard vessels from two ports in Crimea and moved them to other Black Sea bases on Sunday. 

Ukraine's border guard said in a statement that vessels from the Crimean ports of Kerch and Sevastopol had been moved to Odessa and Mariupol. The situation on Ukraine's frontiers was stable apart from in Crimea, the statement said.

Putin has declared he has the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian citizens. Russian forces have seized Crimea, where they have a naval base at Sevastopol, but have not entered other parts of Ukraine.

On Saturday President Obama said the United States is suspending participation in meetings to prepare for the G8 economic summit later this year in Sochi, Russia.

Obama said the appropriate way to address this matter is by direct engagement with the Ukrainian government and through international monitors.

Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014.Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014.
x
Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014.
Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014.
The Pentagon says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu Saturday.  Officials say Hagel told Shoygu that without a change on the ground, Russia is risking more regional instability, global isolation, and an escalation that would threaten European and international security.

NATO ambassadors met Sunday in Brussels to discuss Ukraine.  A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission was also scheduled.

Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev pauses during a news conference following an U.N. Security Council meeting on his country's political crisis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in the United Nations headquarters.Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev pauses during a news conference following an U.N. Security Council meeting on his country's political crisis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in the United Nations headquarters.
x
Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev pauses during a news conference following an U.N. Security Council meeting on his country's political crisis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in the United Nations headquarters.
Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev pauses during a news conference following an U.N. Security Council meeting on his country's political crisis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in the United Nations headquarters.
In New York, the United Nations said now is the time for "cool heads to prevail."  

Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the Security Council that 15,000 Russian troops are already in Crimea under the pretense of protecting Russian citizens.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed the West for ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine and backing protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych last month.


Russia has said its troop movements in Crimea, where it leases a naval base in Sevastopol, conform to agreements with Ukraine.  

Crimea is a Black Sea peninsula placed under Ukrainian control in 1954 by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.  It became part of Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  Crimea has a tiny border with Russia on its far eastern point.  Most of the people living in Crimea are ethnic Russians, but the region also is home to ethnic Muslim Tartars who generally show disdain toward Russia.

Rallies in Russia
Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia's military actions in Crimea.Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia's military actions in Crimea.
x
Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia's military actions in Crimea.
Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia's military actions in Crimea.
​In Moscow and St. Petersburg, thousands of people turned out for officially sponsored demonstrations supporting Russia’s military thrust into Crimea.
 
Smaller anti-war demonstrations took place in both cities, resulting in about 300 arrests.
 
Public opinion polls in Russia indicate that majorities of people here believe that the Ukraine’s largely Russian speaking peninsula should belong to Russia. Hints emerged Sunday as to Russia’s goal in Crimea.
 
Russian state news agency reported that a referendum scheduled for March 30 in Crimea will give voters the choice of: independence, continued autonomy within Ukraine, or annexation by Russia.
 
On a parallel track, Russia’s Duma is to debate next week a new law that would make it easier for Russia to absorb new territories. Under this legislation, local referendums would trump international treaties.

VOA's Scott Stearns contributed to this report from Washington. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott contributed from Simferopol, Ukraine. VOA's Jim Brooke contributed from Moscow.
 

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs