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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs