News / Europe

Russia Warns US Against 'Hasty' Steps in Ukraine

People hold a rally in the Russian southern city of Stavropol, in support of the people of Crimea, Ukraine, March 7, 2014.
People hold a rally in the Russian southern city of Stavropol, in support of the people of Crimea, Ukraine, March 7, 2014.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday about the crisis in Ukraine.

The White House said in a statement the president agreed with European leaders on the need for Russia to pull back its forces, allow for the deployment of international observers and human rights monitors to Crimea, and support free and fair presidential elections in May.  

The White House statement said Obama and Merkel discussed the need for Russia to "agree quickly" on the formation of a contact group, leading to direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia "to de-escalate the situation and restore Ukraine's territorial integrity."

Meanwhile, in a telephone conversation Friday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the U.S. against taking  any "hasty and reckless steps" that could harm Russian-American relations. Lavrov said the sanctions would hit the U.S. "like a boomerang."

Earlier Friday, armed men smashed a Russian military truck through the gates of a Ukrainian missile defense post in the Crimean peninsula.

The men negotiated with the base's commanders as soldiers sheltered in their barracks Friday. No shots have been reported.

Initial reports said the truck had crashed through to the base in the port city of Sevastopol and that it was being stormed, but the reporter could not see any signs of major damage to the gates and the base was quiet.
A Ukrainian military official, Vladislav Seleznyov, was quoted by Reuters as saying by telephone that the armed men took over the base without any shooting and that no one was hurt.
Another Ukrainian military official told Reuters at the post that the armed group inside had not seized any weapons and said he was mediating between the sides.
Crimea's pro-Russia premier, Sergei Aksyonov, was asked about the incident during a political chat show being shown live on Ukrainian television. He said all was calm at the military post.

Ukraine's border guards said on Friday that Moscow had poured troops into the Crimean peninsula, where Russian forces have seized control.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the border guards' commander, said there were now 30,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea, compared to 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

The Pentagon estimates there are now about 20,000 Russian troops in Ukraine.

A senior State Department official said Kerry spoke with Lavrov Friday as a follow-up to Obama’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. He said Kerry underscored the importance of finding a constructive way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which would address the interests of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the international community. Kerry and Lavrov agreed to continue to consult in the days ahead on the way forward.
Kerry then reportedly spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to debrief him on his conversation with Lavrov, and to stay in closest possible coordination on how the U.S. and the international community can continue to support the people and government of Ukraine.

Rear Admiral John Kirby says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyuh on Friday and discussed humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Meanwhile Ukraine's interim president signed a decree Friday canceling a planned referendum on Crimea joining Russia, but Crimean officials vow the vote will go ahead.

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov signed the decree Friday, a day after Crimea's Moscow-backed legislature voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia and scheduled a referendum on the issue for March 16.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on March 6, 2014.Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on March 6, 2014.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on March 6, 2014.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on March 6, 2014.
Turchynov on Thursday called the planned referendum a "farce" and accused the Russian military of organizing the vote. He said he and the Ukrainian parliament would protect the country's integrity and sovereignty. He also said that Ukraine's parliament would initiate proceedings to dissolve the Crimean parliament.

Yatsenyuk said Friday that "no one in the civilized world" will recognize the referendum's results.

Yatsenyuk told reporters he wants to "warn separatists" and others he described as "traitors of the Ukrainian state" that their decisions are "unlawful" and "unconstitutional." U.S. and European leaders have also called the referendum illegal.

But Crimean officials fired back Friday, saying the vote will go forward. The dispute over the vote comes amid reports from Reuters that armed men took control of a Ukrainian missile defense post in Sevastopol on Friday, but no shots were fired.

"Kyiv will not be able to derail the referendum in the Crimea," said Mikhail Malyshev, chairman of the election commission overseeing the referendum on the peninsula. "It will be held, as scheduled, on March 16."

Russia reacts

Russia said on Friday any U.S. sanctions imposed against Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine would boomerang back on the United States, raising the financial stakes as the military standoff intensified.
In a telephone conversation with Kerry, Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said.
Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine's new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

In Moscow, the Speaker of Russia's Upper House of Parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said Friday that Russian lawmakers will support Crimea's decision if the Ukrainian region decides in a referendum to join Russia, as tens of thousands of people turned out for a rally in the Russian capital to show solidarity with Crimea's pro-Russian authorities.

Meanwhile, a United Nations spokesperson described the recent developments in Ukraine as "worrying and serious" adding that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges the authorities in Ukraine and Crimea to treat the matter with calm, and consider the implications of hasty actions.

Story continues below photogallery:
  • Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard near a Ukrainian military base outside the city of Sevastopol, March 7, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest rally in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 6, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest rally in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 6, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a Ukrainian military base as a uniformed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, walks nearby in Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
  • Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation near a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
  • A uniformed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard near a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
  • The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachy enters the waters of the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, March 6, 2014.
  • Members of Crimean self-defence units block a topless activist from the Ukrainian feminist group Femen during a protest near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
  • A woman walks past barricades set up by anti-Yanukovych protestors in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 6, 2014.
  • Pallbearers carry the coffin of a self defense volunteer who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant two days ago near Kyiv's Independence Square, March 6, 2014.

Obama spoke by phone Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Ukraine crisis.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The White House says Obama told Putin the presence of Russian forces in Crimea is a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. The Kremlin says Putin denounced Ukraine's new government as "illegitimate" and said Russia cannot "ignore" calls for help from Ukraine's Russia-leaning east and south.

The White House says Obama also called for direct talks between Kyiv and Moscow that would be mediated by the international community. Obama called for all Russian forces to return to their bases and for international monitors to ensure the safety of Ukrainians, including ethnic Russians.

Earlier Thursday, Obama authorized sanctions, including visa restrictions, against those found to have violated Ukraine's territorial integrity. The EU also took measures against Russia, suspending talks on visas and a new economic agreement.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday called the EU's position "extremely unconstructive," adding that Russia "will not accept the language of sanctions and threats" and promising retaliation if the EU imposes sanctions.

Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in a televised interview that despite "profound disagreements" between the two sides, “the hope remains that as a result of dialogue it will be possible to find some common ground,” and that Russia and the West do not return to a period of conflict like the Cold War.

Still, Peskov dismissed the idea that Western countries could mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine. He also said that those who were, in his words, “behind the coup in Kyiv,” could carry out “purges” in Crimea were they to take control there.

Russia, he added, “cannot remain indifferent, and will not remain indifferent” if a “deadly danger hangs over Russians” anywhere, “especially in neighboring Ukraine.”

Putin denies that the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow's command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed this claim.

Turkey scrambles jets

The Turkish Air Force scrambled six F-16 fighter jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew parallel along its Black Sea coast, the military said on Friday.

The Thursday incident, reported by Reuters, is the second of its kind this week. The Russian plane remained in international airspace, according to a statement on the website of the military General Staff.

NATO member Turkey forms the southern coastline of the Black Sea.

On Friday, a U.S. navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Tuxton, passed through Turkey's Bosphorus straits bisecting Istanbul on its way to the Black Sea in what the U.S. military described as a "routine" deployment scheduled well before the Ukraine crisis.

EU sanctions, Tymoshenko

Yulia Tymoshenko, left, leader of Batkivshchyna, (Ukraine) greets Vitali Klitschko leader of UDAR (Ukraine) at the European People's Election Congress in Dublin, Ireland, March 6, 2014.Yulia Tymoshenko, left, leader of Batkivshchyna, (Ukraine) greets Vitali Klitschko leader of UDAR (Ukraine) at the European People's Election Congress in Dublin, Ireland, March 6, 2014.
Yulia Tymoshenko, left, leader of Batkivshchyna, (Ukraine) greets Vitali Klitschko leader of UDAR (Ukraine) at the European People's Election Congress in Dublin, Ireland, March 6, 2014.
Yulia Tymoshenko, left, leader of Batkivshchyna, (Ukraine) greets Vitali Klitschko leader of UDAR (Ukraine) at the European People's Election Congress in Dublin, Ireland, March 6, 2014.
Pro-Western Ukrainian opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko urged Europe Thursday to take strong action to prevent Ukraine's Crimean peninsula from joining Russia, saying such a move would destabilize the entire continent. The EU took measures against Russia Thursday, suspending talks on visas and a new economic agreement.

Tymoshenko said there was a danger of guerrilla war in Crimea should it be incorporated into Russia and appealed to Germany and others on Friday for immediate economic sanctions against Moscow.

Speaking to Reuters after a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Tymoshenko said international measures against Russia had so far been ineffective and called for immediate action to prevent a "flashpoint."

"As of today, those instruments that have already been applied by the US and the EU didn't produce any tangible effects," she said, summarizing her message to Merkel. "If these instruments do not produce results, there are two options left. To opt for next strongest sanctions, I proposed a set of nonviolent, economic measures." The alternative, she said, was to give Crimea to Russia.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday called the EU's position "extremely unconstructive," adding that Russia "will not accept the language of sanctions and threats" and promising retaliation if the EU imposes sanctions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said Friday his government is "prepared to rebuild relations with Russia." But he said Russia must withdraw its troops, fulfill its agreements with Ukraine and stop supporting separatists in Crimea.

On Capitol Hill, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to provide loan guarantees of $1 billion to Ukraine. That measure now goes to the U.S. Senate. The European Union is prepared to extend a $15 billion bailout to Kyiv if Ukraine can reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Japan, China

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia, whose forces have seized control of the Crimean peninsula, constitute "a threat to international peace and security." The statement comes shortly after President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying that economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the legality of a Crimean referendum on secession.

Cadets withdrawn

Ukraine summoned home its small contingent of cadets and officers studying at military academies in Russia, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Friday, following Russian military action in Crimea.

A statement on the ministry's website said it had canceled a bilateral agreement on military education between the two states. It said 26 Ukrainians were studying in Russian military academies and would be summoned home.

Ukraine's crisis began when protests erupted in late November after then-President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an economic deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. What began as peaceful protests quickly turned violent, leading to the deaths of more than 80 protesters and charges that the Yanukovych government ordered snipers to shoot protesters. Yanukovych fled Ukraine last month.

Some information for this report provided by Margaret Besheer at the United Nations and Reuters.

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Comments page of 3
by: John from: south africa
March 10, 2014 4:51 PM
@ Leroy Padmore... Leroy I know the USA is a super power and as you say the US was bluffing in the Irag and Afganistan wars. But please understand that you can't put those 2 countries on the same level as Russia. Just as the US is a super power so is Russia and if war brakes out between the US and Russia the whole World will feel it!!! And I think that will start the next World War. Guns blazing is not always the answer.
In Response

by: Leroy padmore from: Jersey City
March 12, 2014 3:51 PM
Thanks John for the import, I do understand, but Russia compares to the US, Russia ain't nothing. Russia cannot with stand the fire power that the US has. Russia beside that Nuclear weapon, Russia is a piece of bread for the US. And if Russia fire Nuclear weapon at the US, so help us all God. You know the end of the story. But my brother John be bless.

by: mickey
March 10, 2014 7:33 AM
We tried being isolationists once...

by: Adrian Toader-Williams from: Romania
March 09, 2014 7:13 PM
Russia and Ukraine can be Europe. Why not both join the European Union and set an example to the world? An invitation to global long-lasting peace. An invitation to protect life on Earth and respect the human rights.

“Life and war” it’s not an action movie or a computer game. The real life, our world history tells us horror stories; the story of mankind. In essence we all share one planet, breath one air, and live under one sun. We are a global species, therefore the globalization process it’s as natural as the planet Earth can be. Regardless of our ethnic background, nationality and believes, we can and we should understand each other, tolerate, communicate, negotiate, embrace our differences and furthermore why not enjoy our traditions, cultural and religious diversity. The fundamental Human rights can and should be the governing law for the entire human species, only then we can expect a sustainable global development. So, I invite Russia along with Ukraine to join the European Union, an extension of the Euro-Asian community.

The global terror should and can come to an end now in 2014.

This is a message to all the people of our planet, to all world leaders, to the United Nations, to Mr. President Putin and to Mr. President Obama. We all share one planet, breath one air, and live under one sun. We are a global species, therefore the globalization it’s as natural as the planet Earth is. As we know, the frontiers were created by mankind, artificially, based on greed and power and not on real needs.
The world history tells us horror stories; the story of mankind. As it appears, we, the Human species, the superior intelligence, did not want to learn or we are not as of yet capable to learn from our bloody experience. The armed conflicts are still of human nature; and for what? Money? Power? Where are our true sense of values?

As it is obvious to me, the superior intelligence has many destructive side effects. We are capable to create beneficial handy tools and electronics, but we master the giant killing machines. Are the machines responsible or the human mind decisions? As humans, we are emotional animals, we have wants, we have desires, we have believes, we have self-control, but often we love to gain control over issues to find that soon enough we lost control. Then we cry, just a few enjoy, when in fact they should not. We than pray and honor our heroes. It is just a matter of time, and it does not take much to create reasons to “produce” more heroes. Sure enough, in real life as in the movies or computer games, we know how to generate victims, induce loss of human life, we destroyed families, create pain and suffering.

We are strong but we are weak. We are thought, encouraged to consume, for the benefit of the financial interests, for their personal power. We enjoy consuming without limit, putting a stress on our life support, on our environment. Some say: yes, consuming creates jobs! What type of jobs, doing what, and for what purpose? We are creating jobs at what kind of costs? Are we that weak? Do we know when enough is enough? Do we know when to stop? We go ahead at all prices without sensing that we may be on the edge of the cliff.

Thank you!
Dr. Eng. Adrian TOADER,
Independent candidate to the European Parliament, 2014
Cluj-Napoca, Romania

by: GravitySailor from: Washington, DC
March 08, 2014 11:38 AM

We are all in this together and it is time to start looking forward to a more collaborative future. My recommendation for the U.S. is to search for a win-win exit for Mr. Putin—as he provided for us with an alternative method of eliminating the chemical weapons in Syria. So despite the Ukrainian Constitution, perhaps there is a better solution and consensus for what is best for everyone.

Lets give Russia what they already have—because they aren’t going to give it back and we aren’t going to take it back—a Russian Crimea, and in return we receive peace and a primarily intact Ukraine that is free to move closer to the EU. As it was best for all for Kosovo to secede from Serbia, it is likely best for all that Crimea peacefully secedes from Ukraine.
In Response

by: Mike from: Toronto
March 08, 2014 6:58 PM
Best for all that Kosovo separated? It sure as hell wasn't for Serbian people whom Kosovo belongs to.

by: Perplexed from: USA
March 08, 2014 8:34 AM
Why did Khrushchev give Crimea to Ukraine in 1954? This is the root problem that needs to be revisited and corrected. Russian heritage has always been dominant in Crimea. Armed conflict is human nature and has formed our world, yet it should be a last resort. A government that kills its own people is criminal by making illiegal killings leading to illegitimate leadership. The voice of the people should dictate as it did in Kiev and so the voice of the people in Crimea should also dictate. This is how democracy works.

by: archlingua from: Guatemala City, Guatemala
March 08, 2014 8:08 AM
And judging by Russia’s (really, the USSR-2) Foreign Relations minister’s assertions about the “artificiality” of how others created the Ukraine crisis, he is a firm believer of Goebbels’ dictum: “Lie, lie, lie, for someone will believe you…”

by: William Moore
March 08, 2014 7:46 AM
The commenters here appear to be more literate than most. Saying that, please accept that on the depths of this issue I am not informed. Nevertheless, it seems obvious to me that the EU and especially the US, need to butt out and leave independent countries to handle their own squabbles. I really think the Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea have the civility and sophistication to work it out without the erudite though idiotic intervention of Obama. Mainly, it is a pissing contest, and while the US is well possessed of massive dicks (A congress and white house full), they come to this situation with empty bladders.
Of all the nations on the planet to raise constitutional issues, the US is no position to be anything more than an delusional hypocrite.

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
March 08, 2014 7:32 AM
There is much disinformation about the situation in Crimea coming from what can only be described as malignant sources in the Ukraine. It is more than regrettable that their lurid imaginations are permitted to play in western media. Their stories are repeated simply because they're told, even in the face of verified facts to the opposite. The 'truck through the gates' being one tale, and the number of "Russian troops" in Crimea being another.

For all the lip-spit rendered, there as yet to be any single casualty in the Crimea. Which is a millennial improvement in what Ukrainians were doing to each other only two scant weeks ago.

This crap is simply a fog to cover the fact that nothing has changed in the new, 'improved' and really-free Ukraine.

by: Anonymous
March 08, 2014 5:48 AM
What Russia has done is 150% antidemocratic. Who cares what the gell Putins excuse is. The world needs to now slap putin with a hefty response. They need to teach him what responsibility for actions are all about. The world needs to teach Putin to mature into a responible man, because his actions were beyond stupid, irresponsible, and disrespectful. Putin has to learn that what he is doing will only hurt Russian people. Hopefully the Russians soon overthrow Putin because he makes the most dumb mistakes in the world, agression as well as illegal.

Putin and assad will make a great "couple" once the dust settles.
In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
March 09, 2014 9:50 PM
I do not know who you are. But you'd better not to lure the whole world into World War III. It would be the end of the Earth! Can you and your children survive the nuclear attacks?

by: Igor from: Russia
March 08, 2014 2:22 AM
I think the biggest mistake the US and the EU have made so far is to threaten Putin or Russia as a whole with their sactions. Russia is a great power and we never give in to threat or sactions. History has already proved it. Obama is a poor and incapable leader, he does not know how to deal with a superpower. He thinks that Mr. Putin will be afraid of his threat. He is too childish.
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