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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by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 08, 2014 2:01 AM
Mr. Putin Ukraine is not America. You better calm yourself down and respect the international laws. You have nuclear war head, and America has the same. Secondly America is the war superpower. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were bluffing. But at the same token we give thanks to our men and women who lost their lives to save the whole world. one day the world will be grateful to America. People are looking at the US today as world police, Yes which of course we are proud to be. However if a dictator rises to power and start killing your people, all those who are calling the US world police, they are the same people that will be asking the US for help. I am proud to live in the US, where freedom is free. I was born in Liberia,I am a proud to be a Liberian, But I am not proud to live in Liberia. The reason is, there is no pure democracy in Africa. You cannot speak your mind as we are doing on VOA, If VOA was one of the African broadcasting network. The Government will come at night to killed you. So If America police the world, they have right to do so. Cuz the Government will kill their own people and no one dare to say anything. or else they will kill you too. And we find that common in our African society. The Russian Government are the one who are polluting the world today, wherever you find a rebel group, you will find Russian made amination, like AK 47 etc Russia hands are not clean, it is stain with the people of the world blood. Russia knows not to mess with the US. God Bless America
In Response

by: Willi from: Canada
March 12, 2014 1:45 PM
I'm so proud of you that you are so loyal to the country you live in ! But look at what is really happening. Get your facts straight. "USA is the police of the world." If that was actually true when a police pulls you over you stop, when a police tells you to stop talking you do or else he will throw you in jail. Is USA is the police maybe they should have done that to Russia when they took in Edward Snowden. Just telling someone you have to do this or this but not doing anything about it is not been a police!!! By the way if the world will one day be grateful to America why do more and more people start to hate them!

And about democracy and people have their say, look back to last September with Syria. When they crossed the set by Obama redline. Wasn't the world police supposes to do something? Oh right I remember the only thing the could do is from far enough throw some missiles so they can run away fast enough not to get stabbed in the back after. And if USA listened to its people why was there the talk that Obama would strike Syria even if the congress would not aprove? "Because USA is democracy" If USA was so much in to freedom why are there video cameras, monitors, sensors everywhere every step an American takes they are monitored!!!

Is that what freedom is? Every phone call you make the listen isn't that's the reason Edward Snowden is wanted for in first place?? Because he told the world the truth that they spy on everyone!!! And if USA is so for freedom why did Obama say "we need to suspect everyone a terrorist!!" Except for in Syria and Iraq and Vietnam and many other countries the rebel groups had all American animation!!! And if America thinks their Christians then they would know they are not any better then the rest, not "exceptional" because god Maude everyone equal!!!! And I live in Canada if you wonder so don't think everyone if thinking of USA as everything must people think they are full of shit. "Pussy with a gun in its hand"

by: kanaikaal irumporai
March 07, 2014 6:29 PM
So, the lady is threatening with terrorism and the saviers of the world from terrorism, the US is silent on the issue! This literally means that there's going to be armed actions against the Russian federation, nothing dissimilar to the people of Cheniya did earlier, and yet the protectors against such acts are not reacting by arresting the womnan, who can raise an army with the wealth she embesseled from the Ukraininan people. May be it is the Muslims and oher less privileged nations that needs to be charechterized as terrorists, for when a few people are killed in Europe there'd be an immidiate inquiry while the deaths and mass disappearances are ignored, or even comended by red-carpetted wellomings to the perpetrators.
In Response

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
March 08, 2014 7:34 AM
Julia is waiting her turn at the trough as 'prime' hog. How did she get out of a Ukrainian prison?

by: Adreiy SAKAROVE from: Russia
March 07, 2014 5:41 PM
Remember Russia is the top #1 support terrorist on Earth, black gun market and very cheap to terrorist.

by: meanbill from: USA
March 07, 2014 5:35 PM
QUESTION? ... WHY won't the (VOA) news tell the truth about the "Crimea Home Self-Defense Forces" in Crimea, instead of misleading people into believing they are real Russian troops..
ANYBODY with half a brain can see, these are sloppy, undisciplined, and unprofessional looking military dressed men, with old outdated mixed uniforms, and not trained Russian troops... They are exactly what Putin said they are, "Crimea Home Self-Defense Forces" made up of Crimea citizens from all walks of life, to defend Crimea.
PLEASE TELL THE TRUTH .. VOA news, and be truthful in reporting it....... REALLY
In Response

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
March 08, 2014 7:37 AM
Russian trucks? What's wrong with Russian trucks, they can carry anything from bayonets to babies. It's Russian TANKS that are indicative of something aggressive.
In Response

by: Freedom from: Montana
March 07, 2014 8:29 PM
Yes Crimean self-defense force arriving in trucks with RUSSIAN license plates on them. How stupid do you think we are?

by: David from: Dallas
March 07, 2014 4:19 PM
One must ask what role U.S. clandestine services have had in this matter - going all of the way back to October 2013 or earlier. In any event, let the people of Crimea vote. I hope the referendum will be open and fair. Also impressed with how quickly they scheduled the election. BTW, I never heard how the current PM and establishment in Kiev was placed there.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 07, 2014 11:12 AM
It would be just right and the best thing if Oleksandr Turchynov keeps quiet. He took power by illegal means, who is he to judge us on what is right or wrong? Russia has warned sanctions will be counterproductive. Tymoshenko may think she is right, but she isn't. Nobody heard her voice when the mob action was going on, and the opposition had a field day committing all sorts of illegality in the name of protest. By siding with an illegal government, she downgrades herself, losing respect. I believe Germany understands what is at play; it is not wise to make trouble and bring in Germany to clean up the mess. If it was right for the EU to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine to help them determine a choice for the West, what makes it wrong for Russia to do the same in its own way? Although two wrongs can't make a right, but Russia's case here is defensible, in that it is defending democratic principles. Japan may be Obama's fan - a bandwagon nation - to join in whether good or bad, as long as it queues with its allies in the West. That is not how to be a great country. China proves it's nobody's stooge. So it stands watching what direction the wind blows. We can only hope that it is not going to fall into wrong hands at the end. Britain may also have played same game, understanding that there is violation of principles in Ukraine in the first instance, before the incursion of Russia. It's not always that might is right; even in this case, the might of USA and the bandwagon effect (or intimidating plurality) of the EU may not be good enough to misplace the issue of might and right here. For Russia is the country concerned.
In Response

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
March 08, 2014 7:40 AM
It would be good if Obama "agreed with EU leaders" as has been reported in the US press. But he doesn't. They aren't mobilizing their military forces for any sort of 'demonstration' or 'confrontation'. Nor have the spoken of sanctions.

Obama has done all of these. Scratch the surface, the EU DON'T agree with him.

by: musawi melake
March 07, 2014 7:48 AM
Even Your marching into the prime minstership is not in anyway conforms With civilization.You walked in With sheer force and now you claim to represent Ukrain. If their vote for Ref. is not legal as Mr. Obama claims, ignorrently, then no one knows howmany if any Ukrainians do support you when they are free from intimidation and threats.

by: Michael from: U.S.A
March 07, 2014 7:30 AM
This whole thing should have started with a referendum. If they want to join Russia let them join Russia. Although if they were so " Pro Russian" you would think they would move to Russia.
In Response

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
March 08, 2014 7:41 AM
The Crimea IS more Russian than it has ever been Ukrainian.
In Response

by: Raphael from: Staten Island
March 07, 2014 4:17 PM
Who we have to pay 1 bln dollars?Let Russian take care of them.

by: Nehmo Sergheyev
March 07, 2014 7:02 AM
First, it's debatable that Arseniy Yatsenyuk is prime minister of the Ukraine. He wasn't elected by the people of the Ukraine.
Now,' "no one in the civilized world" will recognize the results of the region's referendum on joining Russia.' Who is this civilized world he is talking about? Apparently, only those who agree with him are civilized.
In any case, the whole idea of democracy is the vote. And a referendum is an election over an issue. The people of Crimea don't want to be ruled by his government. I don't blame them.

by: Chris from: Australia
March 07, 2014 6:45 AM
Remember Rhodesian UDI?
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