Russia Ukraine Ultimatum: Get Out of Crimea or “Face Storm”

News Brief — March 3, 2014

Tensions continue to mount over the face-off between Russia and the Ukraine.
Russia has demanded that two Ukrainian warships in Sevastopol harbour surrender immediately or face being stormed. Four Russian navy ships in the harbor were blocking Ukraine’s anti-submarine warship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych, waiting for their answers.
As the stand-off continues Russia’s relations with the West have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.
In a series of interviews late Sunday night the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the Obama administration was considering imposing sanctions if Russia didn’t “step back”. Warning that “There could even be, ultimately, asset freezes, visa bans” and disruption of trade if it didn’t.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary William Hague has described the crisis over Ukraine as “certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century”, adding that there was “no justification” for the actions in Crimea, where Russia had “in effect taken control”.
Hague made the comments in Kiev where he is meeting with Ukraine’s new leaders to try and defuse the crisis.
During a joint news conference with the new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the British foreign secretary warned that Russia that it would pay “significant costs” for any moves against Ukraine.
However, during the news conference Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said a military response was not being considered at the moment: “The UK is not discussing military options. Our concentration is on diplomatic and economic pressure.”
Elsewhere Russian military units were gathering close to Ukraine’s border with Russia. Currently there are some 150,000 Russian troops in regions adjacent to eastern Ukraine, ostensibly on military exercises.
Russia could also deploy specialised military units like the 7th Guards Airborne Division based at Novorossisk and a variety of Special Forces formations.
Meanwhile Russia has issued a deadline. According to a source at the defence ministry in Kiev quoted by Interfax news agency, Russian Black Sea Fleet commander Aleksandr Vitko set a deadline of 3am Tuesday.
“If they do not give up by 5am [3am GMT] tomorrow, there will be a real storm of subdivisions and units of Ukraine’s military forces all over Crimea,” Vitko was quoted as saying.
However, the Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the Ukrainian claims as “total nonsense“.
A spokesman for the ministry told reporters:
“We have become accustomed to the daily accusations by the Ukrainian media of carrying out some sort of military actions against our Ukrainian colleagues,” Russian Black Sea Fleet representative said, adding that “those who want to pit us against each other in the Crimea won’t succeed.”

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