Saturday, 1 March 2014

Is Russia intervening militarily in Ukraine?

An armed man patrols at the airport in Simferopol, Crimea.
Crimea's Belbek airport, located immediately north of Sevastopol, has ceased operations amid reports of the runway being seized by gunmen, Interfax Ukraine reported February 28...Belbek is the home of Ukraine's 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade...Simferopol commercial airport, 95 kilometers northeast of Sevastopol, has been reportedly secured by military personnel of unknown origin, but flights are reported to be operating normally...A BBC reporter on February 28 reported seeing 10 lorries full of men and bearing Russian military plates moving on the road from Sevastopol toward Simferopol...The report came amid dispatches from other media outlets, including, saying that a group of Russian Mi-24 helicopters were moving toward Belbek airport, 25 kilometers from Sevastopol...The BBC cited one unconfirmed media report that eight Russian military helicopters had arrived in Sevastopol from Russia itself...Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described the blockading of an airport in Sevastopol as “an armed invasion and occupation”..."This is a direct provocation to armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state," he added....A post on Avakov's Facebook page said troops from the Russian Black Sea Fleet could be seen outside Belbek airport...The press service of the Black Sea Fleet has denied the reports...Russia appears to be using military force to secure the strategically-important Crimean peninsula and further convince Ukraine not to pursue closer ties with Europe...By moving troops into Crimea, Russia may be encouraging secession...The interim government in Kiev, now that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country, will be under a lot of pressure internally if it cannot retain control of its lands...If the troops are Russian, and the weaponry and demeanor of the gunman suggest they are, this Russian move constitutes a military intervention in Ukraine...It is unclear whether dozens of helicopters shown flying over the Crimea on internet video are Russian or Ukrainian as both nations operate Mi-24 type aircraft...The international community could become involved if the matter is taken to the UN Security Council...However, Russia is a veto member and could argue it made the actions in self-defence on behalf of an ally.

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