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Главная » 2014 » Marzec » 3 » Ukraine's new navy chief switches sides
Ukraine's new navy chief switches sides
Updated 7:22 AM Monday Mar 3, 2014
Manipulation, surprise and provocation Russia's favoured gambit.
Ukraine's navy chief has switched allegiance to the pro-Russian authorities of the flashpoint peninsula of Crimea, a day after he was appointed to the post by interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov.
"I swear to execute the orders of the (pro-Russia) commander-in-chief of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,'' Denis Berezovsky said in a televised statement from inside the Crimean headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, adding that he "swears allegiance to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea''.
Read more of the Herald's Ukraine coverage today:
• Britain pulls out of G8 meetings in Russia
. Developments in the Ukraine worrying - McCully
• Thousands march in pro-invasion rally in Moscow
• Russia state TV pulls plug on live Oscars coverage
• At the heart of Ukraine drama, a tale of two countries
The seismic declaration came as the Kiev authorities appeared to be losing control of the Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula, which has plunged further and further into disarray since the ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych last weekend.

Armed men that Kiev believes are backed by Moscow have since seized key government buildings in the region and surrounded Ukrainian military bases, and Russia's parliament on Saturday approved the deployment of troops into the country.

It is unclear why and how Berezovsky switched his allegiance, but Crimea's newly appointed pro-Russia prime minister Sergiy Aksyonov, who is not recognised by Kiev, said the announcement was a "historic event'' at a joint press conference with the navy chief.

- Putin boldly stakes claim over Crimea -

One of the alarming features of the crisis on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula is the staggering confidence with which President Vladimir Putin is pursuing his agenda there and in eastern Ukraine.

Russian troops from the Black Sea fleet have seized airports and strategic locations, including government buildings and broadcast centres. Saboteurs have damaged the fibreoptic telephone cables connecting Crimea to Ukraine. There are unconfirmed reports of attempts to seize an air defence missile base and of landings by military hovercraft. The upper house of the Russian Parliament voted unanimously to approve an intervention that was already happening.

The recent moves are instantly recognisable from the old Russian military playbook - not least the emphasis on manipulation, surprise and provocation by which a sense of crisis is stoked up followed by an appeal for aid. Whether this will follow the pattern of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian peacekeepers occupied and effectively annexed territory, is a moot point on a peninsula with a large Russian-speaking population dominated by both the Black Sea fleet base at Sevastopol and by the large bases of the Russian southern military command across the border around Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.
Unidentified armed men patrol around a Ukraine's infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine. Photo / AP
Unidentified armed men patrol around a Ukraine's infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine. Photo / AP

But for now it seems that is the intention. It is for this very reason - combined with the Russian seat on the Security Council and its nuclear status - that Putin has ample room for manoeuvre in Crimea. Potential Western sanctions against Moscow are limited to largely symbolic gestures.

The real bind is for the new Ukrainian Government in Kiev and for the EU, both of which will want to avoid a widening conflict. The reality is that an already fragile and divided Ukraine cannot risk confrontation with Moscow, which was supposed to guarantee the security of its borders when it gave up its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a hint of what may be in store, the Russian Energy Ministry has issued a pointed reminder of how much Kiev owes Gazprom for gas imports.

The assertion of Russia's influence in Crimea fulfils two overlapping functions. It underlines Moscow's longstanding strategic interest there and undermines Ukraine's new Government in its efforts to establish its authority over the country's east, in particular in the run-up to May 25 elections. The actions in Crimea have prompted an inevitable response, not least in Donetsk, where strong pro-Russian sentiments are in evidence.

In the short term a truncated, divided, increasingly impoverished and perhaps politically and militarily impotent Ukraine will emerge from this crisis. That will suit Putin. What is hard to see, having been so effectively outmanoeuvred over the past two days, is how the US and EU should respond beyond futile expressions of outrage. It is clear that when Western political institutions have attempted to penetrate Russia's neighbours - the suggestion of Nato expansion in Georgia, and closer EU integration for Ukraine - Moscow has hit back hard.

The only concrete efforts so far have been the threat by President Barack Obama to boycott the G8 summit in Sochi, and support for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's deployment of his special envoy, Robert Serry, to Crimea to seek a mediated solution. So far Serry has been rebuffed.

The crisis presents the biggest threat to security in Europe since the Balkan wars, and Western leaders have hardly been impressive in their response, demonstrating a weak grasp on the events unfolding. Putin is ahead of the game. It is time for the international community to catch up.

- Observer

What can be done now?


The strident arm of the Republican Party has been calling for the Bush-era missile defence plan to be revived, with missiles dispatched to the Czech republic. They see what is occurring as a result of President Barack Obama's weakness - the flip-flopping over Syria, abandonment of Iraq, withdrawal from Afghanistan - and believe sabre-rattling is needed, returning strength with strength.


Although Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, will veto them, resolutions may be introduced at the UN condemning what has unfolded. The G8 could revert to its pre-1998 incarnation as the G7, with Russia excluded. Turkey is likely to be a key determinant. It sees Crimea's Tatars as kin, and has protested at injustices against those who returned from enforced exile after the Soviet Union collapsed.


Sanctions are a blunt weapon, although the slowing Russian economy means a trade hit would have impact. The Bosphorus is an important export route for Russian fossil fuels. Its closure by the Turks would hurt. But there are more targeted penalties available. Last week, Switzerland and Austria froze all assets linked to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. London and the US are likely to follow. The Magnitsky Act, which at present has only been adopted by the US but allows it to bar Russian individuals linked to illegal activity, could be extended.

- Independent

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