March 2014 – UKRIANE – In an extraordinary day which redrew the map of Europe, fears were growing that widespread violence would erupt in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. An Ukrainian officer was killed in a confrontation in Simferopol, just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an incendiary speech justifying Moscow’s reclamation of the former Ukrainian territory. Several others were injured and the Ukrainian commander captured as the military facility in the Crimean capital was stormed by troops dressed in Russian camouflage kits and balaclavas. The Ukrainian Prime Minister warned that “the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage” and claimed that “Russian soldiers have started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and that is a war crime.” His government, he added, has now authorized the use of firearms for its forces surrounded in their bases in Crimea. Ukraine has also called up 40,000 reservists in preparation for any potential armed conflict with Russia.
However, there were indications that it was the separatist Crimean government’s recently created “Self Defense Forces” who had actually carried out the fatal attack. Local officials, meanwhile, claimed that “fascist snipers” had fired the first shot from a residential building and one of the injured was one of the defense force members. The Ukrainian and Russian governments had agreed to a ceasefire until 21 March, aimed at preventing hostilities breaking out at the blockaded bases. But there was apprehension that the assault and the resultant death and injuries may break the delicate accord, with highly dangerous consequences. The shooting began three and-a-half hours after Mr Putin had claimed Crimea for his country in a speech laced with invectives against the West and a robust reassertion of Russian power. At the end of his 66-minute address , punctuated by repeated applause, came the signing of documents which, the Kremlin declared, transferred control of Crimea from Ukraine to Russia once and for all. There were expressions of outrage from the US, the European Union and the government in Kiev, but no immediate ratcheting up of the international sanctions Moscow has publicly derided as ineffectual. The G7 group of countries are to hold an emergency summit, at President Barack Obama’s request, in the Hague next week, when announcements of further measures are expected. NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen also condemned Russia’s move to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region, saying Moscow had embarked on a “dangerous path. Crimea’s annexation is illegal and illegitimate and Nato allies will not recognize it,” he said. –Independent UK