Friday, February 28, 2014

Global Impact: Ousted Ukrainian Leader Now in Moscow, Russian Troops Reportedly Enter Crimea

According to CNN, the rear-view mirror of ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych, 63, seems to become increasingly opaque by the moment.

A news conference earlier today (February 28) from vantage point in southeastern Russia underscored just how dim his prospects appear to be, as the ousted Ukrainian president complained that his host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, was hardly spending much time with him.

"I consider that Russia must and has to act," Yanukovych told reporters who had assembled in the city of Rostov-on-Don, near the southwestern border with Ukraine, some 700 miles south of Moscow.

According to CNN, tension dramatically mounted in Ukraine's Crimea region late on Friday as its ambassador to the United Nations warned Russia against any further violation of its territorial borders, a warning that came as Washington urged Russia to pull back from the region or face possible consequences.

"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine," US President Barack Obama said in televised comments from the White House. "...It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws."

Obama said any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be "deeply destabilizing, and he warned "the US will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."

COMMENT: Ukraine accused Russian Black Sea forces of trying to seize two airports in Crimea but said Ukrainian security forces prevented them from taking control.
Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov earlier characterized the presence at the airport of unidentified gunmen, who wore uniforms without insignia, as an "armed invasion."
At a press conference outside the UN Security Council, Ukraine's ambassador to the UN, Yuriy Sergeyev said the country was prepared to defend itself and urged the UN's moral and political support for the Kiev government, particularly in Crimea.
Nowhere is that feeling more intense than in Crimea, the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership. And Ukraine suspects Russia of fomenting tension in the autonomous region that might escalate into a bid for separation by its Russian majority.
The U.S. State Department warned Americans to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, particularly the Crimea region, "due to the potential for instability following the departure of former President Yanukovych and the establishment of a new government."

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday morning about the airport and military activities, and Lavrov told Kerry that the Russians "are not engaging in any violation of the sovereignty" of Ukraine. Russia has a military base agreement with the country.

Making his first public appearance since his ouster Saturday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said the newly appointed interim government was not legitimate and did not represent the majority of Ukraine's 45 million citizens.

In Russia, intimation often means as much as overt clarity. That being said, although the ousted former president of the Ukraine and Putin have only spoken on the phone as 700 miles separates them, hardly a suggestion that the two are bosom pals.

If anything, Putin is strategically keeping his special guest at a distance.

In a rambling news conference that lasted far too long, the ousted leader spoke interestingly in Russian, instead of the Ukrainian that he has used at official functions.

The former Ukrainian leader said that he had left his country only after his life and the lives of his family were threatened and that he planned to return to his country when it is safe to do so.

Seemingly, Yanukovych called for a national referendum "as soon as possible," suggesting that he actually expects to return to Kiev. 

Yanukovych, who is wanted in the Ukraine on charges related to the killings of demonstrators last week in Kiev, denied having ordered police to fire on them, killing scores of citizens.

According to, state-run TV in Russia has characterized the former neighbor as a coward who betrayed those who stood by him.
The conflicting messages indicate that while Russia still considers him the legitimate president of Ukraine, it is far from happy with his handling of Ukraine's crisis.

Anatoly Kucherena, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, said Yanukovych's life was in danger in Ukraine and that Russia had no choice but to grant his request for protection, but it did not necessarily mean that he still had the Kremlin's support.