Putin: Russian citizens, troops threatened in Ukraine, need armed forces’ protection

 

Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Alexander Khudoteply)
Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Alexander Khudoteply)

Published time: March 01, 2014 12:53

Russian President Vladimir Putin has requested the use of Russian military forces in Ukraine to settle the situation there. The Russian population and the Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet are threatened by the situation in the country, he said. Facts  you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil Putin’s request was filed after the Chairman of the Federation  Council, Valentina Matvienko, said that in order to “protect  the people” Russia could theoretically send troops to  Ukraine. She particularly referred to the crisis in the  Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where Russians make the majority  of the population. “It’s possible in this situation, complying with a request by  the Crimean government, even to bring a limited contingent of our  troops to ensure the safety of the Black Sea Fleet and the  Russian citizens living on Crimean territory. The decision is for  the president, the chief military commander, to make, of course.  But today, taking the situation into account, even that variant  can’t be excluded. We need to protect the people,” Matvienko  said.

“In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the    threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our    compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the    Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory (in the Autonomous    Republic of Crimea)… I submit a proposal on using the armed    forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine    until the normalization of the socio-political situation in the    that country.”

The Russian government has so far been careful in its assessment  of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian government in Kiev.  Matvienko said the reason for that was Russia counting on its  Western partners, who vowed to guarantee the February 21  agreements between ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich  and the opposition. “Russia did not interfere in the situation in Ukraine for a  very long time and showed restraint, assuming that the Western  states, which became backers of the agreements, would see that  strict compliance with the deal is observed,” she said. However, after “violent upheaval” took place in Ukraine,  the Western states did not come up with “any reasonable  measures or responses,” Matvienko said. Russia, in contrast, for a very long time has urged the situation  to be resolved by lawful means, and called for the anti-coup  sentiments in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine to be heard, she  said. “Not seeing an adequate reaction from the West, we could no  longer maintain status quo,” the speaker concluded. Matvienko spoke as thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators rallied  in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Melitopol, Yevpatoria and  Mariupol, protesting against the rule of new Kiev authorities. The Russian leader held detailed phone discussions on   “various aspects of the extraordinary situation in  Ukraine” with US President Barack Obama, the Kremlin press  service reported. Putin stressed that in the case of further spread of violence in  the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the  right to protect their interests and the Russian speaking  population. Putin emphasised the existence of real threats to the life and  health of Russian citizens on Ukrainian territory. In a separate conversation with French President Francois  Hollande, Putin said that there is a real threat to the lives of  citizens of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, Itar-tass reports. The Russian commander in chief also held a telephone conversation  with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the case of an  escalation of violence against the Russian-speaking population in  the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, the Kremlin announced. Putin stressed that Russia cannot remain on the sidelines and  will apply the necessary measures within the framework of  international law to prevent further escalation of the crisis in  Ukraine. According to the Russian Constitution, the use of Army on foreign  territories can only be approved by the majority of the  Federation Council members upon a request by the President.

The developments follow an appeal by the Prime Minister of the  Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, who requested  that Russia to help cope with the crisis and ensure “peace  and calm” in the region. The tension in Crimea escalated following an attempt to seize the  building of the local Interior Ministry by gunmen overnight.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement,  blaming the new authorities in Kiev for intending to   “destabilize the situation on the peninsula.” Meanwhile, self-proclaimed Ukrainian Acting President Aleksandr  Turchinov has signed a decree ruling that appointment of the  pro-Russia premier in Crimea is “illegal.” Aksyonov, who is the leader of Crimea’s Russian Unity party, was  appointed as the new Prime Minister of the autonomy after the  Crimean Supreme Council dismissed the regional government. Peace  and order in the region has been maintained by local armed  self-defense squads, which were widely misreported as Russian  troops on Friday. Massive media speculation also arose around claims that the  Russian military have been making “illegal” moves in  Crimea. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent an official note to  Ukraine, stressing that all the moves are carried out “in  full accordance with basic Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the  Black Sea Fleet.”

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