– justify military intervention in former Soviet countries, and signaled a possible expansion of the crisis in Ukraine
– that Kiev’s new government was unable to maintain law and order and ensure public safety.
MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russia reserves the right to ensure the safety of all Russians in Ukraine, the country’s Foreign Ministry said Friday in a statement following clashes Thursday between demonstrators in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
The statement echoed Moscow’s tried-and-tested tactic of citing concern over the safety of ethnic Russians and Russian passport-holders to justify military intervention in former Soviet countries, and signaled a possible expansion of the crisis in Ukraine, where Russian involvement has so far been confined to the country’s Crimean Peninsula.
Clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk on Thursday between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrators led to at least one fatality and 26 people seeking treatment at area hospitals for injuries, according to local health officials.
Friday’s statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry cited the events in Donetsk as evidence that Kiev’s new government was unable to maintain law and order and ensure public safety.
Masked soldiers lacking insignia but driving vehicles with Russian license plates and carrying weapons used by the Russian military have seized control of key infrastructure and military bases in Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea in recent weeks, where a referendum on secession and annexation by Russia is scheduled for Sunday.
Authorities in Kiev and international leaders have condemned the referendum as illegitimate and threatened Moscow with sanctions over its apparent plan to annex the region.
Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian region with a narrow ethnic Russian majority, is one of several Ukrainian regions that have rejected as illegitimate the government in Kiev that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 after months of street protests following his step back from closer ties with the European Union.
Western officials have expressed concern that recent large-scale military drills in western Russia – which borders Ukraine – signify that Moscow is keeping the option of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine on the table.
Russian military intervention in Georgia in 2008 was prompted by claims that the South Caucasus nation had launched a military assault on South Ossetia, a breakaway province occupied almost entirely by Russian passport-holders.
Categories: Escalation / Destabilization Conflict