Ukraine Approves National Guard, Russia Performs Military Exercises on Border
Ukraine’s parliament voted to create a national guard consisting of 60,000 men to provide security from Russia. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov proposed the resolution.
The guard will be formed of interior ministry employees and members of the "self-defence" militia that emerged from the pro-Western protest movement which toppled Viktor Yanukovych, the former president.
Mr Turchinov said mismanagement of the security and armed forces by Mr Yanukovych had effectively rendered the country incapable of defending itself.
262 Members of Parliament out of 330 voted in favor of the resolution.
Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine, has been under Russia’s control since Ukraine deposed Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. The peninsula has a referendum on Sunday and the people will vote to stay a part of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. Over 58% of the population are ethnic Russians and Crimea is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Pro-Russians and Russian forces seized government buildings, the airport, ferry terminals, border posts and hospitals. Russia President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s military had nothing to do with the takeover, but Ukraine soldiers claim there are more than 30,000 Russian troops in Crimea.
Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said Ukraine has 6,000 soldiers while Russia has over 200,000 soldiers at the ready on Ukraine’s border. Moscow ordered military exercises near Ukraine with 8,500 soldiers and 36 military jets.
“The main purpose of these actions is to completely check teamwork of the units and make them implement combat missions on an unknown territory,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement, adding that the exercises were expected to last until the end of March.
The West has threatened sanctions against Russia over their aggression towards Ukraine. The G7 leaders told Russia they will not recognize Crimea's referendum and if Russia annexes Crimea they will be violating several international laws.