Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov of Crimea is claiming that Ukrainian military units in his state have surrendered and the peninsula is safely under Russian control after weeks of turmoil and an imposing Russian military presence in the area. Meanwhile, Russian leader Vladimir Putin claimed the “legitimacy” of his intervention in Ukraine.
The New York Times is reporting that Aksyonov announced that “a majority of Ukrainian military units on the peninsula had surrendered and pledged allegiance to his pro-Russian government.” His government had, according to Russian sources, requested military assistance from Russia, though the government in Kiev has called Putin’s move into the area an “armed invastion.” He introduced the news as success, adding that Crimea was working to speed up the process from which to secede from Ukraine.
Currently, Ukraine is set to vote on their independence on March 30, and while the Prime Minister did not specify an alternative plan, he noted that the current date was too far away to maintain the stability he sought. The statewide Crimean Parliament, dissolved several weeks ago in the wake of the retreat of Viktor Yanukovych, elected an entirely new, pro-Russian government, including Prime Minister Aksyonov.
“There is no safety threat to human life in Crimea,” Aksyonov asserted today, adding that even the Ukrainian troops were not in danger if they continued to surrender to the Russian/Crimean forces. Aksyonov did not attempt to debunk the claim by United States officials that Crimea was currently under complete Russian dominion.
Prime Minister Aksyonov’s comments follow official statements from President Vladimir Putin, who announced that any presence of Russian forces in Ukraine was “legitimate” because ousted President Viktor Yanukovych requested it, though he added that use of military force against the new Ukrainian government would be a “last resort.” The comments follow the seizure of the Crimean Parliament and the regional airport by mystery armed gunmen claiming to support the annexation of Crimea into Russia.
That tempered language did not continue in describing the new Ukrainian government, which Putin called “armed terrorists” and antagonists in “an anti-constitutional coup” and “the armed seizure of power.” According to Reuters, one potential reason for the comparatively milder language against the Ukrainian government is the precipitous drop in the Russian stock market, which lost more money on Monday than the amount the country spent on hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Earlier this week, President Obama told President Putin in a phone call that he was not happy with the movement of troops into Crimea and that it would be a desirable outcome if Putin retreated out of Ukraine.