Pro-Russians in Crimea viciously attacked and beat up pro-Ukrainians Sunday morning.
Ben Brown from the BBC described the attack:
It started peacefully. Ukrainians – many of them middle-aged women – waved flags and sang songs to celebrate the birth 200 years ago of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. They see him as the father of the Ukrainian language.
But by the end of the rally, pro-Russian demonstrators had turned up to gatecrash the celebrations. A line of young men and Cossacks with whips stood and glared at the rally menacingly – tension rose, and arguments broke out, both sides telling each other that Crimea is “our country.”
Then it turned nasty, very nasty. The pro-Russians chased a group into a nearby car park. First, they set upon the driver of a white van, smashing his windscreen. He tried to drive through the mob to get away but crashed into another vehicle and was attacked again.
Another person was dragged into some bushes, kicked, beaten and lashed with a Cossack’s whip.
We were threatened, too, by the pro-Russians and ran away before they set upon us as well. It was a terrifying moment, and a glimpse into the abyss that Crimea now teeters over.
Russia is in complete control of Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine. The peninsula, which is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and over 58% ethnic Russians, asked to join the Russian Federation and scheduled a referendum for March 16. Russia said Crimea would be more than welcome to join, and the Russian parliament pushed through legislation to make it easier to annex any country that wishes membership.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the referendum is illegal and the country will not allow Russia to take an inch of Ukrainian land. President Obama came out in support of Yatseniuk.
Tensions have been high ever since Crimea kicked out its Kiev-appointed officials and elected pro-Russian replacements. Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps assuring the West he has not sent in more troops, but Ukrainian soldiers have said there are at least 30,000 Russian soldiers in the peninsula.