Ukraine’s Western-backed prime minister said on Tuesday that his country’s conflict with Russia was entering a “military stage” following claims by Kiev that one of its officers was shot and wounded in Crimea’s largest city, Simferopol.
“The conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told an emergency government meeting. “Russian soldiers have started shooting at Ukrainian military servicemen, and that is a war crime.”
Reports state that Ukrainian troops are currently being attacked by Russian forces, following information provided by the Interfax news agency which quoted a Ukrainian military spokesman.
“One Ukrainian serviceman has been wounded in the neck and collarbone. Now we have barricaded ourselves on the second floor. The headquarters has been taken and the commander has been taken. They want us to put down our arms but we do not intend to surrender,” he said.
“We are being stormed. We have about 20 people here and about 10 to 15 others, including women,” an unidentified serviceman told Fifth Channel television. “One of our officers was wounded during the attack, grazed in the neck and arm.”
Earlier today, Russia President Putin signed the treaty with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and other Crimean leaders at a ceremony at the Kremlin attended by both houses of parliament. Lawmakers, who still have to ratify the treaty, broke into applause and cheers after the signing.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that it now considers Crimea part of Russia following the signing of a treaty, despite strong objections from the international community which insists the Black Sea peninsula is Ukrainian territory.
Meanwhile, politicians in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria have asked the Russian parliament to allow their territory to join the Russian Federation. The region, also known as Trans-Dniester, forms the part of Moldova on the east bank of the Dniester river. It declared independence from Moldova as the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, but no state has ever recognised it.
Former UK Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, told the BBC this morning, “All that the international community has done so far is implement visa sanctions and asset freezes on 22 or 23 individuals – that is a pathetic response”.
AFP contributed to this report