President Putin’s forces take Crimea, says invasion justified as threat to Russian interests are evident
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Mere hours after the Russian parliament approved a request from the Kremlin to send troops into neighbouring Ukraine, Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that sending Russian troops into their politically unstable neighbour is justified to protect Russian interests and Russian citizens living in Ukraine.
Russian troops have advanced inside Ukraine, seizing control of Crimea with the assistance of pro-Russian groups in the region. Russia asserts that its actions are required to protect Russian-speaking populations living within Ukraine.
Interim Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov ordered his troops at “full readiness.” Turchinov was installed as president last week as former president Viktor Yanukovych fled the Ukrainian capital after months of demonstrations against his government.
International condemnation of Russia’s unilateral military action in Ukraine was swift.
US President Barack Obama promised “consequences” if Russia were to invade Ukrainian territory. Upon hearing of the military action by Russia, Obama spoke with France and Canada’s leaders to discuss helping Ukraine, and he also had a phone conversation with Putin.
The Toronto Star has reported that Putin told Obama “Russian troops may send its troops not only to Crimea but all of predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine due to ‘the existence of real threats’ to Russian citizens in Ukrainian territory.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has recalled his ambassador from Moscow and met in an emergency cabinet meeting. Initial indications are that Harper will boycott the G8 meetings which are scheduled for June 4-5 in Sochi, Russia. Obama also indicated he may skip the G8 meeting in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The United Nations Security Council has had emergency session meetings to discuss the crisis, one of which was televised. Several groups, including Ukraine’s UN ambassador, are calling on the council to stop Russian “aggression.”
This is not the first time in recent years that Russia has taken unilateral military action against one of its neighbours. In 2008, Russian troops entered Georgia to support a pro-Russian separatist group demonstrating against the Georgian government. The Georgians at the time were moving to adopt a more pro-European Union foreign policy.