SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — A Russian armored personnel carrier loomed beside a checkpoint controlling access to Sevastopol on Wednesday while other heavily armed vehicles moved into public places to guard Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the Crimean port, as Russian President Vladimir Putin further ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine’s caretaker government Wednesday.
Tens of thousands gather in Kiev’s Independence square to hear the line-up of the new pro-Western cabinet on February 26, 2014.
Earlier, Russia placed 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border on alert and ordered urgent exercises to test combat readiness. The unprecedented moves — which included men wearing combat gear, ski masks and armed with assault rifles searching vehicles 40 kiolmetres north of Sevastopol — sent a clear signal to Kyiv and to the West of Russia’s determination to continue to defend what it regards as its interests, and the interests of Ukraine’s large Russian minority, in places such as the Crimea.
Russia’s actions came four days after a bloody coup by pro-European activists forced former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to flee Kyiv.
While obviously designed to intimidate Kyiv, what Putin was also doing was reassuring anxious ethnic Russians in Ukraine that they had not been abandoned.
Ukraine’s deepening political fault lines, and the potential for mayhem, were not only evident in Sevastopol and Moscow. They were on clear display Wednesday 100 kilometres to the north in Simferopol. Crimean Tatars loyal to Kyiv and chanting “allahu akbar” clashed with a group of Russian-Ukrainians who shouted their support for Moscow. A group of Tatars pushed their way past riot police and into the Crimean parliament where they succeeded in stopping debate on a motion to secede from Ukraine. source – National Post.