Russian Invasion of Ukraine

 Summary:

cnntanks
CNN

On February 27th, Russian naval infantry forces seized control of the Crimean capital, installing through a vote at gunpoint, a radical pro-Russian politician. Days prior, protests in Crimea erupted demanding secession, primarily in Simferopol and Sevastopol – in Sevastopol, a Russian citizen was named de facto mayor of the city. On the night of February 28th Russian forces then took the airports in both cities, and continued to spread out, establishing control of border posts, military installations, telecommunications buildings, and the media. Airspace is now restricted. Crimea’s de facto PM declared control over Ukraine’s military within Crimea, and Russia approved the use of force to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. No clashes have yet erupted between both nation’s armed forces. Some figures place the Russian presence as high as 28,000 troops.

Mass demonstrations have taken place across the south and east of the country protesting the Russian invasion, while smaller groups of Russian nationalists have violently stormed government buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Odessa. The Ukrainian armed forces remain at high alert and have announced a mobilization of its reservists, and many have volunteered to take up arms.

Russia has begun wanton aggression against Ukraine under the guise of training exercises. The Russian Federation has sent troops into Crimea, and has not only captured the Crimean parliament and Council of Ministers, but also has taken control of communications facilities […] We’re sure that Ukraine will preserve its territory, Ukraine will defend its independence, and any attempts of annexation or intrusion will have very serious consequences
– Acting Ukrainian President Turchynov

Article  was last updated Mar 4 @ 4:20pm EST

LIVE timeline, March 1st: It’s official

At 1am local time on March 1st, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement that they received intel informing of an attack on Ukrainian military installations between 2-5am, and that the Ukrainian army would respond if attacked. In turn, at 2am, the military airfield in Kirovske was captured by Russian soldiers. There is an unconfirmed report from Seabreeze.org.ua that the Nikolai Filchenkov Alligator-class landing ship, capable of carrying 300-400 troops, is due to arrive in Sevastopol this morning. UNIAN confirmed the arrival of the ship, citing military sources and that some 700 Russian Airborne paratroopers were aboard.

Russian troops stand by a supporter holding a Soviet naval flag
Russian troops stand by a supporter holding a Soviet naval flag

A Request to Declare War

[one_fifth]”I appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to assist in maintaining peace”[/one_fifth]

At 8:45am, controversially appointed Crimean PM Sergei Aksenov issued a statement declaring that due to the worsening situation involving Russian “unidentified armed groups” and “military equipment” in the region, and the inability of police to deal with with the military threat, he invokes his constitutional powers to subsume all regional police, border guards, security forces, and Ukrainian army & navy under his direct authority, and away from the new central government in Kyiv. He then directed all military commanders to only follow his direct orders, and that any dissenters would be dismissed from the service. “Given the above, realizing their responsibility for the lives and safety of citizens, I appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to assist in maintaining peace and tranquility in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” the statement concluded. The Russian presidential administration quickly responded that it would not disregard the appeal to assist in ‘ensuring peace and tranquility in the autonomy.’ Russia’s state-owned Gazprom then issued notice that if Ukraine did not repay its debts, Russia would raise its prices, canceling previously negotiated discounts. Aksenov later issued a decree calling for March 30th elections on whether to join Russia, declare independence, or retain its current status.

Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated that “Ukraine will not succumb to provocations and not resort to force” and that the military was careful not to provoke a violent confrontation. “Sole responsibility for the escalation of the conflict lies with the person at the head of the Russian Federation,” he concluded.

Council declares use of force
Council declares use of force

The request, however, was reciprocated by Putin, who issued the following statement, requesting the use of military force to secure Crimea:

“Due to the extraordinary situation on Ukraine, threatened the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots; the personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation located in accordance with the international agreement on the territory of Ukraine (Autonomous Republic of Crimea), on the basis of paragraph “D” Part 1 of Article 102 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation am submitting to the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation appeal for use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine to the normalization of the political situation in this country.”

Russia’s upper house of parliament voted unanimously Saturday to approve sending Russian military forces into Ukraine. A new bill was drafted in the Russian Duma as well, making it easier for Ukrainians to acquire Russian citizenship (they would only need know the Russian language), as well as allowing for ‘new entities’ to join the Russian Federation. During the session, Russian parliamentarian Yuri Vorobyov slammed US president Obama’s statements on Russian non-intervention a direct threat to the Russian people. Other Russian Council members argued that troops were needed in mainland Ukraine until constitutional order (i.e. the previous pro-Russian regime) could be restored, and that their presence was needed to protect Ukraine’s Russian population. In a final move to solidify Russia’s stance on the situation, the Duma also declared that Ukraine’s scheduled presidential elections on May 25th would not be recognized.

When asked if Russia was concerned U.S. or NATO troops could be sent into Ukraine to counteract Russian forces, Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko responded, “On what grounds? We have not given [NATO and the U.S.] consent to deploy troops there.” Matviyenko suggested sending in a “limited contingent” of Russian military – similar language was noted to be used during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Russian infantry surround a Ukrainian military unit
Russian infantry surround a Ukrainian military unit

Russian forces, working with Berkut and auxiliary supporters have blockaded the border crossing between mainland Ukraine in Kherson, and the Crimean peninsula.

Off the Crimean coast, two Russian anti-submarine warships were sighted, violating an agreement on Moscow’s lease of a naval base, Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian military source as saying. The source said the two vessels, part of Russia’s  Baltic Fleet, had been sighted in a bay at Sevastopol, where Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet has a base. In Sevastopol, Russian troops (confirmed by Russian license plates) surrounded a Ukrainian military unit.

In cyber warfare, the Russian language social network VK began blocking pro-democratic Ukrainian pages. In one notable instance, the VK page for Ukrainian militant group Right Sector was hacked, and a statement was posted pleading to Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov to aid Ukraine – a controversial statement to discredit the Ukrainians as supporting terrorists. This precipitated Putin-installed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to issue a statement threatening Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh with death.

By late night, the Interpreter, citing an anonymous source, wrote that outside of Feodosia in the town of Sudak, in eastern Crimea, the situation is tense as another military base has been seized by Russian forces.

“Everything seems to be quiet for now, but very tense. Near us the military base has been seized, Ukrainian soldiers are not resisting, because the advantage of forces is on Russia’s side by about 5 times. Crimeans realize that they have wound up as hostages of the situation. The civilian population is not being touched, the Russian soldiers are concentrating on the airfields or the army bases.”

Shooting in Simeropol

Ukraine’s Channel 5 and Le Fiagro (France) reported that 20 masked militants without insignia opened fire with Russian-made assault rifles and grenade launchers on the streets of Simferopol. A brief battle allegedly took place at the House of Trade Unions between them and Russian soldiers. According to one eyewitness, the unidentified  insurgents tried to storm the building. Police have not yet commented on the situation. No civilians were injured. (video & more video) The Russian media portrayed the men as Ukrainian extremists.

March 2nd: Russian expansion

Ukrainian troops defy Russian siege of their military base
Ukrainian troops defy Russian siege of their military base

The U.S. tracked “thousands more” of Russian troops entering into Ukraine’s Crimea on Sunday to reinforce Russian positions, a senior U.S. official said. Russian troops seized the military installations and airfields in Dzhankoy and Kerch (eastern Crimea), attempted to disarm the 39th and 191st Training unit of the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol, and hundreds of soldiers laid siege to the 36th Ukrainian Coastal Defense unit in Perevalne (between Simferopol and Alushta). Standoffs with Russian forces took place, including with Interior Troops and marines who refused to stand down. Auxiliaries were called up from retirement or inactive status with Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and wore black-and-orange ribbons or red armbands identifying themselves as “volunteers of the autonomous republic of Crimea.”

“We gave an oath to the state of Ukraine, not an oath to one particular general, and certainly not one from another country,”
Major Rostislav Lomtev

In major news, Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky defected from the Ukrainian Navy to the Republic of Crimea, which Russian-installed Crimean leader Sergei Aksenov. Berezovsky had before his dismissal and official defection, ordered all Ukrainian troops to lay down arms and accept the Russian invasion, which was rejected by Ukrainian officers who informed the Ministry of Defense of his treason. Later, electricity was cut to the main Ukrainian naval base. Following the defection, Aksenov declared the creation of a new Crimean Navy, headed by Berezovsky, and the future creation of a Ministry of Defense. March 2nd “will go down in the history of autonomy, as the day of formation of all its security forces,” he said.

Those who opposed the Ukrainian military convoy waved Communist symbols
Those who opposed the Ukrainian military convoy waved Communist symbols

In Mykolayiv, video evidence shows presumably Russian nationalists (waving Soviet flags and wearing St. George ribbons) attempting to establish a roadblock near the southern Ukrainian city and prevent a Ukrainian military convoy from passing. The convoy included a column of tanks preparing to mobilize. Videos indicate that local police were able to disperse the small crowd.

The Kyiv Post reported that at Russian controlled military checkpoints, soldiers confiscated filming equipment, bulletproof vests and helmets carried by journalists. By Sunday, no media were allowed to not only enter Crimea, but escape it – an exception only permitted for Russian press. “We told them they were on the territory of Ukraine, but they said they don’t think so. They think they’re now on Russian territory,” a Hromadske TV journalist said.

Crimean Tatars have threatened an insurgency against a repeat of Russian rule. “Our people are peaceful, but if they threaten us, our men will defend the community,” an interviewee to the New York Times said.“It is better to die here than leave again.” Ukraine offers more security than Russia, Tartar representatives say. Some 5 million Tatars lived in Crimea prior to Russian annexation in the late 18th century; a figure which dwarfs Crimea’s current population. Tatar leaders have stated that the Crimean Tatar population will not take part in or recognize any separatist referendum.

Mass demonstrations against Russia were held across Ukraine, notably in its eastern regions. Cities included Kharkiv, Odessa (10,000), Sumy (12,000), Mykolayiv (10,000), Kherson (2,500), Poltava (‘thousands’), Kryvyi Rih (1,000) and Dnipropetrovsk (15,000). In contrast, the regional council of the far-eastern city of Luhansk announced it would not recognize the new central government and call for federalization, while Odessa officials also informed it would discuss the possibility of receiving greater autonomy.

March 3rd: Ultimatums

Map of occupation, courtesy TSN.ua
Map of occupation, courtesy TSN.ua

Early in the day Russians continued to seize and maintain control of strategic buildings, including ammunitions depots.  Two explosions had been heard in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, with no official details yet available. A possible explanation may have been the use of stun grenades, which have been used in the capture of installations, including one in Belbek where Russians disarmed Ukrainian soldiers who were ordered not to fire first. Border guards were under pressure from Russian forces to switch sides, and Espreso.tv reported that in instances where soldiers were captured in Russian incursions, they were forced to renounce their oath and instead swear allegiance to the ‘Crimean people’. A Kyiv Post journalist, citing a local source, indicated that independent television channels were cut off, and the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism was occupied by unmarked soldiers, and that the Crimean government has threatened other mass media. Other reports indicated public sector employees, teachers in particular, were forced to attend pro-Russian rallies in Simferopol.

Media reports indicated Russia moved armored divisions across the Kerch Strait, taking control of the local ferry that connects transit between both countries. Local news refuted the existence of armored divisions, but provided video of Russian troops surrounding the ferry port. Ex-Admiral Denis Berezovsky, now wanted for treason, broke into the headquarters of the Naval Forces of Ukraine in Sevastopol with the aid of neo-Cossacks and demanded that the officers inside defect to Russia. Approximately 400 Russian irregulars aided by neo-Cossacks and reinforced by armed Russian soldiers in the rear were involved in the storming of the naval headquarters.

The vice speaker of Crimea, Sergei Tsekov, told Russian RIA news agency that officials in Odessa, Kherson, and Mykolayiv oblasts had declared their intent to join the Crimean Republic. The information could not be verified, but recall that mass demonstrations in opposition to separatism and Russian intervention in all three of these cities occurred the day prior. In Odessa, 500 Russian nationalists stormed the city council building, a far cry from the 10,000 who took to the streets the day before to protest against Russian expansion. The city council of Odessa made statements condemning separatism, and removed the Russian flag planted by activists earlier in the day. Outside, the Russian nationalists were met by 3,000 pro-European protesters.

The Ultimatum

[one_fourth]“Attention comrades, you must surrender your weapons”[/one_fourth]

Alexander Vitko, commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces to surrender by 5am Tuesday or face a military assault. “If they do not surrender before 5 a.m. tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea,” Interfax quoted a Ministry of Defense source as saying. AP reported that four Russian warships cornered and demanded the crew of two Ukrainian warships, the corvette Ternopil and the control ship Slavutych, surrender by within hours or face seizure by the fleet. The Russian defense ministry denied the reports of an ultimatum, but reiterated its ‘right‘ to use force. However, Kyiv Post journalists on scene confirmed that the Russian vessels were yelling what appeared to be an ultimatum over loudspeaker. Ukrainian naval officer Alexei Kyrylov confirmed to Ukrainian media the ultimatum was in effect and that he expected an attack by the evening. By 8pm, attack helicopters and military aircraft were evacuated from the Novofedorivka air base and relocated in mainland Ukraine.

Naval blockade
Naval blockade

The Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed to have evidence that unknown individuals, on the night of the ultimatum’s timeframe, are planning to murder 3-4 Russian soldiers under the guise of Ukrainian aggression. The motivation for this is to provide legal pretext for the introduction of troops into Ukraine, the ministry warned. Former top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Andrey Illarionov, also claimed that a group of Russian special forces troops had been deployed to Crimea to kill Russian troops and Russian citizens to provide justification for a full scale invasion, as had occurred during the August War in Georgia.

By the evening, Russia initiated an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Ukraine at 10:30pm Kyiv time. During the statement, Russian ambassador Churkin reiterated the Russian presence was there for peacekeeping purposes, and reiterated a fabricated statement by deposed president Viktor Yanukovych dated March 1st that “in the country there is chaos and anarchy,” the persecution of Russians is ongoing, anti-semitism, and that the nation was on the brink of civil war. The alleged statement from Yanukovych implored Russia to use its military to restore him to power. Jewish leaders in Crimea issued a statement backing the Kyiv government, and called talk of anti-semitism ‘exaggerated’.

“It is incredibly tense in Crimea right now, with ultimatums given to troops at almost all Ukrainian military bases here,”
Oleg Chubuk, a spokesman of Ukraine’s defense ministry, told the Kyiv Post.

March 4th:

Ukrainian soldiers march on armed Russian troops defiantly
Ukrainian soldiers march on armed Russian troops defiantly

While the deadline given for the ultimatum passed, journalists on the ground reported seeing missile batteries mounted on personnel carriers near Sevastopol, and other APCs headed north towards Simferopol. Soon after, the press secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin reported that he had ordered troops and formations that took part in military exercises, return to their places of permanent deployment. At the same time, journalists at Belbek reported in a series of tweets that Ukrainian troops from the military base, after receiving another ultimatum to surrender, marched on the Russian-occupied airstrip, unarmed and carrying only a pair of Ukrainian national and Soviet Air Force flags, to take it back. When the sides met, Russian troops began firing warning shots in the air, but to no avail the Ukrainians marched undeterred despite being surrounded by machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. They called their bluff, and the Russians then allowed a tentative compromise of 10 Ukrainian soldiers to take up positions on the occupied base and maintain their aircraft while they awaited orders and commanding officers faced off. During the negotiations, Ukrainian commander Colonel Yuli Mamchuk received word of Putin’s order to withdraw troops, and demanded to jointly guard the base with the Russian soldiers. In the standoff, Mamchuk vented “Because of one certain politician we are now at loggerheads. This is wrong.” Talks then suddenly fell apart and the troops, accompanied by their wives, marched under the threat of gunfire to their aircraft. The situation eventually subsided, with more Russian reinforcements arriving and the soldiers remaining defiant, who then marched back to their barracks.

This tense standoff was a microcosm of what was to come when president Putin held a press conference later in the afternoon. While stressing the values of democratic representation and the right to self determination in one direction, he lauded the legitimacy of Yanukovych and smeared the democratic movement in Kyiv in the other. When asked if Russian troops were currently active in Crimea, he held to the concocted story of the troops, who had been widely identified as Russian soldiers, as being ‘local self-defense units,’ and that anyone “can go to a store to buy any kind of uniform” in post-Soviet states. Putin also said that it was “a new state could appear” in Ukraine and said that Russia would “not sign any fundamental documents with this new state,” signaling that he considers Ukraine as a state to have formally dissolved, but still insisted the ‘new state’ pay for the ‘previous’ one’s debts. He referred to the democratic movement as anti-Semitic; a statement which was refuted by co-chairman of the European Jewish Parliament Vadim Rabinovich, while the chief rabbi of Ukraine accused Russia of of staging anti-Semitic provocations in order to justify intervention. “This is what the Nazis did during the Anshluss in Austria,” he said. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright called Putin outright ‘delusional‘. By night, Russia test fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in a show of force (the test was previously scheduled, but not stated when).

In drawing tensions, Ukraine’s flagship vessel, the frigate Hetman Sahaidachny was reported en route to Sevastopol, returning after completing counter-piracy operations with NATO’s Operation Shield and European Union Naval Force, and  accompanied by the Turkish pleasure craft Rusen Bey.

Invasion of mainland Ukraine?

The current number of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil is estimated to be between 6–28,000. Tyzhden reported a column of Russian troops is moving into Zaporizhia – other media outlets disputed these accounts. Russia’s Interior Ministry issued a statement on its website asking for Ukrainian police to support them. Spilno.TV, citing  “a reliable source, who has personal connections with Russian army personnel,” Russian soldiers that are stationed in Crimea and Smolensk (Russia) were given maps of Kyiv and the greater Kyiv region.

Regional officials indicated on March 2nd that 10km from the Russian border in the northern Chernihiv region; Russian military movements were spotted, including tanks. According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, locals in Sumy indicated that Russian border guards had been interrogating Ukrainian travelers, and questioning the location of Ukrainian border guards and military positions. Interim president Turchynov later informed that a no-fly zone over the country had been initiated for military aircraft.

On Monday March 3rd, the State Border Service of Ukraine announced that Russian forces were accumulating, including artillery and armored carriers, along the country’s eastern borders in the Donbas region of Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv. Russian border services have also closed the border for Russian citizens traveling into Donetsk, while the governor of neighboring Rostov-on-Don ordered the setup of refugee camps. In response, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Yuri Sergeyev, suggested that “expanding military units and their equipment indicates that [Russia is] prepared to intervene in the mainland of Ukraine,” he said during a UN Security Council meeting in New York. Despite this, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said that Russian troops will not be allowed into the eastern regions of Ukraine. “I am convinced that no Russian military contingents will be allowed into [Ukraine’s] eastern regions,” he said.

The vice speaker of Crimea, Sergei Tsekov, proclaimed in a March 3rd interview that was widely disseminated in Russian state media, that officials in Odessa, Kherson, and Mykolayiv oblasts had declared their intent to join the so-called Crimean Republic. While unsupported, such statements could foreshadow future military expansion, should the republic declare independence or federation with Russia at month’s end.

Ukraine responds

In response to the unravelling situation, Vitali Klitschko petitioned acting president Turchynov to submit an application to the UN Security Council with regard to Russian aggression (the UNSC will meet at 9pm local time). Klitschko then insisted on holding a parliamentary session to void any treaties allowing Russia’s lease of Sevastopol and its harbor of the Black Sea Fleet. Turchynov in a separate move declared Aksenov’s appointment by the Crimean parliament to be constitutionally void.

The Ministry of Defense announced heightened combat readiness, “The armed forces stationed on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, are in high alert and ready to defend,” said defense minister Ihor Teniukh. He also said that military units remained in their home bases. He later stated that troops were at the highest level of readiness and morale remained high, and that they were ready to fulfill their constitutional duty.

The paramilitary Right Sector then announced a general mobilization of its forces and its intent to work in tangent with the Ukrainian government and armed forces. Later, the right-wing nationalist Svoboda party called for the introduction of martial law and the immediate mobilization forces, as well as calling on Ukrainians to defend their homeland, and ‘not give up a single shred of Ukrainian land to the invaders.

In a standoff between Russian marines and Ukrainian border guards in Balaklava, locals formed a human shield in an effort to prevent bloodshed.

“We are ready to defend our sovereignty. We believe that Russia will not resort to military intervention in Ukraine because such intervention will be the start of war and the end of any relationship with Russia”
– Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Near 10pm, president Turchynov announced that armed forces had been placed on full alert and that the nation’s defense council had developed a plan of action in case of direct military aggression. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on the U.S. and NATO to consider all possible means to protect the territorial integrity of the country. Turchynov said that Russia is engaged in numerous provocations designed to provoke a military engagement and destabilize the country. In a call between Turchynov and head of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Sergei Narishkin, the latter informed of Russian readiness to implement military aggression against Ukraine in the event force is used “against peaceful citizens of Ukraine who reside in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.”

On early March 2nd, the three former presidents of Ukraine stood in unison to terminate the Kharkiv Accords which extended the lease of the Black Sea Fleet port to Russia. They noted that “for the first time in recent history the Ukrainian people are faced with a crisis that threatens the unity, sovereignty, and independence of our country, and this can turn into a national catastrophe that threatens the destruction of Ukraine.” They also urged the Security Service (SBU) to “instantly respond to any threats to split Ukraine.” In a fiery speech, Ukraine’s first president Leonid Kravchuk even said “I am 80 years old but I’ll take up a gun and defend your country.”

Crowd outside military recruitment office in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk
Crowd outside military recruitment office in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk

Mobilization

Prime Minister Yatsenyuk “If [Putin] wants to be the president who started the war between two neighboring and friendly countries, he has reached his target within a few inches. We are on the brink of disaster.” The Defense Ministry was later ordered to stage a call-up and mobilization of reserves, which theoretically could include a draft of all men up to 40 years old. Reservists were told to prepare for deployment. Dmytro Yarosh also called on Ukrainians to join Right Sector militia squads nationwide, and the establishment of a Right Sector military headquarters. On March 2nd, men from Kyiv flooded the city’s 10 district recruitment centers, and in instances over half were volunteers. Conscription fever grew over the course of the next 24 hours of mobilization, with thousands enlisting across the entire country –  conscripts came throughout the day in Lviv, over 1,000 signed up in Lutsk and 4,000 in Chernihiv alone, and Polish Ukrainians enlisted at the embassy in Poland to defend their country.

NATO?

Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy said in a statement on Sunday March the 2nd that Ukraine had appealed to the U.S. and U.K. “with a call to ensure the security of Ukraine” under the Budapest Memorandum.

Amid statements by Polish prime minister Donald Tusk that the world stands ‘on the brink of conflict’, witnesses noted columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and a massive rail transport of military equipment being transported in the area of ​​Gorzow Wielkopolski and Slupsk. A spokesperson for the General Staff confirmed the movements, but dismissed them as being routine. On March 3rd, Poland invoked Article 4 meeting with NATO, which  is used when a member feels that its security or territorial integrity is threatened.

Sevastopol & Simferopol Airports Under Russian Military Occupation

Pro-Russian military personnel in Simferopol
Russian military personnel in Simferopol

Summary:

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov confirmed the following: Last night Sevastopol Airport is surrounded by infantry units of the Russian Federation’s navy – they are armed and unmarked but don’t hide their affiliation. The airport is currently not operating. Inside the airport are Ukrainian military. Simferopol Airport was itself surrounded by a militia group, and at 1:30am 119 Russian Federation soldiers arrived in military transport trucks, and continue to patrol the area. The airport was operational for most of the day but flights from Ukraine have since been cancelled as Crimea developed into a no fly zone. Clashes between soldiers and police did not occur. Russian marines overtook a Ukrainian border posts, highways, and the state’s telecommunications and news companies, largely cutting off communication between mainland Ukraine and Crimea. Ukrainian airspace has become entirely become restricted.

Acting president Turchynov considers this an armed invasion and occupation of Ukraine, and called an emergency session in parliament which invoked the Budapest Memorandum, and calls on the US and UK to prevent Russian encroachment and force. Russia has admitted to moving troops into Crimea to “protect” the Black Sea Fleet. 2,000 Russian soldiers have landed in Crimea.

Airport Occupations:

On the night of the 27th UNIAN reported that approximately 6 military trucks full of armed soldiers surrounded the Sevastapol International Airport, which doubles as an Ukrainian Air Force facility. The soldiers, later confirmed by the Ukrainian government to be Russian military, also surrounded a guest residence normally reserved for senior officials. NBNews reported that those on the scene were not able to identify the initial purpose of the soldiers, as they would not initially answer questions to the press.

This news comes directly after armed insurgents occupied the Crimean parliament buildings in Simferopol, raising the Russian flag; while Russia itself scrambled fighter jets after announcing snap military exercises along its western borders with Ukraine.

Local news then reported that Simferopol Airport was also surrounded by militants at 1am local time. Interfax and Ukrainska Pravda confirmed these reports, and that approximately 150 armed unmarked soldiers arrived at Simferopol airport and were dropped off via 3 unmarked Kamaz transport trucks. The airport is still operational. They report that 25 supporters have a Russian naval flag. The soldiers speak with heavy Russian accents and witnesses claim they were equipped with the same military gear as those who occupied Simferopol’s parliament building earlier in the day. Other supporters wore the orange-and-black ribbon, a symbol used by the militant Ukrainian Front.

Russian soldiers continue to patrol Simferopol Airport
Russian soldiers continue to patrol Simferopol Airport

The head of security at the Simferopol airport stated the gunmen “politely” asked security officers to leave, and while refuting an outright takeover, they “arrived at the airport to search for Ukrainian airborne troops. However, after finding out that there was no military present on the tarmac, they apologized and left the territory.”

Russian MP Vladimir Garnachuk, who is now in Simferopol, elaborated that the aim of the operation was to stop the interim Ukrainian president Oleksandr Turchynov from landing in Crimea.

Sevastopol remains occupied and select troops remain patrolling the vicinity of Simferopol as of the morning. (video) The soldiers controlling the Simferopol airport call themselves the “National Guard of Crimea”. As of 6pm local time, 400 troops remained stationed at Sevastopol International and Simferopol airport is no longer allowing flights from Kyiv. Ukrainian airlines have cancelled flights to Crimea entirely, stating that “airspace is closed,” an Flightradar24, and later Reutersconfirmed that air traffic over Crimea has halted entirely.

Unconfirmed video shows alleged Russian attack helicopters, possibly MI-28 Havocs, flying in a group formation toward Sevastopol Airport. According to local media, the news of the gunships was confirmed by Ukrainian Border Guards.

Political Response:

On the morning of the 28th, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on Facebook the following situation: Sevastopol Airport is surrounded by military units of the Russian Federation’s navy – they are armed and unmarked but don’t hide their affiliation. The airport is currently not operating. Inside the airport are Ukrainian military. Simferopol Airport was itself surrounded by a militia group, and previous reports were confirmed, but at 1:30am 119 Russian Federation soldiers arrived in military transport trucks as had occurred in Sevastopol. The airport is still operational and clashes between soldiers and police have not occurred, and that police alone could not confront an army.

“My assessment of what’s going on is that it’s a military intervention and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms” ~ Avakov

Avakov considers this an armed invasion and occupation of Ukraine, and referred to it as a “direct provocation toward armed bloodshed in the territory of a sovereign state.” The Russian Black Sea Fleet, predictably, responded by denying operating at Sevastopol airport, but did not comment on Simferopol; the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed all troop movements have been legal.

Oleksandr Turchynov called for an emergency session of the state’s security chiefs. In Parliament, a resolution was passed calling on Russia to cease encroaching on Ukraine’s sovereign territory and, in invoking the Budapest Memorandum, called on its signatories (the US and UK) to safeguard Ukraine. It also asked asked the U.N. Security Council to call a session to discuss the crisis in the country.

Also in parliament, MP Oleh Lyashko has now put forth a proposal to annul the Kharkiv Accords an evict the Russian navy – the current lease deal extended Russia’s stay in Sevastopol until 2042. The agreement itself, signed by Yanukovych, was criticized as unconstitutional (the 1996 constitution forbids foreign military bases on Ukraine, but the original Partition Treaty dates to 1997). “Given the position the Russian Federation is taking on Crimea, we must immediately abrogate the Kharkhiv Agreements,” said Lyashko. It’s unlikely that Russia would surrender the naval port willingly, as it is both a currently strategic as well as historically symbolic city in to Russia.

Russia has begun wanton aggression against Ukraine under the guise of training exercises. The Russian Federation has sent troops into Crimea, and has not only captured the Crimean parliament and Council of Ministers, but also has taken control of communications facilities […] I am personally addressing President Putin to stop the provocation and call back the military from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and work exclusively within the framework of the signed agreements […] We’re sure that Ukraine will preserve its territory, Ukraine will defend its independence and any attempts of annexation, intrusion will have very serious consequences ~ Turchynov

Acting president Turchynov also said that according to intelligence gathered, Russia is attempting to enact a situation analogous to the Georgian war, and that they are attempting to provoke a reaction to justify annexation.

Russian troop standing outside Simferopol Airport
Russian troop standing outside Simferopol Airport

Ukrainian military:

Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy stated during a televised briefing that the two airports were occupied by separate groups commanded by Moscow, and that Ukraine could not deploy military forces in Crimea without introducing a state of emergency. He then made clear that in the event of direct aggression, the Ukrainian army and border guards would make an appropriately measured response. At the moment, no military facilities in Crimea are occupied by Russian forces.

Acting president Turchynov has said that Ukraine’s army are performing their duties but avoiding provocations and engagements, as they realize the stakes involved and the danger an armed conflict would pose to the civilian population.

TSN reported (pending verification) that two SU-27 fithers were scrambled to patrol the airspace along the border of Ukraine and use force if any unauthorized aircraft attempts to cross. At 9:00pm local time, Hronika.info reported that Ukrainian military near Simferopol took up defensive positions to prepare for nay impending assault.

At 1am local time, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement that they received intel informing of an attack on Ukrainian military installations between 2-5am, and that the Ukrainian army would respond if attacked.

Russian military roadblock near Sevastopol
Russian military roadblock near Sevastopol

Russian military activity elsewhere:

A State Border Service detachment in Balaklava (near Sevastopol proper) was reported surrounded by armed by 20 Russian Black Sea Fleet soldiers from the 810th Marine Brigade, armed with automatic weapons. A Reuters reporter saw Ukrainian border police in helmets and riot gear shut inside the border post, with a metal gate pulled shut and metal riot shields placed behind the windows as protection. A servicemen who identified himself as an officer of the Black Sea Fleet told Reuters: “We are here … so as not to have a repeat of the Maidan” and claimed to be protecting Crimea from ‘extremists’. The troops receded to within 25 meters of the border checkpoint and the standoff continues.

The Wall Street Journal is confirming that armed soldiers have taken control of major highways in Crimea in an effort to stop Ukrainian military passage. The troops, armed with AK-74s, have planted Russian flags at their checkpoints. The checkpoints have included renegade Berkut officers, Russian Night Wolves bikers and known neo-Nazis are also manning the blockades.

Armored carriers marked with Russian flags travel to Simferopol
Armored carriers marked with Russian flags travel to Simferopol

According to Ukrainian military sources, 400 Russian reinforcements arrived in Sevastopol on the morning of the 28th. 4 large Russian IL-76 aircraft landed, and 10 Russian APCs were traveling in a convoy from the Sevastopol base to Simferopol.

Ukrayinska Pravda reports that Ukrtelecom has lost touch with its Crimean branch, and communication centers have been shut down and occupied, cutting off the region from mainland Ukraine. Crimea’s state radio and television company was also occupied. A video surfaced that appeared to show Russian troops occupying a Ukrainian naval facility. By 3pm a military airfield in Novofedorivka was captured. Near midnight, reports surfaced that Russian troops attempted to disarm the 36th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed forces, but the situation dissolved without gunfire.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bidt stated that Russian troop movements appeared to be an attempt to establish “new gray zones and frozen conflicts.”

Renegade Berkut

Berkut man military checkpoint
Berkut man military checkpoint

Renegade Berkut officers have been seen manning checkpoints and working in tangent with Russian troops between the mainland Ukrainian passing and Crimea. Recall that the units were officially dissolved by the Ukrainian government in recent days for their part in the killing of dozens of Kyiv protesters. Since this time, installed Russian mayor of Sevastopol has reinstated the units and offered asylum to those charged. On the 28th, the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Simferopol “urgently requested to take all necessary steps to start issuing Russian passports to Berkut squad members.” Presumably, this would enable Russia to claim first blood should intra-Ukrainian clashes erupt between the units and Ukrainian military.

Russia declares war?

Censor.net, citing confirmation from TSN, quote former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and Fatherland MP Mustafa Cemilev, that on the 27th Russian Vice Admiral Vitko gathered all generals at a meeting declared that Russia would be “starting a war with Ukraine;” Cemilev then petitioned Turchynov to declare a state of emergency.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has admitted to moving troops into Crimea to “protect Black Sea Fleet’s positions” and declined a Ukrainian request for “bilateral consultations” because they are “the result of recent internal political processes in Ukraine.”

At 2:48pm EST AFP announced that 2,000 Russian soldiers had landed at a military air base near Simferopol in an “armed invasion,” says senior Ukrainian official Sergiy Kunitsyn.

Provocations

Anti-semitic graffiti appeared overnight at one of Simferopol’s synagogues, bearing the symbol of the SNA (a group within the militant pro-Ukrainian Right-Sector). The head of Crimea’s Jewish community downplayed the possibility of Right Sector’s involvement, and that it was likely done by others to destabilize the region.

Russians Seize Simferopol

crimea
Russian flag flies over Crimea’s parliament

Amid ethnic and military tensions, at 4:20am on February 27, a group of up to 120 armed Russian insurgents armed with automatic weapons seized the Crimean parliament in the capital of Simferopol. Reuters and Interfax are confirming the events. Insurgents shot at entryway doors, eventually breaking them down. Eyewitnesses described them as professionals (“like marines”) and heavily armed. The seizure was described as pre-meditated, and that in the first wave about 30 men broke into the building. The building was cordoned off by police but not well, and  afterwards a bus arrived carrying the additional reinforcements who were carrying Kalashnikovs, SVD sniper rifles, RPGs, combinations devices, and ammunition.

The gunmen were unmarked but raised Russian flags. In particular, the Russian flag was raised over the capital building so as to signify its occupation. They wore black and orange St. George ribbons, a Russian and Soviet symbol used prominently by the now dissolved militant Ukrainian Front, and erected a sign saying ‘Crimea is Russia’, according to AP. The ribbons have also been worn by vigilantes in recent assaults in Kerch, Crimea.

A high-ranking Ukrainian official in Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry stated the insurgents were Russian: “Nobody can understand who took over, but it seems it’s the Russians,” the Foreign Ministry source said. Local authorities have claimed that the men were from local ‘self-defense’ militias. Pro-Russian groups have openly been openly recruiting for so-called “self defense” militias in recent days (video). Mustafa Jemilov, former head of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar people, believes them to be either Russian soldiers, or former Berkut soldiers loyal to Russia. Illegally installed, de facto mayor of the city of Sevastopol, Alexei Chaly, has actively recruited form former Berkut riot police who were dismissed by the government following the killings of nearly 100 in Kyiv. The renegade Berkut, armed with assault rifles, have been seen manning military checkpoints on Crimean highways under the Russian flag.

Berkut man military checkpoint
Berkut man military checkpoint

Eyewitnesses report that participants of the ongoing protests stayed overnight as the parliament remained barricaded with debris, and by sunset unmarked individuals were seen in full combat gear. One security guard was killed in the raid, and other police were released. At least 100 police surrounded parliament. Entrances to the building have since been sealed with wooden crates.

At this moment the armed men have no made any demands, saying they are not authorized to either hold talks or make demands. Lifenews reports that the gunmen informed protesters that they came to “protect the interests of the Russian population,” and KP quoted that they stated their rejection of the Kyiv government. They also informed that they would open fire on any who approached the building.

The Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has informed that the neighborhood around parliament has been cordoned off by police to prevent civilian casualties.

The event takes place one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered ordering a surprise military exercise of ground and air forces. The New York Times reports that residents have seen Russian military vehicles with greater frequency on their streets. In response to the occupation, Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov has called on Russian forces stationed in Sevastopol to not leave its naval base, and that any troop movement outside agreed territories would be considered an act of military aggression. Avakov meanwhile stated that he believed the group to be terrorists attempting to provoke a confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian military forces.

As a result of the standoff, Crimea’s parliament, at gunpoint, sacked its Cabinet and ordered a referendum on “autonomy” for May 25 to coincide with Ukraine’s presidential elections. The referendum will ask “Do you support the state independence of Crimea as part of Ukraine on the basis of treaties and agreements?”

A live YouTube feed can be seen here, and local coverage here

 

The Hunt for Viktor Yanukovych

Viktor Yanukovych is a wanted man. Today Ukraine’s acting Interior Ministry announced the deposed president, along with roughly 50 other top officials of the collapsed regime, were being placed under criminal investigation with Yanukovych placed on the nation’s Most Wanted list. While he still seems to have symbolic, if not fading backing from Russia, Yanukovych’s support base has fallen through the floor among all but his closest associates. Even his own Party of Regions has denounced him as a criminal and murderer. But where did he go? Where is the sultan turned vagabond?

Known locations
Known locations

Shortly after it was announced that impeachment proceedings would be taken against him, Yanukovych fled the capital along with cohort Andriy Klyuyev. Rumors swirled over whether he had gone to Kharkiv, to attend the separatist Ukrainian Front conference, or Dubai. The latter, we now know, was a decoy; those following on the Twittersphere were quick to track his alleged flight information in an attempt to pin down. Yanukovych instead flew by helicopter to Kharkiv to avoid detection.

Tenant Prime Minister Turchynov claimed Yanukovych had agreed to resign as president, but after consulting with advisers, he disavowed the decision and submitted a pre-recorded tape claiming his right to rule. Yanukovych said he would not resign or leave the country, and called decisions by parliament “illegal” and that “The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’etat,” comparing it to the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s – a common line of rhetoric among Russian officials to shore up post-war sensitivities in the post-Soviet republic. 

Following the parliamentary procedures to transfer power to the new provisional government, Attorney General Pshonka and Taxation Minister Klymenko were stopped at the Russian border while trying to flee the country. Yanukovych then flew from Kharkiv to Donetsk aboard his helicopter, where he then, according to the State Border Service, tried to flee via a charter flight on one of two Dassault Falcon jets in Donetsk, but was stopped by border guards. The border agents were “met by a group of armed men who offered money for flying without the proper clearance”. Yanukovych then left by armored car, and spent a few hours at a state residence in the city – sources indicate he was abetted by Rinat Akhmetov. Former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko (who we now know gave the official order to fire on protesters) also attempted to fly out of Donetsk and was denied access for similar reasons.

Yanukovych and Klyuyev
Yanukovych and Klyuyev

Yanukovych’s motorcade then left for Crimea, leaving state traffic police who protected him behind. The next day, February 23rd, he visited a private resort while intentionally avoiding state or known residences to avoid detection. Rada reputy  Oleh Lyashko claimed Yanukovych was seen at the Russian Naval base in Sevastopol where he was preparing to flee via Russian military vessel (this was reciprocated in media reports on the 24th). Ukrainian MiG fighter jets were scrambled during the search and it’s said at this time he was abetted by deposed defense minister Pavlo Lebedev.

Authorities attempted to intercept Yanukovych’s motorcade at the international airport in Sevastopol, but one step ahead, he never arrived. Authorities then lost his trail finally on February 24th near his family’s Crimean residence in the the former city of Balaklava, where he released those in his presidential secret service from duty who wished to stand down. The released guards then collected the weapons that officially belong to the government so they could be handed over to the authorities.

Oleksandr Yanukovych restored a series of historical waterfront homes and leased land for a private yacht club in this very area, which remains a possible site of hiding. Journalist Tetyana Chornovol meanwhile speculated that instead he was likely to flee by sea aboard his son’s private yacht, suitably christened “Bandit,” but local reports indicated the yacht hasn’t been seen in some time and GPS data confirms it’s last known location to be far away.

Following parting ways with a portion of his security staff, he, along with  his most loyal guards, narrowed the motorcade down to 3 vehicles and left, turning off all communication devices. Reports conflicted as to the whereabouts of Klyuyev: according to acting Interior Minister Avakov, he remained with the president; according to Klyuev’s spokesman Artyom Petrenko, he tendered his resignation to the president in Crimea on the 23rd, saying he “couldn’t stop Yanukovych.” He was then allegedly shot and wounded, with media stating the shootout occurred on his trip back to Kyiv. Petrenko claims Klyuyev is currently in an unspecified Kyiv hospital. 

On Wednesday, Klyuyev issued a statement through his press office, distancing himself from Yanukovych, denying his involvement in the Kyiv killings, and stating his intent to cooperate with authorities.

The trail in Crimea had appeared to run officially cold on the 26th, with Interior Minister Avakov admitting that the search was pulled back in Sevastopol to avoid possible armed conflicts in the troubled city. “I think we must not allow any military standoff or conflict to happen. I shall be extremely candid with you: it was one of the reasons why on the night when Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (the head of the Ukrainian Security Council) and I were in Sevastopol, in Crimea, we chose not to continue tough actions with respect of Viktor Yanukovych… Because at that moment we knew it was essentially an affront for armed conflict with grounds for [Russian] forces to interfere in this conflict… We made the decision that the future of Crimea is more important for us than the situation with Yanukovych,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.

radisson

Map of the Moscow area and his last known location
Map of the Moscow area and his last known location

The manhunt was escalated to an international search as reports surfaced that Yanu had successfully made he was through the Kerch Strait along with his son Viktor Jr. and into Russian protectionMultiple sources, stated to be confirmed by high-placed Russian officials and law enforcement, alleged that the night prior he had arrived in Moscow, and was seen at the Radisson Royal (confirmed by hotel management). There, he apparently spent all night until Wednesday morning on the 11th floor at a private club restaurant under heightened private security; fugitive former General Prosecutor Pshonka is believed to be with him and his other son, Oleksandr, is reported to have reunited the family.

He is now presumed to be in the Moscow suburb of Barvikha. An RBC report indicated that a house in Barvikha was purchased by a group of Ukrainian citizens for $52 million, and that the house is now under guard. “Yesterday Ukrainian citizens came with passports and without bargaining, bought it, said Russian politician Oleg Mitvol. Previous sources to RBC had indicated Yanukovych was stationed at a local resort.

Head of the Russian Foreign Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov denied the rumors, saying that Russia wouldn’t risk giving him asylum. Later, the official newspaper of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, [humorously] alleged that the CIA had whisked Yanukovych Stateside after offering him and his family personal guarantees of safety should he step away from the political arena. The paper followed by refuting Yanukovych’s asylum by the Russian Navy in Cossack Bay, Sevastopol, ‘Yanukovych is not in the facilities or ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,’ citing an ‘informed military source’. Ultimately, the Russian Border Service neither confirmed nor denied the earlier reports on Yanukovych’s entering the country.

Interfax, citing Russian government sources, confirms that Yanukovych is indeed being provided asylum in Russia.

On February 27 Yanukovych resurfaced, sending a message to Ukraine declaring himself still the legitimate president of the country. In his address, he stated he was “forced to ask the authorities of the Russian Federation to ensure [his] personal safety from the actions of extremists.” A government source confirmed that Yanukovych’s request has been granted “on the territory of the Russian Federation.” Later, newly elected head of Crimea’s parliament, Sergei Aksenov of the fringe Russian Unity party said that he recognized Yanukovych as the true president of Ukraine and that he would obey his orders – and presumably provide him save haven should he return to Ukraine. Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky told reporters he was glad the Russian government has provided Yanukovych with security personnel.

In the evening, Yanukovych arrived in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don via airplane at 10pm local time to hold a news conference in Rostov-on-Don at 5pm on Friday February 28. In it he claimed he would return to Ukraine only if given security guarantees, and credited ‘patriotic officers’ with enabling him to escape Ukraine into Russia. “It was thanks to patriotic officers that I was able to get to Russia. Let me put it this way: officers who did their duty and helped me stay alive,” Yanukovych told reporters at the conference.

This story will update as new information becomes available. Last updated 2/28 at 10:45 am EST

Coup on the Horizon

Today’s deal of compromise between the united opposition and Viktor Yanukovych has yielded little love from the Euromaidan crowds. So little, that violence may come of it. The fragile peace agreement is beneficial insofar as it maintains the tempers of the Kyivan crowds, but baseline concessions may be too little too late.

3840290

In response to the deal, Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh rejected the agreement, stating “We have to state the obvious fact that the criminal regime had not yet realized either the gravity of its evil doing,” and said the agreement failed to address the arrest of Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, Berkut commanders involved in the murder of civilians, removal of General Prosecutor Pshonka and Defense Ministers, ban on the Party of Regions and Communist Party, and guarantees of safety for those involved in the opposition. He then called for the ‘people’s revolution’ to continue until there is a full removal of power from authorities. Euromaidan self-defense leader Andriy Parubiy insisted that elections be held as soon as possible, and reiterated that one of the main demands of protesters has been the resignation of President Yanukovych. Automaidan also announced it also would not accept anything short of Yanukovych’s resignation.

These are all valid claims. The concessions made today would have been acceptable to the crowds in November, maybe even January, but not after the massacre that occurred on the 20th. With blood on his hands, Yanukovych cannot command public confidence, even if it’s for 9 months. Nobody will pretend nothing happened for the next 9 months. A lame duck option isn’t possible.

Vitali Klitschko apologized to the crowd on Maidan if he offended anyone by shaking hands with Yanukovych, realizing he was at risk of losing the crowd, and thus the people’s, support. Activists on Maidan responded to the deal by booing opposition leaders. Then an anonymous Sotnia soldier took the stage with opposition leaders standing by speechless, and warned that if Yanukovych does not resign by 10am the next day, an armed coup would be staged. Even radical Oleh Lyashko expressed his support to the call that Yanukovych resign by the 10am deadline; “Either he resigns, or we take him away,” Lyashko told the crowd.

Yarosh made it clear that he and his men would not disarm or surrender state buildings unless the president capitulated. Coffins of the deceased were brought to the Euromaidan stage. To prove they weren’t kidding (unknowns) torched the summer home of pro-Russian and Putin family member Viktor Medvedchuk’s summer home. A message has been sent.

2014-02-21_11-04_Euromaidan_in_Kiev

In the early morning, Andriy Parubiy, speaking in his capacity as leader of Maidan self-defense and security, announced that all opposition factions had agreed to take further action, and that the military was with them. He made clear that all government buildings in central Kyiv were under their control.

Parubiy, it seems, has succeeded in finding arguments for the Maidan. God willing! Now all the leaders of the Sotnia [companies] are declaring their consent to coordinated action, including the hundreds of the Right Sector” – journalist Natalia Ligacheva

Parubiy reappeared appeared on stage with  military staff to a cheering crowd.

We’re in control of Kiev. We have seized control of the government quarter […] We created a headquarters in the Maidan and we will not tolerate any action without coordinating with it. We must show that when Kyiv is under the control of the Maidan, there will be order in Kyiv. Where there is Maidan, there will be order and discipline.”

At night, it was announced that Maidan self-defense formations had occupied all government buildings in Kyiv, including the Cabinet, Parliament, and most importantly the Presidential Administration. According to Parubiy, 700 (or 7 Sotnia, if that’s your preferred unit of measurement) currently occupy Parliament, 1,900 are in the Presidential Administration, and another 1,500 in the Interior Ministry. Their numbers grow as more conscripts join and disenfranchised police defect.

So far it doesn’t look like the Sotnia of Parubiy, Yarosh, and Danyliuk are going to wait for this to end on it’s own. They may just take it. And with the city devoid of police forces at the moment, it’s theirs for the taking. 

This article will update as the situation develops

The Ukrainian Front: Neo Soviets & Neo Nazis

At recent demonstrations and meetings with the media recently held in Kharkiv, it would have seemed frightening enough that a Ukrainian Front had been created. It may have also been frightening to think that the Russian version of the Hell’s Angels (known to hit the road with Putin himself) had declared itself active in Ukraine for the purpose of “defending” the country. While orthodoxy and hardline pro-Russian sentiment runs through both of these groups, what one did not expect to be at the vanguard of defeating the ‘western fascists in Kiev’ was, well, actual neo-Nazis. Maybe this is a form of fighting fire with fire, or two negatives canceling themselves out (although the propagandized disinformation about their being any sort of fascist movement in the west or kiev should be, again, denounced as false), but the sight of Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes, himself Jewish, standing beside these men while making a peace gesture is enough to make any observer do a double-take.

Circulated on social media sites in the aftermath of the UF conference was the following:

1537724_561397097289965_599209153_o

nazarneo-Nazis

Nazar Dolitsky is described by Channel 5 as a biker from Sevastopol. (He also received some brief airtime on Russia24 while at demonstrations in the city) Innocuous enough, with his St. George Ribbons and telnyashka, he certainly fits the profile of a neo-Soviet joining rank with the Ukrainian Front, but there remained enough reasonable doubt that the man making the Hitler salute was undeniably the same man. Of course, until the internet did what it’s good at, and found his social media profile to verify the photo in question. This is what one can gleam from his online presence:

If this were a man in the crowd the association could be easily dismissed – but it’s not. This is a leader of a motorcycle club in Russia, an active neo-Nazi and a man taking the stage with political leaders and giving interviews. In a leadership position, whatever the capacity, this is a troubling sign of what the Ukrainian Front is all about, and who will be enforcing their version of justice.