Russian insider says Putin openly planned invasion of Ukraine since 2003

A former Russian insider says he was there when Putin began openly planning the present invasion of Ukraine back in 2003.

At a conference in Brussels this week, Andrey Illarionov, a Russian economist and former economic advisor to Vladimir Putin informed that the invasion of Ukraine has been in official planning since at least 2003.

“Since 2003. I can say that certain questions relating to the future war with Ukraine were discussed in my presence. I didn’t think the talks would really lead to a real war,” he said.

In an anguished response to the Orange Revolution a year later which brought about an ostensibly pro-Western government, Russian officials then began discussing the potential for launching a military occupation of Crimea and it’s subsequent annexation. Illarionov also discussed leaked documents which detail the operation of Russia’s future war with Ukraine.

By 2009, he stated that plans to conjure and support separatism in Ukraine began to surface. It is now known that the terrorist organization known as the ‘Donetsk Republic’ began to reassert itself online in 2008 after then Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovych lost his position as Prime Minister. Created in 2005 also in the wake of the Orange Revolution, ‘Donetsk Republic’ members attended training camps in Russia funded by the Russian Presidential Administration, where instructors from the security services taught methods of espionage, sabotage and guerrilla tactics to attendees. Syncing with Illarionov’s statement, the group began organizing local terrorist training camps as early as 2009.

Putin’s July 2013 Speech

Putin and Yanukovych in Kyiv, July 2013
Putin and Yanukovych in Kyiv, July 2013

Illarionov did not mince words, making clear that this is a very much a “Russian-Ukrianian war” or rather, as he described: “Putin’s war against Ukraine.” A war he steadfastly describes as being long in the works that will continue to play out in the long term.

“So, they were preparing the war for a long time. The other matter is that it is a long war that has been continuing for more than 16 months. It was officially launched on July 27, 2013, by Putin’s speech in Kyiv on the occasion of the anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus,” he said.

The speech cited by Illarionov was on the topic of Ukraine’s “civilizational choice” and “orthodox Slavic values.” In it, Putin bloviates on alleged “common spiritual values” which make Russians and Ukrainians a “single people,” calling for the preservation of ‘ancestral traditions.’ He also convincingly ignores centuries of persecution, telling listeners that subjugation (“union”) under Russia “changed the lives of Ukraine’s population and its elite for the better, as everyone knows.”

At another point, Putin speaks glowingly of Stalin’s reforms and investment in Ukraine during his first ‘Five Year Plan,’ a disastrous policy which resulted in the Moscow-orchestrated genocide of up to 7 million Ukrainians.

Current conflict zones’ historical hallmarks were focused on in the speech, specifically calling the Donbas “one of Russia’s main mining and metals industry regions,” and Odesa “one of the Russian Empire’s biggest seaports.” The next day Putin would attend Russian naval celebrations in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol in Crimea.

Little Green Men of Russia's navy in Ukraine, July 28, 2013
Little Green Men of Russia’s navy in Ukraine, July 28, 2013

All of this, of course, amounted to a cynical sales pitch for Russia’s unborn Eurasian Union and reunion with Russia, and to convince Ukrainians the perils of European integration. With a smile.

Let me say again that we will respect whatever choice our Ukrainian partners, friends and brothers make. The question is only one of how we go about agreeing on working together under absolutely equal, transparent and clear conditions.

 Numerous predictions

Illarionov resigned from his position within the administration in 2005, has been an outspoken critic of president Vladimir Putin since that time.

Since becoming a dissident, his words to date have been prophetic. In October 2008 he quickly exposed that the Russian invasion and occupation of Georgia in August of that year was premeditated and instigated by the Russian government, when many still debated whether Georgia fired on Russian soldiers first.

In February of this year, prior to Russia’s “green men” swarming into Crimea, he fully predicted the occupation of the peninsula and similar destabilizing actions in the south and east. In March, after this had already come to fruition, he further predicted and warned of impending Russian forces seeping into eastern Ukraine during an interview on the Ukrainian network TSN. Russian Col. Igor Girkin, “Supreme Commander” of the Donetsk Republic, openly admitted recently to Russia’s involvement in the war and told how his special forces group entered Ukraine in April to seize government buildings.

Motyl: What Russia Can Expect in Ukraine’s Rust Belt

In their search to maintain control, Russians would quickly discover that they are in possession of economically unviable provinces that cannot survive without massive infusions of rubles. According to a detailed Ukrainian study of how much Ukraine’s provinces paid into and received from the central budget in the first half of 2013, Crimea, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhya represented an enormous drain on Kyiv’s resources: 22.82 billion hryvnia (around $2.5 billion, or 90 billion rubles). And that is only for the first six months of the year. Multiplied by two, the deficit amounts to 45.64 billion hryvnia (about $5 billion, or 180 billion rubles).

In 2014, Russia expects its budget revenues to be around 13.6 trillion rubles (around $375 billion); its expenditures are supposed to total 14 trillion rubles ($380 billion). That amounts to a deficit of 400 billion rubles ($11 billion). Even without extra development funds or the costs of an occupation, annexing Ukraine’s southeast will raise Russia’s deficit by 45 percent.

The bad news gets worse for Russia. Luhansk and Donetsk provinces are home to Ukraine’s loss-making coal industry. Kyiv spends between 12 and 14 billion hryvnia(around $1 billion–$1.5 billion, or 47 billion–55 billion rubles) annually to support these mines. Will Russia back these enterprises even as they compete with more economically produced coal from Russia’s Kuzbass? It will have to: As Kyiv knows from experience, firing thousands of coal miners could spark massive civil unrest. Moscow will also have to pay them their wages on time. In 2013, wage arrears reached a total of 135 million hryvnia (about $15 million, or 530 million rubles) in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR

Read the full article

Ukrainian Hostages Beaten, Tortured

As the Ukrainian presidential website reported Thursday evening, Ukrainian Navy commander Serhiy Haiduk along with several hostages was released from detention by Russian forces in Kherson region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered the regional authorities to free the detained hostages and allow them safe passage out of the region. The hostages were revealed to be AutoMaidan activists, and 2 are currently hospitalized.

Hostages were kept in the basement of the Republic military office in Simferopol since March 9th; the same which was seized by 100 Russian troops the day prior. According to UNIAN, the hostages said they were not fed for four days, and that the first day was especially trying as they were not allowed to drink, or the use of lavatory, and were also beaten constantly. They could not see their abusers faces as their heads were covered with bags and taped. One activist, who was placed in solitary confinement, said that there was no place to sit down, and because the room was so damp, he attempted to sleep standing up. The lone exception of the group, 64-year old Anatoly Kovalsky, said that while he was not physically beaten, he was abused mentally. In his case, he alleged that his captors constantly humiliated him and interrogators were regularly rotated every 10 minutes. According to Kovalsky, the interrogators wanted to know why the activists were in Crimea, their source of funding, if they were attempting to disrupt the referendum, and whether they had connections to Crimean Tatars or the Right Sector organization.

The two who were hospitalized, Andriy Shevchenko and Yuri Schekun, were treated for bullet wounds from a traumatic gun. Reports claim they were shot in the hands, fingers, and feet. The Center for Investigative Journalism identified the captors as members of Aksyonov’s guard.

Cinematographers from Babylon’13 remain missing since March 16th.

AutoMaidan activists have in particular come under persecution from authorities over past months, with leader Dmytro Bulatov making international headlines after he was kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and crucified by who he described as Russians.

An Open-Source Map of the Russian Occupation

The following map is an open source project designed to help spread accurate, timely information about the Russian occupation of Crimea. Data is drawn from various open and private sources. Some precise locations are unknown, and the status of many sites remain uncertain and in flux. Updates are made frequently. This map is created and maintained by “Paul Szegedin” (a pseudonym) and is also found at He can be reached at should readers be able to provide information or offer additional aid to the project.

Ukrainian sites are marked in Blue, Russian sites in Red. Abandoned military sites are in Green.

Things are beginning to unravel in Crimea. Russian occupation of key Ukraine military sites is moving forward in a haphazard, disorganized manner, by a combination of masked Russian Federation troops and mobs of local, Moscow-loyal irregulars. As of 19 March, the Ukraine Navy Headquarters in Sevastapol was captured and the anti-submarine corvette Ternopil was under blockade. Russians are throwing grenades at the ship to create an atmosphere of intense psychological pressure under a deadline to surrender the ship.

Late 19 March the Ukraine National Security Council announced that troops would be withdrawn to mainland Ukraine. It is important to note that Ukraine itself, three weeks after the overthrow of Yanukovych, barely has a central government. Many of the officers of the military and border control were loyal to the corrupt regime, and are steadily being bribed with cash offers up to $200,000 to defect to Russia. A disorganized, catastrophic retreat and loss of Ukrainian Naval and Air Force assets in Crimea looms. Billions of dollars worth of ships and aircraft are about to be captured.

Goble: Crimea’s Annexation Shows World a New and Far More Dangerous Putin

[Moscow analyst Aleksandr Morozov] begins by surveying what he describes as three basic interpretations of Crimea: the first, offered by many in Moscow and elsewhere is that what Putin has done is a form of “revenge” for Kosovo and that no one should think that Putin “is beginning any ‘new process’” at all.

The second, he suggests, is that “the ‘Ukrainian strategy’ of the Kremlin is a conscious effort to begin a new war with the West.” In that view which has been articulated by Fyodor Lukyanov, “Crimea is only a casus belli” rather than revenge for Kosovo, and thus represents an effort to overturn 1991 and “begin a new era” in international relations.

And the third, offered by Gleb Pavlovsky, holds the Putin’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis is not really about foreign policy at all but rather is “only an occasion for changing his own system of power,” a revolution intended to allow him to exit from “’procedural democracy’” and to create “a situation of indeterminacy” in which he can act more freely.

Morozov himself offers a more radical interpretation. According to him, Putin in Crimea has dramatically changed course. Until 2012, he writes, Putin plotted his course between “capitalization” and “sovereignty,” terms that followed “a completely traditional political logic” and one entirely understandable in the West. But he continues, “Crimea’ means that Putin has completely shifted to another politics altogether. Now, he is prepared to sacrifice capitalization, to suffer a sanctions regime and risk the blocking of accounts.  And by seizing Crimea, he has broken with the old ideas about sovereignty as well. In short, Morozov says, “capitalization and sovereignty have been exchanged for the creation of a situation of an indeterminate future and the policy of revenge.” And revenge of this kind by its very nature “cannot be served by the forces of regular political discourse. It has another form of rationality” and “is based on a political myth.” That in turn means, he continues, that “the discourse of Realpolitik is giving way to risk, heroism, the hero-ization of suicide, and … [a handing oneself over to] ‘fate,’” a shift that “does not consider any other possibilities for the future, except success” and thus does not make the kind of calculations that most political leaders do.

“At the head of the Russian Federation stands a ‘conservative revolutionary,’ a revanchist player who is prepared to sacrifice any of the old statuses of the Russian Federation in order to be in a position to threaten the entire construction of the world as it emerged as a result of events in the 20th century.”

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia

Read the full article here

Snyder: The Crimean Referendum Was An Electoral Farce

What happened on Sunday in Crimea was an electoral farce. Referenda cannot be held under military occupation. Referenda cannot have two options that have essentially the same meaning. Referenda cannot be held when all of the propaganda is generated by the state. Referenda cannot be held when the local television stations are closed and journalists are beaten and intimidated. Even in these conditions, the claim that 75 percent of the population took part and more than 96 percent voted for annexation to Russia is untenable. We know from years of surveys that a majority of Crimeans did not favor incorporation by Russia. One large survey showed 33 percent support for this idea in 2011, down to 23 percent in 2013. The Crimean Tatars boycotted the “referendum,” as did many Ukrainians, since it was declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Ukrainian government. The recorded electoral frequency in the city of Sevastopol was 123 percent.

Yet there were some people on hand to praise the “referendum.” Moscow sent an invitation to parties of the European far right, and found politicians willing to serve as “observers.” Enrique Ravello has belonged to the neo-Nazi CEDADE and now belongs to the extreme-right Plataforma per Catalunya. Luc Michel used to belong to the neo-Nazi Fédération d’action nationaliste et européenne and now supports a blend of fascism and Bolshevism that is also popular among Russia’s Eurasianists. Béla Kovács is a member of the Hungarian extreme-right party Jobbik and the treasurer of the Alliance of European National Movements. That Alliance characterizes Russian intervention in Ukraine as a response to the global neoconservative conspiracy, portrayed as the latest attempt at Jewish world domination.

Timothy Snyder is an American historian and Professor of History at Yale University.

Read the full article

UkrainianPolicy note: Alexander Verkhovsky has also spoken on the list of far-right observers in Crimea on the web site of the presidential human rights commission.

Anton Shekhovtsov also had this to say on the observers:

“…the Crimean “referendum” has, however, been hailed as “fair” and “legitimate” by a number of European “election monitors” who have been hired by dubious European structures and who have clear links to the extreme right, pro-Russian organisations as well as the extreme left.

The main organisation which invited right-wing and left-wing extremists to monitor the Crimean “referendum” is the Eurasian Observatory For Democracy & Elections (EODE). It is headed by Luc Michel (1958) and Jean-Pierre Vandersmissen (???). Both are followers of the major Belgian collaborationist and neo-Nazi Jean-François Thiriart and members of the extreme right Parti Communautaire National-Européen (PCN-NCP).”

Euromaidan PR has also discusses the presence of the far-right in the observation process.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine



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 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
Map of occupation, courtesy

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 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


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.


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


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, 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?, 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.


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.

Snyder: Russian intervention could inspire Beijing

 It should go without saying that an attempt to seize Ukrainian territory would be a disaster in the short run, ruining Russian credibility around the world and likely starting a major war. In the long term, such an action, even if it were to succeed, would set a rather troubling precedent — for Russia itself.

Beijing pays attention to Ukraine because it has a major stake in Ukrainian agricultural territories. It will likely note the developing Russian doctrine on the flexibility of Russia’s external borders. China also has a stake in eastern Siberia. It needs fresh water, hydrocarbons, mineral resources such as copper and zinc, and fertile soil for its farmers. The Chinese economic relationship with eastern Siberia is a colonial one: China buys raw materials and sells finished goods. Beijing actually invests more in eastern Siberia than does Moscow. No one knows the exact number of Chinese citizens in eastern Siberia — in part because the last Russian census declined to count them — but it certainly dwarfs the number of Russians in Crimea, and is expected by Russian analysts to increase significantly with time.

It seems rather risky for Russia to develop, on its own border, a challenge to the basic premise of territorial sovereignty. Beijing and Moscow currently enjoy good relations, and Chinese leaders are too sophisticated to consider open threats to eastern Siberia. But down the road, as demographic pressures mount and Russian resources beckon, a Russian doctrine of the ethnic adjustments of Russian borders could provide Beijing with a useful model.

Timothy Snyder is an American historian and Professor of History at Yale University.

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Ukrainian Policy note: More on the Chinese demographic issue in Siberia can be read in Will China Colonize and Incorporate Siberia? by Richard Rousseau and in China Doesn’t Back Russia’s Invasion Of Crimea — And That’s A Big Problem For Putin featured in Business Insider. Here is an excerpt from the latter:

Mr Walden says the Chinese have never forgiven Russia for seizing East Siberia under the Tsars, the “lost territories”. They want their property back, and they are getting it back by ethnic resettlement across the Amur and the frontier regions, much as Mexico is retaking California and Texas by the Reconquista of migration.

The population of far Eastern Siberia has collapsed to 6.3m from over 8 million twenty years ago, leaving ghost towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia has failed to make a go of its Eastern venture. With a national fertility rate of 1.4, chronic alcoholism, and a population expected to shrink by 30m to barely more than 110m by 2050 — according to UN demographers, not Mr Putin’s officials — the nation must inexorably recede towards its European bastion of Old Muscovy. The question is how fast, and how peacefully.