Ukraine Crisis News Roundup: March 8

by Linda Kinstler | March 8, 2014

photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russia threatened to freeze U.S. military inspections of Russian strategic offensive arms in response to the Pentagon's suspension of military cooperation with the Kremlin. The move would violate the 2011 New Start Treaty that stipulates both countries will move toward decreasing their nuclear arsenals over the course of seven years. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Ukrainian government is run by "radical nationalists" in a press conference on Saturday, RT reports. Right sector leader Dmytro Yarosh announced Thursday that he will make a bid for the Ukrainian presidency. 

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg "sent conciliatory signals to Moscow" on Friday when he acknowledged the "very pronounced Russian imprint" on Crimea, The Guardian reports. Clegg said that Putin should have a "civilised discussion" with the Ukrainian government about annexing Crimea. 

The Kremlin ordered Yanukovych to crackdown on protesters on the Maidan, U.S. intelligence officials told Newsweek. The violence that followed killed at least 100 people and led to the ouster of Yanukovych's government. Yanukovych reportedly knew that a crackdown would strengthen the protest movement and threaten his office, but acted according to Russia's orders. As the street protests gained momentum, "Moscow feared 'that an interim government might make a move to NATO or might make a move against the Black Sea fleet,' the CIA concluded," according to Newsweek

The Department of Defense is considering providing military assistance to Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports

Pro-Ukraine protesters demonstrated in Simferopol on Saturday as thousands of people took to the street for a mass pro-Russia protest in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov:

Go big or go home, I guess. Ukrainian riot police stand guard outside gov hq in Kharkiv ahead of pro-Russia protest pic.twitter.com/M3uOQGtcUR

— Alessandra Prentice (@alessaprentice) March 5, 2014

A non-shooting war no more?  

Shots were fired as foreign military observers tried to enter Crimea Saturday afternoonThe Guardian reports. The OSCE has posted photos of its blocked attempt to send 47 military observers into Crimea. They were stopped at a checkpoint manned by "unidentified military personnel" and refused entry. 

Multiple journalists have been attacked in Crimea over the past 24 hours. Friday, Bulgarian and German reporters were attacked by men in uniform, who held them at gunpoint and confiscated their equipment (videos). Late Friday evening, Russian journalist Pavel Nikulin was attacked at a military base in Sevastopol as he tried to document Russian forces overtaking the base. Here is the video Nikulin managed to take of the Russian assault on Ukrainian forces while the "self-defense" forces were beating him (photo). AP reports that its journalists were also attacked and accused of being spies by armed men in Simferopol. The men took AP's equipment and held its reporters hostage for two hours. On Thursday, armed men in Sevastopol seized a helicopter transporting journalists, according to the Ukrainian  Defence Ministry Media Centre. The men claimed the helicopter and released the journalists. The Kyiv Post's Christopher Miller described what it's like to be a journalist in Crimea right now: 

Twice this week in #Crimea I was accused of being a spy. 1st time militia group shoved me into traffic. 2nd, cossacks cracked whip near me.

— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 8, 2014

Soldiers who identified themselves as "Crimean self-defense" fired at a moving vehicle driven by Ukrainian activists in Simferopol on Saturday. 

Russia continues to add to its forces in Crimea and dug mine fields on Ukraine's border with Crimea: 

А вот вам колонна которая идет из Керчи по направлению в Симферополь #Крым pic.twitter.com/ZXCraSSstM

— Sergey Ponomarev (@SergeyPonomarev) March 8, 2014

МИННОЕ ПОЛЕ, сделанное российской армией на границе Крыма и Украины http://t.co/fI6SA0fieV фото позиций обоих армий pic.twitter.com/qfgohI19cP

— Feldman (@EvgenyFeldman) March 8, 2014

Crimean Tatars appealed to the UN to intervene. "Foreseeing that the situation may be quite out of control, we turn to international organisations with  a  request to assist in the de-escalation of the military conflict  in Crimea, which can lead to massive casualties, to immediately consider the introduction in Crimea of international peacekeepers of  the UN security forces", said Tatar leader Refat Chubarov.

In Sevastopol, life goes on almost as usual outside military bases: "in general the situation in the streets is normal: shops, banks, schools, heating, transport and other services are all operating as usual," FIPRA Ukraine reports. Poland announced that it will evacuate its consulate in the city: 

Because of continuing disturbances by Russian forces there, we have reluctantly evacuated our consulate @PLinSevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine.

— Radosław Sikorski (@sikorskiradek) March 8, 2014

Here's what the scene is like on Kiev's Independence Square: 

Republican Senators Mark Kirk and Dan Coates asked FIFA to ban Russia from the 2018 World Cup. Russia leads the medal count of the Paralympic games after one day of competition. 

In the press: 

Anne Applebaum on how to counter the propaganda of Russia's "political technologists": "Let’s be clear about the 'self-defence forces' in Crimea...They are there to create hysteria, to undermine the government in Kiev, and to persuade outsiders that the accelerating Russian occupation of Crimea is legitimate – and perhaps that the coming occupation of eastern Ukraine, or other parts of Ukraine, is legitimate too." 

Mikheil Saakashvili on what he learned when Russia invaded his country, and why the west should care about Ukraine: "Putin destabilizes his neighbors in an effort to kill any NATO and E.U. appetite for further expansion. He also sees periodic land grabs as, somehow, the route to his domestic political rejuvenation...We are seeing not just the slicing up of Europe’s largest country but also the destruction of post-Cold War order in Europe," Saakashvili writes in a Washington Post op-ed. 

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told European leaders that the west risks losing credibility if it does not strongly intervene in Crimea. Tymoshenko met with EU representatives at the European People's Party congress in Dublin Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

On TNR11 essential questions about the crisis in Crimea, answered. Ukrainian journalist Vitaly Portnikov mourns the severing of ties between Russia and Ukraine. His message to Russia: "You have won Crimea and you have lost Ukraine. You have lost Ukraine forever. Farewell. Don't kill us." 

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