Ukraine Crisis News Roundup: March 12

20,000 new soldiers, referendums and more

by Linda Kinstler | March 12, 2014

photo credit: VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images

Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, warned that Ukraine is vulnerable to a “full-scale attack” from Russia on all sides. The number of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, where Russia is holding “military exercises,” is increasing

#Parubiy: #Russia grows military potential on the border with #Ukraine, they call it drills officially, but they haven't stopped them yet

— Myroslava Petsa (@myroslavapetsa) March 12, 2014

Ukraine hopes to start training a 20,000-man National Guard on Thursday. 

#Parubiy: Tomorrow we start drills for Maidan activists who want to join National Guard

— Myroslava Petsa (@myroslavapetsa) March 12, 2014

Armed men took control of the Simferopol airport Tuesday night, and now it appears that only flights going to Moscow are allowed to depart until after the Crimean referendum, Radio Liberty reports. Flights to Kiev and Istanbul have been canceled.

Ukraine has completely lost control of Sevastopol, according to Ukraine's envoy to Crimea, Sergey Kunitsyn.

No OSCE observers will be in Crimea for the March 16 referendum, the organization stated Wednesday. That’s probably because when OSCE observers tried to enter the territory, check point guards fired warning shots to fend them off.

Three journalists who went missing in Crimea on March 9 are “alive and well,” the Kyiv Post reports. Crimean Minister for Information and Mass Communications Dmitry Polonsky said that reports of their disappearance in the media are “provocations,” adding that “Pro-Ukrainian media outlets report on an annoyingly regular basis.” 

“His closest adviser is his inner voice," said a source who is close to the Kremlin." Reuters reports on how Putin’s close circle of aides keep him insulated from criticism and dissent.

Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is in Washington today to meet with President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Robert Menendez will host Yatsenyuk on Wednesday evening, the Times reports.

“Today, the people of Ukraine are united as never before in the idea of collective security and European values,” interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. “We choose Western standards and reject this neo-Soviet imperialism. We will no longer play the game of ‘older and younger brothers.’...Ukraine and Russia are two sovereign states, and the Ukrainian people will determine their path independently. The refusal to accept this fact will lead, at the very least, to a new Cold War.

Ukraine controls the vast majority of water and electricity supplies in Crimea, its most powerful lever to control the peninsula. 80 percent of Crimean water and electricity comes from Ukraine, compared to 35 percent of its gas. “For the time being, [Crimea] remains reliant on Ukraine,” the Kyiv Post writes

The Russian stock market took a sharp fall on Wednesday. Vodka prices are rising.

The E.U. continues to threaten to impose sanctions against Russia, but has yet to do so. The sanctions “could be imposed” after Crimea’s March 16 referendum, The Guardian reports.

A Moscow district court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Ukraine’s Right Sector who recently announced that he will run for president.

Crimea’s March 16 referendum, in which citizens will vote on whether to join the Russian Federation, will need a turnout greater than 50 percent to be considered valid, Gazeta.ru reports. The referendum will not include an option for maintaining the status quo in Crimea, with the Autonomous Crimean Republic remaining a partially autonomous property of Ukraine, according to the Kyiv Post. The ballot will ask: ”Are you for the reunification of Crimea with Russia on the rights of the subject of the Russian Federation?" and "Are you for the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea of 1992 and for the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?" Here’s what it will look like to voters, according to FIPRA Ukraine.

If Crimea becomes part of Russia after March 16, Georgia may move to become part of NATO, Kommersant reports, citing sources in the U.S. State Department and NATO. “The prospect of NATO membership for Georgia came up at the [Russia-]NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008”--the same summit where Putin supposedly told then-President George W. Bush that Ukraine is not a real country and “reportedly made clear that if NATO dared to take Ukraine into its fold, Putin will take...Crimea. You know, to protect the Russian speakers,” Julia Ioffe explained. 

G-7 leaders demanded Russia cease all efforts to annex Crimea. President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso told the European Parliament that "Ukraine should not be seen as a problem for Europe, but an asset for a more united European continent" in a speech on Wednesday

Maria Snegovaya writes that Putin is likely to continue "his Ukrainian adventure" by invading eastern Ukraine. 

The UN Security Council met “for the fifth time in 10 days, as international concerns grow about Russia’s possible annexation of Crimea,” FIPRA Ukraine reports. Yatsenyuk will address the UN in New York later this week.

67 percent of Russians would vote for Putin if elections were held this week, according to the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization. “The level of electoral support for Vladimir Putin has remained unchanged since last year,” but will almost certainly depend on the outcome of the Crimean invasion, Kommersant reports.

102 Russian artists have signed a letter in support of Putin’s approach to the Crimean crisis, Russia’ Dozhd TV reports. The letter was circulated by Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medina. 

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, currently under house arrest for violating the terms of a five-year suspended sentence, issued his take on the Crimean invasion. “The people have the right to revolt when other methods of political struggle have been exhausted,” Navalny writes. “This is a lesson for everyone who seeks power by the principle of "I want it all." 

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