Obama Threatens Sanctions as Russia Effectively Takes Over Crimean Peninsula
In spite of the U.S.'s many, many warnings, Russia has effectively taken military control of Crimea, after the Russian parliament unanimously voted in approval of President Vladimir Putin's plan to send troops into the region. The changes have happened (and keep happening) quickly, but two things are clear: Full-blown conflict is a very real possibility, and the President of the United States is not pleased.
Here's a recap of what's happened today alone: The new, pro-Russian Prime Minister of Crimea called for Putin's assistance, and Putin promptly put in a request to send in military troops to the strategically-important peninsula. The Russian parliament approved Putin's request, and now, there are already 15,000 new Russian troops in the area, according to the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN. Groups on the Ukrainian side are also now rallying in response.
“Being aware of all the dangers that are looming over the Ukrainian state, the headquarters of the Right Sector order all its units to mobilise and arm, and depending on the specific situation to coordinate with the armed forces," said Sector Right, one of the groups that was part of the demonstrations against former president Viktor Yanukovych. "We remind all citizens of Ukraine regardless of nationality (including Russians ) that our struggle is anti-imperial, not Russophobe. Russian empire will be destroyed. Urge Resistance Movement Caucasus and all liberation movements in Russia to step up their activities."
The rapidly-moving situation is making very real the possibility of a violent civil war. Pro-Russian demonstrations have erupted in several cities, with one protest seeing 5,000 to 20,000 people congregated in Odessa to pledge their support for Russia. The UN Security Council has called an emergency meeting for tonight to deal with the crisis. Only yesterday, President Obama made it very clear that any Russian military intervention would not go down well with the international community, and would not be tolerated.
Late Saturday, the President warned Russia yet again of the consequences their actions would have. Said the White House in a statement:
President Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community. In the coming hours and days, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum. The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.
Already, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy representative, has said that the "decision to use Russian armed forces in Ukraine is unwarranted", calling on Russia "not to dispatch troops but to promote its views through peaceful means. Unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected by all sides."
The unrest of course began back in November, after the Ukrainian president, under pressure from Moscow, changed his mind about signing a political and trade agreement with the European Union. Demonstrations eventually managed to topple President Viktor Yanukovych; now, the interim Ukrainian government is struggling to assert control over its country.