Russia Seizes 3rd Crimea Base, But Will Putin Extend The Military Takeover To More Of Ukraine?
As Russian troops seized a third Ukrainian military base in Crimea Monday, interim President of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, ordered his country's armed forces to withdraw from the peninsula. The Russian military used stun grenades to force their way into the Ukrainian marine base in the port city of Feodosia in the south east of Crimea. According to a Ukrainian military official, the Russian troops charged into the compound firing their weapons.
Several witnesses also said helicopters were involved in the raid. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznev said that between 60 and 80 Ukrainian officers had been captured and taken.
Turchynov gave the order for Ukrainian troops to withdraw because of Russian threats to the lives of military personnel and their families in the region. Last Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin declared the peninsula to be part of Russia, signing a document to incorporate it. The following day, Russian forces stormed the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy in the port city of Sevastopol, and have continued to consolidate their hold in the region since.
On Monday, President Barack Obama is meeting with members of the G7 group of industrialized nations — with Russia conspicuous in its absence — to discuss the situation. The talks will take place on the sidelines of a planned nuclear summit in The Hague.
This is the first time the seven nations will meet since the crisis in Ukraine took hold. Obama is likely to push for presenting a united front against Russia's actions. Although both the U.S. and the European Union have hit Moscow with economic sanctions, there are concerns that it may be tougher for the EU — which is more entangled economically with Russia — to keep up the pressure.
Obama's trip to The Hague is part of a longer trip, accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry, during which the pair will also visit Rome, the Vatican City — where the president will meet with Pope Francis — and Riyadh. The European leg of the trip is likely to be dominated by discussions on Ukraine.
The meeting also follows an announcement Sunday by NATO's top military commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, that Russia has amassed a large volume of troops on its border with Ukraine. There's concern that Russia may be preparing to take over Transnistria, a pro-Moscow breakaway region of Moldova on Ukraine's southwest border, which has been urging Moscow to take the region.
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant before his arrival in the Netherlands Monday, Obama stressed that the U.S. does not see Europe as a battleground between East and West, and that Ukrainians shouldn't have to choose between the two.
Obama added he believed it to be important for Ukraine to have good relations with Moscow, Europe and the U.S., saying he plans to increase sanctions against Russia if it continues on its current path.