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Europe

Ukraine calls up military reserves after Russian forces seize Crimea

© AFP

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-02

Ukraine has called up its military reserves and ordered its armed forces to be combat-ready as soon as possible, the country’s top security official said on Sunday – one day after Russian forces seized control of its Crimea region.

Andriy Parubiy, Secretary of the Security Council which groups top security and defence chiefs, said an order had also been given to the country’s Foreign Ministry to seek US and British support in guaranteeing the security of Ukraine.

Reading out the order after a meeting of the council, Parubiy said the Defence Ministry was to “organise and conduct training with the necessary amount of people of military age.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s newly appointed Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that the country was on the brink of disaster, accusing Russia of having made a declaration of war.

The decisions follow a vote by Russia’s upper house of parliament on Saturday authorising President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops in Ukraine.

Troops with no insignia on their uniforms – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – flooded Crimea the same day, effectively taking control of the peninsula. Ukraine’s new authorities initially responded by placing its armed forces on high alert, warning Russia that a military intervention would mean war and appealing to NATO for help.

FRANCE 24’s Douglas Herbert reports on Russian forces in Crimea from Simferopol

US President Barack Obama later said that Russia was in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty during a 90-minute phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement issued by the White House following the conversation, the United States called on Russia to withdraw its forces back to its bases in Crimea and urged that international observers be sent to Ukraine. It also announced that the US will suspend its participation in preparatory meetings for an upcoming G8 summit to be held in Sochi, Russia, warning that Moscow’s “continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation”.

The Kremlin also issued a statement after the phone call, in which it said that Putin had told Obama “that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory,” and stressed Russia’s right to protect its interests in the country.

Calls for 'de-escalation'

As Russian forces solidified their control of Crimea, unrest spread to other parts of Ukraine on Saturday. Pro-Russian demonstrators clashed, in some instances violently, with supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities and raised the Russian flag over government buildings in several cities, including Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called for the swift deployment of international monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Ukraine to help stem the escalating crisis there.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call that Moscow’s military intervention risked creating further instability and an escalation “that would threaten European and international security”, the Pentagon said. A US defence official said there had been no change in US military posture or in the alert status of forces.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Moscow not to send troops. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said this would be “clearly against international law”. Czech President Milos Zeman likened the crisis to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

“Urgent need for de-escalation in Crimea,” tweeted NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “NATO allies continue to coordinate closely.”

NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the situation, Rasmussen tweeted. “North Atlantic Council will meet tomorrow followed by NATO-Ukraine Commission,” he wrote.

Putin said his request for authorisation to use force in Ukraine would last “until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in that country”. His justification – the need to protect Russian citizens – was the same as he used to launch a 2008 invasion of Georgia, where Russian forces seized two breakaway regions and recognised them as independent.

Follow FRANCE 24's correspondent in Crimea, Douglas Herbert, live on Twitter:

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-02

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