After pro-EU putsch in Ukraine, Russia puts military on alert
27 February 2014
The Kremlin carried out large-scale military exercises along its border with Ukraine yesterday, amid rising tensions with the Western-backed Ukrainian regime that seized power in Saturday’s fascist-led putsch in Kiev.
Announcing the exercises, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said: “In accordance with an order by the president of the Russian Federation, the forces of the western military district were put on alert at 2pm today.”
The military alert was billed as a “surprise comprehensive interoperability test” of armed forces in Russia’s western and central military districts and its air force command. Some 150,000 soldiers, 90 warplanes, 120 attack helicopters, 880 tanks, and 90 ships reportedly participated.
Though Shoigu claimed the mobilization was “largely unrelated” to events in Kiev, he pointedly noted that the exercises took place “on the border with several countries, including Ukraine.” The alert was widely reported as the first public reaction to the Ukrainian crisis by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who until now was at the Sochi Olympics and did not comment on it.
Shoigu added that Moscow was “carefully watching” the situation in the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-majority region of Ukraine that includes a major Russian naval base at Sevastopol.
Thousands protested for and against the new Ukrainian regime in the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol yesterday. One person was killed and many wounded amid clashes between Russian opponents of the Kiev regime, many of them Cossacks, and ethnic Tatars supporting the Western-backed regime. Russian protesters demanded the organization of a referendum on secession from Ukraine, which was bitterly opposed by Tatar protesters.
These clashes highlight how the reckless support given to right-wing and fascist opposition groups in Kiev by Washington and the European Union (EU) have driven Ukraine to the brink of a civil war, threatening to escalate into a direct clash between Russia and NATO.
Tensions have exploded since the Saturday putsch toppled Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The Kiev regime declared Russian to no longer be an official language in Ukraine, while officials in the Crimea and several southern and eastern provinces of Ukraine have said they do not recognize the new regime’s authority.
Conflicts are escalating in particular over Crimea. On Tuesday, the Western-backed interim president in Kiev, Oleksander Turchynov, called an emergency meeting to discuss “not allowing any signs of separatism and threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity [meaning the events which have taken place [. . .]