A Ukrainian woman holds placard reading ‘Putin go away!’ at a rally on the Independence Square in Kiev yesterday.
Kiev: The fledgling government in Kiev put the country on a war footing yesterday as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, tightened his grip on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and western powers were left scrambling to find a response to the escalating crisis.
“We are on the brink of disaster,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s acting prime minister, as Kiev called for help from Washington and London, co-signatories of a 1994 pact with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s security and its borders.
“This is actually a declaration of war on my country,” he said. “We urge Putin to pull back his troops from this country and honour bilateral agreements. If he wants to be the president who started a war between two neighbouring and friendly countries, he has reached his target within a few inches.”
As John Kerry, the US secretary of state, described Russia’s gambit as “an incredible act of aggression”, western powers pondered their limited options. Nato ambassadors met in Brussels, with Lithuania and Poland arguing that Russia’s actions threatened them as Nato members bordering Russia and Ukraine, and pushing for appropriate action.
However, Kerry ruled out a military response. “The last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of situation,” he said. Instead, leading western countries dropped out of preparatory work for a G8 summit hosted by Russia in June, with Kerry saying Moscow could be expelled from the organisation and economic sanctions aimed at the
Russian elite moves unlikely to have much impact.
Kiev ordered a call-up of military reserves, but also instructed its troops not to respond to Russian military “provocations” for fear of triggering a bloodbath as Russian forces in Crimea restricted Ukrainian units’ movements and demanded they surrender their weapons.