Ousted Leader Speaks as Ukraine Tensions Soar Higher
Pro-Russia forces on the move; international leaders voice support for new government in Kiev
Tensions in Ukraine saw no sign of easing Friday.
Overnight, armed men in uniforms "resembling Russian uniforms," took control over two airports in Crimea, creating new tensions about possible Russian intervention.
Meanwhile, deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych held a news conference in Russia—his first public appearance since his ouster last week—in which he maintained he was still "the legitimate president of Ukraine.”
Twitter continued to capture live coverage of the fast-moving events inside Ukraine and reactions in the international community:
Friday's airport takeover followed the storming of the Crimean parliament building in the city of Simferopol on Thursday by pro-Russian protesters. The Ukraine peninsula of Crimea has largely shown support for the ousted Yanukovych in opposition to what they call a 'coup' orchestrated by anti-democratic elements, western interference, and neo-fascists in Kiev.
Meanwhile, the US has issued a warning to Russia against military drills near the Ukrainian border calling on the country to refrain from "provocative actions."
Following a phone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry told a crowd of reporters: "We believe that everybody now needs to step back and avoid any kind of provocations."
Lavrov has denied that Russia has had any involvement with the storming of the two airports.
And from Kiev, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, issued his own warnings Thursday adding that “all necessary measures” will be taken to take back government buildings from pro-Russian demonstrators, and warned that any move by Russia towards the Crimean border "will be considered military aggression."
On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a four-day military drill in western Russia, near the Crimea region.
The Guardian, which continues to provide live coverage in Ukraine, gave a roundup of events so far on Friday:
- Deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych held a news conference in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in which he said “I am the legitimate president of Ukraine.”
- Yanukovych said Western powers had “connived with the EuroMaidan forces” in Kiev and that the protesters had failed to honor an agreement forged by European envoys last week. He said he left the country because he had been shot at and he feared for his and his family’s safety.
- Military troops in unmarked uniforms resembling Russian uniforms took over two airports in Crimea, Simferopol airport and a military facility at Sevastopol, overnight. Simferopol airport appeared to be operating as normal.
- The new leaders of the Ukrainian government accused Russia of carrying out an “armed invasion.” Russia’s Black Sea fleet, based at Sevastopol, issued a statement both denying military action and saying “anti-terror units” had been deployed to protect the fleet and living quarters.
- Reporters witnessed a tense stand off between at least 20 men wearing the uniform of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and carrying automatic rifles and Ukrainian border guards near Sevastopol. No casualties were reported.
- The Ukrainian border guard service said that more than 10 Russian military helicopters flew from Russia into Ukrainian airspace over the Crimea region on Friday.
- The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that any movements of Russian military in the area were compliant with laws and treaties.
- Ukraine’s parliament is asking the UN security council to call a session to consider the country’s current problems. It has also urged Russia to stop moves which it says undermine Ukrainian territorial integrity.