It only makes sense that now that Crimea is officially Russian territory once again, that the Russians would do with it as they see fit. Which they did. Overnight Russian troops and unarmed men stormed Ukraine's naval headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol and raised the Russian flag in what Reuters described as "a tense but peaceful takeover that signals Moscow's intent to neutralize any armed opposition." Russian soldiers, and so-called "self-defense" units of mainly unarmed volunteers who are supporting them across the Black Sea peninsula, moved in early in the morning and quickly took control.
Keep in mind that this took place the day after the Ukraine military authorized its forces to use weapons to defend themselves if attacked. Considering that they did not do that is only further evidence of just how seriously Putin and Russian generals take any attempts by Ukraine to "defend" itself.
And yet in what is certainly an invitation for future provocations, shortly after the incident, Ukraine's acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in Kiev that the country's forces would not withdraw from Crimea even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty to make it part of Russia.
But an hour later, Ukrainian servicemen, unarmed and in civilian clothing, began walking out of the headquarters. As NBC added, "about a dozen Ukrainian servicemen were later pictured being led out of the base."
More from Reuters:
The first group of servicemen was followed within a few minutes by a handful of troops in Ukrainian uniform, looking shell-shocked at the dramatic turn of events. "This morning they stormed the compound. They cut the gates open, but I heard no shooting," said Oleksander Balanyuk, a captain in the navy.
"This thing should have been solved politically. Now all I can do is stand here at the gate. There is nothing else I can do," he told Reuters, appearing ashamed and downcast.
Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that Alexander Vitko, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet which is based in Sevastopol, had been involved in talks at the headquarters. Viktor Melnikov, in charge of the "self-defence" unit, said talks were going on to negotiate a surrender.
"We've had difficult negotiations with the command here," he told reporters. "Some Ukrainian servicemen are already leaving, without their uniforms, but there was no violence." A Reuters reporter saw three armed men, possibly Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms, at the gate and at least a dozen more inside the compound.
Yet for all the ongoing posturing, the situation on the ground appears to have calmed down:
In Crimea's main city, Simferopol, where one Ukrainian serviceman was killed after a shooting on Tuesday, the situation was calm on Wednesday.
It was the first death on the Black Sea peninsula from a military clash since the region came under Russian control three weeks ago. Ukrainian prime minister Yatseniuk denounced it as a "war crime".
Aksyonov, Crimea's pro-Moscow leader, suggested the incident was the fault of "provocateurs" opposed to the annexation of the region to Russia.
"Unfortunately, two people were killed," he said, speaking in Moscow. "I'm sure we will find these scoundrels. The security service of the Crimean Republic is investigating."
But nowhere is the resignation within Ukraine's acting political leadership more evident than in a statement just uttered by potential presidential candidate and former boxer, Vitali Klitschko:
- UKRAINE GOVT SHOULD WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM CRIMEA, KLITSCHKO SAYS
More appeasement of Putin: will it result in the annexation of east Ukraine? Surely. The only question is when.