While the US and its allies are locked in a war of words which Russia has so far been completely ignoring, things continue to move both literally (along the Russian side of Ukraine's eastern border) and metaphorically. Overnight, ousted President Viktor Yanukovych has called for a national referendum to determine each region's "status within Ukraine". As a reminder, the Kremlin still refuses to accept the current Ukraine government, claiming it got there only after an illegitimate, violent overthrow of Yanukovich. "As a president who is with you with all my thoughts and soul, I urge every sensible citizen of Ukraine: Don't give in to impostors! Demand a referendum on the status of each region within Ukraine."
In his first comments since Crimea voted to become part of Russia, Mr Yanukovych denounced fresh presidential elections planned for 25 May. BBC adds that at the same time Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said that all Ukrainian service personnel loyal to Kiev have now left Crimea and all military installations there are under Russian control.
And while the Russian noose continues to tighten, first around East Ukraine, it almost appears as if developments in Kiev are doing their best to help out Putin. Perhaps Kiev took a little too much to heart the statement by Schauble that Ukraine has Greece as a role model to look up to, because while it has skipped the entire economic collapse phase (for now), it has jumped straight to the infighting with its ultra-nationalist, far-right "Right Sector" elements, which were certainly one of the main factors for the ascent of the current acting government and the overthrow of the last one.
FT adds that the ex-president’s call, reported by Russian media, came as members of a radical rightwing fringe group, Right Sector, staged a second protest outside Kiev’s parliament in little more than 12 hours. The reason: Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov has condemned the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, saying the group is bent on "destabilisation".
Right Sector activists blocked the parliament (Rada) building in Kiev on Thursday night and smashed windows. They blamed the interior minister for the killing of a Right Sector leader. From BBC:
At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament "an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine - Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation's political leadership is giving to its special services".
Right Sector activists are furious over the death of Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, one of their leaders. The interior ministry said he died on Monday night in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine.
A member of the far-right group in Rivne threatened revenge for the killing of Mr Muzychko.
"We will avenge ourselves on [Interior Minister] Arsen Avakov for the death of our brother. The shooting of Sashko Bily is a contract killing ordered by the minister," Right Sector member Roman Koval was quoted as saying by the Ukrayinska Pravda website.
Keep track of the internal strife as the Right Sector played a prominent role in the Kiev protests - and the clashes with police - which led to the removal of Mr Yanukovych from power. Its main support base is in western Ukraine. Should the government escalate its relations with the "Right Sector" the new government may be overthrown just as fast as its predecessor.
It has gotten so bad that Ukraine security officials, taking another page of the Greek playbook, are actively considering banning the "Right Sector." RT reports:
Following a siege of Kiev parliament building by the Right Sector nationalists, Ukraine’s security officials have discussed banning the movement during an urgent security meeting, a source in Batkivshchina party told Ria. According to the source, the meeting was attended by the acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, National Security and Defense Council chief Andrey Parubiy, as well as Oleg Tyagnibok, the leader of nationalist Svoboda party.
During the meeting, Avakov suggested a complete ban of the organization given the radicalization of the Right Sector, the source said.
Parubiy was allegedly supportive of the idea of dismantling the neo-Nazi movement and said such a move would allow those present at the meeting to whitewash themselves of having any connections to the radicals, the source said. Tyagnibok reportedly did not take any sides.
According to the source, the proposal will be further discussed on Friday “within a wider circle.”
Meanwhile on Friday, Verkhovna Rada is also expected to hold an emergency session to discuss the possibility of Avakov’s resignation, after hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists gathered outside the parliament building threatening to storm it unless Avakov takes personal responsibility for the killing of one of their leaders and resigns.
The right-wing militant leader Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bilyi, was killed in a police raid against his gang in Rovno, western Ukraine.
It is here that Russia may suddenly have found an unwilling "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" ally. It perhaps explains why Russia was just cited as escalating the war of words yet again. Via Reuters:
- SENIOR RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL TELLS PUTIN THERE HAS BEEN A SHARP INCREASE OF EXTERNAL THREATS TO RUSSIA FROM THE UNITED STATES AND ITS ALLIES - INTERFAX NEWS AGENCY
- SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS "LAWFUL DESIRE OF PEOPLES OF CRIMEA AND EASTERN UKRAINIAN REGIONS TO BE WITH RUSSIA IS CAUSING HYSTERIA IN THE UNITED STATES AND ITS ALLIES" - INTERFAX
- SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS WESTERN NATIONS SEEKING TO WEAKEN RUSSIAN INFLUENCE IN A VITALLY IMPORTANT REGION, RUSSIA TAKING "OFFENSIVE COUNTERINTELLIGENCE MEASURES" IN RESPONSE - INTERFAX
Last, and certainly least, there is Obama who said in a CBS interview that Russia "needs to move back the troops" from Ukraine border. Obama says Putin is “certainly misreading American foreign policy" adding that “we have no interest in encircling Russia."
The problem is that Russia certainly has an interest in encircling Ukraine: "You’ve seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises,” Obama says "these are not what Russia would normally be doing."
Perhaps Obama should explain the whole "costs" thing again, because over a month in and Putin still hasn't quite understood it.