President Vladimir Putin put Russian combat troops on high alert for war games near Ukraine on Wednesday, the Kremlin’s most powerful gesture yet after days of sabre rattling since its ally Viktor Yanukovich was toppled as president in Kiev.
Thousands of ethnic Russians, who form the majority in Ukraine’s Crimea region, demonstrated for independence for the peninsula that hosts part of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet. They scuffled with rival demonstrators, mainly from the Tatar minority, who support the new authorities in Kiev.
“In accordance with an order from the president of the Russian Federation, forces of the Western Military District were put on alert at 1400 (0500 ET) today,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying, announcing a drill. The western district borders on Ukraine.
Shoigu also said Russia was “carefully watching what is happening in Crimea” and taking “measures to guarantee the safety of facilities, infrastructure and arsenals of the Black Sea Fleet,” in remarks reported by state news agency RIA.
This will be a huge black eye for Putin if the Ukraine solidifies ties with the EU. It is highly unlikely this will be allowed to happen.
To this end, Russian forces are already entering the Ukraine