Gunmen seize government buildings in Ukraine’s Crimea, raise Russian flag. Ukrainian interim President Olexander Turchynov has warned Russia against any “military aggression” in Crimea. Arseniy Yatsenyuk named as the country’s new prime minister.
Crimea parliament announces referendum on region’s future
The parliament of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea has proposed a referendum to determine the region’s future amid the turmoil in the country, rt.com informs. The region’s parliament said the all-Crimean referendum is about “improving the status of autonomy and expanding its powers.” “According to the underlying principles of democracy, the presidium of the Crimean parliament considers that the only possible way out of the situation on the ground is applying the principles of direct rule of the people. We are confident that only by holding an All-Crimean referendum on the issue of improving the status of the Autonomy and expanding its powers Crimeans will be able to determine the future of the Autonomy on their own and without any external pressure,” Oksana Korniychuk, the press secretary of the head of the parliament, said in a statement on Thursday.
Russia has agreed to ensure the personal safety of Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, Russian news agencies quoted a source in the authorities as saying on Thursday.
“In connection with the appeal by president Yanukovych for his personal security to be guaranteed, I report that the request has been granted on the territory of the Russian Federation,’’ the source was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Yanukovych has said he still considers himself Ukraine’s head of state and has asked Russia to ensure his personal safety, the Voice of America reports.
The ousted leader released a statement to Russian news agencies on Thursday, from an undisclosed location. Yanukovych has not been seen in public since Saturday, when Ukraine’s parliament voted to dismiss him and set early elections for May 25.
Earlier Thursday, Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchnyov warned the Russian navy in Crimea not to leave its post, after gunmen seized government buildings in the regional capital. Turchnyov said that any movement of Russian troops will be considered “military aggression.” Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said police are on high alert after the local government and legislature buildings were seized in the capital, Simferopol, by armed men in the pro-Russia region. Reports indicate the the Russian flag was raised over the buildings. Acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said the occupied buildings have been sealed off by police.
The area has been the scene of confrontations between supporters of Ukraine’s new government and pro-Russia activists. The region is mainly made up of Russian speakers who support Moscow but is also home to minority Muslim Tatars who are generally anti-Russia.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian interim leaders named popular opposition figure Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the country’s new prime minister. They announced Yatsenyuk’s nomination before a large crowd Wednesday in Kyiv’s Independence Square. Parliament was expected to consider his name Thursday.
Yatsenyuk is a pro-Western former foreign minister and economy minister. One of his first major jobs would be preventing the Ukrainian economy from collapse.
The White House says it strongly supports Ukrainian leaders as they work to form a multiparty government to represent all Ukrainians. It calls a broad-based government committed to reconciliation the necessary foundation for international aid.
The “Euromaidan” council made its announcement of Yatsenyuk, plus candidates for several other key ministers, after its members addressed crowds on Kyiv’s Independence Square.
Oleksandr Turchynov, acting president since Yanukovych was toppled on Saturday by parliament, said the new government would have to take unpopular decisions to head off default, establish the trust of creditors and investors and guarantee a normal life for Ukraine’s people.
The Euromaidan’s proposals have to be approved by parliament.
Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is considering $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine. Kerry also warned Russia Wednesday that it would be a “grave mistake” to intervene militarily in Ukraine.
The White House responded to a Russian troop alert near Ukraine on Wednesday by urging “outside actors” in the region to respect Ukrainian sovereignty. White House spokesman Josh Earnest, briefing reporters as President Barack Obama flew from Washington to Minnesota, said the United States strongly supports Ukraine leaders’ efforts to form an inclusive, multi-party government.
Washington wants to “remind all governments of their political commitments to transparency about military activities” under international obligations designed to ensure peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region, he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an urgent military drill in areas that include the region near the Ukrainian border.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the drill will check “readiness to deal with crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security.”
The Kremlin did not superficially mention Ukraine. It has said it would not interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Moscow is a strong supporter of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Ukraine is split between the pro-European west and the pro-Russian east and south.
Putin has ordered several such surprise drills in various parts of Russia since he returned to the presidency in 2012, saying the military must be kept on its toes, but the geopolitical overtones could hardly have been clearer this time.
Putin has made no public comment on Ukraine since Yanukovych was driven from power over the weekend.
Shoigu was also quoted as saying that Russia is “carefully watching what is happening in Crimea, what is happening around the Black Sea Fleet.” Russia’s Black Sea Naval Fleet is based on the Crimean coast on territory Moscow is leasing from Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, has been put on the international “Wanted” list, acting prosecutor-general Oleh Makhnytsky said on Wednesday.