Is Russia Making Its Move?
By Harold Hutchison
The day after the Crimean parliament was seized, gunmen apparently loyal to Russia have now grabbed the airport near the Crimean capital of Simferopol. One media report indicated the gunmen were wearing “Russian Navy ensigns.”
According to a report by Breitbart News, the seizure comes as the Crimea appears to be making preparations to split from the Ukraine. The Crimean parliament has reportedly dissolved the government and placed in new leadership that is pro-Russia. Reports from the London Telegraph and BBC have indicated that Russian armored vehicles are operating in Crimea. Reports also claim that an airport near Sevastopol has been seized.
The Ukrainian government has vowed to oppose any separatist effort by Crimea, which has set a regional autonomy vote for 25 May, the same date as Ukraine’s presidential election. Crimea is home to Sevastopol, where a large portion of both the Ukrainian Navy and the Russian Black Sea Fleet are based. The region is mostly populated by Russians, who are facing off with ethnic Ukrainians and Muslim Tartars. Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has fled to Moscow.
Putin has also been putting economic pressure on the Ukraine, freezing a $15 billion economic aid package that was used to convince Yanukovych to scrap a trade deal with the EU.