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Tensions in Ukraine Grow Amid Russian Military Drills

Published: February 27, 2014 (Issue # 1799)



  • Pro-Russian protesters, left, clash with Crimean Tatars in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, on Feb. 26.
    Photo: Darko Vojinovic / AP

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned of growing extremism in Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to conduct military preparedness drills in the western military district bordering Ukraine.

Stirring fears of a possible invasion, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the armed forces in that area were already "combat ready," Interfax reported.

Related: Warrant Issued for Deposed Ukraine Leader for Mass Murder

The order from Putin which Shoigu later said was in no way connected with the situation in Ukraine came as tensions grew in Ukraine's autonomous republic of Crimea, with pro-Russian demonstrators engaging in a standoff with pro-Ukrainian ones in front of the Supreme Council building in the capital, Simferopol.

Russia watchers have anxiously been waiting to see what Putin's next move might be amid growing uncertainty over Ukraine's future. The official response so far has been mostly limited to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's criticism of the West's "meddling" in Ukraine and warnings of extremists among Kiev's new leadership.

Related: Ukraine Awaits Impact of New Government's Tension With Russia

On Wednesday, Lavrov said that any cooperation with Ukraine was only possible if requested by "legitimate authorities," reiterating Russia's refusal to recognize the new Ukrainian government and denouncing Yanukovych's ouster as an illegitimate coup.

At a meeting with Lamberto Zannier, general secretary of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lavrov urged the OSCE to condemn nationalist sentiment in Ukraine and the recent legislative move to downgrade the status of the Russian language.

Russia's Foreign Ministry echoed Lavrov's remarks in a statement released Wednesday.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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