Tensions in Ukraine Grow Amid Russian Military Drills
Published: February 27, 2014 (Issue # 1799)
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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