AFP reports: Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of sending thousands of extra troops into Crimea as the Kremlin vowed to help restore calm on the flashpoint peninsula and Washington warned of “costs” to Moscow should it use force.
Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh told the Ukrainian government’s first cabinet session that Russia’s armed forces had sent 30 armoured personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea in a bid to help local pro-Kremlin militia gain broader independence from the new pro-EU leaders in Kiev.
Tenyukh accused Russia of starting to send in these reinforcements on Friday “without warning or Ukraine’s permission.”
The defence chief spoke as dozens of pro-Russian armed men in full combat gear patrolled outside the seat of power in Crimea’s capital Simferopol. Similar gunmen had seized the city’s parliament and government buildings on Thursday and taken control of its airport and a nearby military base on Friday.
Ukraine’s border guard service also reported that about 300 armed men dressed in “full battle fatigues” were trying to seize its main headquarters in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol under orders from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The rugged peninsula jutting into the Black Sea — host to a Kremlin fleet and with an ethnic Russian majority — has now been effectively cut off from the mainland. [Continue reading…]