UK & World News

  • 1 March 2014, 12:24

Russia Shows Its Muscle As Crimea Breaks Away

Whatever the government in Ukraine says or does, events on the ground suggest that Crimea has already for all intents and purposes broken away; certainly Kiev's orders no longer stretch as far as this region.

Unidentified gunmen have taken over the parliament and the region's main airports in the space of 24 hours.

They would not answer when I questioned them and asked if they had been sent by Moscow.

In many ways it did not matter - their appearance pretty much gave the game away.

They carried Kalashnikovs, they spoke Russian and their combat fatigues looked suspiciously like Russian issue - albeit without insignia.

The way they moved and patrolled the airports suggested too that this was no dad's army but a well-trained unit doing a professional job.

At times as they stomped up and down ostentatiously it seemed as though they were there just for the cameras.

It was perhaps a signal from the Kremlin that it could put its men on the ground whenever it wanted and there was nothing anyone else could do.

It was a projection of power and reach.

Elsewhere images were captured of Russian helicopters flying into the airport at Sevastopol: yet another direct challenge to the authority of the government in Kiev.

The acting interior minister called the action an invasion and an occupation.

Moscow denies that it has violated Ukrainian sovereignty - officially at least it says it respects its neighbour's borders.

But the pro-European government setting itself up in Kiev is seen as a threat by Moscow.

Ukraine has always been viewed by the Russian ruling elite as part of its sphere of influence.

Moscow may have lost the Western part of Ukraine (for now?) but you can bet it will not allow the same thing to happen in the south and the eastern parts of the country.

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