Ukraine: Thousands of Russian Troops at Border, Kerry Demands an End


White House

All eyes are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as heavily-armed Kremlin forces line up for "military exercises."

The New York Times writes that today Russia's "Defense Ministry… outlined what was described as intensive training of units involving artillery batteries, assault helicopters and at least 10,000 soldiers," noting that this directly contradicts their denial of troop movements yesterday.

The head of Ukraine's National Security asserts that there are actually 80,000 troops.

At a meeting with President Obama today, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk assured that Ukraine "will fight for [its] freedom… and never surrender."

Nevertheless, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov stated today that Ukraine will not use force against Russia, because it would make "containing the situation… impossible."

Significantly, the three regions in which Russian forces are gathering are not at all near the Crimean peninsula, which is in the south, but situated along Ukraine's eastern border. This raises concerns that Russia may stage an even more aggressive invasion on top of the 25,000 troops already occupying Crimea.

This weekend, Crimea will face a referendum on whether or not the region will join the Russian Federation. According to Reuters, neither of the two options on the ballot would actually allow Crimea to retain its current status as part of Ukraine. The U.S. and E.U. refuse to acknowledge the vote, asserting that the military occupation prevents any legitimate opportunity to dissent.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a specious warning about it today. "There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself. If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue … there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday," he said at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tomorrow in London, according to the Washington Examiner.

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine here