Killing of Ukrainian Serviceman Begins 'Military Stage' of Conflict


Sebastian Meyer

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the parliament of Crimea signed a treaty today declaring the region a territory of the Russian Federation. Despite the annexation nominally ending Crimea's identity crisis, the situation on the ground hit a new low: a Ukrainian serviceman under fire from "armed masked men" and snipers was killed by a bullet to the neck.

The New York Times reported earlier that "within hours of that declaration, a group of soldiers opened fire while storming a modest Ukrainian military installation in Kubanskoye, near Simferopol… the base appeared to be under control of the soldiers, who wore no insignia." The Associated Press hints at who might be responsible, though, since "a truck bearing a Russian flag was used in the operation."

When the gunfire ended, "one serviceman at the base had died of his wounds. A second man, a captain, was injured," according to Reuters.

Christopher Miller of the Kyiv Post clarified that the killed man was not even soldier, but a "a cartographer who worked at photogrammetric information center."

Ukraine's interim prime minister stated that the killing, for which he blames Russian soldiers, marks a "shifting from a political to a military stage" in the Crimean crisis, and that the attack constitutes a "war crime."

Russia announced yesterday that the Ukrainian military has until Friday to vacate Crimea.

Although Putin insists he has no interest in seizing other regions of Ukraine, Russian troops are building up along the border and conducting military exercises. Adding to the alarm, The Interpreter magazine reports that "Belarus, a long-time Russian ally, was supposed to receive a shipment of 15 Russian Su-27SM3 aircraft. Now, that number has risen to 24," which "could be seen as a direct response to this crisis" in Ukraine.

As Reason's Matthew Feeney highlighted, Vice President Joe Biden today suggested that the U.S. may soon be conducting military exercises of its own in the Baltic Sea.  

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine and Russia here