The newly appointed prime minister of Ukraine’s restive Crimea region has called on Russia to help restore calm. This came after he claimed to control all security forces in the region.
Sergei Aksenov, who was elected by lawmakers as the Crimea’s new prime minister on Thursday, used a statement reported by local and Russian media to assert his control over all military, police and other security forces in the semi-autonomous region.
“I order all commanders to fulfil only my directives. All those who do not agree I ask to leave the service,” he said.
He added that he had taken this decision in response to the new Kyiv government’s appointment of a new police commander in Crimea – a move he described as illegal.
Appeal for Moscow’s assistance
Aksenov, the head of the main pro-Russian party in the southern Ukrainian region, then went on to appeal to Moscow for support.
“Understanding my responsibility for the life and security of citizens, I appeal to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea,”
He did not, however, specify what sort of assistance he was looking for.
Aksenov’s appeal came amid heightened tensions on the peninsula, a day after heavily armed troops wearing uniforms without military insignias took control of two key airports in the region. They also took up positions around government buildings in the main city of Simferopol.
This also ramped up tensions between the Kremlin and the White House, with US President Barack Obama saying in a televised statement on Friday that Washington was “deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by Russian forces” in Crimea.
He warned that any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty “would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe.”
The US president also warned that Russia would incur “costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, rejected allegations of military aggression expressed by the new government in Kyiv.
“We have an agreement with Ukraine on the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol and we are acting within the framework of that agreement,” Churkin said. In response to a reporter’s question about reports that additional Russian forces had landed in Crimea, Churkin said he was unable to provide specifics.
pfd/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)