Russia granted protection to the fugitive Ukrainian president, Russian media reported Thursday, as dozens of heavily armed gunmen seized control of government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region and raised the Russian flag.
The moves pose an immediate challenge to Ukraine's new authorities as they seek to set up an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. Some 150,000 Russian soldiers carried out military exercises and fighter jets patrolled the border.
A respected Russian news organization reported that President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of Kiev by a three-month protest movement, was staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside Moscow.
"I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists," Yanukovych said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Thursday. He said he still considers himself president.
Shortly after, the same three Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed Russian official saying that Yanukovych's request for protection "was satisfied on the territory of Russia."
Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych's flight, condemned the takeover of government buildings in Crimea as a "crime against the government of Ukraine." He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea "will be considered a military aggression."
27 February 2014
Now that pro-Russia "gunmen" have seized government buildings in Crimea, it won't be long before they claim to be an oppressed minority and appeal to Mother Russia for help.
Posted by Brant at 12:25