The Russian occupation of Crimea has reportedly turned violent: a Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded Tuesday, allegedly at the hands of Russian forces, according to the Ukrainian Prime Minister. Reuters reports:
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Tuesday that the conflict in its Crimea peninsula, now under Russian control, had entered a military phase after an Ukrainian officer was killed in an alleged Russian shooting at a Crimea base.
"The conflict is moving from a political one to a military one because of Russian soldiers," he told a meeting at Ukraine's defense ministry. "Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and this is a war crime without any expiry under a statute of limitations."
Yatseniuk said he had ordered Ukraine's defense minister to call a meeting with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Russia - signatories to a 1994 treaty guaranteeing Ukraine's borders to "prevent an escalation of the conflict".
Earlier, a military spokesman said a Ukrainian officer was killed in a shooting at a military facility on the outskirts of the Crimean capital Simferopol, but it was unclear who was behind the incident.
Up until this point, the crisis in Crimea had been relatively peaceful. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin actually bragged in his recent speech at the Kremlin that the invasion was conducted without bloodshed. But all that changed on Tuesday after a Crimean military base was stormed, although by whom exactly, it isn’t clear:
There was no immediate evidence that Russian soldiers were involved in Tuesday's incident, witnesses said.
It was not possible to see far into the compound, because streets leading to it had been blocked by so-called "self-defense" units of pro-Russian volunteers who have been patrolling the streets of Crimea in the run-up to the referendum.
This latest crisis will no doubt put increased pressure on U.S. leaders to ease tensions and resolve the situation peacefully. For what it’s worth, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer argued last night on “Special Report” that the latest rounds of sanctions have been “humiliating” and “preposterous”; he called for arming the Ukrainian military with weapons as the “one thing we could do” to show Moscow that the U.S. means business:
Meanwhile, Ukraine is calling all able-bodied persons with military backgrounds into service. The threat of a full-scale military invasion, it seems, is being taken very seriously by Ukraine's interim government:
Ukraine, fearing a large-scale Russian invasion, has called upon 20,000 Ukrainians with some degree of military training to report for service. On Tuesday, groups of reservists trained outside Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials said there are more than 20,000 Russian soldiers on its borders — troops Russia claims are merely training.
Needless to say, the situation is Crimea is spiraling out of control. Stay tuned for additional updates as more information becomes available.