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Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion, Considers State Of Emergency After Masked Gunmen Occupy Two Crimean Airports | Zero Hedge
The bizarre events in the Crimea continued overnight, after unidentified masked men but dressed like those who took over the parliament in Simferopol yesterday, took over two airports by blockading one near the Russian naval base in Sevastopol and another in the capital of Simferopol. This prompted the Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov, to accuse Moscow’s military of blockading the airports, and in a Facebook post, he called the seizure of the Belbek international airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a “military invasion and occupation.” He added: “It is a breach of all international agreements and norms.” As NBC reports, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian military sources as saying the incident at Belbek airport was intended to stop “fighters” flying in. However, Interfax later quoted a Russian official as saying that no units had approached the airport or blockaded it. In a nutshell, Russia continues to push with escalation ever further, and is testing just how far it can and will go without Ukraine responding.
— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) February 28, 2014
Kyivpost has a more detailed account:
Two Crimean airports were taken over by Russian military troops, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook this morning. He said the situation in the autonomous republic has now escalated to “a military intervention” and called on the National Security Council to take urgent steps towards its regulation.
“My assessment of what’s going on is that it’s a military intervention and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” he said in his statement. “This is a direct provocation of bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state.”
Avakov said that Sevastopol’s military airport Bilbek at night was blocked off by the military units of the Russian navy, which is based in Sevastopol. He said the airport is surrounded by camouflaged military troops with no identification and carrying guns. He said they do not hide their Russian affiliation.
Inside the airport there is a group of Ukrainian soldiers and border guards, and Ukrainian police troops have surrounded the outer perimeter of the airport. “There have been no armed clashes so far,” he said.
The navy base is Sevastopol is key for the Russian army. Under agreements signed between two countries in 2010, the Russian military can continue to use Sevastopol until 2042, with an option of extending the lease to 2047.
Some 70 kilometers away from the coast, in Crimean capital Simferopol, another airport was taken over by a group of about 100 plain-clothed men, who went inside the airport and onto the runway.
“The interior troops and police pushed these people first into the airport building, and then out of the territory. No weapons were used,” Avakov said.
He said that after the armed men left, a new group of camouflaged men arrived around 1:30 in the morning. They carried automatic weapons and had no markings. Avakov said they entered the building and stayed int he restaurant.
“They are not hiding their affiliation with the army of the Russian Federation,” Avakov said. “Told by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry workers that they are military men and have no right to be there, they answer curtly that they have no instructions to negotiate with you.”
Avakov said that so far there have been no clashes, but tension is growing as Ukrainian police troops continue to arrive. “The law enforcement organs cannot oppose the army,” Avakov concluded.
In the meantine, Ukraine is starting to realize that it may have bitten more than it can chew, and as Interfax reported:
- UKRAINE WEIGHS STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CRIMEA: INTERFAX
- RUSSIA BLACK SEA FLEET, HELICOPTERS BREAK UKRAINE ACCORDS: IFX
And the immediate re-escalation:
- RUSSIAN BLACK SEA FLEET SETS UP BALACLAVA BLOCKADE: INTERFAX
Coastguard and frigate at entrance to Balaclava bay pic.twitter.com/Yvb69jPtHM
— Christian Fraser (@ForeignCorresp) February 28, 2014
Yet none of this compares to today’s main event when a t 5pm local time, in the Rostov-on-Don Technical University, deposed Ukraine president Yanukovich who is currently in Russia, is expected to hold a press conference. Missing since the beginning of the week, the ousted ukrainian president had fled the country to Russia in the latest days, either by car through the Donetsk region, either escorted by military planes, according to different reports.
We doubt anything he says will difuse the situation.
Having been ‘busted’ for their manipulation of events in Ukraine (and exposing their views of the European Union), it seems US diplomats have been up to their old tricks once again… this time in Venezuela. “Go Conspire In Washington,” was the clear message sent to the US as President Maduro expelled three US diplomats from his country, accusing them of plotting with anti-government protesters in an attempt to topple his socialist government. This is the second time Maduro has kicked out US diplomats (3 more were expelled in September for ‘conspiring with government opponents’) as he blasted comments by John Kerry as “yet another maneuver” by Washington to “legitimize attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan democracy unleashed by violent groups in recent days.”
An anti-government student holds a sign reading “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Venezuela wake up!” during a protest in Caracas.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Washington of plotting with anti-government protesters and expelled three US diplomats in retaliation.
The oil-rich country is mired in a deep economic crisis that critics blame on policies that Maduro largely inherited from Chavez.
Strict controls on currency and prices have created huge bottlenecks that have fueled inflation and emptied store shelves.
“I have ordered the foreign ministry to proceed with declaring those three consular officials persona non grata and expelling them from the country. Let them go conspire in Washington!” Maduro said in a nationally broadcast address
Maduro said the US diplomats, who have not been named, had met with students involved in anti-government protests under the pretense of offering them “visas to the United States.”
In late September Maduro kicked out three other US diplomats, including the charge d’affairs Kelly Keiderling, on accusations of conspiring with government opponents. The two countries have had no ambassadors since 2010.
A foreign ministry statement also said that Maduro’s government “flatly rejects” remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday voicing alarm at the violence during the marches and criticizing the arrest of protesters.
Kerry’s statement is “yet another maneuver” by Washington to “legitimize attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan democracy unleashed by violent groups in recent days,” the ministry said.
Of course, it makes sense for Maduro to pitch blame on to the Americans (whether they are to blame or not) as he faces a growing tension among the working Venezuelans that the status quo is not working and a common enemy is required…
As we noted previously (via Stratfor):
The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.
But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.
How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.
In the meantime, protest leader Leopoldo Lopez said he’ll surrender on Feb 18th –
“If anyone has decided to illegally arrest and jail me, you know I will be there,” he said. “I have nothing to fear; I have not done anything illegal.”
as plain clothes policeman were in the back of a pick-up outside the home of the father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Reports said the government wants to arrest him in connection with deadly street protests in recent days. “I have committed no crime,” said Lopez. “I have been a Venezuelan committed to our country, our people, and our future.” Earlier, Lopez called Maduro a coward on Twitter. “You won’t make either me or my family bow to you,” he added.