NEAR ANDRIIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian paratroopers with armored vehicles were digging in on Thursday near the Russian border as the military demonstrated its presence in the east following Kiev’s loss of Crimea to Moscow’s forces.
The soldiers, camped in tents with some two dozen trucks and BMD-1 combat vehicles, would not discuss their mission. They set up sandbags, strung barbed wire and carried out infantry drills in small groups next to a small quarry in rolling grain country, 30 km (20 miles) from the Russian border in Donetsk region.
DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – The man given the job of preventing Ukraine’s industrial heartland following Crimea into the arms of Russia sounds a little hoarse and confesses to lacking sleep but reckons things are not as bad as last week.
But steel baron Serhiy Taruta, since March 2 governor of his native Donetsk region, warned Western powers on Wednesday that without urgent financial aid the Russian-speaking population of the wider Donbass coal mining area could vent frustrations with Ukraine’s corrupt and failing economy by heeding Kremlin-funded militants who have called for Moscow to step in and take charge.
UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN FRONTIER (Reuters) – Ukraine has strengthened frontier defenses with Russia following Moscow’s seizure of Crimea but there is no sign of a major troop build-up in a region where some say they would welcome a Russian takeover.
On a day when a Ukrainian soldier became the first fatal casualty in the confrontation on the Black Sea peninsula, at the southernmost crossing between the two countries, where Ukraine dug anti-tank ditches this week, Kiev’s frontier guards were keen to play down the Russian threat and hope for the best.
SIMFEROPOL/KIEV (Reuters) – Crimea’s Moscow-backed leaders declared a 96-percent vote in favour of quitting Ukraine and annexation by Russia in a referendum Western powers said was illegal and will bring immediate sanctions.
As state media in Russia carried a startling reminder of its power to turn the United States to “radioactive ash”, President Barack Obama spoke to Vladimir Putin, telling the Russian president that he and his European allies were ready to impose “additional costs” on Moscow for violating Ukraine’s territory.
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian museum caretaker Valentin knows what it’s like when Moscow sends in troops to occupy a reluctant ally – he was there, in Red Army uniform, when Soviet tanks rolled in to crush the Prague Spring in 1968.
“We were the occupiers then. Now we are the ones who are being occupied by the Russians,” he said, shaking his head at the irony of history which sees Ukraine, long Moscow’s closest partner, losing Crimea after Sunday’s Kremlin-backed referendum there and fearing further invasion from the east.