Ukraine’s acting defense minister says Kyiv has no plans to send armed forces to Crimea. The Interfax news agency quoted Acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh as saying on Sunday that Ukrainian troops are perfoming training exercises, but they are are strictly limited involving only troop movements from one base to another.
“No movements, no departures for Crimea by the armed forces are foreseen. They are doing their routine work which the armed have always had,” he said. Tenyukh was responding to media reports about Ukrainian troop movements after Russian forces took control of Crimea.
Europe’s leaders at odds with Putin
The Reuters news agency reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday and said the steps taken by authorities in Ukraine’s Crimea region were in accordance with international law.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population,” the Kremlin said in a written statement.
Later in the day Angela Merkel spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Both leaders agreed that Ukraine’s territorial integrity needed to be protected at all costs. A statement from the German government said a referendum planned for March 16 on Crimea joining Russia was “extremely dubious” and “illegal.”
The Reuters news agency reported that Merkel and Erdogan said efforts to form an “international contact group” and a committee to investigate violent incidents of recent weeks were important.
According to Reuters, Erdogan said Turkey was prepared to help the international contact group given his country’s close relationships with Ukraine and Russia, as well as its special relationship and contact with the Crimean Tatars.
Ukraine’s poltical leaders defiant
Ukraine’s leaders vowed Sunday not to give up “a single centimeter” of territory to Russia as thousands rallied at rival pro- and anti-Moscow demonstrations, and tensions remained high over the deepening crisis in Crimea.
Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk led commemorations in the capital, Kyiv, for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukraine’s greatest poet and national hero, Taras Shevchenko.
He told a crowd that the country’s “fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won’t budge a single centimeter.”