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Kyiv Protests To Moscow Over Crimea

February 28, 2014

Ukraine has officially protested to Russia over alleged violations of Ukrainian airspace by Russian aircraft in the Crimean peninsula.

Earlier on February 28, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of seizing two airports in Crimea and conducting illegal military operations in the territory.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, said all movements of its forces in Crimea were carried out in accordance with its basing agreement with Ukraine.

The United Nations Security Council said it would hold a closed-door meeting later on February 28 to discuss the crisis in response to a request from Ukrainian authorities.

Reports on the evening of February 28 said civilian flights to Crimea's capital, Simferopol, had been cancelled due to the closure of the airspace over the peninsula. It was not immediately clear who had closed the airspace or why.

In its protest to Moscow, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said there had been violations of Ukrainian airspace in Crimea. It also said Russia had violated the lease terms for the Black Sea Fleet.

Ukrainian officials say more than 10 Russian military helicopters had flown from Russia into Ukrainian airspace over Crimea.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had discussed the crisis with his British and German counterparts, and had warned against any further escalation of violence.

Ukrainian National Security Council head Andriy Parubiy accused the Russian military of carrying out unauthorized operations in Crimea.

'We know the fact that there are members of the Russian Black Sea fleet operating in disguise and illegally conducting their actions on Ukrainian territory in the Republic of Crimea,' he said. 'The National Security and Defence Council [of Ukraine] has measures developed to neutralize this scenario.'

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated U.S. warnings against any military intervention by Moscow.

'Reports of Russian intervention in Crimea are of deep concern to the United States, and as Secretary [of State John] Kerry said and [U.S. National Security Advisor Susan] Rice has said, intervention would be a grave mistake,' Carney told reporters. 'These reports are also inconsistent with Russia's previous statements to the United States that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.'

Also on February 28, pro-Russian demonstrators gathered outside the regional parliament building in Simferopol and prevented Ukrainian national parliament deputy Petro Poroshenko from entering, calling him a 'traitor.' Poroshenko had traveled to Simferopol in an effort to defuse the tensions.

Vitali Klitschko, head of the Ukrainian Democratic Party for Reform (UDAR), criticized the many Russian State Duma deputies who have traveled to Crimea in recent days to support the region's ethnic Russian population.

'It looks very strange to me to see deputies of the Russian State Duma coming to Crimea in such big numbers as some kind of a mass operation,' he said. 'I don't really understand what their goal is.'

The media-freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dunja Mijatovic, issued a statement condemning the presence of armed people at the offices of state television in Simferopol.

Reports said about 20 armed people had taken up positions outside the building, but reports say they have not directly interfered with journalists.

In another development, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the Russian Consulate in Simferopol would start issuing Russian passports to former members of Ukraine's disbanded Berkut riot police, which played a role in the recent deadly clashes with protesters in Kyiv.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and AFP

Source: to-moscow-crimea/25281031.html

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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