Ukraine Mobilizes for War: “We Are On the Brink of Disaster,” Says Prime Minister

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 2 2014 11:06 AM

Ukraine Mobilizes for War: “We Are On the Brink of Disaster,” Says Prime Minister

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An Orthdox clergyman stands to bar entrance at the gate outside a Ukrainian military base that was surrounded by several hundred Russian-speaking soldiers as Ukrainian soldiers and a Ukrainian army tank stand just inside the gate in Crimea on Sunday

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Ukraine was getting ready for war Sunday and ordered a full military mobilization as Russian troops continued to spread out across the Crimean Peninsula to consolidate Moscow’s effective control over the region. In a dramatic press conference, Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said his country is “on the brink of disaster” and directly addressed Russia’s Vladimir Putin. "If President Putin wants to be the president who starts the war between two friendly and neighboring countries, he has [almost] reached this target," Yatsenyuk said, according to the Wall Street Journal. He added that when Putin said he had the right to invade Ukraine it was “not a threat” but “actually the declaration of war to my country.”

As Russian troops effectively seized control of Crimea, hundreds of armed men surrounded a military base in the region and prevented the Ukrainian soldiers inside from leaving, reports the Associated Press. While the New York Times also reports that heavily armed soldiers had taken positions around small Ukrainian military bases, it emphasizes that they “did not try to enter them.” The moves illustrate how Putin is snubbing President Obama once again considering the two spoke for 90 minutes on Saturday and the US president warned that Russia’s “continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.” But Putin fired back saying that if “violence spreads further in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the right to defend its interests and those of the Russian-speaking population that lives there." Putin delivered the same message to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande, details the Los Angeles Times.

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After Obama and Putin spoke, large convoys of Russian troops could be seen making their way to Simferopol, the regional capital, reports the Washington Post. The number of Russian troops in Crimea is increasing “every hour,” according to Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations. They seem to be ready to stay for the long-haul: according to the BBC, Russian troops appeared to be digging trenches in the border between Crimea and mainland Ukraine. Ukraine’s interior minister also said early Sunday that Russian officials are approaching Ukrainian officers in Crimea and offering them Russian citizenship. "Across the entire territory of Crimea, Russian emissaries and military officers have invited the remaining Ukrainian interior ministry troops to take Russian citizenship and immediately receive Russian passports," he wrote on Facebook, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.