As William Booth and Will Englund put it Sunday, the question looming now is: What are Moscow’s intentions in Ukraine?
We’ll see what answers today brings. Here’s a look at where we stand:
Russian troops control much of Crimea
Thousands of Russian troops entered Crimea over the weekend and have surrounded military and civilian installations. There were still no reports of any fighting. The loyalties — and command and control — of the Ukrainian military in Crimea are unknown. Reuters reports that, according to Obama administration officials, Russia has 6,000 troops in Crimea.
Ukraine has called Russia’s moves an invasion. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the use of troops was necessary to protect Russians in Ukraine. Ukraine’s prime minister said that there were, “for today, no military options on the table.”
(Crimea is a peninsular part of Ukraine. Sixty percent of its residents speak Russian, and it’s the home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Here’s some help understanding its history. And an explanation of what Russian forces were already there.)
Another day, another ukraine navy base blocked by Russian troops, in Sevastopol. Officers inside say nyet? pic.twitter.com/aUuvJCljdD
— William Booth (@BoothWilliam) March 3, 2014
U.S., Europe show support for Ukraine
Western officials have promised a strong response; so far, that looks like it could be economic or travel sanctions.
Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Kiev on Tuesday, following his British counterpart, William Hague. On Sunday, Kerry called the movement of Russian troops into Crimea unwarranted and outside international law. He said the administration was ready to provide major economic assistance to Ukraine.
And the leading industrial nations of the Group of 8 have decided to suspend Russian activity in the group.
This isn’t helping Ukraine’s or Russia’s economy
Both Ukraine and Russia are facing economic pressure, as the hryvnia fell to an all-time low against both the dollar and the euro and the ruble hit its lowest point in years. (Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is an economist.)
Russia also makes moves in Moscow
Criminal investigators have opened a case against the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and have blocked 13 pages of a social network used by Ukrainian nationalists. Remarks from the Russian prime minister about a bridge may have been intended to show that Russia intends to keep control of Crimea.
Trying to understand what’s going on?
The current situation arises from a move in November, when then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned toward Russia and away from Europe. Demonstrators began protesting in Kiev’s Independence Square; last month, the situation grew more tense and violent, scores of protesters were killed, and Yanukovych left Kiev. An interim government has been appointed and elections set for May 25.