Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Ukrainian security, defense leaders meet on Crimea

WARNING:British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia risked permanent exclusion from the G8. Earlier, pro-Russian forces seized Ukraine’s naval headquarters

Reuters and AFP, KIEV and SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, and LONDON

Pro-Russian supporters yesterday walk through a wall after breaking into Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Sevastopol.

Photo: Reuters

Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council yesterday opened a session devoted to threats to national security following Russia’s moves to take control of the Crimean Peninsula.

A statement on the Web site of the council, a body made up of senior military and security officials, said the meeting was devoted to “the state of Ukraine’s national security and measures to neutralise foreign and domestic political threats.”

The council’s decisions generally result in a presidential decree which has the force of law.

The meeting came just hours after pro-Russian forces captured Ukraine’s naval commander after seizing his headquarters in Crimea.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk earlier ordered First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema and acting Defense Minister Igor Teto to fly to Crimea to “resolve the situation.” However, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted a minister as saying they had not been allowed into the region now held by Russian forces.

Britain yesterday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia could face permanent exclusion from the G8 if the Kremlin took further steps against Ukraine.

“I think we should be discussing whether or not to expel Russia permanently from the G8 if further steps are taken,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament in London.

Meanwhile, dozens of despondent Ukrainian soldiers — one of them in tears — filed out of the Ukraine’s main navy base in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol after its storming by hundreds of pro-Kremlin protesters and Russian troops.

“We have been temporarily disbanded,” a Ukrainian lieutenant who identified himself only as Vlad said.

“I was born here and I grew up here and I have been serving for 20 years,” he said as a Russian flag went up over the base without a single shot being fired in its defense. “Where am I going to go?”

A Russian forces’ representative said that Ukrainian navy commander Sergiy Gayduk — appointed after his predecessor switched allegiance in favor of Crimea’s pro-Kremlin authorities at the start of the month — had been detained.

“He was blocked and he had nowhere to go. He was forced out and he has been taken away,” Igor Yeskin told reporters.

A defense ministry spokesman in Crimea said pro-Russian forces also seized the checkpoint set up in front of a Ukrainian military base in the region’s western port town of Novoozerne.

He said they used a tractor to ram open the gate and were now in a standoff with Ukrainian troops.

In other developments, Russia’s Constitutional Court yesterday ruled unanimously that a treaty signed by Putin on Tuesday absorbing Crimea and expanding Russia’s borders for the first time since World War II “complies with the Russian Constitution.”

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