VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian air force pilots march in their air base in Belbek, near Sevastopol, on March 4, 2014. Russian forces surrounding the air base in Belbek fired warning shots at Ukrainian servicemen trying to approach on March 4, a Ukrainian officer inside told AFP. Russian forces have surrounded Ukrainian military bases across Crimea as the Russian-speaking autonomous region has been thrown into turmoil following the ouster last month of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych. Ukrainian officials said on March 3 that Russia had given Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea an ultimatum to surrender or face an all-out assault, although Russia denounced the claim as 'complete nonsense'.
In a visit to Kiev on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, accusing Russia of unnecessary aggression in Crimea. Kerry pledged $1 billion in U.S. aid to the new Ukrainian government and promised sanctions on Russia if the situation in Crimea does not de-escalate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Russia’s right to intervention in Crimea, saying that Russians-speaking citizens there are under siege and calling the recent governmental changes and ousting of Viktor Yanukovyck an “anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power.”
Russian troops entered Crimea, an autonomous region that is home to Russia’s largest naval base, last week. The troops are uniformed, but aren’t wearing identifying insignia. Despite the Russian military presence, Putin says that military force is a last resort.
How will Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea proceed? Are Russia’s “self-defense teams” in the region justified? What is at stake when it comes to Crimea’s military bases?
Nina Tumarkin, Professor of History and Director of Russian Area Studies, Wellesley College; author of “The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia”
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Senior White House Reporter for POLITICO