A Wednesday announcement that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered ‘readiness’ military exercises in the areas closest to its border with Ukraine are stirring already anxious concerns that the political upheaval that has gripped the country in recent weeks could continue to spiral out of control as the threat of outside intervention—particularly of a military nature—could dramatically escalate the fragile situation.
As news circulated about the announcement in global outlets, a local protest in the Crimean city of Simferopol—where Russian ties remain strong—Ukrainians upset about the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych clashed with those who supported the protest movement.
Whereas supporters of the opposition coalition whose protests in Kiev led to the removal of Yanukovych last weekend are hoping that the interim government now forming will lead to new parliamentary elections and a new prime minister, those more closely aligned with Russia are not so sure that their rights and interests will be protected now that Yanukovych has fled and key institutions dissolved.
While the U.S. and the European Union have issued warnings to Russia not to involve itself militarily, Russian diplomats have repeatedly said that its interests and allies inside Ukraine will be protected.
In announcing the military drills on Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was specific in saying that the drills should not be misconstrued as preparations for any kind of intervention in Ukraine. As the Associated Press reports:
Meanwhile, Russian lawmaker Valentina Matvienko, who heads the upper chamber of parliament, known as the Federation Council, indicated that though the Russian government has strong opinions and interests about the continuing situation in Ukraine, there was no plan to intervene militarily.
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