16 Mar 14. Kiev mobilises its troops. Ukraine mobilised its military on Sunday as it braced for a potentially broader Russian invasion even as the Crimean peninsula appeared to slip from the country’s grasp. With Ukraine’s defence minister claiming 60,000 Russian soldiers were amassing on the country’s borders – officially for “exercises” – Ukraine announced it would call up volunteers and began moving men and equipment to reinforce its eastern border. By midday on Sunday, photographs and videos appeared on internet sites and social media showing dozens of Soviet-designed Ukrainian tanks and other military vehicles heading east by rail and road. A military spokesperson based in the east said supplies, ammunition and everything from tanks to anti-aircraft technology were flowing in. “Morale is very high,” the spokesperson said. “It they attack, we will hit back hard.” In the southern peninsula of Crimea, tensions remained high with roughly 15,000 Ukrainian troops, mostly huddled in their bases, surrounded by some 20,000 Russian counterparts as well as local separatists. Ihor Teniuk, Ukraine’s defence minister, initially said this weekend the Ukrainian troops would not surrender even if Russia annexed the peninsula “because this is our land”. But on Sunday he announced a temporary truce had been reached with Russia until March 21. (Source: FT.com)
16 Mar 14. Crimea goes to the polls to vote on rejoining Russia. The people of Crimea cast their votes on Sunday in a contentious referendum on reuniting with Russia that has been roundly condemned by the west and could herald one of the biggest changes to borders in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The vote comes just two weeks after thousands of Russian troops took control of Crimea, triggering a squall of protest from western governments and threats of sanctions against Moscow. Queues started forming early on Sunday outside a polling station in Simferopol’s No. 2 polyclinic. “We’re going home,” said Valentin Belousov, a 72-year-old pensioner who voted for Russia. “Back to our roots.”
15 Mar 14. Ukraine accuses Russia of military incursion. Ukraine’s military on Saturday claimed it had repelled the first Russian military incursion on to mainland territory, using aircraft and paratroopers to push back Russian troops that landed in helicopters on a strip of land connecting with the breakaway Crimean peninsula. The confrontation came as the UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution calling on countries not to recognise the results of Sunday’s planned referendum on Crimea due to a veto by Russia. The tense incident, not yet formally confirmed by Russian authorities, heightened fears that Russia may be planning a broader military invasion into Ukrainian territory on the eve of Sunday’s controversial referendum in Crimea, where locals will vote on possible reunification with Russia.
“Units of Ukraine’s armed forces today repelled an attempt by servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation to enter the territory of Kherson region on Arbatskaya Strelka,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the events as a “military invasion by Russia” and called on Russia to “immediately withdraw its military forces from the territory of Ukraine”. “Ukraine reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia,” the ministry added in a statement.
There were no reports of gunfire breaking out during the incident.
Ukraine’s defence ministry described the incident as the “latest provocation” by Russian troops, who have swarmed across Crimea in numbers close to 20,000 in support of a local separatist movement. Speaking on Ukrainian television, journalists on the scene said that, before retreating, the Russian soldiers justified their presence as necessary to prevent a terrorist attack on energy infrastructure in the region. Amid conflicting reports, it was not immediately clear if the Russian troo