(Photo: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov has called for the full mobilization of the country's troops early Sunday, and had sought help from NATO amid fears of war. The nation's Foreign Minister has also looked to seek help from U.S. and U.K. leaders as the newly installed leadership in the troubled country quickly moves to guarantee its security.
The developments in Ukraine have been sparked after Russian President Vladimir Putin received his parliament's unanimous approval to deploy troops in Ukraine - defying warnings from the United States and Western countries not to intervene. Russian troops have already moved in an united with local allies to largely take control in Crimea, a Black Sea province of Ukraine that once belonged to Russia until 1954, and remains largely pro-Russian.
Ethnic Russian forces, who seized Crimea without any violence over the weekend, made attempts to disarm the small Ukrainian contingents there Sunday, according to Reuters.
Associated Press journalists saw a convoy of hundreds of Russian troops heading toward the regional capital, Simferopol, early Sunday. On the road from Sevastopol, the Crimean port where Russia maintains a naval base, to Simferopol, journalists reported seeing 12 military trucks carrying troops, a Tiger vehicle armed with a machine gun and also two ambulances.
While Turchynov ordered Ukrainian troops to be placed on high combat alert, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Moscow's military action "would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia."
"They are provoking us into a military conflict. According to our intelligence, they are trying to implement the scenario that is very similar to Abkhazia," Turchynov said, referring to Russia's intervention in Georgia, according to Euronews. "I'm personally addressing President Putin and demanding that he stops provocations immediately and calls back the troops from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and works only according to the signed treaties."
Turchynov was appointed acting president after pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovych was removed by Ukraine's parliament last week after more than 82 people were killed in three months of anti-government protests. Unrest began following the Yanukovych administration's suspension of preparations for signing an Association Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, in favor of closer economic relations with Russia. That move came after Putin offered billions in aid to Yanukovych in the hope of moving Ukraine to be more closely allied with Russia than the EU.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya met European and U.S. officials on Saturday, and requested NATO to "examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
"Urgent need for de-escalation in Crimea," tweeted NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "NATO allies continue to coordinate closely."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry late Saturday condemned "the Russian Federation's invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory."
Putin Saturday won approval of the parliament to intervene "in connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots" as well as to protect the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.
The authorization to use deploy tropps in Ukraine has been sought "until the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country."
The parliamentary approval came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama warned Russia, saying any military intervention in Ukraine will be "deeply destabilizing" and involve "costs."
"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine," Obama said at the White House Friday. "It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws… Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe."
The confrontation between Moscow and the West is being seen as potentially the biggest escalation of tensions in the region since the Cold War.