Acting president of Ukraine says separatists will be punished
February 26, 2014

The Globe and Mail is reporting Russians have established checkpoints dozens of miles outside Sevastopol. The southern Crimean city is home to the Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

“The Globe and Mail saw least a dozen men wearing fatigues – supported by an armored personnel carrier – standing under a Russian flag at a checkpoint erected roughly halfway along the 80-kilometer road from Sevastopol to Simferopol, putting it close to the administrative border that separates the Sevastopol municipality from the rest of Crimea and Ukraine,” writes Mark MacKinnon for the Canadian newspaper. The men, wearing balaclavas, identified themselves as “volunteers.”

On Tuesday it was reported residents of the port city had signed up as volunteers in self-defense and pro-Russian groups. Crimeans are said to fear violence from Ukrainian nationalists in the northern part of the country.

More than 20,000 people chanting “Russia” attended a rally in Sevastopol on Monday calling for Crimea to secede from Ukraine. A larger rally protesting the coup in Kyiv was held on Sunday, according to Euronews.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting president of the country following the ouster of democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych, warned of “dangerous signs of separatism” and said separatists would be punished.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, said Moscow was “carefully watching what is happening in Crimea” and would take “measures to guarantee the safety of facilities, infrastructure and arsenals of the Black Sea Fleet.”

Earlier today Russia officially confirmed President Vladimir Putin had put troops in Western Europe on alert and the Russian military began combat readiness drills in Western and Central Europe.

Following the move by Russia, NATO announced its “close and long-standing” relationship with Ukraine. “NATO is a sincere friend of Ukraine,” said NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“We stand ready to continue assisting Ukraine in its democratic reforms,” he added.

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