Ukraine seeks Nato assistance as UN meets

Putin sends 6,000 extra troops into region, Ukraine’s military on high alert

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 21:50

Ukraine has asked Nato to look at all possible ways to help it protect its territorial integrity, foreign minister Sergei Deshchiritsya said today.

The minister said he had held talks with officials from the United States and the European Union and then asked Nato for help after what Ukraine’s prime minister described as Russian aggression.

A request had been made to Nato to “look at using all possibilities for protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and nuclear facilities on Ukrainian territory,” he said.

The United Nations security council was meeting tonight after Russia announced plans to send armed forces into the autonomous Crimea region of the former Soviet republic, council delegations said.

A diplomat from Luxembourg, president of the 15-nation council this month, said the meeting was convened at the request of the British government.

The council met yesterday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine’s Crimea region but took no formal action, as expected. The meeting highlighted the deep divisions between the United States and other Western nations and Russia, which has a major Black Sea naval base in the Crimea.

At yesterday’s session, Ukraine accused Russia of illegal military incursions onto Ukrainian territory, while US and European delegations warned Moscow to withdraw any new military forces deployed in neighboring Ukraine. Russia, however, said any military movements by Russian forces there were in compliance with its agreement with Kiev on maintaining its naval base there.

Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the security council and, therefore, able to block any actions proposed by its members.

The move comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin wrested control of the Ukrainian Black Sea region of Crimea from Kiev, citing a threat to Russian citizens and servicemen of the Russian Black Sea fleet based there.

Mr Putin asked the upper house of parliament to approve sending armed forces to the Ukrainian territory, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.

Crimea had already begun to slip from Kiev’s control with closure of the main airport and deployment of pro-Russian guards at key buildings.

Mr Putin’s statement, and remarks from a pro-Russian leader installed in Crimea this week, effectively confirmed what most people in the region had assumed: that military units who had seized control in the past two days were indeed Russian military.

Ukraine accused Russia of sending thousands of extra troops to Crimea, largely hostile to the Kiev government which emerged from the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovich last weekend.

It placed its military in the area on high alert. After Mr Yanukovich’s overthrow, Crimea quickly became the focus of a crisis bearing perils for the entire region.

Mr Putin turned to parliament after a day of events viewed with deep concern in Europe and the United States. British foreign minister William Hague said he had spoken to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and called for a ‘de-escalation’ of tensions. US president Barack Obama said any Russian intervention in Ukraine would carry costs for Moscow.

“In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation...I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in the that country,” Mr Putin said in a statement to parliament.

Crimea’s regional premier had appealed to Mr Putin for help ensuring “peace and tranquillity”.