Ukraine crisis: Kerry warns Putin 'This is not Rocky IV' as Russian fighter jets are put on combat alert

Tensions in the Crimea peninsula are increasing as armed men seized control of local government buildings this morning

Heather Saul
Thursday 27 February 2014 10:23
Comments

Fighter jets along Russia's western borders have reportedly been placed on combat alert amid continuing unrest in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The exercise came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to remember that the escalating crisis "is not Rocky IV".

Meanwhile, Ukrainian fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych - who is seeking refuge in a luxury health resort outside Moscow, Russian news agency RBC has claimed - has allegedly asked for Russia's protection from "extremists".

He also said he still considers himself to be the legitimate leader, according to a statement published by three Russian news agencies. An unnamed Russian official said his request was "satisfied in the territory of Russia."

A spokesperson for Mr Putin said they were not aware of Mr Yanukovych's reported arrival in Moscow.

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov issued a warning to Russia that any movement of its troops from their naval base in the southern Crimea region “will be considered military aggression."

Mr Turchynov also declared the takeover of government buildings in Crimea as a "crime against the government of Ukraine. I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings," he said.

The Russian Interfax news agency quoted the Defence Ministry as saying:"Constant air patrols are being carried out by fighter jets in the border regions. From the moment they received the signal to be on high alert, the air force in the western military region left for the ... air bases."

The apparent move comes as “criminals wearing military fatigues” seized the regional government and parliament headquarters on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula this morning.

Mr Turchynov, who is also the head of Ukraine's armed forces, appealed for Moscow to adhere to the rules of an agreement which allows Russia's Black Sea fleet to be based in Sevastopol until 2042.

“This is not Rocky IV,” he said, referring to the 1990 film depicting a battle between the East and West, in which Rocky Balboa fights Soviet Union boxer Ivan Drago.

“Believe me. We don’t see it that way", he told US TV Network NBC News.

“I think Russia needs to be very careful in the judgments that it makes going forward here,” he added. “We are not looking for confrontation. But we are making it clear that every country should respect the territorial integrity here, the sovereignty of Ukraine.

“Russia has said it would do that and we think it’s important that Russia keeps its word.”

Mr Kerry’s comments came after Mr Putin ordered the urgent drill test combat readiness of its military forces amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

The exercise, involving 150,000 of precisely those forces which are likely to be used for any intervention, and their reserves, came amid growing claims that the country faces the threat of breaking up, as protests and violent sectarian clashes continue.

Russia said earlier this morning it would "uncompromisingly" defend the rights of its compatriots in Ukraine, while expressing concerns over "large-scale human rights violations", attacks and vandalism in the former Soviet republic.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in