The recent news in Ukraine is made even more worrying due to the unconfirmed but widespread reports of the presence of a large volume of armoured vehicles in and around Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, being loaded onto vessels bound for Sevastopol.
According to the International Business Times, Russian naval vessels have arrived on Ukraine’s Crimean coast in what some are claiming could be the early signs of Russian intervention in Crimea. Indeed, the
Russian vessel Nikolai Filchenkov has arrived near the Russia Black Sea Fleet’s base at Sevastopol, which Russia has leased from Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. As yet unconfirmed reports claim the ship is carrying as many as 200 soldiers and has joined four additional ships. Flot.com also reported over the weekend that personnel from the 45th Airborne Special Forces unit had been airlifted into a city on Russia’s Black Sea coastline. In addition, it is believed that the base at Sevastopol contains as many as 26,000 troops already, according to the German Institute for International And Security Affairs. Additionally, one of our sources in Russia has informed us that the 76th Guards Air Assault Division has mobilised. In 2008 the 76th Air Assault Division was involved in the 2008 South Ossetia war, being deployed to South Ossetia and fought in the Battle of Tskhinvali.
According to the Washinton Times, the Obama administration warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday not to react too aggressively to the developments in Ukraine. It remains to be seen if NATO take this position.
So, given all this activity, could it be possible that a Russian intervention is on the cards?
When the revolution englufed parliament on Friday, pledging to rid Ukraine of Russian influence and integrate with Europe, the people of Crimea panicked. For Ukraine’s new leaders, that presents an urgent problem as they have made barely any headway on the Crimean peninsula. On the contrary, the revolution has given the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea their best chance ever to break away from Ukraine and come back under the control of Russia.
“An opportunity like this has never come along” says Tatyana Yermakova, the head of the Russian Community of Sevastopol. Yermakova sent an appeal to the Kremlin asking Russia to send in troops to “prevent a genocide of the Russian population of Crimea.” The revolution, she claims, is being carried out by “mercenaries” with funding from Europe and the United States “with only one goal in mind: the destruction of the Russian world.”
Some however believe there will be no military action, “Putin won’t send in troops or turn off the gas taps. There is no goal to destroy Ukraine, at least not now,” said Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, an expert in Russian-Ukrainian relations. He was referring to past closures of Russian natural gas through Ukrainian pipelines when Putin has needed to pressure Kiev according to NBC News.
“He knows that Kiev is bankrupt, and figures there’s room to bargain,” even with a pro-Western Ukraine.
What remains to be seen is who is correct, the Russian build up at Sevastopol may be nothing but showmanship or then again, it may be brinkmanship.