Ukraine: Russia Demands Ships Surrender by 5 A.M.
The new government in Ukraine said Monday that Russia’s navy ordered two of its ships off the shores of Crimea to surrender. Russia issued a denial.
Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman Maksim Prauta said that four Russian navy ships were blocking Ukraine's anti-submarine warship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych, which are currently near the port of Sevastopol.
The head of Russia’s Black Sea fleet gave the ships until 5 a.m. Tuesday to give up weapons and capitulate, Oleksiy Kirchkov, deputy commander of the Ternopil, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 by phone.
However, Russian news service Interfax quoted an unnamed representative at the Russian fleet's headquarters as saying no assault was planned, adding: "This is complete nonsense."
Military tension in Crimea built up throughout the day on Monday. Arutz Sheva Russian-language reporter Yitzhak Ross reported from Kharkov that Russian tanks had roilled near the Ukranian city. “Today we learned, here in the city of Kharkov, that Russia blocked cell phone services in several areas in the [Crimean] peninsula. We also know of communication blockages in places more to the north, not far from Kharkov,” he added.
"Our concern is that Russia will try and paralyze the telephone and internet network as part of the pressure on Ukraine and possibly even ahead of an occupation of the region,” Ross elaborated. “
“There is harsh criticism of the West in Ukrainian media, for its ongoing hesitance to intervene, despite the promises it made in the past. The US, too committed itself to intervene if Russia hurts us, but it has been quiet and is in no hurry to deploy its military, despite the threats on the residents.”
Western diplomats are seeking to calm tensions in Ukraine, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Kiev Monday.
Western allies have condemned Russia's threat to invade its Western-leaning neighbor, which analysts say has sparked the worst crisis between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and told him the intervention was a violation of a 1994 Budapest memorandum on security assurances in which Russia committed itself to respecting the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine in its existing borders, as well as the 1997 treaty on the Russian Black Sea fleet, based in Crimea.
The memorandum was signed by Britain, Ukraine, Russia and the United States.
Earlier Sunday, Ukraine's newly-installed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk appealed to Moscow to move its troops back, saying that the region was “on the brink of disaster. There was no reason for the Russian Federation to invade Ukraine.”