Daily Israel Report

Ukrainian Defense Minister Fired Over Crimea Crisis

As concerns over other annexations snowball, Kiev chooses to oust military official.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/26/2014, 2:09 PM

Ukraine, the army (illustration)
Ukraine, the army (illustration)
Reuters

Ukraine fired its Defense Minister late Tuesday night, after the parliament deemed him responsible for losing Crimea to Russia. 

Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh has tendered his resignation over the crisis. 

"Knowing that someone does not like what I did as acting defense minister, as well as due to disagreements in the issues that were offered from the first day until the present regarding the Autonomous Republic of Crimea...I am handing in my resignation," local news agency Ukrinform quoted him as saying. 

Tenyukh was the acting defense minister of the new Ukrainian government and responsible for protecting Crimea. His resignation is the latest development in the crisis in the Crimean peninsula, which exploded earlier this month after 6,000 Russian troops invaded an airport in the Russian-speaking Ukrainian province.

The peninsula was annexed by Russia this week after a controversial referendum vote and a de facto military takeover. But the new Ukranian government, meanwhile, has insisted over and over again that Crimea is still part of Ukraine. 

More annexations ahead?

International attention has focused on the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which has snowballed since unrest began last December. Concern is rising that the Crimean takeover could turn into a precedent for Ukraine to splinter further - especially over protests erupting in the pro-Russian province of Donetsk. 

Now the Tartars, a Muslim minority in both countries, are also weighing a referendum vote to decide their fate after seeing Crimea's national switch, reported Reuters on Wednesday.

Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatars' main assembly, told the news agency that the body's 250 members would meet on Saturday to debate the future of the 300,000-strong community.

"In the space of three weeks we've found ourselves in a completely different de facto situation," Chubarov said. "The Crimean Tatars should determine their fate themselves."

"Nobody asked us, the Crimean Tatars...in what conditions we want to live," he continued. "Should the question feature prominently during the meeting, we will seek options of holding our own referendum."

International Community Chooses Sides - and Monies

Reuters also reported Wednesday that China is the latest to publicly state support for Ukraine - at least, financially - after the Russian takeover of Crimea. While Beijing has stopped short of making an official declaration to that end, the statement is a sharp turnaround from China's allegiances at the beginning of the military takeover, when it seemed to side with Russia in "protecting its own interests." 

Asked about aid for Ukraine, China, whose President Xi Jinping discussed Ukraine with US President Barack Obama on Monday, said that the government "upholds the maintaining of Ukraine's financial stability".

"International financial organizations ought to get down to dealing with this, to ensure Ukraine's financial and economic stability," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Wednesday. 

On Monday, Russia was suspended from the G8 group of leading nations, a direct response from major countries allied against Russia's annexation of Crimea. However, Russia was not concerned by the move, as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that being kicked out of G8 would be "no big deal."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has been thumbing his nose at EU and U.S. economic sanctions, and has even drafted his own sanctions on top American senators.

However, even if sanctions do not hold, the move to annex Crimea may already prove to be costly, according to the Wall Street Journal.  

The World Bank stated Wednesday that Russia's economy may shrink in 2014 if the conflict with Ukraine escalates, resulting in a 1.8% drop in gross domestic product as consumers and businessmen shy away from investing due to uncertainty about sanctions. 

"We assume the political risks will be prominent in the short term," the bank said, noting that the estimate did not include the impact of the sanctions themselves.