Ukraine’s acting president accused Russia of invading the southern Crimea region, where unidentified gunmen seized airports and other facilities.
“The Russian Federation started a naked aggression against our country,” Oleksandr Turchynov said in a speech broadcast by the parliamentary television channel today. “I demand that President Putin halt the provocation immediately and call military forces back from Crimea.”
Thirteen planes carrying about 2,000 paratroopers have landed in the region, Serhiy Kunitsyn, a representative of Turchynov in Crimea, said today on the ATR television station. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when reached by mobile phone. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman at the defense ministry in Moscow, wasn’t immediately available.
Tensions are mounting in Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, after an uprising in Kiev against ousted President Viktor Yanukovych last week called into question Russia’s sway over the country of 45 million people.
U.S. Treasuries pared losses after Turchynov’s remarks as traders sought a refuge in the world’s largest securities market. Benchmark 10-year notes traded at 2.6565 percent at 4:05 p.m. in New York, down from 2.6968 percent earlier in the session.
Any Russian invasion risks further destabilizing a country that’s already on the brink of default and elected a government only yesterday. While it would also likely anger U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, NATO is under no obligation to defend the country against a foreign incursion.
Russians comprise 59 percent of Crimea’s population of about 2 million people, with 24 percent Ukrainian and 12 percent Tatar, according to 2001 census data. Of the entire country’s 45 million people, 78 percent are Ukrainian and 17 percent are Russian.
Turchynov said there’s a precedent of Russia using the military on the country’s borders to support its citizens, citing the example of Georgia. In 2008, the Kremlin sent troops into South Ossetia and Abkhazia, saying it had to protect the Georgian separatist republics from government troops. After a five-day conflict, Russia gave the regions diplomatic recognition and deployed soldiers to their borders.
In New York, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said Russia illegally flew military transport aircraft and helicopters across Ukrainian borders.
While he didn’t have information on who the group of “heavily weaponed people” at Crimea’s two airports and parliament are, Yuriy Sergeyev said it’s already clear that Russia has breached Ukraine’s sovereignty.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at firstname.lastname@example.org