The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

World News

March 3, 2014

Russia demands 2 Ukraine warships surrender

KIEV, Ukraine — Russia pressed hard Monday for Ukrainian politicians to return to the Feb. 21 agreement that promised to create a new unity government which would rule until an early election no later than December.

But the proposal seemed to be a non-starter as diplomats met in Brussels, Kiev and Geneva and warnings about the dangers of Russia's military actions were issued from a host of European capitals.

On the ground, Russian troops controlled all Ukrainian border posts Monday in Crimea, as well as all military facilities and a key ferry terminal, cementing their stranglehold on the strategic Ukrainian peninsula.

They also demanded that the crew of two Ukrainian warships immediately surrender or be stormed and seized, according to Maksim Prauta, the Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman.

Four Russian navy ships in Sevastopol's harbor were blocking Ukraine's anti-submarine warship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych, waiting for their answers, he said.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at U.N. meetings in Geneva, explained the reasoning behind Russia's military invasion of Crimea.

"This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life," he said.

There have been no reports, however, of any hostilities toward Russian-speakers in Ukraine during the country's four months of political upheaval.

Tension between Ukraine and Moscow rose sharply after President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out by a protest movement made up of people who wanted closer ties with the European Union, more democracy and less corruption. Yanukovych fled to Russia last month after more than 80 demonstrators were killed — mostly by police — near Kiev's central square but insists he is still president.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new prime minister admitted his country had "no military options on the table" to reverse Russia's military move into its Crimea region, where Ukraine's military admitted that pro-Russian troops have surrounded or taken over "practically all" its military facilities.

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