The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, Feb. 27 that fighter jets stood on combat alert along its western borders with Ukraine. Moscow repeated its commitment to protect Russian-speaking elements in the Crimean Peninsula. Earlier, armed men carried out a pro-Russian coup in the Crimean capital, by seizing government and parliamentary buildings and hoisting Russian flags – in response to the pro-European coup in Kiev. Forces loyal to the provisional government in Kiev meanwhile surround the area which they say was occupied by “criminals in army fatigues.”
The pro-Russian coup came on the heels of a day of violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-European protesters in the Crimean capital, prompting a Russian military alert. DEBKAfile: Witnesses in Crimea Wednesday night saw Russian military equipment moving into the peninsula. We reported earlier that Vladimir Putin would never relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there – or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol.
There is no way that President Vladimir Putin will relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there – or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. This military stronghold is the key to Russia’s Middle East policy. If it is imperiled, so too are Russia’s military posture in Syria and its strategic understandings with Iran.
This peril raised its head Wednesday, Feb. 26, when pro-Russian and pro-European protesters clashed violently in the Crimean town of Simferopol, the Peninsula’s financial and highway hub.