Russia Completes Military Takeover of Crimea

Russia has completed its military takeover of Crimea, as the Ukraine crisis continues. There also are reports that Moscow is amassing military forces on Russia's borders with Ukraine. Western leaders are calling for a de-escalation of tensions and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Friday not to take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The two discussed the Ukrainian crisis in a phone conversation.

Earlier Friday, CBS television broadcast an interview with Obama in which the U.S. president said Russia must pull back its troops recently deployed on the Ukrainian border.

"I think it is well known and well acknowledged you've seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises, but these are not what Russia would normally be doing," said Obama "And, you know, it may simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine or it may be that they've got additional plans. And, in either case, what we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation would be to Russia, for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to de-escalate the situation, which he said takes away attention from important UN missions.

"I am also deeply concerned that the divisions in the international community over the situation could harm our ability to address other pressing concerns, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies," said Ban.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied accusations that Moscow had a role in escalating the crisis. He told reporters in New York that it is up to the Ukrainians to restore order in their country. 

"The armed groups must be disarmed, the radicals must be reined in and most importantly, there must be a constitutional process, there must be a constitutional assembly and the results of the constitutional assembly must be put to referendum," said Churkin.

While Ukraine's situation was discussed abroad, the country's parliament, pressured by right-wing protesters, voted to hold an investigation into this week's death of a prominent far-right leader.

Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov decried this latest crisis. "This is the route which leads to catastrophe for the country, this way is against our own state, this is the route supporting the aggressor who is concentrating his armed forces on the borders of our land."

Meanwhile, Russian forces in Crimea completed their military takeover. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kyiv had left the Black Sea peninsula. 

The Russian leader ordered that military hardware seized from Ukrainian troops, including trucks, tanks and warplanes, be returned to Ukraine.

VOA News / Mar. 31, 2014 08:06 KST