KIEV/BALACLAVA: Ukraine mobilised for war on Sunday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade, creating the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
“This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,” said Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, head of a pro-Western government that took power when Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich fled last week.
Putin obtained permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine, spurning Western pleas not intervene.
Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea - an isolated Black Sea peninsula where Moscow has a naval base. On Sunday they surrounded several small Ukrainian military outposts there and demanded the Ukrainian troops disarm. Some refused, although no shots were fired.
Russia has staged war games with 150,000 troops along the land border, but so far they have not crossed. However, pro-Russian demonstrators have marched in the east of the country and have raised Russian flags over government buildings in several cities, in what Kiev says is a move orchestrated by Moscow to justify a wider invasion.
Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced. The Defence Ministry was ordered to conduct a call-up of reserves - theoretically all men up to 40 in a country with universal male conscription, though Ukraine would struggle to find extra guns or uniforms for significant numbers of them.
“If President Putin wants to be the president who started the war between two neighbouring and friendly countries, between Ukraine and Russia, so: he has reached this target within a few inches. We are on the brink of disaster,” Yatseniuk said in televised remarks in English, appealing for Western support.
At Kiev’s Independence Square, where anti-Yanukovich protesters had camped out for months, thousands demonstrated against Russian military action. Speakers delivered rousing orations and placards read: “Putin, hands off Ukraine!” Oleh, an advertising executive cooking over a big open fire at the square where he has been camped for three months, said: “If there is a need to protect the nation, we will go and defend the nation.... If Putin wants to take Ukraine for himself, he will fail. We want to live freely and we will live freely.”
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