Pro-Russian troops today took over a ferry terminal on the easternmost tip of Crimea close to Russia, exacerbating fears that Moscow is planning to bring even more troops into this strategic Black Sea region.
The seizure of the terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch about 20 kilometres by boat to Russia, comes as the West try to figure out ways to halt and reverse the Russian incursion.
Early today, soldiers were operating the terminal, which serves as a common departure point for many Russian-bound ships. The men refused to identify themselves, but they spoke Russian and the vehicles transporting them had Russian license plates.
Ukraine said that they are the same Russian soldiers who have occupied airports in Crimea, smashed equipment at an air base and besieged a Ukrainian infantry base in this peninsula.
Outrage over Russia’s military moves mounted in world capitals, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling on President Vladimir Putin to pull back from “an incredible act of aggression.”
A day after Russia captured the Crimean Peninsula without firing a shot, fears grew in the Ukrainian capital and beyond that Russia might seek to expand its control by seizing other parts of eastern Ukraine.
Senior Obama administration officials said the US now believes that Russia has complete operational control of Crimea, a pro-Russian area of the country, and has more than 6,000 troops in the region.
Faced with the Russian threat, Ukraine’s new government moved to consolidate its authority, naming new regional governors in the pro-Russia east, enlisting the support of the country’s wealthy businessmen and dismissing the head of the country’s navy after he declared allegiance to the pro-Russian government in Crimea.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said there was no reason for Russia to invade Ukraine and warned that “we are on the brink of disaster.”
“We believe that our Western partners and the entire global community will support the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine,” he said yesterday in Kiev.
World leaders rushed to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels, Britain’s foreign minister flew to Kiev to support its new government and Kerry was to travel to Ukraine tomorrow.