There have been calls in the Russian parliament to give ethnic Russians here Russian passports, fuelling speculation that Russia could intervene militarily or even try to annex Crimea. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Stevastopol with some 25,000 troops. The United States has repeatedly warned against anyone violating Ukraine’s “territorial integrity.”
“We have confirmed our principled position to not interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect all [foreign powers] to follow a similar logic,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
Then, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a review of Russian military forces’ sudden combat readiness. The defense minister denied that it was related to the tension in Ukraine but added that “steps are being taken to ensure the safety of our facilities” of the Black Sea Fleet.
Meanwhile, the hunt continues for impeached Ukrainian President Yanukovich, who fled Kiev on Friday for eastern Ukraine and has been placed on the international wanted list for his role in the deadly violence last week. Rumors are rampant that he is being sheltered at a Russian base in Crimea. Russian officials have refused to comment.
"We have information indicating Yanukovych is still in Ukraine," deputy general prosecutor Mykola Golomcha told reporters on Wednesday.