Russian ‘Tourists’ Stirring Up And Coordinating ‘Spontaneous’ Mobs Of Pro-Russian Ukranians


NEW YORK TIMES: Around the south and east of Ukraine, in vital cities in the country’s industrial heartland, ethnic Russians have staged demonstrations and stormed buildings demanding a wider invasion of their country by Moscow. But some of the people here calling for Russian intervention are themselves Russian — “protest tourists” from across the border. They have included passport-carrying Russians, like Aleksey Khudyakov, a pro-Kremlin Muscovite who said he traveled here “to watch and maybe to give some advice.” In Kharkiv, another Russian scaled a government building to dramatically plant his country’s flag — offering at least the image that President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces were being invited in. It is clear that in this part of Ukraine, many ethnic Russians distrust the fledgling government, and some would indeed welcome Russian troops. But the events unfolding in major Ukrainian cities in recent days appear to match a pattern played by the Kremlin in Crimea, where pro-Moscow forces paving the way for Russia to seize control were neither altogether spontaneous, nor entirely local. MORE

RELATED: In the early morning hours of March 4, a group of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers marched from their barracks on the territory off Belbek military airfield near Sevastopol to confront heavily armed Russian troops who have besieged their base. The group, comprised of about 100 men, carrying a Ukrainian flag and the red flag of their unit, walked onto the airfield about a half-kilometer away from the runway and directly toward four Russian military vehicles and several officers, some of whom fired warning shots in the air in an attempt to stop the Ukrainians from advancing. Only when the Russian soldiers aimed their automatic rifles at the uniform group of Ukrainian troops did they halt. There, on a grassy bluff overlooking the Black Sea, they remained steadfast, even as camouflaged Russian troops encircled them, taking strategic positions atop small bluffs, behind concrete barricades and in surrounding shrubs, all the while training their sniper rifles and machine guns on the group. “They (Russian soldiers) told us: ‘Stop. Do not come closer. We have orders to shoot,’” Andriy Matchenko, deputy head of logistics for the Belbek unit told the Kyiv Post. “They said they would shoot at our legs if they needed to stop us.” MORE

KYIVPOST: Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk says ministers from his country and their Russian counterparts have started holding talks as both sides are wrestling for control of the disputed Crimean Peninsula. Among other developments: Ukraine’s border guard service says two Russian navy ships have blocked off both ends of a strait that separates Russia and the Crimea region. Ukrainian border guards say Russian armored vehicles were spotted on the Russian side of the Kerch Strait, but the Russian military has not confirmed the sightings, Reuters reports. MORE

Vice has been doing great reporting on the events in Ukraine.