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Simferopol Under Siege—Revisiting the Crimean Referendum

By Haneul Na’avi

The 7 August skirmish on the Crimean peninsula has ratcheted tensions between Ukraine and Russia, calling into question Kyiv’s legitimacy and claims to the territory. Currently, both nations are on high alert as they boost their military defences following a terrorist plot sanctioned by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).

“[The] FSB received a warning from Armyansk locals, who had reported on some suspicious people in military uniforms in their town,” and “detected some 20 people in the area, who were loading explosives and weapons from their hideout. Once the suspects noticed the Russian security forces, they immediately opened fire, shooting to kill,” RT reports.

FSB agents investigate terrorists in Crimea [PHOTO: The Duran]

Acting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s immediate, scripted reaction was to deny involvement. “Russian accusations that Ukraine has launched terror attacks in occupied Crimea are as cynical and insane as its claims that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. These fantasies have only one goal: a pretext for more military threats against Ukraine,” UNIAN reports.

Nevertheless, Poroshenko’s statements are at cross purposes with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who chauvinistically asserted the opposite just months before.

“We have nothing. We need a new army, a new National Guard, a new police force. This is what the government of Ukraine is working on right now. We must restore all of this, and then, with enough will, Crimea will be ours,” Avakov mentioned. Continuing, he noted that “Kiev is currently training a separate special force within the Ukrainian National Guard,” Press TV stated.

These contradictions elucidate that Kyiv authorities are simply losing control of their defence forces. The UAF—a loose confederation of over 50 volunteer batallions—simply lack the skills and coordination to best the Russian FSB and infiltrate the Crimean peninsula.

This became evident on 8 Sept. 2014, during the onset of hostilities, after Amnesty International released a scathing report documenting the lawlessness of the Aidar Battalion and other Ukrainian paramilitary groups’, as they committed increasingly brutal human rights violations in the Russian-speaking Donbas region in a manner compared to Islamic State.

“Our findings indicate that, while formally operating under the command of the Ukrainian security forces combined headquarters in the region members of the Aidar battalion act with virtually no oversight or control, and local police are either unwilling or unable to address the abuses,” Amnesty International remarked.

Ironically, Marcin Mamon of The Intercept wrote a groundbreaking series of articles on how the Kyiv government began overlooking Ukrainian collaborations with Islamic State.

“Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia,” Mamon highlighted.

Due to a long list of violations, Russian-Ukrainian relations remains in utter disarray and has come to a volatile showdown as the UAF advances southward to the Isthmus of Perekop, violating the Minsk agreements along with the self-determination of Crimean citizens.

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