According to several sources, Russian military forces have occupied several installations in lower Ukraine, principally around the Crimean region. The new Ukrainian government says it has been invaded by Russia and has appealed for the United States and United Kingdom to protect it, as guaranteed under a 1994 agreement. The move came after a series of armed takeovers and provocations in the Crimea region that began on Thursday with the seizure of the regional parliament building and continued on Friday. Soldiers without national insignia have been seen blocking off and guarding the region’s airports and other military assets, including helicopters, trucks and naval vessels have been reported in and around the area.
The so-called Budapest Memorandum, signed as part of a deal that saw Ukraine give up its nuclear weapons in 1994, is now being examined closely to see what the repercussions would be for the global community. According to the agreement, the US, UK and Russia all agreed to protect the sovereignty and “territorial agreement” of Ukraine, meaning any Russian support for an attempt to declare Crimean independence would be in violation of their international obligations.
The three powers committed to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine”. Significantly, the wording suggests Russia’s insistence that Ukraine forgo an EU trade deal may have already breached the terms of the agreement. The signatories agreed to “refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind”.