Now at Ukraine Border: 10K Russian Troops

Just an exercise, Moscow says ahead of Crimea vote

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 14, 2014 5:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – In what Moscow says is merely a training exercise, Russia has massed around 10,000 troops along its border with Ukraine two days before Crimea is set to vote on breaking away from the country to join Russia. Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blasted the troop buildup as "military aggression" that has "no reason and no grounds," the Guardian reports. He said Ukraine doesn't want to go to war over Crimea—but noted that Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for a guarantee of territorial integrity, and if Russia annexes the territory, "it would be difficult to convince anyone on the globe not to have nuclear weapons."

John Kerry is meeting Russia's foreign minister today, and while Western diplomats believe there is no chance of delaying Crimea's referendum, there may be a chance of persuading Russia not to formally annex the region, reports the New York Times. A State Department official says the troop buildup is among the issues that will be discussed. "We are very concerned," he says. "This is the second time inside of a month that Russia has chosen to mass large amounts of force on short notice without much transparency around the eastern borders of Ukraine. It certainly creates an environment of intimidation."

Ballot boxes with the coat of arms of Crimea are seen within a polling station in the municipality of Dobroe, near Simferopol, Ukraine yesterday.
Ballot boxes with the coat of arms of Crimea are seen within a polling station in the municipality of Dobroe, near Simferopol, Ukraine yesterday.   (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
An officer speaks to civilians waiting for a swearing in ceremony before  joining the newly formed army of Crimea at a military base in Simferopol, Ukraine.
An officer speaks to civilians waiting for a swearing in ceremony before joining the newly formed army of Crimea at a military base in Simferopol, Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
The former emblem of the Ukrainian army is covered in fresh paint in the colors of Russia's flag as a masked member of the newly formed army of Crimea stands behind a gate to a military base in Simferopol.
The former emblem of the Ukrainian army is covered in fresh paint in the colors of Russia's flag as a masked member of the newly formed army of Crimea stands behind a gate to a military base in Simferopol.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
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