In the course of human history, there has been more than a few examples of arrogant leaders. And then there are those who take arrogance to a new level. Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the 16,000 heavily armed Russian troops that are rapidly occupying all of the Crimean Peninsula aren’t actually Russian troops has left many Westerners speechless, as reported by on Mar. 4, 2014 by both The Washington Post and News Corp Australia.
With both the Americans and the Ukrainians estimating 16,000 Russian troops, most likely Special Forces, Putin held an impromptu news conference at his official residence outside of Moscow, where some have speculated the Russian president was essentially sticking his thumb firmly in the eye of Barack Obama as well as the other Western leaders.
Despite Ukrainian officials and Western journalists on the ground in Crimea verifying the Russians have indeed swept into the region, Putin flatly denied the obvious:
Look at former Soviet republics, you can go to a store and buy a uniform.
Were these Russian soldiers? No, they’re very well-trained (pro-Russian) self-defense forces.
The Washington Post noted that “military experts said they were too well-trained to be anything but an elite force.”
Everything old is new again …
Sounding much like Adolf Hitler’s rationale to seize chunks of neighboring nations with ethnic-German minorities, Putin made it quite clear that if he saw fit, a full blown invasion was on the table to ensure the Eastern Ukrainian and Crimean ethnic-Russian people would be rescued if Ukrainian forces “start to persecute or destroy” them.
Meanwhile, Pavel Shishurin the Deputy Chief of Ukrainian Border Troops in Crimea told reporters that 150 Russian troops took control of the Yevpatoria Air Force Base, and Russian warships have effectively blockaded the strategically and economically important Kerch Strait which separates Ukraine’s Crimea from Russia.
Reports have also filtered in from Ukrainian border guards “that Russian servicemen are in control of the Crimean side of the narrow channel and that Russian armoured vehicles have been sighted on the Russian side.”
“The Kerch Strait is blocked by two Russian ships — from the north and from the south,” Deputy Chief Shishurin told reporters.
There has been no comment from the Russian government concerning the accusations.