Ukraine told Russia that a military invasion would be an act of war following a vote by lawmakers in Moscow to give President Vladimir Putin the right to send troops after pro-Russian forces seized control of Crimea. Ukraine, which put its military on full combat alert, is ready to fight for its sovereignty, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at a news conference in Kiev on Friday. The government is taking “all measures” to ensure peace and unity, Yatsenyuk said.
The Russian Parliament on Saturday approved Putin’s request to send troops to Ukraine, days after a three-month protest movement ousted his ally Viktor Yanukovych and brought the pro-European opposition to power. Ukraine asked the European Union, the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to consider “all means’ for the defense of its territorial integrity, Interfax news service reported, citing Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchystya.
France, Britain and Germany issued calls for de-escalation in Crimea hours after US President Barack Obama warned that military intervention in the region would be deeply destabilizing and “carry costs.”
Crimea was given to Ukraine by Russia in 1954 by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Ethnic Russians comprise 59% of Crimea’s population of about 2 million people, with 24% Ukrainian and 12% Tatar, according to 2001 census data. Russians make up 17% of Ukraine’s entire population of 45 million people.
Foreign Affairs Ministry statement
A brief official statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry on the situation in neighboring Ukraine was released Saturday. After noting the discussions in the country in which Visegrád Four’s foreign ministers participated, the Ministry stated that “The situation that has arisen on the Crimean Peninsula seriously endangers Ukraine’s territorial integrity as well as peace and security in the region.
The ministry further reaffirmed Hungary’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, Interior Ministry spokesman Tamás Csizmadia informed national news service MTI on Saturday that the operative unit established to coordinate Hungarian measures concerning the Ukrainian conflict is continuing to assess the situation and will take the required measures if needed.”
V4 foreign ministers hold talks in Donetsk
Foreign Affairs Minister János Martonyi along with his counterparts from the Visegrád Four (V4) nations (the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia) were in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Friday, where they appealed to local politicos “to prevent repeated efforts to resolve the Ukrainian conflict through violence,” according to an official statement from the Hungarian government.
Among those the V4 ministers met with were Donetsk County Governor Andriy Schyschatskyi, Donetsk Mayor Oleksandr Lukianchenko and MP Rinat Akhmetov, the last of which was commended for “call[ing] for halting violence and preventing bloodshed” during recent demonstrations in the city.
Martonyi: Hungary will react to “insults” of minority in Ukraine
After official visits to Donetsk and Kiev, Foreign Affairs Minister János Martonyi on Saturday progressed to Uzhhorod on Saturday. With a population of approximately 116,000, over 80% of the city’s population are ethnic Hungarians. After attending a mass, Martonyi assured the township that though this minority group must “face new dangers[,] Hungary will not leave any insult at them unanswered.” Martonyi commented that his four-year old slogan regarding the government’s policy on Hungarian communities abroad – “Don’t hurt Hungarians” – is more relevant than ever in Ukraine, due to the escalating violence in the country.
“In this tense situation,” said Martonyi, “it is highly important for those speaking different languages to understand one another.”
Last week, Foreign Affairs Ministry Deputy State Secretary Szabolcs Takács met with Ukrainian ambassador Yuriy Mushka to express “serious concerns” regarding the Ukrainian parliament’s recent language-law decision. Reportedly, the new law calls for a repeal of certain regional status for minority languages in Ukraine, including Hungarian.