THE NEW YORK TIMES
By STEVEN ERLANGER
By STEVEN ERLANGER
MARCH 2, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian and Western leaders tried on Sunday to dissuade President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overplaying his hand and ordering an invasion of eastern Ukraine, even as Russian forces and their sympathizers in the Crimean Peninsula worked to disarm or neutralize any Ukrainian resistance there.
What began in Ukraine three months ago as a protest against the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych has now turned into a big-power confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War and a significant challenge to international agreements on the sanctity of the borders of post-Soviet nations.
The Russian incursion also poses a new crisis for the Obama administration, which embraced the new government in Kiev but now finds itself confronted with an ever more thinly veiled invasion of Ukraine.
American intelligence agencies tracked thousands of additional Russian troops arriving in Crimea on Sunday, bolstering the Russian forces already in the area, an American official said. The official gave no further detail about the types of forces, and did not say whether the Obama administration believes that Mr. Putin will send even more troops in the days to come.
A senior Obama administration official said Russian troops now have “complete operational control of the Crimean Peninsula, with some 6,000 airborne and naval forces there. The official confirmed that the Russians were flying in additional reinforcements to Ukraine Sunday, adding that the Russian military is “settling in” as an occupying force.
For the most part, Ukrainian military forces have stayed in their barracks and in some cases their weapons have been stored in an attempt to avoid an escalation, the official said.
After the newly appointed Ukrainian Navy chief, Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky swore allegiance to the people of Crimea, who are decidedly pro-Russian, an embarrassed Kiev immediately removed him and said it would investigate him for treason.
A YouTube video showed an anxious, sweating Admiral Berezovsky, eyes downcast, quickly muttering a statement, saying: “I, Berezovsky Denis, swear allegiance to the Crimean people and pledge to protect it, as required by the regulations.”