Oleksandr Turchynov says intervention would leave Ukraine exposed in east, where Russia has ‘significant tank units’
Ukraine’s acting president has said the country will not use its army to stop Crimea from seceding, in the latest indication that a Russian annexation of the peninsula may be imminent.
The interim leader said intervening on the south-eastern Black Sea peninsula, where Kremlin-backed forces have seized control, would leave Ukraine exposed on its eastern border, where he said Russia has massed “significant tank units”.
“We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,” Oleksandr Turchynov told AFP.
“They’re provoking us to have a pretext to intervene on the Ukrainian mainland … we cannot follow the scenario written by the Kremlin.”
Crimea is due to hold a referendum on joining Russia this Sunday – organised by the peninsula’s self-appointed leaders.
Turchynov described the secession referendum as a sham whose outcome would be decided “in the offices of the Kremlin”.
Meanwhile the European Union is poised to impose travel bans and to freeze the assets of Russian officials and military officers involved in the occupation of Crimea by next Monday if Moscow declines to accept the formation of a “contact group” to establish a dialogue with Ukraine.