As noted in my last post, the physical takeover of Ukrainian installations on Crimea began on March 1 and 2. Armed troops poured out of the Russian-leased naval base in the southwestern city of Sevastopol and from ferries from Russia at the northeastern port of Kerch, fanned out across Crimea, stormed or marched to or through Ukrainian bases, and invited Ukrainian troops to surrender. They also attempted to seize stocks of weapons from Ukrainian garrisons. Ukrainian troops almost to a man responded by neither shooting in self-defense of territory nor by surrendering. The neither/nor response is not in the usual war-games playbook.
Here is one such encounter, from 05.30 a.m., 03.02.14. In this clip, Russian special forces entered the territory of a Ukrainian naval unit [military unit 191 (a training unit)] and seized the unit’s weapons. The Russian special forces’ attempt to cart weapons off base was prevented by blocking their exit with an armored personnel carrier (an APC), which itself was then protected by a “human shield” of Ukrainian officers. This thwarted the Russians from towing the APC aside. The video shows Ukrainian officers refusing Russian troops’ demand to let them leave. (In the video, the Ukrainian officer is saying, “Peacefully. Let’s settle things peacefully. … You want my weapons? YOU want MY weapons? Nooo.”) In the end, the Russians did not make off with the weapons. [In the words of the youtube post, “Despite the fact that Russian troops shot twice into the air, Ukrainian military neither retreated nor succumbed to the provocation of a military scenario. Thus it was possible to reach a compromise: Russian special forces left the territory of the military unit, and the weapons were transported by the armored personnel carrier, accompanied by Ukrainian forces, to the 174th base storage of the Ukrainian Navy.”]
Monica Eppinger is an Assistant Professor at the Saint Louis University College of Law. She has extensive experience in diplomacy, serving nine years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service with tours of duty at the U.S. Consulate General in Kaduna, Nigeria; U.S. Embassy, Kiev, Ukraine; and at the State Department in Washington, D.C. where her responsibilities included policy in the former Soviet Union, Caspian basin energy development, and West African security. Her research concentrates on sovereignty and selfhood. Her main areas of expertise include property, national security, and international law.