In one of the many Wikileaks diplomatic cables published online a few years back, the US Embassy in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia reports that then-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had eyes on Crimea.
In fact, Saakashvili predicted the entire Russian invasion, and today’s Russian annexation of Crimea.
A US diplomatic cable written on November 2, 2009, details a conversation between the Georgian president and visiting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow:
UKRAINE – NEXT ON PUTIN’S TO DO LIST? 11. (C) Saakashvili stressed repeatedly that he expected Russia to follow its 2008 invasion of Georgia with intervention in Crimea. He predicted that Russia would incite tension in the peninsula and then make a generous offer to Yanukovych (presumed as the next president) to help solve the problem. Saakashvili said that Putin wants to keep the pressure on Ukraine and Georgia as a lesson and a warning to others in the former Soviet Union.
The document was spotted first by ABC News’ Kirit Radia in Moscow.
Interestingly, most reporting on Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea has focused on the historical important Russia puts on Crimea being part of the motherland, and Russia’s ire at being treated as a “loser” after the Soviet Union was dissolved. You don’t hear, however, as much about Putin moving into Ukraine as a warning shot against other former Soviet Republics.
Just today there were growing concerns about Russia attempting to further stir the pot inside Ukraine, in order to justify an all out invasion of eastern Ukraine (beyond just Crimea), as a Crimean Tatar activist was found dead, and apparently tortured, after having been taken away by pro-Russian armed men.
In addition, unmarked troops, thought to be Russian, detained Ukrainian soldiers at gunpoint.
At the same time, video surfaces of an 82 year old Ukrainian woman being pushed to the ground by a pro-Russian man in Feodosia, Crimea:
As Russian troops are violating international law by refusing to wear identifying marks on their uniforms, the report is necessarily vague as to “who” did it. One possible motivation behind the violence: This permits Putin to argue that there’s “rampant lawlessness,” and thus he simply had to invade – when in fact, Putin’s men are the most lawless bunch of all in the region.
And most worrisome, a Ukrainian soldier was killed today by men allegedly wearing Russian uniforms.
On the peninsula, a Ukrainian serviceman was killed when a base still held by Kiev came under attack in the main town of Simferopol, the first death in Crimea from a military clash since Russia seized control three weeks ago.
Kiev said the attackers had been wearing Russian military uniforms, and it responded by authorizing its soldiers in Crimea to use weapons to protect their lives, reversing previous orders that they should avoid using arms against attack.