Russia Strengthens Its Grip On Crimea

Moscow continues its moves to consolidate power in the Crimean peninsula, which it now says officially belongs to the Russian Federation.

Russia Strengthens Its Grip On Crimea
The New York Times / Mauricio Lima

Following Crimea's snap referendum to sever ties with Ukraine in favor of Russia, Moscow continues to consolidate its power in the peninsula, which it now says officially belongs to the Russian Federation. 

Russian forces strengthened their grasp over the region this weekend, storming key military bases and seizing Ukrainian assets. The footage you are seeing is from Saturday's assault on a military compound in Belbek — one of Ukraine's last remaining strongholds. (Via CNN)

After the base's commander refused to surrender, Russian armored vehicles plowed through the compound's concrete walls as Russian special forces poured into the base, quickly swarming the less-trained Ukrainian military personnel. (Via ABC)

In this report from the BBC, you can see Russian troops rounding up Ukrainian military as well as journalists. One journalist was reportedly beaten during the raid, and several others reported their footage was confiscated. (Via BBC)

In separate incidents over the weekend, reports indicate Russian forces also took control of other military outposts, the navy's flagship and Ukraine's sole submarine. (Via The New York Times)

An international security expert at MIT told the Boston Herald that from the Russian perspective, Crimea now looks to be a "done deal." 

“They are taking it to a different level ... They’re not in the mood to negotiate or compromise ... The Russians see this as their property now.” 

And despite the international community's howls of outrage, numerous sanctions and a refusal to recognize Crimea's annexation — monitors sent to observe the human rights situation in Ukraine were turned away at the Crimean border by security claiming the region has become "a part of Russia." (Via NBC)

With Crimean voters overwhelming approving the peninsula's annexation, and Russian forces' vice grip on the region, this map from The Washington Post explains what exactly Ukraine faces losing. 

While Crimea only represents about four percent of Ukraine's total landmass, the Russian takeover makes it unclear who has the rights to the waters surrounding the peninsula. Those provide access to key ports, that if blocked off, could ebb Ukraine's access to the Mediterranean. Key natural gas reserves are also located in Crimea. And according to the Post, all captured gas is currently pumped through Crimea before going to the mainland. 

But the loss of Crimea is breadcrumbs compared to what could be at stake. 

As fears grow that Russia might extend further into Ukrainian territory, citizens in the eastern city Donetsk have called for a referendum similar to Crimea's. Eastern Ukraine's heavy industry is economically vital for the country, and losing even parts of it could cripple the economy. (Via Fox News)

Moscow claims it has no intention of sending forces further into Ukraine. However, reports indicate a large force of Russian troops have now massed near Ukraine's eastern border.