Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that he received Russia’s assurances it will respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, as the ouster of the country’s Russian-backed president raised concerns of military intervention and Russian fighter jets patrolled the border.
Russia already launched a military exercise involving some 150,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, Reuters reports, and the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday it had put its fighter jets along the border on combat control. Kerry said he spoke with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, who maintained that the exercises were previously planned and unrelated to the unrest in Ukraine, the Associated Press reports.
“Everybody needs to step back and avoid provocations,” Kerry said.
The parliament in Ukraine approved a new government on Thursday, less than a week after protests forced the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, who appealed Thursday for protection from his Russian allies while still claiming legitimacy. But Russia still has a strong influence in the southern Crimea region, where tensions have flared after dozens of pro-Russia gunmen seized control of the regional parliament Wednesday night.
On Thursday, the Western-leaning government in Ukraine warned Russia not to move troops out of its naval base in Ukraine’s restive southern Crimea region.
“I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet,” said Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchinov, according to Reuters. “Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression.”
The White House welcomed the new government of Ukraine on Thursday and said ousted President Vikotr Yanukovych “abdicated his responsibility.”