Ukraine protests chase out Marines
Published Jun 16, 2006 11:07 PM
President George W. Bush’s June 13
visit to Baghdad may have been the top of the news, but his cancelled visit to
Kiev, Ukraine, only made the inside pages. The Kiev “postponement,”
announced June 8, followed the June 7 announcement that Ukraine had canceled
U.S.-Ukrainian military exercises in the Black Sea near the Crimean
Anti-NATO activists, mainly from Ukraine, had been
demonstrating for over a week starting May 27 to protest the exercises. Some 250
U.S. Marines had landed in the Crimea to make preparations for the exercises,
which the Ukrainian parliament had not yet authorized. The exercises, called
“Sea Breeze” and “Tight Knot,” were scheduled to start
in June and continue to August.
The Marines were told they had a quick and
simple mission: installing new showers and toilets at a military training
facility, then leaving. But they were confronted with hundreds of protesters who
set up anti-NATO blockades and shouted, “Occupiers, go home!” The
demonstrators stayed for over a week.
Crimea is a mostly ethnic Russian
auton omous section of Ukraine. The local parliament was opposed to the military
maneuvers, calling them “inexpedient.” Since the Ukrainian
parliament hadn’t authorized the maneuvers either, the only legal basis
for the Marines’ landing was a go-ahead from Ukrainian President Yush
chenko. With legality on their side, the demonstrators confronted the Marines
and helped disrupt preparations for the exercise.
Meanwhile, many Russian
parliamentarians visited Crimea to show their solidarity with the anti-NATO
demonstrations and object to any further expansion of NATO forces to the
With no approval from parliament by June 7, Ukrainian Defense
Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko announced at a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting at
defense ministers’ level in Brussels, Belgium, on June 8 that “Sea
Breeze” and “Tight Knot” would have to be postponed because of
the political situations in Kiev and the Crimea.
Subsequently, the Bush
administration decided to postpone his trip to Ukraine.
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