Ukraine Activates Reserves And Approves Military Build-Up

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s government mobilized military reservists and approved an emergency military build-up a day after the disputed province of Crimea voted to secede from the country and become part of Russia.

The Ukrainian parliament approved a presidential decree mobilizing some of the country’s 40,000 reservists, and also agreed to divert $600 million from other parts of the country’s budget to buy weapons, repair equipment and boost training over the next three months — a major commitment for a cash-strapped country.

With some of his troops surrounded on Crimean bases by Russian forces, Ukrainian defense minister Ihor Tenyukh said the country would not back down even as the gears moved toward an apparent separation of Crimea from the rest of Ukraine. Following Sunday’s referendum, Crimean officials were to present a formal request in Moscow to become part of Russia, and the Russian parliament is scheduled to consider the matter this week.

Tenyukh said that Ukraine’s armed forces in the east and south of the country were “combat ready,” and said there were no plans to abandon bases and installations in Crimea — despite the threatening presence of troops deployed by a vastly larger superpower neighbor.

“Crimea is, was and will be our territory,” Tenyukh said. A truce between the two sides is in place until March 21.

While the next steps may revolve around diplomacy — whether the West imposes sanctions on Russia; whether Russia moves quickly to absorb Crimea or takes more time to negotiate — the Sunday vote touched off a national call to arms in Ukraine.

While the residents of Crimea were voting Sunday under the barrel of Russian guns, Oleg Vorontsov was quick to answer it. Outraged by what he called a “rigged referendum” that will probably result in the peninsula becoming part of Russia, the 40-year-old approached a recruiting stand in central Kiev for Ukraine’s newly created national guard.

And yet, as with so many others who gathered here at the epicenter of this nation’s pro-Western revolution Sunday, his anger was not solely directed at Moscow. He had plenty left for the Western powers that he said had courted Ukraine only to dither and demur when the going got tough.

“Sanctions against a few people? How is that going to help us against Russia?” laughed Vorontsov, owner of a small Internet cafe, who signed up to join a new force of 60,000 reservists that Kiev hopes will bolster Ukrainian defenses in the event of a full-blown war with Russia. “The Russians are taking a piece of our country, and where is the West? Europe and the United States have abandoned us.”

At its core, the popular uprising that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last month was a battle over national direction — whether Ukraine should hitch its wagon to Moscow or the West. And yet, while many here continue to push for a new future in the West, they are also grappling with a deep sense of disappointment, even betrayal, over the response to their plight.

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