Private security contractors working for the Russian military are the unmarked troops who have now seized control over two airports in the Ukrainian province of Crimea, according to informed sources in the region. And those contractors could be setting the stage for ousted President Viktor Yanukovich to come to the breakaway region.
The new Ukrainian government in Kiev has accused Moscow of “an armed invasion and occupation” in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol, where well-armed and well-organized troops with no markings or identification have taken control of the airports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry over the phone Friday that no Russian military or marines have been deployed outside of the base of the Black Sea Fleet, which is anchored nearby, officials in both governments said.
Lavrov was technically telling the truth, but the troops are being directed by the Russian government. Although not confirmed, informed sources in Moscow are telling their American interlocutors that the troops belong to Vnevedomstvenaya Okhrana, the private security contracting bureau inside the Russian interior ministry that hires mercenaries to protect Russian Navy installations and assets in Crimea. Other diplomatic sources said that the troops at the airport were paramilitary troops but not specifically belonging to Vnevedomstvenaya Okhrana.
“They don’t have Russian military uniforms and the Russia government is denying they are part of the Russian military. Actually most of them may be Ukrainian citizens. But these are people that are legally allowed to perform services to the Russian fleet,” said Dimitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest.
There's a price for crossing Vladimir Putin, as Ukraine is finding out the hard way. Meanwhile, whoever these guys belong to, they control the airports in Ukraine's southernmost provinces, with Crimea province bordering the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. In other words, these guys now have options should they want to cause more trouble by land, sea, or air:
The several billion dollar question: What's the Obama administration's response?