Russia deployed thousands of troops in crisis-hit Ukraine Saturday in the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since Cold War.
Conflict-ridden Ukraine has begun full mobilization of its army and reserves Sunday after neighbouring Russia sent thousands of troops and military hardware to help stabilize the troubled Crimean region of Ukraine.
Acting President Olexander Turchynov ordered the closure of airspace to all non-civilian aircraft, and Ukraine’s Security Council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced.
The Defense Ministry was ordered to conduct the call-up, potentially of all men up to 40 years of age.
The armed forces is to be put on “full combat readiness”, while reserves are mobilised and trained. An emergency headquarters will also be set up and there would be an increased security at key sites, including nuclear plants.
The move followed the Saturday’s invasion of the Crimean region of Ukraine by Russian forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin broke his week-long silence on the crises in Ukraine, which is a former part of the Soviet Union, by seeking and obtaining the permission of Russia’s Senate to send troops into Ukraine.
He said the move was in response to a plea by the Crimean region’s Russian-leaning leadership which called for support, after Ukraine’s central leadership had fallen to Western allies.
Majority of Crimean residents are ethnic Russians, and Mr. Putin, whose country maintains a key military base in Crimea, said it was necessary to protect them.
The invasion is the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Russian forces tried to disarm a small Ukrainian contingents in Crimea on Sunday. Some Ukrainian commanders refused to give up weapons and bases were surrounded, reports say.
The United States has warned Russia against any invasion, saying there would be costs if Russia intervened militarily in Ukraine.
The White House said President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Mr. Putin for 90 minutes on Saturday, urging Russia to de-escalate the situation by withdrawing its force.
“President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said after the leaders spoke.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a pro-European government that took power after Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago, said Russian armed action “would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia”.
Ukraine has said it will seek the help of US and UK leaders in guaranteeing its security. NATO has called emergency talks to be held at 1200 GMT.
The BBC reported seeing what appear to be Russian troops digging trenches on the Crimean border.