During an emergency Cabinet of Ministers meeting on March 16, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine’s eastern border has been almost completely shut down with Russia. Many Russians have been refused entry to Ukraine if they are suspected by border guards of being sent to Ukraine to stir up demonstrations or cause violent unrest. Deadly demonstrations have taken place in the last week in Kharkiv and Donetsk, killing at least three people.
Ukrainian and Western officials have blamed provocateurs who are sent in to create disorder, giving Russia a pretext to send in their military forces to restore public peace.
Yatsenyuk asked about the same people who have been seen at pro-Russian protests in Kharkiv and Donetsk. A minister told him that these are the same people who have also been seen in protests in Odesa and Mykolayiv, as well as in 2009 during pro-Russian protests in the Baltic nations.
The televised meeting is being held as a pro-Kremlin government in Crimea, backed by thousands of Russian troops, are holding a “gunpoint” and “illegal” referendum in which voters are asked whether they want to join Russia.
While Ukraine and the West don’t recognize the current government in charge of the two-million person peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that he would consider Crimea’s request for annexation after the referendum.