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Tensions rise amid opposing protesters in Crimea as Russia puts military at combat readiness

Tensions rose among thousands of protesters outside the parliament building in Simferopol, the capital of the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea, as pro-Russian supporters scuffled with anti-Russian rivals Wednesday. Opposing chants of “Crimea is Russia” and “Crimea is not Russia” filled the area with the contrasting presence of Ukrainian and Russian flags dominating the demonstrations. Police eventually moved in to divide the two groups as the situation grew more strenuous.

The protests in Simferopol come amid fears of the possible secession of the Crimea from Ukraine rise in the region, talks of which Crimean Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov dismissed as “radical issues” and “rumors.”

Further adding to the region’s worries, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered military troops in central and western Russia to immediately test combat readiness. A statement from Russia’s foreign ministry said that extremists were “imposing their will” in the Ukraine.

The tensions in Crimea come as lawmakers in Ukraine continue an attempt to form a new unity government, with elections to replace ousted president Viktor Yanukovych scheduled for May.

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