The US conceded on Sunday that Moscow had “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula” and announced that the secretary of state, John Kerry, will fly to Kiev in an attempt to halt a further Russian advance into Ukraine.

Senior US officials dismissed claims that Washington is incapable of exerting influence on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but were forced to admit that Crimea had been successfully invaded by 6,000 airborne and ground troops in what could be the start of a wider invasion.

“They are flying in reinforcements and they are settling in,” one senior official said. Another senior official said: “Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.”

On Monday, Ukrainian border guards reported a buildup of armoured vehicles near a ferry port on the Russian side of the Kerch Channel – a narrow sea channel dividing Russia and the Ukrainian. A statement from the guard spokesperson said Russian ships had also been moving in and around the city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet has a base, and that Russian forces had blocked telephone services in some areas.

Although President Barack Obama’s administration called for Putin to withdraw troops to Russian military bases on the peninsula, its objective appeared to have shifted to using political and economic threats to prevent any further military incursion.

One senior official said the major decision facing Putin was whether to “continue to escalate troop movements into other parts of Ukraine”.

“We’ve already seen the intervention in Crimea,” the official said. “It would be even further destabilising to expand that intervention into eastern Ukraine.”

The official added: “Our bottom line is they had to pull back from what they’ve already done, go back into their bases in Crimea. We’ll be watching very, very carefully of course and will be very, very concerned if we saw further escalation into eastern Ukraine.”… see more

source: Guardian UK