Ukraine briefs UN about the presence of 16,000 Russian troops

United Nations: Ukraine's mission to the United Nations has claimed that 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in the strategic Crimea region, while Russia's UN ambassador told an emergency Security Council meeting that Ukraine's fugitive president requested them.

Russian naval infantry unit stationed in Crimea, Ukraine. Pic: AFP

A letter from Ukraine's UN mission circulated during the latest emergency council meeting yesterday, where the Ukrainian ambassador again pleaded for international help. Russia's UN ambassador,Vitaly Churkin, told the council that fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych requested Russia's armed forces to establish law and order.

Yanukovych fled the former Soviet republic to Russia after his ouster and had said Friday that he would not ask for Russian forces.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador, said "One might think that Moscow has just become the rapid response arm of the High Commissioner for Human Rights."

Power said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will begin sending monitors to Ukraine yesterday night.
The third emergency Security Council meeting in four days came as the West scrambles to respond to Russia's tightening grip on Crimea amid fears that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine. Action by the UN's most powerful body appears unlikely.

Russia has veto power as a permanent member and can block the council from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.

Churkin told the council he was authorized to read a statement from Yanukovych and show council members a copy which says that "as the legitimately elected representative" he believes "Ukraine is on the brink of civil war."

The statement asks President Vladimir Putin to use Russia's armed forces "to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine."

Churkin quoted Yanukovych as saying "the life and security and the rights of people, particularly in the southeast part in Crimea, are being threatened" and that there were "open acts of terror and violence."

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