MOSCOW, April 15 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday suspended the transfer of weapons from Crimea to Ukraine in an effort to prevent Kiev authorities from using them against pro-federalization protesters in southeastern regions of the country.
“I would like to reiterate that Russia pledged … to restrict the delivery of weaponry to hot spots,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, adding that southeastern Ukraine falls into that category as pro-federalization protests spread through the region.
“We are concerned that this weaponry could be used against civilians taking part in protests in eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine,” he said.
Antonov also urged Western countries to follow Russia’s example and apply wisdom and restraint in the possible delivery of arms to Ukraine, drawing on the same logic.
Following Russia’s reunification with Crimea, the Russian military has so far handed over nearly 400 pieces of Ukrainian military equipment, including eight helicopters and three warships, to the new authorities in Kiev.
Late last month, Crimea became a new subject of the Russian Federation following the ratification of the reunification treaty. Although widely denounced by the West, the referendum in Crimea was fully compliant with international law and must be recognized as legitimate, according to the Russian government.
Given the territorial change, Russia started handing weapons and military equipment over to Ukraine that previously belonged to the country's armed forces.
Last month, activists in the eastern Ukraine started pro-federalization rallies, with protesters in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv calling for a referendum on the status of their respective regions.
Ukraine’s acting President Oleksander Turchynov announced the launch of a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation,” including military forces, against pro-federalization protesters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the interim government’s decision to use force, including a military crackdown, against the protesters an extremely dangerous development.