The Pentagon Stops Military Engagements With Russia

The Pentagon says it is suspending exercises and other activities with the Russian military, in light of Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Monday evening that the U.S. military has “put on hold” all military-to-military engagements, including bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.

Kirby said the Pentagon values the relationship it has developed with the Russian military in the last few years, to reduce the risk of military miscalculation.

He said the U.S. calls on Russian forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine to return to their bases.

As of Monday, there were roughly 16,000 Russian troops in Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine with an ethnic Russian majority that has long been a disputed territory.

Ukraine — which was part of the Soviet Union — has seen rising tensions between pro-Russian and pro-Western European interests in recent months. The crisis reached a fever pitch last month when the country’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was forced from office. A week later, Russian President Vladimir Putin began deploying troops to Crimea.

The West has been trying to find a way to get Russia to back down, but Moscow has said it will only end the crisis based on one condition, the Associated Press reported earlier today. Russia wants a unity government in the Ukrainian city of Kiev that represents both pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian interests.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been dispatched to the region to express his support for Ukraine’s independence from Russia. The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council has also condemned what it called a “clear violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty, according to Voice of America.

Ousted President Yanukovych stirred up resentments among many Ukrainians this fall when he went back on his promise to sign onto trade details with the European Union. Many Ukrainians would like to get closer to the EU and further away from what they see as a corrupt Russia.

Violence against peaceful protesters further stoked Ukrainians’ anger against the president, as did a new law that put strict restrictions on protests including banning tents in public spaces.

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