High Stakes: West Scrambles to Calm Ukraine Crisis
KHARKIV, Ukraine -- World powers are engaged in high stakes diplomacy Wednesday as they scramble to look for ways to calm the crisis in Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other top leaders, trying to find a way to step back from the brink of a global conflict.
So far, however, Lavrov is refusing to meet his Ukrainian counterpart.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is re-affirming its commitment to allies in central and Eastern Europe, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel vowing to step up joint training with Polish and Baltic forces.
"This is a time for wise, steady, and firm leadership. And it is a time for all of us to stand with the Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity and their sovereignty. And we are doing that," Hagel told a told a Senate panel Wednesday.
***Why should Americans care about what's happening between Ukraine and Russia? Dr. Paul Bonicelli, executive vice president of Regent University, answered that and more on CBN News Today, March 5.
All this comes in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin's takeover of the Crimean Peninsula and hints that he might move on eastern Ukraine, as well.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likened Putin's call to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine to Hitler trying to protect ethnic Germans abroad in the 1930s.
Meanwhile, there's been a sudden explosion of pro-Russian demonstrations across eastern Ukraine.
In the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's industrial heartland, many ethnic Russians want nothing more than to see Moscow invade and take control of eastern Ukraine as they did the Crimean Peninsula.
"Only Russia's President Vladimir Putin can save us from the illegitimate government in Kiev," one woman said.
For several hours Tuesday, riot police blocked all roads near Kharkiv's City Hall as pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian demonstrators continued their almost daily face-off.
Russia's decision to order troops involved in military exercises near the Ukrainian border back to their base angered many people here.
"I am very upset," one Russian supporter said. "I wanted those troops to attack, and I would have been the first one to welcome Russian tanks to this square with flowers."
This past weekend, dozens were injured when pro-Russian demonstrators stormed City Hall, replacing European Union flags with Russian ones and calling for union with Moscow.
By late Monday, police had regained control of the building and the Ukrainian flag flew once again.
But it hasn't stopped the protesters. The majority of those gathered, many of them pro-Russian, have called on their supporters to continue to gather in front of City Hall every night at 6 p.m. until this crisis is resolved in their favor.
Denys Sinelnykov, a Christian, was filming at a pro-Russian demonstration when police arrested him. He accused Moscow of instigating the protests to create a reason for a broader invasion of Ukraine.
CBN News met him shortly after his release.
"There is a minority of ethnic-Russians who want Moscow to invade, but the majority of these protesters are being sent from Russia to stir up problems," Sinelnykov said.
In the last few days, 11 cities have witnessed sudden eruptions of pro-Russian demonstrations, something of extreme concern to residents like Olah and Lena.
"I just don't like that we have so much hostility in our city -- somebody for Russia, somebody for Ukraine -- I just don't like it. I want people to live in peace," Olah said.
"We don't want war with Russia," she said. "We are brothers. We need to get along with each other."
Kharkiv is only 20 miles from the Russian border. Putin said Tuesday he hopes he won't have to use force in this part of eastern Ukraine, but left all military options open to protect ethnic-Russians from violence.