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Ukraine: Pro-Russian Crimea Vies With New Kiev Leadership | Simon Shuster | TIME.com

On Thursday morning, when Ukraine's new parliament met to confirm a new government - or, as the chamber's speaker put it, "to move ahead with a total renewal of power" - a detachment of revolutionary troops was parked right outside in an armored personnel carrier. They were not there to protect the lawmakers. They were there to warn them. "So they don't forget who's in charge," said one of troops, Evgeny Sikanov, who had an axe tucked into his bullet proof vest and a portrait of Jesus painted on the front of his helmet. "If they even think about betraying the will of the people, I'm the guy who's going to go in there and give them a spanking."

In the past few days, threats liked that have turned the task of governing into a tightrope walk for the political leaders of the revolution in Ukraine. One week after they toppled the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych, they have begun trying to fill the power vacuum he left behind. But they are being forced to do that at gunpoint, threatened from all sides with a resumption of the uprising - this time against the revolutionary leaders themselves.

In the region of Crimea on Thursday morning, an armed militia showed how easily that could happen. Calling themselves defenders of the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea, they stormed the regional parliament and the headquarters of the local government, which had gone over to the side of the revolution the previous day. The gunmen proceeded to call a quorum of the region's pro-Russian lawmakers, who convened a session of the Crimean parliament. Standing in the wings with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades, the masked men then watched as the chamber granted their demand: allow a referendum on the secession of Crimea from Ukraine. A large demonstration of ethnic Russians gathered outside the building to cheer the gunmen on, waving the Russian tricolor.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 28th, 2014 at 04:07:32 AM EST

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