Breaking news – Ukraine wants to quit CIS, impose ‘demilitarized zone’ in Crimea

Members of a "Maidan" self-defense unit stand guard in front of a Ukrainian parliament building in Kiev March 17, 2014.

Members of a “Maidan” self-defense unit stand guard in front of a Ukrainian parliament building in Kiev March 17, 2014.

Ukraine ready to quit CIS, sets visa regime with Russia, asks UN to turn Crimea into DMZ

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The interim government in Kiev says Ukraine will leave the commonwealth of post-Soviet states and force Russians to apply for entry visas, and plans to ask the United Nations to make Crimea a demilitarized zone.

The raft of measures – a response to Russia’s incorporation of Crimea into its territory following Sunday’s referendum – was announced by National Security and Defense Council chief Andrey Parubiy during a press briefing in Kiev.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded to maintain economic and security links between former Soviet republics when they became independent states in 1991. It initially included the 12 non-Baltic countries, though Georgia quit after the Ossetian conflict in 2008.

This year, Ukraine was assigned the rotating leadership of the CIS – which is more akin to the formal British Commonwealth than the fully-fledged economic partnership of the EU – but now says it will not carry out its duties.

We have decided not only to give up the presidency, but to launch the process of quitting the union altogether,” Parubiy told journalists in Kiev.

Parubiy added that Ukraine would appeal to the UN to turn Crimea into a demilitarized zone.

Similar UN-mandated zones exist between North and South Korea, and Turkish and Greek Cyprus, as well as in several territories adjacent to Israel.

Ukraine will also introduce a visa regime for Russians, who have not only been allowed to move freely between Ukraine and their homeland since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but could do so with only their internal identification documents.

In the coming hours we will introduce a mechanism so that only Russians with travel passports can enter the country, until such a moment when formal visas can be issued,” said Parubiy, who stated that his department had issued the Foreign Ministry with “requests to implement these measures as soon as is feasible.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that it will not issue a visa regime of its own until it learns what changes have been proposed by Kiev, sources in the Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian border guards have turned back Russian citizens in recent weeks due to ostensible concerns that they will participate in anti-government protests in the east of the country. Parubiy also claimed that Russia was contemplating a “full-scale invasion” of Russian-speaking regions.

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