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Which Side Are You On? Ukraine Military Dilemma In Crimea

Armed guards outside a Ukrainian military compound in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 4
Armed guards outside a Ukrainian military compound in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 4
Ilya Barabanov

SEVASTOPOL — Tension is running high around the Ukrainian navy base in Sevastopol and around Belbek airport, with several spontaneous demonstrations breaking out. Meanwhile on the outskirts of the nearby city of Simferopol, says Vladislav Celeznevon, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman, military trucks without license plates are blocking in the perimeter of concrete military bases.

Crimean self-defense activists have blocked the entrance and exits to Sevastopol's navy base, where the new head of the Ukrainian Navy, Rear-Admiral Sergei Gaiduk is currently located. Activists from the “Russian Block” party, as well as armed individuals without any identifying uniforms, are also a notable presence.

“We are waiting until the military decides whose side it is on,” explained one of the members of “Russian Block."

Overnight, these activists gathered a large number of wooden pallets from nearby stores and piled them up at the gate, preventing the soldiers from leaving the area. On Tuesday morning there were rumors that the head of the Black Sea fleet had given his Ukrainian colleagues an ultimatum: Either they would hand in their weapons or those who were unwilling to obey the new Crimean government would be attacked. The Russian Ministry of Defense has since denied any such ultimatum, and in the end there was no attack.

But weapons were very nearly fired at the N4515 base that serves the nearby Belbek airport. The base has already been blockaded by activists for several days, including a contingent of the “Berkut” special forces that were accused of firing on the protesters in Kiev and had returned to Crimea after President Viktor Yanukovich was deposed. The soldiers agreed to seal off their weapons and ammunition and not to leave the base armed, but they tried to continue providing security to the airport.

Excellent relations

“For the morning parade we had a group of volunteers. They were unarmed, and walked to the airport with flags and songs. They were met by several people who fired four shots in the air. But after negotiations, they let a couple soldiers through," recounted one of the soldiers from the base. "You have to serve the airport in any case, to clear flights for landing and takeoff.”

At first the Black Sea marines took control of the airport, and then it was taken over by special forces.

“A lot of the Ukrainian soldiers have Russian wives who work on the Black Sea fleet bases. I was born in Kursk (a small Russian city near the border with Ukraine), but I ended up settling in Ukraine," says one military personnel. "We have always had excellent relations, but we can’t just surrender, we are the Sevastopol Tactical Aviation Brigade. Do you understand? The Sevastopol Brigade.”

At some point the base leadership decided to open the territory to several journalists. As rain fell, officers talked about the latest rumors as they huddled under the wing of a war plane on the base that was set up as a monument to fallen soldiers. As the officers were called in for lunch, Colonel Viktor Kukharenko, the commanding officer at the base, told me that as far as he knew, there were no military bases on Crimea that had sworn allegiance to the new government of Crimea, under Sergei Aksenov.

Aksenov also had something to say. He announced that the referendum on the peninsula's future would not be on March 30, but at some point unspecified date in the future. He said that the Crimean government is in complete control of the situation on the ground. He promised to raise the salaries for soldiers who defected to the Crimean side up to levels of the Russian army.

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For Seniors, Friendship May Be More Important Than Family

Even if the aging and elderly tend to wind up confined to family circles, Argentine academics Laura Belli and Danila Suárez explore the often untapped benefits of friendship in our later years.

Photograph of two elderly women and an elderly man walking arm in arm. Behind the, there are adverts for famous football players.

Two elderly women and a man walk arm in arm

Philippe Leone/Unsplash
Laura F. Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé

Updated Dec. 10, 2023 at 10:10 p.m.

BUENOS AIRES — What kind of friendship do people most talk about? Most often it is childhood or teenage friendships, while friendships between men and women are repeatedly analyzed. What about friendships among the elderly? How are they affected when friends disappear, at a stage when grieving is already more frequent?

Argentines Laura Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé, two friends with PhDs in philosophy, explore the challenges and benefits of friendship in their book Filosofía de la amistad (Friendship Philosophy).

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They consider how friendships can emerge later in life, in profoundly altered circumstances from those of our youth, with people living through events like retirement, widowhood, reduced autonomy or to a greater or lesser degree, personal deterioration. All these can affect older people's ability to form and keep friendships, even if changes happen at any stage in life.

Filosofía de la amistadexplores the place of friendships amid daunting changes. These are not just the result of ageing itself but also of how one is perceived, nor will they affect everyone exactly the same way. Aging has firstly become a far more diverse experience, with increasing lifespans and better healthcare everywhere, and despite an inevitable restriction in life opportunities, a good many seniors enjoy far greater freedom and life choices than before.

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