As the international political crisis continues to develop in Crimea, Albertans with ties to the region are watching the events unfold with growing alarm.

Russian soldiers seized military posts in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula last week, stoking long-standing fears that the Kremlin might send troops into the rest of the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine.

On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border but said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there.


Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in Crimea. A Ukrainian mission to the United Nations claims 16,000 Russian troops have massed in Crimea. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Robert Kalinovich, president of the Calgary branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, is following the developments closely.

Kalinovich, who has worked all over Ukraine and has many family members and friends there, says the situation is worrisome.

“Especially because of the nine-hour time difference between Alberta and Ukraine. When things start to happen in the day there in Ukraine that's our evening, so sometimes it's difficult for people to go to bed at night,” he said.

Oksana Dawid is also worried for the safety of her father and other family members back in her homeland if war breaks out.

“When I look on the news there's lot of people actually signing up, there's mobilization going on, people want to voluntarily, men are going and asking where can I sign up, what can I do now to help the country,” she said.

Ian Brodie, research director at the school of public policy at the University of Calgary, said Canada and other western countries need get more involved in the growing crisis.

“I've met Putin when I was in government. He's a ruthless person. Everyone's trying to figure out what he's up to here, what his end game is. I'm sure that he has an end game,” said Brodie, who worked previously as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff.

The West should put together a financial support package for Ukraine — to replace badly needed credit offered by Russia, Brodie said.

“And time is of the essence in that the one thing that would make this situation much worse is if the Ukrainian financial crisis worsened and there was an economic collapse in that country.”

For Russia, keeping — or enhancing — its foothold in Crimea is important because its port on the Black Sea provides the rising energy power-broker access to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, Brodie said.

Canada has set the right tone so far, Brodie said, but he wonders whether the Prime Minister will attend the G8 summit in Sochi in June or if Canadian athletes will be sent to participate in the Paralympics.

The Alberta government said on Tuesday it will provide up to $100,000 in matching funds to support humanitarian aid to Ukraine.