The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has said that it will deploy Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) reconnaissance planes in Poland and Romania to monitor the spiraling crisis in Ukraine.
A NATO spokesman said the alliance gave the go-ahead on Monday for the reconnaissance flights following a recommendation from US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
The NATO commander said the flights, to be mounted from bases in Germany and the UK, “will enhance the alliance’s situational awareness,” adding, “All AWACS reconnaissance flights will take place solely over Alliance territory.”
“This decision is an appropriate and responsible action in line with NATO’s decision to intensify our ongoing assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security,” the official noted.
The deployment of the AWACS comes as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is preparing for Sunday’s referendum to join Russia.
On Monday, the parliament of Crimea officially invited observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the territory’s upcoming referendum.
“An invitation has been handed to Switzerland, the country that holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE, for representatives of the member countries and of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to monitor voting at the March 16 referendum in the Crimea,” sources in the Crimean legislature told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The heads of Russia’s two houses of parliament said they would support Crimea if it votes to leave Ukraine and join Russia.
Political crisis erupted in Ukraine in November 2013 after the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, refrained from signing the Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament ousted Yanukovych and named Oleksandr Turchynov, the legislature’s newly-elected speaker, as interim president.
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