At this point it seems pretty obvious that Putin has moved on the road to a coup in Crimea. Russian military is on the move outside the naval base without any notification to the government in Kiev which Russia refuses to recognize. Yanukovych is being allowed to broadcast on Russian TV representing himself as the legitimate government in exile and requesting Russian military intervention. Here is an analysis of these events from The Guardian that I found interesting.
Moscow's military moves so far resemble a classically executed coup: seize control of strategic infrastructure, seal the borders between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, invoke the need to protect the peninsula's ethnic Russian majority. The Kremlin's favourite news website, Lifenews.ru, was on hand to record the historic moment. Its journalists were allowed to video Russian forces patrolling ostentatiously outside Simferopol airport.Where this goes likely depends more on international reaction than on what the rather powerless interim Ukrainian government does about it. If Putin is willing to limit his efforts to a Crimean adventure and leave the rest of Ukraine alone, it is possible that the West will not take the risk of a head to head confrontation over it. There are regional precedents for some sort of anomalous territory under Russian influence with chronic simmering conflict. That is what has been happening for a long time in the Caucuses.
Wearing khaki uniforms – they had removed their insignia – and carrying Kalashnikovs, the soldiers seemed relaxed and in control. Other journalists filming from the road captured Russian helicopters flying into Crimea from the east. They passed truckloads of Russian reinforcements arriving from Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in this very Crimean coup. But Putin's playbook in the coming days and months is easy to predict. On Thursday, the Crimean parliament announced it would hold a referendum on the peninsula's future status on 25 May. That is the same day Ukraine goes to the polls in fresh presidential elections.
This can be seen as a clever blocking move by Putin. He hasn't taken a really major risk with this gambit. Just keeping him contained in Crimea will absorb energy and resources from the interim government and their western allies. Putin can wait for the inevitable power struggles in Kiev take their toll as the various players jockey for power and the economy teeters on the brink of collapse without the money that he had offered. Obviously the US and EU acting together with a committed plan have the leverage to push back against Putin's plans. So far that really doesn't seem to be happening.