A Ukrainian brand of toilet paper is causing a stir in Crimea because its name has the same initials as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The V.V. brand toilet paper has been criticized by customers in Simferopol because it alludes to “Vladimir Vladimirovich”, the first two names of Russian President Putin, Radio Free Europe (RFE) says.
Russia caused international anger earlier this year by annexing Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power.
Toilet paper printed with the picture of Vladimir Putin are a popular novelty in Ukraine
Crimea’s Russian majority are fiercely loyal to Moscow, and customers found the perceived link to Vladimir Putin’s name difficult to take, RFE reported.
The Sevastopol News newspaper said that one user was “outraged” at the fact that the maker of the product – the Simferopol Paper Mill – had included an outline of the Crimean peninsula on the roll, the implication being that the map would be put to a potentially disrespectful purpose. However, the toilet roll may just be the result of local patriotism – the packing also says “Buy Crimean!” in large letters.
Toilet paper printed with the picture of Vladimir Putin are a popular novelty in Ukraine.
According to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, Russian military forces are blockading Sevastopol airport in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Arsen Avakov called their presence an “armed invasion”.
Armed men also took over the other main Crimean airport, Simferopol, on Friday morning.
Relations between Russia and the Ukraine have been strained since the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanokovych, who is now in Russia.
These tensions have been particularly evident in Crimea, Ukraine’s only Russian-majority region.
On Thursday, pro-Russian armed men stormed the Simferopol parliament, ousted the existing cabinet and appointed a new prime minister.
Meanwhile, in a further challenge to Kiev, Viktor Yanukovich is preparing to give a press conference on Friday, after resurfacing in Russia on Thursday, asserting that he is still Ukraine’s lawful president.
Armed men took over Simferopol airport in Crimea on Friday morning
Armed men, said by Arsen Avakov to be Russian soldiers, arrived in the Sevastopol military airport near Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Base on Friday morning.
The men were patrolling outside, backed up by armored vehicles, but Ukrainian military and border guards remained inside, Arsen Avakov said.
“I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page.
Armed men also arrived at Simferopol airport overnight, some carrying Russian flags.
A man called Vladimir told Reuters he was a volunteer helping the group there, though he said he did not know where they came from.
“I’m with the People’s Militia of Crimea. We’re simple people, volunteers,” he said.
“We’re here at the airport to maintain order. We’ll meet the planes with a nice smile – the airport is working as normal.”
On Thursday, a separate group of unidentified armed men entered Crimea’s parliament building by force, and hoisted a Russian flag on the roof.
The Crimean parliament later announced it would hold a referendum on expanding the region’s autonomy on May 25.
Recent developments in the Crimea region – which traditionally leans towards Moscow – heightened tensions with Russia, which scrambled fighter jets to monitor its borders on Thursday.
Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, last night urged his government to maintain relations with Kiev and even join Western efforts to bail out its troubled economy – but he is also rewarding the rebellious Crimean government with humanitarian aid from Russia.
Two Ukraine’s government buildings have been seized by armed men in Simferopol, the capital of the Russian-majority region of Crimea.
The Russian flag had been raised over both the parliament and the regional government buildings in Simferopol.
On Wednesday pro-Russian separatists and supporters of Ukraine’s new leaders confronted each other in the city.
Ukrainian interim President Oleksandr Turchynov warned Russia against any “military aggression” in Crimea.
Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s troops from Black Sea Fleet should not move outside their naval base in the Crimea.
“I would like to call on the leadership of the Russian Federation to respect the basic agreements on the Russian military presence in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” he said.
Meanwhile Russia is performing a second day of military exercises, saying it fighter jets were on “combat alert”.
“Constant air patrols are being carried out by fighter jets in the border regions,” Russia’s defense ministry told Interfax.
Two Ukraine’s government buildings have been seized by armed men in Simferopol
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin ordered a snap drill to test the combat readiness of troops in central and western Russia, near the border with Ukraine. Thursday’s exercises appear to be part of that drill, analysts say.
Also on Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry expressed concern over what it termed “massive violations of human rights in Ukraine”.
Amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West, NATO has issued a statement saying it would continue to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The US has warned against any military intervention by Russia.
On Wednesday Simferopol saw clashes erupt between Ukrainians who support the change of government and pro-Russians.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the area near the government buildings has been cordoned off to prevent “bloodshed”. He added that the seizure of the buildings was the work of “provocateurs”.
“Measures have been taken to counter extremist actions and not allow the situation to escalate into an armed confrontation in the centre of the city,” he said in a statement on his Facebook page.
Regional Prime Minister Anatoliy Mohylyov told a local TV station said he would take part in talks with the gunmen and told government employees who normally work there not to come in.
The men have not yet made any demands or issued any statements but did put up a sign reading: “Crimea is Russia”.
They threw a flash grenade in response to questions from a journalist, AP news agency reported.
Tensions have been rising in Crimea since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last week.
Crimea – where ethnic Russians are in a majority – was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.
Ethnic Ukrainians loyal to Kiev and Muslim Tatars – whose animus towards Russia stretches back to Stalin’s deportations during World War II – have formed an alliance to oppose any move back towards Moscow.