Press uneasy over Crimean tensions

A Crimean Tatar shouts slogans and waves the ethnic flag of the Crimean Tatars during a protest in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption Hundreds of ethnic Crimean Tatars rallied in support of the Ukrainian interim government in the regional capital Simferopol

Both Ukrainian and Russian papers express concern at the rising tensions between supporters of Ukraine's new leaders and pro-Russian separatists in the Russian-majority Crimea region.

While the Ukrainian press focuses on the potential danger of Crimean secession, some Russian papers accuse the historically anti-Russian Crimean Tatars - a Muslim ethnic group - of deliberately stoking up tension in the region.

Meanwhile, several regional Crimean papers warn that the situation could easily escalate further.

Ukrainian press

The broadsheet Den warns that "the country's territorial integrity is under direct threat" and calls for "decisions that will alleviate tension and settle the confrontation".

Noting that rival groups of demonstrators in the autonomous republic have been resorting to "fists, sticks, firecrackers, tear gas and cobblestones" to get their point across, the news website Levyy Bereg says that "the situation in Crimea is escalating".

The business daily Kommersant Ukraina reports that "Long live Ukraine" and "Allahu Akbar" are among the slogans being chanted by the demonstrators in Crimea.

The nationalist newspaper Ukrayina Moloda compares the current situation with the early 1990s, when there was a strong secessionist movement spearheaded by the Russian separatist Yuriy Meshkov.

Russian press

The business daily Kommersant notes that the tension in Crimea has been heightened by the involvement of the Crimean Tatars, who "utterly oppose any talks about Crimea's reunion with Russia".

"It was impossible to avoid clashes between representatives from the two camps. They fought with Russian and Ukrainian flags at first and then used knives," the paper says.

The state-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta goes so far as to suggest that Crimean Tatar agitation is a deliberate ploy designed to curry favour with the new Ukrainian government.

"Apparently… Tatars decided to string the new authorities in Kiev along, probably expecting that they will not forget them and will thank them one day. There is no doubt that there were people who advised Tatars to display their temper," the paper says.

Meanwhile, the business daily Vedomosti suggests that one possible solution to the Crimea question could be to give the republic an enhanced degree of autonomy.

"Until 1995, the peninsula co-existed with Ukraine on confederal grounds; the republic had its own president. Many in Crimea are now advocating a return to these principles. A move in this direction will probably make it possible to find a compromise acceptable to the majority," it says.

Crimean press

Crimea's top-selling pro-Russian daily, Krymskaya Pravda, says the atmosphere during Wednesday's demonstration in the capital, Simferopol, was dangerously tense.

"The more politicians tried to calm people down, the tenser the situation became. It was clear that if people were not led away from the square outside the parliament building, the smallest provocation could lead to very serious consequences, including bloodshed."

Another pro-Russian newspaper, Krymskoye Ekho, also warns that the situation could be tipped over the edge by provocateurs.

"What we see in Simferopol today is a big geopolitical game. If you do not have fast legs and strong arms, or if you do not have hidden weapons or have been unable to get a baseball bat for yourself, then you had better stay at home."

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.