Marco Werman: US-Russia relations got even chillier today. First President Obama announced expanded sanctions, targeting key Russian officials and lawmakers. Then Russia announced sanctions of its own. Nine American officials were put on a list restricting travel to Russia, including House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Senator John McCain. As Moscow and Washington continue to spar over the crisis in Ukraine, inside Ukraine itself is starting to look towards what comes next. That would be elections in May. The BBC's Olexiy Solohubenko has been monitoring the political situation in Ukraine after a tumultuous few weeks.
Olexiy Solohubenko: If you look at who is running the country, the bulk of the coalition government now is the people from the Fatherland Party. This is the party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed but recently released and today returned to Kiev. They are kind of left of center. The other party that is there is a more centered party of the boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko. The party is called UDAR, "the punch," is the translation. Then there's a third group, which is the far right party, which is called Svoboda, translated as "freedom." The roots of that party were sort of radical-right, close to some of the neo-nazi, neo-fascist groups. But in government, I think they have been more or less responsible. They now have four seats in the government. They're quite important but not that important.
Werman: Now Svoboda, there's this disturbing video that was released, you've probably seen it, of the acting head of Ukraine's state broadcaster, he's being forced to sign a resignation letter. In this video, you see a group of men from Svoboda confronting the broadcast executive and his decision to broadcast Putin's ceremony on Tuesday, annexing Crimea. Who are these people from Svoboda beating up this TV executive, which is disturbing.
Solohubenko: It's very disturbing. I think it's been condemned and there have been protests by Ukrainian journalists. Three of these people, unfortunately, are covered by parliamentary immunity because MP's in Ukraine are protected from prosecution abuse, therefore before you prosecute them or bring charges against them, you need to strip them of their immunity. One of these people is a very well known actor, Bogdan Benyuk is his name. He's the shorter one. The one with the ponytail and is doing most of the pushing, most of the beating and all of the choking of the president of the national television company, is very well known, a rebel rouser. The third one is a very, very right-wing ideologue, Andre Relienko. Their own party has condemned their behavior but it shows you that this absolute thuggery that sometimes exists on the periphery of Ukrainian politics is very, very damaging for the government but these things happen in Ukraine.
Werman: But that kind of repression of the press seems to fly in the face of what the entire protest in Migdon was all about. Freedom of expression, democratic rights - what do they believe in if they're going to beat somebody up for broadcasting a legitimate statement by the president of Russia?
Solohubenko: No, you're right. They believe what they believe is right and they believe that President Putin's address was propaganda and that it would actually incite more separatism in eastern and southern Ukraine if national television broadcasted it throughout the country. I think that while this is an ugly incident, it shouldn't take away from the fact that Ukrainian media has been performing pretty well at reflecting lots of points of views of protesters on the Migdon but also the opposition as well.
Werman: There's been an interesting dynamic with the Ukrainian government reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea. Kiev insists the annexation is illegal but its government has also pulled Ukrainian troops, basically surrendering from a military standpoint. What do you think this says about the Ukrainian government's position? What options have the actually left open for themselves?
Solohubenko: I think they're still maintaining that Crimea is, was and will be part of Ukraine, that's the official line. But I don't think this is a realistic line. I think they understand that Crimea is probably lost. Militarily, they know that they cannot really beat the Russians, particularly in Crimea where they have overwhelming superiority, but I think this is not the end of the story. I think the key thing to watch is not what is happening in Crimea - it's a tragic story, actually, of Ukrainian servicemen who don't want to join the Russian army, basically being uprooted, kicked out, it's not clear what happens to their houses, what happens to their property there. But in eastern Ukraine, I think there's quite a build up of both Russian troops on one side of the border and Ukrainian troops trying to protect it. The Ukrainian army is much weaker than the Russian army, but still you're talking about 160,000 soldiers as well as 1 million in reserve. If there was a conflagration there, I think it would be extremely messy and I think Ukrainian troops will shoot in response, if fired upon.
Werman: Reporter Olexiy Solohubenko, who has been monitoring the situation in Ukraine for the BBC World Service, thanks very much.
Solohubenko: My pleasure.