Balkans write larger.
On Friday afternoon, the regular flight from Moscow touched down in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, in the south of Ukraine, carrying the leader of a Russian motorcycle gang known as the Night Wolves. Alexander Zaldostanov, an old friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wearing his usual get-up – a flaming wolf’s head stenciled onto his black leather vest – but for once he was not the most intimidating figure on the scene. Since the morning, dozens of masked troops had been sauntering around Crimea’s main airport, armed to the teeth but refusing to identify themselves. In some ways, they seemed to have the same goal as Zaldostanov, who goes by the nickname The Surgeon. They were sending a signal to the revolutionary government in Ukraine that it was no longer in charge on this peninsula.Who exactly was in charge remained a mystery throughout the day, and a source of international alarm, as the United Nations Security Council prepared to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the tensions in Crimea. That morning, the new Crimean Parliament convened, still occupied by the masked and heavily armed men who had seized the building before dawn the previous day. Those men, also brandishing assault rifles, had at least identified themselves: They said they were the self-defense forces of the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea. Under their watch on Friday, the parliament voted in a new Crimean government, one that was stacked to the hilt with pro-Russian hardliners intent on breaking their region away from Ukraine. But they, too, were not in charge.