Monday, March 3, 2014

• Ukraine's call to arms by JAMES CHAPMAN and SAM WEBB and LIZZIE EDMONDS

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Ukraine's call to arms

Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has appealed for the West to adopt 'strongest means' to intervene in Russia's occupation of Crimea if diplomacy fails.
Her words came as world leaders continued to debate action over the ongoing crisis - with US president Obama saying his administration was considering economic and diplomatic options that would isolate Russia.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Tymoshenko, freed last week after the riots throughout the nation, said if Russia is allowed to 'take away' Crimea, life will change 'practically everywhere in the world.'
She added: 'Then we have to accept... an aggressor, can violate all the international agreements, take away territories, whenever she likes.'

'We can’t afford this in the world. That’s why if the instruments of diplomacy won’t work, if all negotiation instruments won’t work and personal relations with Mr Putin won’t work, the world has to apply strongest means.'
Ms Amanpour replied: 'You sound like you’re raising the stakes and you are calling for the West, the United States, Britain, Europe, to use military force against Russia. Am I reading you correctly? Is that what you are calling for?

:mrgreen: Surrender by 3am or we attack: Russian naval commander issues deadline for Ukrainian troops in Crimea
:mrgreen: Russian Embassy denies the country has 'deployed forces' in the Ukraine in extraordinary Twitter exchange with Louise Mensch

Tymoshenko responded: 'I am asking all the world, personally every world leader, to use all the possibilities in order to avoid Ukraine losing Crimea.'
She also claimed the Russian Duma has started listening to a draft law to annex Crimea from Ukraine.

The 53-year-old added: 'It’s only a question of time when it (will) be voted. We all know that votes in Duma will be found.
'That’s why Russia is escalating the crisis now. And the world should understand, should realise, that Ukraine on its own won’t be able to solve this issue with Russia on its own. Absolutely not possible.'

Yulia Tymoshenko said the world has to apply 'strongest means' to defend Ukraine

Her comments come as Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Maksim Prauta said Russian forces controlling the strategic region of Crimea demanded the crew of two Ukrainian warships surrender.
It was alleged they then demanded all Crimean troops withdraw by 3am - or face action.
Moscow swiftly denied they had made the ultimatums - and accused Ukraine of trying to spark war by making the claims.
Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting that he use the Russian military to restore law and order in Ukraine, Moscow's U.N. envoy said.

'Under the influence of Western countries, there are open acts of terror and violence,' Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin quoted the letter from Yanukovich to Putin in an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
'People are being persecuted for language and political reasons,' he quoted the letter as saying.

Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Ukraine -
and says Putin is 'on the wrong side of history'k

'So in this regard I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine.'
The news comes as top EU official says the bloc's 28 leaders will hold an emergency summit on Ukraine Thursday. They are expected to freeze visa liberalization and economic cooperation talks with Russia if Moscow hasn't taken steps to calm the crisis.
It called on Russia on Monday to withdraw its troops to bases and hold consultations with Kiev, while extending the possibility of holding a summit of EU leaders to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

World leaders continued to condemn action in the region.
Barack Obama said yesterday that Russia is ‘on the wrong side of history’ in Ukraine and that its actions violate international law.
The President told reporters in the Oval Office that the United States is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia.
Continued military actions in Ukraine ‘will be a costly proposition for Russia’, he warned
He called on Congress to work on an aid package to Ukraine and make it the ‘first order of business’.
And German Chancellor Angela Merkel was yesterday reported to have questioned whether Vladimir Putin ‘was still in touch with reality’.
Bild newspaper said it had been told by American sources that during a telephone conversation with President Obama, she had complained that Mr Putin was ‘living in another world’.

Interim Ukrainian president Olexander Turchynov and William Hague
met in Kiev today. The Foreign Secretary
urged Russia to pull back its forces

William Hague visits Independence Square -
the site of numerous protest - in Kiev today

However an aide to Mrs Merkel said it was not too late to resolve the Ukrainian crisis by political means.
Mrs Merkel has proposed to President Putin and President Obama sending a ‘fact-finding mission’ to Crimea.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert urged Moscow to withdraw ‘from the logic of troop movements’.
But he added: ‘There is no doubt President Putin has a completely different view on the situation and events in Crimea from the German government and our Western partners.’

Russia will face diplomatic, political, and economic pressure in response to its violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, David Cameron has said.
Today, a British government document caught by a photographer's lens suggested the UK is against imposing economic sanctions on Russia - a position which could complicate any U.S. effort to isolate Moscow over its military advances on Ukraine.

The document, captured by a photographer outside the British prime minister's Downing Street office as it was carried in by an adviser, says Britain 'should not support for now trade sanctions or close London's financial center to Russians,' according to the BBC, which first reported the mistake.

Russian forces in Crimea have reportedly ordered the crew of the
Ukrainian anti-submarine ship 'Ternopil' (pictured) to surrender

It's not clear whether the document presents a settled U.K. position or just the view of one set of officials within government.
Britain's views on sanctions are important in part because London is a key hub for Russian investment.
Downing Street had no immediate comment.

Earlier, the Prime Minister, who chaired a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the crisis, said the world needed to send a 'clear message' to Moscow.
Speaking in Downing Street, he said: 'What we want to see is a de-escalation rather than a continuation down the path that the Russian government has taken, violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country.

'So we shall have to bring to bear diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures in order to make this point.
'That is the very clear message the whole world needs to send to the Russian government.'
There was a similar message from Foreign Secretary William Hague after attending talks in Kiev with the beleaguered interim Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Show of strength: Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, and Defense Minister
Sergei Shoigu, left, and the commander of the Western Military District
Anatoly Sidorov, right, set out to watch a military exercise
near St Petersburg, Russia, today

Despite his current exile in Russia, Viktor Yanukovych remains officially the democratically elected president of Ukraine.
In 2010, the 63-year-old won Ukraine’s fifth presidential election since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, in a run-off against his rival prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko – who is now favourite to take his place.
Mr Yanukovych took 49 per cent of the popular vote, backed by 12,481,266 voters, against 45.5 per cent of the vote achieved by Mrs Tymoshenko, who suffered because of corruption allegations.


Ukraine is Europe’s second largest country and while Mr Yanukovych received a degree of support across the whole country, his core vote came from the east – which is also the industrial base.
Russian influence is particularly strong in the region, as well as in Crimea, an autonomous republic on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast which was part of Russia until 1954. Crimea strongly backed Mr Yanukovych in 2010.

While Ukraine and Russia share common historical origins, the west of the country has close ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland, and Ukrainian nationalist sentiment is strongest there.
Following his election win in 2010, Mr Yanukovych quickly re-oriented foreign and trade policy towards Russia and had various opponents, most notably Mrs Tymoshenko, imprisoned in trials seen by many as politically motivated.
Although trade with EU countries now exceeds that with Russia, the country is Ukraine’s largest individual trading partner and it depends on Russia for its gas supplies.

'If Russia cannot be persuaded to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, there will have to be other consequences and other costs. I am not going to set out today what all of those are. We will act in a united way with other nations in the world,' he said.

'Russia should be in no doubt about this. This is something that we take very seriously, that we have to take very seriously, because if this becomes the normal way of behaving in the world, of intruding upon and violating the sovereignty of neighbours, then clearly that would be an even bigger crisis in international affairs.'
Today leaders of Europe and the U.S. called on Russia to act with 'self-restraint' and 'responsibility' and urged them to ease tensions in Crimea.
Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, said today his country would never give up Crimea.

Putin meets with a senior officer. The exercise took place at Kirillovsky firing ground

Putin on Monday watched Russian tanks and armoured vehicles
trundle across the training ground

Russian forces have taken control of the Black Sea peninsula, which is part of Ukraine, but Yatseniuk told reporters: 'No one will give up Crimea to anyone.'
In other developments:
Yatseniuk described Russian behaviour as a ‘declaration of war’.
Kiev called for ‘solidarity’ from foreign countries and highlighted a 1994 treaty in which Britain and the United States guaranteed Ukrainian borders.
A defiant Vladimir Putin told US President Barack Obama he reserved the right to take further military action in eastern Ukraine.
The tensions in the region could put Britain’s gas supply at risk.

Ukraine’s newly appointed Navy chief, who had been refusing to fight the Russians, defected and pledged his allegiance to the Crimean region.
Britain announced that its ministers and officials are to boycott the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Senior Tories claimed Ed Miliband’s refusal to back military intervention in Syria, a Russian ally, last summer has emboldened Putin.
Global stock market recoils at uncertainty in Crimea

With little or no appetite to counter Putin’s aggression with military force, the West appeared to be struggling to agree on an effective response to the crisis.
Britain pulled out of preparatory talks for a summit of the G8 group of leading countries due to take place in Russia in June, while the U.S. suggested Moscow could be thrown out of the organisation altogether

A pro-Russian soldier stands by a billboard with a map of Crimea and bearing
the words 'Autonomous Republic of Crimea' in the port of Kerch, Ukraine. A
Russian commander has reportedly told Ukrainian forces in the region to
stand down or face attack

An armed man stands outside the cabinet of ministers building in Simferopol
today. Russia has started a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian
side of a narrow stretch of water between Russia and the Ukrainian region of Crimea

Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk outside the
territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol today

Russia claims its troops have not 'deployed abroad'

'We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation's clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia's obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine.

'We call on Russia to address any ongoing security or human rights concerns that it has with Ukraine through direct negotiations, and/or via international observation or mediation under the auspices of the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We stand ready to assist with these efforts.
'We also call on all parties concerned to behave with the greatest extent of self-restraint and responsibility, and to decrease the tensions.
'We note that Russia's actions in Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G8 is able to have meaningful discussion.

'We are united in supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to choose its own future. We commit ourselves to support Ukraine in its efforts to restore unity, stability and political and economic health to the country.
'To that end, we will support Ukraine's work with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a new program and to implement needed reforms. IMF support will be critical in unlocking additional assistance from the World Bank, other international financial institutions, the EU, and bilateral sources.'

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A soldier without identifying insignia mans a machine gun
outside the Crimean parliament building

US Secretary of State John Kerry accused Putin of seeking to drag international relations back to the ‘19th century’, adding: ‘It is really a stunning, wilful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine.’

But the Russian Foreign Ministry said the statement contain threats against Moscow and are 'unnacceptable'
Last night, Nato said Russia’s military action against Ukraine was ‘a breach of international law’. ‘We call on Russia to de-escalate tensions,’ it said.
‘Nato allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.’ Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia was ‘threatening peace and security in Europe’.

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A Ukrainian army tank withdraws from standing just inside
the gate at the Crimean base

The crisis has been triggered by Russian forces effectively seizing control of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was a part of Russia until the 1950s.
Russia must change course on Ukraine and return its troops to their bases in Crimea or it risks a series of EU punitive measures, including an arms embargo, a draft document showed today.

EU foreign ministers meeting to find a common response to the mounting crisis in Ukraine were to consider what measures to take in the event of 'further possible negative actions by Russia,' according to a draft of the final statement seen by AFP.
'In the absence of an agreed solution, the EU will consider/begin preparations for future targeted measures, including an arms embargo,' it said.

Armed men in military uniform walk outside the territory of a Ukrainian military
unit in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol,
where a tense stand-off took place

This section of the draft was in brackets, meaning it is open to change or even removal at the meeting.
Russia and France in 2011 signed a contract worth over a billion euros for Moscow to buy two Mistral warships, its first ever purchase of military hardware from a NATO member.

The first warship was floated out late last year and is set to be delivered to the Russian navy in October, with the second still under construction.
Of the 28 EU member states, France and Germany have both pressed the case for dialogue and mediation with Moscow first, downplaying any possibility of sanctions at this stage.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told reporters on arriving for the meeting that "sanctions are not in order today but sanctions will become inevitable' if there is no change in Russia's position.

An Orthodox priest stands next to an armed man blocking
access to a Ukrainian border guards base

While the EU and NATO stepped up verbal pressure on Moscow, a German spokesman said Angela Merkel believed it was not too late to resolve the Ukrainian crisis by political means despite differences of opinion between Putin and the West.

The German leader, who speaks fluent Russian, has had several long telephone calls with the German-speaking Putin since the crisis erupted with mass protests in Kiev.
The spokesman added that Ukraine's Prime Minister had assured her that he would respect the rights of the Russian-speaking majority in Crimea.
Moscow is refusing to recognise the government which took power in Kiev last month after overthrowing the pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (left) speaks with Austrian
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz during an emergency
meeting of EU foreign ministers

This weekend, the Russian parliament authorised Putin to deploy troops in Ukraine to protect the lives of Russian citizens.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russian troops that have streamed into Ukraine are protecting his country's citizens living there.
Lavrov said on Monday that it's necessary to use Russian troops in Ukraine 'until the normalisation of the political situation'.
He told an opening session Monday of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that Russia is committed to human rights and 'military interventions on the pretext of civilian population produce the opposite effect'.

Russian stocks and bonds plummeted on Monday and the central bank hiked interest rates, burning its way through as much as $12 billion of its reserves to prop up the rouble as markets took fright at the escalating tension with neighbouring Ukraine.
Investors were ditching all Russian assets alike - the rouble, stocks and bonds. The market capitalisation of the Russian rouble-denominated MICEX stock index fell some $60 billion since Friday, more than the $51 billion Russia spent on the Winter Olympics in Sochi last month.

The Ukrainian hryvnia has firmed since curbs were imposed on deposit withdrawals last week, but Ukrainian eurobonds fell sharply.
Russia's central bank unexpectedly raised its key lending rate - the one-week repurchasing agreement - to 7 percent from 5.5 percent, in an attempt to stem capital flight.
The central bank did not mention Ukraine in its statement, but said the decision to raise rates was aimed at preventing 'risks to inflation and financial stability associated with the recently increased level of volatility in the financial markets'.

The central bank said separately it had changed its rules for the rouble's managed float by raising the amount needed to shift the currency's trading corridor by nearly fivefold to $1.5 billion, saying again it was a move 'to prevent risks to financial stability by limiting exchange rate fluctuations'.
ING Bank estimated that the central bank spent $10.5-$12 billion, or 2 percent, of its gold and foreign exchange reserves keeping the rouble from spiralling down too fast.
'It goes without saying that the extent to which (central bank moves are) successful will depend largely on political rather than economic developments," Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said.

The rouble closed 2 percent down at 36.50 against the dollar and 1.6 percent lower at 50.38 against the euro , its at all-time lows.
The MICEX index of Russian shares tumbled 10.8 percent to close at 1,288.8 points and the dollar-denominated RTS collapsed 12 percent to 1,115.1 points.

Still, market players, fearing broader consequences, were selling stocks, including major blue chips. Gazprom lost 13.9 percent, while shares in state bank Sberbank were down nearly 15 percent and VTB fell 17.5 percent.
Russia's oil major Rosneft lost an estimated $5 billion in market capitalisation on Monday. This suggests that British BP, which holds a 19.75-percent stake in Rosneft, has lost nearly $1 billion.

'The Russian market has always been dependent on foreign investors,' said Andrei Kuznetsov, strategist at Sberbank CIB in Moscow. He estimates about 70 percent of Russian freely traded shares is controlled by foreigners and a big portion of foreigners - about 40 percent - is from the United States.
Konstantin Gulyaev, chief market analyst at Capital investment house in Moscow, said Monday's market behaviour was pure panic.
"The most important for our market is that the 'Ukraine factor' does not acquire some global factor, as it was in 2008 when after the military conflict in Georgia, came the crash of Lehman Brothers," Gulyaev said.k

Ukraine has accused Russia of a military invasion, and has called on Kremlin to withdraw its troops.
Speaking as Western nations began suspending preparations for the G8 summit in June, Mr Kerry said Moscow could be forced out of the group altogether.
‘You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext,’ he said.
‘He [Putin] is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues.

He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the rouble.’
The U.S. yesterday warned Putin of massive economic reprisals which could include blacklisting oligarchs who parade their wealth abroad but keep tight links to Putin at home.

A diplomatic source said: ‘Tycoons like Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov are more than football moguls – they are close to Putin. Whose side are they on here?’
British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia today of 'consequences and costs'
but could not give any details of what that might mean in practice.

'It is not an acceptable way to behave and there will be consequences and costs,' Hague said in Kiev, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin got the green light to send Russian troops to Ukraine from parliament.
He had earlier said: ‘It is certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century and it will require all our diplomatic efforts, but also a great deal of strength in the western world in order to deal with this satisfactorily.’

Ukraine's acting President Oleksander Turchinov (right)
meets with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Kiev today

Hague with Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (left)
who has said Ukraine will never give up Crimea

He added that a resolution would also require Ukrainian leaders to ‘act in a way that unites their country’ including dealing with the ‘pervasive corruption’ that remains.
He confirmed that Russia now has ‘operational control’ of Crimea, and other G7 countries were still working on how to respond.
‘There are things that we can do about it and must do about it,’ Mr Hague said.

‘This clearly is a violation of the sovereignty and independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
‘If Russia continues on this course, we have to be clear: this is not an acceptable way to conduct international relations.
'And as President Obama and the Prime Minister have said, there will be significant costs to that.
'Now, that is something that Russia has to recognise. The EU foreign ministers will be working on that further today and there will certainly be significant costs.
'So no, it would not be right to say there is nothing we could do about it.’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called on Russia to avoid actions that might worsen the situation in crisis-hit Ukraine.
'I urge the Russian Federation to refrain from any acts... that could further escalate the situation,' Ban said to the press ahead of a scheduled meeting with Lavrov.

Ukraine's Acting President Oleksander Turchinov (left), Prime Minister
Arseny Yatseniuk (right) and Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh. Kiev said
Russia's behaviour today was a 'declaration of war'

Independence square in Kiev was full of protestors today,
demonstrating against Russian action in Crimea

Yatseniuk warned today that a military conflict in his east European country would threaten the stability of the whole region.
He also said Ukraine would not permit ethnic Russians who have declared themselves the leaders of Crimea to annex the southern region, which is now in the hands of Russian forces.

'I was and am a supporter of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as a conflict would destroy the foundations for stability in the whole region,' Yatseniuk said at a meeting with businessmen.

'The self-proclaimed and illegitimate government in Crimea is now trying to steal the national property of Ukraine... I want to warn this government against any attempts to plunder and annex national property,' he added.
Yatseniuk said Ukraine wanted to deepen political and trade ties with the European Union but this should not be an impediment to relations with Russia.

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A man holds a sign depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as World
War II German dictator Adolf Hitler with text reading 'Putler
you're finished' during a demonstration in Kiev

Rage: Demonstrators gather outside the Russian Embassy in Vilnius,
Lithuania, to protest against the Russian intervention in Ukraine today

He denied government installed after the removal of President Viktor Yanukovich would nationalise private companies, telling the businessmen: 'Your property is protected'.
He reiterated that the government would be ready to meet any conditions set by the International Monetary Fund to secure financial assistance.
An IMF team was due to arrive in Kiev on Monday and start consultations on a new aid package on Tuesday, the IMF's local office said. It said the mission would stay in Ukraine until March 14.

Police officers arrest an anti-Russian demonstrator from the group Femen
outside the emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers
at the EU Council building in Brussels

Experts warned that an economic war between the EU, USA and Russia – with China likely to back the latter – would threaten globalisation itself.
US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a likely Republican presidential contender in 2016, declared Russia ‘an enemy of the United States’ and said that it would be ‘important to learn from the errors of the last few years’ in Mr Obama’s foreign policy.

Analysts agree that Putin saw Mr Obama’s failure to press ahead with military action against his ally, Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad, despite declaring his use of chemical weapons a fundamental red line, as pivotal.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine had been ‘violated’ and called for Moscow to speak directly to the nation’s new leaders.

Speaking from RAF Northolt as he left for crisis talks in Kiev, he said: ‘We have to recognise the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and this cannot be the way to conduct international affairs.
‘In addition to calling yesterday’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom will join other G8 countries this week in suspending our co-operation under the G8, which Russia chairs this year.’

Switzerland, which chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said today it is trying to convene an international contact group on Ukraine and urged all players to help defuse the crisis.

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who holds the rotating presidency of Europe's main human rights and democracy watchdog, said that the OSCE contact group would support Ukraine during its period of transition and coordinate international aid.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva as the OSCE Council met in Vienna, he said: 'These talks also aim to discuss an observer mission with a particular focus on the rights of national minorities and human rights in Ukraine.'
'Russia's military activities on Ukrainian soil are unacceptable but international diplomacy must prevail to solve the crisis,' German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today.

'Crisis diplomacy is not a weakness but it will be more important than ever to not fall into the abyss of military escalation,' Steinmeier told reporters ahead of an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Russia's western partners on Monday to put aside geopolitical calculations and think about the Ukrainian people.
'We call for a responsible approach, to put aside geopolitical calculations, and above all to put the interests of the Ukrainian people first,' he said in Geneva on a live feed broadcast to Moscow.

Last night Putin defended Russia’s action against ‘ultranationalist forces’ in Ukraine.
Speaking on the phone with German chancellor Angela Merkel, he said the response by Russia so far was ‘wholly adequate’.
There was a glimmer of hope when Putin accepted a proposal by Mrs Merkel for a fact-finding mission and ‘contact group’ on Ukraine.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Yuriy Sergeyev, said his country was asking the West for help. ‘If aggravation is going in that way, when the Russian troops are enlarging their quantity with every coming hour, naturally we will ask for military support and other kinds of support.’
Former Liberal Democrat leader and Special Forces veteran Lord Ashdown said: ‘We are one pace away from catastrophe at the moment – it would require one foolish act, a trigger-happy Russian soldier, a Ukrainian guard who acts aggressively at one of these institutions taken over by Russian supporters, a foolish act now could tip us over the edge.’

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the situation was ‘desperately serious’.
‘There is no doubt this is probably the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War,’ he said.
‘Here we have in our own European backyard, military troops of Russia going across their international border into another country to try and interfere with its own internal affairs.

‘That is desperately serious, that has not happened for very many years, even at the height of the Bosnian conflict. This has to be a defining moment in the West’s relationship with Russia.

However, Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt raised eyebrows when he said yesterday that Russia's involvement in Crimea was 'somewhat understandable'.
Reinfeldt was talking to reporters on Sunday afternoon and was asked about the crisis.

A military personnel member, believed to be a Russian serviceman,
stands guard on a military vehicle outside the territory of a Ukrainian
military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol

He said: 'It's somewhat understandable that Russia is acting on concerns about the Russian minority of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but not in the way they're doing it.
'There are of course methods for talking to the Ukrainian government and calm down the situation in that way.'
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, was dismissive of the PM's statement that night.

'I don't think there has been that much concern among the Russian minority if I'm being honest,' he told SVT's Agenda programme.
China, which consistently says it opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs, is looking to 'maintain principles' on Ukraine, it said Monday after Russia insisted the two were in broad agreement.

Moscow has appeared keen to stress that it has a major international ally on its military intervention in Ukraine, and Beijing frequently backs its positions against Western powers on thorny issues, such as the protracted conflict in Syria.

A Ukrainian Air Force military aircraft flies above a Ukrainian navy base which
was blocked by soldiers believed to be from Russia, in Novoozerniy
village near of Feodosia, Crimea, today

But analysts say China is torn between wanting to support Russia and keeping to its longtime opposition to foreign intervention, especially given its own separatist issues in the far-western region of Xinjiang.

When asked about Ukraine at a regular press briefing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang answered indirectly.
'China has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations,' he said.
'At the same time we also take into consideration the history and the current complexities of the Ukrainian issue. It could be said that China's position is to both maintain principles while also seeking to be realistic.'

Pro-Russian demonstrators occupied the first floor of the regional government building in east Ukraine's city of Donetsk today, the latest in days of rallies that Kiev says are organised by Moscow as a pretext to invade.
A Reuters reporter in a press centre on the fourth floor of the building said the protesters had seized the first floor but were unable to go higher because lifts were disabled and stairwell doors shut.
The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag, rather than the Ukrainian flag, for three days, with demonstrators carrying Russian flags staging rallies outside.
Donetsk is the home city of Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian president who was toppled in Kiev 10 days ago.