We’re going to wrap up our live blog coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:
• Russia and the United States engaged in a war of words over Ukraine, but perceived restraint in the Russian posture produced a partial recovery in world markets and cautious optimism among diplomats.
• President Vladimir Putin ended military exercises near Ukraine’s border. In a news conference hecalled the use of force in Ukraine a ‘last resort’ and said Russia would not go to war with the Ukrainian people.
• It wasn’t all restraint: troops under Russian command fired warning shots into the air at Belbek air base in Crimea when they were approached by unarmed, marching Ukrainian soldiers who wanted base access. The incident ended without bloodshed.
• At the news conference, Putin also denied that Russian forces were in Crimea, said terrorists threatened Ukrainian security and said the West had interfered in Ukraine like “experimenting on lab rats”.
• US secretary of state John Kerry appeared in Kiev and accused Putin of lying about the security situation in Ukraine, the dynamics of the revolution there and the presence of Russian troops in the country. President Barack Obama echoed Kerry.
• Kerry asked Moscow to de-escalate by fully withdrawing troops in Crimea into barracks and by welcoming international monitors. An OSCE group was to begin arriving in Ukraine Wednesday.
• If Moscow did not de-escalate, Kerry said, international partners would take further steps after having begun work on sanctions, suspended preparations for June’s G8 summit in Sochi, suspended military contacts and suspended economic dialogue.
• Both the EU and the US prepared targeted sanctions against Russia, although Europe was widely seen as hesitant to threaten trade relations with Russia or to refuse the money of oligarchs living there, and a disagreement was brewing between the White House and Congress.
• The United States pledged a $1bn assistance package for Ukraine. Ukraine said it owed Russia $2bn in gas payments. The European Union was set to announce a package Wednesday.
• Nato released a statement of solidarity following a meeting called by Poland under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. The Nato-Russia council was to meet Wednesday.
• Moscow and Kiev were talking.
The Obama administration played down the launch of a Russian intercontinental ballistic missile as a routine test on Tuesday and not a new provocation in the wake of Moscow’s conquest of the Crimean peninsula, writes the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman):
In what looked like a capstone to a week of provocations from Vladimir Putin, state media reported that Russia test-fired a long-range missile, the sort capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
But the White House National Security Council told reporters the ICBM launch was “previously notified and routine,” not cause for a new round of alarm over Russian bellicosity.
“As required under the New Start Treaty, Russia provided advance notification of this launch to the United States. Such advance notifications are intended to provide transparency, confidence, and predictability and to help both sides avoid misunderstandings,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
Riot policemen with shields and helmets lined the corridors, but they seemed in no particular hurry to remove the pro-Russian activists who had burst into the 11-storey building a day before and appointed their own “people’s governor”.
“We will not leave until our demands are met,” said Olexsander, aged 42, a self-appointed commander in the “local resistance” camped out in the council chamber. “Donetsk belongs with Russia,” he said. […]
But while the Russian tricolour still fluttered over the parliament building on Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters gathered in the square outside, waving the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, and calling for the country to come together in unity.
In the eastern regional capital of Kharkiv:
World markets came back Tuesday after a queasy-making Monday.
Russia’s benchmark RTS index jumped up 6.2%, while in the United States, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.4% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.75%. European stocks followed suit, the Irish Times reports:
France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX rallied 2.5 per cent. The FTSE 100 increased 1.7 per cent, while in Dublin, the Iseq was up 21.91 points or 0.43 per cent to 5,091.54.
Earlier today US secretary of state John Kerry said Russia must encourage, “not only permit” international monitors to be deployed throughout Ukraine. Either way, monitors from the United States and 14 other nations are on their way to Ukraine, at Kiev’s invitation and under the aegis of the organization for security and cooperation in Europe.
A U.S. official said the team planned to leave within 24 hours, the Associated Press reports:
Daniel Baer, the chief U.S. delegate to the Organization for Security and Cooperation, told The Associated Press that each country was contributing two individuals. But with more OSCE member nations expected to join, he said the mission could grow beyond its present strength of 30 people.
The 57-nation OSCE works on consensus, so most monitoring missions would have to be approved by all nations, including OSCE member Russia. But a provision of its regulations allows member countries to ask others to send unarmed military monitors in case of emergencies, and Baer said that Ukraine made use of that rule.
“Anyone spending any amount of time in Crimea at the moment will hear the words ‘Nazi’ and ‘fascist’ a lot,” writes the Guardian’s Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7), and “Russian state television has gone out of its way to manufacture an image of the Kiev protests as … a far-right movement backed by the west with the ultimate goal of destabilising Russia.”
“But perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Russian propaganda,” writes Shaun, “is that it is clear that many inside the Kremlin actually believe it”:
In December, a Russian government source assured the Guardian that the Kiev protests were the preserve of radical marginals, and that the rest of the city had no time at all for its goals.
On the ground in Crimea, meanwhile,
what is particularly odd is that the most vociferous defenders of Russian bases against supposed fascists appear to hold far-right views themselves.
Outside the Belbek airbase, an aggressive self-defence group said they were there to defend the base against “Kiev fascists”, but also railed against Europe, “full of repulsive gays and Muslims”.
“What you foreigners don’t get is that those people in Maidan, they are fascists,” said Alexander, a Simferopol resident drinking at a bar in the city on Monday night. “I mean, I am all for the superiority of the white race, and all that stuff, but I don’t like fascists.”
Read the full piece here.
Legislation being drafted by Republicans in Congress could seek to force the president’s hand in imposing sanctions, visa restrictions and other penalties on Russian officials, Guardian Washington correspondent Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) reports:
The White House is encouraging Congress to quickly pass legislation to authorise an aid package consisting of $1bn in loan guarantees that was announced by the secretary of state John Kerry in Kiev on Tuesday. […]
But administration officials are anxious about developments on Capitol Hill, and keen to ensure Obama maintains free hand to decide what kinds of sanctions are introduced and when.
Adam Kinzinger, a moderate Republican congressman on the foreign relations committee, told Paul that Obama, as the executive, should take the lead on sanctions. But he added:
“To the extent that we think he is not being tough enough, I think you’ll see Congress coming in and potentially doing something.”
To protect a diplomatic initiative, the White House tries to slow a congressional move toward sanctions on a perceived bad actor. Ring any bells?
Update: Paul asked Jen Psaki, press secretary for the State Department, whether hawks in Congress might seek to compel the Obama administration to take a tougher approach to sanctions than it is comfortable with.
She replied: “Of course Congress can take steps, or may take steps, as it sees appropriate.”
That’s a diplomatic response, Paul writes,
but the truth is the White House will not want the House and Senate to start shaping policy toward Russia. And it isn’t only Republicans who are pushing for a forceful response from Washington.
Just over an hour ago Chris Murphy, a Democratic member of the Senate foreign relations committee, stood on the Senate floor and said:
“We need to send a clear message to every facet of Russian society that if you take part in this illegal, extraterritorial activity, your entire country will suffer consequences. I’m not sure that Russia will pay attention if we simply provide visa sanctions on government officials that have ordered this march on Ukraine.”
“The discussion underway today is about the extent of the sanctions and whether or not they will be included in the aid package or a separate authorising legislation. There is a question now as to whether the sanctions are going to be limited to individuals that are participating in the illegal occupation of Ukraine or whether the sanctions will be broader, for instance to include sanctions against the petrochemical industry.”
Update: The White House will attach a rider of its own, seeking to expand the pool of IMF aid available to needy countries, Bloomberg reports:
Via Guardian Witness: A reader sends footage said to show Russian soldiers at Feodosia military base in eastern Crimea.
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7), who interviewed Ukrainians inside the base at the weekend, says the footage appears to show Russian soldiers outside Feodosia. “When I was there the Russians had been in and out repeatedly for negotiations,” Shaun writes.
Please note that the reader-submitted captions describe the Russian military as “on” the base, but, in these frames at least, the military appears to be outside the base.
You can submit photos and videos via Guardian Witness here, but stay safe.
Separately, video has emerged of a conversation between a journalist and a soldier in Kerch in easternmost Crimea in which the soldier admits to being Russian and says he’s there to defend against terrorists.
The US Congress, indispensable in crisis:
Reuters picks up a report by state-run RIA quoting a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying that Russia successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region near the Caspian Sea and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, the state-run news agency RIA cited Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov as saying.
Update: The Pentagon tells Luis Martinez of ABC News that the United States had been notified of the test, which was planned ahead of the recent and current unrest in Ukraine.
Update: Reuters hears the same from the Pentagon:
The United States received nomination from Russia ahead of its test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, in line with Moscow’s commitments under the nuclear arms treaty between the two countries, a U.S. official said.
The official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said initial notification of Russia’s test plans pre-dated Russia’s military intervention in Crimea.
Update: the White House security council says the same.
Don’t call it chess: Kasparov, the opposition politician with decent chess world credentials, is on a bit of a roll on Twitter.
The EU has a meeting planned for Thursday on possible sanctions on Russia, a valuable energy source and trading partner.
Europe already is moving to sanction Ukrainian figures at the request of the government in Kiev, Reuters reports:
European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Tuesday to freeze the assets of 18 Ukrainians, at Kiev’s request, after Ukraine’s new rulers said billions in public funds have gone missing.
The decision still needs to be made final in the coming days and follows similar moves last week by Austria, an EU member, as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Russia foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says Moscow will retaliate against any unilateral US sanctions, Reuters reports:
“We will have to respond,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. “As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: this is not our choice.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, there appears to be robust support for sanctions on Russian officials, banks and businesses, as the Washington Post reports:
“The time to act is now,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement shortly after Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced plans for the aid package in Kiev. “We must place crippling sanctions on Russian high-ranking officials, state-owned banks and commercial enterprises, and key individuals behind the Russian intervention. Only by forcing Putin to reverse aggression and by supporting Ukraine in this time of national crisis can we hope to restore peace in the region.”
Read the full report here.
US vice president Joe Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss ongoing diplomatic efforts on Ukraine, the US embassy in Ukraine said in a statement:
The two leaders also reviewed plans to support Ukraine’s economic reforms. In addition, the Vice President spoke by telephone with Estonian President Toomas Ilves to consult on the situation in Ukraine, including the international effort to de-escalate the situation and assure the stability of Ukraine and the region.
German Green MP Hans-Christian Ströbele has released a statement revealing that the German government advised Viktor Yankovych’s government on domestic security matters between 2009 and 2013, Guardian Berlin correspondent Philip Oltermann (@philipoltermann) reports:
As part of this exchange, regular meetings were set up between the German Federal Criminal Police Office and the Ukrainian secret service SBU. Berkut staff attended training seminars in Germany and were supplied with light body armour and protective helmets.
“The government’s admission shows how quickly yesterday’s friend can become the enemy and dictator of today”, said Ströbele.
Ukrainian government leaders have accused Russian forces of interfering with MPs’ mobile phones, according to the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service quoted by Reuters:
Some Internet and telephone services were severed after Russian forces seized control of airfields and key installations in Ukraine’s Crimea region on Friday, but now lawmakers were being targeted, Valentyn Nalivaichenko told a news briefing.
“I confirm that an…attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,” the security chief told a news briefing.
“At the entrance to (telecoms firm) Ukrtelecom in Crimea, illegally and in violation of all commercial contracts, was installed equipment that blocks my phone as well as the phones of other deputies, regardless of their political affiliation,” he said.
The foreign ministers of Sweden and Denmark will travel to Ukraine for a two-visit on Wednesday, Sweden’s foreign ministry has announced. Reuters reports:
Sweden’s Carl Bildt and Denmark’s Martin Lidegaard will visit Kiev and also eastern Ukraine, home to many ethnic Russians, and meet, among others, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and local parliamentarians.
Bildt has advocated a tough stance against Moscow in the wake of Russia’s moves to seize control of Crimea and prepare for a potential further military incursion into its neighbour.
Sweden’s military said it had moved two fighter jets to the Baltic island of Gotland, a move prompted in part by Russian military exercises in the region.
Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko has responded to Putin’s statement of willingness to open talks with her in Moscow by calling on Western powers to impose sanctions on Russia, Reuters reports:
“Diplomatic efforts are not enough; I think what must be done is to impose economic sanctions on Russia. Especially if there is a further escalation of violence,” Tymoshenko said in an interview with SkyTG24, according to their Italian translation.
Tymoshenko, twice Ukrainian prime minister, said Russia had violated a 1994 accord guaranteeing Ukraine’s security and called on the United Nations and world leaders to broker talks between Moscow and Kiev.
“I believe that the negotiations cannot be carried out by Ukrainians and Russians, after the military aggression that we have suffered. There can be no direct dialogue at this time.”
Guardian Washington bureau chief Dan Roberts (@RobertsDan) has more from president Obama’s remarks, which overlapped in part with Kerry’s remarks.
“There have been reports that Putin is pausing and reflecting on what’s happened,” Obama said:
There is a strong belief [around the world] that Russian action is violating international law. Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers, but I don’t think that is fooling anyone.”
Here’s a summary of US president Obama and secretary of state Kerry’s dueling news conferences:
• Kerry flew to Russia’s backyard to accuse Moscow of blatantly lying about the security situation in Ukraine, the dynamics of the revolution there and the presence of Russian troops in the country.
• “Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for Russia to invade further,” Kerry said, after saying that Moscow is “hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations.”
• Kerry said the United States wants Putin to de-escalate the situation by withdrawing troops fully within barracks and accepting international monitors.
• If Russia does not de-escalate, Kerry said, “then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us” in taking further steps to isolate Russia politically and economically.
• Kerry used vivid language to describe the scene at Independence square and to narrate what had happened there, with “shrouded vision in the clouds and the fog of the buildings from which the shots came.”
• Obama expressed disbelief at Putin’s explanation of the Russian position. “Mr Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate” a Russian infringement, Obama said.
• Russia’s conduct is “not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers… but Russian seeking to exert force on a neighboring country,” Obama said.
• “The way some of this has been reported there is a suggestion that Russia’s actions have been clever, but this has not been a sign of strength,” Obama said.
• Both Obama and Kerry called on Russia to wait for Ukrainian elections in 90 days and to let Ukrainians ratify their new government or not.
Obama: ‘Putin can throw a lot of words out there’
President Obama is addressing the situation in Ukraine at a news conference in Washington:
“We’re prepared to make sure the rights of all Ukrainians are upheld… the fact that we are still seeing soldiers out of their barracks in Crimea is an indication that what’s happening there is not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers… but Russian seeking to exert force on a neighboring country.”
“The suggestions somehow that the Russian actions have been clever strategically… I actually think that this has not been a sign a strength, but rather this is a reflection that countries near Russia have deep suspicions… and if anything this will push [those] countries farther away.
The course of history is to want people to be free .. to make their own decisions…. It is not the role of an outside force, where there’s been no evidence of outside violence… to intervene.
Obama says most of the world agrees with the US, that a sovereign nation must make its own decisions about its future.
“Mr Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that he’s not abiding by that principle” Obama says.
“They are currently scheduled to have elections in May. Everyone… should be invested” in free and fair elections in Ukraine, he says.
Andrea Mitchell asks Kerry about Putin’s news conference this morning in which he denied a Russian military presence in Crimea.
“Did he really deny that there were troops in Crimea?” Kerry says.
“Yes he did.”
Kerry: “I’ve spoken as directly to president Putin today as I can. To invite him to engage in a legitimate and appropriate dialogue… knowing there’s an election in 90 days and the people of Ukraine will have an opportunity to ratify their leadership.”
He says in the east, Russia tried to get councils to pass “something to ask Russia to come in,” but the councils resisted.
“Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for Russia to invade further,” Kerry says.
Kerry lists the steps the US has taken to isolate Russia. He names cancelling preparations for G8 summit; suspending military contacts, and suspending economic dialogue.
He said Russia must “return forces to barracks and engage in legitimate policy of de-escalation” if it does not want to see the US and partners build on these measures.
Kerry says the United States will support the Kiev government, through loans and experts to help Kiev to lift its economy, combat corruption and recover stolen assets.
He says the US will help Ukraine against pernicious Russian trade practices, whether it’s cutting the energy supply or “banning the best chocolates made in Ukraine.”
Kerry says if Russia wants to support ethnic Russians it should “work with the legitimate government of Ukraine which it has pledged to do.”
He says RUssia must encourage, “not only permit” international monitors to be deployed throughout Ukraine.
Kerry says the US supports monitors to enter Ukraine and “be the arbiters of truth versus fiction.”
Kerry: “I come here today at the instruction of President Obama to make it absolutely clear that the United States government would rather see this de-escalated. …
“But if Russia does not choose to de-escalate… then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us” to expand on steps to isolate Russia politically and economically, Kerry says.
That’s not as bellicose as it could have been.
Kerry continues to rail against what he says are the lies of Moscow.
“They would have you believe that Kiev is trying to destabilise Crimea… not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims. None.
“And the larger point is this: it is diplomacy.. that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century.
“We are not seeking confrontation. There’s a better way for Russia to pursue its interests in Ukraine.”
“We all greatly admire the restraint that the transitional government has shown,” Kerry says. “They have shown restraint, despite the invasion of the Ukrainian homeland, and a Russian government that has chosen intimidations.”
Kerry says Russia is “hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations… in the eyes of Ukrainians there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing.
Kerry says “the reality was that it was Yanukovych, when history came calling, when his country was in need… he broke his obligation to sign that agreement, and he fled into the night with his possessions, destroying papers behind him. … He abandoned his people.
The Rada, representing the people of Ukraine… they overwhelmingly approved the new government, even with members of Yanukovych’s party deserting him.. it was thanks in part to votes from Yanukovych’s own party that the future changed…
The Russian government would also have you believe that the calm and friendly streets … of Kiev are actually dangerous, ignoring the reality that there has been no surge in crime, no surge in lootings…
The Russian government would have you believe that there have been mass defections…that hasn’t happened, either.
Kerry: ‘It’s called freedom’
US secretary of state John Kerry is speaking in Kiev.
He said it was “incredibly moving” to pay his respects “at the site of last month’s deadly shootings.”
See the barricades, see the tires, the barbed wire. See the bullet holes in street lamps… the shrouded vision in the clouds and the fog of the buildings from which the shots came… the photographs of those who lost their lives.. the people who put themselves on the line for the future of Ukraine.”
Kerry said he spoke spontaneously with Ukrainians gathered there, who pleaded with him not to go back to life as it was under Yanukovych.
He said a woman told him how poor she was, while the rich live well; and a man told him a recent trip to Australia had inspired him to make a better life.
It gave me a deeply personal sense of how closely linked the people of Ukraine are… to people across the world, asking for their rights… That’s what this is about.
He extends to condolences to “people who battled against snipers on rooftops.”
He said snipers “picked them off, one after another, as people of courage” ran into fire to drag the wounded to safety.
He said what they stood for “will never be stolen by bullets… it cannot be silenced by thugs from rooftops. It’s universal, it’s unmistakable. It’s called freedom.”
Nato has released a statement of solidarity following its meeting called by Poland under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty providing for mutual consultation and support.
“Allies stand together in the spirit of strong solidarity in this grave crisis,” the statement says. “We undertake to pursue and intensify our rigorous and on-going assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security, in close coordination and consultation.”
“Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to violate its international commitments,” the Nato statement said. “These developments present serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro‑Atlantic area”:
We continue to support all constructive efforts for a peaceful solution to the current crisis in accordance with international law. We welcome the ongoing efforts undertaken by the United Nations, the European Union, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
We will continue to consult with Ukraine within the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
The statement announced a meeting to convene tomorrow of the NATO-Russia Council.
Here’s more video of Putin’s news conference. “Why would we use the armed forces?” he said. “This is of course the last resort, simply the last resort.”
US secretary of state John Kerry is scheduled to hold a news conference shortly in Kiev.
Here’s some news from late last night that was not covered in Monday’s blog: The United States has suspended all military engagements with Russia, including exercises and port visits, in response to Moscow sending troops into Crimea. Reuters reports:
The announcement from the Pentagon came on Monday night a few hours after President Barack Obama warned that the US government would look at economic and diplomatic sanctions that would isolate Moscow over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. The United States also put trade and investment talks with Russia on hold.
“We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Read the full piece here.
Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk confirmed his government has begun high-level contacts with the Russian government, Reuters reports:
“Consultations have started at the level of ministers,” he told reporters but gave no details.
Yatsenyuk reiterated that Russia should withdraw forces back to bases in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea and halt actions which he said threatened to destabilise the region. President Vladimir Putin said in Moscow he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort.
Putin in his news conference today said Russia has good relations with a number of figures within Ukraine but there could be “serious consequences” if some “unknown” person comes to power. “Yulia Tymoshenko is welcome to come to Moscow but she is not part of the government,” Putin said.
Putin has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the phone and their positions on the Ukraine crisis are “close”, the Kremlin said, according to Reuters:
The Kremlin said the presidents of the veto-wielding U.N. Security Council nation expressed hope that “the steps taken by the Russian leadership will allow for the reduction of … tension and provide for the security of Russian-speaking citizens living in Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine.”
Writing last week in Foreign Policy, Timothy Snyder argued that Russia’s Ukraine play could have long-term negative consequences for the integrity of the long border it shares with China:
If Russia excludes its own borders from the general international standard of inviolability, it might face some unwanted challenges down the road. If Russia’s external frontiers are flexible zones, to be pushed in various ways with appeals to the rights of ethnic brethren and passport holders, then what will happen, down the line, in Russia’s eastern Siberia? There, Russia holds major natural resources along its border with China, the world’s longest. Some 6 million Russian citizens in eastern Siberia face 90 million Chinese in China’s bordering provinces.
Read the full piece here.
My colleague Peter Walker has compiled a list of what to look out for with respect to Ukraine on the diplomatic front over the next few days.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has arrived in Kiev for talks with the new Ukrainian government. The visit is intended both as a mean to discuss options with Ukraine’s leaders face-to-face and as a very visible sign of US solidarity with Kiev. Before leaving Washington Kerry held talks with Barack Obama and his national security team, including Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary.
Also today, Nato members are meeting to discuss the crisis. The gathering of the North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 28 Nato members, will take place in the afternoon following a request from Poland.
Teams of observers for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are expected to start arriving in the Crimea to monitor the situation. The OSCE regularly monitors human rights and security issues around the country, for example in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Also tomorrow, Nato and Russia have agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting.
Expiry of a deadline imposed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting on Monday for Russia to withdraw its troops in Crimea or face possible sanctions. The ministers called Russia’s actions “acts of aggression”.
Opening ceremony of the Sochi Paralympics in Russia. While Ukraine has says its athletes will boycott the Games, around 700 athletes from 43 other nations are still expected to take part unless the situation in Ukraine escalates swiftly. The British team is expected to compete, though Prince Andrew will now not attend the opening ceremony and David Cameron has instructed ministers to not attend.
Next preparatory meeting in Moscow scheduled for officials from the G8 group of industrialised nations ahead of the planned summit in Sochi on 4-5 June. The UK was among nations to withdraw from a preparatory meeting scheduled for this week, and Russia has been warned the summit could be boycotted altogether.
Here is video of the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, delivering a statement on Ukraine earlier today in the British parliament. He described the Russian justification for its intervention as “baseless”:
The Russian government has argued that there is no legitimate government in Kiev, but the incumbent Ukrainian president abandoned his post, and the subsequent decisions of the Ukrainian parliament have been carried by large majorities, required under the constitution, including from members of the former president’s party, the Party of Regions. The suggestion that a president who has fled his country then has any authority whatsoever to invite the forces of a neighbouring country into that country is baseless …
We are willing to pursue any diplomatic avenue that could help to reduce tensions, so we have called for urgent consultations under the Budapest Memorandum, or the creation of a Contact Group – including Russia and Ukraine. We urge Russia to accept the invitation to attend talks under the Budapest Memorandum in Paris tomorrow, which I will attend.
Russian navy ships are blocking both ends of the Kerch strait separating Crimea and Russia, Ukrainian border guards have said, according to a Reuters newsflash.
Yesterday, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered that a bridge should be built across the 4.5km (2.7-mile) wide strait to connect Crimea with Russia.
Nato and Russia have agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting tomorrow, AP reports:
The alliance announced that an extraordinary Nato-Russia council will convene at the suggestion of alliance secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Russia agreed to the meeting today, when Nato ambassadors were further discussing the crisis among themselves.
Rasmussen has said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is in violation of the UN charter and threatens peace and security in Europe.
The Turkish Air Force scrambled eight F-16 fighter jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew parallel along its Black Sea coast, the military said today, amid increased tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, Reuters reports.
• The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has said that Russia reserves the right to use force in eastern Crimea in the event of “lawlessness” but that would be a last resort. During a televised briefing, he also said Russia “would not go to war with the Ukrainian people”.
• The Russian president denied that the Russian-speaking soldiers occupying key Crimean military sites were Russian troops, describing them as “local self-defence forces”. On the similarity of their uniforms to those of Russian soldiers, he said such uniforms could be purchased anywhere.
• Putin had earlier ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. The exercises had raised tensions but Putin said they had been planned months ago and were unrelated to Ukraine.
• Russian troops fired warning shots at approaching Ukrainian soldiers at the Belbek airbase in Crimea. The Russian forces were joined by half a dozen masked men, who identified themselves as the self-defence unit of Sevastopol and said they did not want the airfield being used by fascists from Kiev.
• The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has arrived for talks in Kiev, as the United States said it would seek congressional approval for $1bn in loan guarantees for Ukraine to help lessen the impact of proposed energy subsidy cuts. The US also announced training for financial and election institutions and anti-corruption efforts.
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