UK & World News

  • 3 March 2014, 21:31

Ukraine: Russia Surrender Threat Confusion

Russia has reportedly given Ukrainian forces in Crimea a deadline of 3am on Tuesday to surrender or face military action after troops seized key strategic sites in the peninsula.

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The ultimatum came from Alexander Vitko, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea where Russian forces are now in control.

According to Russia'sInterfax agency, it reads: "If they do not surrender before 5am (3amUK time) tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea."

But in a conflicting report, Interfaxquoted an official representative for the Russian Ministry of Defence as saying the ultimatum was "total nonsense".

America said any threat by Russia to Ukraine forces would represent a "dangerous escalation" in the crisis, and Moscow would be responsible.

Hundreds of Russian soldiers have surrounded a military base near the Crimean capital Simferopol, preventing Ukrainian soldiers from going in or out.

Russian forces have also seized a border checkpoint on the Ukrainian border between Russia and Crimea, Reuters reported.

Ukraine's defence ministry said two Russian fighter jets violated the country's air space in the Black Sea on Sunday night and that it had scrambled an interceptor aircraft to prevent the "provocative actions".

US President Barack Obama said Moscow was "on the wrong side of history" on Ukraine.

His State Department spokeswoman Jen Psakisaid: "At this point we are not just considering sanctions given the actions Russia is taking, it is likely we will put those in place and we are preparing that.

"We have a broad range of options available."

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, told the UN Security Council in New York that Russia's actions are a violation of international law and a "response to an imaginary threat".

She said there is no "legal basis" for Moscow's troop deployment and the way to resolve the crisis is through talks between Ukraine and Russia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is flying to Ukraine late on Monday and will then travel to France and Italy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called for the world to send Russia a "clear message" about its actions.

Nato will hold more emergency talks on the crisis on Tuesday after Poland requested consultations with its allies on the threat posed by Moscow.

The developments came as Russian President Vladimir Putin watched tanks and armoured vehicles taking part in military exercises at a training ground in north-west Russia.

Mr Putin attended the war games to test the combat-readiness of his armed forces in western and central parts of Russia, regions adjacent to Ukraine, a spokesman said.

The Russian foreign ministry said Nato's criticism of its actions in Crimea "will not help stabilise" the situation in Ukraine.

Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedevdiscussed the escalating crisis in Ukraine with US Vice President Joe Biden by telephone.

Mr Medvedev"declared that it is necessary to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including residents of Crimea, and citizens of Russia who are located in Ukraine," according to Interfax.

He added that Russia would press ahead with plans to build a bridge linking Russia directly with the Crimea region - providing a vital transport link to the Black Sea peninsula.

Mr Medvedev told deputies the two countries had signed "documents related to a project for construction of a transport corridor across the Kerch Strait" in December, when now-ousted Ukrainian president ViktorYanukovych was still in power.

The crisis has had a huge effect on global stock markets, with Moscow's stock exchange plunging more than 10% on Monday.

Russia's central bank raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

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