UK & World News

  • 6 March 2014, 23:51

Ukraine: Russia Warned US, EU 'United' In Action

Barack Obama has ordered a freezing of US assets and visa restrictions on those involved in Russia's military intervention in Crimea, as Britain's David Cameron warned President Vladimir Putin "it cannot be business as usual".

Mr Obama signed an executive order aimed at punishing Russians and Ukrainians responsible for "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine". The visa ban does not apply to the Russian President, a US official said.

Later, Mr Obama spoke to President Putin for an hour about the situation in Ukraine, urging a diplomatic solution, the White House said.

The European Union had also ramped up the pressure on Russia earlier on Thursday.

Member states agreed to suspend negotiations on a more liberal visa regime for Russians, stop work on a comprehensive new agreement on relations between Russia and the EU and to pull out of all preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi in June.

The European Commission has also been tasked to work on additional measures including travel bans and asset freezes.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is at the Brussels summit, unveiled the details of the action and said Europe needed "to send a very clear message to the Russian government that what has happened is unacceptable and should have consequences".

He said: "The situation in Ukraine remains highly precarious - the slightest miscalculation can see it spiral out of control.

"If Russia takes further steps the statement issued today makes very clear there will be far-reaching consequences.

"It cannot be business as usual with Russia."

Mr Cameron said world leaders needed to find a way to "diffuse" and "de-escalate" the situation.

"We know from history that turning a blind eye when nations are trampled over and their independence trashed - that stores up far greater problems in the long run," he added.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the country's armed forces would act if Moscow moved any further into its territory.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome for a second round of talks but failed to reach an agreement, said US sanctions against Russia were "not constructive".

It came as Crimea's deputy prime minister Rustam Temirgaliev said a decree making the region part of Russia was already in place: "The only lawful armed force on the territory of the Crimea is the Russian armed forces."

MPs in Crimea - which remains under the tight grip of pro-Russian troops -  have voted in favour of becoming part of Russia and are calling for a referendum in 10 days. 

But Mr Yatsenyuk, who has been meeting European leaders in Brussels, said the decree was "an illegitimate decision and this so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all".

He added: "Crimea is, was and will be an integral part of Ukraine. In case of further escalation and military intervention into the Ukrainian territory by foreign forces, the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian military will act in accordance with the constitution and laws."

In Simferopol, the region's capital, about 50 people rallied outside the parliament waving Russian and Crimean flags. Among the posters they held aloft was one that said "Russia, defend us from genocide".

Gunmen at an improvised checkpoint on Crimea's regional border with the rest of Ukraine have blocked a group of 40 unarmed military observers from carrying out an inspection mission requested by Ukraine's government.

Interpol is examining a request by Ukrainian authorities to issue a 'Red Alert' for the arrest of ousted President Victor Yanukovych.

Ukraine's Paralympic team has threatened to boycott the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The athletes will announce their decision at 9.30am (UK time) on Friday.

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