Monday 03 March 2014 12.05
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Russian troops crossing over into Crimea (Pic: EPA) Protesters again rallied in Kiev’s Independence Square yesterday Demonstrators in New York protested against Russian intervention
Ukrainian border guards have reported that Russian troops and military planes are “flowing” into Crimea.
Over the last 24 hours, ten Russian combat helicopters and eight military cargo planes have landed on the Black Sea peninsula, the guards said in a statement.
Four Russian warships have been in the port of Sevastopol since Saturday.
Ukrainian forces scrambled interceptor aircraft overnight after Russian fighter jets violated Ukraine’s airspace over the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said its aircraft prevented any “provocative actions”.
Earlier, a border guard spokesman said Russia had started a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian side of a narrow stretch of water between Russia and Crimea.
He also said Russian ships had been moving in and around the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet has a base.
Russian forces had reportedly blocked mobile telephone services in some parts of Crimea.
The spokesman said the build-up of Russian armour was near a ferry port on the Russian side of what is known as the Kerch Strait, which separates the eastern edge of the Crimea peninsula and the western edge of the Taman Peninsula.
The strait is 4.5km wide at its narrowest point and up to 18m deep.
The Kerch Strait also connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Britain said it was very concerned about the possibility that the Kremlin might send troops further into Ukraine and cautioned President Vladimir Putin that Russia would pay significant costs unless he changed course.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Russian intervention in Ukraine was the biggest crisis in Europe so far this century.
Mr Hague said that Russia now had operational control of Ukraine’s Crimea region and that while Russia had the legal right to base troops in the region, the Kremlin should order them to return to their barracks.
“Clearly we are very concerned about any possibly of a further move by Russia in other parts of Ukraine but that does not mean the position in the Crimea is stable,” Mr Hague said.
“This is a very tense situation and dangerous situation that Russia’s intervention has now produced.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has also called on the Russian Federation to abide by international law and to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence.
Mr Gilmore is attending an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels today to address developments in Ukraine.
Germany, France and Britain are all advocating mediation to resolve the crisis, possibly via the OSCE, while not ruling out economic measures if Moscow does not cooperate.
The seizure of Crimea has created the greatest confrontation between Russia and the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event Mr Putin has described as the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.
Ukraine mobilised for war yesterday and the US threatened to isolate Russia economically after President Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbour.
“This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in English.
Mr Yatsenyuk heads a pro-Western government that took power in the former Soviet republic when its Russia-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted last week.
Mr Putin secured permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine.
He told US President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.
The United States said it was focused on economic, diplomatic and political measures, and made clear it was not seriously considering military action.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Kiev tomorrow to show “strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation”, the State Department said in a statement.
The Group of Seven major industrialised nations, condemning the Russian intrusion into Ukraine, suspended preparations for the G8 summit that includes Russia and had been scheduled to take place in June in Sochi, site of the recent Winter Olympics.
Finance ministers from the G7 said they were ready to offer “strong financial backing” to Ukraine, provided the new government in Kiev agreed to pursue economic reforms sought by the International Monetary Fund.
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