Ukraine crisis: Kerry warns Putin 'This is not Rocky IV' as Russian fighter jets are put on combat alert

Tensions in the Crimea peninsula are increasing as armed men seized control of local government buildings this morning

Fighter jets along Russia's western borders have reportedly been placed on combat alert amid continuing unrest in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The exercise came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to remember that the escalating crisis "is not Rocky IV".

Meanwhile, Ukrainian fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych - who is seeking refuge in a luxury health resort outside Moscow, Russian news agency RBC has claimed - has allegedly asked for Russia's protection from "extremists".

He also said he still considers himself to be the legitimate leader, according to a statement published by three Russian news agencies. An unnamed Russian official said his request was "satisfied in the territory of Russia."

A spokesperson for Mr Putin said they were not aware of Mr Yanukovych's reported arrival in Moscow.

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov issued a warning to Russia that any movement of its troops from their naval base in the southern Crimea region “will be considered military aggression."

Mr Turchynov also declared the takeover of government buildings in Crimea as a "crime against the government of Ukraine. I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings," he said.

The Russian Interfax news agency quoted the Defence Ministry as saying:"Constant air patrols are being carried out by fighter jets in the border regions. From the moment they received the signal to be on high alert, the air force in the western military region left for the ... air bases."

The apparent move comes as “criminals wearing military fatigues” seized the regional government and parliament headquarters on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula this morning.

Mr Turchynov, who is also the head of Ukraine's armed forces, appealed for Moscow to adhere to the rules of an agreement which allows Russia's Black Sea fleet to be based in Sevastopol until 2042.

"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet ... Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he declared.

Kerry made the comments in an apparent bid to distance the US from a Cold War-style confrontation with Russia. He said Russia must be “very careful” in any decisions it makes surrounding Ukraine, and that a military intervention in Ukraine would be a “ huge, grave mistake”.

“This is not Rocky IV,” he said, referring to the 1990 film depicting a battle between the East and West, in which Rocky Balboa fights Soviet Union boxer Ivan Drago.

“Believe me. We don’t see it that way", he told US TV Network NBC News.

“I think Russia needs to be very careful in the judgments that it makes going forward here,” he added. “We are not looking for confrontation. But we are making it clear that every country should respect the territorial integrity here, the sovereignty of Ukraine.

“Russia has said it would do that and we think it’s important that Russia keeps its word.”

Mr Kerry’s comments came after Mr Putin ordered the urgent drill test combat readiness of its military forces amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

The exercise, involving 150,000 of precisely those forces which are likely to be used for any intervention, and their reserves, came amid growing claims that the country faces the threat of breaking up, as protests and violent sectarian clashes continue.

Russia said earlier this morning it would "uncompromisingly" defend the rights of its compatriots in Ukraine, while expressing concerns over "large-scale human rights violations", attacks and vandalism in the former Soviet republic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us