Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Russia's actions 'threaten peace and security in Europe'

John Kerry has called Russia's military incursion into Ukraine “an incredible act of aggression” and said President Putin has made “a stunning, wilful” choice to invade another country.

The US Secretary of State urged Russia to respect the democratic process through which the Ukrainian people ousted their pro-Russian president and assembled a new government.

He raised the possibility of boycotting the June meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries in Sochi, Russia, and said the country could face visa bans, asset freezes, and trade and investment penalties.

His comments came as it emerged that the newly-appointed head of Ukraine's navy had “defected” to the Crimea region, pledging allegiance to its unrecognised pro-Russian leader and surrendering the country's Sevastopol headquarters.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Facebook on Sunday that Ukraine's leaders had seized power illegally and predicted their rule would end with "a new revolution" and new bloodshed.

Medvedev said that while Viktor Yanukovich had practically no authority he remained the legitimate head of state according the constitution, adding: "If he is guilty before Ukraine - hold an impeachment procedure ... and try him."

"Everything else is lawlessness. The seizure of power," Medvedev said on his Facebook page. "And that means such order will be extremely unstable. It will end in a new revolution. New blood."

President Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday that Russian citizens and Russian-speakers in Ukraine faced an "unflagging" threat from ultranationalists, and that the measures Moscow has taken were completely fitting given the "extraordinary situation", the Kremlin said.

In a telephone conversation during which Merkel expressed concern about developments in Ukraine, she and Putin agreed that Russia and Germany would continue consultations in bilateral and multilateral formats to seek the "normalisation" of the situation, a Kremlin statement said.

The Ukrainian security council said it has fired Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, and that it would be opening a case against him for treason.

David Cameron announced today that British government ministers will be boycotting Russia’s 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics, which open on Friday, in the wake of the ongoing international crisis in Ukraine.

Earlier today, the country's acting prime minister saying that Ukraine is “on the brink of disaster” after hundreds of unidentified gunmen engaged in a standoff with troops at a base in the Crimean peninsula.

Emerging from a closed session of parliament in Kiev today, Arseniy Yatsenyuk described President Putin's decision to send in troops as a “declaration of war”, and said: “There was no reason for the Russian Federation to invade Ukraine.”

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen convened an emergency meeting today to call on Russia to “stop its military activities and its threats”.

“What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations Charter,” he said. “It threatens peace and security in Europe.”

He was joined in his condemnation of Russia's actions by a host of western powers, and yesterday US President Barack Obama held a 90-minute phone conversation with Mr Putin himself.

“President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said.

This afternoon hundreds of unidentified gunmen arrived outside Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye, not far from the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol.

The convoy of at least 13 vehicles with Russian licence plates - each containing around 30 soldiers - surrounded the base and refused to allow Ukrainian soldiers to enter or leave. The forces inside the base have reportedly positioned a tank at the gate.

Eyewitnesses in Crimea earlier said that a convoy including a Tiger tank and two ambulances was heading for Simferopol from the Black Sea coast.

A Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava A Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava And last night, Russian warships were sighted off the coast of Crimea - in operations which violate the country's agreement with Ukraine on usage of the Sebastapol naval base.

The movements come after Mr Putin was granted permission for a military intervention by a unanimous vote in the Russian parliament.

Yesterday Mr Yatseniuk had told reporters: “Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia.”

Russian troops took over much of the strategic Crimean peninsula without firing a shot and the new government in Kiev has been powerless to respond.

Russia’s current position is a breach of the UN Charter and the 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, as well as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act, the White House has said.

A so-called Maidan self-defence unit member in Independence square in central Kiev, where protesters resumed their public display of defiance today A so-called Maidan self-defence unit member in Independence square in central Kiev, where protesters resumed their public display of defiance today In its statement after Mr Putin and Mr Obama's conversation, the US said it had “suspended upcoming participation” in G8 preparatory meetings, adding: “Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.”

That decision appears likely to be matched by fellow G8 member France. Foreign minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio today: “France's position is to call for the suspension of preparation ahead of the G8 meeting in Sochi as long as the Russian partners have not returned to principles in agreement with the G8 and G7.”

Read more: Kiev vows to fight after Russian clears way for Crimea invasion
Moscow catches the world off guard
Ukraine crisis: So, how far will President Putin go to keep his hands on Crimea?
No wonder Vladimir Putin says Crimea is Russian

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsya said he had met both European and US officials and sent a request asking NATO to “examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.

The BBC reported that what appear to be trenches are being dug out by Russian troops on the Crimean border. No shots have yet been fired in the growing crisis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015