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.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin