Ukraine crisis: Russian officials hit with sanctions as Kiev warns Crimea against referendum

Ukraine's acting President, Oleksander Turchinov, has announced the formation of a new national guard in response to Russian attempts to annex the region

Simferopol

Sanctions against dozens of senior Russian officials are set to come into force by the end of the week, it has emerged.

Foreign and finance ministers from 10 countries met in London today to approve the measures, which will target military figures and civil servants implicated in breaching Ukraine’s sovereignty.

British sources indicated sanctions were likely to come into force ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on whether to stay part of Ukraine or become part of the Russian Federation. The Crimean parliament decided that if voters backed joining Russia they would first declare independence.

The UK sources said Western nations were more interested in face-to-face talks between Moscow and Kiev making progress than in the outcome of what it regards as an unconstitutional referendum. They confirmed more sanctions could follow.

 

Representatives of Britain, the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Japan, Turkey and Canada attended the talks.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government warned the regional assembly in Crimea that it faces dissolution if it does not call off a referendum on joining Russia.

Kiev set a deadline for today for the semi-autonomous region, which is currently occupied by Russian forces, to cancel the referendum.

The majority-Russian region became even further isolated when all flights to the region’s main airport were cancelled, apart from those to and from Moscow. The restrictions on air traffic came after Russian nationalists took over the control tower and the runways at gunpoint.

Speaking today, Oleksander Turchinov, Ukraine’s acting President, announced the formation of a new national guard in response to Russian attempts to annex Crimea. He said the Ukrainian military had to be rebuilt “effectively from scratch” after years of mismanagement under former President Viktor Yanukovych’s watch.

Striking a defiant tone, Mr Yanukovych said that Crimea is breaking away from Ukraine and blamed opponents who forced him from power for developments on the peninsula.

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych speaks during a press conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 11 March 2014 (EPA) Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych speaks during a press conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 11 March 2014 (EPA)

In a statement to journalists, Mr Yanukovych also said that US financial aid to Ukraine would be illegal, saying that US law does not allow the government to aid “bandits”.

Flights from Kiev were also prevented from landing in Crimea’s administrative capital, Simferopol. No official explanation was given.

As Simferopol airport, a member of Crimea’s pro-Russian ‘self-defence’ force, his face hidden by a balaclava, said that the move was intended to “stop fascists from the Maidan [Kiev’s Independence Square, the centre of the anti-government protests which led to Mr Yanukovych’s fall from power] from coming here and disturbing our referendum”. Maxim Boronin, another member of the force, said: “It will be reopened as soon as the voting takes place and we have got the security of joining the Russian Federation.”

Checkpoints on roads into the Crimean peninsula, manned by self-defence forces as well as, at some places, Russian troops, have stopped those associated with the Ukrainian government, civil rights activists and some members of the media from getting in.

An inspection team from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have been repeatedly blocked, with warning shots fired at them on one occasion.

There has also been a steady exodus from Crimea of those who have been subjected to intimidation or who fear that violence will accompany the referendum.

Marina Abrahimova, from the strongly anti-Moscow Tatar community, which has been particularly apprehensive about the future, was waiting with her three children to fly to Kiev when she heard the flight had been turned away.

“We don’t want to go by road because we are hearing about money being taken by the Soma Borona at checkpoints. All tickets for trains to Kiev have been [fully booked] for days. I just don’t know what to do now,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue