Ukraine crisis: This is Europe’s biggest crisis in the 21st century, warns William Hague as Russia defiantly threatens a military assault on Crimea

Ukraine’s acting president has received strong words of support from the West after the occupation of Crimea

Western countries scrambled to pile the pressure on Russia on Monday in an effort to bring an end to its occupation of Crimea, as Ukraine’s acting president warned of a growing military presence on the troubled peninsula.

It came as the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Aleksander Vitko, threatened a full assault if Ukrainian forces in Crimea did not surrender by dawn, defence sources in Kiev said. However, Interfax news agency later quoted a Russian spokesman denying that any such ultimatum had been issued.

Last night President Barack Obama accused Russia of being “on the wrong side of history” and said diplomatic and economic steps to isolate Moscow were being assessed.

“Over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia and now’s the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force,” he said.

Meanwhile there were reports last night that Russia’s UN envoy said ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had requested Russia to use military force in Ukraine.

Vitaly Churkin said in a speech at the UN that Mr Yanukovych had made the request in writing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, visited Ukraine’s new government in Kiev yesterday, where he described the deteriorating situation as the “biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century”. He warned the “world cannot just allow this to happen” and added: “ Russia should be in no doubt about this. This is something that we take very seriously.”

Read more: Ukraine appeals to Moscow: ‘This is a crime and you will answer for it’
Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense
Latest: Ukraine 'on the brink of disaster' as Russian troop movements prompt stand-off
Ukraine crisis: Nato ‘betrayal’ and Brussels rhetoric pushing Vladimir Putin to act
Ukraine crisis: UK ministers to boycott Paralympics in response to Russia’s ‘declaration of war’

Ukraine’s acting President, Olexander Turchynov, said Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had trapped Ukrainian navy vessels in the bays of Sevastopol, the Crimean port where the Russian fleet has a base.

“The situation in Crimea remains tense and Russia’s military presence is growing,” Mr Turchynov said. “I appeal to Russia’s leadership – stop the provocative actions, aggression and piracy. This is a crime and you will answer for it.”

But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted “this is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life”.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, signalled last night that Russia would face economic sanctions from the EU if it fails to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian soil. He raised the prospect of “ diplomatic, political, economic and other pressure” being brought to bear against Moscow.

But it emerged later that Britain would be unlikely to take any steps that could hit trade with Russia or block Russian involvement in the City of London. According to a private government briefing note that emerged last night, ministers are considering visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian figures.

The note, which was photographed as an official carried it into Downing Street, said ministers should “discourage any discussion (eg at Nato) of contingency military preparations” and support “ contingency EU work on providing Ukraine with alternative gas” and oil supplies “if Russia cuts them off”. It said “The UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”.

The White House said yesterday it would no longer be sending a presidential delegation to the winter Paralympics in Sochi. It said it and six other nations were suspending preparations for a summit of the Group of 8 that Russia is due to host, also in Sochi, in June.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was flying last night to Kiev while the European Union set up an emergency summit of its leaders in Brussels on Thursday to craft a response to the crisis.

A US official said the country was “moving down the path” of imposing economic sanctions on Russia unless the crisis is defused quickly.

The Washington Post accused President Obama of practising a foreign policy “based on fantasy” rather than realities. “Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality,” it lamented noting his “failure to enforce his ‘red line’” in Syria was a liability.

British sources said the UK was keen to keep communications open with the Putin administration in the hope of moving towards a “ de-escalation” of the situation. However, London repeatedly warned yesterday that the invasion of Crimea could result in “significant costs” for the Russian government. The warning will be reinforced at a meeting of foreign ministers, including Mr Lavrov, at the UN Security Council tomorrow. Mr Cameron chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in London to discuss the crisis..

Speaking afterwards, he said all nations needed to send a “clear message” to Moscow that its actions could not be tolerated. “What we want to see is a de-escalation rather than a continuation down the path that the Russian government has taken, violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country,” he said. “We shall have to bring to bear diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures in order to make this point.”

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Hourly Paid Teachers

£20 - £25 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curren...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits