Ukraine latest: Russia defiant in face of Western sanction threats
Russia's grip on the disputed Ukrainian region appeared to tighten, one day after the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia
The rift between Russia and Western nations over its military incursion into the Crimean peninsula showed no sign of healing as Moscow vowed to retaliate against punitive steps taken by the European Union and the United States.
“Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
As the diplomatic stand-off festered, so Moscow’s grip on the disputed Ukrainian region appeared to tighten, one day after the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia, and its government announced a referendum on its future, set for 16 March. A top Ukrainian border official said there were now 30,000 Russian soldiers deployed in Crimea.
First rounds of measures designed to exert pressure on Moscow to change course on Crimea appeared to have had no initial effect; nor did a phone call from President Barack Obama to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, late on Thursday, pleading for a diplomatic way out of the crisis that would protect Ukrainian borders.
Moscow branded an EU decision to suspend talks on improving EU-Russia ties and easing mutual visa requirements “absolutely unconstructive”, adding the country would retaliate against such sanctions. Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the EU, told Russian news agencies: “If someone thinks they can scare us with such horror stories ... they are deeply mistaken.”
The Kremlin acknowledged that after the hour-long talk between Mr Putin and Mr Obama the two remained far apart. It said Mr Putin argued that he had been obliged to assist the majority ethnic Russian community in Crimea after last month’s ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help,” it added.
Shortly before the Obama-Putin conversation, Washington announced visa bans on individuals considered to have contributed to the violation of Ukraine’s territorial identity. They are thought to number about 12 people, including a few Ukrainians as well as Russians. Meanwhile, today, a US destroyer, the USS Truxtun, entered the Black Sea for what officials said was a routine deployment arranged before the Crimean crisis.
Read more: Russian troops thwarted in attempt to storm missile base
UK banks in row over Tymoshenko 'millions'
‘Now people say they will fight. This is worrying talk’
Is Putin rebuilding the Soviet Union?
Comment: how can Europe respond?
There was meanwhile a sharp warning from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius yesterday, that unless it ordered a return of all its soldiers to barracks in Crimea, Russia could face additional EU sanctions. “It could be freezing assets ... cancellations ... refusing visas,” he said. Japan meanwhile voiced support for co-ordinated sanctions.
Furthering Western frustration, a delegation of unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row today.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, whose new government has been promised billions in economic support by Washington and Brussels, said in Kiev that no Western government would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea. He reiterated a promise to negotiate with Moscow if it pulls its additional troops out of Crimea, and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
In Moscow, however, about 65,000 Putin supporters held a rally organised by authorities outside the Kremlin in support of making Crimea part of the Russian Federation. The leader of the Russian parliament’s upper house, Valentina Matvienko –after holding talks with Crimean parliament chairman Vladimir Konstantinov – told the crowd the country would welcome Crimea as “an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation” if it votes in the referendum to join it.
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
North Korean defector flees to Finland 'with evidence of chemical testing on humans'
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
Father faces deportation to Thailand after 27 years in Britain for two 'stupid crimes'
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...
£23172 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest growing h...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an experienced Resident...