Ukraine crisis: Western governments pile the pressure on Vladimir Putin to find peaceful solution

Western leaders redouble diplomatic efforts with Moscow to find a peaceful solution to the escalating crisis in Crimea

Britain, Germany and other Western governments put fresh pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday night to take steps towards a peaceful solution to the crisis over Crimea by engaging in talks with the government of Ukraine and acquiescing to the creation of a high level “contact group” of diplomats to seek a way out for all sides.

Efforts to corral Moscow onto some sort of diplomatic path intensified amidst warnings that a failure to get all sides to the table soon could lead to a rapid deterioration of the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War particularly if Moscow were to expand its incursion into parts of eastern Ukraine beyond the Crimean peninsula.

The White House said that Ukraine's Prime Minster Arseniy Yatsenyuk would be traveling to Washington on Wednesday for talks with President Barack Obama to seek ways to end the crisis which has seen soldiers apparently under Moscow's command seizing control of the Crimean peninsula and a decision by its parliament last week to seek unification with Russia and to hold a referendum potentially to endorse it next Sunday.

 

In telephone talks on Sunday with Mr Putin, the British and German leaders, David Cameron and Angela Merkel, jointly insisted that the proposed referendum would be a violation of international law and the Ukrainian constitution. A top US National Security official, Tony Blinken, said "if there is an annexation of Crimea, a referendum that moves Crimea from Ukraine to Russia, we won't recognize it, nor will most of the world."

Read more: Robert Fisk: Western leaders cannot face a 'looming' war
There is no moral equivalence between Moscow and Kiev
Russian troops detain 30 Ukrainian border guards

However, there was scant sign of concession from Moscow. In a statement, the Kremlin said Mr Putin had underlined to Ms Merkel and Mr Cameron "that the steps taken by Crimea's legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula's population" and he was responding to "the rampant behaviour of ultra-nationalists and radical forces in the capital and in many regions".

The Russian Song and Dance Ensemble of the Black Sea Fleet perform in Simferopol The Russian Song and Dance Ensemble of the Black Sea Fleet perform in Simferopol

Read more: Snipers that caused chaos were Russian-backed, says minister
Labour urges Cameron to take tougher action against Kremlin

There was also defiance from Kiev where Mr Yatsenuk told a rally called to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of a revered Ukrainian poet that the country wouldn't surrender a "single centimeter" of territory. "This is our land," he said. "Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land." However, Ukraine's acting Defence Minister, Ihor Tenyukh, said there were no plans to send the country's armed forces to Crimea.

Among those warning of the risk of a worsening of the crisis was former James Baker, the last US Secretary of State who served during the Cold War.  "I would say we are in a Cold War light already and we don't need to move further down that road because it could lead to some serious problems in the heart of Europe," he said.

Read more: The costs of intervention beyond Crimea are likely to make Moscow think twice
The priority in Crimea remains de-escalation
Protesters in Crimea greet army with flowers

John Kerry, the serving Secretary of State, told Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, at the weekend that Moscow risked closing the window for talks if it escalated the situation. "He made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia, would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint," a US official said

A Ukrainian supporter in Kiev A Ukrainian supporter in Kiev

There were meanwhile calls by some in Congress to extend financial sanctions to wealthy Russians in the US and Europe.  "I think the first thing to hit home will be to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and top Ru

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Sales Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuous expansion and growth o...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of Yorkshire

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable