Ukraine latest: US Secretary of State John Kerry threatens ‘serious steps’ over Crimea vote, as key talks loom in London

The comments come days before a referendum to decide whether the contentious Crimean peninsula remains in Ukraine

the united nations

In his sternest words yet, the US Secretary of State has warned Russia that failure to accept a diplomatic compromise in the stand-off over Crimea will open Moscow up to a new “very serious series of steps” against it by Europe and the United States.

John Kerry was speaking in Washington before flying to London where he will meet today with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to plead again for a change of tack by Russia following its de facto seizure of control of Crimea earlier this month. He warned that if Russia did not accept a diplomatic compromise ahead of Crimea’s planned referendum on breaking away from Ukraine on Sunday, then the US and Europe would begin to take punitive measures “as early as Monday” of next week. He said he hoped  “ reason would prevail”.

“My hope is they [Russia] will become aware of the fact that the international community is really strongly united,” he said. He said he would suggest to Mr Lavrov that Russia agree to “something short of a full annexation”.

 

Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, noted that his country faced a threat from none other than one of its own five permanent members.

“It is absolutely and entirely unacceptable in the 21st century to resolve any kind of conflict with tanks, artillery and boots on the ground,” he said, speaking mostly in English.

A poster in Crimea presents a stark choice - Nazism, or Russia - to voters ahead of the referendum A poster in Crimea presents a stark choice - Nazism, or Russia - to voters ahead of Sunday's referendum
Pleading for a peaceful end to the crisis, he later switched to Russian and looked directly across the chamber to Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN. “I would like to address Russia,” he began. “We are looking for an answer to the question whether the Russians want war … I am convinced Russians do not want war and I hope the Russian government will heed the wishes of its people and return to the table and to dialogue to resolve this conflict.”

More jarringly, Mr Yatsenyuk appeared to signal something close to regret in the current circumstances that Ukraine had given up its nuclear arsenal after independence in the early Nineties. “We gave up one of the biggest arsenals of nuclear weapons,” he said. “ After this it would be very difficult to convince anyone in the globe not to have nuclear weapons.”

While there is scant hope that Russia can be persuaded to put off or scrap the referendum, Washington remains deeply anxious to pre-empt whatever it is planning next.

In Kiev, the acting President of Ukraine, Olexander Turchinov, said that Russia had amassed its forces along Ukraine’s eastern border and was “ready to invade”. But he said he still hoped that would not happen. “All of  civilised humanity supports our country,” he said.

“All the leading countries of the world are on the side of Ukraine, and I am sure that this united effort in the international arena, bringing together all democratic countries, can still allow us to halt this aggression.”

Pro-Russian forces dubbed the Pro-Russian forces dubbed the "military forces of the autonomous republic of Crimea" during their swearing-in ceremony in Simferopol.
Mr Kerry didn’t elaborate on what new steps might be taken next week, but some would be triggered just by the referendum, he said. “In addition, if there is no sign [of Russian compromise] there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday in Europe and here,” he said.

Meanwhile, at least one person was killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Moscow demonstrators in the city of Donetsk.

Read more:  ‘We will stand with Ukraine’ says Barack Obama
Tatars of Crimea fear a return to the bad old days of the Stalin era
From guns to TV cameras: how a media battle is inflaming the crisis in Crimea
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test