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
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

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