Live: Russia, Nato agree to discuss Ukraine tomorrow

Tracking all the live updates from Ukraine, as Western powers and Russia face off over Russia's military advance into Crimea.

Rohini Chatterji March 04, 2014 19:54:55 IST
Live: Russia, Nato agree to discuss Ukraine tomorrow

7.48 pm: Russia, Nato agree to discuss Ukraine tomorrow

The Nato alliance and Russia have agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The alliance announced that an extraordinary NATO-Russia council will convene at the suggestion of alliance secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Russia agreed to the meeting on Tuesday, when Nato ambassadors were further discussing the crisis among themselves.

Rasmussen has said Russia's military intervention in Ukraine is in violation of the U.N. charter and threatens peace and security in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but voiced hope it won't need to do so.

Russia took over the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the region's military bases and border posts.

4.23 pm: Military exercise in Ukraine nothing to do with clashes, says Putin

Russian president Vladimir Putin addressing a press conference today defended the military exercise saying it was already planned and not in relation to the clashes in Ukraine.

"There is no reason to use military force in Ukraine at this time. The exercise that took place recently was not in relation to the situation in Ukraine. It is surprise exercise and it has been finished and asked troops to return to military bases," Putin said.

He also added that former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych had requested him to protected the people of the country. "So many nationalists and radical extremists are rampant on the streets of Kiev," he said.

"Russia reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in Ukraine. Events in Kiev amount to an anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power." he said.

"Even if I decide to use army forces it will be fully legitimate and be in line with international law," he added.

"Markets in Russia were "nervous" before the events in Ukraine because of the policy pursued by the US Federal Reserve, so latest market instability is not directly related to Ukraine," he said.

"Our actions are often described by the West as not legitimate, but look at US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Our actions are legitimate from the point of view of international law, because Ukraine's legitimate president asked us for help," he said added, "Defending these people is in our interests, this is a humanitarian mission, we do not want to 'enslave' anyone."

4.04 pm: Sensex ends 263 points higher after Russia ends military exercise

The Sensex ended 263 points higher today at 21,209 after Russia decided to end the military exercise on Ukraine's border.

Markets were sent to a tizzy with Russia's exercise in Ukraine with the Indian Markets dropping 173 points yesterday.

2.36 pm: EU threatens to impose sanctions on Russia

The European Union has threatened to impose a set of "targeted sanctions" against Russia if it does not take steps to de-escalate the crisis sparked by its military build up on the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.

The EU convened an emergency summit of its leaders in Brussels on Monday to take final decisions on punitive measures in response to what it called Russia's "violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU foreign ministers condemned Russia's military build-up in Crimea as an "act of aggression", and asked it to withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing.

Russia should also agree without delay to the request by Ukraine to hold consultations, as foreseen in their bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, they said in a statement issued after the meeting.

In the absence of de-escalating steps by Russia, the EU will take decisions, which will have consequences for bilateral relations such as suspending talks with Russia on visa matters and will consider further "targeted measures," it warned.

These actions are in clear breach of the United Nations charter and the final act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as Russia's specific commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, cooperation and Partnership of 1997, the statement said.

The foreign ministers voiced their support for the efforts of Ukraine's transitional government to stabilise the situation in the country and to embark on a reform course. The EU will continue its efforts with international financial institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund to work out an international aid package to address the country's urgent needs, the statement said.

Meanwhile, president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy announced that he had convened an emergency meeting of the EU heads of state and government on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and how the EU can contribute to de-escalate the crisis. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva last evening as part of his country's continuing efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Crimea.

2.32 pm: Moscow warns US of dropping dollar as reserve currency

A Kremlin aide said on Tuesday that if the United States were to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Moscow might be forced to drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to US banks.

Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to the Kremlin who is often used by the authorities to stake out a hardline stance but does not make policy, added that if Washington froze the accounts of Russian businesses and individuals, Moscow would recommend that all holders of US treasuries sell them.

Earlier today, addressing reporters at the White House, President Barack Obama said the US had not ruled out economic sanctions against Russia if it infringed Ukraine's sovereignty any further. "What we are also indicating to the Russians is that if, in fact, they continue on the current trajectory that they're on, that we are examining a whole series of steps - economic, diplomatic - that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia's economy and its status," Obama said.

The escalating tension as already prompted four emergency meetings of the UN Security Council where Russia and Western leaders have faced off multiple times. Russia claimed today that it had chosen to intervene at the behest of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, even though Ukrainian leaders opposed the reasoning saying the deposed president had no rights to make demands on behalf of the nation.

1:00 pm: Russian troops fire warning shots, no fighting in Crimea

Associated Press reports pro-Russian troops who had taken control of an air base in the Crimea region fired warning shots into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers, who previously manned the airfield, demanded their jobs back.

About a dozen Russian soldiers at the Belbek air base stood guarding the airfield and warned the Ukrainians on Tuesday, who were marching unarmed, not to approach.

They fired several warning shots into the air and said they would shoot the Ukrainians if they continued to march toward them.

And despite the supposed Russian ultimatum for two Ukrainian warships to surrender, it passed without action from either side.

Two Ukrainian warships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol early Tuesday, a day after Ukrainian authorities claimed that Russian forces had issued an ultimatum for the ships to surrender or be seized.

11.50 am: Russian troops ordered to return to base camp

Russian troops taking part in military exercises near the Ukraine border have reportedly been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to return to their bases, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov is quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

9.23 am: John Kerry visits new grand daughter en route to Ukraine

US Secretary of State John Kerry has taken a quick time out for some baby talk as he heads overseas to deliver a strong diplomatic message of US support for Ukraine's government against a Russian military incursion.

Officially, the late-night stop in New York was to refuel Kerry's plane before flying to Kiev, where he is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian leaders on Tuesday afternoon.

But America's top diplomat used the downtime to visit his new granddaughter, who was born on Monday morning at a New York hospital.

It's Kerry's fifth grandchild, and she was born to his daughter, Alexandra, who is a film director and producer.

9.15 am: Crimean Authorities to Cut Power, Water to Ukrainian Troops?

Pro-Russian authorities in Crimea will cut off water and electricity to Ukrainian soldiers in bases surrounded by Russian forces on Monday night, a Russian former lawmaker loyal to President Vladimir Putin said.

Sergei Markov, who held meetings with pro-Russian authorities on the Ukrainian peninsula earlier on Monday, told reporters the soldiers would also be told they would not receive their next pay packet if they did not publicly renounce their loyalty to the new provisional government in Kiev, the capital.

"If they stay here and remain loyal to Kiev and the Ukrainian government, it will become more uncomfortable for them," said Markov, who sits in a Kremlin-backed public policy chamber. "The pressure is going to increase tonight."

8.30 am: Ukraine President asked Russia to intervene: Envoy

Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting that he use Russia's military to restore law and order in Ukraine, Moscow's UN envoy told a stormy meeting of the Security Council on Monday.

"The country has plunged into chaos and anarchy," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin read from an unofficial translation of the letter while speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

"The country is in the grip of outright terror and violence driven by the West." "People are persecuted on political and language grounds," he read.

"In this context, I appeal to the President of Russia Vladimir V Putin to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to re-establish the rule of law, peace, order, stability and to protect the people of Ukraine."

Churkin held up a copy of the letter for council members to see during a heated council session in which Western envoys and the Russian ambassador hurled allegations at each other for two and a half hours. He said the letter was dated March 1.

After the Russian ambassador spoke, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power dismissed Russian claims that Russian-speaking Ukrainians were under threat in the eastern regions of the former Soviet republic.

7.00 am: Is China backing Russia?

Russia appears (emphasis added) to have got the Chinese by their side, according to Firstpost columnist Rajeev Sharma.

China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua accused the Weste of adopting a Cold War-like mindset towards Russia and trying to isolate Moscow at a time when much needed mediation is need to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Crimea.

It is a normal practice with China to air its foreign policy thoughts on major international issues through its state-owned media. In this context, the following paragraph from an opinion piece carried by Xinhua assumes an even greater significance:

"Based on the fact that Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, historical and economic connections, it is time for Western powers to abandon their Cold War thinking. Stop trying to exclude Russia from the political crisis they failed to mediate, and respect Russia's unique role in mapping out the future of Ukraine… Right now, the West should show more appreciation for what Russia can do to solve the crisis in Ukraine. Given Russia's historical and cultural influence in the country, the Kremlin is the piece that cannot be missing in this political puzzle."

However, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry quoted by the Russian Itar-Tass news agency spoke in far diluted terms thus: "The foreign ministers of both countries exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine. They noted the coincidence of positions on this aspect."

Going by reading of the Chinese tea leaves as filtered through its state-controlled media it makes it clear that the Chinese have, after all, lent their support to the Russians over Ukraine.

If this is indeed so and if the official Chinese position over the Ukraine crisis indeed coalesces with what is being through the Chinese state-owned media, then the Russians have definitely managed a soft coup of sorts over the West.

6.30 am: Ukraine says Russia deployed 16,000 new troops to Crimea

Russian troops said to be 16,000 strong tightened their stranglehold on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula on Monday, openly defying the US and the European Union and rattling world capitals and stock markets.

The West struggled to find a way to get Russia to back down, but with little beyond already threatened diplomatic and economic sanctions, global markets fell sharply over the prospect of violent upheaval in the heart of Europe.

For its part, Moscow reiterated its price for ending the crisis: restoration of a deal reached with the opposition less than two weeks ago to form a national unity government in Kiev that represents pro-Russian as well as Ukrainian interests, with new elections to be held by December.

Ukraine, meanwhile, accused Russia of piracy for blocking two of the besieged country's warships and ordering them to surrender or be seized. The US originally estimated that 6,000 Russian troops were dispatched to Crimea, but Ukraine's mission to the United Nations said Monday that 16,000 had been deployed.

That stoked fears that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine.

5.00 am: US says it is suspending military ties with Russia

The US Defense Department has said it is suspending exercises and other activities with the Russian military over Moscow's military involvement in Ukraine. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm John Kirby, said Monday evening that the US military has "put on hold" all military-to-military engagements, including bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.

2.00 am: G7 joint statement on Russia

This is the joint statement by the G7 nations, in which they condemn Russia's actions and says that they have suspended participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June:

“We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine. We call on Russia to address any ongoing security or human rights concerns that it has with Ukraine through direct negotiations, and/or via international observation or mediation under the auspices of the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We stand ready to assist with these efforts.

“We also call on all parties concerned to behave with the greatest extent of self-restraint and responsibility, and to decrease the tensions.

“We note that Russia’s actions in Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G8 is able to have meaningful discussion.

“We are united in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to choose its own future. We commit ourselves to support Ukraine in its efforts to restore unity, stability and political and economic health to the country. To that end, we will support Ukraine’s work with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a new program and to implement needed reforms. IMF support will be critical in unlocking additional assistance from the World Bank, other international financial institutions, the EU, and bilateral sources.”

-- end of updates for 3 March --

10:34 pm: Surrender or face military assault, Russia tells Ukraine

Russia's Black Sea Fleet has told Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 5 am (0300 GMT) on Tuesday or face a military assault, Interfax news agency quoted a source in the Ukrainian Defence Ministry as saying.

The ultimatum, Interfax said, was issued by Alexander Vitko, the fleet's commander.

The ministry did not immediately confirm the report and there was no immediate comment by the Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea, where Russian forces are in control.

"If they do not surrender before 5 am tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea," the agency quoted the ministry source as saying.

6.56 pm: EU foreign ministers working joint response to Russia

European Union foreign ministers are working on a joint response to Russia's military incursion in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula that could include economic sanctions.

The 28 foreign ministers are holding an emergency meeting on Ukraine Monday to discuss what Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called "Europe's most dramatic crisis" since the end of the Cold War.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said sanctions against Russia are an "option" that will be discussed. Several other ministers, however, cautioned the focus for now should be on diplomacy and forging a direct dialogue between Russia and the new leadership in Ukraine to deescalate the situation.

Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said discussions are also underway on convening an emergency summit of EU leaders Thursday.

6.45 pm: Ban Ki-moon meets Sergey Lavrov in Geneva

6.29 pm: European Union set to hold meeting The European Union is set to hold a meeting of heads of state over the situation in Ukraine.

Kyiv Post quoted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso as saying, "We have already expressed our very serious concern about the situation. The situation has not improved. We are working with all our member states to get a general response to these events. The Foreign Affairs Council will meet today, and very soon the heads of state and government of the European Union also meet to work out a common response."

5.50 pm: Pro-Russia demonstrators occupy govt building in Donetsk

Reports are coming in of pro-Russia demonstrators occupying lower floors of regional government building in Ukraine's Donetsk.

5.16 pm: Focus on people's interest, says Sergei Lavrov

Russian foreign minister today called for geopolitical calculations to be set aside to concentrate on the interest of the people of Ukraine.

"Those who are trying to interpret the situation almost as some sort of aggression and threaten with all kinds of possible sanctions and boycotts - they are the same partners who had consistently and persistently pushed the political forces close to them towards ultimatums, refusing dialogue, demonstrating disregard for the concerns of Ukraine's south and east and, ultimately, towards the polarization of the Ukrainian society," Lavrov was quoted by Kyiv Post as saying.

4.33 pm:  Russia sends observers to Crimea to monitor situation

Russia's Federal Council Commission is reportedly sending observers to Ukraine to monitor the situation.

Kyiv Post reports, "The Federation Council commission for monitoring the situation in Ukraine will set up a mission of observers who on 30 March will travel to the Crimea which will be holding a referendum on its status. Such a proposal was approved at a session of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee."

3.59 pm: Sensex drops 173 points, Crimea reported calm

The Sensex fell with 173 points to 20,946 on profit-taking because of the Ukraine crisis, Russian stalks sank around 9%, while Crimea was reported calm after clashes.

Russia's stock market nosedived 9 per cent at the open on Monday while the rouble fell 2 per cent to record lows against the dollar and the euro, and the central bank dramatically lifted its key lending rate by 1.5 percentage points to 7 per cent at an unscheduled meeting, reported Reuters. Meanwhile ITAR-TASS reports, The situation in Simferopol, the capital city of the Crimea, has been reported quiet; the city seems to have resumed its usual life. On Monday morning most people have gone to work as usual; enterprises, cafes and shops have been working in a usual mode.

3.45 pm: William Hague warns Russia of diplomatic, economic costs

In the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, Britain's British Foreign Secretary William Hague has ruled out a military option to solve the crisis in Ukraine.

Al Jazeera reports, "In a joint press conference on Monday with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said diplomatic and economic pressures are being exerted to force Russia to back off from its military action in Ukraine's Crimea region."

Meanwhile Hague was also reported urging Vladimir Putin to take back troops from Ukraine, warning that Moscow would face diplomatic and economic costs. The Guardian reports Hague as saying that "Russia faces "significant diplomatic and economic costs" unless it stops threatening the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and adding that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, needs to return his forces to their barracks in Crimea"

3.12 pm: Russia blocks web pages linked to Ukraine protest movement

Russia's Internet monitoring agency has blocked 13 Internet pages linked to the Ukraine protest movement that helped oust the country's Russia-leaning president last week.

Roskomnadzor said in a statement published online Monday that it had been ordered by the general prosecutor's office to shut down the pages on Russia's leading social media website, VKontakte. The agency said the groups "propagandized the activity of Ukrainian nationalist groups," and accused them of encouraging "terrorist activity" and "participation in unsanctioned mass actions."

The largest pro-demonstration group, which has more than 500,000 members, was not accessible to users on Russian territory on Monday.

While much of Russian media is state-controlled, the Internet has so far remained largely free from censorship and has provided an active forum for anti-government criticism.

3.09 pm: Ukraine skier withdraws from Sochi games in protest

As reports emerged of Russian troops taking over Ukraine, a skier withdrew from the Sochi games. The BBC reports, "A Ukrainian alpine skier and her coach have withdrawn from the Sochi Games in protest at the use of force by the authorities against protesters in Kiev."

2.00 pm: Pro Russian troops take over ferry terminal in Crimea

Pro-Russian troops have taken over a ferry terminal on the easternmost tip of Crimea, which serves as a common departure point for many Russian-bound ships.

The seizure of the terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) by boat to Russia, has exacerbated fears that Moscow is planning to bring more troops into this strategic Black Sea region, as the West debates how to react to the incursions.

Early on Monday, soldiers were operating the terminal. The men refused to identify themselves, but they spoke Russian and the vehicles transporting them had Russian license plates. Troops that Ukraine says are Russian soldiers have occupied airports in Crimea, smashed equipment at an air base and besieged a Ukrainian infantry base in this peninsula.

Live Russia Nato agree to discuss Ukraine tomorrow

Protests in Ukraine: AP

12.45 pm: Global stocks plummet over Ukraine crisis

Global stocks tumbled Monday as tension over Russia's military advance into Ukraine and possible sanctions by Western governments intensified. Oil surged above $104 per barrel on concern Russian supplies might be disrupted.

Gold was up 2.1 percent to $1,349.30 an ounce on safe haven buying. In Europe, Germany's DAX sank 2.4 percent to 9,455.1 and France's CAC-40 shed 1.6 percent to 4,337.71. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 1.3 percent to 6,723.72. Russia's RTS stock index plunged 10.5 percent and the broader MICEX index slumped by 12.7 percent.

The ruble, already down nearly 10 percent this year, fell below 50 to the euro for the first time. It was trading below 36.4 to the dollar, also a record. T

raders were jittery over warnings by Washington and other governments that Moscow, an oil exporter, might face sanctions after it seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. "Economic war with Russia, if this escalates, would take a toll on the global economy," said Carl B. Weinberg of High Frequency Economics in a report.

Many countries depend on imported oil and gas, making them sensitive to any turmoil that might disrupt supplies. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes were off by an unusually large 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.

11.30 pm: Western powers prepare 'tough response' to Ukraine

Western powers prepared a tough response to Russia's military advance into Ukraine and warned that Moscow could face economic penalties, diplomatic isolation and bolstered allied defenses in Europe unless it retreats.

On Sunday evening, the White House issued a joint statement on behalf of the Group of Seven saying they are suspending participation in the planning for the upcoming summit because Russia's advances in the Ukraine violate the "principles and values" on which the G-7 and G-8 operate.

Still, the crisis may prove to be a game-changer for President Barack Obama's national security policy, forcing him to give up his foreign policy shift to Asia and to maintain U.S. troop levels in Europe to limit Russia's reach.

The ill will and mistrust also could spill over on two other global security fronts — Syria and Iran — where Russia has been a necessary partner with the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would heed the West's warnings. Hundreds of armed men surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, a pro-Russian area.

In Kiev, Ukraine's capital, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk alerted allies that "we are on the brink of disaster." Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia now has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region.

The U.S. was also watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of eastern Ukraine, where there is a large Russian-speaking population, though the officials said they had not yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere.

The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity. Secretary of State John Kerry said he has consulted with other world leaders, and "every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion."

President Barack Obama spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

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