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Crimea crisis: Ukraine authorises use of arms in self-defence – live updates

18 Mar

 

  • One killed in base attack, captain also injured
  • Assault by ‘unknown forces’
  • Ukrainian PM calls shooting ‘war crime’
  • Putin signs treaty for annexation
  • Ukraine says it does not recognise annexation treaty
  • UK halts military exports to Russia

 

Ukraine authorizes use of weapons

Ukrainian forces have been authorized to use weapons to defend themselves, Reuters reports, citing acting President Turchynov’s press service. Other sources have confirmed with Ukrainian military sources.

Update: The Ukrainian government has issued a statement authorizing use of arms, which also confirms that a junior officer has been killed and a captain injured in the neck.

“We’re authorized to use our weapons if our servicemen are endangered,” Yevpatoriya base cmmdr Col. Andrey Matvienko tells @ABC#Crimea

— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) March 18, 2014

Updated at 6.45pm GMT

6.05pm GMT

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, has given an interview with the BBC in which he says military intervention in eastern Ukraine is “not on the agenda”.

Russia will do whatever is possible, using all legal means, in total correspondence with international law, to protect and to extend a hand to Russians living in eastern regions of Ukraine.

No one is speaking about … using forces in the eastern regions [of Ukraine] … Definitely it’s not on the agenda. But we don’t want to make any forecasts for bloodshed that can occur in the eastern regions. Because if the Ukrainian government pays no attention to the gravest situation in the eastern regions then the consequences may be very, very bad.

Updated at 6.25pm GMT

5.59pm GMT

US secretary of state John Kerry, who is speaking at a town hall, says the possibility Russia could invade eastern Ukraine would be “as egregious as any step I can think of taken by a country in today’s world”. He also said that President Putin’s speech today was an attempt to “rewrite history” and that it “doesn’t jive with reality” and “only further put him on the wrong side of history”. He goes on:

“Nobody that I know of that reads the facts doubts Russia’s interests in Crimea. … Kiev has extraordinary connections to Russia … but that doesn’t legitimize just taking what you want because you want it.”

Updated at 6.05pm GMT

5.51pm GMT

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has told US secretary of state John Kerry in a call that sanctions are “absolutely unacceptable” and “will not remain without consequences”, a ministry statement reports.

Reuters also has it from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office that she and President Obama agree Russia has committed an “unacceptable blow to the territorial integrity of Ukraine”, that sanctions are a consequence of Russia’s actions, and also that “both remained open to dialogue”.

Updated at 6.07pm GMT

5.40pm GMT

The Guardian’s Shaun Walker confirms reports of a death and injury, as well as of the tense situation on the ground.

My Ukraine military source in Crimea confirmed to me death of a junior officer, wounding of a captain. Sounded distraught on phone.

— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) March 18, 2014

The BBC’s Ben Brown, at the base at which the incident occurred, took a photos of the forces trying to control the situation earlier today.

#Simferopol russian troops pushing back press at scene of shooting at Ukrainian base. Bursts of automatic fire heardpic.twitter.com/gkIQwiCAZC

— Ben Brown (@BenBrownBBC) March 18, 2014

Updated at 5.47pm GMT

5.33pm GMT

US vice-president Joe Biden says the US is considering military exercises in the Baltics, Reuters reports.

Currently in Warsaw meeting with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Biden said the US “is committed to Nato’s pledge to help member states if military action is taken against them”. On message with the White House, he also said the US would help Baltic states diversify their energy sources – a nod toward Russia’s oil dominance in the region.

5.28pm GMT

Carney also spoke briefly about the referendum and the international laws disputed by the US, EU and Kremlin.

We have said all along that … there are legal means by which the residents of Crimea could take steps to change their status with Ukraine, or change their relationship with Ukraine, or Russia for that matter, but there’s a legal code for … those decisions to be made.

Prompted by reporters to speak about what the Kremlin might do or might be induced to do by sanctions, he said: “We’re not judging motives or intentions or predicting the future. I think President Putin spoke for himself today. I’m not going to psychoanalyze … behavior.”

Updated at 6.24pm GMT

5.23pm GMT

White House press secretary Jay Carney has just given a briefing to reporters, saying of sanctions against Russia: “More is coming.”

Carney reiterated that “Russia’s attempt to annex a region of Ukraine illegaly will never be recognized by the US or the international community” and the Obama administration’s stance that Russia’s actions “are all in violation of international law and the Ukrainian constitution”.

On what form sanctions could take, he demurred, simply saying that the US and its international partners would be “ratcheting up the consequences to Russia” and “stepping up our assistance to Ukraine”. About previously announced sanctions, which one reporter called “in some cases risible”, Carney said “the costs have been real and they will increase.”

Carney stressed that the White House is deciding on further economic and diplomatic sanctions, but did say it’s reviewing requests from Ukraine for military support. With regard to the G8, he said: “All I can say is that preparations have been suspended. Summits don’t occur without preparations, and those preparations don’t look likely to resume anytime soon.” With regard to energy, Carney said that the US is looking on ways to support Ukraine’s energy security, and that should Russia cut energy shipments to Europe, it faces a “lose-lose situation” in which it suffers most.

5.02pm GMT

Summary

• A Ukrainian serviceman has died after being shot dead in the storming of a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, Crimea, according to a military spokesman. He said a captain was also injured and taken to hospital and other Ukrainian servicemen were arrested.

• The Ukrainian military spokesman described the attackers as “unknown forces, fully equipped”. Russia reportedly said that Crimean self-defence fighters were shot by a sniper.

• Following the shooting, the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, accused Russia of a “war crime”. He also said the conflict had moved from the political to the military stage.

• Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Crimea on Tuesday, promising to protect all ethnic groups and criticising western western aggression and hypocrisy. He said that in the hearts and minds of Russian people, “Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia”

• The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, speaking in parliament, announced that export licenses for military items to Russia had been suspended and that joint naval exercises with Russia had been cancelled. He said that Putin had chosen the “route of isolation”.

• The US and European Council both said that they would not recognise the annexation of Crimea. US vice-president Joe Biden said the world had seen through Russia’s “flawed logic”.

4.49pm GMT

Russia has offered an alternative version of events in Simferopol.

#Russia version of Simferopol shooting says #Crimea“self-defense fighters were shot by a sniper,” 1 killed.

— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) March 18, 2014

4.45pm GMT

NBC’s Ed Flanagan, who was one of the first on the scene of the shooting in Simferopol, says that other Ukrainian troops had their weapons taken away and were arrested.

Ukrainian military spokesman also says all men on base arrested and their weapons taken and wounded captain taken to hospital for treatment.

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

Updated at 4.47pm GMT

4.25pm GMT

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister Danylo Lubkivsky told the BBC he could not confirm events at the military base in Simferopol but said that he feared an escalation.

4.22pm GMT

Military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov, speaking to Reuters by telephone from Crimea, said it was unclear who had staged the assault, but described the attackers, as “unknown forces, fully equipped and their faces covered”.

4.21pm GMT

The Ukrainian serviceman who died was shot in the neck, the BBC’s Ben Brown reports. He says two bursts of automatic fire were heard and he says another man, a captain was also reportedly injured.

4.10pm GMT

A Ukrainian serviceman has died after the attack on a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, Crimea, Interfax is reporting.

Updated at 4.14pm GMT

4.08pm GMT

The Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has accused Russia of a war crime, after shots were fired at a military base in Simferopol, Crimea, Reuters is reporting. He is quoted as saying:

Today Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian serviceman. This is a war crime.

He reportedly also said the conflict had moved from the political to the military stage.

3.54pm GMT

The Open Europe thinktank has produced a briefing on what tools the EU has available to force Russia to back down in Crimea. Its key points include:

  • Additional targeted individual sanctions or a potential arms embargo, would be hard to agree amongst the EU’s 28 member states and their impact remains unclear, though there may be some scope for a group of EU states to move ahead with some additional sanctions if it’s not possible to get agreement at the level of all 28.
  • Still, cleverly targeted sanctions on individuals and business interests could hurt Russia. Between 2008 and 2013, $421bn worth of private sector money – equivalent to 20% of Russian GDP – has flown out of the country. That said, the routing of this money through offshore centres makes it very difficult to track.
  • Therefore, the most effective economic measures could be a combination of targeted sanctions on influential individuals close to the top of the regime, business interests, specific firms wielding power in Ukraine (such as Gazprom) and potentially limiting sales to Russia of products on which they are externally reliant – such as machinery, chemicals and medical products.
  • Sweeping energy sanctions would hit Russia the hardest but due to the EU’s dependence on Russian gas – in some countries as much as 100% of gas imports are Russian – this option is politically unlikely and could prove prohibitively expensive for the EU.
  • Russia has an array of retaliatory options, including leveraging energy market power to secure favourable bilateral deals with other countries, applying tit-for-tat sanctions or, in extremis, wielding its hard power.

The thinktank concludes that a negotiated solution remains the most likely solution.

3.45pm GMT

Reuters has more on the storming of a Ukrainian base in Crimea’s main city, Simferopol:

Ukrainian troops said they were being attacked by Russian forces and one soldier, Interfax news agency said quoting a Ukrainian military spokesman.

“One Ukrainian serviceman has been wounded in the neck and collarbone. Now we have barricaded ourselves on the second floor. The headquarters has been taken and the commander has been taken. They want us to put down our arms but we do not intend to surrender,” he said.

“We are being stormed. We have about 20 people here and about 10 to 15 others, including women,” an unidentified serviceman told Fifth Channel television. “One of our officers was wounded during the attack, grazed in the neck and arm.”

3.34pm GMT

In a statement on Crimea, the UK prime minister, David Cameron, has accused President Putin of sending “a chilling message across the continent of Europe”.

He said:

It is completely unacceptable for Russia to use force to change borders, on the basis of a sham referendum held at the barrel of a Russian gun. President Putin should be in no doubt that Russia will face more serious consequences and I will push European leaders to agree further EU measures when we meet on Thursday.

The choice remains for President Putin: take the path of de-escalation or face increasing isolation and tighter sanctions.

3.30pm GMT

Fresh from his defiant speech to the Russian parliament, Vladimir Putin has been addressing crowds in Red Square. He told crowds chanting “Russia!” and “Putin!”:

“Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to … their home shores, to their home port, to Russia!”

The president concluded his speech on Red Square by shouting “Glory to Russia”.

People attend a rally called
People attend a rally called “We are together” to support the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea to Russia at Red Square in central Moscow, 18 March, 2014. Photograph: Max

3.22pm GMT

A Ukrainian military spokesman has confirmed that one person has been wounded in a shooting at a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean capital of Simeferopol, according to Reuters. The incident was reported by NBC’s Ed Flanagan on Twitter earlier.

The incident involved the “storming of the base”, according to the spokesman.

Column of we believe armed Russian men exiting from area. Turned behind wall out of viewpic.twitter.com/doDhn6yLnZ

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

3.15pm GMT

The president of ex-Soviet Moldova has warned Russia against any attempt to annex his country’s separatist Transdniestria region in the same way that it has taken control of Crimea in Ukraine.

During a trip to Moscow, the speaker of Transdniestria’s separatist parliament, Mikhail Burla, yesterday urged Russia to incorporate his mainly Russian-speaking region, which split away from Moldova in 1990, one year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

President Nicolae Timofti said today that Russia would be making a “mistake” if it agreed to the request:

This is an illegal body which has taken no decision on inclusion into Russia. I believe that Burla’s actions are counter-productive and will do no good for either Moldova or Russia. And if Russia makes a move to satisfy such proposals, it will be making a mistake.

The separatist region fought a brief war with Moldova in 1992 and it declared itself an independent state, but it remains unrecognised by any country, including Russia, which has 1,500 troops stationed there.

A referendum in Transdniestria in 2006 produced a 97.2% vote in favour of joining Russia, an even higher score than in Crimea’s referendum. Unlike Crimea, however, it is located far from Russia. It shares a border with Ukraine.

Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has been governed by pro-Western leaders since 2009. It has clinched an association agreement with the European Union, as currently sought by the pro-western leaders who came to power in Ukraine after the removal of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.

2.55pm GMT

Russian troops have attempted to storm a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, according to NBC’s Ed Flanagan.

Shots fired as russian forces storm #Ukraine military base in #Simferopol. 3-4 short bursts of gunfire. UNCONFIRMED reports of men wounded

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

Entrance to base. Earlier heavily armed soldiers seen running around front before shots firedpic.twitter.com/aG31fOJ8nI

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

Police moved bystanders off road away from #Ukrainemilitary base entrance.Small groups of Russian soldiers moving up pic.twitter.com/AZA6vNyOEo

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

Silence since initial shots fired. Around 15 we believe russian soldiers carrying shotguns,close quarter riot shields and ak-47s stormed in

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

2.39pm GMT

Turkey has reportedly threatened to close the Bosphorus to Russian ships, if there is violence against the Crimean Tatars.

In his speech today, President Putin was at pains to stress that the rights of Tatars, persecuted and deported from Ukraine in the Stalin-era, would be protected.

Citing a diplomatic source, the Sofia news agency says that Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan made the threat in a telephone conversation with Putin.

Erdogan also said that Turkey would not recognise the referendum in Crimea in which 97% of the voters cast their ballots in favour of joining the Russian Federation, according to the report.

2.31pm GMT

The US and its G7 allies will gather next week at The Hague to consider further response to Russia’s attempt to absorb Ukraine’s Crimea region, the White House said today. The meeting will take place on the margins of a nuclear security summit that Barack Obama plans to attend.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said:

The meeting will focus on the situation in Ukraine and further steps that the G7 may take to respond to developments and to support Ukraine.

The G7 includes the United States, Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Japan and Italy. The European Union was also invited to the talks. The G7 leaders already have suspended preparations for a G8 summit, which includes Russia, that is scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia, but is in doubt because of Ukraine.

2.25pm GMT

The French president, Francois Hollande, has condemned President Putin’s signing of a treaty integrating Crimea into Russia, saying Europe needs to provide a “strong” response:

I condemn this decision. France does not recognise either the results of the referendum … or the attachment of this Ukrainian region to Russia.

The next European Council meeting on March 20-21 must provide the opportunity for a strong and coordinated European response to the hurdle that has just been jumped.

1.54pm GMT

Speaking in Poland, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, said that the world has rejected Russia’s “flawed logic” and warned of further sanctions.

Biden, who has been meeting anxious European leaders, including Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said:

The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic.

Tusk said:

Russia’s annexation of Crimea can’t be accepted by the international community including Poland. In one moment this changes the country’s (Ukraine) borders and the geopolitical situation in this region of the world.

More here

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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