Ukrainian activists trying to cross into Crimea to show solidarity
with opponents of last week's Russian military takeover there said
they were halted by men in uniforms of the now outlawed riot police.
One of these fired at close range, hitting a man in the chest,
apparently with rubber bullets.
With diplomacy at a standstill, Russia said the United States had
spurned an invitation to hold new talks on resolving the crisis, the
worst East-West standoff since the Cold War — although Washington
said later a meeting of foreign ministers was possible this week, if
Moscow shows it is ready to "engage".
The U.S.-led NATO defense alliance said AWACS early warning
aircraft, once designed to counter feared Soviet nuclear missile
strikes, would start reconnaissance flights on Tuesday over Poland
and Romania to monitor the situation in Ukraine, flying from bases
in Germany and Britain.
The United States on Tuesday will also begin previously planned
military training exercises in the region, the first since the
Russian intervention in Crimea. A U.S. Navy destroyer will
participate in maneuvers with Romanian and Bulgarian warships in the
Black Sea, across from Crimea. In Poland, U.S. fighter jets will
take part in joint exercises.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Germany's Bild newspaper,
however, that Western powers were not considering military action
and wanted a diplomatic solution. European Union governments are
considering sanctions against Russia.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who said he would address
the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, blamed the crisis on Russia
and accused Moscow of undermining the global security system by
taking control of Crimea.
Ukraine's new justice authorities issued warrants for the arrest of
Crimea's pro-Russia leaders on Monday, six days before a referendum
they have called to join the region to Russia.
Russian forces have in little more than a week taken over military
installations across Crimea, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and
Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to
Ukraine in 1954.
Pro-Russian separatists have taken control of the regional
parliament, declared Crimea part of the Russian Federation and
announced a referendum for Sunday to confirm that.
President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is acting to protect the rights
of ethnic Russians, who make up a majority of Crimea's population,
after Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted last month
in what Russia calls a coup.
On Monday, a Ukrainian defense official said a Russian-led military
force of about a dozen men fired in the air as they took control of
a Ukrainian naval base near the town of Bakhchisaray, though no one
The force was accompanied by the base's Ukrainian commander. He
persuaded a number of his men to join the Russian forces while
allowing others who refused to leave, the Ukrainian official,
Vladislav Seleznyov wrote on Facebook. The Russian force later drove
off with nine Ukrainian vehicles.
Yarik Alexandrov, one of the Ukrainian naval personnel who refused
to pledge allegiance to Moscow, told Reuters near the base that he
and his comrades at first refused to surrender. "Then they started
shooting round our feet and we surrendered," he said. "What could we
do? We had no weapons."
Similar small confrontations have taken place at other Ukrainian
bases around Crimea, although shooting has been rare and there has
so far been no bloodshed. Russia denies its troops are involved — a
stance ridiculed in Kiev and the West.
In a sign of the peninsula's growing isolation from the Ukrainian
mainland, armed men prevented a convoy of cars from a Ukrainian
activist group crossing into Crimea.
The group was part of the Maidan movement behind the protests that
forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia. Ukrainian television showed men
in the uniform of the Berkut riot police, banned by the new
authorities for its role in shooting dozens of demonstrators in Kiev
last month, blocking the road south.
One was shown firing twice, hitting a man in the chest. His injuries
appeared minor, suggesting the use of rubber bullets.
In other armed action, Russian forces took over a military hospital
and a missile unit. Reuters correspondents also saw a big Russian
convoy on the move just outside the port city of Sevastopol near a
Ukrainian air defense base.
It comprised more than 100 vehicles, including around 20 armored
personnel carriers, plus mobile artillery.
CHANCE OF TALKS SPURNED
Putin says Russia is not controlling events in Crimea, but denials
of Russian involvement are rejected by the United States as the two
former Cold War enemies wage a geopolitical battle over the future
of Crimea and Ukraine.
[to top of second column]
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin that Russia's
position on Ukraine remained at odds with the West, but U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry had declined an invitation to visit
Russia on Monday for further talks.
"It is all being formulated as if there was a conflict between
Russia and Ukraine ... and our partners suggested using the
situation created by a coup as a starting point," Lavrov told Putin
during talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
He did not say why
Kerry had postponed the talks.
The State Department said Kerry told Lavrov on Saturday that
Washington wanted Moscow to cease its drive to annex Crimea and end
"provocative steps". In a statement, it added: "Kerry made clear to
Foreign Minister Lavrov that he would welcome further discussions
focused on how to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine if and when we
see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these
In Kiev, Yatseniuk said he would address the U.N. Security Council
during a debate on Ukraine. He is also due to hold talks with the
U.S. government that will show Washington's support of the new
"Russia's policy is aimed at undermining the basis of the global
security system and revising the outcome of World War Two," Interfax
quoted Yatseniuk as telling reporters.
Western powers have rallied behind Ukraine's new leaders and the
World Bank said on Monday it planned to provide up to $3 billion
this year to see Kiev through an economic crisis.
U.S. senators are preparing legislation that aides said would be
broader than a measure passed last week by the House of
Representatives backing $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine,
and could include sanctions.
Ukraine's crisis was triggered in November by Yanukovich's refusal,
under Russian pressure, to sign deals on closer political and trade
ties with the European Union.
Although three months of protests against Yanukovich were mostly
peaceful, at least 80 demonstrators were killed in clashes after
police used force against them, some by sniper fire.
Yanukovich fled Ukraine before a peace deal with the opposition was
implemented, and a new national unity government was installed. He
is wanted for mass murder in Ukraine and is being sheltered by
WEST DOES NOT RECOGNIZE REFERENDUM
Western countries have denounced the Russian intervention in Crimea
and say the borders of Ukraine, a country of 46 million, should
remain unchanged. They have said they will not accept the outcome of
"The United States is not prepared to recognize any result of the
so-called referendum taking place in six days' time," U.S.
Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said in Kiev. "We are committed to
Crimea's status as part of Ukraine. The crisis needs to be solved
diplomatically, not militarily."
In the latest military movements, in Sevastopol, where Russia has
its Black Sea Fleet base, Russian forces disarmed servicemen at a
Ukrainian army missile base, Seleznyov said.
He told Fifth Channel television that about 200 soldiers aboard 14
trucks moved on the building at about 1.30 a.m and threatened to
storm it if the Ukrainian soldiers failed to give up their weapons.
In the eastern city of Luhansk, Ukraine's security services said
they were investigating the takeover on Sunday of the main
administrative building. The region's top official was held captive
in a room where he was made to write a letter saying he had
resigned, but he later said he was still performing his duties.
(Reporting by Richard Balmforth, Timothy Heritage, Ron Popeski,
Alastair Macdonald and Aleksandar Vasovic in Kiev, Alexei Anishchuk
in Sochi, Marcin Goettig in Warsaw, and Anna Yukhananov and Patricia
Zengerle in Washington; writing by Ron Popeski, Alastair Macdonald
and Peter Cooney; editing by David Stamp and Ken Wills)
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