Great Bear Shows Teeth, EU Ready to Sanction as Ukraine Prepares to Retreat
“Crimea had “always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia” – Vladimir Putin
UKRAINE RETREATS AS CRIMEA INVADED BY RUSSIA
Andriy Parubiy said they wanted to move them “quickly and efficiently” to mainland Ukraine.
Earlier, pro-Russian forces seized two naval bases – including Ukraine navy’s HQ – in Crimea. Kiev says its navy chief has been detained.
It comes a day after Crimean leaders signed a treaty with Moscow absorbing the peninsula into Russia.
A referendum in Crimea on Sunday, approving its split from Ukraine, came nearly a month after Kiev’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was replaced by Western-leaning interim authorities.
Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the crisis in Crimea “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War”.
There were charged exchanges in a session of the UN Security Council, during which US envoy Samantha Power said her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin “showed more imagination than Tolstoy or Chekhov”.
“Russia it seems has re-written its borders but it cannot rewrite the facts,” said Ms Power, who was then accused by Mr Churkin of dropping “to the level of the tabloid press”.
Mr Parubiy, in a news conference, set out more details on Kiev’s position in light of the events in Crimea.
He said arrangements were now being set up to introduce visas for Russian nationals travelling to Ukraine.
And he said Kiev was seeking UN support to “proclaim Crimea a demilitarised zone”, which would involve the withdrawal of Russian troops and the “relocation of Ukrainian troops to continental Ukraine as well as facilitate evacuation of all the civilian population who are unwilling to remain on the occupied territory”.
Ukraine is also leaving the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) alliance, and is preparing for military exercises with the US and the UK, Mr Parubiy added.
With reference to plans to withdraw troops and their families, Ukraine’s interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya told the BBC that they would not be forced to leave if they did not want to.
But he said: “The situation is unpredictable and uncontrolled sometimes, so that’s why there is a danger also for the civilians”.
Meanwhile, a deadline of 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) set by Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov for the release of navy chief Serhiy Hayduk has passed.
Shortly afterwards, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called on the Crimean authorities to release him.
A defence ministry statement said Commander Hayduk had been obliged to carry out orders in accordance with Ukrainian military regulations.
Mr Turchynov earlier said that unless Serhiy Hayduk and “all the other hostages – both military and civilian ones – were released, the authorities would carry out an
Kiev said Mr Hayduk was detained soon after Ukraine’s naval headquarters was stormed by some 200 pro-Russian activists, some armed, in Sevastopol – the port city which is also home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
They were filmed going through offices, removing Ukrainian insignia and replacing Ukraine’s flag with the Russian tricolour.
There were cheers from the crowd when Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander Aleksandr Vitko arrived and entered the building.
Ukraine’s navy base in Novo-Ozyorne in west Crimea was also infiltrated after a tractor was used to ram the front gates. Some 50 Ukrainian servicemen were seen filing out of the base.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema reportedly tried to enter Crimea to defuse tensions but were prevented from doing so.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia’s constitutional court approved the treaty absorbing Crimea into the Russian Federation. The treaty now only needs ratifying by parliament which correspondents say it is certain to do.
In an emotionally charged speech on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said Crimea had “always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia”.
Meanwhile, shocking footage has emerged of MPs from Ukraine’s far-right Svoboda party roughing up Oleksandr Panteleymonov, the acting chief executive of the state broadcaster, over his decision to broadcast the treaty ceremony in the Kremlin.
The crisis in Crimea is expected to dominate a meeting of European Union leaders who meet in Brussels on Thursday.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the EU must send “a very clear warning” to Russia, raising the possibility of further sanctions against Moscow. He also said the G8 group should discuss whether to expel Russia “if further steps are taken”.
Moscow said any expansion of sanctions was “unacceptable and will not remain without consequences”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is heading to the region. He will meet Mr Putin in Moscow on Thursday and Ukraine’s interim leaders in Kiev on Friday.
Pro-Russian forces effectively took over Crimea – with its predominantly ethnic Russian population – after Mr Yanukovych fled Ukraine on 22 February following protests in which more than 80 people were killed.
THIS JUST IN
A draft list of individuals expected to be targeted for sanctions by the EU at the two-day summit beginning today has been drawn-up:
European Union leaders are expected to add up to 12 names to a sanctions blacklist targeting Vladimir Putin’s cronies, including the television presenter who warned that Russia could turn the US “into radioactive ashes”.
The Telegraph understands that Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of Rossia Segodnya, or Russia Today, a state funded news organisation that is close to the Russian President, is on the draft list that will be debated by EU ambassadors this evening.
Mr Kiselyov, who is often described as the “Kremlin’s chief propagandist”, was catapulted to international notoriety last week when he boasted that “Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the US into radioactive ash”.
He is expected to be sanctioned as a state official rather than a journalist, according to diplomatic sources speaking in Brussels on Friday, but his name could be removed during talks tonight amid concerns that it will hand Russia a propagnada coup.
Also on the EU blacklist of individuals to be hit by travel bans and asset freezes are five people including Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, aides in President Putin’s inner circle and politicians who are allies of the president.
Mr Rogozin has mocked Western sanctions as the action of “pranksters” targeting people who do not regularly travel to or have bank accounts in the West.
The inclusion of Mr Rogozin’s name has run into opposition from Italy and Spain, who are concerned it will lead to retaliatory measures from Russia.
The names also include Vladislav Surkov, a close aide to Mr Putin, who has mocked sanctions, saying he will “lose nothing.”
Sergey Glazyev, an adviser to Mr Putin, Valentina Matviyenko, the head of the Russian Federation Council and Yelena Mizulina, a Russian MP, are also expected to be on the new EU list.
After European leaders meet on Thursday night, the EU sanctions lists is expected to have grown to 33 names. They are not expected to include businessmen and oligarchs because the EU’s legal base for sanctions is “too narrow”.
The EU has so far restricted sanctions to “natural persons responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, and of natural persons associated with them”.