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Surrender by 3am or we attack: Russian naval commander issues deadline for Ukrainian troops in Crimea
- Ultimatum was reported by Interfax, a Russian news agency
- Ukraine admits pro-Russian troops have seized Crimean military bases
- Unidentified armed men seized ferry terminal in Kerch, close to Russia
- It is feared the terminal could be used to bring in more troops
- William Hague warned Russia of 'consequences and costs' today
- Russia is believed to have 6,000 troops in the region, claims U.S.
- Ukrainian acting PM says his nation will 'never' give up Crimea
- Russian authorities block access to Ukraine protest pages on social media
PUBLISHED: 05:16 EST, 2 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:52 EST, 3 March 2014
Ukrainian forces in Crimea have until 3am to surrender or face attack from the Russian fleet, it has been reported.
The ultimatum came from the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet Alexander Vitko, which has a base in Crimea where Russian forces are now in control, according to the Interfax news agency.
According to the agency, it reads: 'If they do not surrender before 5am (3am GMT) tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea.'
It comes as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke about the situation in Ukraine with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden by telephone today.
Interfax reports that Medvedev 'declared that it is necessary to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including residents of Crimea, and citizens of Russia who are located in Ukraine.'
A pro-Russian soldier stands by a billboard with a map of Crimea and bearing the words 'Autonomous Republic of Crimea' in the port of Kerch, Ukraine
Hundreds of unidentified gunmen arrived at a Crimean base in a 13-strong convoy of Russian vehicles
Carrying on as normal: A woman walks past the unidentified gunmen surrounding the base in Privolnoye
Surrounded: Unidentified armed men prepare their camp in front of Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye
Troops with no insignia surround Crimea military base
Ukraine's military admitted Monday that pro-Russian troops have surrounded or taken over 'practically all' its military facilities in Crimea - a move that Russia's foreign minister defended as a necessary protection for the ethnic Russians on the Black Sea peninsula.
'This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life,' Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Geneva, where he was attending U.N. meetings.
There have been no reports, however, of any hostilities toward Russian-speaking in Ukraine during the country's four months of political upheaval.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement saying that Moscow believes Ukraine must honor its February 21 agreement to form a new national unity government.
A Ukrainian Air Force military aircraft flies above a Ukrainian navy base which was blocked by soldiers believed to be from Russia, in Novoozerniy village near of Feodosia, Crimea, today
Earlier today pro-Russian troops took over a ferry terminal on the easternmost tip of Crimea close to Russia today, exacerbating fears that Moscow is planning to bring even more troops into this strategic Black Sea region.
The seizure of the terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch about 12 miles by boat to Russia, comes as the West try to figure out ways to halt and reverse the Russian incursion.
Early on Monday, soldiers were operating the terminal, which serves as a common departure point for many Russian-bound ships.
The men refused to identify themselves, but they spoke Russian and the vehicles transporting them had Russian license plates. Today, Ukraine called for 'real steps' of assistance to be taken by world leaders.
An armed man stands outside the cabinet of ministers building in Simferopol today. Russia has started a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian side of a narrow stretch of water between Russia and the Ukrainian region of Crimea
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.
Hundreds of unidentified gunmen who arrived in a 13-strong convoy of Russian vehicles surrounded a Crimean infantry base yesterday as Ukraine and Russia inched closer towards all-out war.
Meanwhile Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, said today his country would never give up Crimea.
Russian forces have taken control of the Black Sea peninsula, which is part of Ukraine, but Yatseniuk told reporters: 'No one will give up Crimea to anyone.'
'Any attempt of Russia to grab Crime will have no success at all. Give us some time,' he said at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Wiliam Hague, who is visiting Kiev.
An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, in the village of Perevalnoye
Similarity? A heavily-armed soldier displaying no identifying insignia maintains watch in a street in Simferopol. Right, a Russian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint during the 2008 war with Georgia
He called on the West for political and economic support and said Crimea remained part of his country - but conceded there were 'for today, no military options on the table'.
In a series of tense photographs, outnumbered troops could be seen on the inside of the military unit in the village of Perevalne, outside Simferopol, guarding the entrance with a tank.
The scenes come as Russian forces moved deeper into Crimea and amassed on the Ukrainian border, while Ukrainian leaders mobilised all its forces and placed them in a state of combat-readiness.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russian troops that have streamed into Ukraine are protecting his country's citizens living there.
Lavrov said on Monday that it's necessary to use Russian troops in Ukraine 'until the normalisation of the political situation'.
Yesterday NATO warned Russia military action against Ukraine was against international law and expressed grave concern over the Russian parliament's authorisation of the use of force.
Yatseniuk earlier said 'we are on the brink of disaster' while the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin were said to amount to a declaration of war.
'This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,' he added.
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said: 'Any attempt to attack military installations is in fact direct military aggression against our country and the Russian military and the Russian leadership will be held responsible.'
Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol today
Russia claims its troops have not 'deployed abroad'
Soldiers who were among several hundred that took up positions around a Ukrainian military base walk towards their parked vehicles on Sunday
Ominous advance: A convoy of Russian troops pictured moving towards the Crimean regional capital of Sinferopol on Sunday morning
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at the territory as unidentified troops gather outside
Kiev called for 'solidarity' from foreign countries and highlighted a 1994 treaty where the U.S. and Britain guaranteed Ukrainian borders.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia today of 'consequences and costs'
but could not give any details of what that might mean in practice.
'It is not an acceptable way to behave and there will be consequences and costs,' Hague said in Kiev, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin got the green light to send Russian troops to Ukraine from parliament.
Yesterday, Ukraine's newly appointed Navy chief defected and pledged his allegiance to the Crimean region.
Britain announced its ministers and officials will boycott the Paralympic games in Sochi, Russia.
President Vladimir Putin defended Russia's action against 'ultranationalist forces' - and told U.S. President Barack Obama he reserved the right to take any further military action.
Russia's internet monitoring agency has blocked 13 web pages linked to the Ukraine protest movement which helped oust the country's Russia-leaning president last week.
Roskomnadzor said in a statement published online 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 'propagandised 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 today.
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.
STAND-OFF ON FRONTLINE AS RUTHLESS PUTIN TURNS SCREW
FROM IAN BIRRELL IN PEREVALNE, CRIMEA
In front of me, three young Ukrainian soldiers peered out nervously through the bars of the gate at their army depot. Just a few yards away behind me, a dozen men from Russia’s special forces swaggered around with automatic weapons.
For last night at least, this windblown military base in the middle of the Crimea was the strange frontline of the new Cold War that is so alarming the world.
The troops of two neighbouring nations were in a tense stand-off – a symbol of the increasing hostility between Ukraine and Russia. In the latest astonishing Russian provocation, a convoy including at least 13 troop vehicles, each containing 30 soldiers and bearing Russian licence plates, turned up at the Perevalne base. They were supported by four armed vehicles with mounted machine guns.
On the brink: The situation at the base in Privolnoye remained very tense on Sunday
The Ukrainians positioned a tank at the gate in response. ‘We don’t know anything,’ one soldier told me, as he smoked cigarettes and joked with two young colleagues.
The Russian soldiers also refused to comment. I tried to speak to them, but they just stared back in silence. Local supporters of Russia turned up during the day to show their backing for the latest incursion. By last night, some had set up a tented camp and lit a brazier.
Several told me it was a peace camp – although they added that they would fight ‘the bandit government’ in Kiev. One army veteran who spent time inside the camp – just 20 minutes from the regional capital Simferopol – claimed there had been no contact from the defence ministry, leaving the solders unsure how to respond. ‘These young men have been betrayed,’ he said. Ukrainian marines were also reported to be barricaded into their base in Feodosia, where their commander Dmytro Delyatytski said he had rejected Russian demands to give up their weapons.
‘We are preparing our defences,’ he said. ‘We have orders.’
Once again, these were belligerent moves from Moscow played out deliberately in front of the world’s media. On previous days, armed Russian soldiers have strutted around airports and surrounded key government buildings. The Russian flag flies over the regional parliament – and most people on the streets seem to support Moscow over those they call ‘fascists’ in Kiev. ‘We think the people who have come to power in Kiev did so illegally,’ said Yuri, 48, a manager in higher education. And this is the growing concern.
The soldiers that took up position around the Ukrainian infantry base appeared to be relaxed, but were very heavily armed and wore full body armour
The majority of people in Crimea are ethnic Russians – the peninsula was only given to Ukraine 60 years ago – so there has been little opposition to the Russian-backed rush for independence except among minority Tatars. But the rest of the country is linguistically and politically divided – and now experts fear the cracks opening up in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine. Bloggers over the border even talk about a ‘Russian Spring’.
There were large pro-Russian rallies in at least six major eastern cities at the weekend. In Kharkiv, the country’s second biggest city, 111 people were reported injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Russian supporters on Saturday, with counter-protests yesterday.
The pro-Russian mayor alleged that a far-right group threw explosives into public transport, opened fire on protesters and left behind 120 bombs. Moscow propaganda makes great play of ‘fascist’ groups involved in the Kiev protests.
Politicians in Kiev fear Russia is deliberately stoking the trouble; one well-placed source claimed Moscow bussed in paid activists and military personnel from over the border disguised as tourists.
There is growing fear that these protests could be used to justify military action. Russia has 150,000 troops on exercises just over the border – and President Vladimir Putin was given parliamentary approval on Saturday to use them anywhere in Ukraine to defend Russian people or interests.
‘Putin wants to see civil war but it is not going to happen,’ said Oleh Rybachuk, former deputy prime minister. ‘Some people may fall for their games and propaganda – but far from the majority. His tactics are going to fail.’
Others are less optimistic. ‘This is going to end in bloodshed and civil war,’ said one Russian journalist in Ukraine yesterday.
On Sunday morning Russian troops in 12 vehicles moved across Crimea from Sevastopol - their Black Sea base - to regional capital Simferopol, in a significant and ominous advance.
Hundreds of unidentified gunmen arrived in a convoy outside Ukraine's infantry base in Privolnoye in its Crimea region.
The convoy included at least 13 troop vehicles each containing 30 soldiers and four armoured vehicles with mounted machine guns.
The vehicles - which have Russian licence plates - have surrounded the base and are blocking Ukrainian soldiers from entering or leaving it.
A woman sweeps away broken glass as two unidentified armed men guard the entrance to the local government building in downtown Simferopol, Ukraine, on Sunday
Ukrainian soldiers, with clips in their weapons, positioned a tank at the gate.
Russian forces are seeking to disarm Ukrainian military facilities on the peninsula without a fight.
They have taken weapons from a radar base and naval training facility in Ukraine's Crimea region and urged personnel to side with the peninsula's 'legitimate' leaders, Interfax news agency said on Sunday.
It quoted a Ukrainian Defence Ministry source as saying the Russian servicemen had taken pistols, rifles and ammunition cartridges from the radar post near in the town of Sudak and taken them away by car.
Heavily-armed troops displaying no identifying insignia and who were mingling with local pro-Russian militants stand guard outside a local government building on Sunday in Simferopol, as reports emerged on Russian troops massing on Ukraine's borders
Plea: The new government of Ukraine has appealed to the United Nations Security Council for help against growing Russian intervention in Crimea
Another group of Russian military had also removed weapons from a Ukrainian navy training centre in Sevastopol.
Many soldiers have simply switched to the Russian side, it has been claimed.
'Ukrainian servicemen are tendering their resignations and coming over to the side of the new Crimean authorities en masse,' reported Interfax today, though Ukrainian officials denied this.
Russian troops are also massing close to the Ukrainian borders across a wide area. For example, heavily armoured forces from Samara are heading for the border with the Kharkiv region.
The same is seen at the border with Chernigov, which is only 120 miles from Kiev.
A huge deployment of armoured vehicles and troops are in the Russian port of Novorossiysk from where they could be speedily shipped to Crimea.
Military personnel stand next to an armoured personnel carrier in the Crimean port city of Feodosiya on Sunday
Ukraine mobilised on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War
PREPARING THEIR TROOPS
Crimea is now effectively controlled by Russia directly or with the help of so-called self defence units - which in reality include Russian troops and GRU intelligence personnel.
The new government in Kiev has been powerless to react. However, the Defence Ministry was ordered to conduct a call-up of reserves - theoretically all men up to 40 years old.
However, Ukraine would struggle to find extra guns or uniforms for significant numbers of them.
Ukraine's reserves are thought to number around one million and with the regular army at about 135,000.
Russia can call upon 845,000 professional soldiers and two million reservists.
Russian sources are also complaining of 'provocations' in both Ukraine and Russia by 'unknown armed men' - doubtless these are a useful pretext for Russian action.
Ukraine has put its armed forces on full combat alert.
There has been no sign of ethnic Russians facing attacks in Crimea, where they make up about 60 per cent of the population, or elsewhere in Ukraine.
The action was one of many dramatic developments from the region yesterday.
After an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the alliance called on Russia to bring its forces back to bases and refrain from interfering in Ukraine.
'We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful solution through bilateral dialogue, with international facilitation ... and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,' NATO said in a statement.
Ukraine is not a NATO member, meaning the U.S. and Europe are not obligated to come to its defense, but the country has taken part in some alliance exercises.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke Sunday before going into a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's political decision-making body.
‘What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and threats,’ he said.
Armed men stand guard at the local government headquarters in Simferopol, Crimea
Ukrainian navy crew members stand on deck of the Ukrainian Navy's corvette Ternopil in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea
A man holds a sign depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as World War II German dictator Adolf Hitler with text reading 'Putler you're finished' during a demonstration in Kiev
Residents attend a rally in Kiev's Independence Square while tensions continue to rise in the country
The world's leaders continue to express 'grave concern' about the developing situation - hailed as the most 'serious crisis' since the Cold War'.
The United States brandished the threat of economic sanctions on Russia on Sunday, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling Moscow's moves on Ukraine an 'incredible act of aggression.'
Kerry was scathing in his condemnation and said the United States has 'all options on the table' including a military response. The White House said Obama would speak to Allies today their response.
Protests continue in Ukraine, Poland and Russia today - with a demonstration entitled 'Ukraine and Crimea are together' taking place in Independence Square, Kiev this afternoon.
Russian police arrested more than 300 of the estimated 1,500 people who took part in a protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Some 20,000 Putin supporters gathered on the streets of the capital to back use of force in Ukraine.
Developments in the Ukraine have alarmed the world's diplomatic leaders, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to call the Kremlin and urge Putin to back down.
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against sending Russian troops to Crimea in St Petersburg, Russia
People hold banners as they march in a pro-government demonstration in Moscow, Russia
More demonstrators with flags at the protest in Moscow today
People mourn at a make-shift memorial for those killed in recent violence at Independence Square in Kiev
Standing firm against Russia: Ukraine's Acting President Oleksander Turchinov (left), Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (right) and Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh pictured addressing journalists in Kiev on Saturday
On the move: A huge convoy of Russian soldiers was seen heading towards Crimea's regional capital
Pro-Russian militants station themselves behind a row of shields near a local government building and a statue of Lenin on Sunday in Simferopol, Ukraine
Pro-Russian militants in Crimea, where ethnic Russians make up about 60 per cent of the population
HOW THE WEST CAN ONLY WATCH RUSSIA FLEX ITS MILITARY MIGHT
With Western powers increasingly concluding Ukraine has lost Crimea to Russia, the U.S. and its allies face few viable options and serious questions over future relations.
In ignoring President Barack Obama's Friday warning to keep out of Ukraine, Russia looks to be precipitating the greatest crisis in Russia-Western relations since at least the fall of the Berlin Wall.
How events play out in the next few days could help shape the geopolitical map for years to come.
Any Western direct military action would risk a war between nuclear superpowers. Ukraine's relatively small and underequipped forces could take action but would risk inciting a much wider Russian invasion that could overrun the country.
Obama in particular faces some domestic calls to support Ukraine, although appetite for military involvement appears almost entirely absent. On Saturday, the Pentagon said there had been no change to its military deployments.
‘For the West, it's a very difficult position,’ said Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security at the US Naval War College. ‘Obama effectively set down the US red lines,’ he said. 'Putin has gone right through them.’
Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Ukraine's interim leaders as the crisis in the former Soviet country escalates ever closer to war.
Hague said before his departure that he was extremely concerned by the escalation. He said Ukrainian officials have told him by telephone that they won't respond to Russian provocations and he advised them to 'continue with that course.'
He previously said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine had been ‘violated’ and called for Moscow to speak directly to the nation's new leaders.
Britain has pulled out of preparatory talks due to be held in the coming days for the G8 summit in Sochi over Russia's decision to take military action in Ukraine.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has also said it would be wrong for British ministers to attend the Paralympics in Sochi because of the serious situation in Ukraine.
'Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, William Hague and I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics,' Cameron said on Twitter.
Prince Edward, patron of the British Paralympic Association, has also cancelled his planned trip to Russia.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was essential to prevent Russia's seizure of Crimea expanding into a wider regional conflict.
'We should be able to stop Russia in its aggressive moves precisely in order to avoid a conflict,' Tusk told reporters on Sunday after an extraordinary meeting with party leaders.
But he said doing nothing was also not an option.
'History shows - although I don't want to use too many historical comparisons - that those who appease all the time in order to preserve peace usually only buy a little bit of time.'
Poland shares a border with Ukraine and large parts of the western part of the country were Polish before World War Two.
Defiant: Putin said that Russia retains the right to protect its interests in Ukraine
Police detain a protester demonstrating against the Russian military's actions in Crimea and developments in Russian-Ukrainian relations during an unsanctioned rally in St.Petersburg, Russia on Sunday
Anger: Saint-Petersburg citizens protested against Russian aggression in Crimea
Crackdown: One of the protestors is carried away by police officers
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia's ‘incredible act of aggression’ in Ukraine and threatened ‘very serious repercussions’ from the United States and other countries including sanctions to isolate Russia economically.
‘You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pre-text,’ Kerry told the CBS programme Face the Nation.
Kerry, however, added that Russia still has ‘a right set of choices’ that can be made to defuse the crisis.
Kerry is considering a stop in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, during his trip this coming week to Paris and Rome for discussions on Lebanon and Syria, reports suggested on Sunday.
People applaud as the European Union flag held by a protester arrives at the Independence square during a rally in Kiev on Sunday
A United Nations Security Council meeting on Saturday, which was convened in light of the crisis in Ukraine
An anti-Yanukovych protester sets a European Union flag on top of a tent in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest
Hotline: Obama had a 90 minute phone call with Putin to discuss the situation this morning
Local TV films Russian plates on military convoy in Crimea
Labour leader Ed Miliband said ‘all economic and diplomatic’ options should be looked at but not military force.
Asked about the possibility of UN troops being deployed, he told Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: ‘I don’t think anyone’s talking about that and I don’t think they should be.’
Mr Miliband said a ‘clear and uncompromising message’ must be sent to Moscow.
‘There isn’t a simple answer to this situation but I think that swiftness of response is very important by the international community, showing how we regard Russia’s actions is very, very important and looking at all economic and diplomatic measures to convey a sense of what the international community thinks about what is happening in Ukraine and its wish to see the protection of the sovereignty of Ukraine.’
Former Liberal Democrat leader and special forces veteran Paddy Ashdown warned tense times were ahead.
‘We are one pace away from catastrophe at the moment - it would require one foolish act, a trigger happy Russian soldier, a Ukrainian guard who acts aggressively at one of these institutions taken over by Russian supporters, a foolish act now could tip us over the edge,’ he told the Sky News Murnaghan programme.
A group of armed unidentified gunmen cut electric power to the General Headquarters of the Ukrainian Naval forces in Sevastopol on Sunday
Unidentified masked individuals hold a Russian flag as they block Trade Union building in Simferopol on Saturday
‘The good news is it is still possible Russia’s aims are limited - I think increasingly unlikely but still possible. They have legitimate rights under international treaty to the port of Sevastopol for the Black Sea Fleet. They may be posturing, over-reacting or at least using muscle to preserve that right.
‘We still have to test out what are Russia’s aims. If the evidence before us is to be believed then it looks to me they are going further than limited aims, they have already made a power grab in Crimea and are now preparing to make another.
‘The one thing which is absolutely essential now is that the West speaks with a single voice... only in the face of that can we exercise diplomatic leverage.
‘Putin has used force, he knows that’s going further than any of us are prepared to go, he is calling our bluff. The only response is diplomacy.’
Lord Ashdown said German chancellor Angela Merkel should go to Moscow for talks, saying she would be ‘the most important international visitor’.
‘Only if you take those high level moves could we restrain Russia from an act which would be clearly illegal and create a circumstance which we could begin to pull back from this,’ he said.
‘Absent that, the smallest tremor, the smallest act now could take us over the edge.
‘President Putin has taken the view if he uses the military card we will not out trump him. And he’s right, we will not respond in the military fashion... I’m not privy to all the information here but one has to presume that.
‘The only option left is the diplomatic option.’
US warns Russia: Stay out of the Ukraine
Masked individuals outside Trade Union building on Sunday, pictured as tension over the crisis mounts considerably
Pro-Russian protesters storm administration building in Ukraine
UKRAINE'S FURY OVER 'RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION' WHICH THREATENS NEW REGIME
The developments in the Crimea in recent days are the latest stage of the tug-of-war over Ukraine's future.
Since president Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of Kiev last week an interim leader has taken over and formed a new government after weeks of bloody protests.
But the new regime has already run into difficulty due to the unrest in Crimea, where most people are ethnically Russian.
After the armed men stormed the parliament, a new pro-Russian prime minister for the Crimean region was elected.
Sergei Aksenov has called on Russian president Vladimir Putin for help keeping the peace.
The development marks a sharp divide between the Crimean region and the rest of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, troops thought to be under Russian control have seized airports and border points.
Some fear it could be the beginnings of an attempt to annex the region, which was once part of the Soviet Union.
The new Ukrainian government has characterised the moves as an 'armed invasion' which violates international agreements.
Speaking on the same programme, former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said: ‘There is no doubt this is probably the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War. Here we have in our own European back country, military troops of Russia going across the international border into another country.
‘That is desperately serious, that has not happened for a very many years - even at the height of the Bosnian conflict, Milosevic was terribly involved in that, never sent his own troops into Bosnia to directly interfere.
‘This needs to be a defining moment and Putin needs to understand this... in the West’s relationship with Russia. This is of particular importance to Ukrainians but there are very serious implications for the whole of Europe.
‘We’re not going to go to war with Russia, we are not going to send our troops into this, that must be right. But diplomacy sounds as if it just means talking and talking with a man like Putin is no doubt desirable, it has to happen, but by itself it will not carry much weight.
‘He is looking to see whether he can get away cost free with this kind of behaviour. So I think it will have to be made clear unless he takes the right action in the next couple of days... that what he is risking is Russia’s whole relationship with the West that has built up since 1990.
‘There are a whole range of ways, beyond just diplomacy, beyond just talking, whereby Russia can be made to realise if it takes this extraordinarily dangerous step of believing it can send its troops into another European country because it is displeased with what is happening, there is a very serious price to pay.’
Shootout takes place near Crimean government building
DRAMATIC CCTV EMERGES OF HEAVILY-ARMED MEN STORMING CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING
The images show the dramatic moment armed men stormed a Ukrainian government building amid soaring tensions in the country's Crimea region.
Masked soldiers, said to be under Russian instruction, gather outside the door before forcing their way in to the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol.
Stormed: The armed men gather outside the regional parliament building in Simferopol before battering down the door
Smoke canisters can be seen exploding inside the building as the men, holding silenced machine guns, usher out security personal in what appears to be an early-morning raid.
The footage, dated from Thursday, emerges today after armed men seized airports and set up road blocks around the vital city amid soaring tensions between the new Ukrainian authorities and Russia.
'These are separate groups ... [are] commanded by the Kremlin,' Mr Parubiy, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, told a news briefing in Kiev.
Smoke attack: The armed men threw canisters in before entering the parliament
Charge in: The armed men burst into the building in the footage, which emerged today