Russian troops take Ukrainian border guards hostage. The US has warned Moscow that any moves toannex Crimea would close the door to diplomacy. Obama called British, French and Italian leadersand hosted a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Pro-Ukrainian activists havebeen beaten up by pro-Russiangroups at a rally in Crimea’s cityof Sevastopol, the BBC reports.The activists were attacked withwhips, a BBC reporter at thescene says, describing the scenesas very ugly.Russian troops and alliedmilitias are now in de-facto controlof Ukraine’s autonomousregion ahead of a referendum,which Kiev says is illegal.The US has warned Moscowthat any moves to annex Crimea,an autonomous region, wouldclose the door to diplomacy. Theviolence erupted when pro-Russian groups attacked dozensof people guarding a rally tocommemorate the 200thanniversary of Ukrainian poetand national hero TarasShevchenko. Ukrainian PMArseniy Yatsenyuk pleaded not togive a “single centimetre” ofUkrainian land to Russia. Pro-Russian supporters hold a rally inthe eastern city of Donetsk; therehave been no reports of any violenceso far.On Friday, US Secretary ofState John Kerry told Russiancounterpart Sergei Lavrov thatCrimea was part of Ukraineand Moscow should avoid militaryescalation.President Barack Obamarounded up world leaders todemand Russia “de-escalate thesituation.” Obama called British,French and Italian leaders andhosted a conference call with thepresidents of Lithuania, Latviaand Estonia, the White Housesaid, according to CNN. “All ofthe leaders agreed on the need forRussia to pull its military forcesback to their bases, allow for thedeployment of internationalobservers and human rightsmonitors to the Crimean peninsula,and agree quickly on theformation of a contact group thatcould lead to direct dialoguebetween Ukraine and Russia tode-escalate the situation andrestore Ukraine’s sovereignty andterritorial integrity,” a WhiteHouse statement said.Russian forces have takencontrol of a Ukrainian borderguard post in western Crimea,trapping 30 personnel inside,The Guardian further reports.The latest move by the Russiansto tighten their grip on Crimeawas made without the firing ofguns – unlike on Saturday, whena Ukrainian border patrol planewas fired at, and European monitorstrying to enter Crimea wererepelled by “warning shots” frombalaclava-clad militias.The capture of theChernomorskoye border post –the 11th so far – unfolded withoutbloodshed before dawn.Amid signs that the tensestandoff of the past week is growingmore volatile, Russian troopsalso stormed a Crimean bordercontrol point at Schelkino, nearKerch, early Saturday, seizing thearmory and driving the officers’families from their living quarters,Ukraine’s border service said,quoted by CNN.Meanwhile, a light planebelonging to Ukraine’s StateBorder Protection Service was firedupon Saturday afternoon while flyingover the Crimean border fromArmyansk, the service said.Thousands anti-Maidandemonstrators rallying in theeastern Ukrainian city ofLugansk have blocked and occupiedthe regional administrationbuilding, hoisting a Russian flagon its top. The protesters aredemanding Mikhail Bolotskikh,the region’s head, picked bycoup-imposed Kiev government,to step down, rt.com reports.According to Itar-Tass, some3,000 people are taking part inthe Lugansk protests and about1,000 have broken inside thebuilding.
UKRAINE PM TO FLY TO U.S.TO DISCUSS CRIMEA CRISIS
Ukrainian interim PrimeMinister Arseniy Yatsenyuk willfly to the United States this weekto discuss the crisis in Crimea, aspokeswoman in his press officesaid Sunday. Yatsenyuk is expectedto arrive in the United Stateson Wednesday, she told CNN.She gave no further details.