Ukraine crisis: Russia vows troops will stay


- FM Sergei Lavrov said Russia was defending human rights. The rouble fell to a fresh all-time low against the US dollar. Two large Ukrainian military bases in Crimea are surrounded and key installations like airports are occupied. Thousands of Russian elite troops have arrived. Defector Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky was said to have entered the Ukrainian naval base to convince other Ukrainian officers to defect.

 

Russia has vowed its troops will remain in Ukraine to protect Russian interests and citizens until the political situation has been “normalised”. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was defending human rights against “ultra-nationalist threats”, the BBC reports.

Russia is now in de facto military control of the Crimea region, despite Western condemnation of a “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty”.

Ukraine has ordered full mobilisation to counter the military intervention.

Mr Lavrov said in Geneva on Monday that Russian troops were needed in Ukraine “until the normalisation of the political situation”.

Russia’s parliament authorised the use of troops on Saturday, in the wake of the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

Mr Lavrov said: “The victors intend to make use of the fruits of their victory to attack human rights and fundamental freedoms of minorities. He said the “violence of ultra-nationalists threatens the lives and the regional interests of Russians and the Russian speaking population”.

Mr Lavrov, who was due to meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva later on Monday, also condemned Western threats of sanctions and boycotts.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that any attempt to seize Crimea would fail.

The crisis has hit Russian stock markets, with Moscow’s main MICEX index dropping 9% in early trading. The rouble fell to a fresh all-time low against the US dollar and Russia’s central bank raised its key lending rate to 7% from 5.5%. World oil prices also surged.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Sevastopol says Crimea is now under de facto Russian armed control although no shots have been fired. Two large Ukrainian military bases are surrounded and key installations like airports are occupied.

Ten Ukrainian military and naval bases in Crimea are currently blocked by armed men, the newly appointed naval commander of Ukraine, Rear Admiral Serhei Gayduk, told a Ukrainian TV station by phone, according to CNN. His predecessor, Denis Berezovsky, who on Sunday said he would not submit to orders from Kiev and defected, was said to have entered the Ukrainian naval base in Crimea on Monday under the protection of a group of Cossacks and tried to convince other Ukrainian officers to defect.

Thousands of newly arrived Russian elite troops far outnumber Ukraine’s military presence, our correspondent says, with roadblocks cutting off Crimea, the BBC further reports.

Ukrainian border guards have reported a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian side of the sea channel dividing Russia and Crimea.

Pro-Russian troops have taken over the ferry terminal at Kerch in far-eastern Crimea that operates services to Russia.

Ukrainian navy commanders on Monday confirmed their loyalty to Kiev, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported, despite an attempt by pro-Russian personnel to enter the navy HQ in Simferopol and force them to switch allegiance.

In Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, some 2,000 people waving Russian flags gathered to protest at the appointment of new pro-Kiev governor, Serhiy Taruta.

Late on Sunday, the G7 of major industrialised powers condemned Moscow’s military build-up. In a statement released from the White House, the grouping said it condemned “the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is in Kiev, said the crisis in Ukraine was the biggest that Europe had faced this century. US Secretary of State John Kerry is to travel to Ukraine on Tuesday.

 

Vladimir Putin has lost the plot, says German chancellor

 

Vladimir Putin has lost the plot over Ukraine, according to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, theguardian.com reports. US reports said Merkel phoned Barack Obama on Sunday evening after speaking to the Russian president to press him to back down from his invasion of Ukraine and occupation of the Crimean peninsula. “She was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. ‘In another world,’ she said,” the New York Times reported.

Russia, China agree

 

Russia’s foreign ministry says Russia and China have coinciding views on the situation in Ukraine, the Voice of America reports. Russian FM Lavrov spoke to his Chinese counterpart phone on Monday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China wants to see a political solution to the situation.

“We understand the historical background of the Ukraine issue, and the complexity of the current reality. As I have said yesterday, to get to this point today, things happened for a reason. We hope that all parties can, through dialogue and… consultation, find a political solution, prevent further escalation and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the region,” said Qin

 

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