Russia warns 'surrender today or we will attack'
Ukrainian forces in Crimea given ultimatums to disarm
Published 04/03/2014 | 02:30
RUSSIA has issued a series of ultimatums for Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender and disarm by today or risk coming under attack, the new government in Kiev said last night.
As Russian fighters buzzed Ukraine's borders yesterday, the Kremlin defied international pressure to back off and instead turned the screw on its neighbour.
In Washington President Obama accused President Vladimir Putin of being on the wrong side of history.
Mr Putin visited military units deployed near Russia's frontier with Ukraine, where they are conducting "exercises", the defence ministry in Kiev said the country had been on the receiving end of a series of hostile acts, including incursions by Russian jets flying along its northern border with Belarus.
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels condemned Russia's "act of aggression" in occupying Crimea and said that sanctions would be "considered" unless Russia took "de-escalating steps".
All European heads of government will meet for an emergency summit on the Ukraine crisis on Thursday.
Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland this morning, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland Sergi Reva said Europe must use sanctions, political boycott and economic measures to prevent the crisis.
He warned "if the danger of war is unleashed...all of Europe will suffer".
"European states should take a quite clear stance against these aggressive reactions of Russia."
He added that because Ukrainian soldiers have not reacted to Russian aggressions, "[Russian] aggressions are totally groundless".
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the new Ukrainian prime minister, said his country would never accept Russia's seizure of Crimea, although he conceded that his government had no military means of resisting. "I would like to indicate Crimea is territory of Ukraine despite the presence of Russia military," he said.
"Any attempt by the Russian military to grab Crimea will have no success at all."
The lack of options open to Ukraine's leadership was underlined by announcements from the defence ministry.
Vladyslav Seleznyov, the head of the defence media centre in Crimea, said the Russian commander of the Black Sea fleet had visited two Ukrainian navy vessels to demand their surrender.
"I spoke to the officers of the Ukrainian fleet – Vice-Admiral of Russian fleet, Alexander Vitko, gave them the ultimatum," said Mr Seleznyov.
"He demands either to surrender all the weapons or to take Russia's side in the conflict. Otherwise they are threatening to attack."
Another Ukrainian spokes- man said that two of his country's warships, already blockaded in Sevastopol harbour, had been told to surrender by today.
A similar message was said to have been delivered to a coastal defence base.
There are growing international fears that President Vladimir Putin is preparing to launch an all-out invasion of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, is expected to travel to Kiev today in a show of support for the embattled Ukrainian leadership.
President Obama said: "I think the world is largely united in recognising the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, a violation of international law."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)