I won't use force against Russia, admits Obama
Barack Obama said last night that the US would stand by its European allies in the face of Russian aggression, but ruled out using force to dislodge Moscow's troops from the Crimean peninsula.
But as the US president spoke, Russia demonstrated that it was not easing off its aggression as its forces attacked the minesweeper Cherkasy, the last unit still flying the Ukrainian flag in Crimea.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Obama said: "Every NATO ally has assurances that NATO will uphold article security protections. We have a strong NATO treaty, so if it happens to our allies, we will act together."
In comments apparently designed to mock Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea, he added that, "Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness.
"We have considerable influence on our neighbours. We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong co-operative relationship with them."
Mr Obama's comments came as the crisis in Crimea claimed its first political scalp yesterday.
The Ukrainian defence minister resigned over accusations of indecision in the face of the Russian invasion.
General Ihor Tenyukh tendered his resignation a day after more than 18,000 Ukrainian troops began their withdrawal from the Russian-occupied peninsula.
"Given that some may not like the actions I am taking ... I will not cling to my post," Mr Tenyukh told MPs.
The country's parliament, which initially rejected his resignation, later appointed Colonel General Myhaylo Kova, a former paratrooper and border troops commander, as his successor.
The government in Kiev has faced increasing criticism for failing to order Ukrainian forces to withdraw from what was obviously a hopeless situation. Oleksander Turchynov, the interim president of Ukraine, finally gave the order to pull out on Monday morning after Russian forces overran the marine base in Feodosia, the last major military asset still under Ukrainian control.
But soldiers, sailors and airmen in Crimea have said that they received next to no orders from Kiev since Russian forces began to seize key strategic points on February 27, leaving stranded forces to organise their own defence and later evacuation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)