Ukraine's acting president has warned against "separatism" in the Russian-speaking Crimea as the country's post-revolutionary leaders missed their first deadline for forming a government.
Oleksander Turchynov, acting head of state, summoned defence and interior ministry officials, and the intelligence agencies, to discuss the situation in Crimea where crowds have demonstrated against the revolution in Kiev.
Later, he said the meeting had "discussed the question of not allowing any signs of separatism and threats to Ukraine's territorial integrity – meaning the events which have taken place in Crimea – and punishing people guilty of this", according to a statement.
The overthrow of a pro-Russian regime in Kiev has drawn the bitter condemnation of Moscow and the Russian-speaking regions of southern and eastern Ukraine. But, so far, the demonstrations against the revolution have been relatively modest, suggesting there is no imminent danger of Ukraine breaking up.
Meanwhile, Russia has also tried to lower the temperature. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov "confirmed" Moscow's "policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine" yesterday.
"We are using our contacts with the various political forces at play in Ukraine in order to calm the situation down," he said. He added that it was "dangerous and counter-productive to try to force upon Ukraine a choice on the principle of 'you are either with us or against us'." He said: "We want Ukraine to be part of the European family in every sense of the word."
His words contrasted sharply with those of Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's prime minister, who denounced the revolution as a "mutiny" on Monday and said Ukraine's leaders would have no legitimacy in the Kremlin's eyes.
The new conciliatory tone suggested that Russia will refrain from any overt intervention in Ukraine. Instead, Moscow will use its immense economic and diplomatic leverage, along with its ties to much of the country's elite, to preserve its influence in the country.
The EU also tried to lower the temperature. During a visit to Kiev, Baroness Ashton, high representative for foreign affairs, said the aim was to "offer support, not interference". Western envoys are trying to establish how much economic aid the country needs. The previous regime relied on a $15bn (about €11bn) loan from Russia, which has now been cut off. Ukraine must have as much as $35bn of outside aid this year, according to Yuriy Kolobov, the acting finance minister.
That lends an extra urgency to the creation of an interim government, pending new elections due on May 25. Parliament has appointed acting leaders of the key ministries of interior, finance and foreign affairs. But there is still no cabinet or prime minister.
A tentative deadline of yesterday for parliament to approve these appointments was missed. MPs predict that negotiating a new coalition between the parties which opposed the old regime will take the rest of this week.
Parliament has decided to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Viktor Yanukovych, the fallen president, for allegedly ordering the shooting of demonstrators in Kiev.
British investigators have been seen in Independence Square, where about 70 demonstrators were shot dead, apparently trying to establish the location of snipers. Some form of retribution may already have overtaken Andriy Klyuyev, former chief of staff, who was reportedly shot and wounded as he left Crimea on Monday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)