A UKRAINIAN MILITARY official has said that Russia had given its forces an ultimatum to surrender in Crimea or face an all-out assault on the strategic Black Sea peninsula that has been overrun by Kremlin-backed troops.
However, the Russian Black Sea fleet based in Crimea denied the plans, calling reports of an ultimatum “nonsense,” Interfax said.
“That is complete nonsense,” a representative of the fleet was quoted as saying.
“We are used to daily accusations about using force against our Ukrainian colleagues,” he said.
“Efforts to make us clash won’t work.”
“The ultimatum is to recognise the new Crimean authorities, lay down our weapons and leave, or be ready for an assault,” regional Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov told AFP in the Crimean capital Simferopol.
“It may be at 1:00 am, 2:00 am, 3:00 am (Tuesday). There are different times,” he said.
Ukraine has accused Russia of pouring more troops into Crimea as world leaders grappled with Europe’s worst standoff since the Cold War.
A pro-Russian soldier involved in blockading the Ukrainian naval base in the village of Novoozerne, some 91 km west of Crimean capital Simferopol. (Image Credit: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images)
Crimea, the strategic host to tsarist and Kremlin navies since the 18th century, has been under de facto occupation by Moscow-backed forces who have raised Russian flag over government buildings and blocked Ukrainians troops inside their barracks across the peninsula.
The new leaders in Kiev branded Russia’s actions a declaration of “war” and jittery global markets plunged on Monday over fears of a conflict while the price of oil surged.
The Moscow market alone at one stage lost 13 percent on a Black Monday of trading that saw the ruble hit historic lows.
World leaders were holding a series of urgent meetings and telephone conversations to try to avert a conflict and also to help Ukraine avert a possible catastrophic debt default.
Trader Michael Zicchinolfi, left, working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange this morning. (Image Credit: Richard Drew/AP/Press Association Images)
The UN Security Council also agreed to hold the latest in a series of emergency meetings on standoff at 2030 GMT at Russia’s request.
The European Union, seeking to overcome differences on how to respond to the escalating crisis on its eastern edge, warned Russia that its ties with the 28-member bloc were at risk without a “de-escalation”.
Hawkish ex-Soviet satellites are pushing hard for sanctions but others, including heavyweights France and Germany, called for soft diplomacy.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia of “consequences and costs” as he met Ukraine’s Western-backed but untested interim leaders in Kiev.
The world’s richest nations have already threatened to strip Moscow of its coveted seat at the Group of Eight for menacing its ex-Soviet neighbour.
But Europe and Washington appear to have limited options in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin — a veteran strongman with mass domestic appeal who has cracked down on political freedoms and appears more interested in rebuilding vestiges of the Soviet Union than repairing relations with the West.
Ukraine has soared to the top of the global agenda even as the brutal war in Syria rages and talks on Iran’s nuclear drive enter their most sensitive stage.
“Consequences and costs”
“This cannot be a way in the 21st century to conduct international affairs,” Hague told reporters. “It is not an acceptable way to behave and there will be consequences and costs.”
The crisis threatens to blow up into the biggest test to global diplomacy since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Early this morning: Russian troops and planes flow into Crimea as EU says sanctions are on the table >
‘Violation of sovereignty’: G7 leaders condemn Russian troop build-up >