Russia allegedly issues surrender ultimatum to Ukraine
Russia has allegedly given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until 03:00 GMT on Tuesday to surrender or face an all out assault.
Russia has, however, now denied this, saying it is “total nonsense”.
According to Ukrainian defence ministry officials, Russia has said: “If by 5am (local time) tomorrow morning they do not surrender a real assault will begin on units and sections of the Ukrainian armed forces all over Crimea.”
The deadline was set by the head of Russia’s Black Sea fleet Aleksander Vitko, who has threatened an attack “across Crimea” if the deadline is not met.
Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia gave Ukraine a similar ultimatum two days earlier – 5am on the 2nd March.
“They didn’t start storming the bases on 5am but the situation is still tense there,” he said.
Russia is now in de facto control of Crimea, which has a majority of Russian speakers and a largely pro-Russian regional government.
On Monday, a bill was introduced into the Duma, the Russian lower house, that would enable the annexation of Crimea to Russia, contingent on a referendum or at the request of its public authorities.
The authors of the bill argue that Russia has the right to unilaterally terminate the previously signed international agreements with Ukraine that granted it Crimea in 1954.
Western powers have condemned Moscow’s decision to send troops as a “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty”.
British foreign secretary William Hague has called the events in Ukraine the “biggest crisis” to face Europe in the 21st Century.
Speaking in Kiev Mr Hague suggested there would be “significant costs” to Russia if its troops did not withdraw, hinting at the revocation of its membership of the G8.
Putin has said Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and that Russia’s forces in Crimea are protecting human rights.
Mr Hague, who is taking part in talks with the Ukrainian government in Kiev, acknowledged that Russia had “legitimate” interests in Crimea but said its actions were unacceptable and required a “strong” response from the international community.
“The world cannot just allow this to happen. The world cannot just say it is OK, in effect, to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way.”
No shots have yet been fired, but Ukraine has ordered full mobilsation of its armed forces and reservists to counter the Russian intervention.
No 10 has ruled out military intervention, saying the “only avenue that is being pursued is a diplomatic and peaceful one”.