Ukraine: Fugitive President calls for Russian troops in Crimea (updated)

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Russia issued an ultimatum Monday, demanding that the crew of two Ukrainian warships in Crimea immediately surrender or be stormed and seized. The move has escalated tensions surrounding Ukraine, a country already destabilized following anti-government protests and the fleeing of its president, Viktor Yanukovych. President Barack Obama said that Russia is "on the wrong side of history," and the United States and its allies were considering sanctions.

UpdateS

7:05 p.m.: President Yanukovych asks for Russian troops in Crimea region

Ukraine's fugitive president requested Russian soldiers in the strategic Crimea region "to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order," Russia's U.N. ambassador said Monday, contradicting the president's own comments last week, while Ukraine's ambassador said 16,000 troops are now deployed there.

The disclosure of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's support for Russian military intervention was made at the third emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council since Friday. It came amid fears that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine.

Russia faced demands from almost all council members to pull its troops out of Crimea and got no support for its military action from close ally China.

"With the exception of one member of the Security Council — the Russian Federation — we have heard overwhelming support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for peaceful dialogue," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said.

Action by the U.N.'s most powerful body appears unlikely, though Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, "We certainly do not rule out presenting resolutions in the Security Council in the next few days." Russia has veto power as a permanent member and can block the council from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.

During the heated meeting, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin strongly defended his government's actions as "fully appropriate and legitimate" to defend the human rights of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine, which he claimed is under threat of oppression from the north and west after violent protests swept in a new government.

He told the council he was authorized to read a statement from Yanukovych — and offered to show council members a copy — requesting Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his armed forces to restore peace and defend the people of Ukraine.

Yanukovych fled the former Soviet republic to Russia after his ouster and had said Friday that he would not ask for Russian forces.

Churkin quoted Yanukovych as saying "Ukraine is on the brink of civil war," people particularly in the Russian-speaking Crimea are being persecuted for language and political reasons and "there are open acts of terror and violence" under the influence of Western countries.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said the letter was just a piece of paper handed to Yanukovych which "got his signature." Asked if the letter was phony, Araud replied, "It's not a false letter, it's a false president."

Power, the U.S. envoy, dismissed Moscow's contention that it intervened militarily in Crimea to protect the human rights of Russian civilians there as "baseless," insisting there is no evidence of any threats against ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

"One might think that Moscow has just become the rapid response arm of the High Commissioner for Human Rights," she told the council.

Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev again pleaded for help and sent a letter to all 193 U.N. member states detailing Russia's takeover of crucial government and military facilities.

The letter described what could be the first reported casualty of the crisis. Sergeyev claimed that Russian forces trying to capture the armory of the Ukrainian Air Tactical brigade near Sevastopol used stun grenades against Ukrainian soldiers Sunday, leaving an officer with a brain injury and in shock.

The letter also said Russian aircraft illegally entered Ukrainian airspace twice Monday night. It said all main roads in Crimea are blocked, military bases and Ukrainian ships in Sevastopol Bay are surrounded and an attempt has been made to capture the Ukrainian Navy Headquarters.

Power said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe — which includes Russia, the U.S., and all European countries — was deploying monitors to Ukraine on Monday night. She urged Russia to allow the monitors to go to Crimea, an appeal echoed by many other council members.

Churkin didn't rule that out but said it must be considered by the government in Crimea.

The Russian ambassador claimed the recent protests were hijacked by extremists and gangs of "ultranationalists," and he said Ukraine should return to an agreement signed Feb. 21 by Yanukovych — but not Moscow — to hold early elections and surrender some powers. Yanukovych fled after sealing the pact with the opposition and foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland.

Every Security Council speaker but Russia urged a peaceful solution to the worst crisis in Europe in the 21st century. Even China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi didn't endorse Russia's military action, saying: "China consistently stands for the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country, and for respect for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The meeting featured several rounds of testy exchanges.

"This meeting was unfortunately totally useless," France's Araud said afterward. "We were hoping that the ambassador of the Russian Federation would tell us that the Russian Federation is agreeing to mediation, but they did not. They said that the government of Kiev has no legitimacy."

Updated 11:55 a.m.: Ukraine: US calls any threat to Ukraine navy 'dangerous'

President Barack Obama said Monday that Russia is "on the wrong side of history" in Ukraine and its actions violate international law.

Obama told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that the United States is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia. The president called on Congress to work on an aid package to Ukraine and make it the "first order of business."

The Obama administration said that any Russian threat to Ukraine's navy would be a "dangerous escalation" of an extremely tense situation.

The State Department said that Washington would hold Moscow directly accountable for such an escalation but did not elaborate on potential consequences. Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, however, that she could not confirm ifRussia had in fact made such threats.

Earlier Monday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Russia had issued an ultimatum to the crews of two Ukrainian warships in Crimea, demanding that they immediately surrender or be stormed and seized.

Vladimir Anikin, a Russian defense ministry spokesman in Moscow, dismissed the report of a Russian ultimatum as nonsense, but refused to elaborate.

Secretary of State John Kerry is leaving for Ukraine late Monday and then will travel to France and Italy. He had planned to see his Russian counterpart in Paris, but Psaki said that meeting was no longer certain.

The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow, in what amounts to a sudden reprise of Cold War sensibilities. Once consideration is whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances on Ukraine. Kerry said Sunday that world leaders "are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion."

Much as when superpower tensions ruled world affairs, missile defense systems and troop levels in Europe have again become urgent questions in Washington and beyond, a renewed reality that may force President Barack Obama's administration to give up its intended foreign policy shift to Asia indefinitely.

Also echoing the era of East-West confrontation, there appears to be little if any taste in the West for a direct military response to Russia's provocation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would heed the West's warnings. Hundreds of armed men surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, a pro-Russian area. In Kiev, Ukraine's capital, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk alerted allies that "we are on the brink of disaster."

"This is absolutely the most serious test of our alliances since the Cold War ended," Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said in a nationally broadcast interview Monday.

"I think it is extremely dangerous. Ukrainians fight and Russians fight," said Kaptur, who has traveled to Ukraine on several occasions and is considered an expert on that part of the world.

Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia now has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region. The U.S. was also watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of eastern Ukraine, though the officials said they had not yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry said he has consulted other world leaders and all are committed to doing what is necessary to isolate Russiadiplomatically. President Barack Obama spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Kerry planned to travel to Kiev on Tuesday for meetings with the Ukrainian government. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the United States is ready to work with other countries and the International Monetary Fund to provide support for Ukraine's economy.

In Brussels, NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia's actions have violated a U.N. charter. He said the alliance was re-evaluating its relationship with Russia.

"There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this," Kerry said.

Beyond economic sanctions and visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight group of world powers as payback for the military incursion.

Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns said, "Putin's not going to back off. ... What can President Obama do? Be very minded in opposition. We can't follow a military policy. This has to be diplomatic."

Several U.S. senators also called for bolstered missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia is "going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term," said Kerry. "The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight."

Still, it was clear that few in the West were prepared to respond immediately to Putin with military force.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday midday appearance in St. Peter's Square to urge world leaders to promote dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discussing the potential of U.S. military strikes against Russian troops in Crimea, said, "I don't think anyone is advocating for that." One of the administration officials indicated that the U.S. was not weighing military action to counter Russia's advances, saying the Obama administration's efforts were focused on political, economic and diplomatic options.

Rubio and fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the Obama administration should return to plans it abandoned in 2009 to place long-range missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia believed the program was aimed at countering its own missiles and undermining its nuclear deterrent. The White House denied that and has worked instead to place medium-range interceptors in Poland and Romania — aimed at stopping missiles from Iran and North Korea.

Experts said potential U.S. budget cuts to Army units based in Germany also could be slowed, or scrapped completely, to prevent a catastrophic erosion of stability and democracy from creeping across Europe.

The Pentagon is considering new reductions to Army units in Germany that already have been slashed under Obama. Currently, there are two Army brigades — up to 10,000 soldiers — based in Germany, where armored and infantry units have dug in since World War II. At the end of the Cold War, more than 200,000 American forces were stationed across Europe.

Damon Wilson, an Eastern European scholar, former diplomat and executive vice president of the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, said the U.S. must be ready to pour its efforts into Ukraine, even at the cost of policies and priorities elsewhere.

"We should be no longer deluded by the fact that Europe is a safe spot of stability and security, and not a security risk for the U.S.," Wilson said Sunday. He said that if Putin goes unchecked, it could result in war — the second one on NATO's borders.

The 3-year-old civil war in Syria is already a crisis for neighboring Turkey, a NATO member state. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders four nations that are — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Russia has made clear it is ready to provide weapons and military equipment to governments across the Mideast that have irked Washington. Russia's permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council gives it veto power over major world deliberations.

"The challenge is, we do need to have some kind of working relationship with Russia?" Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked Sunday. "And while we can impose these costs and take these steps, we've got to be mindful of the fact that they can impose their own costs on us."

Kerry appeared Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," ABC's "This Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press." Rubio was on NBC, while Graham and Schiff were interviewed on CNN. Kaptur and Burns appeared Monday on CNN.

Updated 10:33 a.m.: Russia demands that 2 warships surrender

Russia issued an ultimatum Monday, demanding that the crew of two Ukrainian warships in Crimea immediately surrender or be stormed and seized, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

Four Russian navy ships in Sevastopol harbor were blocking the Ukrainian anti-submarine warship Ternopil and the command ship Slavutych from leaving the dock, waiting for their commanders' responses, spokesman Maksim Prauta said.

Vladimir Anikin, a Russian defense ministry spokesman in Moscow, dismissed the report of a Russian ultimatum as nonsense but refused to elaborate.

Elsewhere on the strategic peninsula, Russian troops controlled all Ukrainian border posts Monday in Crimea, as well as all military facilities and a key ferry terminal. Now, fears in Kiev and beyond were that Russia might target and seize other parts of Ukraine, in particular parts of its pro-Russian east, the country's industrial powerhouse and agricultural breadbasket.

As diplomats met in Brussels, Kiev and Geneva, warnings about the threat posed by Russia's military invasion were issued from a host of European capitals.

"We are in the most serious crisis for Europe since the fall of the (Berlin) Wall. Twenty-five years after the end of the conflict between east and west, there's a real danger of a split in Europe," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Brussels.

"Anyone who follows the news can see that the escalation isn't stopping. On the contrary, the threats from the Russian side are only getting louder," he added.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Geneva to attend U.N. meetings, explained the reasoning behind Russia's military invasion of Crimea.

"This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life," he said.

There have been no reports, however, of any hostilities toward Russian-speakers in Ukraine during the country's four months of political upheaval.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also pressed hard Monday for Ukrainian politicians to return to the Feb. 21 agreement that promised to create a new unity government which would rule until an early election no later than December. The proposal seemed to be a non-starter for the West, however, for it would void the new government that Ukraine installed last week.

Tensions between the two former Soviet neighbors rose sharply after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out by a protest movement made up of people who wanted closer ties with the European Union, more democracy and less corruption. Yanukovych fled to Russia last month after more than 80 demonstrators were killed — mostly by police — near Kiev's central square but insists he is still president.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new prime minister admitted his country had "no military options on the table" to reverse Russia'smilitary move into its Crimea region.

While Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk appealed Monday for outside help and insisted that Crimea still remained part of his country, European foreign ministers held an emergency meeting on a joint response that could include economic sanctions against Russia.

"Any attempt of Russia to grab Crimea will have no success at all. Give us some time," Yatsenyuk said at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

But he added that "for today" there were "no military options on the table." He said his country was "urgently" asking for economic and political support from other countries.

"The U.K is not discussing military options. Our concentration is on diplomatic and economic pressure," Hague said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was heading to Ukraine on Tuesday after demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin pull back from "an incredible act of aggression."

In the meantime, Russian forces were clearly in charge in Crimea, home to 2 million mostly Russian-speaking people and landlord for Russia's critical Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

In addition to seizing barracks and border posts, troops also controlled a ferry terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) across the water from Russia. That intensified fears in Kiev that Moscow will send even more troops into the peninsula via that route.

Border guard spokesman Sergei Astakhov said the Russians were demanding that Ukrainian soldiers and guards transfer their allegiance to Crimea's new pro-Russian local government.

"The Russians are behaving very aggressively. They came in by breaking down doors, knocking out windows, cutting off every communication," he said.

He said four Russian military ships, 13 helicopters and 8 transport planes had arrived in Crimea in violation of agreements that permit Russian to keep its Black Sea fleet at the naval base in Sevastopol.

Ukraine is also struggling on the financial front. The treasury is almost empty and its currency is under pressure after years of running large deficits. The International Monetary Fund said a fact-finding mission would visit Ukraine starting Tuesday for 10 days. Ukraine has asked the IMF for rescue loans and says it needs $35 billion to pay its bills over the next two years.

Market reaction to the Russian invasion of Crimea was immediate Monday. In European trading, gold and oil rose while the euro and stock markets fell. The greatest impact was felt in Moscow, where the main RTS index was down 12 percent at 1,115 and the dollar spiked to an all-time high of 37 rubles.

Russia's central bank hiked its main interest rate 1.5 percentage points Monday to 7 percent, trying to stem financial outflows.

Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, was also big loser, its share price down 13 percent as investors worried about how it would get its gas to Europe if hostilities kept up, since much of it goes through Ukrainian pipelines.

Putin has rejected calls from the West, insisting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers anywhere in Ukraine. His confidence is matched by the knowledge that Ukraine's 46 million people have divided loyalties — while much of western Ukraine wants closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, its eastern and southern regions like Crimea look to Russia for support and trade.

Faced with the Russian threat, Ukraine's new government has moved to consolidate its authority, naming new regional governors in the pro-Russia east, enlisting the support of the country's wealthy businessmen and dismissing the head of the country's navy after he declared allegiance to the pro-Russian government in Crimea.

NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels and the U.S., France and Britain debated the possibility of boycotting the next Group of Eight economic summit, to be held in June in Sochi, the host of Russia's successful Winter Olympics.

8:28 a.m.: Cold War reprise as US seeks Moscow's isolation

In a sudden reprise of Cold War sensibilities, the U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow and whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances on Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry, soon on his way to Ukraine's capital, said world leaders "are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion."

Much as when superpower tensions ruled world affairs, missile defense systems and troop levels in Europe have again become urgent questions in Washington and beyond, a renewed reality that may force President Barack Obama's administration to give up its intended foreign policy shift to Asia indefinitely.

Also echoing the era of East-West confrontation, there appears to be little if any taste in the West for a direct military response to Russia's provocation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would heed the West's warnings. Hundreds of armed men surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, a pro-Russian area. In Kiev, Ukraine's capital, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk alerted allies that "we are on the brink of disaster."

"This is absolutely the most serious test of our alliances since the Cold War ended," Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said in a nationally broadcast interview Monday.

"I think it is extremely dangerous. Ukrainians fight and Russians fight," said Kaptur, who has traveled to Ukraine on several occasions and is considered an expert on that part of the world.

Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia now has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region. The U.S. was also watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of easternUkraine, though the officials said they had not yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry said he has consulted other world leaders and all are committed to doing what is necessary to isolate Russia diplomatically. President Barack Obama spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Kerry planned to travel to Kiev on Tuesday for meetings with the Ukrainian government. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the United States is ready to work with other countries and the International Monetary Fund to provide support for Ukraine's economy.

In Brussels, NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia's actions have violated a U.N. charter. He said the alliance was re-evaluating its relationship with Russia.

"There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this," Kerry said.

Beyond economic sanctions and visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight group of world powers as payback for the military incursion.

Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns said, "Putin's not going to back off. ... What can President Obama do? Be very minded in opposition. We can't follow a military policy. This has to be diplomatic."

Several U.S. senators also called for bolstered missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia is "going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term," said Kerry. "The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight."

Still, it was clear that few in the West were prepared to respond immediately to Putin with military force.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday midday appearance in St. Peter's Square to urge world leaders to promote dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discussing the potential of U.S. military strikes against Russian troops in Crimea, said, "I don't think anyone is advocating for that." One of the administration officials indicated that the U.S. was not weighing military action to counter Russia's advances, saying the Obama administration's efforts were focused on political, economic and diplomatic options.

Rubio and fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the Obama administration should return to plans it abandoned in 2009 to place long-range missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia believed the program was aimed at countering its own missiles and undermining its nuclear deterrent. The White House denied that and has worked instead to place medium-range interceptors in Poland and Romania — aimed at stopping missiles from Iran and North Korea.

Experts said potential U.S. budget cuts to Army units based in Germany also could be slowed, or scrapped completely, to prevent a catastrophic erosion of stability and democracy from creeping across Europe.

The Pentagon is considering new reductions to Army units in Germany that already have been slashed under Obama. Currently, there are two Army brigades — up to 10,000 soldiers — based in Germany, where armored and infantry units have dug in since World War II. At the end of the Cold War, more than 200,000 American forces were stationed across Europe.

Damon Wilson, an Eastern European scholar, former diplomat and executive vice president of the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, said the U.S. must be ready to pour its efforts into Ukraine, even at the cost of policies and priorities elsewhere.

"We should be no longer deluded by the fact that Europe is a safe spot of stability and security, and not a security risk for the U.S.," Wilson said Sunday. He said that if Putin goes unchecked, it could result in war — the second one on NATO's borders.

The 3-year-old civil war in Syria is already a crisis for neighboring Turkey, a NATO member state. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders four nations that are — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Russia has made clear it is ready to provide weapons and military equipment to governments across the Mideast that have irked Washington. Russia's permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council gives it veto power over major world deliberations.

"The challenge is, we do need to have some kind of working relationship with Russia?" Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked Sunday. "And while we can impose these costs and take these steps, we've got to be mindful of the fact that they can impose their own costs on us."

Kerry appeared Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," ABC's "This Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press." Rubio was on NBC, while Graham and Schiff were interviewed on CNN. Kaptur and Burns appeared Monday on CNN.

AP reporter David McHugh contributed to this report and Dalton Bennett reported from Kerch, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau from Kiev, Raf Casert and Juergen Baetz from Brussels, Frank Jordans from Berlin and Danica Kirka in London also contributed to this report, as did Lara Jakes and AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace.

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