Crisis Point: Russian forces in the Ukraine
3:05 pm; 03.05.14: Kerry says meetings agreed to continue talks with Russia, Ukraine
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia and Western nations agreed on Wednesday to continue discussions in coming days on how to stabilize Ukraine and presented a number of ideas for how to reach that goal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
"We agreed to continue intense discussions in the coming days with Russia, with Ukraine, in order to see how we can help normalize the situation, stabilize it, and overcome the crisis," Kerry told reporters.
"Don't assume that we did not have serious conversations which produced creative and appropriate ideas on how to resolve this, we have a number of ideas on the table," he said after meetings with counterparts from Ukraine, Russia, Britain and France in Paris.
1:55 pm; 03.05.14: Pentagon more than doubling jets in NATO air policing mission
WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - The Pentagon is more than doubling the number fighter jets it is sending to a NATO air policing mission in the Baltics and is sending one aerial refueling aircraft, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, part of Washington's response to the Ukraine crisis.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans earlier on Wednesday to bolster the decade-old NATO mission, which patrols skies over Baltic allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon will send six additional F-15 jets and one KC-135 refueling aircraft to augment the mission this week. The United States already provides four F-15 jets to the mission, which helps identify and respond to violations of Baltic airspace.
1:25 pm; 03.05.14: Lavrov leaves Paris talks without meeting Ukrainian counterpart
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left talks on the Ukrainian crisis in Paris on Wednesday without having met his Ukrainian counterpart, Western diplomats said.
Lavrov, who earlier held talks with foreign ministers from the United States, France, Germany and Britain, said further discussions on Ukraine would take place "in days to come".
"We are all concerned at what it is happening there," he told reporters on leaving the French Foreign Ministry.
"We agreed to continue those discussions in the days to come to see how best we can help stabilize, normalize the situation and overcome the crisis," he added.
Earlier, a senior U.S. State Department official denied Russian reports that Moscow and the Western powers had agreed that the Ukrainian government and opposition need to stick to the EU-brokered peace deal.
"There were no agreements in this meeting, and there never will be without direct Ukrainian government involvement and absolute buy-in," the official said.
1:15 pm; 03.05.14: Putin, Germany's Merkel discuss efforts to resolve Ukraine crisis-Kremlin
MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed possible international efforts to help improve the situation in Ukraine in a phone call, the Kremlin said in a statement on Wednesday.
The West has threatened sanctions against Russia which effectively occupied Crimea after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich. Moscow accused the Western powers of supporting a "coup" to topple him and did not recognise the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities.
1:05 pm; 03.05.14: Russia says NATO applies "cold war" standards
BRUSSELS, March 5 (Reuters) - Russia's envoy to NATO accused the alliance of applying double standards and "Cold War" stereotypes to Russia after NATO announced a review of all cooperation with Moscow over tensions in Ukraine.
"This meeting proved that NATO still has a double standard policy. And Cold War stereotypes are still applied towards Russia," Alexander Grushko told reporters after a meeting of NATO and Russian officials to discuss Ukraine on Wednesday.
12:55 pm; 03.05.14: Ukraine, Russia, U.S. ministers arrive at French foreign ministry
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the United States arrived on Wednesday at the French foreign ministry, according to Reuters reporters on site.
There was no word whether there would be direct talks between the Russian and Ukrainian ministers.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague had said earlier that they would try to bring the Russian and Ukrainian ministers together.
12:45 pm; 03.05.14: NATO announces review of cooperation with Russia
BRUSSELS, March 5 (Reuters) - NATO announced a full review of its cooperation with Russia on Wednesday to try to pressure Moscow into backing down on Ukraine and said it would suspend planning for a joint mission linked to Syrian chemical weapons.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said alliance officials would no longer hold staff-level meetings with their Russian counterparts, while stepping up engagement with Ukraine's civilian and military leadership.
"We have also decided that no staff-level civilian or military meetings with Russia will take place for now," Rasmussen told reporters after a meeting between NATO and Russian officials in Brussels.
NATO has been in talks with Russia on a possible joint mission to protect a U.S. ship that will destroy Syria's deadliest chemical weapons.
12:35 pm; 03.05.14: Britain says freezing assets of 18 Ukrainians
LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday that it was freezing the assets of 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating Ukrainian state funds.
"We are freezing assets across the EU (European Union) on 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating Ukrainian state funds," finance minister George Osborne said in a statement on Twitter.
Last week Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein said they were taking similar steps against 18 Ukrainians. It was not immediately clear whether the same 18 people would be affected by Britain's move.
12:25 pm; 03.05.14: Russia, West agree Ukraine should stick to EU-brokered peace deal-Lavrov
MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Western powers agreed that the Ukrainian government and opposition need to stick to the EU-brokered peace deal after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.
Speaking to media after talks with Kerry in Paris, Lavrov said the two sides agreed to join efforts to help Ukraine to reach the agreement signed in Kiev on Feb. 21.
Since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich, Russia has accused Ukraine's new leaders of violating the deal.
11:35 am; 03.05.14: Pro-Russia protesters march on observers' HQ in Ukraine's Crimea
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - About 100 protesters waving Russian flags and chanting "Russia! Russia!" marched on a building used by international observers in Ukraine's Crimea region on Wednesday, a Reuters photographer on the scene said.
The photographer said a man was escorted through the crowd and driven away.
11:35 am; 03.05.14: UN envoy forced out of Crimea -ITN reporter
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - A U.N. special envoy was forced to abandon a mission to Ukraine's Crimea region on Wednesday after being stopped by armed men and sheltering in a cafe, a reporter for Britain's ITN television said.
James Mates said envoy Robert Serry was trapped inside the coffee shop by a hostile pro-Russian crowd. When the envoy agreed to end his diplomatic mission, he was escorted to a car to the airport by police through a crowd shouting "Putin! Putin!"
Crimea is under control of Russian forces.
11:20 am; 03.05.14: ITN reporter says UN envoy surrounded in Crimea cafe
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - A U.N. envoy was holed up in a Crimea cafe on Wednesday where he took shelter from militiamen who stopped his car, a reporter for Britain's ITN television said on Twitter.
"UN special envoy Robert Serry with me in coffee shop. Outside local militia block the door," James Mates tweeted.
"He refused to go with men blocking car, got out and walked until he found coffee shop. He's asked ITV News team to stay with him," Mates said.
11:10 am; 03.05.14: U.N. denies reports representative in Ukraine seized in Crimea
UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (Reuters) - U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on Wednesday denied reports that U.N. representative in Ukraine Robert Serry was seized by armed men in Crimea, adding that Serry had been threatened but was now safe.
"He was not kidnapped but he was seriously threatened," Eliasson told reporters in New York by telephone from Kiev, adding that "this action should be seriously condemned."
Eliasson said a group of unidentified men, some of them armed, surrounded Serry and said he should leave Crimea. They made it impossible for Serry leave by car, forcing him to leave the situation on foot. Eliasson said Serry was currently safe.
10:45 am; 03.05.14: Armed men hold UN chief's representative in Crimea-Ukrainian ministry
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - Armed men seized Robert Serry, a special representative of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Ukraine's Crimea region on Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.
Russian forces have taken control of Crimea in southern Ukraine. Serry was held in the region's main city, Simferopol, a ministry spokeswoman said.
10:05 am; 03.05.14: Pro-Moscow youths restore Russian flag atop HQ in Ukraine city
DONETSK, Ukraine, March 5 (Reuters) - Pro-Moscow youths recaptured the administrative headquarters of the eastern city of Donetsk and flew the Russian flag from its roof on Wednesday, hours after Kiev's authorities managed to fly their own flag there for the first time since Saturday.
10:00 am; 03.05.14: Kerry urges talks with Ukraine in meeting with Russia's Lavrov
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged direct talks between Russia and Ukraine during a brief discussion with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, a U.S. official said.
It was the first time Kerry and Lavrov have met face to face since Russian troops effectively occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
"The Secretary urged direct talks between Russia and Ukraine," a senior State Department official said of the brief "pull aside" on the sidelines of a conference on Lebanon.
Earlier, foreign ministers from the United States, France, Germany, Britain and Russia met separately to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
9:40 am; 03.05.14: Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building
DONETSK, Ukraine, March 5 (Reuters) - A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police.
The crowd of about 200 protesters threw open the front doors and re-entered the building despite a heavy police presence after a day-long demonstration following their ejection from a building they had held since Monday.
Earlier on Wednesday Ukraine flew its flag atop the building, replacing a Russian flag that had flown there since Saturday. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia's right to invade.
Kiev says the protests have been arranged by Moscow to justify military intervention.
9:35 am; 03.05.14: U.S. House to vote soon on aid for Ukraine, will work with Obama -top lawmakers
WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - House of Representatives Republicans will work with U.S. President Barack Obama to address the crisis in Ukraine and tensions with Russia, voting soon on legislation offering financial aid, House leaders said on Wednesday.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters that the Obama administration's request for a $1 billon loan guarantee package for Ukraine will move forward quickly and that a vote is expected soon. He said it should ultimately be offset by other savings.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner added that the Republican-led House will work in a bipartisan way with Obama.
9:10 am; 03.05.14: Pentagon boosts training, NATO air policing amid Ukraine crisis
WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. military, eying ways to support allies during the crisis in Ukraine, is stepping up joint training through an aviation detachment in Poland and boosting participation in a NATO air policing mission, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress on Wednesday.
Hagel said he aimed to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart on Wednesday and that the top U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, had spoken with his Russian counterpart earlier in the day.
8:35 am; 03.05.14: France holds Russia-Ukraine foreign ministers' meeting
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande is holding a meeting of the U.S., Russian, British, French and German foreign ministers to discuss the Ukraine crisis, a presidential source told reporters at the Elysee presidential palace.
The source said the meeting had already begun after the ministers, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, William Hague, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier appeared together at the palace.
8:35 am; 03.05.14: US, Ukraine, UK urge direct talks with Russia to resolve tensions
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Foreign ministers for the United States, Ukraine and Britain agreed on Wednesday that direct talks between Kiev and Moscow were crucial to resolving tensions and called for the immediate deployment of international monitors, they said in a joint statement.
"The United States, United Kingdom and Ukraine agreed that direct talks between Ukraine and Russia, facilitated as needed by members of the international community, are crucial to resolving the current situation," according to the statement.
"They also agreed that international observers should be deployed immediately in Ukraine, especially in eastern Ukraine and Crimea," the statement added.
7:50 am; 03.05.14: Putin urges measures to protect trade group from Ukraine fallout
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 5 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the crisis in Ukraine could have a negative effect on the Customs Union linking Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and called for measures to protect the three nations' producers and exporters.
"The extraordinary situation ... in Ukraine arouses serious concerns," Putin told the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan at the start of talks at his residence outside Moscow.
"Negative consequences for the Customs Union markets are possible too, and therefore we should think together about measures to protect our producers and exporters," said Putin, whose hopes of bringing Ukraine into the union have been set back severely by the downfall of President Viktor Yanukovich.
5:40 am; 03.05.14: U.S., UK fail to bring together Russia, Ukraine in Paris
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - The United States and Britain failed in an attempt to bring Russia and Ukraine together on Wednesday at a meeting in Paris of a group created to assure Kiev's security after it renounced nuclear weapons in the 1990s.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that "regrettably" one member, Russia, had not appeared for a meeting of the so-called Budapest agreement group, which involves Washington, London, Moscow and Kiev.
However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said every diplomatic effort would be made to bring the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine together later in the day after an international conference on Lebanon.
5:30 am; 03.05.14: Putin says hopes political tension won't hurt economic ties
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 5 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he did not want political tension to detract from economic cooperation with Russia's "traditional partners".
"We are seeing known political tension, it should not affect our current economic cooperation," Putin told cabinet members.
"It's not necessary to add to the difficult situation, we need to cooperate with all our traditional partners - while providing for our own interests, of course. It is not necessary to whip things up," he said.
4:40 am; 03.05.14: Ukraine security chief hopes talks can soon end Crimea crisis
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - Ukraine's top security official said on Wednesday he hoped the crisis the Crimea region, where Russian forces have taken over buildings and military installations, could soon be resolved through dialogue.
"Last night there were already fewer emergency situations and fewer conflicts in Crimea," Andriy Paruby, Secretary of Ukraine's Security and Defence Council, told reporters. "I hope that in the coming days a way will be found to solve everything through negotiations."
He said Russian forces had not made any new military gains in Crimea but warned of the danger of new attempts by pro-Russian protesters to take over government buildings in eastern and southern Ukraine.
3:55 am; 03.05.14: Russia says cannot order Crimean "self-defence" forces back to base
MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed groups in Ukraine's Crimea region to return to their bases because they are "self-defence" forces and do not answer to Moscow.
Western states are discussing a potential resolution to the crisis ignited by Russian intervention in Crimea under which Russia would pull back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea peninsula and allow in international monitors.
Speaking in Madrid in remarks shown on Russian television, Lavrov repeated Russia's assertion that armed men deployed there are not Russian forces, said Russian naval personnel were in normal positions and said it was up to Crimean and Ukrainian authorities to grant international observers access.
3:20 am; 03.05.14: Ukraine foreign minister: we want peace, not fight with Russians
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Ukraine's foreign minister said on Wednesday he wanted to press for a peaceful solution to the conflict with Russia.
On arrival in Paris for international talks on the conflict, Andrii Deshchytsia said: "We want to say a few things to the Russians. We want to keep good dialogue and good relations with the Russian people. We want to settle this conflict peacefully and we don't want to fight the Russians".
3:10 am; 03.05.14: Russians seize Ukrainian missile defence units in Crimea-Interfax
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - Russian forces seized two Ukrainian missile defence battalions in the Crimea region on Wednesday, Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying.
The Ukrainian Defence Ministry was unable immediately to confirm on the report, which quoted the source saying: "We now expect the arrival of Russian missile specialists and pro-Russian activists who will have to persuade the Ukrainian military personnel to carry out joint combat duties."
2:55 am; 03.05.14: Ukraine raises flag over Donetsk government building
DONETSK, Ukraine, March 5 (Reuters) - Ukraine raised its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk on Wednesday, where a Russian flag had stood since Saturday, witnesses said.
Police said they were evacuating the building, which has been occupied since Monday by pro-Russian demonstrators. A police statement said the evacuation began after reports that the building was booby-trapped with bombs.
2:35 am; 03.05.14: Russian "aggression" hits Ukraine's economy, prime minister says
KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) - Russia's deployment of forces in the Crimea region is having an "extremely negative" impact on the country's economy, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday.
He also said at the start of a government meeting that the situation in Ukraine remained difficult, with Russian forces in control of the Black Sea peninsula.
"The Russian aggression on Ukraine's territory is having political and economic consequences," Yatseniuk said in remarks shown on television. "The presence of the Russian military on Ukraine's territory is having an extremely negative effect on Ukraine' economy."
He gave no details but the new government is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on financial assistance to avert bankruptcy.
2:00 am; 03.05.14: France warns Russia of rapid EU sanctions
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - European Union leaders holding a crisis meeting on Ukraine on Thursday could impose sanctions on Russia if there has been no "de-escalation" by then, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
Fabius told France's BFM TV that such measures could include restrictions on visas, the assets of individuals and existing discussions on economic ties with Russia.
"Let's start to initiate the path of dialogue, but at the same time tomorrow there is an EU summit and sanctions could be voted tomorrow if there is no de-escalation. I expect and hope that Russia will today tell us that there is a prospect for dialogue with a contact group," he said, referring to proposals to form a "contact group" of key players in the Ukraine crisis.
Fabius was speaking before hosting talks between his Russian, U.S., Ukrainian and other counterparts on the margins of a long-scheduled meeting on Lebanon in the French capital.
12:00 am; 03.05.14: Russia's Lavrov says Feb agreement must be basis for Ukraine peace
MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton an EU-brokered agreement signed on Feb. 21 should be the basis for stabilising the situation in Ukraine, the ministry said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry said at a meeting on Tuesday "Lavrov emphasised that the normalisation of the situation in that country should be based on the founding principles of the agreement about regulating the crisis in Ukraine on Feb. 21".
He said the agreement foresaw constitutional reform which would take into account the wishes of all regions in Ukraine.
6:20 pm; 03.04.14: Obama consults Germany's Merkel on Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday about the situation in Ukraine and discussed a potential resolution to the crisis, a senior Obama administration official said.
The officials also said Obama would not attend a G8 summit scheduled for Sochi, Russia, in June unless there is a Russian reversal in the Ukraine crisis.
Obama has discussed with Putin what officials call an off-ramp for the Russians to the Ukraine crisis in which Russia would pull its forces in Crimea back to their bases and allow international monitors to ensure the rights of ethnic Russians are protected, the official said.
Obama also discussed with Merkel the potential solution, which would also involve the Russians engaging directly with the new government in Ukraine, the official said.
3:25 pm; 03.04.14: White House calls Russia's ICBM test launch 'routine'
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - The White House called Russia's test launch on Tuesday of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile "routine" and said the United States was given advanced notification, as required under the New START treaty.
"This was a previously notified and routine test launch of an ICBM," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement, adding that "Russia and the United States routinely flight test their ICBMs and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles)."
1:55 pm; 03.04.14: Russia notified US ahead of ICBM test, U.S. official says
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - The United States received notification from Russia ahead of its test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, in line with Moscow's commitments under the nuclear arms treaty between the two countries, a U.S. official said.
The official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said initial notification of Russia's test plans pre-dated Russia's military intervention in Crimea.
Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region near the Caspian Sea and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov told state-run news agency RIA.
1:05 pm; 03.04.14: Russia test-fires ICBM amid tension over Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, with tensions high over its seizure of control in the Crimea and its threat to send more forces to its neighbour Ukraine.
The Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region near the Caspian Sea and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan, the state-run news agency RIA cited Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Yegorov as saying.
12:30 pm; 03.04.14: EU reaches preliminary deal to freeze assets of 18 Ukrainians
BRUSSELS, March 4 (Reuters) - European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Tuesday to freeze the assets of 18 Ukrainians, at Kiev's request, after Ukraine's new rulers said billions in public funds have gone missing.
The decision still needs to be made final in the coming days and follows similar moves last week by Austria, an EU member, as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Austrian authorities have included Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, in their list of targets but it was not clear whether his assets would now be frozen throughout the 28-nation bloc.
11:45 am; 03.04.14: Russia says it would retaliate for U.S. sanctions over Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday that it would retaliate if the United States imposed sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
"We will have to respond," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. "As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: This is not our choice."
11:05 am; 03.04.14: Kerry says Russia looking for pretext to invade more of Ukraine
KIEV, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday condemned Russia's "act of aggression" in Ukraine and said Moscow, which has taken control of the Crimea region, was looking for a pretext to invade more of the country.
"The United States reaffirms our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity according to international law. We condemn the Russian Federation's act of aggression," Kerry told a news conference during a visit to Kiev intended to show support for Ukraine's new leaders.
"It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further," he said.
11:05 am; 03.04.14: Obama says Putin move into Ukraine not a sign of Russian strength
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine is not a sign of Russian strength but rather a reflection of the deep concern Russia's neighbors have about Moscow's meddling.
In remarks to reporters, Obama ridiculed Putin's reason for sending the Russian military into the Crimea region of southern Ukraine. Putin said the move was aimed at protecting Russian nationals but Obama calls the incursion a violation of international law.
"President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations," Obama said. "But I don't think that's fooling anybody."
Obama said he held a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday morning, his second such session in two days about Ukraine.
10:20 am; 03.04.14: NATO to intensify assessment of Ukrainian conflict's impact
BRUSSELS, March 4 (Reuters) - NATO allies stand in solidarity in the face of the Ukraine crisis and will intensify their assessment of how it affects the alliance's security, NATO Secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday.
Speaking after a meeting of NATO ambassadors, convened at the request of Poland, Rasmussen also said Russia continued to violate its international commitments towards Ukraine despite calls for Moscow to de-escalate the conflict.
"NATO allies stand together in the spirit of strong solidarity in this grave crisis. We undertake to intensify our rigorous ongoing assessment of the implications of this crisis for our alliance's security," Rasmussen told reporters.
9:40 am; 03.04.14: Talks under way with Russia at ministerial level - Ukraine PM
KIEV, March 4 (Reuters) - The Ukrainian and Russian governments have begun high-level contacts on the crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Tuesday.
"Consultations have started at the level of ministers," he told reporters but gave no details.
Yatseniuk reiterated that Russia should withdraw forces back to bases in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea and hald actions which he said threatened to destabilise the region. President Vladimir Putin said in Moscow he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort.
9:25 am; 03.04.14: Putin, China's Xi hold "close" views on Ukraine, Kremlin says
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in Ukraine by telephone on Tuesday and their positions on the issue are "close", the Kremlin said.
It said the presidents of the veto-wielding U.N. Security Council nation expressed hope that "the steps taken by the Russian leadership will allow for the reduction of ... tension and provide for the security of Russian-speaking citizens living in Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine."
8:55 am; 03.04.14: Russian navy blocks channel between Crimea, Russia - Ukraine border guards
KIEV, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian navy ships have blocked off the Kerch Strait which separates Ukraine's Crimea region and Russia, the Ukrainian border guard service said on Tuesday.
The border guards have said that Russian servicemen are in control of the Crimean side of the narrow channel and that Russian armoured vehicles have been sighted on the Russian side.
"The Kerch Strait is blocked by two Russian ships - from the north and from the south," Pavel Shishurin, the deputy head of the border guards, told reporters.
The Russian military has not confirmed his comments.
7:05 am; 03.04.14: White House pledges financial, technical support for Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - The White House pledged on Tuesday to help ensure Ukraine had "sufficient financing" to restore stability and economic growth and said it was providing advice on getting back stolen assets and adjusting to trade pressures related to energy.
In a statement, the White House said the United States would provide assistance to train election observers in Ukraine. It said a U.S. team would go there this week to help authorities identify and reclaim stolen assets.
The United States would also provide "technical advice" to the Ukrainian government on the country's World Trade Organization rights with respect to Russia, particularly regarding energy.
"At the same time the United States is ready to provide assistance and financing to help Ukrainian businesses find new export markets and adjust to trade pressures and to enhance energy efficiency, helping to reduce dependence on imported gas," it said.
6:40 am; 03.04.14: Kerry arrives in Kiev, announces $1 billion in loan guarantees
KIEV, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev on Tuesday and announced an economic package and technical assistance for Ukraine in a show of support for its new government amid escalating tensions with Russia.
Kerry's visit comes as Washington and its Western allies step up pressure on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine's Crimea region or face economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
A senior U.S. administration official, who briefed reporters en route to Kiev, said the Obama administration would work with Congress to approve $1 billion in loan guarantees to help lessen the impact on Ukrainians of proposed energy subsidy cuts.
6:20 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Lavrov: U.S., EU don't want consensus government in Ukraine
TUNIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the United States and European Union do not support a consensus government and reforms in Ukraine that would include all sides.
"We must have a dialogue and not exclude anyone," he said during a visit to Tunisia, speaking through a translator. "Our position is clear on this and won't change."
6:10 am; 03.04.14: Russia hopes West will not impose sanctions over Ukraine
TUNIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Russia hopes its Western partners will not impose sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
"We hope our partners will understand our position," he told reporters during a visit to Tunisia, adding that Russia's moves in Ukraine's Crimea region had been right. "Nobody has a right to be angry with Russia. The European Union and the United States did not fulfil their obligations in Ukraine," he said, speaking through a translator.
Lavrov also said Ukraine needed a comprehensive dialogue not excluding anyone.
5:45 am; 03.04.14: Putin says West asked to hold off purchasing Ukraine bonds
NOVO-OGARYOVA, March 4 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was ready to release another tranche of its $15 billion credit to Ukraine, but Western countries asked Moscow to hold off on the Eurobond purchases.
In December, Moscow bought $3 billion worth of Ukraine's Eurobonds, but a second tranche of a $2 billion due earlier this year has been postponed.
"In principle we would be ready to consider a further step to release more tranches ... additional purchases of bonds, but our Western partners have asked us not to do it," Putin told journalists.
5:40 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin denies Yanukovich rumours, says met him two days ago
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he had met ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich two days ago in Russia and he was "safe and sound".
He dismissed rumours that Yanukovich had died of a heart attack, saying the ousted leader would attend the funerals of the rumour mongers.
5:35 am; 03.04.14: Putin says will not recognise any Ukrainian election held amid "terror"
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russia would not recognise the results of elections in Ukraine which were held under the current conditions of "terror".
"If they are held under such terror as we see now, then we won't (recognise them)," Putin told a news conference.
5:30 am; 03.04.14: Putin says Ukraine gas debt may rise to $2 bln
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia,, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Ukraine's gas debt to Russia would total almost $2 billion if Ukraine fails to pay for February deliveries in full.
He said that current debt stands at between $1.5 billion and $1.6 billion.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia's top gas producer Gazprom said it would remove a discount on gas prices for Ukraine starting from April.
5:25 am; 03.04.14: Putin told Yanukovich he has "no political future"
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he had told Ukraine's ousted leader, Viktor Yanukovich, that he had "no political future" but that the man would have been murdered if he stayed at home.
Putin told a news conference that pulling Russia's ambassador to Washington from his post over events in Ukraine would be a "last resort" and that he would not like this to happen.
5:15 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin calls Ukraine events an "unconstitutional coup"
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday there had been an "unconsitutional coup" in Ukraine and ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich was still the legimate leader of the country despite giving up all power.
The former KGB spy also told reporters there was no need to use force in Ukraine's southern Crimea region at the moment, but Russia reserved the right to do so as a "last resort".
5:15 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin says market turmoil 'temporary' decision by investors
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the turmoil seen in Russian markets was a "tactical, temporary" decision by investors.
Russia's stockmarket slumped on Monday after Russia's military intervention in Ukraine unnerved investors. Putin was speaking in his first news conference since Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich fled from Ukraine.
5:10 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin denies Russian troops took Crimea
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin denied on Tuesday that Russian troops seized Ukraine's southern Crimea region, saying "local forces of self defence" were responsible for taking over official buildings.
Putin also told a news conference that Russia had no interest in provoking separatist sentiment in Crimea.
5:10 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin says sanctions would harm countries imposing them
NOVO-OGARYOVO, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that those countries considering sanctions should think first of the damage they may incur if such measures were imposed.
"All threats against Russia are counterproductive and harmful," he told journalists, adding that Russia was ready to host the G8 but if western leaders did not want to come "they don't need to".
5:05 am; 03.04.14: Ukraine hit by cyberattacks - head of Ukraine security service
March 4 (Reuters) - Ukraine's telecommunications system has come under attack, with equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea used to interfere with the mobile phones of members of parliament, the head of Ukraine's SBU security service said on Tuesday.
"I confirm that an IP-telephonic attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row," Valentyn Nalivaichenko told a news briefing.
"At the entrance to (telecoms firm) Ukrtelecom in Crimea, illegally and in violation of all commercial contracts, was installed equipment that blocks my phone as well as the phones of other deputies, regardless of their political affiliation," he said.
"The security services are now seeking to restore at least the security of communications," he said. "All state information security systems were unprepared for such a brazen violation of the law."
Russian forces seized Crimea last week.
5:00 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin says use of force in Ukraine is a choice of last resort
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the use of force by Russia in Ukraine was a choice of "last resort".
At his first news conference since Ukraine's ousted leader, Viktor Yanukovich, fled from Ukraine, Putin also said Russia reserved the right to intervene if there was "lawlessness" in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
Any intervention, he said, would be "legitimate and within the framework of international law".
04:50 am; 03.04.14: Poland summons Russian ambassador over Ukraine crisis
WARSAW, March 4 (Reuters) - Poland has summoned the Russian ambassador in Warsaw over the crisis in Ukraine, Poland's foreign ministry said.
"Russian aggression and violating of Ukraine territorial integrity unacceptable," ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said in a post on Twitter in which he announced the ambassador had been summoned.
4:50 am; 03.04.14: Ukraine confirms OSCE to go to Crimea, situation there "stable"
KIEV, March 4 (Reuters) - Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will go to the Crimea region where Russian forces have taken control, Ukraine's top security official said on Tuesday.
Andriy Paruby told a news conference that the security situation on the Black sea peninsula was complicated but stable.
4:50 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin calls Ukraine events an "unconstitutional coup"
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday there had been an "unconsitutional coup" in Ukraine and ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich was still the legimate leader of the country despite giving up all power.
The former KGB spy also told reporters there was no need to use force in Ukraine's southern Crimea region at the moment, but Russia reserved the right to do so as a "last resort".
2:10 am; 03.04.14: Kremlin aide says U.S. may face consequences if sanctions imposed
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - A Kremlin aide said on Tuesday that if the United States were to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Moscow might be forced to drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks.
Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to the Kremlin who is often used by the authorities to stake out a hardline stance but does not make policy, added that if Washington froze the accounts of Russian businesses and individuals, Moscow would recommend that all holders of U.S. treasuries sell them.
12:10 am; 03.04.14: Russia's Putin orders troops in military exercise back to base
MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops that took part in military exercises this week to return to base, Russian news agencies quoted the Kremlin spokesman as saying on Tuesday.
Dmitry Peskov said the military exercises, which Moscow denied were linked to events in Ukraine, had been a success. The exercises took place across western Russia, an area which borders Ukraine.
8:35 pm; 03.03.14: Obama, advisers discuss ways to "further isolate" Russia
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama met for over two hours on Monday with his national security advisers and discussed ways the United States and its allies could "further isolate" Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine, a White House official said.
The group discussed ways to "reinforce that the Russians still have an opportunity to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation or they face further political and economic repercussions from the international community," the official said about the meeting.
"The president will continue to receive regular updates on the situation, and to remain in close contact with his foreign counterparts," the official said.
7:15 pm; 03.03.14: U.S. suspends trade, investment talks with Russia over Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The United States has put trade and investment talks with Russia on hold as a rebuke for Russia's incursion into Ukraine, a U.S. official said on Monday.
"We have suspended upcoming bilateral trade and investment engagement with the government of Russia that were part of a move toward deeper commercial and trade ties," a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.
6:55 pm; 03.03.14: U.S. halts military engagements with Russia over Ukraine crisis
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The United States is suspending all military engagements with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, including military exercises and port visits, the Pentagon said on Monday.
"We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases, as required under the agreements governing the Russia Black Sea Fleet," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
5:40 pm; 03.03.14: Obama meets national security team on Ukraine at White House
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is holding a high-level meeting at the White House about Ukraine with senior military and national security advisers, a White House official said on Monday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, national security adviser Susan Rice, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and General Martin Dempsey were among those in attendance, the official said.
4:50 pm; 03.03.14: U.S. Senate committee consulting on sanctions on Russians
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers are preparing legislation to provide support to Ukraine and consulting with the Obama administration on possible sanctions against individual Russians, and Ukrainians cooperating with them, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said on Monday.
"Russia's military intervention in Ukraine constitutes a clear violation of international law and demands a swift and coordinated response from the international community to support the Ukraine and counter Russian efforts to annex Ukrainian territory by force," Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement.
4:10 pm; 03.03.14: Ukraine says Russia deployed 16,000 new troops to Crimea
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia has deployed roughly 16,000 troops to Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea since last week, Kiev's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said on Monday.
"Beginning from 24 February, approximately 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in Crimea by the military ships, helicopters, cargo airplanes from the neighboring territory of the Russian Federation," Sergeyev told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the crisis in his country.
3:15 pm; 03.03.14: Russia: Yanukovich asks Putin for Russian military in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Reuters) - Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting that he use the Russian military to restore law and order in Ukraine, Moscow's U.N. envoy said on Monday.
"Under the influence of Western countries, there are open acts of terror and violence," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin quoted the letter from Yanukovich to Putin in an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
"People are being persecuted for language and political reasons," he quoted the letter as saying. "So in this regard I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine."
Churkin held up a copy of the letter for council members to see.
2:45 pm; 03.03.14: Truckloads of Russian troops arrive in Crimea by ferry - Ukraine
KIEV, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian forces seized control of the border guard checkpoint on the Ukrainian side of the ferry crossing between Russia and Crimea, and began bringing in truckloads of soldiers by ferry on Monday evening, Ukrainian border guards said.
Russians have been surrounding the ferry terminal for days but until now had not taken control of Ukraine's border guard station. A border guards spokesman said Russian troops seized it and brought three truckloads of soldiers across.
1:35 pm; 03.03.14: Obama says Russia has violated international law in Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday that Russia has violated international law in its military intervention in Ukraine and said the U.S. government has warned it will look at a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions that would isolate Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to allow international monitors to mediate a deal in Ukraine acceptable to all Ukrainian people, Obama told reporters before he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia. And now is the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force," Obama said.
1:25 pm; 03.03.14: Poland requests NATO consultations under Article 4
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - NATO will hold emergency discussions on Ukraine on Tuesday after Poland requested consultations under Article 4 of the alliance's treaty, NATO said in a statement on Monday.
Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
"The developments in and around Ukraine are seen to constitute a threat to neighbouring Allied countries and having direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area," the alliance said.
Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski earlier announced the meeting on Twitter.
12:40 pm; 03.03.14: EU to consider sanctions if Kremlin doesn't step back: Poland
WARSAW, March 3 (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday agreed to consider sanctions on Russia if it does not take steps to defuse the crisis in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.
"The EU not only asked Russia to de-escalate the situation in Crimea, but said that if Russia does not do that, the EU would consider imposing sanctions," he told Polish broadcaster Polsat News from Brussels.
12:30 pm; 03.03.14: Ukrainian leader urges Russia to stop aggression and piracy
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Ukraine's acting president said on Monday Russia's military presence was growing in the Crimea region and urged Moscow to halt what he called aggression and piracy.
Oleksander Turchinov said the situation was "difficult" in some regions in the south and east of the country, where there are many Russian speakers, but that the Ukrainian authorities had matters there under control.
He also said Russia's Black Sea Fleet had trapped Ukrainian navy vessels in the bays of Sevastopol, the Crimean port where the Russian fleet has a base.
"The situation in Crimea remains tense and Russia's military presence is growing," Turchinov told a news briefing. "I appeal to Russia's leadership - stop the provocative actions, aggression and piracy. This is a crime and you will answer for it."
12:30 pm; 03.03.14: U.S. says it's preparing sanctions against Russia over Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The United States has a broad range of options available to it to act against Russia if tensions over Ukraine escalate and Washington is currently preparing sanctions against Moscow, a State Department spokeswoman said on Monday.
"At this point we are not just considering sanctions given the actions Russia is taking, it is likely we will put those in place and we are preparing that," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on a conference call. "We have a broad range of options available."
12:15 pm; 03.03.14: Russian threats against Ukraine would be dangerous escalation -U.S.
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - If reports that Russia has threatened to use force against the Ukrainian military are true, it would be a dangerous escalation of the situation in Ukraine, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
"These reports today of threats of force against Ukrainian military installations would, if true, in our view constitute a dangerous escalation of the situation for which we would hold Russia directly responsible," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in a conference call.
12:05 pm; 03.03.14: Russian central bank changes rules for shifting rouble corridor
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - The Russian Central Bank said on Monday it had raised the interventions allotment to be exhausted before it shifts the rouble's trading corridor - to $1.5 billion from $350 million - and that it will decide daily on the currency's trading policy.
"Due to increased volatility in the domestic foreign exchange market, the Bank of Russia moves to daily determinations of the parameters of each exchange rate policy, which will be based on an assessment of the current situation," the central bank said in a statement.
"This measure was taken in order to prevent risks to financial stability by limiting exchange rate fluctuations."
The central bank keeps the rouble in a target exchange-rate corridor, which as of Friday extended from 35.40 to 42.50 roubles to the dollar-euro currency basket.
Under its managed float, the central bank increases its interventions as the rouble approaches the boundary of the corridor. Monday's decision mean that it will automatically shift the corridor only after an intervention allotment of $1.5 billion is exhausted.
The rouble fell to all-time lows on Monday against the dollar and the euro as investors sought safe havens from the risk that Russia, after seizing control of the Crimean peninsula, might go to war with Ukraine. It closed 2.2 percent down against the dollar after traders said the central bank had spent at least $10 billion to prop it up.
12:00 pm; 03.03.14: EU leaders to hold summit on Ukraine on Thursday
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - European Union leaders will meet in Brussels for an emergency summit on Ukraine on Thursday, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on Monday.
EU leaders "will discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and how to facilitate the necessary de-escalation of the situation."
11:55 am; 03.03.14: EU calls on Russia to pull troops back to bases
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - The European Union called on Russia on Monday to withdraw its troops to bases and hold consultations with Kiev, while extending the possibility of holding a summit of EU leaders to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters after emergency talks among EU foreign ministers on the crisis that she "anticipated" the EU to convene a summit on the issue this week.
11:50 am; 03.03.14:
INTERVIEW-U.S. sanctions on Russia over Ukraine would need Europe -senator
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate is considering imposing sanctions on Russia's banks, freezing assets of Russian public institutions and private investors and imposing travel bans because of its moves in Ukraine, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, the chairman of the Senate's Europe subcommittee, said on Monday.
However, he told Reuters in a telephone interview, unilateral U.S. sanctions against Russia will have little effect if they are not matched by actions from Europe.
11:40 am; 03.03.14: EU to consider "targeted measures" if Russia fails to back down on Ukraine
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - European Union governments agreed on Monday to consider "targeted measures" against Russia if Moscow fails to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, an EU diplomat said.
In a statement agreed at emergency talks on the issue, EU foreign ministers said: "In the absence of de-escalation steps by Russia, the EU should decide on consequences for bilateral relations ... And will consider about possible targeted measures", the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
11:40 am; 03.03.14: Biden warns Russia will be isolated if Ukraine crisis not resolved -U.S. official
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden warned Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a phone call on Monday of "increasing political and economic isolation" if Russia does not pull back its forces from Ukraine, a White House official said.
"The vice president made clear that if the situation in Ukraine is not resolved, Russia will face increasing political and economic isolation," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
11:35 am; 03.03.14: Russian Black Sea Fleet says no assault ultimatum in Crimea - Interfax
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia's Black Sea Fleet has not issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 5 a.m. on Tuesday or face an assault, Interfax news agency quoted an official at the fleet's headquarters as saying.
Russia's Black Sea Fleet has a base in Crimea and Moscow has effectively established control over the peninsula, which is part of Ukraine.
Interfax quoted an unnamed source in the Ukrainian Defence Ministry earlier on Monday as saying a deadline to surrender at 0300 GMT had been set by the Black Sea Fleet's commander.
The same news agency later quoted an unnamed representative at the fleet's headquarters as saying no assault was planned, adding: "This is complete nonsense."
11:20 am; 03.03.14: U.S. cancels presidential delegation to Paralympics over Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The White House has canceled a presidential delegation to the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, part of its response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Monday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron made a similar announcement about his nation's delegation on Sunday.
U.S. athletes will participate in the games, which begin on Friday.
11:05 am; 03.03.14: France warns of "targeted measures" on Russia if tensions persist
PARIS, March 3 (Reuters) - France's foreign minister warned Russia on Monday that if tensions did not ease in Ukraine's Crimea region, the European Union would consider "targeted measures" in response.
"If there is not in the coming hours a very quick de-escalation, then we will decide concrete measures such as the suspension of all talks on visas, suspension of economic agreements and concretely that means that ties will be cut on lot of subjects," Laurent Fabius told BFM TV.
"There could be targeted measures and that can also affect people, officials and their assets," he said, adding that EU leaders could hold a crisis meeting on the stand-off on Thursday.
"The general tone is that the Russians appear to have decided to go even further. Europe must be firm."
10:35 am; 03.03.14: U.S. VP Biden calls Russia's Medvedev, urges pullback from Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden urged Russia to pull its forces back from Ukraine in a phone call on Monday with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the White House said.
"The Vice President urged Russia to pull back its forces, support the immediate deployment of international monitors to Ukraine, and begin a meaningful political dialogue with the Ukrainian government," the White House said in a statement released later on Monday.
10:05 am; 03.03.14: Russian Duma head says no need "for now" to send troops to Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - The speaker of Russia's lower parliament house said on Monday that "for now, there is no need" to send the Russian armed forces into Ukraine.
On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin secured the parliament's permission to use the military in Ukraine if he wishes, citing the need to protect Russians in the neighbouring nation.
"The decision ... only gives the right (to use the armed forces), which can be exercised in case of necessity; for now there is no need," State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin told the state-run Rossiya-24 television in an interview.
9:45 am; 03.03.14: Russia says NATO criticism of its actions in Crimea is misguided
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday that NATO's criticism of its actions in Crimea region will not help stabilise the situation in Ukraine, after the Western alliance said Moscow was threatening peace and security in Europe.
"We believe that such a position will not help stabilise the situation in Ukraine and only encourages those forces that would like to use the current events to achieve their irresponsible political goals," the Russian foreign ministry said.
9:30 am; 03.03.14: Russia's Medvedev, U.S. Vice President Biden discuss Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discussed the situation in Ukraine by telephone, the Interfax news agency cited Medvedev's spokeswoman as saying on Monday.
Medvedev "declared that it is necessary to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including residents of Crimea, and citizens of Russia who are located in Ukraine," Interfax quoted his spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, as saying.
9:15 am; 03.03.14: Russia gives Ukrainian forces in Crimea ultimatum to surrender-Interfax
KIEV, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia's Black Sea Fleet has told Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Tuesday or face a military assault, Interfax news agency quoted a source in the Ukrainian Defence Ministry as saying.
The ultimatum, Interfax said, was issued by Alexander Vitko, the fleet's commander.
The ministry did not immediately confirm the report and there was no immediate comment by the Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea, where Russian forces are in control.
"If they do not surrender before 5 a.m. tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea," the agency quoted the ministry source as saying.
8:50 am; 03.03.14: Czech minister says Russian firms should not build nuclear plant
PRAGUE, March 3 (Reuters) - Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said it was hard to imagine that Russian firms could take part in the planned expansion of a Czech nuclear power plant after developments in Crimea, according to the news website www.idnes.cz .
"Russia has disappeared from the group of predictable, democratic countries. What it is doing is unacceptable," Stropnicky said. His spokesman confirmed the comments to Reuters on Monday.
A consortium including Russia's Atomstroyexport is bidding for a contract worth over $10 billion to expand the Temelin plant, alongside Toshiba's U.S. unit Westinghouse. It is anyway not clear that the project will go ahead because of low electricity prices in Europe.
8:35 am; 04.04.13: US STOCKS SNAPSHOT-Wall St opens down as Ukraine tensions mount
NEW YORK, March 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks opened lower on Monday, alongside other risk assets, as Ukraine and Russia prepared for war after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbor.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 106.22 points, or 0.65 percent, to 16,215.49, the S&P 500 lost 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,846.45 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 50.86 points, or 1.18 percent, to 4,257.259.
8:15 am; 03.03.14: Russia attacks West over suspension of G8 summit preparations
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Moscow on Monday sharply criticised Western members of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations for suspending preparations for a G8 summit scheduled to be held in the Russian city of Sochi in June over the crisis in Ukraine.
The decision to suspend preparatory work for the summit in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi "has no grounds" and "damages not only the countries of the Group of Eight but also the whole international community," the Russian foreign ministry said.
8:00 am; 03.03.14: Russia says Kerry's remarks about Ukraine unacceptable
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that recent remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry contained threats against Russia and were "unacceptable".
Kerry on Sunday condemned what he called Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine after Russian forces took control of the Crimea region and parliament gave President Vladimir Putin consent to send the military into Ukraine.
7:40 am; 03.03.14: Russian MICEX market capitalisation falls $58.4 bln since Friday
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - The market capitalisation of the Russian rouble-denominated MICEX index fell $58.4 bln since the end of trading on Friday, the index's press service said on Monday.
On Monday afternoon, MICEX capitalisation stood at 18.4 trillion roubles ($512.03 billion), down from 20.5 trillion on Friday, the press service said in a statement.
The sum beats the $51 billion Russia spent on preparations for the Winter Olympics held in the southern city of Sochi last month.
6:45 am; 03.03.14: PM says conflict in Ukraine would destroy regional stability
KIEV, March 3 (Reuters) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned on Monday that a military conflict in his east European country would threaten the stability of the whole region.
He also denied the new government installed after the removal of President Viktor Yanukovich would nationalise private business.
"I was and am a supporter of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as a conflict would destroy the foundations for stability in the whole region," Yatseniuk said at a meeting with businessmen.
He reiterated that the government would be ready to meet any conditions set by the International Monetary Fund to secure financial assistance.
6:20 am; 03.03.14: Pro-Russia protesters occupy regional government in Ukraine's Donetsk
DONETSK, Ukraine, March 3 (Reuters) - Pro-Russian demonstrators occupied the first floor of the regional government building in east Ukraine's city of Donetsk on Monday.
A Reuters reporter in a press centre on the fourth floor of the building said the protesters had seized the first floor but were unable to go higher because lifts were disabled and stairwell doors shut.
The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag, rather than the Ukrainian flag, for three days, with demonstrators carrying Russian flags staging rallies outside.
5:55 am; 03.03.14: Russian fighter jets violated Ukraine's air space - ministry
KIEV, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian fighter jets twice violated Ukraine's air space over the Black Sea during the night, Interfax news agency quoted the Defence Ministry as saying on Monday.
It said Ukraine's air force had scrambled a Sukhoi SU-27 interceptor aircraft and prevented any "provocative actions" but gave no further details.
5:50 am; 03.03.14: UN chief will urge Russia to de-escalate Ukraine crisis
GENEVA, March 3 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said on Monday that he would ask Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia refrain from any acts or rhetoric that would further escalate the crisis in Ukraine and instead seek dialogue with authorities in Kiev.
Ban said that his deputy Jan Eliasson, who had just arrived in Kiev, would "convey the same message to Ukrainian authorities".
"It is now of utmost importance to restore calm and to de-escalate tensions immediately through dialogue," Ban told a news conference in Geneva shortly before holding talks with Lavrov. "I will urge that the Russian Federation refrain from any acts and rhetoric that could further escalate the situation and instead to engage constructively and through peaceful means with Ukraine."
5:25 am; 03.03.14: Diplomacy key to avoiding escalation in Ukraine -Steinmeier
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia's military activities on Ukrainian soil are unacceptable but international diplomacy must prevail to solve the crisis, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday.
"Crisis diplomacy is not a weakness but it will be more important than ever to not fall into the abyss of military escalation," Steinmeier told reporters ahead of an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
Steinmeier suggested an fact-finding mission by the OSCE, Europe's main human rights and democracy watchdog, as an initial response. "We are considering whether it wouldn't make good sense to create transparency about what is happening on the ground in eastern Ukraine and Crimea instead of being dependent on rumours," he said.
5:20 am; 03.03.14: Still not too late for peaceful solution in Ukraine- Merkel aide
BERLIN, March 3 (Reuters) - Germany's Angela Merkel believes it is not too late to resolve the Ukrainian crisis by political means despite differences in opinion between Vladimir Putin and the West on Crimea, which Russia now controls, an aide to the chancellor said on Monday.
Merkel has proposed to the Russian president Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama sending a "fact-finding mission" to the Ukrainian region of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea where Russian forces have seized control without any fighting.
"It is still not to late to resolve this crisis peacefully by political means," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert, urging Moscow to withdraw "from the logic of troop movements".
"There is no doubt President Putin has a completely different view on the situation and events in Crimea from the German government and our Western partners," he said.
5:05 am; 03.03.14: Russian traders - c.bank sold up to $10 bln to support rouble on Monday
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia's central bank sold up to $10 billion, or 2 percent of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, to stem the rouble's fall on Monday, Moscow foreign exchange dealers estimated.
"There have been some $11 billion (of foreign currency) sold today, some $10 billion came from the central bank," said Mikhail Paley, a dealer at VTB Capital.
"There is no one aside from the central bank selling (forex) today," said a dealer at a large Western bank, adding that the central bank sold "up to $10 billion."
The central bank releases its interventions in foreign exchange markets only with a two-day lag.
At 1050 GMT the rouble was trading 2.1 percent down against the dollar on the day at 36.49.
The central bank's reserves stood at $493.4 billion, according to the latest data.
4:35 am; 03.03.14: PM Yatseniuk says Ukraine will never give up Crimea
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Monday his country would never give up Crimea.
Russian forces have taken control of the Black Sea peninsula, which is part of Ukraine, but Yatseniuk told reporters: "No one will give up Crimea to anyone."
4:20 am; 03.03.14: Russian foreign minister tells West to put Ukrainian people first
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Russia's western partners on Monday to put aside geopolitical calculations and think about the Ukrainian people.
"We call for a responsible approach, to put aside geopolitical calculations, and above all to put the interests of the Ukrainian people first," he said in Geneva on a live feed broadcast to Moscow.
He said all sides should stand by a Feb. 21 agreement, which agreed on undertaking constitutional reforms.
3:00am; 03.03.14: Market "hysteria" will ease, difficulties remain - Russian deputy minister
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - "Hysteria" on Russian markets will subside because of Central Bank interventions to support the rouble, but Russia faces a period of strained ties with the European Union and the United States which will weigh on the economy, a senior official said.
Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach told Reuters on Monday that capital flight would continue, increasing pressure on the rouble.
"The wave of hysteria will pass, but it is difficult to say when," Klepach said.
"Anyway, what lies ahead of us is a period of more confrontation and difficulties. For us, that will mean more complicated relations with the European Union, the States, with all the resulting consequences."
2:40 am; 03.03.14: Britain says concerned about Russia may move further into Ukraine
LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - Britain said it was very concerned about the possibility that the Kremlin might send troops further into Ukraine and cautioned President Vladimir Putin that Russia would pay significant costs unless he changed course.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Russian intervention in Ukraine was the biggest crisis in Europe so far this century.
Hague said that Russia now had operational control of Ukraine's Crimea region and that while Russia had the legal right to base troops in the region, the Kremlin should order them to return to their barracks.
"Clearly we are very concerned about any possibly of a further move by Russia in other parts of Ukraine but that does not mean the position in the Crimea is stable," Hague told the BBC in an interview.
"This is a very tense situation and dangerous situation that Russia's intervention has now produced."
2:20 am; 03.03.14: Russia says U.S. "sabotages" WTO talks by barring its officials
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday that the United States abruptly withdrew an invitation for Russian veterinary officials to attend talks this week and accused Washington of "sabotage", an apparent sign of tension over Ukraine.
Russia's veterinary oversight agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, was informed less than 24 hours before its delegation was to depart for Washington that the visit was "unacceptable" for the United States, Rosselkhoznadzor said.
In a statement, it accused the United States of "sabotage of Russia's participation" in March 3-6 talks aimed at agreeing veterinary and phytosanitary measures in connection with Kazakhstan's bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
1:40 am; 03.03.14: Russian, Chinese foreign ministers discuss Ukraine, view coincide-Russia
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine with his Chinese counterpart on Monday and their views coincided on the situation there, the ministry said.
In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said the two veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members would stay in close contact on the issue.
1:15 am; 03.03.14: Ukraine border guards report build-up of Russian armour near Crimea
KIEV, March 3 (Reuters) - Ukrainian border guards on Monday reported a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian side of a narrow sea channel dividing Russia and the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
A border statement guard spokesman also said Russian ships had been moving in and around the port city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet has a base, and that Russian forces had blocked mobile telephone services in some areas.
The build-up of Russian armour was near a ferry port on the Russian side of the Kerch Channel opposite the Ukrainian city of Kerch, a border guard spokesman said.
11:10 pm; 03.02.14:
Russia's Lavrov to meet U.N.'s Ban, Brahimi in Geneva-agencies
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva on Monday at a human rights council session, Russian agencies reported.
They gave no further details, but since the last round of talks on Syria, Brahimi has been trying to bridge the gap between the main negotiators.
6:00 pm; 03.02.14: Obama, allies say Russia's Ukraine threat to peace, security
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany and Poland expressed "grave concern" on Sunday over Russia's intrusion into Ukraine, which they called a breach of international law and a threat to international peace and security.
Obama spoke to each leader in a separate phone call, the White House said.
"The leaders stressed that dialogue between Ukraine and Russia should start immediately, with international facilitation as appropriate," the White House said in a statement.
5:10 pm; 03.02.14: Britain warns Russia of 'significant costs' over Ukraine
LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron warned President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that Russia would pay significant costs unless the Kremlin changed course on Ukraine.
Cameron said he had agreed with U.S. President Barack Obama that Russia's actions in Ukraine were completely unacceptable, a Downing Street spokesman said.
"They agreed that Russia's actions were completely unacceptable. They agreed on the urgent need for de-escalation and for Russia to engage in a dialogue directly with Ukraine," the spokesman said.
"They agreed there must be 'significant costs' to Russia if it did not change course on Ukraine," the spokesman said.
4:25; 03.02.14: Washington could give 'as much support as Ukraine needs' -Treasury's Lew
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - The United States signaled on Sunday it could give as much financial support as Ukraine needs to get the crisis-hit country's economy back on track.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who has urged Kiev to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund, said Washington could lend a hand either through bilateral programs or larger international institutions.
"The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs," Lew told a conference, adding that Washington was monitoring the situation in Ukraine with "grave concern" after Russia's intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region.
3:35 pm; 03.02.14: Kerry to visit Kiev, Ukraine on Tuesday in gesture of support
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday to stress U.S. political and economic support after Russian forces' bloodless seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.
3:35 pm; 03.02.14: Obama in talk with Germany's Merkel cites 'illegitimacy' of Russia move in Crimea
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama discussed the Ukraine crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call on Sunday and underscored the "complete illegitimacy" of Russian's incursion in Ukraine's Crimea, a senior U.S. official said.
"(The primary point) in all of his calls has been to underscore the complete illegitimacy of Russia's intervention" in the Crimea region of Ukraine, the official told reporters in a conference call.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama planned shortly to make the same point in conversations with the British prime minister and the Polish president.
2:40 pm; 03.02.14: Russian PM Medvedev warns Ukraine's new leaders they won't last
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Facebook on Sunday that Ukraine's leaders had seized power illegally and predicted their rule would end with "a new revolution" and new bloodshed.
Medvedev said that while Viktor Yanukovich had practically no authority he remained the legitimate head of state according the constitution, adding: "If he is guilty before Ukraine - hold an impeachment procedure ... and try him."
"Everything else is lawlessness. The seizure of power," Medvedev said on his Facebook page. "And that means such order will be extremely unstable. It will end in a new revolution. New blood."
2:40 pm; 03.02.14: Merkel tells Putin Russia has broken international law in Ukraine
BERLIN, March 2 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday of breaching international law with "unacceptable Russian intervention" in Ukraine, a German government spokesman said on Sunday.
Russian forces have bloodlessly seized Crimea - an isolated Black Sea peninsula with a majority of Russian speakers and where Moscow has a naval base.
"The chancellor called upon the Russian President again to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity," deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter said in a statement after a phone call between the two leaders.
Putin accepted Merkel's proposal to establish a "fact-finding mission" like a contact group, possibly under the leadership of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to start a political dialogue, the spokesman said.
2:10 pm; 03.02.14: NATO urges Russia to bring troops back to bases
BRUSSELS, March 2 (Reuters) - NATO warned Russia on Sunday that military action against Ukraine was against international law, and expressed grave concern over the Russian parliament's authorisation of the use of force.
After an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the alliance called on Russia to bring its forces back to bases and refrain from interfering in Ukraine.
"We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful solution through bilateral dialogue, with international facilitation ... and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe," NATO said in a statement.
1:15 pm; 03.02.14: Putin tells Merkel Russia's moves on Ukraine are fitting -Kremlin
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday that Russian citizens and Russian-speakers in Ukraine faced an "unflagging" threat from ultranationalists, and that the measures Moscow has taken were completely fitting given the "extraordinary situation", the Kremlin said.
In a telephone conversation during which Merkel expressed concern about developments in Ukraine, she and Putin agreed that Russia and Germany would continue consultations in bilateral and multilateral formats to seek the "normalisation" of the situation, a Kremlin statement said.
12:20 pm; 03.02.14: Ukraine launches treason case against Navy chief who surrendered
KIEV, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine launched a treason case on Sunday against the head of the navy, who surrendered his headquarters on Sunday in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on only his second day on the job.
Denis Berezovsky was shown on Russian television swearing allegiance to the pro-Russian regional leaders of Crimea. Russian forces have seized the Black Sea peninsula and told Ukrainian forces there to give up their weapons.
"During the blockade by Russian forces of the central headquarters of the navy, he declined to offer resistance and laid down his weapons," said Viktoria Syumar, deputy secretary of Ukraine's Security Council.
"The prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case against Denis Berezovsky under statute 111: state treason," she said. Another admiral, Serhiy Hayduk, was placed in charge of the navy.
10:05 am; 03.02.14: Ukraine says its 10 ships in Crimean port stay loyal
KIEV, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Sunday its navy's fleet of 10 warships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol had not left the port and remained loyal to the government in Kiev.
Earlier, Ukraine said it had withdrawn coastguard vessels from Sevastopol and another Crimean port and stationed them elsewhere.
Russian forces have seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet also has its headquarters. Several units of Ukrainian troops in Crimea have been surrounded, and Russian troops have urged them to give up arms and support the peninsula's pro-Moscow regional authorities.
8:40 am; 03.02.14: No comment from Kremlin spokesman on Kerry remarks
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Sunday when asked for a response to harsh words from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who condemned Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine.
"No comment at the moment," Peskov said.
Kerry threatened "very serious repercussions" from the United States and other countries, including sanctions to isolate Russia economically, a day after President Vladimir Putin declared Russia had the right to intervene militarily in its neighbor.
:35 am; 03.02.14: Ukraine will ask for help if Russia activity expands -ambassador
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine is preparing to defend itself against Russia but will ask other countries for help if Russia expands its military activity, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday.
"We are to demonstrate that we have our own capacity to protect ourselves as decided today in parliament and we are preparing to defend ourselves," Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said on CNN. "If aggravation is going in that way, when the Russian troops are enlarging their quantity with every coming hour, naturally we will ask for military support and other kind of support."
8:15 am; 03.02.14: Kerry condemns Russia's 'incredible act of aggression' in Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine and threatened "very serious repercussions" from the United States and other countries including sanctions to isolate Russia economically.
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."
Kerry, however, added that Russia still has "a right set of choices" that can be made to defuse the crisis.
8:05 am; 03.02.14: Ukraine withdraws coastguards from Crimea
March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine withdrew its coast guard vessels from two ports in Crimea and moved them to other Black Sea bases on Sunday, a sign that Russian forces were completing their seizure of the isolated Black Sea peninsula.
In a statement, the border guards said vessels from the Crimean ports of Kerch and Sevastopol had been moved to Odessa and Mariupol. The situation on Ukraine's frontiers was stable apart from in Crimea, the statement said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared he has the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian citizens. Russian forces have seized Crimea, where they have a naval base at Sevastopol, but have not entered other parts of Ukraine.
6:25 am; 03.02.14: Germany urges Russia to desist transgressing Ukraine's sovereignty
BERLIN, March 2 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Sunday the situation in Ukraine was "extremely dangerous" and he urged Russia to desist transgressions of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"It is urgently necessary that all those responsible desist from taking further steps that can only be seen as a provocation," Steinmeier said in a statement.
"Anything else would lead to an escalation with uncertain, possibly dramatic consequences."
Steinmeier also said Russia had no right to deploy its military in Ukrainian sovereign territory beyond the rules of the treaty on the Russian Black Sea fleet.
5:55 am; 03.02.14: Russia actions threaten peace in Europe - NATO's Rasmussen
BRUSSELS, March 2 (Reuters) - Russia is threatening peace in European via its military actions in Ukraine and must immediately de-escalate tensions, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Sunday.
"What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe," Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO ambassadors.
Rasmussen called on Russia to deescalate tensions and for all parties to "continue all efforts to move away from this dangerous situation".
4:50 am; 03.02.14: Ukraine wants international monitors at nuclear plants
KIEV, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine's parliament called for international monitors to help protect its nuclear power plants on Sunday as tension mounted with Russia.
Hryhoriy Nemyria, a member of parliament, said the assembly appealed to the signatories of a 1994 nuclear treaty that guaranteed Ukraine's safety -- including the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.
4:10 am; 03.02.14:Russia's border guards say Ukrainians flee, see signs of "humanitarian catastrophe"-TASS
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - Russia's border guard service said on Sunday some 675,000 Ukrainians had left for Russia in January-February this year and that there were signs of a "humanitarian catastrophe", Russian state news agency Itar-Tass said.
"If 'revolutionary chaos' in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions," Tass quoted the service as saying.
4:00am; 03.02.14: Ukraine calls up reserves, wants forces combat-ready as soon as possible
KIEV, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine is calling up all military reserves and must ensure the armed forces are combat-ready as soon as possible, the country's top security official said on Sunday.
Andriy Paruby, Secretary of the Security Council which groups top security and defence chiefs, said an order had also been given to the Foreign Ministry to seek U.S. and British help in guaranteeing the security of Ukraine.
The armed forces, he said, would step up security at energy facilities.
12:50 am; 03.02.14:Head of Russian region says armed groups tried to block road to Ukraine-Ifax
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said on Sunday armed groups had tried to cut off a road leading to Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.
"Armed men are roaming the area ... There was an attempt to close off the road from Moscow to Crimea," Yevgeny Savchenko was quoted as saying about events on Saturday. "This is really troubling."
12:50 am: 03.02.14: Russian servicemen confiscate weapons in Crimea region - Interfax
KIEV, March 2 (Reuters) - Russian military servicemen have taken weapons from a radar base and naval training facility in Ukraine's Crimea region and urged personnel to side with the peninsula's "legitimate" leaders, Interfax news agency said on Sunday.
It quoted a Ukrainian Defence Ministry source as saying the Russian servicemen had taken pistols, rifles and ammunition cartridges from the radar post near in the town of Sudak and taken them away by car.
Another group of Russian military had also removed weapons from a Ukrainian navy training centre in the port city of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea Fleet also has a base.
4:55 pm: U.S. tells Russia: Ukraine intervention risks dangerous escalation
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart on Saturday that Moscow's military intervention risked creating further instability and an escalation "that would threaten European and international security," the Pentagon said.
"Secretary Hagel stressed that, without a change on the ground, Russia risks further instability in the region, isolation in the international community and an escalation that would threaten European and international security," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement, describing the call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
4:06 pm: Putin Tells Obama Russia Has Right To Protect Interests In Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 2 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President Barack Obama by telephone that Moscow reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
In a statement posted online, the Kremlin said Obama had expressed concern about the possibility of Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
"In response to the concern shown by Obama about the plans for the possible use of Russia's armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, Putin drew attention to the provocative, criminal actions by ultra-nationalists, in essence encouraged by the current authorities in Kiev," the statement said.
"The Russian President underlined that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory. Vladimir Putin stressed that if violence spread further in the eastern regions of Ukraine and in Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers living there."
3:57 pm: U.S. Urges Immediate Deployment Of U.N. Monitors To Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS, March 1 (Reuters) - The United States on Saturday called for the swift deployment of international monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Ukraine to help stem the escalating crisis there.
"Russian actions in Ukraine are violating the sovereignty of Ukraine and threaten international peace and security," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Ukrainian crisis.
She called for the "immediate deployment" of U.N. and OSCE observers after Russia's parliament approved President Vladimir Putin's request to send military forces to the autonomous Ukrainian region of the Crimea.
3:25 pm: NATO ambassadors to discuss Ukraine on Sunday - NATO's Rasmussen
BRUSSELS, March 1 (Reuters) - NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted on Saturday.
"North Atlantic Council will meet tomorrow followed by NATO-Ukraine Commission," Rasmussen wrote.
A NATO diplomat said the North Atlantic Council (NATO ambassadors') meeting would take place at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT) and the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT).
3:00 pm.: Ukraine wants NATO to look at how to protect territorial integrity
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - Ukraine has asked NATO to look at all possible ways to help it protect its territorial integrity, Foreign Minister Sergei Deshchiritsya said on Saturday.
The minister said he had held talks with officials from the United States and the European Union and then asked NATO for help after what Ukraine's prime minister described as Russian aggression.
A request had been made to NATO to "look at using all possibilities for protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and nuclear facilities on Ukrainian territory," he said.
2:35 pm: Obama national security aides discuss potential policy options for Ukraine
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's national security team met on Saturday for an update on the situation in Ukraine and to discuss potential policy options, a senior Obama administration official said.
The meeting came as Ukraine asked the United States and other key members of the U.N. Security Council to help safeguard its territorial integrity after Russia announced plans to send armed forces into the country's autonomous Crimea region.
2:25 pm: Two Russian warships seen off Ukraine coast, violate agreement-Interfax
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - Two Russian anti-submarine warships have appeared off the coast of Ukraine's Crimea region, violating an agreement on Moscow's lease of a naval base, Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian military source as saying.
The source said the two vessels, part of Russia's Baltic Fleet, had been sighted in a bay at Sevastopol, where Moscow's Black Sea Fleet has a base.
1:40 pm: Ukraine puts forces on combat alert, warns of war
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - Ukraine put its armed forces on full combat alert on Saturday and warned Russia that any military intervention in the country would lead to war.
After a more than three-hour meeting with security and defence chiefs, Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said there was no justification for what he called Russian aggression against his country.
Standing beside Turchinov, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said he had urged Russia to return its troops to base in the Crimea region during a phone call with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and called for talks.
"Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia," Yatseniuk told reporters.
1:00 pm: EU's Ashton urges Russia not to dispatch troops to Ukraine
BRUSSELS, March 1 (Reuters) - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a decision by the Russian parliament to authorise the use of Russian forces in neighbouring Ukraine was an unwarranted escalation of tensions.
"I therefore call upon the Russian Federation not to dispatch such troops but to promote its views through peaceful means," Ashton said in a written statement on Saturday.
Ashton added that she would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after Monday's extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the bloc's response to the situation in Ukraine.
12:55 pm: Russia must respect Ukraine's sovereignty - NATO chief
MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Russia must respect Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and borders, including with regard to movement of Russian forces in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted on Saturday.
"Urgent need for de-escalation in Crimea. NATO allies continue to coordinate closely," Rasmussen said.
12:50 pm: Russian speaker warns Kiev against using force in east, Crimea-parliament
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - A Russian parliamentary leader warned Ukraine's acting president on Saturday that Moscow would respond militarily if Kiev used force against peaceful citizens in the east of the country and Crimea, the Ukrainian parliament said.
In a statement on its website, the assembly said Oleksander, acting president and parliamentary speaker, had spoken by telephone to Sergei Naryshkin, the chairman of Russia's State Duma or lower house.
It said Naryshkin had declared its readiness to resort to "military aggression .. If force is used against peaceful citizens of Ukraine in the territory of Crimea and the east.
Crimea is the only region with an ethnic Russian majority and people in the east of Ukraine and mainly Russian speakers.
12:15 pm:U.S., Russian defense chiefs talk as Ukraine's future in balance
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke on Saturday with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, a U.S. official told Reuters, as Russian President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament's authority to invade Ukraine.
Asked about rumors some U.S. military units had been on alert over turmoil in the Crimean peninsula, the official said the U.S. focus was on diplomatic options. There was no change in the U.S. military's stance, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
11:15 am: Britain says Russian moves "potentially grave threat" to Ukraine
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Saturday that Russian action was a "potentially grave threat" to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
Hague said he had spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to urge steps to calm the situation, and had summoned the Russian ambassador to register Britain's concern.
"I am deeply concerned at the escalation of tensions in Ukraine, and the decision of the Russian parliament to authorise military action on Ukrainian soil against the wishes of the Ukrainian Government," Hague said in a statement.
"We condemn any act of aggression against Ukraine."
He advised all British nationals to leave Crimea immediately by all practical means.
10:05 am: Ukraine's Klitschko calls for "general mobilisation"
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - Vitaly Klitschko, a senior Ukrainian politician and likely presidential candidate, called on Saturday for a "general mobilisation" following Russian parliament's decision to approve deploying troops in Ukraine's Crimea region.
"Klitschko calls for a declaration on a general mobilisation," the retired boxing champion's political party UDAR (Punch) said, making clear he favoured a military mobilization.
10:00 am: Russia's upper House of Parliament to ask President Putin to recall Russian Ambassador to the United States.
MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Russia's upper house of parliament will ask President Vladimir Putin to recall Moscow's ambassador from the United States, the chamber's speaker said on Saturday.
Valentina Matviyenko, the head of the Federation Council, asked the Council's Committee on Foreign Affairs to draw up a proposal setting out the demands to Putin.
9:30 am: Russian upper house approves use of troops on Ukrainian soil
MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Russia's upper house of parliament on Saturday approved a proposal by President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russian armed forces in Ukraine's Crimea region.
The Federation Council voted overwhelmingly to back a proposal to use "the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in that country."
It said the decision took effect immediately.
9:05 am: Ukrainian security chiefs to meet as tension mounts in Crimea
KIEV, March 1 (Reuters) - Ukraine's acting president called an emergency meeting of security chiefs on Saturday, his spokeswoman said.
Oleksander Turchinov summoned his Security Council after Russian President Vladimir Putin sought parliamentary approval to deploy Russian forces in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
8:05 am: Putin proposes use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine
MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the upper house of parliament to approve sending armed forces to Ukraine's Crimea region, the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.
"In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory (in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) ... I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in the that country," the statement said.