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Ukrainian crisis: March 3 (live updates)

LB.ua chronicles the latest events in Ukraine in English for foreign readers.

Ukrainian crisis: March 3 (live updates)
Russian soldiers in Crimea

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Ukrainian crisis: February 27

Ukrainian crisis: February 28

President Viktor Yanukovich provoked protests in Ukraine in November by backing out of plans to sign landmark deals with the European Union and instead saying Kiev would seek closer economic and trade ties with its former Soviet master Russia.

On Jan. 16 the Verkhovna Rada adopted more than a dozen of controversial amendments to a law 'On the Judicial System and Status of Judges' and the procedural laws regarding additional measures to protect the safety of citizens. Most opposition politicians, international organizations and European countries consider these laws a violation of basic constitutional rights of 45 million citizens of Ukraine.

On Jan. 19, clashes broke out between Euromaidan protesters and police on Hrushevskoho Street in the centre of Kyiv, after radical protesters decided to break through the police cordon in the direction of the Government House and the Verkhovna Rada. At least six people were killed during two weeks of unprecedented politically-linked violence in Kyiv.

On Jan. 24 Euromaidan supporters started seizing buildings of regional state administration all over Ukraine. Some attempts were successful.

On Jan. 25 President Viktor Yanukovich offered the opposition several top government posts. Thus, Yanukovich offered Arseniy Yatseniuk the post of prime minister to replace Mykola Azarov, whose government would be expected to resign. Vitali Klitschko, a former international boxing champion, would be appointed deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues. But opposition leaders, supported by thousands of protesters massing in Kyiv's city centre, continued to press for further concessions, including early elections and the repeal of an anti-protest law.

On Jan. 28 Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned, and a series of sweeping anti-protest laws, adopted hastily in response to increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police, were abolished by parliament.

On Jan. 29 the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, approved a law that would grant an amnesty to arrested protesters, but depended on the demonstrators vacating all occupied government buildings. After 12 hours of negotiations the amnesty was agreed by 232 votes from the Regions Party members and the Communist Party amid applause from the 'regionals' and angry shouts 'Shame!' from the opposition.

The opposition, buoyed by Western expressions of support, pressed on Feb. 4, in parliament for a return to a previous constitution of 2004, which would mean Yanukovich losing some of the key powers he has accumulated since being elected in 2010. These include appointing the prime minister and entire government as well as regional governors. The opposition also wanted an unconditional amnesty for protesters detained in the unrest to be broadened into an unconditional pardon for all those being held by police.

On Feb. 16 the Interior Ministry confirmed protesters have met all the conditions necessary to bring the amnesty law into effect. A conditional amnesty law that exempts detained protesters from criminal charges has been implemented on Feb. 17.

On Feb. 18-20 gun battles between police and anti-government protesters resulted in the death toll of 83 people (some of them died from wounds in the following days). In the evening of Feb.19 Viktor Yanukovich said he had agreed firstly a truce and secondly 'the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilizing the situation in the state in the interests of social peace'.

On Feb. 21 Ukraine's parliament voted in favor of returning to the constitution of 2004 under which President Viktor Yanukovich would lose some of his powers. Russian-backed Yanukovich fled Kyiv by helicopter.

On Feb. 22 deputy chairman of 'Batkivshchyna' opposition faction Oleksandr Turchinov, hostile to Yanukovich, was appointed Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada. Later in the day the parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich, declaring him constitutionally unable to carry out his duties, after three months of street protests, while his arch-rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko hailed opposition demonstrators as 'heroes' in an emotional speech in Kyiv after she was released from jail. Moreover the assembly called a presidential election for May 25. Yanukovich abandoned Kyiv.

As of Feb. 24 fugitive President Viktor Yanukovich is wanted on an arrest warrant for mass murder. His whereabouts remain unknown. Some members of the Party of Regions and criminal regime supporters fled the country. Also, cash-strapped Ukraine appealed for urgent financial assistance to prevent a default, saying it needed $35 billion over two years to stop the economy 'heading into the abyss'.

In the evening of Feb. 24 most of the ministers under Yanukovich were dismissed.

On Feb. 26 ousted President Viktor Yanukovich has been put on the international wanted list. At the same time, thousands of pro-Russia separatists tussled with supporters of Ukraine's new leaders in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula attached to the rest of Ukraine by a narrow strip of land, is the only Ukrainian region with an ethnic Russian majority, and a home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.

Also, on Feb. 26 President Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to carry out a comprehensive review of sudden readiness of the Western and Central military districts, as well as a number of branches located on the border with Ukraine. Also, Ukraine's protest leaders named the ministers they want to form a new government.

In the morning of Feb. 27 armed men seized the government buildings in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region and hoisted a Russian flag over a barricade. The identities of the men in the buildings in the regional capital of Simferopol were not immediately known and they issued no demands. On the same day Viktor Yanukovich said he was still the legitimate president of his country and that people in its south-eastern and southern regions would never accept the 'lawlessness' brought by leaders chosen by a mob of Euromaidan supporters in Kyiv.

On March 1 Russian President Vladimir Putin secured permission from his parliament to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine and told U.S. President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene. While Russian military continues bloodlessly seizing Ukrainian military units and other objects in Crimea, Ukraine's security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert. Thus, the Defence Ministry was ordered to stage a call-up of reserves.

So far, the Western response to Russia's aggression has been largely symbolic. Thus, on March 2 Barack Obama and others suspended preparations for a G8 summit in Sochi. Some countries also recalled their ambassadors from Russia.

Now everyone is waiting on whether Russia makes a military move in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow demonstrators have marched and raised Russian flags over public buildings in several cities in the last few days.

09:04. 'China is deeply concerned with the situation in Ukraine, and urges interested parties to seek a political solution to the differences through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of respect for international law and the norms of international relations for peace and stability in the region', stated China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

09:20. First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Vitaly Yarema said that now the authorities are discussing blocking of the border with Russia to prevent incitement to separatism in the border regions.

09:45. The General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine filed another (third) criminal proceeding against ex-president Viktor Yanukovich after his press conference in Rostov-on-Don. He was accused of appeals to overthrow the constitutional order.

10:08. Russia took a financial hit over its military intervention in neighbouring Ukraine, with its markets and currency plunging on Monday as President Vladimir Putin's forces tightened their grip on the Russian-speaking Crimea region.Russia took a financial hit over its military intervention in neighbouring Ukraine, with its markets and currency plunging on Monday as President Vladimir Putin's forces tightened their grip on the Russian-speaking Crimea region.

10:10. Germany's Angela Merkel after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, called U.S. President Barack Obama and said that the Russian president has lost his 'contact with reality', reported The New York Time. On Sunday Merkel has proposed to Putin and Obama sending a 'fact-finding mission' to Crimea.

11:01. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Russian intervention in Ukraine was the biggest crisis in Europe so far this century, reports Reuters.

11:09. Unidentified men attacked journalist, chief editor of the website 911sevastopol.org Tatiana Rihtun in Sevastopol.

11:15. Russian Roskomnadzor has blocked 13 Ukrainian communities in the social network 'VKontakte, devoted to the protests on Kyiv's Independence Square.

12:04. Staff officers of the Command of Naval Forces of Ukraine refused to support Crimean separatists, reported the Ministry of Defence.

12:37. Four ships of Russia's Northern and Baltic Fleets have entered Sevastopol.

12:53. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered to begin construction of a bridge from Russia to Crimea through the Kerch Strait.

'Ukraine was, is and will be a very important trade and economic partner for us. We are closely watching how the situation develops, but we have a solution that is binding, in particular documents, which were signed in December last year that no one has changed or cancelled', he said.

13:00. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Monday that Ukrainians would never give up Crimea.

14:06. Leader of the 'Svoboda' party Oleg Tyagnibok predicts the creation by the Verkhovna Rada on March 4 of groups to negotiate with the State Duma of Russia.

14:25. Russian fighter jets twice violated Ukraine's air space over the Black Sea during the night, reported the Defence Ministry of Ukraine on Monday.

14:36. Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea Sergey Tsekov offered to organize a debate in the Crimean community on the transition to the second time zone (Moscow), reported the press service of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea. 

14:48. Today, March 3, the biggest broadcasting company in Crimea - 'Chermonorskaya' - went off the air because of the threats to its employees.

Broadcasting company 'Chermonorskaya' is one of the largest Ukrainian regional private television stations, one of two in the Crimea, which broadcasts throughout the peninsula. After its switching off the only broadcasting company which keeps working is Crimea State broadcaster, which is controlled by illegitimate self elected government of Sergei Aksenov.

15:22. A group of unidentified men this morning tried to seize control of the State Penitentiary Service in Crimea, wrote Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko on Facebook. Employees of the institution were required to give an oath of allegiance to Crimea.

15:39. 'Political settlement of the situation in Crimea is not imminent and is not possible without the return of Russian forces to their places of permanent deployment, and military force won't add Russia any friends in Europe or in the world', stated Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

15:55. 'Provocations with killing of three to four Russian soldiers are planned on the territory of Crimea tonight', stated Deputy Interior Minister of Ukraine Mykola Velickovic, reported the press service of the Interior Ministry. This would let Moscow legitimize the introduction of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, he noted. https://lb.ua/news/2014/03/03/257993_mvd_krimu_gotovyatsya_provokatsii.html

Mykola Velickovic

15:59. In Crimea, the Russian military blocked the work of the military units in Novoozernoe, Perevalnoye and Feodosia. Ukrainian troops blocked in Feodosiya refuse to give up to the Russians and forswear (pictures). https://lb.ua/news/2014/03/03/257994_rossiyskie_voyska_zablokirovali.html

16:04. Australia cancels government contacts with Russia because of the situation in Ukraine.

Thus, Australiam Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: 'Russia must withdraw. It should withdraw its troops from Ukraine and the Ukrainian people should have the right to decide their future. Unprovoked aggression should have no place in our world', he said.

Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia today summoned the Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozov for explanations on the actions of his country in Ukraine. In response he said that all criticism of the Russian invasion in Crimea was 'anti-Russian hysteria', that there was no invasion there, and only spontaneously created 'self-defence units' were acting in Crimea', and that Russia 'will not tolerate harassment of our compatriots in Crimea'.

16:13. Donetsk Regional Council announced a referendum on joining the Russian Federation.

According to 'people's governor' Pavlo Gubarev, elected on the eve, the referendum will be held 'in the nearest future'. He also promised to make all decisions on the 'Popular Assembly', and announced the mobilization of 'Berkut' riot police fighters to protect the region.

16:28. 'Preparations for a military invasion in Ukraine have lasted for the last four years. There was a deliberate policy to undermine Ukraine's defence capability', announced Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk at a meeting with representatives of Ukrainian business.

16:46. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has strengthened control on the border with the Russian Federation. Suspicious people are prohibited from entry to Ukraine.

17:07. The analysts of Bank of America Merrill Lynch have estimated that an armed conflict in Ukraine may cost Russia a loss of $ 60 billion of export revenue, which corresponds to about 3% of Russia's GDP.

17:16. Demonstrations in support of Ukraine are being held in London. At the demonstration, in addition to Ukrainians, there are also British, Polish, Russian, Georgian, Syrian and Lithuanian citizens who support the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression.

17:18. Accumulation of military equipment is observed on the territory of Russia, bordering Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Besides, the governor of Russia's Rostov region unfolded refugee reception centres, which may indicate further planning of a military invasion, stated the Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebiynis.

17:20. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is to send an observer mission to the early presidential elections in Ukraine, which will be held May 25 this year, reported the press service of the OSCE.

17:55. Abkhazia expressed support for Russia's actions to resolve the situation in Ukraine.

18:03. The personnel of two ships of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - corvette 'Ternopil' and command ship 'Slavutich' - declared allegiance to the Ukrainian people, reported the press service of the Ministry of Defence. Now both ships remain at the pier in Sevastopol bay.

18:14. European Union foreign ministers have agreed to suspend talks with Russia on visa issues because of Russia's seizure of Crimea, a draft of a statement to be issued later on Monday said, reports Reuters.

Russia and the EU have been discussing visa cooperation since 2007, with Russia keen to have visa-free access to the EU's member states. It is an issue raised at nearly every meeting between Moscow and Brussels.

18:19. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discussed the situation in Ukraine by telephone.

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'.

18:19. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt citing John Kerry and Barack Obama on Twitter:

@JohnKerry Military brazen act of aggression in violation of international law & UN charter. 19th century act of aggression in 21st cent.

@JohnKerry There are many options available to #Russia. Pres. Putin needs to think about Russia's interests. There will be costs.

@JohnKerry This is not East-West, #US & Europe versus #Russia. This is about people of #Ukraine fighting against tyranny.

@JohnKerry Unified view by G8 & more that they will not engage with #Russia as business as normal. Russia inviting trade isolation.

@JohnKerry President Obama made it clear we are prepared to work with #Russia to help people of #Ukraine.

@JohnKerry Invasion is not the act of someone who is strong. It is the act of someone who is weak.

@JohnKerry This is not the way modern nations resolve problems. There is still a right set of options. Not invasion.

#Obama: I commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations. #Ukraine @MID_RF

@JohnKerry: "This is the moment to engage directly with the Government of Ukraine. This can be resolved." @MID_RF

@JohnKerry: "We call on Russia to engage with Ukraine gov’t. USG prepared to work very closely with @MID_RF to address concerns." @MID_RF

@JohnKerry: "If you have legitimate concerns about your citizens, go to the @UN. Ask for observers. Engage the other country’s government.”

@JohnKerry: "The Ukrainian people are fighting for democracy, for freedom, they’re fighting to have their voices heard." @MID_RF

@JohnKerry: "This is a time for diplomacy, and we will engage as much as we can...nobody wants this to spiral into a worse direction."

18:26. European Union foreign ministers during a meeting in Brussels have discussed a list of possible measures against Russia if it does not return its troops stationed in Crimea to the barracks. Proposed resolution, inter alia, included banning arms exports to Russia.

18:37. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has not signed into law a bill approved on February 23 'On the Repeal of the Law of Ukraine' On the Principles of State Language Policy', said Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk during a meeting with the European Business Association.

18:50. The U.N. Security Council will hold its third emergency meeting on the crisis in Ukraine on Monday, this time at the request of Russia, reports Reuters.

19:25. Pro-Russian 'titushki' armed with bats are storming headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol, posted on Facebook head of the Center for Military-Political Studies Dmitry Tymchuk. According to him, Russian military with machine guns are standing behind the ranks of 'titushki'.

19:46. The Interior Ministry troops have strengthened security at Chernobyl nuclear power plant due to the tense situation in the country.

20:11. Russia considers unacceptable threats against it by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in response to recent events in Ukraine and Crimea, says a statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

20:33. Council of the European Union on Monday strongly condemned the invasion of the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory and declared that such actions violate international law.

21:16. Ukraine is waiting for real help from the world in the events surrounding the Crimea, stated at a press briefing Acting President of Ukraine, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Oleksandr Turchynov.

21:31. Buses and trucks with armed men broke into Ukraine through the Kerch crossing. According to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, they ignored border controls. 

'The demands of the border control prohibiting the importation of firearms to Ukraine have been ignored. The arrival of these vehicles was accompanied by 10 armed with assault rifles Russian Black Sea Fleet soldiers who pushed border guard and took up firing positions on the perimeter', says a message.

With the next ferry crossing three trucks 'Kamaz' with armed men arrived to Ukraine, said border guards.

21:50. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov declared that he won't sign the decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which cancels the law 'On principles of state language policy' from July 3, 2012. The new law will allow all languages to develop in Ukraine.

The law 'On principles of state language policy' entered into force on August 10, 2013. It provided the Russian language the status of regional in 13 regions of Ukraine.

22:15. A group of Cossacks, fully armed Russian military and 'provocateurs' are preparing to storm the Headquarters of the Naval Forces of Ukraine in Sevastopol, reported journalist Roman Burco from the scene.

'On both sides of the PPC Cossacks, the Russian military and provocateurs brought here build shields and flyovers adjacent to the walls enclosing the headquarters', wrote the journalist on Facebook.

He also said that these actions are accompanied by 'psychological attack' - loud music and pro-Russian 'patriotic' songs.

'During breaks slogans that coordinators start chanting and pick with young voices pick up can be heard. These slogans are: 'Fascism will not pass', 'Russia! Ukraine! Belarus - a single union', and so on', wrote Burco.

22:50. Viktor Yanukovich appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Russia's armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, stated Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

'As legitimately elected president of Ukraine, I appeal to President Putin to use Russia's armed forces to restore law in Ukraine', quoted Churkin statement by the former president.

23:11. A few 'KamAZ' trucks with armed men aboard appeared near 36th Coast Brigade of Naval Forces of Ukraine's Armed Forces in the village of Perevalnoye between Alushta and Simferopol (Crimea).

There is a suspicion that there are provocateurs in the trucks.

23:33. European Union foreign ministers have threatened to impose sanctions against Russia in the case of 'continuing escalation in Crimea'.

European diplomats accused Russia of aggravation of the crisis in Crimea, and issued an ultimatum to Moscow: if it won't take steps to 'de-escalate the situation on the peninsula' until March 6, it will be punished.

23:50. U.S. sees no reason for the introduction of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, stated U.S. representative Samantha Power during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine.

According to her, at this time there is no evidence of harassment of Russian minority in Ukraine in general, and in Crimea in particular.

'Everything that Russian officials talk about are fictitious threats', she stressed. She also said that Washington does not consider Viktor Yanukovich legitimate president of Ukraine and expressed support for the new government.