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Ukrainian crisis: March 4 (live updates)

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Ukrainian crisis: March 4 (live updates)
Pro-Russian rally at Kharkiv state administation's building
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Read previous news on the topic:

Ukrainian crisis: March 3

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.

00:15. U.S. President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve in the shortest time measures of financial assistance to Ukraine, while noting that 'this issue is of paramount importance'.

He also said that if Russia continues on the same trajectory, the U.S. will think about sanctions.

00:26. British representative in the UN Security Council Mark Lyle Grant at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council said that Russia's invasion on the territory of Ukraine is based on fabricated evidence.

00:51. NATO allies will hold emergency talks on the crisis in Ukraine on Tuesday, for the second time in three days, following a request from Poland, the alliance said on Monday.

01:05. Unidentified men offered a regimental commander of Ukrainian internal troops in Sevastopol $200K for surrender of weapons by soldiers of his division, reported the press office of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine.

01:25. Russia has deployed roughly 16,000 troops to Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea since last week, said Acting Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh.

08:23. President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops that took part in military exercises in central and western Russia to return to base after completing their training.

08:41. Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate is preparing a bipartisan initiative legislation to provide loan guarantees to Ukraine on the amount of at least one billion dollars to support the economy, stated chairman of the Committee Robert Menendez.

09:21. Neither a single military unit, nor garrison or ship have fulfilled Russian military ultimatum to surrender their arms and swear allegiance to the self-proclaimed 'Crimean government' or leave the service, reported command officials of the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol.

10:02. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has opened the morning session of Parliament.

10:40. Members of the Communist Party of Ukraine will not take part in the vote until the Verkhovna Rada will stop the persecution of their associates, stated the party's MP Adam Martyniuk.

10:46. Kremlin aide Sergei Glazyev 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.

10:47. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered a resolution which proposes to elect the Party of Regions MP Nestor Shufrych as the first deputy head of Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.

10:52. Only Ukrainian parliament can decide on the involvement of foreign troops in the country, stated Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.

11:05. Ukrainian MPs supported the statement on the withdrawal of foreign (Russian) troops from the territory of Ukraine. 239 MPs supported this decision.

11:18. Ukrainian MPs supported the draft resolution on the establishment of a temporary special committee (TSC) of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on preparation of the draft law amending the Constitution of Ukraine.

11:32. Individual MP in the Verkhovna Rada Vitaly Nemilostivy offered Ukraine's Parliament to consider an appeal to the International Monetary Fund and other lending institutions on public debt relief. Ukrainian government's external debt is almost $28 billion.

11:37. Kremlin aide Sergei Glazyev said on Tuesday that Moscow will react if the United States were to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.

'We will have to move into other currencies, create our own settlement system. We have excellent trade and economic relations with our partners in the east and south and we will find a way to reduce to nothing our financial dependence on the United States but even get out of the sanctions with a big profit to ourselves', he noted.

11:56. Economists predict a recession in Russia because of the events in Ukrainian Crimea.

12:14. The Verkhovna Rada ratified the memorandum of receipt of the European Union macro-financial assistance for the amount of €610 million. 280 deputies voted in support of the document. EU macro-financial assistance can be provided for a period of 15 years.

12:19. Ukraine's parliament has established a temporary special commission to prepare a draft law on the development and application of languages in Ukraine.

12:37. The death toll in the riots in Ukraine has risen to 98 people, reported the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, March 4.

12:45. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday there had been an "unconstitutional coup" in Ukraine and ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich was still the legitimate leader of the country despite giving up all power.

12:47. 'Gazprom' will not renew a discount on gas for Ukraine, and thus its price will rise on April, said 'Gazprom' head Alexei Miller at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

12:50. Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference decided to characterize the changes taking place in Ukraine.

In particular, commenting on the opposition coming to power to replace former President Viktor Yanukovich and hos government, Putin said: 'Some crooks changed to other crooks'.

'Ukrainian people wanted changes, but not to encourage unconstitutional changes. Though I do not welcome the change of power in this way, I understand the position of people on the Maidan. But not the change of the facade of power and radical changes', he added.

12:59. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russia reserved the right to use all options in Ukraine to protect compatriots living in 'terror' but that Moscow would use force only as a last resort, reported Reuters.

'There can be only one assessment of what happened in Kyiv, in Ukraine in general. This was an anti-constitutional coup and the armed seizure of power. No one argues with this. Who can argue with it?', said Putin.

'As for bringing in forces. For now there is no such need but such a possibility exists. What could serve as a reason to use military force? It would naturally be the last resort, absolutely the last', he said.

Putin said Russia would not encourage separatist moves in Ukraine, where many people in eastern and southern regions are Russian speakers and have closer ties to Russia than to the leaders in Kiev seeking stronger ties with the European Union.

'We are not going to meddle. But we think all Ukraine's citizens, no matter where they live, should have the same rights to ... determine the future of their country', he said.

He also said a threat to pull Russia's ambassador out of Washington over the events in Ukraine, which Putin blames on Western interference, would be a last resort and that he would not like this to happen.

13:03. If Russian troops enter Ukraine, it will be a humanitarian mission, said Vladimir Putin.

13:07. The Security Service of Ukraine appealed to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to facilitate the transfer of wanted ex-President Viktor Yanokovich to Ukraine, stated today at a press briefing head of the department Valentin Nalyvaychenko.

13:09. Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to host a G8 summit as planned this year but if western leaders did not want to come 'they don't need to'.

13:10. Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting with the head of "Gazprom" Alexey Miller said he had instructed the Finance Ministry to explore the possibility of granting Ukraine a loan of $2.3 billion for payments to 'Gazprom'.

13:13. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt compared ousted President Viktor Yanukovich with Norwegian collaborator during World War II.

'So Ukraine now has got its own Quisling. Sitting on foreign soil begging a foreign army to give his country to him', says his twit.

13:15. Russia's Vladimir Putin said Russia is not considering the option of annexation of Crimea.

13:19. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia provided refuge to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on humanitarian grounds, as he could have been killed.

Denying rumors on the Internet that Yanukovich had died of a heart attack, Putin said he had met the ousted leader two days ago in Russia, where he fled following his removal from power by parliament. He also said he had told Yanukovich that he had no political future.

13:22. Health Minister Oleg Musiy promises to break the corruption schemes that existed in the department, reported the press office of the Ministry of Health.

13:23. There is no policy in the fact that 'Gazprom' has cancelled a discount on gas for Ukraine, stated Russian President Vladimir Putin.

13:23. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has established strict control at the entrance to Crimea. Three checkpoints were deployed and border patrols exhibited.

13:35. Mobilization of he ranks of the Ukrainian army passes so active that military commissariats do not have time to register all comers, announced today at a briefing in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine NSDC Secretary Andriy Paruby.

14:04. Russia's Vladimir says believes that EuroMaidan self-defense fighters are commandos specially trained in Poland and Lithuania.

14:15. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Budapest agreements that guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for the withdrawal of nuclear forces do not apply to the new government in Kyiv. According to him, a new state hasn't signed anything with the Russian Federation.

14:33. Vladimir Putin said he was not concerned about the prospect of war with Ukraine 'cause the Russian army will be located behind the human shield made of Ukrainian citizens.

'I do not care (about the prospect of war with Ukraine) because we are not going and will not fight with the Ukrainian people. Listen to me, listen carefully here. So I want you to understand me clearly: if we take such a decision, it's only for protection of Ukrainian citizens, and if anybody tries to let someone from the military to shoot their own people, behind whom we'll stay. If only they try shooting at women and children. I would want to see those who give such orders in Ukraine', Putin said in an interview with journalists.

14:50. Head of the U.S. State Department, John Kerry arrived to Kyiv as Washington and its Western allies step up pressure on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Crimea or face economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

15:12. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier calls for a speedy solution to the crisis in Crimea by diplomatic means.

15:22. The Interior Ministry from March 4 to 21 is conducting activities on the voluntary surrender of firearms, ammunition, explosives and special equipment, including wrongfully seized from law enforcers and riot police, reported the press office of the Interior Ministry.

15:44. The European Union is ready to grant Ukraine a loan of more than €6 billion, stated Elizabeth Guigou, chairman of the Foreign Affairs of the National Assembly of France.

15:52. Ukrainian soldiers returned control over most facilities at the airport 'Belbek' near Sevastopol (Crimea). Still, local landing strip and a guardhouse remain under the control of the Russian military.

Ukrainian soldiers had to march under automatic gunfire and sang Ukrainian hymn. They were unarmed.

Russian troops guarding Crimea's Belbek air base fired into the air as Ukrainian soldiers previously stationed there marched towards them

16:04. Russian military continues to block the work of the military units in Crimea (pictures).

16:10. There are dozens of people in Ternopil on the west of Ukraine who are willing to take the military and residents of the Crimea for temporary residence, reported the press office of Ternopil's mayor. Some Crimeans have already moved to western Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.

16:28. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that bloody clashes in Kyiv were provoked by 'non-Ukrainian third force', and 'a big serious investigation' is being hold.

16:37. The Prosecutor General's Office sued the abolition of a number of decisions of the Supreme Council of Crimea in the District Administrative Court of Kyiv.

'In particular, the decision to censure the Council of Ministers of Crimea and the termination of its activities, the appointment of Sergei Aksenov as head of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, as well as the organization and holding of the (local) referendum on the improvement of the status and powers of autonomy', reported the press service of the GPU.

The Prosecutor's Office of Sevastopol has filed a similar lawsuit.

16:39. The U.S. administration intends to address the issue of sanctions against Russia in the coming days.

16:50. The Turkish Air Force scrambled eight F-16 fighter jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew parallel along its Black Sea coast, the military said on Tuesday.

16:53. Kyiv Internet-provider 'Lanet' excluded three Russian TV-channels - 'RTR Planeta' ('Russia'), 'First Channel. Worldwide network' and 'NTV Mir' - from its network for aggressive propaganda, incitement to war, spread of hatred and hostility, reported the press service of the company.

16:56. The deputies of the Verkhovna Rada after a meeting with representatives of the Crimean parliament agreed to establish a working group to prepare amendments to the constitution of Crimea, reported 'Interfax' referring to the Regions Party MP Nestor Shufrich.

17:07. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine on March 4 has begun operation to enhance the protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border, said at a press briefing deputy head of the State Border Service Pavlo Shishovin. The purpose of such measures is to block the entry of organized groups of extremists to Ukraine.

17:37. German company RWE is ready to resume gas exports to Ukraine in case of reduction of the volume of supplies into the country from Russia, stated Chief Financial Officer of RWE Bernhard Gunther.

17:40. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania drew up a blacklist of former Ukrainian government officials who will be banned from entering Lithuania and submitted it to the Migration Department. The list includes Viktor Yanukovich.

17:40. The Interior Ministry has included the names of ex-president Viktor Yanukovich, former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former head of the Presidential Administration Andriy Klyuyev in a base of people who are hiding from the authorities.

17:47. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Mujzhnieks on Tuesday presented a report on violations during the mass protests in Ukraine. This document is important as an independent analysis of the events.

18:06. 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. On March 3rd China expressed its deep concern with the situation in Ukraine, and urged 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.

It should be noted that the Kremlin press service conducts pro-Russian propaganda.

18:14. Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk believes that Russia, among others, is to be held responsible for the failure of implementation of the agreement between the government and the opposition on February 21. Thus, he recalled that the representative of Russia's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, had refused to sign that agreement.

18:29. The European Union is ready to help Ukraine pay its debts for Russian gas, stated EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger after a meeting of the EU Council on Telecommunications and Energy.

18:42. Command of Sevastopol brigade of surface ships, the crews of the Ukrainian Navy 'Slavutich' and 'Ternopil' accused Russian President Vladimir Putin in a lie, when saying that Russian military hasn't intervened in the situation in Crimea.

18:55. Viktor Yanukovich had no right to appeal to the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on introducing troops into Ukraine. This is contrary to the Constitution and laws of Ukraine stated Director of Information Policy Department of the Foreign Ministry Yevhen Perebiynis.

19:05. A rally against the war and on support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine in being held in Donetsk, near the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in the center of the city, told LB.ua one of the organizers of the rally Olga Gusarova.

People keep coming.

Rally in Donetsk

19:15. The U.S. and other Western partners will resort to diplomatic, economic and international isolation of Russia in the event of further escalation of the conflict in Crimea, stated Head of the U.S. Department of State, John Kerry, at a press conference in Kyiv.

Kerry: 'I come here today at the instruction of President Obama to make it absolutely clear that the United States government would rather see this de-escalated. But if Russia does not choose to de-escalate... then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us, to expand on steps to isolate Russia politically and economically', Kerry said.

19:21. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has arrived in Kiev for talks with the new Ukrainian government. The visit is intended both as a mean to discuss options with Ukraine’s leaders face-to-face and as a very visible sign of US solidarity with Kiev. Before leaving Washington Kerry held talks with Barack Obama and his national security team, including Chuck Hagel, the defence secretary.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said that the U.S. is ready to provide financial assistance to Ukraine. John Kerry said that the U.S. will provide loan to Ukraine in the amount of $1 billion.

19:38. 'In fact, Russia invaded the territory of Ukraine, stated John Kerry.

'It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further. Russia has talked about Russian-speaking ordinary citizens that are under siege. They are not. And in fact this government has acted remarkably responsibly', he said.

19:59. 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'.

'We have frequently explained to the Americans ... why unilateral sanctions do not fit the standards of civilized relations between states', Lukashevich said.

20:13. Ukraine is ready to build a new style of relations with Russia, but with respect of its sovereign rights, in particular, the choice of foreign policy vector, stated Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk at a press briefing.

Consultations between Ukrainian and Russian ministers have already started, but they are rather 'sluggish'.

20:22. Member of an armed group of people who are in Yalta (Crimea) admitted to journalists that he and his colleagues are the Russian military, and not the Crimean people's self-defence. Earlier today Russian President Vladimir Putin assured that Crimea is protected by local self-defence.

20:36. Kyiv District Administrative Court invalidated the decision of the Supreme Council of Crimea on the appointment of Sergei Aksenov as chairman of the Council of Ministers of the autonomy and a referendum on the empowerment of Crimea.

20:54. The idea to split the country was incorporated into the Ukrainian society artificially - in the first 15 years of Ukraine's independence, it was alien to the population, stated the Gorshenin Institute head Vadim Omelchenko speaking on Tuesday with a report 'Ukraine: new challenges' in the European Parliament.

21:09. Camera crews of channels Al Jazeera English and '1 +1' have been blocked in a military unit in Yalta (Crimea), reported activist Alexandra Dvoretskaya.

21:21. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin in disinformation about the events in Crimea, stated Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevgeny Perebyynis.

According to him, the ministry considers statements by Russia calling for tourists to go to rest in Crimea as a mockery.

21:35. Euromaidan activist and singer Ruslana Lyzhychko was awarded for bravery with a Prize of the U.S. Secretary of State.

21:56. President of Ukraine in 1994-2005, Leonid Kuchma expects that Russia will comply with its obligations, set out in a 'big contract' with Ukraine in 1997, says his statement, released by the press service of the presidential fund Kuchma 'Ukraine' on Monday. Ukrainians have different nationality and speak different languages, but together they constitute one nation, he stressed.

22:38. The European Union intends to freeze the assets of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and assets of 17 more Ukrainian ex-officials, writes Wall Street Journal, citing the words of two European diplomats, as part of an effort by the block to blacklist people it accuses of corruption.

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