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Ukrainian crisis: March 17 (live updates)

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

Ukrainian crisis: March 17 (live updates)
Voting at Crimean's illegal referendum
Фото: EPA/UPG

Read previous news on the topic:

Ukrainian crisis: March 14

Ukrainian crisis: March 13

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.

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.

As of March 10 Russia has introduced around 20 thousands soldiers to the territory of Crimea, and their number keeps growing. Also, there are about 220 thousand Russian soldiers on the Russian side of the south-eastern borders of Ukraine and Crimea.

00:13. Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama said the referendum in Crimea was legal and in full compliance with international law and the UN Charter, reported the press service of the Kremlin.

08:39. The National Guard and the Security Service of Ukraine has taken Ukraine's gas transportation system under the special protection, says a message on a website of the Interior Ministry.

08:56. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement on the referendum on the status of Crimea and urges to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from the peninsula.

09:16. A complete, preliminary ballot count showed that 96.77% of voters in Ukraine's Crimea region have voted to join Russia, Mikhail Malyshev, the chairman of the regional government commission overseeing the referendum said on Monday.

09:32. Swiss prosecutors on February 27 raided an office of Rinat Akhmetov's DTEK Traiding SA in Geneva. This became known only now.

A two-hour search was conducted in a framework of investigation of the coal trading company MakoTrading SA beloging to the eldest son of ex-president Viktor Yanukovich, Oleksandr, who is suspected in money laundering by the Swiss police.

09:43. Russia's lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing Ukraine's Crimea region to join Russia 'in the very near future', Interfax news agency quoted the chamber's deputy speaker as saying on Monday.

09:58. The Russian company 'KamAZ' said that on Sunday armed men who introduced themselves as Euromaidan Self-Defence seized a large shipment of KamAZ in Ukraine. The alleged reason for this wat that Russians capture Ukrainian property in Crimea.

10:10. At the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sochi the Russian organizers would not let Ukrainian sportswoman Lyudmila Pavlenko to show into the 'Fischt' arena because of the inscription 'Peace' on her suit.

All in all, sportsmen from other countries started defending her and the organizers had to give up and let her pass.

10:15. Joining Crimea to Russia will cost the budget of the Russian Federation at least 88 billion rubles, or $2.4 billion per year, reports newspaper 'Vedomosti', referring to the calculations of the rating agency S&P and Russian economists.

10:41. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine received a representation from Acting President, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Oleksandr Turchinov regarding the constitutionality of the proclamation recognizing the independence of Crimea.

10:54. 95.6% of residents of Sevastopol reportedly voted for joining Crimea to Russia. Turnout was reportedly 89.5%, said the head of the Sevastopol city election commission Valery Medvedev on March 17 at an extraordinary session of the city council.

10:55. Head of Chernivtsi Regional State Administration Mikhail Romanov, who has worked on this position for one day, under public pressure wrote a letter of resignation.

10:56. The Supreme Council of Crimea at an extraordinary meeting on Monday adopted a resolution 'On the independence of Crimea'.

85 deputies voted in favour of the 'independence'.

11:14. Ukraine's parliament endorsed on Monday a plan to mobilize 40,000 reservists to counter Russia's 'blatant aggression' in Crimea and guard against what a senior official described as further incursions in the south and east of the country, reports Reuters.

Andriy Parubiy, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, told parliament that 20,000 reservists would be deployed as part of the armed forces and the other half would serve in a newly-created National Guard.

'What has taken place is a seizure, blatant aggression, the seizure by Russia of parts of the territory of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol', Parubiy told the chamber before the vote.

'We now have grounds to state that the measures being taken today are enough to prevent a repeat of the Crimean scenario in Ukraine's south-eastern regions'.

These regions include Donetsk and Kharkiv, two cities which have seen unrest and clashes between pro-Russian and rival demonstrators, as well as Odessa, a Black sea coastal area to the northwest of Crimea.

A total of 275 members in the 450-seat assembly backed the measure. About 30 deputies in the chamber refused to vote.

A decree by acting President Oleksander Turchinov called for mobilization within 45 days and provided for complete financing and provision of facilities for the reservists.

11:26. Donetsk region Governor Sergei Taruta decided to bring the police units from Kirovohrad and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

'Thus we hope to increase the security', he said.

Lately violent pro-Russian demonstrations have taken place in eastern Ukrainian cities, disturbances blamed by authorities in Kyiv on 'Kremlin agents'.

11:33. Ukraine's Parliament adopted a bill regularizing the order of military service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine reserve. 276 members of the Verkhovna Rada have backed a bill number 2591.

Citizens on a voluntary basis can be taken for service in reserve.

11:35. Ukraine's Parliament has allocated 6.9 billion hryvnia to improve the country's defence capability.

11:38. Privatbank has stopped serving customers in Crimea. The only service that is still available on the peninsula is withdrawing cash from its ATMs within the balances on debit cards, but no more than 1500 UAH per day.

11:43. The Verkhovna Rada of Crimea took a decision to move to Moscow time (two hours later, than in Ukraine) on March 30.

12:00. In Moscow, the Ukrainian Embassy in Russia on Monday morning was attacked by representatives of a party 'Other Russia'. The attackers threw two smoke bombs at the the embassy.

12:03. About a dozen men in camouflage uniforms and masks come today under the Verkhovna Rada's building in the centre of Kyiv with automatic weapons, reports the LB.ua correspondent on the ground (pictures).

As we found out, they call themselves Afghans, although there are also young men among them. They brought weapons in order to demonstrate that they are able to defend themselves and Ukraine from any threats.

12:04. The Crimean Supreme Council declared Russian ruble the official currency on the peninsula. Ukrainian hryvnia will have the same status on the peninsula up to 2016, reported the press service of the Supreme Council.

12:32. The State Statistics Service on Monday reported there was a sharp reduction in turnover between Ukraine and Russia in January.

According to the authorities, the export of Ukrainian goods to Russia totalled $746.5 million versus $1.11 billion in January 2013. Imports of goods from Russia decreased from $1.72 billion to $1.46 billion.

12:35. Russian President Vladimir Putin will address a joint session of parliament on Crimea on Tuesday, the Kremlin's representative to the lower house said.

12:44. In Korosten (Zhytomyr region) members of the organization 'Nobody but us' beat Spilno.TV journalist and public activist Anatoly Lazarenko. The incident occurred on March 14 near the city hall, where the man was involved in a meeting of Euromaidan Self-Defence. Now he is in the surgical department with multiple injuries, told LB.ua journalist's wife Valentina Lazarenko.

Police came to help Anatoly only after the request from another media representative.

12:51. A top Chinese diplomat repeated Beijing's call for calm and restraint in Ukraine on Monday, but avoided commenting on a referendum in Crimea after the region's Moscow-backed leaders declared a 96-percent vote in favor of joining Russia, reports Reuters.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, speaking to reporters ahead of a visit to Europe by President Xi Jinping later this month, said that a political settlement was the only way to resolve the Ukraine crisis.

12:57. Two operators of an Association of Cinematographers 'Vavilon'13', Yaroslav Pilunsky and Yuri Gruzinov, disappeared in Simferopol on March 16. They were supposed to receive a parcel for the Ukrainian military.

12:59. Ukraine's Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh said that the Armed Forces of Ukraine regained the necessary resources and are ready to repel Russian invaders.

13:20. Russia proposed on Monday creating an international support group to mediate in the Ukraine crisis but outlined terms that are unlikely to be acceptable for Kyiv and the West, reports Reuters.

In response to Western calls for a 'contact group' to mediate in the crisis, Russia's Foreign Ministry suggested the 'support group' could push for Ukraine to recognize the outcome of a referendum in which the Crimea region voted to join Russia.

The ministry also said the support group should urge Kyiv to implement parts of a peace deal concluded by President Viktor Yanukovich and his opponents on February 21, hours before he fled Kiev and one day before he was removed from power by parliament.

Moscow's initiative may be intended mainly to deflect criticism abroad that it has not engaged sufficiently in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

The statement did not say who might take part in the group, but said it should urge Ukraine to adopt a new constitution setting out broad powers for the country's regions and require Ukraine to uphold military and political neutrality.

This would imply greater power for Russian-speaking regions in the east and southeast of Ukraine, a move already promised by the Ukrainian authorities, and could be seen Moscow as a way to prevent Ukraine joining the NATO defence alliance.

The February 21 deal called for an investigation into violence in which dozens of people were killed during anti-government protests. The violence followed harsh police intervention but Moscow blames it on radical groups among the protesters and says the new leadership in Kyiv has not investigated properly.

13:52. Over the past week the Russian military in Crimea forcibly evicted from their apartments 11 employees of the State Border Guard and 19 members of their families, including 9 children, reported the press service of the State Border Guard.

13:59. The Crimean Supreme Soviet declared a public joint stock company 'Chernomorneftegaz' property of the republic. According to its statement, the parliament nationalized ARC movable and immovable property of 'Chernomorneftegaz', located on the territory of Crimea, its continental shelf and exclusive (maritime) economic zone.

14:17. The Communist Party leader Pyotr Simonenko believes that only the nationalization of basic industries can raise Ukraine's economy.

14:30. The 'Batkivshchyna' faction has urged Parliament for an immediate adoption of the law 'On occupied territories', Acting Head of the faction in the Verkhovna Rada Serhiy Sobolev said at a press briefing.

The State shall protect Ukrainian citizens who are in the Crimea, he added.

14:33. The 'Batkivshchyna' party MP Andriy Senchenko, who represents Crimea in Ukraine's parliament, said he was categorically against different types of blockade of the peninsula, since there are Ukrainian citizens there.

14:39. The Crimean State Council at an extraordinary plenary session nationalized integral property complexes of enterprises under the management of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine and the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, located on the peninsula.

14:50. The mandate of a mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union to Ukraine must include Crimea, despite resistance from Russia, which already considers the peninsula its territory, stated Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andriy Deshchytsa after a meeting with UN Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

14:54. The Supreme Council of Crimea on Monday has doubled its budget - from $5.378 billion USD to $11,484 billion, including $4 billion aid from Russia. Moreover, Crimea has stopped transferring taxes to Kyiv.

15:01. Russia once again allowed Ukraine to conduct an observation flight over its territory according to the Vienna document on confidence-building measures and security in 2011, Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters on Monday.

15:10, 15:50. The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans on officials from Russia and Ukraine after Crimea applied to join Russia on Monday following a weekend referendum, reports Reuters (read the whole document approved by Barack Obama here).

U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians on Monday blamed for Moscow's military seizure of Crimea, including ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, and Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev, two aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to reconstitute as much as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian authority, was not on the blacklist.

In Brussels, the EU's 28 foreign ministers agreed on a list of 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to be subject to travel bans and asset freezes for their roles in the events.

The EU did not immediately publish their names. Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the coming days if Russia does not back down and formally annexes Crimea.

15:36. A bill on a simplified procedure for accession of new subjects to the Russian Federation, introduced earlier by a group of deputies from the 'Fair Russia', has been recalled from the State Duma. Currently, this document is being considered by the Venice Commission.

15:46. The Central Election Commission has registered former Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin as a presidential candidate. This decision was taken at a meeting of the CEC on Monday.

Kuzmin filed documents, including the payment of UAH 2.5 million, for registration as a presidential candidate on Friday, on March 14.

15:52. Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his page on Instagram that Chechen businessmen will invest into Crimean resorts.

16:13. Former head of Kharkiv Regional State Administration, Chairman of the Party of Regions in Kharkiv region, Mikhail Dobkin, said that the Rerions Party has not yet discussed a number of important questions about the situation in Ukraine.

He stated this in an exclusive commentary to LB.ua, responding to a question about whether the Party of Regions recognized that the chairman of the Crimean Parliament Vladimir Konstantinov proclaimed himself head of the Crimean organization of the party.

16:14. Ukraine has no plans to break up economic relations with the Russian Federation at the moment, said First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Vitaly Yarema.

16:17. Ukraine intends to prepare a lawsuit against Russia on the return of deposits of Sberbank of the USSR, Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko stated on Monday. The amount of the claim is $80 billion without indexation.

16:26. Ukrainian servicemen will remain in Crimea until a decision in accordance with the situation, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Vitaly Yarema said.

16:45. Ukraine will recall its ambassador in Russia, Vladimir Elchenko, to discuss the situation in Crimea, reported the press service of the Foreign Ministry.

16:46. The Venice Commission will give its conclusion about the conduct of the referendum in Crimea on March 21-22, the Foreign Ministry reported.

17:09. Ukrainian Security Service seized an arsenal of equipment, including devices for secret audio and video recording, air monitoring and listening of rooms from one of the state institutions, previously controlled by former First Deputy Prime Minister Sergiy Arbuzov.

Criminal proceedings under Art. 359 of the Criminal Code 'Illegal use of special technical means for gathering secret information' has been initiated.

17:17. Sanctions against 21 citizens of Russia and Ukraine, introduced by the European Union in connection with the events around Ukraine, will last only for a period of six months, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy's Federica Mogerini said after a meeting of foreign ministers of the EU in Brussels on Monday.

17:35. If the situation in Ukraine will worsen, the list of persons on the EU's blacklist will be expanded, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius stated.

17:45. Lithuania's domestic intelligence department on Monday accused a Russian diplomat of spying, saying he had sought to gain access to classified information during the Baltic state's presidency of the European Union last year, reports Reuters.

In its report for 2013, Lithuania's state security department said the diplomat had sought to recruit a Lithuanian civil servant to obtain "secret and otherwise sensitive information" about Lithuania's EU presidency.

Russian embassy spokesman Aleksandr Ivanov said the mission's policy was to not comment on reports of the state security department. However, he said the diplomat, who was named in the report, was still working at the embassy.

17:47. Rare items from the residence of ex-President Viktor Yanukovich 'Mezhyhiria' will be shown at the National Art Museum next week (video).

Among them there is a picture by Vasily Polenov 'Christ and the Sinner', the cost of which is estimated at $6.3 million, reports TSN.

Also, according to this information, Yanukovich's private collection includes some pictures very similar to the works of Niлolai Aivazovsky and Ivan Shishkin. There is also a collection of works by Pablo Picasso.

However, it is worth noting that the originality of these paintings is yet to be confirmed, since their examination hasn't been done yet.

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