Western Leaders Condemn Putin as Ukraine Tensions Grow
Western leaders have condemned Russian action in Ukraine, with the US, Britain, France and Canada withdrawing preparations for the Sochi G8 summit in June.
Russian troops continued to advance into the Crimea province yesterday, surrounding Ukrainian military bases and digging trenches at the border with the rest of the country.
The Telegraph reports that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has vowed to stand by Ukraine. Mr Rasmussen said that NATO would not abandon the beleaguered East European state, and called on Russia to "stop its military activities and its threats."
John Kerry, US Secretary of State, described Russia's actions as "an incredible act of aggression" and threatened that they could lead to "very serious repercussions". He even floated the idea of Russia’s expulsion from the G8. "You don't just, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext."
Mr Kerry also threatened to punish Putin economically: "He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble."
British foreign secretary William Hague has travelled to Kiev to meet Ukraine's interim government, installed after the overthrow of President Yanukovich. "The sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and this cannot be the way to conduct international affairs," the Foreign Secretary said.
Yesterday, the Ukrainian military suffered a huge set back after the newly-appointed naval commander, Admiral Denys Berezovsky, defected to pro-Russian forces in the Crimea. He now faces charges of treason.
The region has a large ethnic Russian population, and also contains a Russian naval base at Sevastopol.
It had been an integral part of Russia until it was transferred to the Ukraine while both countries were part of the Soviet Union.