- Many reporters have witness a large convoy of Russian military vehicles moving into Crimea.
- Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe were refused entry to Crimea after having warning shots fired near them.
- Yulia Tymoshenko is receiving medical treatment in Berlin for chronic back pain.
- Ukrainian state institutions have been under cyber attack from unnamed hackers.
- Poland has closed its consulate in Crimea because of harassment of its staff.
AP has been doing some detective work, trailing military convoys in Crimea.
The Russians have denied their armed forces are active in Crimea, but an Associated Press reporter trailed one military convoy Saturday afternoon from 25 miles west of Feodosia to a military airfield at Gvardeiskoe north of Simferopol, over which a Russian flag flew.
Some of the army green vehicles had Russian license plates and numbers indicating that they were from the Moscow region. Some towed mobile kitchens and what appeared to be mobile medical equipment.
Vladislav Seleznyov, a Crimean-based spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, told AP that witnesses had reported seeing amphibious military ships unloading around 200 military vehicles in eastern Crimea on Friday night after apparently having crossed the Straits of Kerch, which separates Crimea from Russian territory.
“Neither the equipment, nor the paratroopers have insignia that identify them as Russian, but we have no doubt as to their allegiance,” Seleznyov said.
The amphibious operation appeared to be one of the largest movements of Russian military forces since they appeared in Crimea a week ago.
Seleznyov also said a convoy of more than 60 military trucks was spotted Saturday heading from Feodosia toward Simferopol, the regional capital. An AP reporter caught up with the convoy and trailed it to Russian-controlled airfield. In the rear of the vehicles, heavily armed soldiers could be seen, though none appeared to have identifying badges or insignia. Soldiers spat at the reporters following them.
Reuters report that Ukraine’s ambassador to Russia met a deputy Russian foreign minister in a “cordial” meeting in Moscow. The Russian foreign ministry did not say what was discussed.
These are images released by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe after their observers are stopped trying to enter Crimea. Shots were fired in the air when the observers approached the checkpoint.
Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and the UK’s Jewish Chronicle reports large troop movements and that the Russians have started to disguise their vehicles by removing their registration plates.
Convoy of 20 #Russia army trucks (without plates) full of soldiers just north of Simferopol 10minutes ago #Crimea pic.twitter.com/7KK7pg5Kqk
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) March 8, 2014
Most #Russia army vehicles seen today were without plates for the first time. But the MP car leading the convoy had plates #Crimea #Ukraine
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) March 8, 2014
We posted a wedding picture from Simferopol last week.
We came across a #Tatar wedding in #Bakchiserai #Crimea today. pic.twitter.com/40mZUS7KgH
— Lindsey Hilsum (@lindseyhilsum) March 8, 2014
Tymoshenko treated in Berlin
Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has started medical treatment at Berlin’s Charite hospital.
Hospital chairman Karl Max Einhaeupl told reporters that doctors will decide by Monday whether the 53-year-old needs an operation for her severe back pain resulting from slipped discs she suffered more than two years ago. If she does have an operation the recovery period would typically last about four days followed by further rehabilitation. Einhaeupl said that Tymoshenko isn’t suffering any paralysis though she requires a mobility aid to walk around because she cannot put any strain on her right leg.
Ukraine has come under severe cyber attack, Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s Security and Defence Counci said in the latest incident, unidentified sources launched denial of service (DoS) attacks which are intended to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users.
“There was a massive DoS-attack on communication channels of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, which was apparently aimed at hindering a response to the challenges faced by our state,” the Security and Defence Council said. It said the Ukrainian state-run news agency Ukrinform had suffered a similar attack.
The Ukrainian authorities said last week the country’s telecommunications system had come under attack, with equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea used to interfere with the mobile phones of members of parliament. They said that some Internet and telephone services were severed after Russian forces seized control of airfields and key installations in Ukraine’s Crimea region. The government has told ministries to take urgent measures to prevent their websites being blocked and ordered law enforcement bodies to investigate “evidence of cyber attacks and punish those responsible in their implementation”.
The Ukrainian security chiefs did not say who was behind the communications disruptions.
Updated at 3.02pm GMT
Russia won’t stop gas
European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger does not expect Russia to switch off gas supplies to Europe over the Ukraine crisis, he told German magazine Wirtschaftswoche.
Russian gas export giant Gazprom warned it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills on Friday.
Ukraine is a major gas transit nation for supplies from Russia to the European Union, which relies on Russia for about a quarter of its gas. But Oettinger said a cut-off would not be beneficial for the company: “Gazprom has an interest in its daily sales revenues so that investment is worthwhile and turnover is generated.”
Oettinger said if no more gas flowed through Ukraine, it would affect 14 percent of European gas consumption. In early 2009 Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, leading to reductions in European supplies during a cold winter.
But Oettinger said Europe was better placed to deal with such a scenario given that the winter had been mild, gas storage sites were fuller than a year ago and European Union countries were now obliged to ensure they had 30 days’ worth of supplies. “We’re in a better position than we were five years ago,” he said.
Updated at 2.53pm GMT
Kiev governmenr run by the right
Russia Today reports that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian minister, has accused the Ukrainian government of being directed by the far right group Right Sector, whose leader declared his candidacy for president today, see post at 11.25.
The new government’s officials asked this Right Sector to approve their choice of ministers and now the Right Sector is dissatisfied. Its leaders say the reloading of the government system in Ukraine has not been completed. They are demand each of the ministers go to the Maidan protesters and report on how well they implement the demands of the protest leaders.
Updated at 2.53pm GMT
A Serb Chetnik volunteers for Russia. During the Kosovo conflict, Russians also volunteered for Serbian paramilitary groups. Stern magazine, supported by an investigation by the German intelligence agency, accused one of them of murdering two of its reporters and a translator. Russia refused to extradite the suspect.
Serb volunteer at #Crimea roadblock, here to help Russian “Orthodox brothers” – via @marklowen http://t.co/DtgSCEj13U pic.twitter.com/XtOSvG6DyZ
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 8, 2014
Updated at 1.50pm GMT
The foreign military observers are from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Both Ukraine and Russia are members.
AP reporter: Warning shots fired, foreign military observers barred from entering Crimea.
waiting for more details
Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, is in Bakhchisarai the former Tatar capital of Crimea. He said there is a festive mood at the army base as soldiers celebrate women’s day which is a traditionally a much bigger event in the former Soviet Union than in Britain. Russian troops surrounded the base but left earlier this week. The Ukrainan commander has allowed troops to leave base to visit family. “Psychologically, this is a very difficult situation for us but we have adapted to it,” he said.
Central European states plead for US gas exports
Ambassadors from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic urged the United States to boost natural gas exports to Europe as a hedge against the risk that Russia could cut its supply of gas to Ukraine, according to AP.
In a letter to John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the ambassadors ask for Congress to support speedier approval of natural gas exports. It notes that the “presence of U.S. natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe.”
The ambassadors say the unrest in Ukraine has revived Cold War memories, and energy security threatens the region’s residents daily. “Gas-to-gas competition in our region is a vital aspect of national security and a key U.S. interest in the region,” the ambassadors wrote.
Boehner and Republicans have been urging the Obama administration to clear the way for more exports to capitalize on America’s current natural gas boom. The U.S. Energy Department has approved only six export licenses, while about two dozen remain pending.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that because Europe has had a relatively mild winter, gas supplies are sufficient. He said even if the U.S. did approve more export licenses, it would take until the end of 2015 for gas to be delivered.
“Proposals to try to respond to the situation in Ukraine that are related to our policy on exporting natural gas would not have an immediate effect,” Earnest said.
Updated at 2.54pm GMT
Poland closes Crimea consulate
Poland announces it has evacuated its consulate in Crimea.
Because of continuing disturbances by Russian forces there, we have reluctantly evacuated our consulate @PLinSevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine.
— Radosław Sikorski (@sikorskiradek) March 8, 2014
Updated at 2.54pm GMT
Life goes on in Sevastopol, with the Russian navy lurking in the background.
A picture of a newly dug minefield made by the Russian army on the border of Ukraine and Crimea, taken by a Russian photographer.
МИННОЕ ПОЛЕ, сделанное российской армией на границе Крыма и Украины http://t.co/fI6SA0fieV фото позиций обоих армий pic.twitter.com/qfgohI19cP
— Feldman (@EvgenyFeldman) March 8, 2014
US were aware of Russian troop movements
Michael Flynn, the head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, said the US was aware of the Russian troop movements which preceded the take-over in Crimea. He told National Public Radio.
“I think for easily seven to 10 days leading up to the Russian troops as we see them now in the Crimea, we were providing very solid reporting … where we move from one level of a condition of warning, which I would just describe … as sort of moderate to one where we believe things are imminent,”
Updated at 2.55pm GMT
PA has a quote from Simon Smith, Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine.
We are also very cognisant that there is here in Ukraine a new opportunity to build a new unified Ukraine and we very strongly believe this a moment where Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity needs to be enhanced and supported, and not threatened.
We are dismayed and shocked and very much condemn the actions that have been taken in terms of violations of international law, in terms of an action taken on the basis of entirely spurious reasoning.
There have been no tested incidents of threats to the Russian-speaking community in Crimea. We observe a number of moves to establish, again on illegal grounds, a process for holding a referendum in Crimea – we regard that as a whole process full of legal unsoundness. We think that is an initiative that has only brought further destabilisation to the situation.
We have just received this press release from Londonmaidan, pro-Ukraine supporters in London who will be protesting outside the Chelsea ground.
London Ukrainians protest against Putin-ally Abramovich
On Saturday 8 March at 4pm Ukrainians living in London will protest outside Stamford Bridge against Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s support of Vladimir Putin.
The protesters are calling for the UK to back proposals for sanctions against Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs in London who have supported President Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
Putin has made clear he is not interested in a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and the protesters believe sanctions against his supporters is one of the only options the West has to ensure peace in Crimea.
Roman Abramovich is a known close confidant and political ally of Vladimir Putin. Abramovich has an estimated fortune of U.S.$14.6 billion, and is the 50th richest person in the world, according to the 2012 Forbes list.
London Ukrainians have also held protests outside ONE Hyde Park, home of Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, who supported former president Viktor Yanukovych.
They also held a protest at the London Stock Exchange, which invited Yanukovych-backer Dmitro Firtash to open trading in London.
I wonder if Spurs fans will join in.
Updated at 2.55pm GMT
AFP explain what Russia’s threat to stop arms inspections entails.
The inspections that could be halted are carried out in line with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the United States and the Vienna Document between Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member states.
Cutting off such inspections would likely be seen by the West as a major violation of such agreements, which are regarded as a cornerstone for the maintenance of global peace in the post-Cold War world.
The New START treaty between Russia and the United States, signed between US President Barack Obama and then Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, entered into force in February 2011.
The agreement provides for 18 on-site inspections per year as part of a verification regime for a treaty that envisages drastic cuts in missiles and nuclear warheads on both sides.
The threat was made when an anonymous Russian defence official issued a statement to Russian media.
The unfounded threats towards Russia from the United States and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture that allows the declaration of force majeure circumstances.
We are ready to take this step in response to the announcement by the Pentagon about stopping cooperation between the defence institutions of Russia and the United States.
Inasmuch as these inspections are a matter of trust, then in a situation where the United States has de facto declared the imposition of sanctions then there cannot be normal, bilateral contacts on observing agreements.
Here are two images of both sides of the demonstration in Kharkiv.
Security massing up to protect #Kharkiv city council confronted by a pro-Russian demo pic.twitter.com/zVzDIRS50W
— Marcin Zaborowski (@MaZaborowski) March 8, 2014
pro-Russia demo rally around #Lenin monument in Kharkiv. crowds r growing pic.twitter.com/TQacBKMlTY
— Marcin Zaborowski (@MaZaborowski) March 8, 2014
Unian news agency report that around three thousand supporters of Russian are demonstrating outside the regional government in Kharkiv. The protesters have flags of Russia and the Soviet Union and banners with slogans, “ Fascism will not pass” and “For the referendum and Russian language”.
The government building is guarded by hundreds of police officers.
AP reports that the first Ukrainian medalist of the Sochi Paralympics has dedicated her achievement to “an independent Ukraine,” appealing for peace as Russia intensifies its control of Crimea.
Olena Iurkovska won bronze in the the women’s 6 kilometer sitting competition.
After finishing behind Svetlana Konovalova of Russia, Iurkovska said: “I devote my first medal in Sochi to an independent Ukraine. Every time I race, it will be for Ukrainian independence and peace in my country.”
Ukraine imports 70 per cent of its gas from Russia and it uses gas for around 20 per cent of its electricity production. More than half of its electricity is provided by 15 nuclear reactors which also rely on Russian supplies but alternatives would be easier to find. More Ukraine energy information here.
But a major part of the EU’s gas supplies crosses Ukraine. It is not clear how well the EU would cope without Russian gas.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchytsa said he believes that Ukraine can do without Russian gas.
I think that the Ukrainians will be able to overcome the reduction of gas supplies to Ukraine by other sources. At one time, it was decided to block the subway, but taxi drivers drove people to the Maidan, and if Russia cut gas supplies, maybe we’ll find other sources.
Updated at 11.51am GMT
Ukrainian and Russian protests in Simferopol in Crimea. The Russian protest looks sparse but it is the only photograph available at the moment.
BBC correspondent assess impact of Nick Clegg’s intervention in Crimea crisis.
Clegg strikes fear into the heart of the Kremlin as he warns Putin: drop the KGB mentality, or else
— Gabriel Gatehouse (@ggatehouse) March 8, 2014
AP tweets that Moscow might retaliate over sanctions.
BREAKING: Russian news agencies: Moscow mulls freeze on US military inspections under arms control pact.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 8, 2014
Dymytro Yarosh, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist Right Sector party has declared his intention of running for president. Yarosh and his party are described by opponents as neo-Nazis and their activities have been used as part of the justification for Russia’s intervention in Crimea.
At a press conference he apologised for the tight security but said he had information that Moscow has sent an assassination squad to kill him.
He said that his group was not xenophobic or anti-semitic and included members from all minorities. He said that the Ukrainian should be the language of the state but that should not effect what language people speak privately.
Here’s an image of pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk.
Pro-#Russian activists came to support #Russia.Donetsk, March 8 pic.twitter.com/6FXNguUTG8 @novostidnua| PR Photo #Ukraine #Euromaidan
— Euromaidan PR (@EuromaidanPR) March 8, 2014
There have been demonstrations all over Ukraine in favour of Russian intervention and the Ukrainian government. These two pictures show pro-Ukrainian demonstrations in Crimea.
China calls for calm
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for calm and restraint and urged all parties to keep in mind the fundamental interests of all ethnic communities in Ukraine and interests of regional peace and stability.
China has said it will not interfere in what it considers an internal affair and that it respects the Ukrainian people’s decisions, according to Reuters.
The priority now is to exercise calm and restraint and prevent further escalation of the situation. It is regrettable that the situation in Ukraine has come to what it is today, yet it is not by accident that the situation has reached this point.
The more complex the problem, the more necessary for it to be handled in a prudent way. China is in communication with various parties and we will play China’s constructive role in bringing about a political settlement of the Ukraine issue.
Updated at 10.45am GMT
West should reconsider defence cuts
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of NATO said that governments should reconsider defence budget cuts because insecurity was ultimately a far greater cost. Speaking on Radio 4, he said:
“Recent events in Crimea remind us that there is still a threat in Europe, a potential threat against security and stability. It is a reminder that European nations should invest sufficiently in our common defence and security.
I do believe that politicians all over Nato will now rethink the whole thing about investment in security and defence. Obviously, defence comes at a cost but insecurity is much more expensive.
So, I think these events will contribute to the thinking in capitals when it comes to future investments.”
Rasmussen went on to say said there could be “no military response” to Russia’ actions in Crimea but denied Nato was an outdated institution and said it remained “strongly determined to defend our member states”.
Updated at 10.46am GMT
Press harassed in Crimea
It was a difficult night for journalists. AP had equpment stolen by armed men in Simferopol as they tried to set up a live satellite and there is footage of other cameramen being beaten by supporters of Russia.
Updated at 10.46am GMT
Border post taken
Ukraine’s border guards said on Saturday some of their men had been evicted from an outpost in eastern Crimea by Russian soldiers, who seized their apartments and forced them out in the middle of the night with their families. The Ukrainian border service issued this statement.
“Aggressive Russian troops stormed and seized a unit of the border service at Shcholkine and ousted the families of the Ukrainian borders guards. Russian armed servicemen rushed into the unit overnight. During the attack, they beat a duty officer who tried to resist and seized a weapons storage room.
The attackers rushed into the apartments where families lived. Russians seized mobile phones of the chief of the unit, his wife and other officers. They ordered all to pack up and leave the building. At the present time, the unit is occupied by Russian soldiers.”
Updated at 10.46am GMT
Although AP described the troops as pro-Russian, the Ukrainian commander was clear that the soldiers were Russian
Onishchenko said the troops who assailed his base were clearly Russian.
“These were Russian servicemen specially ordered,” he said. “Their watches were set to Moscow time. They spoke with Russian accents and they didn’t hide their allegiance to the Russian Federation. But they didn’t have any distinguishing marks (on their uniforms). Without doubt, this was a Russian action.”
AP report that pro-Russian soldiers tried to take over a Ukrainian base on Friday night.
“Lt. Col. Vitaly Onishchenko, deputy commander of the base, said three dozen men wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms arrived late Friday. While one group climbed over a wall on one side of the base, another crashed a heavy military truck through the gates, Onishchenko said.
He said Saturday that they turned off power and cut telephone lines and demanded that about 100 Ukrainian troops, who barricaded themselves into one of the base buildings, surrender their weapons and swear allegiance to Russia. The invaders left around midnight.”
Kiev takes orders from extremists
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Ukrainian government was taking orders from extremists and denied Moscow had any direct role in the crisis in Crimea.
“The interim government… is not independent. It depends, unfortunately, on radical nationalists who carried out an armed coup,” he told reporters.
Updated at 10.47am GMT
Ukraine will not give up Crimea
Ukraine’s acting foreign minister said on Saturday his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully.
“Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory and we will not give up Crimea to anyone,” Andriy Deshchytsia told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Referring to deaths this year during protests against Ukraine’s now deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, he said: “We are putting all our efforts into solving this matter through diplomacy – we have already had too many victims.”
Updated at 10.47am GMT
Updated at 11.34am GMT
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk