Ukraine put its armed forces on full alert and warned Russia that military intervention on its territory will be considered as war following Vladimir Putin decision to invade as the upper house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved his request to send troops into the neighbouring state.
Sunday saw reports claiming that Russian military forces seized weapons from a radar base and naval training facility in Crimea region where they urged personnel to side with the peninsula’s “legitimate” leaders.
Meanwhile, other Russian servicemen removed weapons from a Ukrainian navy training centre in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.
After a meeting with security and defence chiefs, prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk revealed to the media that he urged Russia to enter talks and to return its soldiers to base in the Crimea region.
“Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia,” Yatseniuk said.
Ukraine’s current president, Oleksandr Turchynov, decided to put the armed forces on full readiness after Russian showed signs of the threat of “potential aggression” as 15,000 troops joined those who have effectively seized Crimea.
In his interview with reporters Turchynov said he had also ordered stepped-up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure.
In a call to President Obama on Saturday night Putin isisted that Russia had all the rights and possibilitues to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers not only in Crimea but also in east Ukraine.
Obama urged Putin to return Russian troops to the initial places of their dislocation and warned his colleague that Russia faced greater political and economic isolation.
The White House said in a statement: “President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law.”
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that on Sunday the organization would discuss the crisis after Ukraine asked it, the US and EU “to look at all possible mechanisms for protecting its territorial integrity”.
The situation in Crimea was tensioned after two Russian anti-submarine warships appeared off the local coast, thus violating an agreement on Moscow’s lease of a naval base. The two vessels had been sighted in a bay at Sevastopol, where Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet has a base.
Obama’s national security team met to discuss policy options, while David Cameron said: “There can be no excuse for outside military intervention in Ukraine – a point I made to President Putin when we spoke [on Friday]. Everyone must think carefully about their actions and work to lower, not escalate, tensions. The world is watching.”
Foreign secretary William Hague said he was “deeply concerned” at the Russian parliament’s decision to use troops in Ukraine. He said: “This action is a potentially grave threat to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”