Ukraine crisis: Russia stands firm despite rebukes, threats of sanctions By Catherine E. Shoichet, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Susanna Capelouto, CNN updated 6:46 PM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
CNN) -- Russia showed no signs of backing down Monday even as world leaders threatened sanctions and sternly rebuked the country for sending troops into Ukraine. At an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the unfolding crisis, Ukraine's envoy asked for help, saying that Russia had used planes, boats and helicopters to flood the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with 16,000 troops in the past week. "So far, Ukrainian armed forces have exercised restraint and refrained from active resistance to the aggression, but they are in full operational readiness," Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said. As diplomats at the meeting asked Russia to withdraw its troops and called for mediation to end the crisis, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin insisted his country's aims were preserving democracy, protecting millions of Russians in Ukraine and stopping radical extremists. He said ousted President Viktor Yanukovych remains Ukraine's elected leader and has asked Russia to send troops. The Russian envoy read a letter from Yanukovych at the U.N. meeting, describing Ukraine as a country "on the brink of civil war," plagued by "chaos and anarchy." "People are being persecuted for language and political reasons," the letter said. "So in this regard, I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine." U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia's claims about the situation in Ukraine are untrue and warned that sending military forces "could be devastating." Yanukovych, she said, abandoned his post last month and was then voted out of office by Ukraine's democratically elected parliament. "Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission," Power said. "It is a violation of international law." Earlier Monday, global stocks slipped on fears things could get worse, and diplomats grasped for a way to stop the situation from escalating. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the situation Europe's most serious crisis of the still-young 21st century. And U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States is examining a series of economic and diplomatic steps to "isolate Russia," and he called on Congress to work with his administration on an economic assistance package for Ukraine. Tensions mount
In Crimea, more Russian troops arrived, surrounding military posts and other facilities and taking effective control of the peninsula from Ukrainian authorities. What they planned to do next remained unclear. Analysts told CNN the apparently growing presence of Russian troops in Crimea means there's a risk the tense standoff could escalate. "There are lots of unintended consequences when you have armed men staring at each other in places like you do in Crimea," said Michael McFaul, the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. "So I think we all need to be very vigilant and worry about the worst case scenario, because it's no one's interest ... to see all out civil war in this country in the heart of Europe of 50 million people." Putin's moves into Ukraine come as the Russian leader struggles to deal with a political crisis in the neighboring country that didn't unfold as his government hoped, according to Russia analyst Jill Dougherty, formerly CNN's Moscow bureau chief. "Putin has been trying to figure out what to do. So now he's taking these steps," Dougherty said. "And I think that he probably thinks that they're carefully calibrated. But he really is playing with fire." In one ominous incident, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman said the commander of Russia's Black Sea fleet boarded a blocked Ukrainian warship and issued a threat. "Swear allegiance to the new Crimean authorities, or...
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