Mascow, 3 March, (Aljazeera): Ukrainian navy forces in Crimea are told to surrender by 3GMT on Tuesday or face a military assault.
Russian forces that have surrounded the military bases in Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea have given ultimatum to Ukrainian navy forces there to surrender, according to the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol.
Russia asks Ukrainian navy to surrender
A commander at the headquarters confirmed to Al Jazeera the ultimatum from Russian forces to lay down their weapons, adding that the ultimatum includes two main bases in the region and ships patrolling the bays of Kurinaya and Streletskaya.
The headquarters did not confirm if the ultimatum only includes the navy or the whole Ukrainian military forces in Crimea.
Al Jazeera correspondents in Kiev and Crimea say that the ultimatum is likely to include the whole Ukrainian army forces in Crimea.
Al Jazeera’s Zeine Khodr, reporting from Crimea, said she did not get the impression that the armed forces were considering surrender.
“A commander that talked to us said they only received orders from Kiev,” she said.
Russia’s Interfax news agency has reported that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has told Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender by 3GMT on Tuesday or face a military assault. The ultimatum, Interfax said, was issued by Alexander Vitko, the fleet’s commander.
“If they do not surrender before 5am [local time] tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea,” the agency quoted the ministry source as saying.
The West is facing its biggest confrontation with Moscow since the Cold War after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the right to use force in its neighbour and Ukraine put its military on alert.
Ukrainian border guards have said that Russia has started a build-up of armoured vehicles on the Russian side of a narrow stretch of water between Russia and Crimea.
According to Kiev’s statements, Russian troops continued to pour into Crimea on Monday and took positions outside military installations in the peninsula.
Vladislav Seleznev, Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman, told AFP news agency that Ukraine was still in control of all of its bases after defiant troops refused to hand over control.
“All of the bases in Crimea are still under Ukrainian control but are surrounded,” he said, adding that despite the tensions so far no violence had erupted.
Last week, Unidentified gunmen, believed to be Russians, have gained control of state buildings and airports, in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula where ethnic Russians are the majority and Moscow has a naval base.
On the diplomatic front, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has refused international calls for Russian army to pull out from Crimea.
Moscow defends military action
Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Lavrov justified the use of troops in Crimea as a necessary protection for his country’s citizens living there, and called on Kiev to abide by a European Union sponsored deal between the Ukrainian opposition and Viktor Yanukovich, the country’s deposed president.
Earlier in the day, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in Kiev that London was not discussing military options in its attempts to reverse the Russian incursion, but insisted that Moscow must face “significant costs” over its moves.
Foreign ministers of the EU are meeting in Brussels to work on a joint response to Russia’s military incursion in Crimea that could include economic sanctions.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ahead of the meeting that it was “more important than ever for us not to fall into the abyss of a military escalation, not to blunder into this abyss”.
His French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, said the twin aims of the upcoming meeting would be to condemn Russia’s intervention in Crimea, and to reiterate the need for mediation and dialogue.
US Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Moscow with “very serious repercussions” from the US and other countries including sanctions to isolate Russia economically.