Russia sending envoy to Ukraine as violence escalates

Vladimir Putin is sending an envoy to Ukraine at the request of President Viktor Yanukovich to mediate talks between the government and opposition, marking Russia's first open involvement in the escalating crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Russia has so far steered clear of the violent protests which began when the Ukrainian leader scrapped plans for deals with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

A spokesman for the Russian president said: "Putin decided to send (Russian) human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin on this mission."

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Ukraine warns Russia against 'act of aggression' in Crimea

Ukraine's acting president has warned Russia that troop movements outside its naval base in Crimea would be seen as an "act of aggression". Armed men seized regional government headquarters and parliament and the Russian flag is flying from buildings