Referendum 'no different to Scotland', Crimea minister says

Crimea's new information minister has told ITV News that the planned referendum on Sunday is no different to the situation in Scotland and Catalonia.

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Germany issues warning to Russia over Crimea vote

Germany's foreign minister said should the Crimea independence referendum be followed by steps to absorb the region into Russia, the EU will be forced to consider a further, third stage of sanctions.

Members of a pro-Russian self defence unit pick up boots after an oath swearing ceremony to the Crimea regional government. Credit: REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that Russia had so far rebuffed all European proposals to defuse the standoff in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

He said European states over the weekend would draw up a list of Russians who will be subject to visa restrictions and asset freezes as part of initial sanctions already agreed within the EU.

Russian general and Nato chairman 'discuss Ukraine'

Russia's top general spoke to the chairman of Nato's Military Committee by telephone today about the situation in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian Defence Ministry.

General Valery Gerasimov discussed "the state of Russia-Nato relations and the current situation in Ukraine" with Nato General Knud Bartels, according to the report.


Ukraine president: Russian forces 'ready to invade'

Ukraine's acting president said Russian forces are concentrated on the border "ready to invade" but that he believed international efforts could end Moscow's "aggression" and avert the risk of war.

Oleksander Turchinov told a local television channel that, when Russian forces took over the southern region of Crimea last week, other units were concentrated on Ukraine's eastern border "ready for an invasion of the territory of Ukraine at any moment".

Ukraine's acting president Oleksander Turchinov. Credit: Reuters/Alex Kuzmin

"We are doing all we can to avoid war, whether in Crimea or in any other region of Ukraine," he said, adding that Ukraine's own armed forces were in a state of full combat readiness.

Turchinov said, "All of civilised humanity supports our country. All the leading countries of the world are on the side of Ukraine, and I am sure that this united effort in the international arena, bringing together all democratic countries, can still allow us to halt this aggression."

US: 'Serious series of steps' if Crimea vote goes ahead

The US and the European Union will respond with a "serious series of steps" against Russia if a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region goes ahead on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry warned.

John Kerry speaks during a hearing held by the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes. Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Kerry told a congressional hearing he hoped to avoid such steps, which include sanctions, through discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in London tomorrow.

He said, "If there is no sign of any capacity to be able to move forward and resolve this issue there will be a very serious series of steps in Europe and here with respect to the options that are available to us."


Hague: UK and US working closely together on Ukraine

The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that UK and United States are working closely together to find solution to the crisis in Crimea.

Mr Hague has spoken to US Secretary of State John Kerry, ahead of Mr Kerry's talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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