Russia will come under heightened diplomatic pressure Thursday as the UN Security Council and European leaders hold emergency talks on Ukraine, after the seizure of Crimea created the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
The EU summit in Brussels starts at 1030 GMT, when leaders will meet with Ukraine\’s prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who took over after the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych last month following three months of deadly protests.
As the EU confers on the crisis, 40 unarmed military personnel are expected in Crimea in a mission by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to try to defuse tensions in the flashpoint region.
Later the 15-member UN Security Council will hold fresh closed-door talks from 1930 GMT in New York, the body\’s fourth consultations on the subject since Friday.
During an acrimonious round of emergency talks Monday, Russia told other council members that Yanukovych had asked Moscow to dispatch troops to re-establish law and order in his country.
The European Commission meanwhile announced an aid package worth at least $15bn for the Ukraine government.
Ukraine is near bankruptcy and the EC announcement is in addition to a $1bn aid package promised by the US.
NATO has announced a full review of its co-operation with Russia to try to pressure Moscow into backing down on Ukraine, and said it would "intensify" its engagement with Ukraine.
The organisation\’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also announced on Wednesday that the military alliance was suspending a joint mission with Russia involving the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.
NATO\’s announcement came as top diplomats from Europe and the United States broke off a meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, as a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrey Deshchitsia, also failed.
Speaking from Brussels, Rasmussen said the situation in Ukraine presented "serious implications for the security and stability" in the region and that Russia "continues to violate" Ukraine\’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"Russia\’s actions have consequences."
In Paris the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and several foreign ministers met Lavrov to try to diffuse the tension in eastern Ukraine.
Kerry said that he would meet Lavrov in Rome on Thursday to continue discussions on how to "de-escalate" the situation in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, where pro-Russian troops have assumed control of much of the region\’s infrastructure.
"We cannot, and will not allow the integrity of the sovereignty of the country of Ukraine to be violated," he said.
Lavrov said his departure did not mean an end to efforts to resolve the current crisis.
"We agreed to continue those discussions in the days to come to see how best we can help stabilise, normalise the situation and overcome the crisis," he said.
The U.S. State Department Wednesday issued a 10-point rebuttal to Russian President Vladimir Putin\’s version of events in Ukraine, publishing a list of what it said are untruths.
The "fact sheet" is titled "President Putin\’s Fiction: 10 False Claims about Ukraine." Observers say its publication is a notable departure from standard procedure at the State Department, which rarely issues public statements suggesting a foreign leader is being untruthful.
"Putin says," the document begins, that "Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets." It continues with what it calls "the facts," citing "strong evidence [that] suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea."
The U.S. document concedes that the occupying force wears uniforms without insignia. But it says members of the occupation force drive vehicles with Russian military license plates "and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military."
The entire "fact sheet" is posted on the State Department\’s website.
The U.S. rebuttal also criticizes Putin\’s claims that Russian-speaking citizens of Crimea are facing threats from Ukrainians. "Outside Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat" in the region, it says.
A U.S. official is quoted as saying the "fact sheet" will be translated into Russian.
The Russian embassy in Washington offered no immediate comment on the document.
Putin does not recognise the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev, which in turn accuses Russia of a military invasion in Crimea.
Troops believed to be Russian took over Crimea on Saturday, placing forces around its ferry, military bases and border posts.
A spokesman for Ukraine\’s defence ministry told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that Russian forces seized part of a Ukrainian missile defence unit.
The command post and control centre of the base in Evpatoria, on the western coast of Crimea, however remained under Ukrainian control, the source said.
Source: AFP and agencies