As it happened: Crimea crisis

Key Points

  • Ukraine's military says an officer has been killed in an attack on a base in Crimea
  • The shooting came hours after President Putin signs a treaty to accept the "Republic of Crimea" into the Russian Federation
  • US, UK, France and Germany condemn Russia's actions and call for a strong response
  • The White House calls a meeting of G7 leaders next week to discuss the crisis
  • Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February
  • All times GMT

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    Welcome to our live coverage as President Vladimir Putin prepares to address the full Russian parliament on Crimea's bid to become part of Russia. He is reported to have approved a draft bill to enable Crimea's "entry into the Russian Federation", which would mean separation from Ukraine.


    Russian government ministers and MPs have taken their seats in a giant hall in the Kremlin, ready for President Putin's speech, which will be televised nationally. In it he is expected to stake Russia's claim to Crimea. For centuries the peninsula was part of the Russian empire, before 1954.


    President Putin has just started speaking to the full parliament. There was prolonged applause when he mentioned officials and residents from Crimea who are attending the special event.


    Mr Putin says the result of the Crimea referendum on Sunday was "more than convincing". Crimean officials say 97% of voters backed splitting from Ukraine. The vote has not been recognised internationally.


    The European Union and the US have begun imposing sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian individuals following the disputed referendum in Crimea. Click here to find out what international action is Russia facing.


    Mr Putin says Crimea has "sacred" places, symbols of military glory, and that the different ethnic groups have worked together in harmony in Crimea.


    The Russian leader adds that most of the other groups are also oriented towards Russia. He mentions that Crimean Tatars were unjustly repressed in the past. He says measures should be taken to finish rehabilitation of the Tatars who returned to Crimea from internal exile.


    Mr Putin condemns the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, in Soviet times. He says it was a decision taken unconstitutionally, behind the scenes.

    President Vladimir Putin (18 March 2014)

    When the Soviet Union collapsed, the situation was so difficult that Russians "couldn't really protect our interests", Mr Putin says. But he says people were not prepared to put up with "this historical injustice" - referring to the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine.


    The Crimea of Russia's imagination: Artist Ruth Maclennan explains why the peninsula has gained such huge significance in the Russian psyche.


    Mr Putin again attacks the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. He says the main figures in the Ukrainian uprising were "anti-Semites, Russophobes" and "they determined a lot of what's happening in Ukraine". He alleges that "impostors controlled by radicals" are now in power in Kiev.


    Mr Putin insists that Russian troops were already in Crimea legally. Russia strengthened its forces there, he says, but only up to the permitted level of 25,000. Russia had forces at the Sevastopol naval base, under an agreement with Ukraine.


    Mr Putin accuses the West of using double standards, because the West intervened in Kosovo in 1999 but condemns pro-Russian actions in Crimea. The Nato operation in Kosovo was described at the time as justified because of Serb persecution of ethnic Albanians.


    Mr Putin went on to thank Ukrainian soldiers who "avoided bloodshed and did not stain themselves with blood". He says it is surprising to hear accusations of "aggression" in Crimea, because not a single shot was fired.


    While it has long historical roots, this latest crisis really began last November, when now ex-Ukrainian President Yanukovych abandoned an agreement on closer trade ties with the EU, seeking closer co-operation with Russia instead. Our timeline explains how things have unfolded since then.

    BBC's Ben Brown

    tweets: In Lenin square Simferopol - small group of pro Russia demonstrators waving flags as Putin speaks in Moscow #Crimea


    The West behaved "irresponsibly" in Ukraine, Mr Putin argues, referring to the Maidan protests which toppled President Yanukovych. Russia "could not step back any more" he says, adding: "Russia has national interests that need to be respected." He tells Ukrainians: "Don't trust those who frighten you with Russia... we do not need a split Ukraine." He says Crimea will remain home for Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, but Crimea will not be home for "Banderovtsy" - a reference to nationalists. He gets applause at that point.


    Russia had faced the possibility of Sevastopol being used by Nato, Mr Putin says, and that would have threatened southern Russia.

    Kremlin hall during President Putin's speech

    Ukraine and Russia are "one nation", Mr Putin says. He refers to Kiev as "the mother of Russian cities". "We cannot live without each other," he adds, promising that Russia will always protect the interests of Russians in Ukraine.


    Mr Putin says the Crimeans' "will is clear: they want to be part of Russia". He gets loud applause in the hall.

    Journalist Tony Halpin

    tweets: Putin basically offering Kiev a deal - don't fight me over Crimea (which is about the base) and I'll leave the rest of Ukraine alone ‏

    11:52: Breaking News

    Mr Putin announces two new laws: to make the "Republic of Crimea" and "the city of Sevastopol" subjects - that is, parts - of the Russian Federation. He asks parliament to back those laws. He says they are based on the Crimean referendum result. He gets a standing ovation from the audience.

    Ellen Barry, New York Times

    tweets: Sustained, rhythmic applause in St. George's Hall, as Putin announces Crimea will join the Russian Federation.

    11:57: Richard Galpin BBC News, Moscow

    Mr Putin implied there would not be further Russian military intervention in Ukraine, but he said there was chaos in the country, with radicals in control. He is angry with the West, feeling that Russia has been pushed into a corner.


    President Putin signs a treaty with pro-Russian Crimean leaders to accept the "Republic of Crimea" and city of Sevastopol into the Russian Federation. They then stand with the entire hall as the Russian national anthem is played.

    The head of Crimea's new Russian-backed government, Sergey Aksyonov, second left, talks to the speaker of Russia's lower parliament chamber, Sergei Naryshkin, right, ahead of Mr Putin's speech The head of Crimea's new Russian-backed government, Sergey Aksyonov, second left, was in the hall for Mr Putin's speech

    As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Crimea is officially still part of Ukraine. So the "independent Republic of Crimea" is a Russian invention.

    12:15: Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    There will be some relief in Ukraine after Mr Putin's declaration that he was not seeking to split the Ukrainian people. Tensions are running high in parts of eastern Ukraine, where ethnic Russians are a large minority. Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has pledged to devolve more powers to the regions. And Mr Yatsenyuk said efforts would be made to protect language rights.

    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

    tweets: I condemn Russia's recognition of Crimea as a 'sovereign state'. A clear attempt to pave the way for the annexation of part of #Ukraine


    If you missed Mr Putin's speech, you can watch again the moment when the Russian president told his parliament that Sunday's referendum vote was "more than convincing".

    12:29: Maxim Eristavi, Ukrainian journalist, Kiev

    tells BBC World TV: For President Putin, Ukraine is just a big battlefield in the stand-off between Russia and the West. It is the beginning of a big battle for Ukraine, and Mr Putin's real concern is the overthrow of what he calls the "neo-Nazi, radical" government in Kiev.

    People watch Mr Putin's speech at a stall in Simferopol Mr Putin's speech was watched closely on the streets of Simferopol
    12:41: Jan Techau Carnegie Europe think-tank

    writes that the Ukraine crisis has highlighted weaknesses in the EU's foreign policy, but could push the EU into more strategic planning. "In extremely rare cases, they manage to think together and for the long-term - like now, on Ukraine. That's when strategy becomes possible," he notes.

    Ben Brown, BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: They're already changing the nameplate on parliament of #Crimea - wasted no time!!

    Crimea parliament
    12:55: Matthew Price BBC News, Brussels

    The EU will consider further sanctions against Russia this week. France could cancel the delivery of helicopter carriers to Russia. When US Vice President Joe Biden visits Poland and Lithuania in the next few days, he will find anger there that, in their view, EU sanctions so far have been very weak.

    Left to right, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor Mr Putin joined hands with a triumphant Crimean prime minister and parliament speaker after signing the treaty
    Norman Smith, BBC News Channel chief political correspondent

    tweets: William Hague accuses Putin of "a land grab..with no respect for international law" #ukraine

    13:00: BBC Monitoring

    reports an angry Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reaction to President Putin's speech. The ministry says the signing of the deal to accept Crimea as part of Russia "has nothing to do with democracy or common sense". And his speech "has shown vividly how real is the Russian threat to the civilised world and international security".

    13:07: Breaking News

    US Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Poland, accuses Russia of a "blatant violation of international law" in Crimea. He says Russia made a "brazen military incursion", "ratcheted up ethnic tensions" in Ukraine and is making "a continuing assault on Ukrainian sovereignty".


    Mr Biden warns there will be more US and EU sanctions against Russia if Moscow continues to annex Crimea.

    US Vice President Joe Biden at a press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

    So far, the US has ordered the freezing of assets and travel bans on 11 Russian and Ukrainian individuals, while the EU imposed such sanctions on 21 people. Those sanctions follow earlier moves to suspend talks on closer economic cooperation between the EU and Russia, and on preparations for the forthcoming G8 Summit in Sochi.

    Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: Uk suspends all arms export licences to #russia over #ukraine


    Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports that Ukrainian forces are digging trenches and building obstacles on the country's eastern border with Russia, as Russian troops are deployed 20-30 km (12-19 miles) away. The Ukrainian State Border Service says the Russian troops are near Ukraine's Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.


    Margarita Simonyan, head of Russia's state-owned external broadcaster RT, tweets: The world will never be the same. It will not obey aggressive orders given in English any more. I'm glad this is happening in my lifetime.


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron warns that "further measures" should be taken against Russia by the international community if it does not move to defuse tensions in Ukraine. His official spokesman says "de-escalation" would include Russian forces returning to base and the Ukrainian constitution being respected.


    The UK is suspending all military co-operation with Russia, including arms exports, because of Russian actions in Crimea, Foreign Secretary William Hague tells parliament. Joint naval exercises between Russia, France, Britain and the US have been put on hold.

    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague
    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk, Ukraine

    tweets: Decorated tank traps at the Ukraine-Russia border. This one commemorates a nearby WW2 battle

    Tank trap on the Ukraine-Russia border

    US President Barack Obama invites the G7 leaders to a meeting next week to discuss further action on Ukraine.


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemns Russia's move to incorporate Crimea into its territory. "The admission of Crimea into the Russian Federation goes against international law," she says.

    Crowds on the street in Sevastopol listen to President Putin's speech Crowds gathered on the streets of Sevastopol to welcome President Putin's speech

    French President Francois Hollande says he "condemns" Russia's actions. "France does not recognise either the results of the referendum... or the attachment of this Ukrainian region to Russia. The next European Council meeting on March 20-21 must provide the opportunity for a strong and coordinated European response to the hurdle that has just been jumped."

    Stuart, Southampton

    emails: The vote of the Crimean people seems vastly more legitimate than that of the current Ukrainian government, installed as a result of the threats of the mob in Kiev. This is a matter for local interests. It is the West that is destabilising the situation. We should allow Putin to maintain law and order in his backyard just as we would expect him to let us do in ours.

    Journalist Tony Halpin

    tweets: So now all the western journalists in Crimea without Russian visas and accreditation will likely be expelled.

    14:27: Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent

    The stakes here are huge. The international system is facing a major turning point with implications that go well beyond Russia's immediate neighbourhood. Read more of Jonathan's analysis here.


    To recap:

    • The move by Russian to sign a bill absorbing Crimea into Russia is hailed by Moscow and some Crimean leaders but condemned by US and EU leaders
    • President Putin tells parliament Crimea has "always been part of Russia" and he has corrected a "historical injustice"
    • But US Vice President Joe Biden accuses Russia of a "blatant violation of international law"
    • US President Barack Obama invites the G7 leaders to a meeting next week to discuss further action
    • A European Council meeting will also be held from March 20-21 to discuss a co-ordinated European response
    Vivek, Zurich

    emails: The EU and the US created a precedent and opened Pandora's box when they supported Kosovo's independence bid. This is not a question of legitimacy here. I can imagine that the majority of Crimeans (even if much fewer than 96%) want to join Russia. The point is that regional stability cannot be guaranteed if various territories are allowed to switch allegiances and maps are redrawn constantly.


    The crisis in Ukraine and Crimea has placed the entire region on edge over Russia's "nascent aggression", an AP commentary says. "Amid eerie echoes of the Cold War, US allies including Poland have raised concerns that they could be next should the global community be unable to persuade [President] Putin to back down."

    Woman jumps for joy during President Putin's speech Joy was certainly evident among the crowds in Sevastopol earlier as Mr Putin spoke

    "Ukraine and the whole of the civilised world will never recognise [the] annexation of Ukrainian land," acting President Oleksandr Turchynov says, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency/BBC Monitoring.

    Rizky Luqmansyah, Indonesia

    emails: I think Russia wouldn't be afraid of the sanctions that have been prepared for them. I think there should be an act from UN if we want to see a better world in peace.


    Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tells the BBC Russia's actions will have "a long-term negative impact on its relationship with the world". He goes on: "What Russia has done is to start altering the borders of Europe with military force and this is, of course, profoundly disturbing, both for what they are doing in Ukraine at the moment and the implications for the future."

    Derek Staples, Chelmsford

    emails: Our politicians should step back on this. It is not worth harming relations with Russia. The people of Crimea have voted by a large majority to go back as a part of Russia. This is another example of why we should not go shoulder to shoulder with Europe.


    More reaction from acting Ukrainian President Turchynov: "The political leadership of the Russian Federation is trying to annex part of Ukraine," he tells a meeting at the defence ministry. "This is a very dangerous step... Not only against Ukraine, but also against Europe and the whole world." (Interfax-Ukraine news agency/BBC Monitoring)

    Edwina Lee, High Wycombe

    emails: : Clearly, the geography of the Crimea gives Russia an advantage in reducing its shipping distances to reach the Mediterranean. Crimea has also a pro-Russia population. It does not make sense to continue this conflict of interests between Russia and the West. Return Crimea to Russia, and the world will be a much safer place.


    In a symbolic gesture, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov announced earlier that Crimea would switch to Moscow time from 30 March, Reuters reports. It also says that in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, banks are scrambling to introduce the rouble as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

    President Putin signing Crimea treaty If you missed it earlier, this was the moment President Putin signed that Crimea treaty

    "The steps taken by President Putin today to attempt to annex Crimea to Russia are in flagrant breach of international law and send a chilling message across the continent of Europe," British Prime Minister David Cameron says in a statement. "It is completely unacceptable for Russia to use force to change borders, on the basis of a sham referendum held at the barrel of a Russian gun."


    More from British Prime Minister David Cameron: "President Putin should be in no doubt that Russia will face more serious consequences and I will push European leaders to agree further EU measures when we meet on Thursday."


    President Putin tells a crowd in Moscow's Red Square that Crimea has returned to its "home port", Reuters reports.


    The move by Russia to absorb Crimea "is the first time since World War Two that Moscow is expanding its borders", an AFP commentary says. "[It] represents the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia."


    Kiev-based political analyst Vadim Karasyov tells AP: "If Ukraine goes to Nato or the EU, [President] Putin will do everything so that it goes there without the east and south... [He has] basically told the West that Russia has the right to veto the way Ukraine will develop. And if not, then Crimea is only a precedent of how pieces of Ukraine can be chopped off one by one."


    The BBC's Patrick Jackson is on the ground in the Crimean city of Yalta where he finds people buoyed by developments. One man, Ivan Mamykin, says he woke up the day after the referendum feeling "like I was living in my home country, Russia. Which is as it should be."

    Max Seddon, buzzfeed

    tweets: Putin appears at rally on Red Square, says: "Crimea has returned to its home harbour after a long journey." Crowd: "Russia, Crimea, Putin!"


    Ukrainian and Russian military commanders are meeting for talks in Crimea at 1600 GMT (1800 local time) on Tuesday, Ukrainian navy commander Serhiy Hayduk says. "They will discuss the current situation and specific measures to prevent an escalation in Crimea," he told a meeting at the defence ministry. He added that up until Monday the Russian military were refusing to engage in talks with the Ukrainian side (Interfax-Ukraine/ BBC Monitoring).


    Russian troops are storming a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, and one Ukranian soldier has been wounded in the attack, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports. It quoted an officer at the military topography and navigation centre as saying that its commander has been captured and the rest of the troops have barricaded themselves in on the first floor of a building at the base.


    BBC Monitoring quotes the Ukrainian soldier at that base in Simferopol as saying: "They are telling us to lay down arms, but [we] have no intention to surrender."


    More of President Putin's speech in Red Square: "Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to... their home shores, to their home port, to Russia!" he told the crowd. In return, they replied: "Russia!" and "Putin!" The president concluded his speech by shouting: "Glory to Russia!"

    President Putin addresses a rally in Moscow's Red Square
    15:21: Richard Galpin BBC News, Moscow

    The move by Russia to absorb Crimea is being watched fearfully by Moldova, where most people in the separatist region of Trans-Dniester - a narrow strip of land between the Dniester river and the Ukrainian border - are eager to become part of Russia.

    Krishna Kappagantula, Ottawa, Canada

    emails: Encourage Ukraine to make peace with Russia: 1. Forgive debt; 2. Work on new constitution; 3. No alliance with Nato; 4. Economic cooperation with EU, US and Russia; 5. New elections; 6. Special status for Crimea; 7. Non interference by Russia in other areas of Ukraine; 8. Remove Nukes; 9. Reduce military; 10. Increase trade, manufacturing, small business, conservation, education, health


    Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca tells the BBC that what has been happening to Ukraine over Crimea is "nothing new" to the people of his country, where inhabitants of the separatist region of Trans-Dniester are eager to become part of Russia. "We are very worried about developments in Ukraine," Mr Leanca says.

    Queue of people withdrawing their deposits from a branch of Ukrainian PrivatBank in Sevastopol Amid the political turmoil, queues have formed at some branches of Ukrainian banks in Crimea as people look to withdraw their deposits
    Galina in Omsk, Russia

    emails: It sometimes looks like a farce, but the more I hear from Crimean people, the more I believe this is really what they wanted. My father has called our relatives from there. They are happy. Our neighbour was talking to his business partners from Crimea, they want to join Russia too. And knowing our Russian mentality, if Putin gives up with Crimea now, Crimeans will never understand it, they will treat it as treason.


    More on those reports of Ukrainian troops being attacked at a base in the main Crimean city of Simferopol: "One Ukrainian serviceman has been wounded in the neck and collarbone," a Ukrainian military spokesman tells Reuters. "Now we have barricaded ourselves on the second floor. The headquarters has been taken and the commander has been taken. They want us to put down our arms but we do not intend to surrender."


    Crimea key points, compiled by the AFP news agency:

    • Flag: Crimea already has its own flag - a horizontal blue, white and red tricolour that is "fast replacing the Ukrainian colours around the peninsula"
    • Russian base: Russia's Black Sea Fleet has been based in the naval port city of Sevastopol for 230 years. It is estimated there are about 11,000 troops there
    • Currency: As of Monday, Crimea has two official currencies - the Ukrainian hryvnia and the Russian rouble.
    • Tourism: Crimea's tourism business is a big part of the local economy and the picturesque city of Yalta - famous for a 1945 agreement that divided Europe post-World War Two - takes in about 10,000 cruise passengers a year
    • Self-sufficiency: Crimea depends on Ukraine for 85% of its water supplies and 82% of its electricity
    Ben Brown, BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: #Simferopol Russian troops pushing back press at scene of shooting at Ukrainian base. Bursts of automatic fire heard


    There is no immediate evidence that Russian soldiers were involved in Tuesday's incident at a military base in the Crimean city of Simferopol, witnesses tell the Reuters news agency.


    Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov compares Mr Putin to Adolf Hitler: "Nazi Germany started World War Two by annexing parts of other countries. Russian President Putin, who keeps talking about fascism, is imitating last century's fascists today by annexing part of an independent state, recognised as such by the whole world," Kiev-based TV 5 Kanal reports him as saying. (BBC Monitoring)


    President Turchynov goes on: "We would like to warn President Putin - who is personally responsible for this act of provocation - the political leadership of the Russian Federation will from now on have to answer to the entire world for the crimes which they are committing today on the territory of our country." (BBC Monitoring)


    Ukrainian serviceman is killed during attack on a Ukrainian base in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, news agency Interfax quotes a military spokesman as saying (Reuters).


    Even before this latest incident in Simferopol, there had been major concerns over whether the governments of Russia and Ukraine could achieve a smooth handover of control of Ukrainian military bases in the region, AFP says.

    16:11: Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    There have been at least two bursts of automatic weapons fire at the base, believed to house interior ministry personnel.

    16:13: Adam Easton BBC News, Warsaw

    Speaking in the Polish capital, US Vice President Joe Biden pledged to defend his country's Nato allies should they come under attack. Those are welcome words in both Poland and Estonia, where many feel threatened by Russia.


    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk says the conflict in Crimea has entered a military phase.


    "Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and this is a war crime without any expiry under a statute of limitations," Ukrainian PM Yatseniuk continues.


    Prime Minister Yatseniuk says he has ordered his defence minister to call a meeting with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Russia - signatories to a 1994 treaty guaranteeing Ukraine's borders - to "prevent an escalation of the conflict".


    The White House condemns President Putin's decision to formally seek to make Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia, Reuters reports.


    Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik becomes one of the few foreign leaders to welcome Russia's absorption of Crimea, Bosnian news agency Onasa reports. "I support today's agreement reached between Russia and Crimea, which means the beginning of procedure on inclusion of Crimea into Russian Federation," he says.

    Pro-Kremlin activists rally in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don Pro-Kremlin activists rally in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don

    The Ukrainian soldier who was killed during the storming of a military base in Simferopol is a warrant officer who was on duty in a park inside the base, defence ministry spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov is quoted by the Ukrayinska Pravda website as saying (BBC Monitoring).


    "All of the [Ukrainian] troops at the military base in Simferopol have now been arrested," the Ukrayinska Pravda website says. "Their ID cards and money have been confiscated. They were taken outside, lined up, and their weapons were taken from them," it quotes spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov as saying.


    More from US Vice President Joe Biden in Poland. He says work will soon begin on creating a "greater diversification of energy resources" for Baltic countries, to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas, Reuters reports.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney White House press secretary Jay Carney said the US would take further action against Russia

    More from Moldovan PM Iurie Leanca on how the crisis in Crimea will affect his country's majority Russian secessionist movement in Trans-Dniestr. "Unfortunately... our experience shows that if they [secessionist conflicts] are not tackled quickly and rapidly then they become protracted and they also become contagious," he told the BBC.


    "There are reports just coming in of a shooting incident in Crimea, but I don't have any further details about that at the moment," British Foreign Secretary William Hague says in London. "Whenever we hear about such things it underlines the grave dangers in this tense situation, where a provocation or flashpoint could easily occur."


    Ukrainian industrialist Dmytro Firtash, arrested in Austria last week at the request of the US pending his possible extradition for suspected corruption, accuses Washington of having him detained for "purely political" reasons, Reuters reports.


    White House spokesman Jay Carney says the US is preparing to add to the list of those targeted for asset freezes and travel bans under a sanctions order announced on Monday, Reuters reports. "More is coming," Mr Carney said, adding that he did not know when the action would be taken, but "work is being done to make further designations".

    16:56: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, on a state visit to Poland, says that "the crisis in Ukraine has become a crisis for the whole of Europe", the ERR News website quotes him as saying.


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama agree in a telephone call that Crimea's declaration of independence and Russia's annexation of the peninsula was an "unacceptable blow to the territorial integrity of Ukraine", her office is quoted by Reuters as saying. Read our practical guide to the new sanctions Russia faces now.

    Maksym Oliinyk, Kiev

    emails: Today one of our soldiers in Simferopol, Crimea has been killed by some "unknown forces", which are in fact Russian army. I don't want the war to start in our country. I don't want our people to get killed, but it feels that we are left one on one with Russia, and we will have to fight through this alone.... It feels like the dusk of worldwide diplomacy, not just the bitter loss of Crimea.


    European Council President Herman Van Rompuy is expected to head to Russia on Wednesday to meet President Vladimir Putin, diplomatic sources told AFP.


    The international community's former high representative in Bosnia has accused Russia of stoking Serb separatist sentiment in the Western-backed Balkan country in the style of Ukraine's Crimea.

    "Some Bosnian politicians are playing the Moscow card, even, most dangerously of all, the Slav card, in support of policies of separation," Paddy Ashdown tells a Nato seminar in Sarajevo. "They hope that an illegal referendum in Crimea will make one here more likely. And Russia is doing nothing to discourage them - quite the opposite."

    Mourners (18 March 2014)

    Hundreds of mourners gather at a cemetery outside Simferopol on Tuesday for the burial of Reshat Ametov, whose murder sparked anger in the Crimean Tatar community which is bitterly opposed to Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.


    Mr Ametov, who was in his 30s, disappeared on 3 March when three men in military jackets led him away from the scene of a protest in the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol, witnesses told Reuters. One friend at the burial said that he had gone into town in order to enlist for the Ukrainian army amid escalating tensions with Russia.


    British Foreign Secretary William Hague has defended the UK's arms export system after being challenged over the granting of licences to sell sniper rifles to Ukraine as recently as last year. He said the licences, approved between 2011 and 2013, were based on the information available at the time.


    The shooting of demonstrators on the streets of Kiev contributed to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's president, which fuelled the crisis in the region.

    Funeral of Reshat Ametov (18 March 2014)

    Here is another photo of mourning Crimean Tatars attending the funeral of killed Ukrainian activist Reshat Ametov.


    Key quotes from President Putin's speech to the Russian parliament:

    • "In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia. This firm conviction, based on truth and justice, was unshakeable and passed from generation to generation."
    • "What do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They tell us that we are violating the norms of international law. It's good that they at least remember that international law exists, and thanks for that. Better late than never."
    • "In the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed a line. They have behaved rudely, irresponsibly and unprofessionally."
    Alice Slesareva, Sevastopol

    emails: I was born and raised in Sevastopol. I voted in the referendum for the reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia. The result is what it should be. Crimea speaks Russian, has a common history and heroes with Russia, spiritually united with Her. Sevastopol is Russian city. Catherine the Great built it for the Russian Empire. Sevastopol felt caged for last 23 years in Ukraine. Nobody asked us - they gave us to Ukraine as a sack of potatoes. Reunification with Russia is the happiest day for all of us!


    The BBC's Ben Brown reports from outside a military base in Simferopol where a Ukrainian serviceman was shot and killed this afternoon. Our reporter said bursts of automatic gun fire could be heard.


    Substitute Sevastopol for Sarajevo: NY Times correspondent Roger Cohen on how unlikely circumstances lead to war and why "the unthinkable must be thought" with regards to Ukraine and Russia.


    "No one is speaking about... using forces in the eastern regions [of Ukraine]," Putin spokesman Dmiri Peskov tells the BBC's Stephen Sackur. "Definitely it's not on the agenda. But we don't want to make any forecasts for bloodshed that can occur in the eastern regions. Because if the Ukrainian government pays no attention to the gravest situation in the eastern regions then the consequences may be very, very bad."


    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells his US counterpart John Kerry that Western sanctions are "unacceptable" and "will not remain without consequences", the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.


    More from President Putin's spokesman Dmiri Peskov in an interview with the BBC: "Russia will do whatever is possible, using all legal means, in total correspondence with international law, to protect and to extend a hand to Russians living in eastern regions of Ukraine."

    Queue at a cash machine in Simferopol (18 March 2014)

    The initially positive reaction in Crimea to its absorption within Russia has had no immediate effect on lengthy queues by cash machines in central Simferopol. "Banks have introduced low daily limits on payouts, triggering fear among many residents that they may not be able to access their funds," according to a Reuters commentator.

    Christopher Miller Editor, Kyiv Post

    tweets: To clarify, killed Ukrainian was serviceman, a cartographer who worked at photogrammetric information center - Defense Ministry spokesperson


    BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Robbins says that President Putin's fiercely patriotic language may have produced both cheers and tears in Russia - but it has also stiffened the resolve of western governments against him. A steady escalation of sanctions now seems inevitable, our correspondent says, amid some criticism that measures so far have been shrugged off by Moscow.

    Olga, London, England

    emails: I have relatives in Crimea who are not happy to be part of Russia and do not want to be part of Russia. They have friends who feel the same. There are plenty of people in Crimea that want to stay in Ukraine. In any case the referendum was illegal. So it's a moot point!


    Ukrainian soldiers are "allowed to use arms" after suffering their first casualty in Crimea since Russian and pro-Kremlin troops seized the peninsula nearly three weeks ago, Ukraine's defence ministry has said. It added that such a move was necessary "for their self-defence and protection of their lives".


    Don't have much time? Take a 60-second break to watch this handy explainer summing up President Putin's options.


    Information is still coming in as to what exactly happened at the Ukrainian military facility in Simferopol where a shooting was reported on Tuesday afternoon, our correspondent Mark Lowen in the city reports. The BBC has spoken to a student living next door who said he saw two vehicles without number plates pulling up outside. He talked of armed men exiting the vehicle and attempting to storm the base, before hearing automatic gunfire.


    The Ukrainian defence ministry has said two of its soldiers were hit, one of them killed and the other injured. But at least one Russian media outlet reports that the fatality was from pro-Russian self-defence forces.

    Tatiana, Toronto, Canada

    emails: I am Russian and my husband Ukrainian. We came to Canada from Crimea. And we both are happy that Crimea is Russian now, because all our international relatives in Crimea have now chance for better future with Russia.

    Mark Lowen BBC News, Crimea

    tweets: A student living next to #Simferopol military base told me 2 cars with no plates drove up with armed men storming base. Heard automatic fire


    US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone hours after President Putin signed a treaty in the Kremlin making Ukraine's Crimea peninsula part of Russia, Reuters reports.


    The official website of the Ukrainian government confirms that one member of the armed forces - a junior officer - has been killed in Simferopol. His surname is given as Kakurin. Another officer, a captain named Fedun (again that is his surname), was wounded in the neck and the arm. The website says one other serviceman has leg and head injuries after being beaten with iron bars.

    18:05: Mark Lowen BBC News, Simferopol

    Local paramilitaries and armed men now stand guard outside the base. This soldier is the first casualty of the military confrontation since Russia's incursion into Crimea began three weeks ago. Until now, only warning shots had been fired. The Russian and Ukrainian armies had agreed a truce until this Friday. But now it appears the tension has boiled over - and the fear is that further clashes could follow.


    More from the Ukrainian government website: It says the commander of the base's military unit, Colonel Andriy Andryushin, has been captured by people wearing the uniform of the Russian army and carrying automatic rifles.

    Russian tank outside Ukraine's fire service headquarters in Simferopol One of a number of Russian tanks standing guard outside Ukrainian military sites in Crimea - this building houses Ukraine's fire service headquarters
    18:15: John Simpson BBC World Affairs Editor, Simferopol

    It is clear that the attack on the military base in this city was not directly carried out by Russian soldiers but by armed men sympathetic to Russia.

    Sergio Lion, Sevastopol

    emails: I was born here in Sevastopol. I was born in USSR, in Ukrainian Soviet Republic. I am Ukrainian, my parents are Ukrainians, my grandparents are Ukrainians, and we are all brothers and sisters: Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians. In fact, we are all the same, we are the single nation - RUSSIANS. You may suppose that the referendum was fabricated because the results are overwhelming. But a day before the referendum I made a deal with my friend that 95% of people of Sevastopol would vote for Russia. You can call this "impossible or fabricated", we call this "predictable and obvious". It is the historical justice. We are home now!


    US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia that any military incursion into eastern Ukraine would be an "enormous challenge to the global community" which would be met by a strong response, AFP reports. He says such a move "would be as egregious as any step that I can think that would be taken by a country in today's world, particularly by a country like Russia where so much is at stake".

    US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking in Washington
    Yuri Pelenski, Lviv, Ukraine

    emails: When will the West finally realise that Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States and others are in serious danger from the new plans of Putin and Russia? The sanctions offered by Europe, Canada, the USA, Japan and others are a joke. I predicted that as soon as the Olympic Games finished in Sochi that Putin would have his hands free to tackle Ukraine. Unfortunately, I was proved correct and nobody listened. Today, I state that Putin will not stop as he now has nothing to lose.

    18:25: David Willis BBC News, Washington

    White House spokesman Jay Carney earlier played down suggestions that Russia might retaliate to the imposition of sanctions by suspending natural gas supplies to Europe. He said such a move would be - as he put it - "lose-lose", with Russia missing out on billions of dollars in revenue from energy sales.


    European Council President Herman Van Rompuy cancels a confidential trip to Russia on Wednesday to meet President Vladimir Putin, diplomatic sources quoted by AFP say. "The mission was cancelled because the Russians made it public," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the news agency.

    Russian troops outside the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Simferopol as Ukrainian troops stand guard inside Tense times at the Navy headquarters in Simferopol: Russian troops on the outside and Ukrainian troops on the inside
    18:34: Bethany Bell BBC News

    There is still no decision at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe on a possible observer mission to Ukraine. Russia, which says it is, in principle, in favour of the mission has not yet given the green light. Diplomats say they are arguing about the scale and scope of the mission. Talks are to resume on Wednesday.


    More from US Secretary of State John Kerry. He compared the "nationalistic fervour" fuelled by the Crimea crisis to the build-up before World War Two. And he dismissed Russia's argument that it is trying to "protect" the Crimean peninsula. "Obviously there's a tough history of things like Czechoslovakia in 1968 where the alleged rationale for going into the country was to protect the people in it," he said. "You can ask the Poles how they felt being 'protected' for all those years."

    Stanislav Liarsky, Vancouver, Canada

    emails: I was born in Crimea and lived there for 33 years, left in 1995 and the reason was the hell that you call Ukraine - 90% of Ukraine is Russian land. Kiev is the first ever Russian capital city and 80% of the population has Russian as their native language. Ukraine has been suppressing Russian for all these years after the USSR disintegrated.


    An officer in the Ukrainian military describes the violence at the military base in Simferopol to Ukrainian television: "One observer was on a rooftop monitoring the situation; he sustained glancing wounds to the neck and shoulder. They say he is being operated on now. Our second observer was on the car park tower. He was shot dead. I personally did not see him. They say his body is still there. Representatives of the Russian Federation and of the Crimean self-defence state that they also have one fatality and one wounded. We did not return fire. We did not fire."


    While former Soviet states are among the most alarmed by the prospect that Moscow could be resuming its traditional imperial ambitions, Ukraine is at greater risk militarily, an AP commentary says, "because it lacks membership of Nato and the promise of collective defensive measures that Nato membership provides".

    18:48: Chris Morris, BBC News, Kiev

    If there is anywhere in Ukraine where people are in no mood to take a history lesson from the president of Russia, it is in Independence Square in the heart of Kiev. It is less than a month since more than 80 people were killed by snipers in these streets and emotions are still raw. Furthermore there is little love lost for Vladimir Putin.

    18:52: Chris Morris, BBC News, Kiev

    People in Ukraine watched President Putin get years of frustration off his chest today about what he perceives as Russia's role in the world - and the duplicity of the West. For his neighbours, the sobering conclusion was this: Mr Putin will take little or no notice of international condemnation of the way he chooses to act in what he considers to be Russia's own sphere of influence.


    A group of armed men in Russian military uniform has abducted the commander of a military unit of Ukraine's Foreign Intelligence Service in Yalta, the service's press office reports. Col Ihor Losnykov was reportedly attacked outside his house and driven away in a black Mercedes. He is the commander of the Foreign Intelligence Service's unit near the town of Alushta, which was seized by armed individuals several days ago.


    The BBC's Mark Lowen, in Simferopol, on clashes at the Ukrainian military base:

    • The Ukrainian government says one of its soldiers - a junior officer - was killed
    • A second is said to have been wounded by gunfire in his neck and arm
    • A third suffered head and leg injuries after being beaten by iron bars
    • The commander of the unit was captured by men wearing Russian uniform
    • Ukrainian forces have been given permission to use weapons to defend themselves

    The cancellation of a meeting between European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and President Putin on Wednesday has caused frustration in European diplomatic circles, AFP reports. "We need someone who can talk directly to Putin," one diplomatic source is quoted by the news agency as saying.


    At least one Russian media outlet says the fatality in Simferopol was from pro-Russian self-defence forces, the BBC's Mark Lowen in the city says.


    A member of the pro-Russian Crimean self-defence group has been killed and another wounded in Simferopol, internet-based Crimean news agency Kryminform has reported, quoting a source in Simferopol's law enforcement bodies.

    "Someone opened fire from the window of one of the buildings on Simferopol's Kubanska Street, presumably with a sniper's rifle...a member of the self-defence (group) was killed and another wounded," Kryminform said. (BBC Monitoring)


    More than 15,000 Nato troops are training in the Arctic Circle this week. Following the West's withdrawal from Afghanistan, the military alliance is conducting the same "winter warfare" drills that were used during the Cold War. The exercise, which was planned before tensions sparked in Crimea, is taking place in northern Norway near the Russian border, the BBC's Anna Holligan says.


    Italian oil and gas firm Eni has told the BBC it does not expect sanctions against Russia to stop it from importing gas from the country.

    "Europe needs Russian gas," Eni's chief executive, Paolo Scaroni, says.


    More from Eni chief executive Paolo Scaroni, whose company had concluded talks with the previous Ukraine government over an exploration block for oil and gas in the waters off the Crimea.

    "We are in the middle of being assigned a block without knowing who it belongs to," Mr Scaroni said.


    Armed attackers used the commander of a Ukrainian military unit in Simferopol as a live shield to gain access to the building in the same incident in which a warrant officer sustained fatal gunshot wounds, according to Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, who was speaking live over the phone with broadcaster 5 Kanal. (BBC Monitoring)


    "No. President Van Rompuy will not go to Moscow tomorrow," a spokesman for the European Council president confirms.

    Mr Van Rompuy is preparing for the European Council meeting in Brussels where, according to him, leaders would "agree on a united European response," the spokesman adds, quoted by Reuters.


    A New York Times article compares the recent jubilation on the Crimean streets to scenes several years ago in South Ossetia, when Russia declared the enclave an independent nation.


    A local news agency recently formed by the pro-Russian Crimean authorities has a different account of the events in Simferopol, saying that snipers fired on a local defence unit that had arrived to check out a report of armed men. One of the local men was apparently killed.

    Since Crimea's tensions soared three weeks ago, units of uniformed men without insignia have appeared - said by Russia to be local residents defending their territory.

    Andrew, Boryspil, Ukraine

    emails: Today my business partner from Simferopol, Crimea, visited my office. He says he doesn't want to live in the USSR 2.0. He had ignored the referendum, as did most of his acquaintances. So the announced 80% participation is an absolute fake. He says that mainly Sevastopol people are happy to be with Russia. Other Crimeans would probably vote for Ukraine, if it were a real referendum.


    Crimean police say an inspection of the scene of shooting in Simferopol (see 19:13) shows that the firing came from a single location and was aimed at both the local defence forces and the Ukrainian servicemen, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports. One Ukrainian serviceman and one member of the Crimean self-defence forces was killed and two others were wounded.

    Armed Russian forces take part in a military operation at a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol on 18 March 2014.

    Armed pro-Russian troops stand guard outside a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol on Tuesday evening.

    Diana, Moscow

    emails: Crimea always belonged to Russia. Look at the statistics: more than 75% of people in Crimea are Russians, the rest are Ukrainians and Crimean tartars. 95% speak Russian. There was neither "a brazen military incursion" nor annexation. Look at the happy faces of people from Crimea who shouted after the referendum that they're coming back home. Russia is their home.


    A spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Mr Ban has intensified his diplomatic efforts on Ukraine.

    Mr Ban is strongly urging an immediate resumption of "constructive dialogue" among all parties, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.


    Ukrainian TV channels have expressed shock over the first fatality in Crimea, our colleagues at BBC Monitoring report. The overall tone of the evening news bulletins and the presenters' comments was serious and even tragic at times, they say.


    We're wrapping up our live coverage of the Ukraine crisis, on a day when a Ukrainian soldier became the first fatal casualty in the confrontation on the Black Sea peninsula shortly after Moscow signed a treaty on Crimea joining Russia. You can carry on following all of the latest developments on our main news website.


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