As it happened: Ukraine crisis

Key Points

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signs parliament-approved bills completing procedure to absorb Crimea into Russia
  • European Union leaders sign the political section of an association agreement with Ukraine
  • The EU and US announce more targeted sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials
  • Mr Putin says Russia would not take any immediate reciprocal action
  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says Ukraine should pay back $11bn in gas discounts
  • A disputed referendum in Crimea on Sunday appeared to back the peninsula joining Russia. All times GMT

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    Good morning and welcome to our live updates on the Ukraine crisis, where European leaders are continuing their meeting in Brussels to discuss their latest response to the crisis, as both the EU and US decide to impose further sanctions on Russian officials.


    Russia is considering a "mirror response" to sanctions imposed by the West, Russia's state-run RIA news agency quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin as saying.

    "It should be comparable, and I will not deny that we are thinking about it."


    EU leaders are also due to sign the political section of the Association Agreement with Ukraine - the accord that sparked the country's deadly unrest in November and eventually led to the ousting of former President Viktor Yanukovych by anti-government protesters angered over his refusal to sign it.

    A member of the Russian navy (L) stands next to a Ukrainian soldier closing a gate bearing the Ukrainian national coat of arms on a Ukrainian naval base in Sevastopol 21 March 2014

    A member of the Russian navy (left) stands next to a Ukrainian soldier closing a gate bearing the Ukrainian national coat of arms on a Ukrainian naval base in Sevastopol.


    Russia has tightened its grip over Crimea, with Russian-allied troops continuing to consolidate their takeover of key navy and military installations in the peninsula.


    Pro-Russian soldiers took over at least two Ukrainian navy ships at anchor in the port of Sevastopol on Thursday. At least 15 men were involved in the assault, a Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman said.


    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describes the latest sanctions as "absolutely awful," in remarks to the upper house of parliament, Reuters reports. He also said the sanctions would create artificial barriers with the West.

    Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

    emails: Russia has put itself in a corner with crippling, severe European sanctions. Strong-arm tactics by Putin have back-fired as European leaders hit back at Russia's unilateral action annexing the Crimea. One hopes this will not become a flash-point for deeper divisions between Russia and the West. But this whole crisis raises the very important question of Putin's consolidation of power and hegemony!


    Mr Lavrov has also urged the upper house to ratify a treaty signed by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to make Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia.

    09:09: Breaking News

    The EU and interim Ukrainian government sign Association Agreement on closer political cooperation, EU officials say


    The treaty has already been approved by Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma (below).

    Russian deputies applaud during voting in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, in Moscow on 20 March 2014.
    Herman Van Rompuy

    the President of the European Council tweets: Signing political part EU-Ukraine Association Agreement symbolises importance of relations & will to take it further


    President Putin has discussed the international sanctions with senior security officials, a spokesman for the Kremlin says quoted by Interfax news agency.


    The names of the new individuals subject to EU sanctions have not yet been revealed - these are expected to be made public later on Friday, the BBC's Europe correspondent, Matthew Price, confirms.


    The Association Agreement, which commits Ukraine and the EU to closer political and economic cooperation, was signed by the EU's 28 leaders and Ukraine's interim PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Brussels.

    09:19: Breaking News

    Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously approves a treaty on annexing Ukraine's Crimea region, paving the way for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against the US sanctions for now, in comments released by the Kremlin, AFP reports.

    "You know, both in the first case - the American sanctions - and in the second case - the introduction of a visa regime with Ukraine - I think we should for now hold off on reciprocal steps," he says.


    While we wait for the names of the new individuals subject to EU sanctions, here's a recap of the first set of names announced yesterday.

    Gennady Timchenko


    In the wake of the latest set of sanctions imposed on Russia, international agencies have downgraded Russia's outlook and Russian stock plummeted on Friday.

    Richard Galpin, BBC World Affairs correspondent

    tweets: signs sanctions impact #Russia credit ratings agencies downgrade Russia, stock market falls 3%. clients of 2 banks cant use Visa/mastercard


    Shares in Russia's top non-state natural gas producer Novatek fell by 12% on Friday - the company is part-owned by Gennady Timchenko, one of the businessmen who has been sanctioned due to alleged links with President Putin, Reuters reports.

    Robert Pearson, Birmingham, England

    emails: : If Russia had taken Crimea against the will of a majority of its people it would be unacceptable but the people clearly want independence or to be a Russian state so the West should accept this and use it as a negotiating point to stabilise the rest of Ukraine. I think if the media promote this idea there is a good chance of getting the politicians to solve this crisis.


    Itar-Tass news agency and Vedomosti newspaper report Visa and MasterCard have blocked credit card transactions handled by SMP Bank - a Russian bank owned by the Rotenbergs, powerful businessmen close to President Putin, who are on the US sanctions list.

    Individuals can still get cash out using those cards, but businesses using those services at SMP Bank have been blocked.

    A Ukrainian soldier raises a Ukrainian flag over their base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on 21 March 2014.

    As the stand-off between pro-Russian and Ukrainian troops continues in Crimea, a Ukrainian soldier is seen raising a Ukrainian flag over their base in the port of Sevastopol on Friday.

    09:42: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow should seek 11bn dollars in compensation from Ukraine because the 2010 Ukraine-Russia agreement on the lease of naval bases in Crimea in exchange for cheaper gas must be cancelled, according to Interfax news agency.

    Andrew, nottingham, UK

    emails: Let's all be honest these sanctions will not bother Putin at all and certainly will not alter the situation in Crimea. An absolute feeble western response. The best the West can do with this mentality, is flood Ukraine with Western diplomats and observers, make sure the Ukrainian referendum is fairly run and show Ukrainians they are part of the international community. They need hope of a better life ahead.


    President Putin has responded sarcastically to the US sanctions while addressing a meeting of the Russian Security Council earlier on Friday, our BBC Monitoring colleagues say. Speaking about Rossiya bank, which is subject to the recently imposed sanctions, Gazprom-owned NTV reports he says, "I did not have an account there, but I will definitely open one on Monday,"


    As for the Russian officials against whom sanctions were imposed and who were present at the meeting, President Putin said, smiling: "Stay away from them, they compromise us" - via NTV.


    Ukraine has had a turbulent history with Moscow since declaring independence from USSR in 1991. Here's a quick reminder of recent events.

    Independence Square
    09:50: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Ukraine owes Russia 16bn dollars in state and corporate debt, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tells President Putin at a presidential security council meeting. "We cannot lose this sort of money given that our budget has difficulties of its own, too" he adds - via Interfax news agency.


    Finnish Europe Minister Alexander Stubb has been speaking to the BBC's Matthew Price about the significance of the EU association deal with Ukraine.

    "This is probably the biggest move that the EU can do right now because it is after all a fight between the souls of the east and the west and to sign this today is good news for Ukraine," he says.

    09:59: Matthew Price, Europe correspondent

    Major parts of the deal including free trade, legal and human rights issues will only be signed after new presidential elections in May. The EU has also said it will push ahead with similar cooperation deals with two former soviet republics Georgia and Moldova in the summer - moves which are likely to infuriate the Kremlin far more than any sanctions imposed so far.


    Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were close to a deal to send observers to Ukraine.

    "We have already practically agreed a draft decision" on an observer mission, he told President Vladimir Putin in televised remarks, adding that observers would be sent to western and central regions, in addition to the largely Russian-speaking east and south-east, Reuters reports.


    Mr Lavrov earlier criticised calls by the West for OSCE observers to be sent to Crimea, Reuters adds.


    Some wonder if Russia's annexation of Crimea is the first of many. Which other former Soviet countries could follow?


    The EU Association Agreement is designed to give Ukraine's interim leadership economic and political support. Speaking at the signing ceremony, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the accord "recognises the aspirations of the people of Ukraine to live in a country governed by values, by democracy and the rule of law".

    Matthew, Bournemouth, UK

    emails: Not sure why people think the majority of the Crimea wants to be Russian. A referendum conducted under military occupation without independent observers, a free press and the ability to campaign is hardly a reliable indicator of a population's views. If Putin was so certain that the people of Crimea wanted to be Russian why wouldn't he permit a truly free and fair referendum.

    10:09: BBC Monitoring reports:

    US and EU sanctions are "an attempt to punish Russia for pursuing an independent foreign policy," the upper house of the Russian parliament says in a statement - via RIA Novosti news agency.

    The Federation Council also accused the West of "trampling on the basic norms of international law" and denying the people of Crimea the right to decide their future "through the most democratic means available - a referendum".


    "Russia is using energy as a new nuclear weapon," Ukraine's acting PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk tells reporters after signing the Association Agreement in Brussels.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk holds a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 21 March 2014

    Opening up EU trade with Ukraine, Mr Yatsenyuk continues, would bring "a gain of up to 490m euros to Ukraine" which would "substantially boost economic growth".


    "A world in which one superpower can operate overseas unchecked is a highly dangerous one," writes journalist and broadcaster Robin Lustig in his latest blog post.

    10:22: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Besieged Ukrainian navy officers in western Crimea have appealed to the government in Kiev for clarity on what to do in the face of the continuing onslaught by Russian troops, Ukrayinska Pravda website reports.

    "We are asking you to take specific decisions on what we need to do, because most of us do not know what they and their families should expect," servicemen on board the Cherkasy minesweeper, one of several Ukrainian warships blocked by Russian troops inside Donuzlav Bay, say.


    A Russian flag flies on a Ukrainian ship moored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

    Ukrainian ship flying a Russian flag

    "We have not got much time left. We are being threatened that our ship is about to be stormed...We are running out of food and fresh water supplies, and we cannot leave Donuzlav Bay because its exit is blocked by sunken ships," the servicemen continue (via Ukrayinska Pravda).

    They have called on the Ukrainian government to evacuate their families from Crimea as a matter of urgency.


    The moment the Association Agreement documents traded hands between European Council President Van Rompuy (right) and Ukraine's acting PM Yatsenyuk

    European Council president Herman Van Rompuy (R) exchanges documents with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during the signing of the political provisions of the Association Agreement with Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 21 March 2014

    More from Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who tells reporters Russia is acting "like a gangster" over its actions in Ukraine.


    Russian stocks have dropped 3% and the rouble fell half a percent on Friday, as concerns grow over the impact of possible US sanctions on Russia's economy, Reuters reports.


    A place to holiday and a strategic port. Just why is Crimea such an integral part of the Russian psyche?

    Holidaymakers fill Crimean resorts

    France will offer to send four fighter jets to the Baltic states and Poland to boost Nato air patrols in the region, a source close to the French defence ministry says, according to AFP.


    The defence source says Paris will offer to ensure "Awacs (Airborne Warning and Control System) patrols from France around twice a week" if requested.


    President Obama said on Thursday that sanctions were not his preferred outcome and that Moscow could still de-escalate the crisis.

    President Obama

    A German defence military spokesman says all military co-operation with Russia will be suspended for March and April, Reuters reports.


    President Putin says Bank Rossiya, which has been targeted by US sanctions, has nothing to do with events in Crimea, Reuters reports. He also vowed to protect the bank and its clients, saying he would keep his salary there.


    The list of individuals subject to US sanctions can be viewed on the website of the US embassy in Brussels.


    Russian officials have so far dismissed the US sanctions imposed against them, BBC Monitoring reports via Russian Dozhd TV.

    The Russian president's chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, says "this situation is now new" for him. He spent 20 years working for the KGB and Russia's intelligence services and travel bans have been imposed on him before.

    Alfred, Luton, UK

    emails: If the EU was all about legitimacy, why are they signing a political association agreement with an unelected and interim government? Why not wait for an elected government voted for by all Ukrainians? It seems the EU says one thing while doing another. If Russia's actions over Crimea are illegal then the EU signing this agreement with an illegitimate government is just as illegal.

    11:03: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Billionaires Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg say the sanctions are "a recognition of services they have done for the Russian state".

    State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin believes that the sanctions were an attempt by Western politicians "to justify themselves in the eyes of the public opinion and blame our country for their own failures". He also compares the US to a small dog barking at an elephant - a reference to a Russian fable.


    Ukrainian soldiers stand inside a military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol.

    Ukrainian soldiers stand inside a military base in Perevalnoye

    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit Ukraine on Saturday for talks with interim leaders in Kiev and travel to the eastern city of Donetsk to meet the local governor, ministry officials say (Reuters).

    11:08: BBC Monitoring reports:

    The political provisions of the Ukraine-EU association deal were signed earlier today not for the benefit of either Ukraine's economy or its people, but to "score points in a geopolitical game", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells journalists, according to Interfax news agency.


    As before, Moscow can live with a Ukraine that is "neutral" while having close links with Russia, but it will not accept a Ukraine that is leaning to the West, Russian analyst Dmitry Trenin writes for Carnegie Europe. The battle for Ukraine promises to be a long and hard one, he warns.

    11:13: Richard Galpin, BBC World Affairs correspondent

    The second round of sanctions imposed by the United States yesterday targeted a group of officials and wealthy businessmen regarded very much as President Putin's inner circle. Although several of those affected shrugged them off, they are impacting the Russian economy - the stock exchange has fallen sharply again today and two leading credit ratings agencies have downgraded their outlook for Russia from stable to negative.


    Legislators in Russia's upper house listen to the Russian national anthem after voting to approve the treaty on Crimea joining the Russian Federation.

    Russian legislators listen to the Russian national anthem after voting in the Russian parliament's upper chamber in Moscow, Russia, Friday, on 21 March 2014.

    More reaction to the US sanctions, with Russia's anti-narcotics agency saying sanctions against its head will destroy its co-operation with the US, Itar-Tass news agency reports (Reuters).

    Phil Brown, Lowestoft, England

    emails: I do not support the Russian actions in Crimea but, the video of the Ukrainian MPs forcing the broadcaster to sign a resignation letter, makes me wonder just what sort of interim government Ukraine has?


    Are economic sanctions likely to work? The BBC's chief business correspondent Linda Yueh looks at their potential impact.

    Russian roubles

    Ukraine's chief prosecutor says the snipers who fired at pro-EU protesters in Kiev's Independence Square last month have been identified, Itar-Tass news agency reports.

    Oleh Makhnitsky, a parliamentary official monitoring the prosecutor's work said this to Ukraine Channel 5 TV: "The identities of the snipers who fired on the Maidan have been established. So far I cannot name them, but they are known. They are all Ukrainian citizens, so far."


    The BBC's Chris Morris meets people who have been camped in Kiev's Independence Square for over a month.

    People near flowers

    Only one state Duma representative voted against Thursday's vote to approve Crimea joining the Russian Federation and that one person was Ilya Ponomarev, according to the Washington Post blog post.

    11:33: Breaking News

    President Putin signs parliament-approved bills completing procedure to absorb Crimea into Russia


    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is currently in Kiev meeting the interim Ukrainian authorities. He is expected to give a press conference soon.


    The signing of the bills completes the formalities of Crimea's annexation by Russia.


    MPs looked on as President Putin signed the bills and Russia's national anthem was played afterwards, BBC Monitoring notes.


    Family of Ukrainian servicemen wait near their belongings as they leave their base in the village of Lyubimovka near Sevastopol.

    Family of Ukrainian servicemen wait near their belongings as they leave their base in the village of Lyubimovka near Sevastopol on 21 March 2014.
    11:56: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Interfax news agency reports President Putin has appointed Ilya Bulavintsev as his envoy to Crimea.

    Kevin Bishop, BBC News in Moscow

    tweets: Vladimir Putin has signed a decree ordering celebratory fireworks tonight in Moscow, Sevastopol and Simferopol. . Ypa!


    A Ukrainian border guard checks a passport at the Uspenka check point, on the border between Ukraine and Russia.

    Ukrainian border guard

    President Putin hailed the absorption of Crimea into Russia as a "remarkable event" before signing it into law in the Kremlin, AP reports.


    Contrary to earlier reports, a spokesperson for the Russian president is quoted by Reuters as saying that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions announced by the US on Thursday.


    This contradicts earlier comments attributed to President Putin, in which he said Russia should refrain from retaliating against the US sanctions for now (see 09:23).


    Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov also says the Russian government will offer support to companies and individuals who are subject to Western sanctions. (BBC Monitoring via Interfax news agency) .

    Susanne Kiefer, EU Council Press officer

    tweets: Additional sanctions re territorial integrity #Ukraine to be published in the OJ this pm. Estimated time of publication is around 16.30.

    12:15: Breaking News

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is speaking live from Kiev alongside Ukraine's Interim President Olexander Turchynov.


    "While I am very pleased and happy to be back to this country I come to Kiev with a very heavy heart," the UN chief says.


    Ban Ki-moon: "These are some of the most dramatic times in the history of the Ukraine. Tensions are high and lives have been lost."


    All parties must refrain from any provocative actions that could further exacerbate a very tense and volatile situation, he adds.


    France is suspending military co-operation with Russia, the French defence minister says. Jean-Yves Le Drian said it would concern join military exercises with Russia, Reuters reports.


    Mr Ban urges Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He said he was deeply concerned over what has happened in the last four months in Ukraine.


    He again urges both sides to sit down and engage in "direct and constructive dialogue" to resolve the crisis.


    A quick reminder of the key players in the Ukraine crisis.

    Yulia Tymoshenko

    The UN secretary-general says all sides should refrain from engaging in highly inflamed rhetoric, which he says is unhelpful and may lead to "an uncontrollable situation".


    In another development, the US says it is preparing military exercises in Poland that could involve Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics, the US ambassador to Poland was quoted by Reuters as saying in an emailed press release. He said the exercises would take place at the Lask air base, central Poland.


    More from Mr Ban: I am not in a position to predict any possible reactions of possible course of action by Putin, but I have conveyed my serious concerns that this situation must be resolved through dialogue and in a peaceful manner. His (Mr Putin's) government and Ukraine should resolve this issue peacefully. It has become a global issue.


    Moments before, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified the treaty to absorb Crimea into Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to sign a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, during a ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin in Moscow 21 March 2014.

    "Ukraine will never accept the seizure of its territory. We are ready for talks with Russia in any kind of format, but their troops must leave Ukraine," says acting Ukrainian President Turchynov.

    Olexiy Solohubenko, Ukraine anayst

    tweets: Visa explains blocking cards of "Russia", SMP Bank, Sobinbank and InvestCapitalBank to "align its activities in compliance with U.S. law"


    Ukrainian troops in Crimea are still under orders to protect their bases and ships, Mr Turchynov adds.


    Mr Ban earlier told the Ukrainian president how encouraged he was to see the reintroduction of Russian as an official language, but Mr Turchynov jumped in to correct him to insist that Ukraine only has one language.


    "We must prevent the Russian troops from moving deeper into Ukraine. We understand how difficult it is for Ukrainian troops, but we must win," says Mr Turchynov.


    The press conference has now ended.


    Ukrainian servicemen watch a TV broadcast of President Putin ratifying a treaty making Crimea part of Russia.

    Ukrainian servicemen

    Eight Crimean Tatar families, 32 Tatars in total, have requested refugee status in Poland, a spokesman for the Polish border guards tells the AFP news agency.

    "They justified their act by the situation in Crimea. We received their requests and launched the appropriate administrative procedures. In the meantime, they may be sent to a refugee centre, without being required to go," Agnieszka Golias said.


    Many of Crimea's Tatars - who make up about 12% of the population - have protested against Russia's incursion in the peninsula, fearing their lives might become worse under Moscow rule. The Tatars were deported en masse in 1944 and were only allowed to return with the fall of the Soviet Union. Now some fear further deportation.


    The UN says its assistant secretary general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, has arrived in Crimea for a two-day visit to "lay the groundwork for a UN human rights monitoring mission to set up a presence" in the peninsula.


    He will meet Crimea's pro-Russian leaders Sergei Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov, as well as Ukrainian servicemen and their families.


    Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says Russia may cancel its 2014 foreign borrowing plans and reduce its domestic borrowing, Reuters reports.

    Myroslava Petsa, Foreign Correspondent at @5channel (in Ukraine)

    tweets: #Turchynov: Today we have to stay firm. And under no circumstances can we let our territory be invaded

    Keith Woollard, Ukraine

    emails: All that is happening in Crimea is a 90 percent direct result of failure of people and nations to react forcefully to the Georgia conflict. And once again the western nations are wagging fingers at Russia when one has to recognise that words are not going to bring a stop to Russian expansionism.


    A priest blesses Ukrainian border guards at a military camp in the village of Alekseyevka on eastern Ukraine's border with Russia

    A priest blesses Ukrainian border guards at a military camp in the village of Alekseyevka on the Ukrainian-Russian border, eastern Ukraine, on 21 March 2014.
    Igor, Saint Petersburg, Russia

    emails: I've been following recent events in Ukraine very closely through both local coverage and Western media and I'm utterly shocked. Here in Russia we have 40 minutes-long news in prime time depicting events in Ukraine and it is mind-blowing. Just anti-Western propaganda... I firmly oppose what they've done to Ukraine. But I feel immense pressure because even my closest relatives consider the annexation of Crimea as a victory and approve of Putin's actions.


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron says if Russian troops go into eastern Ukraine, it would trigger "far-reaching consequences", Reuters reports. The best rebuke for Russia, he adds, is a strong and successful Ukraine.


    The Russian-backed Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, says he will open an account with Rossiya Bank - which has been targeted by US sanctions. On his Instagram account, Mr Kadyrov wrote: "The fact that the Americans don't like this bank means it's a reliable financial institution. So I've asked for an account to be opened there in my name. My salary will be paid into this account."


    Mr Kadyrov adds: "This was a relatively unknown bank, but I'm now sure its fortunes will improve dramatically."

    Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press, Moscow

    tweets: A TV presenter on Russia's NTV: markets are mostly higher today (jumbo screen behind her shows declining stock quotes - all in the red).


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron: "Russia needs Europe more than Europe needs Russia" when it comes to gas supplies.


    Mr Cameron also says Russians who should face sanctions should include those directly linked to the annexation of Crimea, Reuters reports.


    EU leaders agreed on Friday to step up measures to cut energy dependency, notably on Russia, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy tells reporters.


    "Europe was first built as a community for coal and steel. Sixty-four years later, it is clear we need to be moving towards an energy union," he is quoted by Reuters as saying.


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in a press conference about energy infrastructure in Europe in light of the Ukraine crisis, says "we are in great uncertainty and trust (in Russia) has been shaken".

    She tells reporters that one way to diversify energy supplies to Europe would be if the US decided that shale gas could be exported. It's also important to boost energy efficiency and energy saving, she adds.


    Mrs Merkel said renewable energy should be used more sensibly and Spain and Portugal need to be better connected to the European energy network.


    Ukrainian border guards carry out military exercises not far from the Alekseyevka check point on the border between Ukraine and Russia

    Ukrainian border guards run during exercises not far from the Alexeevka check point on the border between Ukraine and Russia, some 120 km from the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on 21 March 2014.
    Pat Mayfield, US

    emails: I'm in the US, and no matter what any of the newspapers say concerning Ukraine and Crimea at this time, most of us in the USA don't want a war over this! Ukraine and Crimea have been, throughout time, part of Russia. Russia has a right to stop any threats or take overs.


    Angela Merkel on the EU's Association Agreement with Ukraine: "It is a common basis of values, a sign of solidarity, a very complete basis for joint (EU-Ukraine) work."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press conference at the end of the two-day European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 21 March 2014.

    Ukrainian police have detained the CEO of the state-run firm Naftogaz Yevhen Bakulin.


    Moscow is facing a raft of sanctions from the US and EU, but Fifa President Sepp Blatter tells the BBC's Alex Capstick that there are no plans to take the 2018 World Cup away from Russia: "This World Cup has been voted to Russia and we are going forward with it," he says


    On the arrest of Yevhen Bakulin, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says the Naftogaz chief is believed to have caused about $4bn dollars in damages to the state, in a statement on Facebook.


    Ukraine has recalled its ambassador in Armenia for consultations after Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said Yerevan had recognised the referendum in Crimea, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.


    Russian troops guard a military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol.

    Russian troops guard a military base in Perevalnoye

    BBC Monitoring's Vitaliy Shevchenko reports that Mr Avakov says investigations into corruption in the gas sector are likely to lead to "many well-known personalities, including those among both past and present politicians".

    "I warn politicians against meddling in the probe... the cynicism and simplicity of theft in a number of schemes are simply mind-boggling! This could only have happened in an atmosphere of total impunity and inaction by top officials in the previous government, at the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor's Office," Mr Avakov says.


    In Kiev, the prosecutor-general's office and police have raided offices belonging to former Ukrainian Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky, Ukraine's Hromadske TV reports. Mr Stavytsky - whose whereabouts are unknown - is suspected of abuse of power and money laundering.

    14:46: Paul Adams BBC News

    says that as far as Moscow is concerned, the formalities are over. After Sunday's referendum and Tuesday's treaty, Vladimir Putin completed his lightning and largely bloodless annexation with the stroke of a pen.


    Russia currently supplies around a third of the EU's energy needs and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says EU leaders are to hold a two-day summit in June to discuss plans to safeguard Europe's energy needs.

    "Europe is stepping up a gear," Mr Van Rompuy said, "to reduce energy dependency, especially from Russia, by reducing our energy demand with more energy efficiency, by diversifying our supply routes to and within Europe and expanding energy sources, in particular, renewables."


    From Kiev to Crimea - the conflict told in maps.

    Crimea map

    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has posted a statement on Facebook criticising the new authorities in Kiev. In remarks echoing earlier statements by President Putin, Mr Medvedev says demonstrators in Ukraine "were entitled to a peaceful protest against corruption" but not to "grab power through an armed mutiny." He also insisted that Viktor Yanukovych remains Ukraine's legitimate leader.


    More on the EU sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials over their alleged involvement in Crimea's takeover by Moscow. Brussels has now added 12 more people - including Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin - to bring the list to 33 officials.


    A Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the town of Armyansk, which sits on one of two main road crossings from mainland Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula.

    A Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the town of Armyansk

    The leader of Russia's Chechnya republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, says he will open an account in the Rossiya bank, which has been sanctioned by the US. President Putin earlier vowed to do the same.


    More from Prime Minister Medvedev's statement: "The new authorities [in Kiev] do not have proper legitimacy. What's worse, they do not have any real way of influencing the situation in the country at all. Power belongs to various radicals, militants and bandits."

    Mr Medvedev goes on to urge politicians in Ukraine, the West and Russia to "think how to live in the future given the existing political and legal realities".

    "We do not want the situation to get worse," Mr Medvedev adds.


    Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko describes the signing of the association agreement by Kiev as the "second victory of the Maidan", referring to the main protest camp in Kiev.

    Yulia Tymoshenko

    Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says security services investigating corruption at the Agriculture Ministry have seized a large amount of money. $1.8m (£1m) has been confiscated from the first deputy head of Ukraine's veterinary and sanitary service, Vadym Simonov, and more than $340,000 (£200,000) was taken from former Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, Mr Avakov says.


    And here's the full list of the 12 officials added to the EU sanctions list (see 15:02 entry):

    • Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Deputy PM
    • Sergey Glazyev, President Putin's adviser
    • Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker of the Russian Federation Council (upper chamber)
    • Sergey Naryshkin, Speaker of the State Duma (lower chamber)
    • Dmitry Kiselyov, head of Russia's state-run "Rossiya Segodnya" news agency
    • Alexander Nosatov, Deputy Commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet
    • Valeriy Kulikov, Deputy Commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet
    • Vladislav Surkov, President Putin's aide
    • Mikhail Malyshev, Chair of Crimea's electoral commission
    • Valery Medvedev, Chair of Sevastopol's electoral commission
    • Igor Turchenyuk, Commander of the Russian forces in Crimea
    • Elena Mizulina, Russian lawmaker
    John Doe, Gloucester, England

    emails: Just been speaking to a friend in Russia and they have commented on the fact that Visa and MasterCard are being rejected when used for payment. The sanctions seem to be working and the rank and file are starting to feel its effect, but will it do any good?


    As to whether Russian oligarchs, including the owning of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich, could face sanctions, UK Prime Minister David Cameron says no-one has been ruled out.

    He said: "We certainly haven't ruled anyone out from this approach but the EU approach, and the way it works under the laws that we have, is that you need to target people who have a direct relationship with the action that has been taken."


    People queue outside a branch of the Russian Sberbank in the Crimean regional capital Simferopol.

    Queue outside Sberbank in Simferopol
    15:43: Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent

    says the EU's dependence upon Russian gas is significant but equally should not be overstated. In 2013, some 30% of the natural gas used by EU economies came from Russia. Natural gas - from various sources - makes up about a quarter of the EU's energy mix. So, Russian gas comprises less than 10% of the overall EU energy supply.

    Government of Russia

    tweets: #Medvedev: Our goal is friendly relations with Ukraine and Russia's other neigbours; we want to avoid escalation #Crimea #Ukraine


    Vitaly Klitschko, one of Ukraine's presidential hopefuls, says the signing of the association deal with the EU is "an important event, which means that reforms in Ukraine will finally be implemented."


    In the 18th Century, it was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Charting Crimea's past.

    1769 map of the Crimean peninsula
    Shaun Walker Moscow Correspondent of the Guardian

    tweets: Friend at Vnukovo [an international airport in Moscow] says flights delayed as Putin flying out. Could he make surprise appearance at celebration concerts in Crimea tonight?


    More from BBC Monitoring's Vitaliy Shevchenko: Mikhail Malyshev, chairman of the referendum commission in Crimea, is unruffled by the EU sanctions imposed on him. "I wasn't planning on visiting Europe. I have more interesting propositions," he told Interfax news agency in Simferopol. "I am absolutely unperturbed by the EU sanctions."

    Riot police form a line outside the burning Trade Unions building on Independence Square on 19 February

    The authorities in Kiev are planning to demolish the Trade Unions building in Independence Square, which was set on fire and badly damaged during the recent protests. "Even initial inspections have shown that it has to be pulled down," says Ihor Kushnir, the head of Kyivmiskbud construction company.


    Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko chaired a meeting of Ukrainian security and defence experts earlier today, her Fatherland party says. "We will insist that we receive international military assistance in any context," she told the meeting. "We will insist that they tighten the sanctions. But we are all realists: we have been left alone in a very difficult situation."


    Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash has been released from detention in Austria after posting 125m euros (£105m; $172m) in bail, local officials say. Mr Firtash, 48, was arrested in Vienna on 12 March at the request of the US authorities on suspicion of corruption.

    The BBC's Matthew Price (right) speaks to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Brussels

    The BBC's Matthew Price spoke to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite earlier today and she warned that Russia's actions were "the beginning of a new Cold War." She added: "The loss of the Soviet Union was a personal tragedy for Putin. But our people now know freedom. It won't be easy to take us back."


    And asked whether Ukraine was right to sign a deal with the EU that could be seen as a provocation in Russia, Ms Grybauskaite said: "Only a strong response can be taken. Yes, they will be unhappy but they will respect it. If you are weak, you will be taken for nothing."


    Long delays for freight trucks and other vehicles are now reported on the new de-facto Ukraine-Crimea border because of checks by soldiers on both sides.

    Ukrainian servicemen check trucks at a checkpoint in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea
    National Geographic

    tweets: The phrase "Cold War" has been around since the 1930s, but it's taken on new life:


    US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel "repeated his praise for the restraint demonstrated by Ukrainian forces in Crimea" in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Ihor Tenyukh, the Pentagon says. It adds that the Americans "are actively reviewing Ukraine's request for military assistance materials."


    Vladimir Kozhin, one of President Putin's aides, has criticised the US sanctions imposed on him. "There is no point in trying to find a black cat in a dark room. But well, let them look for it. They can take whatever they find," he told the state-owned Russia 1 TV station.


    Ukraine's PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk tells reporters that Russia is seizing "dozens of installations" from Ukraine worth "not billions, but hundreds of billions of dollars." He adds: "Russia can only wait patiently: in the near future the state of Ukraine will be filing complaints before international courts."


    "Putin's Crimea bill may be steep," writes Anna Arutunyan in this piece for the USA Today. The author argues that the cost of financing Crimea by Russia could run into billions of dollars every year.

    Leon Aron, at the American Enterprise Institute

    tweets: Following the annexation of #Crimea, what's next on Putin's agenda? My recent @AEIdeas post: @AEIfdp #Ukraine

    Sergey, Russia

    emails: I don't think that we are going to war any time soon. Crimea is one thing, eastern or southern Ukraine is another. There would be far less popular support for taking over those regions, both from local and from Russian population, there is smaller legal and moral justification for that.


    People fish in front of the Ukraine's warship "Slavutych" in the Sevastopol harbour. The Russian forces are laying siege to the few remaining vessels still under Kiev's command.

    Ukraine's warship "Slavutych" is blocked in the Sevastopol harbour

    This brings to an end our live coverage of the Ukraine crisis. Thanks for staying with us! For all the latest updates on this and other stories, please check the BBC News website's main page.


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