Press review: Crimea as seen in Russia and Ukraine

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image captionUkrainian front pages: "This is occupation!" (Den, centre)

Images and headlines on the front pages of Russian and Ukrainian papers paint a sombre picture of the crisis in Crimea.

Official Russian and pro-Kremlin papers, including tabloids, take a firm stance reflecting Moscow's defiant position that it needs to defend its citizens.

Ukrainian papers convey a sense of apprehension and look to the West for a possible way out.

'Not an aggressor'

Nikolai Mironov in Russia's centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta declares that Russia cannot just stand idly by while its citizens are threatened. "Our country has never been an aggressor… it cannot shun its responsibility for the future of Russians in the former Soviet republics. If this requires measures of prevention and containment, including in the form of sending troops, then this decision is fair and normal."

A lead headline in Russian official paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta highlights Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying he will not "exchange millions of our people for the G8" in response to threats that Russia could be expelled from the economic body. A headline in the official defence ministry newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda, echoes this by saying: "We do not surrender our own."

Anti-US feeling is another theme in the dailies, with some papers accusing Washington of having financed the opposition. Sergey Frolov in left-leaning Trud says protesters were "regularly financed by US taxpayers" while Nikolai Mironov in Nezavisimaya Gazeta says that "squads of militants" in Kiev's Independence Square were trained in Poland and Latvia at US expense. The Ukrainian crisis was "a well-planned rebellion of 'brown' pro-fascist forces backed from abroad", he argues.

Vladislav Vorobyev in Rossiyskaya Gazeta accuses the US of double standards.

"When Washington, citing protection of its national interests, bombs Iraq and Libya and threatens Syria with 'red lines'… all this is being done ostensibly for the victory of 'democracy'," he says. "Yet, the moment Moscow puts (so far only verbal) pressure on those who do not even hide their intention to dispose of all who simply speak Russian, Russia is instantly presented with boycotts and real threats."

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image captionSome Russian papers focused on the stock market in what Vedomosti calls a 'Hysterical moment' while Kommersant leads with 'Markets hit rock bottom'

'Black Monday'

Influential Russian business broadsheets focus on the economic ramifications, particularly Monday's sharp drop on the Russian stock market and a further depreciation of the rouble.

"Hysterical moment" says the main headline in Vedomosti while Vitaliy Gaydayev in Kommersant describes the stock market fall as a "black Monday". "Investors had never responded so negatively to the Russian politicians' actions as they did yesterday," he says.

The lead headline in RBK daily says: "Good-bye, 72bn [roubles]: Moscow stock exchange sends its first invoice to the economy for the Crimea campaign". Nezavisimaya Gazeta warns that Russia may have to pay dearly as aid to Crimea coupled with Western sanctions could undermine the federal budget.

In contrast, Kirill Rogov in the influential Russian business daily Vedomosti says Russian intervention in Crimea would encourage the international community to help Ukraine economically and politically.

"A 'Marshall Plan for Ukraine' looks like a much more real option today than three or four days ago…" he says.

"Putin has given Ukraine a chance. To use it, the Ukrainian elites need to take one fundamental decision… The central goal is reforms and consolidation of the state on their basis."

'Hitler scenario'

In Ukraine itself, papers wonder what will happen next and recall events during WW2 when it was still part of the former Soviet Union.

Danylo Ivaniv and Lesya Voloshka in the daily Ukrayina Moloda compare Putin's intervention in Crimea to "a Hitler scenario". saying: "Just as WW2 was started by Germany, the reason [for Russian military intervention] was also staged."

Also in Ukrayina Moloda, Vasyl Sadovskyy and Taras Zakusylo worry that although Ukrainian military units may be promising to hold out against the Russian military, "it is unclear where the thin line is between self-defence, fulfilment of military duty to the country and a retreat".

Looking at the present, the headline in Ukrainian daily Den says "This is occupation!"

"If this is a geopolitical confrontation between the West and Russia, it has gone too far," it adds. "The methods and tools used by the Russian Federation are unacceptable." Iryna Kovalchuk in the tabloid Segodnya says that hope for Ukraine now lies with economic sanctions from the West and the OSCE.

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