Putin pushes Ukraine to brink of warA Russian soldier keeps watch from an armoured car near a Ukrainian border post in Balaclava, Crimea (Baz Ratner)
FEARS of a military conflict over Crimea intensified last night when President
Vladimir Putin won the backing of parliament for his decision to send in
troops and Ukraine responded by putting its own forces on combat alert.
The escalation in the crisis came amid signs that violent unrest against the
new pro-western government in Kiev was spreading from the Crimean peninsula
to eastern Ukraine. Both areas are dominated by ethnic Russians.
During a tense 90-minute telephone call last night, President Barack Obama
urged Putin to withdraw his forces to bases in Crimea and to "refrain from
any interference elsewhere in Ukraine”.