Ukraine: The biggest crisis in Europe this century says Hague

Harriet Green
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Foreign secretary William Hague has called the current situation in Ukraine “the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century” this morning.

Hague confirmed Russia’s taken operational control of Crimea, and that he’s “very concerned” about the possibility of movement by Russia further into eastern Ukraine.

There is "no justification" for Russia's actions, he said.

Russia vows to keep troops in Ukraine

Russia has now said that it'll keep its troops in Ukraine to protect Russia interests.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated the country's defending human rights against "ultra-nationalist threats". Despite calls from the West to pull out, Russia now has de facto military control of Crimea.

Ukraine has announced full military mobilisation in response.

Speaking to the BBC earlier this morning, Hague said Russia is entitled to have troops and naval forces in Crimea, but the current situation is “very tense and dangerous”. Forces need to be returned to their bases, he stated.

Hague added that “we are not playing this as a zero sum game” and that Ukraine should be free to be closer to the EU while maintaining their links with Russia.

Action on the part of the G7 countries over the coming weeks depends, he says, on Russia’s behaviour.

It also required Ukraine to act in a way that unites the countries, dealing with corruption and creating a "truly free and democratic country" that can make its own decisions.

His words echo a joint statement put out by G7 countries this morning:

We are united in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to choose its own future. We commit ourselves to support Ukraine in its efforts to restore unity, stability and political and economic health to the country. To that end, we will support Ukraine’s work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to negotiate a new program and to implement needed reforms.

Ukraine's government asked last week for $35bn in aid over the next two years from the IMF.

Update: An IMF mission will arrive in Kiev today, starting discussions tomorrow. That's according to an official at Ukraine's central bank, who, speaking to Reuters, declined to be named.

Update 2: Russia’s finance minister Anton Siluanov has said Moscow will decide by the end of the day on its position regarding financial aid to Crimea.

Update 3: Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine's prime minister, has stated that the country will never give up Crimea to anyone.

Update 4: Lavrov has rejected the idea that Russia's acting aggressively towards Ukraine. Turning the tables, he said the West is putting its own "geopolitical calculations" before the welfare and future of Ukrainians.

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