Crisis in Ukraine

Crisis in Ukraine

Tension and fears are mounting

OSCE observers negotiate with an armed guard at a checkpoint heading to Crimea.
Coarse actions by pro-Russian troops in Crimea this week were followed by harsh words out of Moscow on Saturday.

On Friday, pro-Russian troops reportedly tried to smash open the gates of a Ukrainian base.
Russia's navy trapped Ukrainian ships. And armed men refused to allow military observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to enter Ukraine's Crimea region.

On Saturday, Moscow chastised the OSCE.
Condemn violence by demonstrators in Kiev that led to the ouster of Ukraine's former President first, the foreign ministry said, according to a report in state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Then think about Crimea.

"Some OSCE members and executive bodies have acted in the worst traditions of double standards while dealing with the situation in Ukraine," the ministry reportedly said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has suggested a solution to the Crimea crisis to Russian President Vladimir Putin that would replace Russian troops with international monitors, who would protect ethnic Russians, should they be threatened.

Russian lawmakers have welcomed Crimean separatists with open arms, and Putin has said he would use force to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, if needed.

CNN teams are in Ukraine and Crimea as well as Moscow, Washington and other centers of power. Check below for updates of news as it breaks and read our comprehensive
full story here.

And here are some other pieces that break down what is happening:

  • Odessa protesters seek alliance with Russia

    Pro-Russian gangs in Odessa, Ukraine demand unity with Russia. CNN's Matthew Chance reports.

    by edited by erica.harrington 3/6/2014 11:10:48 PM
  • President Obama spoke this afternoon with President Putin of Russia about the situation in #Ukraine . Readout to come.
  • Presidents Obama and Putin talk about Ukraine

    The White House released a readout of the hour-long call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here's some of what it said.

    "President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners.

    "President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community.

    "As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May."
  • CNN, other media asked to stop broadcasting from a hotel in Crimea

    The management of a hotel in the Crimean capital of Simferpol where CNN has been based told the network to stop broadcasting from there. Other media outlets got the same message, and no reason was given. CNN's Anna Coren reports.

  • Opinion: Vladimir Putin's media strategy in the spotlight

    Jill Dougherty was CNN's Moscow bureau chief and correspondent from
    1997 through 2005.
    She also served as White House correspondent and,
    most recently, as CNN's foreign affairs correspondent covering the State
    She is a fellow at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center
    on Media, Politics and Public Policy, where she is researching recent
    developments in the Russian media.

    She weighs in on Russia's RT television network here.

  • What was the tenor of the call between Presidents Obama and Putin?

    A senior administration official with knowledge of the call's tone talks to CNN.

    “As you’d imagine, they disagree over what’s taking place in Ukraine and Crimea. But, they also understand that there should be a diplomatic path forward, and (U.S. Secretary of State John) Kerry will be following up on that," the official said.
  • Russia: 'Government in Kiev is a result of an unconstitutional revolution'

    U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone about Ukraine. The website of the Russian President posted a note about the conversation. Here's some of what it said, as translated by CNN's Ruslan Semchyshyn.

    "They continued their discussion of the acute situation in Ukraine. The discussion revealed differences in approaches and assessments of the causes of the crisis and the current situation.

    "Vladimir Putin in particular noted that the government in Kiev is a result of an unconstitutional revolution. This government does not have a national mandate. It imposes its illegitimate decisions upon the Eastern and Southeastern regions of Ukraine and upon Crimea.

    "Russia cannot ignore the calls for help from these regions. Russia acts adequately, and in full compliance with international law.

    "The Russian President stressed the paramount importance of Russian-American relations to ensure stability and security in the world."
  • Vitali Klitschko talks about Ukraine's potential

    As a championship boxer, Vitali Klitschko is used to a tough fight. Now, as a Ukrainian opposition leader he is in the middle of a whole new battle. He is one of the leading voices for his country.

    Klitschko tells CNN's Anderson Cooper he wants people in the United States to know he appreciates the support his country is receiving from the West.

    "We have huge potential ... And that’s why we have to unite to make changes in our country. It’s possible," he said.

    Here's video of the interview.

  • On 'normal' life in Crimea

    CNN's Ben Wedeman spent the last week or so in Crimea. In most places there, life is normal, he says. He watched cars being stopped for speeding.

    "Life on the streets … does seem to be normal, but there’s this underlying tension about what comes next. And certainly, the idea that there’s going to be a referendum on the 16th of March to determine the fate of the Crimea really makes people even more nervous," Wedeman
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham compliments Obama on action over Ukraine

    A fierce congressional critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy is giving the President credit for recent actions he's taken in the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

    CNN's Dana Davidsen reports here.
  • America's military options in Crimea

    CNN's Jim Sciutto and retired Army Gen. James "Spider" Marks look at how the military picture is shaping up in the Ukrainian crisis.

  • Canada expels Russian soldiers
    Canada has expelled nine Russian soldiers participating in joint training exercises on Canadian soil, a senior government source in Ottawa tells CNN. The soldiers will leave Canada by the end of Friday, the source said. Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the country was suspending "all planned bilateral activities between the Canadian Armed Forces and the military of the Russian Federation." Harper has called the Russian military's move into Ukraine "a clear violation of international law."
  • Why did Putin send forces into Ukraine?

    Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces into Ukraine because he saw "NATO coming at him." New York University Russian Studies Professor Stephen Cohen puts the crisis into historical context on CNN's AC360.
  • CNN's Matthew Chance is with observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and sent out this tweet:

  • Russia supports Crimean referendum
    Russia supports the "free and democratic election of the people of Crimea and the people of Sevastopol," Russian State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin said Friday in Moscow, according to Russia's Itar-TASS news agency. He was referring to the March 16 referendum for residents of Crimea to decide whether to stay with Ukraine or join Russia. Naryshkin spoke after meeting a delegation of the Supreme Council of Crimea in the Russian capital, Moscow.
  • European observers entering Crimea, CNN's Matthew Chance reports:

  • Paralympic Games begin in Sochi, Russia
    Today is the start of the
    2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and Ukraine's sports ministry reports that the country's Paralympic team is already in Sochi, amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine tensions.  When the Ukrainian national flag
    was raised at the Olympic village yesterday, the team sang the national anthem
    and shouted, "Peace for Ukraine!"
    Ukraine National Paralympic
    Committee spokeswoman Natalia Garach tells CNN

  • An image of the European observers heading to Crimea from CNN's Senior Photojournalist Christian Streib:

  • Message of peace from Ukraine's paralympic committee in Sochi:

  • Observers' voyage to Crimea

    CNN's Senior Photojournalist Christian Streib shares the below image of  European observers heading to Crimea today.

    The 35-strong team from the Organization for Security and Co-operation
    in Europe, a regional security bloc, was turned back by armed men at checkpoints Thursday.
    But they told CNN's Matthew Chance, who is traveling with them from Kherson in southern Ukraine toward the Crimean peninsula, that they intend to be more assertive Friday as they seek to get in and assess the

  • Troops shut down Ukrainian TV channel; Russian TV in its place

    Armed men forced Ukrainian broadcaster 1+1 to stop airing in Crimea on Thursday, and Russian state TV channel Channel One is now broadcasting in its frequency, 1+1 General Director Olexander Tkachenko told CNN Friday.

    1 + 1 is still available on cable and by satellite in that region.
    However, with the loss of its terrestrial broadcasts, they have lost 50% to 60% of their viewership, he said, according to CNN's Tim Schwarz.

    Kachenko said this was a gross violation of the law and he is calling on Ukraine's National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council to investigate the matter and reinstate their service.

  • Progress on observers' journey to Crimea

    The unarmed European military observers traveling to Crimea at the Ukrainian government's request is making progress on their journey, according to
    CNN Senior Photojournalist Christian Streib, who is traveling with them:

    The team from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a regional security bloc, was turned back by armed men at checkpoints yesterday, but they're trying again today.
  • Observers blocked at checkpoint

    For the second straight day, gunmen are preventing unarmed European military observers from entering the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, says CNN's Matthew Chance, who is with the observers.

    The 43 observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a regional security bloc, have been stopped near the Ukrainian town of Chongar at a checkpoint separating the Ukrainian mainland from the Crimean peninsula, Chance reported moments ago.

    The checkpoint's guards -- masked men carrying rifles and wearing camouflage uniforms -- stopped the OSCE's bus. A guard, speaking in Russian, said: "I've been ordered by the government of Crimea not to let anyone in." An OSCE officer still is speaking with the guards, Chance said.

    Crimea -- which Russian forces effectively have taken over, blocking the Ukrainian navy and surrounding Ukrainian military installations in the peninsula -- has a new regional government that plans to hold a referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia. Ukraine's new interim national government, which considers Crimea an inseparable part of Ukraine, recognizes neither Crimea's government nor the referendum.

    On the mainland side of the checkpoint, a pro-Ukrainian crowd that has been following the OSCE observers has been waving Ukrainian flags and chanting, "Crimea is part of Ukraine," Chance said.

    The interim Ukrainian government invited the Vienna-based OSCE to enter Crimea, in part to investigate Russian claims that Russian-speaking residents of Crimea were under threat by pro-Western people. Russia has cited this threat as a justification for military intervention.
  • NATO: We can help strengthen Ukraine's military

    Even though Ukraine is not a NATO member, the alliance can help Ukraine "modernize and strengthen" its armed forces, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s Becky Anderson today.

    Speaking from Brussels,
    Rasmussen said: "Individual NATO allies can help Ukraine in different ways, and actually they do so, and NATO as an alliance can help Ukraine modernize and strengthen their armed forces through partnership activities.

    Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander
    Lukashevich said the "NATO factor" is complicating the situation in Ukraine.

    "It seems reflexes of the past prevailed and prevented an objective analysis of the situation. We think that attempts to add 'the NATO factor' to the already complicated and fragile situation in Ukraine are extremely dangerous, as it creates an additional element of tensions and undermines normalization prospects," Lukashevich said, answering a media question on the ministry website, according to Interfax.

    Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced measures to beef up the number of fighter jets in the former Soviet Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, adding six F-15s to the four already participating in a NATO "air policing" mission in the region.

  • U.S. destroyer in last Turkish strait before Black Sea

    The guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun is getting closer to the Black Sea, CNN's
    Ivan Watson reports from Turkey.

    by Rachel Clarke

    Crimea, where Russian navy ships are blockading Ukrainian ships, is on the north end of the Black Sea. The United States says the Truxtun is going to the sea for previously scheduled exercises with Bulgaria and Romania.

  • Photo from Crimea checkpoint

    Earlier, we told you about the gunmen who are blocking unarmed European military observers from entering the Crimean peninsula from the Ukrainian mainland. CNN Senior Photojournalist Christian Streib tweeted this photo from the checkpoint:

  • Pro-Ukraine crowd gathers at Crimea checkpoint

    CNN's Matthew Chance reports from a checkpoint separating the Ukrainian mainland from the Crimean peninsula on Friday. A crowd on the mainland side waves Ukrainian flags.
    by Jason.Hanna

    Above is a picture from the Ukrainian mainland side of a checkpoint where masked gunmen are blocking unarmed European military observers from entering the Crimean peninsula.

    CNN's Matthew Chance
    reports that on the mainland side of the checkpoint, a pro-Ukrainian crowd has gathered, waving Ukrainian flags and chanting, "Crimea is part of Ukraine."
    Some of them are Tatars, a group that was persecuted in the Soviet era.

    The interim Ukrainian government invited the Vienna-based OSCE to enter Crimea, in part to investigate Russian claims that Russian-speaking residents of Crimea were under threat by pro-Western people. Russia has cited this threat as a justification for military intervention.

  • Tires shot out

    CNN's Matthew Chance has just crossed from mainland Ukraine into Crimea. He had to leave the European military observers who'd asked three times to be allowed through a checkpoint, only to be refused each time. 

    We'll hear more of his reporting later, but tensions are clearly high: 

  • Fears among Tatars

    CNN's Diana Magnay has this powerful story of the Crimean Tatars - a Muslim minority in Crimea who were once forced out of their homeland, and now fear that war will come.

  • Checkpoint  negotiations

    Our photojournalist Christian Streib is staying at the checkpoint where observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are trying to cross into Crimea.

    Here are the photos he's tweetedOSCE personnel in uniform and berets with masked and armed men guarding the checkpoint.


    1 of 5

  • That Obama-Putin phone call

    Jim Acosta at the White House reports that there was "pretty strong disagreement" between Presidents Obama and Putin when they discussed the Ukraine crisis yesterday,

    Josh Earnest, the deputy White House press secretary, told reporters the discussions were "robust and candid."

  • How many Russian troops are in Crimea?

    About 30,000 Russian troops are
    now involved in Crimea, Ukrainian border official Gen.
    Myhaylo Koval said today.

    That number dovetails with
    analysis by IHS Jane’s that says Russia has raised its troop levels in Crimea from about 15,000 personnel in February to about 31,000 currently.

    Earlier this week, Russia’s U.
    N. envoy said a treaty between Ukraine and Russia allowed Russia to have up to 25,000 troops in Crimea, where its Black Sea fleet is headquartered at Sevastopol. President Vladimir Putin has denied sending extra forces to Crimea – a claim met with incredulity by Ukrainian officials, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and others – but said he had the right to do so.

    "If I take the decision to use military force, it will be completely legitimate and correspond to the international law, because we have the request of the legitimate president," Putin said Tuesday, referring to ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. "And also (it) corresponds to our duties and corresponds to our interest in protecting the people who are close to us historically and have connected culturally."

  • Kerry talks with Ukrainian leader, Russian foreign minister
    S. Secretary of State John Kerry remained actively involved in the Ukraine crisis today. He spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, before talking by phone with Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a stopover in Ireland, according to a senior State Department official.
  • Cossacks allegedly smash gates of Ukrainian military post

    A Ukrainian military spokesman alleges that a group of Cossacks smashed the gates of a Ukrainian military post -- located in Crimea -- that controls airspace in southern Ukraine.

    The Cossacks used a Russian military truck to breach the gates at the post near Sevastopol, Vladimir Seleznev, a spokesman for Ukrainian military in Crimea, told CNN on Friday. Some of the 100 Ukrainian officers at the base have barricaded themselves inside a control room, while others are negotiating with the attackers, Seleznev said.

    The Cossacks involved in this incident, and now engaged in talks with Ukrainian officers, called themselves members of a "self-defense" group. They are not among those men wearing green uniforms without insignias that have taken up positions around several Ukrainian military sites in Crimea.

  • Rally in Moscow for Crimea

    Russian officials have been outspoken about their opposition to Ukraine's new government and support for those in Crimea who side in Moscow. So, too, apparently are many Russians -- as evidenced at a rally today in Moscow, as reported by Russian state-funded RT.

  • Ukrainian official: Base's gates smashes, journalists attacked

    The Ukrainian base in Crimea whose gates were reportedly smashed today was not taken over, the base's deputy commander Vitaly Onishenko told CNN's Clare Sebastian.

    Here's what Onishenko
    says happened: Between 35 and 60 men -- who the deputy commander identified as Russian troops, though their uniforms didn't have insignias -- arrived around lunchtime and demanded that Ukrainian forces put down their weapons and cede control of the base.

    The Ukrainian troops inside refused.

    The two sides talked, and at some point what Onishenko called Russian troops drove vehicles into the base's gates to breach them. The deputy base commander said they failed, damaging the gates and briefly getting through before being blocked by Ukrainian forces forming a human shield.

    Talks resumed again and -- while they did -- members of the self-described "self-defense" forces came and began attacking journalists, according to Onishenko. At least one person ended up being taken to a hospital before the self-defense forces withdrew, the deputy base commander said. Contrary to previous reporting,
    Onishenko said Cossacks weren't involved.

    Eventually, the men who
    Onishenko calls Russian troops likewise pulled back and situation settled down.

  • Talks among Western leaders continue

    Western leaders continued today to have regular conversations about what's happening in the Ukraine. U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked by phone, while
    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted that he had conversed with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.
  • Dozens of armed local militia men led by a retired general entered a Ukrainian military recruitment office in Simferopol in Crimea Saturday and put armed men on each floor, said Ukrainian defense spokesman Vladislav Seleznev in a post to Facebook.
  • Ukrainian officials accused pro-Russian forces in its Crimea region of
    fresh bullying tactics Saturday
    , as about 100 armed men reportedly took
    control of a military office in the regional capital, Simferopol.
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