Russia Given Crimea Deadline as Yanukovych Warns of Civil War

Germany told Russia it must switch course in Crimea by next week or risk more sanctions as Ukraine’s deposed president warned of a possible civil war.

The European Union will discuss harsher penalties on March 17 barring “obvious changes in Russia’s actions,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today in Estonia. A planned March 16 referendum in Crimea on whether to join Russia should be halted, he said. Toppled President Viktor Yanukovych told reporters in Russia that lawlessness is spreading in Ukraine, fomented by the “fascists and ultranationalists” who are in charge in Kiev.

“We don’t want a confrontation, but the actions of the Russian side make the preparations necessary,” Steinmeier said in Tallinn. “We continue to urge Russia to use the last possibilities that are still there for a diplomatic solution against such an escalation. Otherwise, relations between Europe and Russia won’t improve.”

Russia is wresting control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, home to its Black Sea Fleet, sparking the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. Moscow-backed Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after three months of anti-government protests, says he’s still Ukraine’s leader. The EU and the U.S. recognize the new administration in Kiev and are helping it secure billions of dollars in aid.

Sanctions Strategy

The EU announced a three-stage sanctions process against Russia last week, starting with the suspension of trade and visa-liberalization talks. Stage two includes asset freezes and travel bans for as-yet unidentified officials and would be imposed if Russia boycotts international talks on a settlement with Ukraine. Stage three envisages “additional and far-reaching consequences” if Russia further destabilizes Ukraine.

As Ukraine races to secure financing to stave off a possible default, the World Bank said yesterday it had received a request for aid and that it was ready to provide as much as $3 billion this year. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the Washington-based lender would help “undertake the reforms badly needed to put the economy on a path to sustainability.”

Western Aid

The U.S. has already promised $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, while the EU has outlined an 11 billion-euro ($15 billion) package of loans and grants for the coming years tied to the country agreeing on a program from the International Monetary Fund, which sent a mission to Kiev last week.

“The EU will open its doors to exports from Ukraine,” European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters today in Strasbourg, France. This “is more than a gesture, it is an economic lifeline.” The EU has had 610 million euros ready to go as soon as Ukraine reaches an accord with the IMF.

As Crimea prepares for the ballot, the isolation of the peninsula from the rest of Ukraine intensified today as Kiev’s Boryspil airport said on its website that flights had been canceled to Simferopol, the region’s capital.

Russian forces have already taken charge of a ferry crossing at Kerch and blocked harbors, according to Ukrainian border guards. Surveillance pictures also show Russia controls the roads leading onto the peninsula, they said March 9.

“With Crimea apparently well under Russia’s control, it can now play around with the east,” she said by e-mail from Brussels. “Ukraine seems to be doing its best not to be provoked by Russian aggression. But it’s like having your house robbed and having to stand and watch without doing anything.”

Full article: Russia Given Crimea Deadline as Yanukovych Warns of Civil War (Yahoo!)

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