Markets plunge as Russian troops flood into Crimea

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Mar 3rd, 2014

Russians soldiers in Ukraine

KIEV (AFP) – Ukraine accused Russia on Monday of pouring more troops into Crimea as world leaders grappled with Europe’s worst standoff since the Cold War and financial markets plunged on fears of an all-out conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said forces were needed in the flashpoint Black Sea peninsula until “the stabilisation of the situation” in the ex-Soviet nation and lashed out at Washington’s “unacceptable threats” against Moscow.

Crimea — the strategic host to tsarist and Kremlin navies since the 18th century — has been under de facto occupation by Moscow-backed forces since President Vladimir Putin won parliament’s authorisation on Saturday to send troops into Ukraine.

The new leaders in Kiev branded the move a declaration of “war” and jittery global markets sank on Monday over fears of a conflict while the price of oil surged.

Russians soldiers in Ukraine

Russians soldiers in Ukraine

The Moscow market alone at one stage lost 13 percent on a Black Monday of trading that saw the ruble hit historic lows.

World leaders were holding a series of urgent meetings and telephone conversations to try to avert a conflict and also to help Ukraine avert a possible catastrophic debt default.

The European Union was trying to overcome differences on how to respond to the escalating crisis on its eastern edge, with hawkish ex-Soviet satellites pushing for sanctions but others including heavyweights France and Germany calling for soft diplomacy.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Russia of “consequences and costs” as he met Ukraine’s Western-backed but untested interim leaders in Kiev.

The world’s richest nations have already threatened to strip Moscow of its coveted seat at the Group of Eight for menacing its ex-Soviet neighbour.

But Europe and Washington appear to have limited options in dealing with Putin — a veteran strongman with mass domestic appeal who has cracked down on political freedoms and appears more interested in rebuilding vestiges of the Soviet Union than repairing relations with the West.

Ukraine has soared to the top of the global agenda even as the brutal conflict in Syria rages and talks on Iran’s nuclear drive enter their most sensitive stage.

“This cannot be a way in the 21st century to conduct international affairs,” Hague told reporters. “It is not an acceptable way to behave and there will be consequences and costs.”

The crisis threatens to blow up into the biggest test to global diplomacy since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

It first erupted in November when protests began against the pro-Kremlin regime over its scrapping of an EU pact and culminated in a week of carnage last month that claimed nearly 100 lives and saw the downfall of president Viktor Yanukovych — now living in exile in Russia.

“There was the (1962) Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet Union’s decision to send tanks into Prague (in 1968). But in that era, we were effectively in a state of war,” said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

Germany offered a rare glimmer of hope by announcing that Putin had agreed in telephone talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel Sunday to set up a contact group on Ukraine.

Western allies in NATO also said they wanted to send international observers to Ukraine while engaging Moscow in direct talks.

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