Kiev - Thousands
took to the streets for rival pro- and anti-Kremlin rallies across Ukraine on
Sunday as the West and Moscow dug in their heels over a deepening crisis in
The protests come after a new marathon round of phone calls by US President Barack Obama seeking to defuse the Cold War-style standoff in the ex-Soviet state.
in Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which has come under de facto
control by Russian forces, have resulted in a new face-off between Russia and
the West, with each side imposing sanctions or warning of further prohibitive
measures to force the other to back down.
observers have failed to get into Crimea, a majority Russophone region of
Ukraine, to get a first-hand look at the situation on the ground and were
forced to turn back on Saturday after pro-Kremlin gunmen fired warning shots.
border guards said on Saturday that about 60 Russian military lorries had
entered the rugged peninsula of two million in the last 24 hours by land and
sea, a sign that Moscow was far from pulling back.
said "Russian extremists" had attacked a Crimea radar post, in the
latest move by pro-Russian forces who have surrounded Ukrainian military bases
and taken at least one missile defence unit.
of poet’s birth
attackers in military uniform and civil clothes broke the door and entered the
building. Radio technic units and telecommunication cables were dissembled and
destroyed," the border guards said in a statement in English on their
marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and
patriotic rallies were planned in Kiev and - in a show of defiance towards
Russia - in Crimea's key cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol.
rallies are also significant ahead of controversial plans by Crimea's regional
pro-Moscow government to hold a referendum on joining Russia on 16 March, which
could lead to a formal annexation of the territory.
eastern city of Donetsk, a former stronghold of Ukraine's ousted president
Viktor Yanukovych and the site of regular protests in recent days, there were
fears of clashes as pro-Kiev demonstrators planned to celebrate Shevchenko,
while pro-Russian protesters were due to hold a counter-rally.
19th-century poet has been credited with creating the modern Ukrainian language
and the idea of Ukraine as a nation, giving the new Western-backed government
in Kiev a powerful opportunity on Sunday to revive some nationalist fervour in
the face of Russia's incursion.
Late on Saturday,
Obama made a fresh round of phone calls to key European allies in the latest
diplomatic attempts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, which began with Yanukovych's
ouster last month after three months of protests that left some 100 dead.
with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David
Cameron and Italian leader Matteo Renzi, "the leaders reiterated grave
concern over Russia's clear violation of international law and reaffirmed their
support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity", the White
office said the two leaders discussed "new measures" against Russia
if it failed to act to defuse the crisis.
also spoke to the leaders of former Soviet states Lithuania, Latvia and
expansive moves, its first military campaign against a neighbour since a brief
2008 conflict with Georgia, have left the Baltic states jittery.
promises to "defend" ethnic Russians in Crimea have especially set
off alarm bells in Latvia and Estonia, where Russian-speakers make up around a
quarter of population.