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28/02/2014

The ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych - on the run

Secretary of State John Kerry said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart who promised to respect Ukraine's "territorial integrity".

But he warned Moscow needed to back up its words with actions.

Earlier, pro-Russian armed men stormed Crimea's local parliament, while Russia has been conducting military exercises.

The ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych - on the run since he was voted out of office last week - also reportedly surfaced in Russia.
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Analysis
image of Bridget Kendall Bridget Kendall Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

It feels as though President Putin has thrown down a gauntlet to the new government in Kiev.

Perhaps scrambling Russian fighter jets, granting asylum to Viktor Yanukovych or tacitly backing the takeover by local Russians of Crimean government buildings do not appear to be connected.

But taken together, these events seem to add up to a message that Russia has the power to make life difficult for the victors in Kiev and is not prepared to be taken for granted.

What Russia says it wants, however, seems quite unrealistic. Its foreign ministry argued that the best way out of Ukraine's crisis and the Crimean stand-off would be to go back to the compromise agreement signed last week.

But that would seem to mean President Yanukovych returning to power.

Russia also wants reforms to suit all regions of the country, including - presumably - that referendum on Crimean autonomy.

Russia says it wants to keep Ukraine united, is prepared to collaborate and won't intervene militarily.

But how far is it prepared to ratchet up the confrontation if the new government in Kiev, or the West, object to its proposals?

 

Ukrainian media said he arrived in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don early on Friday, where he is due to give a news conference.

In statement on Thursday he said he still considered himself the legitimate president.

A new interim government - including Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk - was approved by parliament earlier on Thursday.
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Mr Kerry said he had spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and "asked specifically that Russia work with the United States and our friends and allies in order to support Ukraine to rebuild unity, security and a healthy economy".

Mr Lavrov, he said, had insisted the snap military exercises ordered by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday were unrelated to events in Ukraine and also said Moscow was "concerned" by the stand-off in the Crimean parliament. Russia has also scrambled jets to monitor its borders.flower shop florist

He said Mr Lavrov also reaffirmed Mr Putin's statement that Russia "will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine".

But Mr Kerry said words were not enough. "We have all learned that it's actions and the follow-on choices that make the greatest difference," he said, in a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Other Western leaders and Nato had earlier expressed their concern at the unfolding events in Crimea.
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