BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- The international community on Tuesday called for unity and a peaceful solution to the ongoing Ukraine crisis amid simmering tensions in Crimea.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday stressed the need to urgently de-escalate the current tension in Ukraine and facilitate dialogue for a peaceful resolution.
During his visit to Geneva, where he met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ban pledged the UN's support in this regard.
Both Ban and Steinmeier agreed that all diplomatic channels must be explored more actively as the situation in Ukraine remains volatile.
At the request of Ban, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson traveled on Sunday to Ukraine to assess the situation on the ground. In his meetings with the country's acting leaders on Tuesday, he stressed the crucial need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
During his stay in Ukraine, Eliasson reiterated Ban's call that Ukraine's territorial integrity should be respected and preserved.
The Ukraine crisis, which originated from protests against President Viktor Yanukovych's decision last November to abandon an association agreement with the European Union for Russian aid, took an abrupt turn in the past two weeks following bloody clashes between protesters and police. Yanukovych then fled Kiev.
Last week, Ukraine's autonomous republic of Crimea became the new epicenter of an ongoing tension in the East European country, as armed groups seized government and parliament buildings in Crimea and took control of two airports. Russian flags were raised over the seized buildings.
In response to the escalating tensions in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public comments Tuesday on the Ukraine crisis at a televised press conference, saying that Moscow was not considering Crimea's accession to Russia and would not encourage such sentiments.
Putin said only the Crimeans themselves ccould decide their own future, and Russia would provide the Crimean authorities with financial aid.
Asked by reporters whether he was concerned about the fact that sending Russian troops to Ukraine might trigger a war, Putin said Moscow would not go to war with the Ukrainian people.
"We have no enemies there. Ukraine is a friendly country, including those from western Ukraine. They are all brothers of ours," he said.
"If we'll see the lawlessness starts in eastern regions, we reserve the right to use all means to protect these people," Putin said, stressing it would be the last resort.
He accused Western countries of turning the political life in Ukraine into a farce. "Western instructors did their job well. We saw well-trained armed groups there (in Kiev). Everything was well organized," he said.
In a phone talk with Putin on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called the situation in Ukraine highly complicated and sensitive, saying Beijing believed Moscow could coordinate with other parties to push for the political settlement of the issue so as to safeguard regional and world peace and stability.
China supported proposals and mediation efforts of the international community that were conducive to the reduction of tension, Xi added.
Western countries on Tuesday expressed their support to all constructive efforts for a peaceful solution to the current Ukraine crisis.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said Tuesday that it welcomed the ongoing efforts undertaken by the United Nations and the European Union and would continue to consult with Ukraine within the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday agreed on the importance of de-escalating the situation in Ukraine and discussed potential solutions to the crisis in Ukraine in a phone conversation.
Obama also said there was room for Ukraine to be a friend with both the West and Russia.
French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that his country and its European partners would "apply all necessary pressure including sanctions" to seek a political solution to the Ukraine crisis.
In order to de-escalate the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, members of the Ukrainian cabinet had started consultations with their Russian counterparts, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said Tuesday.
"Consultations on the ministerial level between Ukraine and Russia have started. Although the negotiation process runs in a quite sluggish way, the first steps have been taken," Yatsenyuk told a press conference.
Putin calls Ukraine events coup, defends Russian position
MOSCOW/KIEV, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called events in Ukraine a coup and argued that the use of force was Russia's last resort to solving the ongoing crisis.
Speaking at a televised press conference, Putin said that by the time of signing the agreement on Feb. 21, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had in effect given up his power. Full story
U.S. suspends military cooperation with Russia
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Defense Department on Monday evening said that it is suspending all military-to-military engagements with Russia because of Moscow's military movement in Ukraine.
The suspension covers bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who added that the Pentagon values the relationship it has developed with the Russian military in the last few years. Full story
Yanukovych asks Putin to use force to restore order in Ukraine: Russian envoy
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Ousted Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych has requested Russian President Vladimir Putin in a letter to use force to help restore law and order in his turmoil-stricken country, Moscow's UN ambassador said here Monday.
Vitaly Churkin showed a copy of the letter to the members of the UN Security Council as he spoke at an open council meeting on the current crisis in Ukraine. Full story
Obama says examining steps to "isolate" Russia
WASHINGTON, March 3 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that his administration is examining "a whole series of" economic and diplomatic steps to "isolate" Russia over its refusal to withdraw military forces from the Ukrainian republic of Crimea.
While acknowledging Russia's "strong" historic and commercial ties to Ukraine, the American leader declared that "What cannot be done is for Russia, with impunity, to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world." Full story