Russia, Ukraine round-up

People celebrate the announcement of preliminary results of today’s referendum in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Ukraine March 16, 2014

Russia to pass laws on Crimea’s accession as quickly as possible: Russia’s lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing Ukraine’s Crimea region to join Russia “in the very near future”, Interfax news agency quoted the chamber’s deputy speaker as saying on Monday.

With three-quarters of Sunday’s ballots counted in Crimea, support for union with Russia was running at 95.7%, officials said of a referendum which has plunged East-West relations to lows not seen since the Cold War.

Russian army MI-35 military helicopters patrol the area as Ukrainian servicemen guard a checkpoint near the village of Strelkovo in Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, Ukraine March 16, 2014.

Ukraine will never accept Crimea annexation says acting president

Germany sees Russia “isolated” over Crimea referendum

Ukraine says its forces control and secure gas network

Cold War reflexes return to Europe over Ukraine: Russia’s military seizure of Crimea and preparations for a possible annexation of the southern Ukrainian province have revived fears, calculations and reflexes that had been rusting away since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Whether the crisis triggered by President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to prevent Ukraine, a strategic former Soviet republic, turning to the West, becomes a turning point in international relations like the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the United States or the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, is not yet certain. There are still some steps to play out.

Protesters carry Ukrainian and Russian flags in Moscow during a rally against recent Russia’s actions in Crimea on March 15.

Russia proposes international “support group” on Ukraine

Russia rejects UN report saying Ukraine’s ethnic Russians face no widespread abuse: The Russian Foreign Ministry statement criticised U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic who said last week there had been violations against ethnic Russians in Ukraine but said there was no evidence they were “widespread or systematic.”

Ukraine parliament backs partial mobilization

A couple dances in front of the Crimean parliament building in central Simferopol after Crimea voted to leave Ukraine in a ballot that has fanned the worst east-west tensions since the Cold War.

Russia may offer special tax regime for Crimea says Finance Ministry

As Russia closes in, Ukrainians fearful, defiant: Ukrainian museum caretaker Valentin knows what it’s like when Moscow sends in troops to occupy a reluctant ally – he was there, in Red Army uniform, when Soviet tanks rolled in to crush the Prague Spring in 1968.

“We were the occupiers then. Now we are the ones who are being occupied by the Russians,” he said, shaking his head at the irony of history which sees Ukraine, long Moscow’s closest partner, losing Crimea after Sunday’s Kremlin-backed referendum there and fearing further invasion from the east.

A Crimean Tatar prays in a mosque

U.S. and Europe step up sanctions on Russian officials: The United States, working in coordination with Europe, imposed a new round of sanctions on 11 prominent Russian and Ukrainian political figures on Monday as the showdown over Crimea reached a new stage of confrontation between East and West.

President Obama signed an executive order freezing the assets and banning visas for Russians deemed to be responsible for the seizing of Crimea or otherwise interfering in Ukrainian sovereignty. Among those targeted were several top aides or allies of President Vladimir V. Putin, and the White House threatened to go after more if Russia did not back down.

“We’re making it clear there are consequences for these actions,” Mr. Obama said in a televised statement in the White House briefing room on Monday morning. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

He repeated that Russia can still defuse the conflict. “Going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or de-escalate the situation,” he said. “Now, I believe there is still a path to resolve this situation diplomatically.”

Ukraine recalls Moscow ambassador for consultations

Gazprom mulls contract changes to keep European clients

Senator McCain calls Russia “A gas station masquerading as a country”

Ukraine to sign political aspects of EU pact on Friday: Ukraine will sign an agreement on closer political cooperation with the European Union on Friday, leaving the signature of a more far-reaching trade accord for later, the EU said on Monday.

EU foreign ministers said in a statement after meeting in Brussels that they looked forward to the signing of the political provisions of the so-called association agreement that Ukraine had negotiated with the 28-nation EU, on March 21.