The standoff in Ukraine may have its first predictable boiling point as Russia issues an ultimatum to local soldiers: Leave Crimea in the southeast part of the country or face a "military storm."
"Russia's official news agency says the Russians have given Ukrainian forces until tomorrow morning to surrender or they will storm military bases on the Crimean Peninsula." (Via CNN)
The latest move comes as U.S. officials have acknowledged the Russian military has complete operational control of Crimea, surrounding Ukrainian bases with troops. (Via ITV)
Russia's foreign minister told the U.N. Monday it only sent troops to Crimea to protect ethnic Russians. In fact, several local pro-Russian militias from Crimea joined them in surrounding the bases.
The Crimean peninsula in southeast Ukraine borders Russia and was part of the Russian Soviet state until the 1950s. A majority of the population there is ethnically Russian. (Via Al Jazeera)
Ukraine is now increasingly divided between the largely pro-Russian east and the west, where a majority wants to join the European Union and ousted then-President Viktor Yanukovych two weeks ago.
Up to now, reporters pointed out the presumably Russian troops in Crimea weren't acting aggressively, many soldiers unarmed and allowing cameras to get close. But Ukrainian troops have insisted they won't leave. (Via Sky News)
REPORTER: "Kiev or Crimea?"
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: "Ukraine. Ukraine."
REPORTER: "Ukraine together."
SOLDIER: "Yes, of course."
REPORTER: "And you'll stay."
SOLDIER: "Yes." (Via BBC)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted Sunday he'd travel to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, Tuesday to meet with the interim government. The prime minister there has acknowledged it currently has "no military options on the table." (Via Twitter / @JohnKerry)
MICHAEL SINGH, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: "I mean, one big concern is what Amy was just mentioning — the possibility Russia will try to seize not just Crimea, but now further territory in Ukraine." (Via Fox News)
The Telegraph reports the Russian Defense Ministry's spokesperson dismissed the claims of an ultimatum, calling them "complete nonsense."
However, an editor for the English-language newspaper Kyiv Post posted this to Twitter: "Despite what Russian Defense Ministry says, those of us who were there heard this ship deliver ultimatum to Slavutych." (Via Twitter / @ChristopherJM)
Slavutych is one of the Ukrainian navy's command ships reportedly blocked into its harbor by Russian ships and ordered to surrender.