David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said Russia was to blame for ‘violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country’ by invading Ukraine, so ‘we shall have to bring to bear diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures’. Britain, with Russia and the United States, is a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, guaranteeing the ‘independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine’. Before flying to Kiev, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said: ‘The United Kingdom will join other G8 countries this week in suspending our co-operation under the G8, which Russia chairs this year.’ Later, an official was photographed holding a document that said that ‘the UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians’, but mentioned possible travel bans on particular Russian figures.
Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, offered to resign unless there was a judicial inquiry into secret letters sent by the British government to 187 Irish republicans ‘on the run’ telling them they were no longer wanted. David Cameron agreed to a judge-led inquiry. Ofcom ruled that broadcasters must give Ukip the same status as the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats in coverage of the European elections. Mr Cameron said in a speech that further public spending savings could be used to fund tax cuts. Councils in England were planning an average council tax increase of 0.6 per cent, a survey found. In the year ending last April, Liverpool Football Club lost £49.8 million.
Thousands of Russian troops took control of the Crimean peninsula, an autonomous republic in Ukraine, surrounding Ukrainian military bases. The operation was carried out without fighting. A Russian ship blocked the entrance of the harbour at Sebastopol. Russia’s ambassador to the UN told the Security Council that Viktor Yanukovych (the ousted president of Ukraine) had written to President Vladimir Putin of Russia on 1 March to send troops to protect civilians. Mr Putin called the change of government in Ukraine an ‘anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power’. Crimea’s regional parliament elected as its prime minister Sergiy Aksyonov, a pro-Russian politician. Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky was made head of the Ukrainian navy by Kiev on 1 March and defected to the new pro-Russian regime of Crimea on 2 March. At Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Russian flag was flown, and at Donetsk a pro-Russian crowd took over the regional government building. Arseniy Yatsen-yuk, the interim prime minister of Ukraine, said in English, ‘We are on the brink of disaster’, and added that the invasion was a ‘declaration of war to my country’.
President Barack Obama of the United States said: ‘Russia is on the wrong side of history.’ John Kerry, the US secretary of state, went on television to say: ‘It is really a stunning, wilful choice by President Putin to invade another country.’ He added: ‘If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country.’ He then flew to Kiev to show support for the new government, and from there to Paris for talks with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. The parliament of Ukraine ratified an agreement to receive €610 million in loans from the European Union, and asked the International Monetary Fund for loans of $35 billion over the next two years. Russian shares lost a tenth of their value. Shares in Russia’s Gazprom fell by 13 per cent in a day, but rose 3.6 per cent the next day. A 30,000-year-old virus of the Pithovirus sibericum species came back to life after being retrieved from Siberian permafrost. In Lexington, Mississippi, Walter Williams, aged 78, began kicking when embalmers started work after he had been declared dead; he was transferred to hospital.
Eight men stabbed people at random at Kunming railway station in China, killing 29 and wounding 130; officials blamed separatists from Xinjiang, the home of the Muslim Uighur minority. Northern China was afflicted by smog. President Obama held talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israeli, at the White House and urged peace talks with the Palestinians. A court in Egypt banned the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. The Islamist group Boko Haram was blamed for killing 130 people in the state of Borno in north-eastern Nigeria, over five days. In Venezuela, anti-government demonstrations since the start of February had left 18 people dead. 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for best picture at a ceremony watched by 43 million in America. A signed copy of Mein Kampf fetched $64,850 at auction in Los Angeles.
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