Russia’s strike into Crimea threatens to spread across Ukraine, and has created an international crisis.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered troops participating in massive military exercises near the Ukraine border to return to their permanent bases on Tuesday.
In Crimea, the stage was set for a showdown as Socialist Worker went to press.
This was after thousands of Ukrainian troops defied pressure to switch sides, despite being trapped behind Russian lines and outnumbered almost ten to one.
Demonstrators calling for autonomy from Kiev stormed local government buildings in the east and south of Ukraine.
In Donetsk, stronghold of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, hundreds of pro-Russia protesters forced their way past police into the regional parliament. They besieged politicians during a vote on regional autonomy.
An estimated 10,000 people protested at the weekend in Odessa, once the largest port in the Soviet Union, against Russian intervention.
On Monday thousands protested there in support of the intervention.There have been demonstrations in Russia against the invasion as well as pro-Putin rallies.
The revolt in the Ukraine has remained trapped in the global pull of Western and Russian influence.
They are both looking to increase their control in the area. Neither have any interest in the ordinary people of Ukraine or Crimea.
US secretary of state John Kerry threatened a host of sanctions, including threatening to remove Russia from the G8, the club of rich nations which Russia joined in 1998.
“If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country,” he said.
With a remarkable lack of self awareness, Kerry added, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.”
The tension in the region accelerated dramatically last Saturday when the Russian Federation Council authorised Putin in a vote to deploy troops in the whole of Ukraine, not just in Crimea.
Putin will be hoping he can restrict European Union (EU) advances and show Russian dominance by force, as in the invasion of Georgia in 2008. The risk is that such a move could ratchet up the conflict to the point where Ukraine could be pulled apart.
In a visit to Kiev, Tory foreign secretary William Hague said, “The world cannot just allow this to happen.”
Hague said, “The world cannot just say it is OK, in effect, to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way.”
For all the bluster from politicians, the Tories ruled out punishing Russia with trade curbs.
An official memo said that closing off the City to Russians had been eliminated as a sanction.
A paper was photographed in the hands of a senior official as he entered Number Ten.
It emphasised the need to leave room to de-escalate the crisis, and advised the use of “generic” messages in public.
Specific threats should be reserved for private diplomacy, it said.