Ukrainian leader urges to stop aggression
Ukraine's acting president said Russia's military presence was growing in the Crimea region and urged Moscow to halt what he called aggression and piracy.
Oleksander Turchinov said the situation was "difficult" in some regions in the south and east of the country, where there are many Russian speakers, but that the Ukrainian authorities had matters there under control.
He also said Russia's Black Sea Fleet had trapped Ukrainian navy vessels in the bays of Sevastopol, the Crimean port where the Russian fleet has a base.
"The situation in Crimea remains tense and Russia's military presence is growing," Turchinov told a news briefing. "I appeal to Russia's leadership - stop the provocative actions, aggression and piracy. This is a crime and you will answer for it."
He gave no details of Russia's growing military presence in Crimea, where Russian forces are now in charge.
On the eve of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Turchinov appealed for outside help.
"Form the world's leading countries we are awaiting not only moral support but also real help," Turchinov said.
An International Monetary Fund mission is also due to start work in Ukraine on Tuesday. Kiev hopes for an at least $15-billion loan package from the IMF to avert bankruptcy.
Russia took a financial hit over its military intervention in neighboring Ukraine, with its markets and currency plunging today as President Vladimir Putin's forces tightened their grip on the Russian-speaking Crimea region.
European Union foreign ministers were to hold emergency talks on Ukraine today but diplomats said they would not immediately match US threats of sanctions against Moscow, but would focus on diplomatic efforts to prevent escalation.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it was trying to convene an international contact group to help defuse the crisis after Germany said Chancellor Angela Merkel had convinced Putin to accept such an initiative.
Switzerland, which chairs the pan-European security body, said the contact group would support Ukraine during its transition and coordinate aid and could also discuss sending observers to monitor the rights of national minorities.