Russia has said it took action in Crimea after a request for intervention from deposed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych.
Addressing the UN’s Security Council, Russia’s representative, Vitaly Churkin, brandished an alleged letter from the former President.
But the assertions are unlikely to ease international pressure as Washington mulls a tough response. On Monday U.S President Obama, outlined some of the punitive measures on the table:
“We are examining a whole series of steps: economic, diplomatic that would isolate Russia and would have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and status in the world”
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has said a raft of economic and diplomatic actions could be taken:
“Without question, this is in breach of Russia’s international obligations and its commitments. We talked about the potential of suspending bilateral talks on visa matters and the New Agreement, and will consider targeted measures.”
The EU’s next steps in this crisis will be discussed on Thursday when its leaders are set to meet.
But amongst other issues at stake, Europe’s dependency on Russian gas may impact how far the bloc is prepared to sanction Moscow.
Crimea – a quick history
Crimea annexed by Russian Empire.
1853: Crimean War begins between Russian Empire and a French-, British- and Ottoman-Empire and Sardinian alliance for influence over territories in the diminishing Ottoman Empire. Principal fighting takes place in Crimea.
1854: Allied troops land in Crimea and besiege the city of Sevastopol, home of the Tsar’s Black Sea fleet.
1856: Russia loses the Crimean War.
1917: Russian Civil War begins. Crimea changes hands several times.
1921: The Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is created as part of the Russian SFSR, which was to become part of the new Soviet Union. Crimea experiences the first of two severe famines in the 20th century.
1941: Germany invades and takes over much of Crimea as part of its World War II campaign.
1944: Sevastopol comes under the control of Soviet Union troops. The city is destroyed. “Ethnic cleansing” programme begins under order of Joseph Stalin. Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Bulgarians and Greeks deported to Central Asia.
1945: The Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is abolished and becomes a province of Russia.
1954: Crimean region becomes part of Ukraine, after decree by USSR.
1967: Crimean Tatars rehabilitated, but banned from returning to their homeland until the Soviet Union is in its last days.
1991: Collapse of the Soviet Union. Crimea becomes part of the newly-independent Ukraine. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet remains stationed in the region.
1994: Russia agrees that Crimea is legally part of Ukraine and pledges to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
1998: Current constitution put into place. Territory’s name changed to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
2008: Ukrainian foreign minister Volodymyr Ohryzko accuses Russia of handing out Russian passports to Crimean residents. Describes it as a “real problem” given Russia’s policy to protect its citizens abroad with military intervention.
2009: Polls in Crimea suggest the population is opposed to the idea of becoming part of Russia. Anti-Ukraine demonstrations held by ethnic Russian residents in Crimea later in the year.
2010: Treaty to extend Russia’s lease on a military wharf in Sevastopol until 2042 ratified by Ukraine and Russia.
2014: Pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters clash in Crimean city of Simferopol. Vladimir Putin deploys Russian armed forces in key points in Crimea. Foreign ministry states this is in line with Ukraine-Russia agreements. Russian parliament grants President Putin’s request to use military force in Ukraine. EU and US condemn the motion.