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US warns Russia not to "close doors for diplomacy" by annexing Crimea

US warns Russia not to "close doors for diplomacy" by annexing Crimea
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US President Barack Obama is expected to hold further talks with world leaders on Sunday in a bid to ease tensions over Crimea and what’s being described as the worst stand- off since the Cold War.

After speaking with the heads of France, Britain and Italy, he assured the three ex-Soviet Baltic states that NATO would protect them if necessary.

At the same time, diplomacy is set to continue between the US Secretary of State and his Russian counterpart for a fifth day.

In a telephone call, John Kerry told Sergei Lavrov that “annexing Crimea would close any available space for diplomacy”.

It came shortly after reports of warning shots being fired when the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s unarmed military mission tried for a third day to enter the peninsula.

They had been turned back twice before by pro-Russian forces, but this was the first time shots were fired.

Crimea’s pro-Moscow authorities have ordered all remaining Ukrainian troop detachments in the province to disarm and surrender, but at several locations they have refused to yield.

Moscow denies that Russian speaking troops in Crimea are under its command but a convoy of hundreds of Russian troops were filmed pulling into a military base north of Simferopol on Saturday.

Elsewhere at Novoozernoye, about 100 armed Russians are keeping watch over the Ukrainians at the base. A Russian ship has been scuttled at the harbour’s entrance to keep the Ukrainians from sailing out with three ships of their navy.