* Ukraine says Russia sending extra troops to Crimea
* Putin proposes sending armed forces to Crimea
* France, Britain, Germany urge de-escalation
* Calls come after Obama warns Russia against intervention
PARIS, March 1 The West expressed alarm on
Saturday over fast-moving developments in Ukraine's Crimea,
urging all sides to avoid further escalation and calling on
Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty.
A week after violent protests forced Russian-backed
President Viktor Yanukovich to abandon power in Kiev, Ukraine's
new leaders say Russia is trying to take control of the southern
Crimea region, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.
France, Britain and Germany issued calls for de-escalation
in Crimea hours after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that
military intervention in the region would be deeply
destabilising and "carry costs".
"France is extremely concerned by the reports from Crimea,
which describe significant troop movements," French Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.
"We call on the parties to abstain from acts that could
raise tensions and affect Ukraine's territorial unity."
In a statement, French President Francois Hollande urged
European countries to take swift and decisive action to find a
way out of the crisis in Crimea when their foreign ministers
meet in Brussels on Monday.
"Everything must be done to avoid outside intervention and
the risk of a highly dangerous escalation," Hollande's office
said in a statement.
Hollande had spoken to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and
both expressed alarm over situation, which the statement said
posed a "real threat to Ukraine's territorial unity and
No bloodshed followed Yanukovich's overthrow, but Ukraine's
new leadership faces a challenge in Crimea, which was part of
Russia until 1954.
APPEALS TO PUTIN
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia on
Saturday of sending thousands of troops to the area.
Armed men wearing combat uniforms with no identification
have taken control of two airports in the area and have taken
over the regional parliament in what Kiev describes as an
occupation by Moscow's forces.
Crimea's pro-Russia prime minister has put himself in charge
of all military forces, police and other security services in
the region. He has also appealed to Russian President Vladimir
Putin for assistance in "guaranteeing peace and calm" there.
Putin has obtained authorisation from the upper house of
parliament to send armed forces to Ukraine's Crimea region,
although a spokesman said that no decision had yet been taken on
whether to send them.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who travels to
Ukraine on Sunday to hold talks with the new leadership, urged
his Russian counterpart to act to ease tensions and said Russia
was posing a potentially grave threat to Ukraine.
Hague said Britain supported the Ukrainian government's
request for urgent consultations in accordance with the 1994
Budapest Memorandum, signed by Britain, United States, Russia
The memorandum provided guarantees of Ukraine's sovereignty
and integrity in exchange for a Ukrainian commitment, since
fulfilled, to give up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain had called an
emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council in view
of the "serious and concerning events" in Ukraine.
"There can be no excuse for outside military intervention in
Ukraine - a point I made to President Putin when we spoke
yesterday," Cameron said.
"Everyone must think carefully about their actions and work
to lower, not escalate tension. The world is watching."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called
developments in Crimea over the past few hours dangerous and
urged Russia to explain its intentions.
"The situation in Crimea in particular has become
considerably more acute. Whoever pours more oil onto the flames
now, with words or actions, is consciously aiming for further
escalation of the situation," he said.
"Everything Russia does in Crimea must be in keeping with
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and
treaties on Russia's Black Sea fleet."
Steinmeier said European leaders must confer swiftly in
order to agree a common position of the European Union.
Russia says any movements by its military in Crimea are in
line with agreements with Ukraine in the lease of a naval base
in the port city of Sevastopol, and Moscow has accused Kiev of
trying to destabilise the Black Sea peninsula.