* Russian forces tighten grip on Crimea
* Ukrainian PM to address U.N. Security Council
* Lavrov says Kerry declined offer of talks
By Andrew Osborn
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, March 10 Unidentified armed
men fired in the air as they moved into a Ukrainian naval post
in Crimea on Monday in the latest confrontation since Russian
military groups seized control of the Black Sea peninsula.
With diplomacy at a standstill, Russia said the United
States had spurned an invitation to hold new talks on resolving
the crisis, the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who said he would
address the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, put the blame for
the crisis on Russia and accused Moscow of undermining the
global security system by taking control of Crimea.
Russian forces have in little more than a week taken over
military installations across Crimea, home to the Russian Black
Sea Fleet and Russian territory until Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954.
Pro-Russian separatists have taken control of the regional
parliament, declared Crimea part of the Russian Federation and
announced a referendum for Sunday to confirm this.
President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is acting to protect
the rights of ethnic Russians, who make up a majority of
Crimea's population, after Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovich
was ousted in what Russia says was an unconstitutional coup.
On Monday, a group of about 10 unidentified armed men fired
in the air at a Ukrainian naval post in Crimea, a Ukrainian
defence spokesman was quoted as saying.
Ukraine's Channel 5 television quoted Vladislav Seleznyov as
saying the shooting took place at a motor pool base near
Bakhchisaray. The men in two minibuses drove into the compound
and demanded Ukrainian personnel there give them 10 trucks.
Earlier, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted an unnamed
Ukrainian official describing the men as Russian troops and
saying that none of the Ukrainians at the site was injured.
Russian forces, who have been in control of Crimea for more
than a week, have not so far exchanged fire in anger with
Ukrainian troops. Shots were fired over the heads of a group of
Ukrainians during a standoff at a military airfield last week.
In other armed action, Russian forces took over a military
hospital and a missile unit. Reuters correspondents also saw a
big Russian convoy on the move just outside the port city of
Sevastopol near a Ukrainian air defence base.
It comprised more than 100 vehicles, including around 20
armoured personnel carriers, plus mobile artillery.
CHANCE OF TALKS SPURNED
Putin says Russia is not controlling events in Crimea but
denials of Russian involvement are ridiculed by the United
States as the two former Cold War enemies wage a geopolitical
battle over the future of Crimea and Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin that
Russia's position on Ukraine remained at odds with the West, but
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had declined an invitation
to visit Russia on Monday for further talks.
"It is all being formulated as if there was a conflict
between Russia and Ukraine ... and our partners suggested using
the situation created by a coup as a starting point," Lavrov
told Putin during talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
He did not say why Kerry had postponed the talks.
In Kiev, Yatseniuk said he would address the U.N. Security
Council during a debate on Ukraine. He is also due to hold talks
with the U.S. government which will show Washington's support of
the new Ukrainian leadership.
"Russia's policy is aimed at undermining the basis of the
global security system and revising the outcome of World War
Two," Interfax quoted Yatseniuk as telling reporters.
Ukraine's crisis was triggered in November by Yanukovich's
refusal, under Russian pressure, to sign deals on closer
political and trade ties with the European Union.
Although three months of protests against Yanukovich were
mostly peaceful, at least 80 demonstrators were killed in
clashes after police used force against them, some by sniper
Yanukovich fled Ukraine before a peace deal with the
opposition was implemented, and a new national unity government
was installed. He is wanted for mass murder in Ukraine and is
being sheltered by Russia.
WEST DOES NOT RECOGNISE REFERENDUM
Western countries have denounced the Russian intervention in
Crimea and say the borders of Ukraine, a country of 46 million,
should remain unchanged. They have said they will not recognise
the outcome of Sunday's referendum.
"The United States is not prepared to recognise any result
of the so-called referendum taking place in six days time," U.S.
Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said in Kiev. "We are committed to
Crimea's status as part of Ukraine. The crisis needs to be
solved diplomatically, not militarily."
In the latest military movements, in the port of Sevastopol,
where Russia has its Black Sea Fleet base, Russian forces
disarmed servicemen at a Ukrainian army missile base, Seleznyov
He told Fifth Channel television that about 200 soldiers
aboard 14 trucks moved on the building at about 1.30 a.m and
threatened to storm it if the Ukrainian soldiers failed to give
up their weapons.
In the eastern city of Luhansk, Ukraine's security services
said they were investigating the takeover on Sunday of the main
administrative building. The region's top official was held
captive in a room where he was made to write a letter saying he
had resigned but later said he was still performing his duties.