* Kremlin issues conciliatory Putin statement
* Putin leaves others to make bellicose statements
* Ukraine accuses Kremlin over Crimea events
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, Feb 28 At almost midnight and with
little fanfare, the Kremlin put out a statement outlining
President Vladimir Putin's orders on Ukraine - and they were as
conciliatory as earlier Russian announcements had been
Ordering his government to work with Ukrainian and foreign
partners to find a financial package to shore up Ukraine's
collapsing finances, Putin struck a measured note compared to
the military muscle-flexing of other officials, who had put
thousands of Russian troops on high alert.
As the Kremlin issued its statement, armed men in Ukraine's
Crimea region, thought to be ethnic Russians, were holed up in
the local parliament. Within hours, Ukraine had accused Russian
forces of taking over two airports on the Black Sea peninsula,
despite Moscow's denials.
Later on Friday, ousted President Viktor Yanukovich turned
up in Russia - a move by Moscow that could anger the West or be
intended to taunt Ukraine's new leaders, who want him extradited
to face accusations of mass murder.
Since Moscow lost a struggle with the West for influence in
Ukraine, Putin's policy has been to allow his lieutenants to
stir up passions over a change in power in its "brotherly
nation" while he stands above the fray.
But his mild words, Kremlin insiders say, conceal a more
active plan, one that is informed by a strong sense of betrayal
over the West's abandoning of an EU-brokered peace deal signed
last week in Ukraine and acceptance of "illegitimate" rulers.
The question now for Russia is how much to spend to help the
Slavic, Orthodox Christian neighbour and its crumbling economy.
"No matter what Russia does, Kiev will be firmly
pro-Western. The only question left is are we prepared to pay
more for this course or not?" said Alexei Pushkov, a Putin
loyalist and a senior member of parliament.
The Kremlin said in its statement Putin had ordered his
government "to conduct consultations with foreign partners,
including the International Monetary Fund, on the provision of
financial aid to Ukraine".
The three-paragraph statement issued at 11:45 p.m. offered
little insight into the mind of a man who hoped Ukraine would
play a central role in his project for a trade bloc stretching
from the frontiers of China to the edge of the EU.
But it spoke volumes to his attitude towards Western support
for the new leadership in Ukraine, and contained a veiled
warning along the lines of - if you hold talks on rescuing Kiev
from bankruptcy without us, Moscow will act.
Russia looks unlikely to press on with its $15-billion
bailout for Ukraine, which had been seen as a reward for
Yanukovich's decision to spurn a trade deal with the European
Union in favour of closer ties to Moscow, and Ukraine is now
looking for funds from the West.
A mission from the International Monetary Fund is due in
Kiev next week, and Ukraine's new leadership has said it will
meet any conditions.
"For him (Putin), Kiev no longer exists. There was an
agreement with Western countries which those Western countries
did not fulfil. I think that is uppermost in his thoughts," said
Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin spin doctor.
"He was tricked and he has to punish that."
There was no immediate way to confirm whether the Kremlin
had any connection with the fast-moving events in Crimea,
Ukraine's only region with an ethnic Russian majority, which
Ukraine's government described as an invasion by Russian forces.
Pavlovsky and other Russian insiders said Putin's role in
Crimea could be similar to what he believes the West did when
violent protesters took control of the situation in Kiev -
standing back and letting local events take their course.
Ukraine's top security official blamed the Kremlin directly,
saying it was commanding the armed groups in Crimea.
"I don't think Putin is waiting for anything, he is acting
according to his plan," said Pavlovsky. "I see action, the
taking of Crimea. I think this is action."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: "I am not
commenting. This is all rubbish."
MOVES IN RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has said
it is ready to discuss a draft proposal to make it easier for a
country or a region to become part of Russia if it has expressed
a desire to do so in a referendum.
Yanukovich wants Russia, and Putin, to do more.
"I think that Russia should act and is obliged to act. And
knowing Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's personality, I am
surprised that he is still saying nothing," he told a news
conference in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
He said he had spoken to Putin since Kiev a week ago but had
not met him.
Kremlin insiders said Yanukovich could not have arrived in
Russia without Putin's blessing. His presence could force the
Russian leader to show more solidarity, despite Putin's
animosity for man he sees as weak.
"I think Putin probably said to Yanukovich, why are you
here? Go back to Ukraine where you are president," said Sergei
Markov, a Russian political analyst.
"Putin wants to be constructive ... but the West told him to
get lost and 'we will give you no role in Ukrainian affairs' ...
He will continue to be silent as long as the West ignores