Latest on the crisis in Ukraine

Soldiers, who were wearing no national insignia, patrol outside Simferopol International Airport

The crisis in Ukraine has escalated in the past 24 hours, as the troubled nation accused Russia of launching an “armed invasion”.

Ousted president Viktor Yanukovych has emerged in Russia and has broken his silence since going missing on 21 February.

Meanwhile, two airports were occupied by armed men in military uniform in Crimea, Ukraine's only Russian-majority region and home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet of ships.

Men in Russian military uniforms blockaded a military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. Around 300 men in military uniform without national colours patrolled an airport in the Crimean capital Simferopol. The Russian Navy has denied any involvement.

Ukraine’s security forces eventually regained control of both airports.

Viktor YanukovychPavel Golovkin AP Images

Viktor Yanukovych at his news conference

 

Viktor Yanukovych

In a press conference, Mr Yanukovych revealed he fled to Russia after his convoy was shot at in Kiev. He said he was shocked that Russian leader President Putin “is still keeping quiet with such restraint”.

He denied giving orders for police to shoot protesters and declared he is against any outside military action. Mr Yanukovych insisted he wanted to see Ukraine united amid fears of separatism in the Crimea region.

The former leader, who is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors over alleged money laundering, said: “I will be with the people of Ukraine and not these scum nationalists. I want to apologise to all those who have suffered and are still suffering.”

He added: “Military action in this situation is unacceptable.”

 

Military operations

Russian servicemen brandishing machine guns surrounded the perimeter of a military airport at Sevastopol.

At Belbek airport in Simferopol, the identity of the armed men was unknown but they were with pro-Russian groups. Military sources in the region said they had gone to Belbek military airport to stop “fighters” flying in.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet denied its forces were at Belbek, but said security had been stepped up around its bases in Crimea.

The Ukrainian authorities regained control of both airports.

International reaction

After a pro-EU coalition government was announced in Ukraine, the EU said it will sign a trade deal with the nation.

The crisis was sparked in November by Mr Yanukovych shunning an EU deal in favour of a bailout from Russia. It led to months of anti-government protests and the president fleeing the country.

Britain and the US have warned Russia against military action. US secretary of state John Kerry said: “This is not Rocky IV” following reports of fighter jets along Russia's western borders being placed on combat alert. The 1985 film Rocky IV had an East versus West battle, with Rocky Balboa fighting Soviet Union boxer Ivan Drago.

Kerry stressed the US does not view its relationship with Russia as a “sort of continuation of the Cold War”.

Russia says it will take part in talks about financial help to Ukraine. But in a chilling message, its foreign ministry was quoted as saying it will defend the rights of its compatriots in a “strong and uncompromising” manner.