UPDATED [11:51 a.m. EST]
BBC has reported news from Interfax that Russia issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces demanding they surrender by 3:00 GMT, after which point the Russian military will launch an attack on Crimea. Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov seems to have confirmed this is the case to the Los Angeles Times, but Ukrainian forces remain at their bases, and the Russian Defense Ministry has denied issuing the order.
http://t.co/JxJaiYBMzO Russian Defense Ministry's official spokesman said the ultimatum rumor is "complete garbage."
Russian President Vladimir Putin is observing military exercises near St. Petersburg today. The Kremlin says the exercises began on February 26 "as part of a snap inspection of combat readiness."
In Crimea, the standoff continues: Ukrainian military forces are continuing to hold as Russian troops remain stationed outside many Ukrainian bases. There are reports that Russia has been readying its naval forces in the Baltic for military action and that Russian troops are quickly moving into Crimea. The Guardian's liveblog of the crisis reports that Russian jets flew over Ukrainian air space twice in the night. Ukraine, too, looks to be preparing for confrontation.
AFP: Russian troops are flowing into Crimea, Ukraine border guards say— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) March 3, 2014
Kremlin insiders: Occupation of East Ukraine imminent, Putin believes he is dealing with weakest Western elite ever https://t.co/uMhSspTPRG— Leonid Ragozin (@leonidragozin) March 3, 2014
The Russian stock market fell by 13 percent today. At this point, Kiev should be concerned about whether (or rather when) Russia might cut off its gas supply—Russian gas giant Gazprom transports 52 percent of its exports through Ukraine, and when they cut off supplies to Ukraine in 2006 the E.U. was impacted as well.
Ukraine’s new government continues to evolve: Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will run for the presidency of Ukraine in the elections scheduled for May 25, much to the dismay of Ukraine's liberals. Ukrainian billionaire and Clinton bon ami Viktor Pinchuk has declined to take a government post in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov offered him the job, but Pinchuk said, "Becoming governor in a region which have no knowledge of and where people don't know me would not be useful I believe."
Yanukovych is a wanted man: Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Austria have agreed to freeze the assets of President Viktor Yanukovych and 19 of his officials at Ukraine's behest. The Interior Ministry of Ukraine's "wanted" profile for Yanukovych is now online:
Yanukovych's "wanted" profile is on Ukraine's Interior Ministry website now. Surreal still. pic.twitter.com/6mNwSF9ygk— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) March 3, 2014
In Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council that the Russian invasion was "about protection of the most fundamental of the human rights—the right to live, and nothing more." It was just yesterday, though, that President Vladimir Putin's own 27-member human rights advisory council said the threats to ethnic Russians in Ukraine were not sufficient to justify aggression. "The use of external military force, linked with the violation of the sovereignty of a neighboring state and contradicting Russia's international obligations, is completely inappropriate to the scale of the violations, in our opinion," Putin's advisers warned. Putin, of course, doesn't care.
Earlier today, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev ordered that the construction of a bridge that will connect Russia and Crimea across the Strait of Kerch should immediately begin. Russia has already taken over a ferry terminal in the Crimean city of Kerch, which could be used as an avenue to bring more Russian troops into Ukraine. The two countries jointly agreed to build the $24 billion bridge in December and January, but further plans for the project were put on hold last week in light of instability in Crimea, Lenta.ru reports. This comes after Medvedev posted a strongly-worded Facebook status regarding the situation in Ukraine yesterday, in which he wrote that although "the authority of President Yanukovych is practically negligible, that does not change the fact that under the Constitution of Ukraine he is the legitimate head of state." Medvedev said the Ukrainian government should initiate impeachment procedures against Yanukovych, concluding, "Russia needs a strong and stable Ukraine...not the poor relative, always standing with his hand outstretched."
Secretary John Kerry will depart for Kiev this evening for talks tomorrow with the Ukrainian parliament:
I will be headed to Kyiv, Ukraine tomorrow night for discussions there Tuesday.— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 2, 2014
The Guardian's Nicholas Watt reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron is drawing up sanctions against Russia and has ruled out military action. Cameron will present the plan to his National Security Council at 3 p.m. GMT.
The head of the Russian Federation Council's request for Putin to recall his ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, has been approved by the council's foreign affairs committee, but Putin has yet to say anything on the matter. Russian officials initiated the request in response to President Obama's intimation that Russia would have to "pay" for invading Ukraine, which was taken as an insult to the Russian people. In Crimea, people are taking selfies with soldiers.
People continue to take to the streets in protest throughout Ukraine and Russia. In the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Odessa, Russian outlets reported pro-Russia demonstrations:
Pro-Kremlin accounts say this is a video of anti-Kiev protesters breaking into the Donetsk government building https://t.co/L9r7zeNCxr— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 3, 2014
Kicking off at the Odessa government building too, from the looks of it http://t.co/yKEqyLjG4p— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 3, 2014
In the second-largest Ukrainian city, Kharkiv, it appears that no one is in charge: "[G]overnment workers say they no longer work with the previous governor, Mikhail Dobkin, who was appointed by ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, and a newcomer has not been appointed yet. There's a lot of frustration and confusion," the Kyiv Post reports.
Russia blocked Internet access to 13 VKontakte pages dedicated to the Ukrainian opposition movement because the pages "propagandized the activity of Ukrainian nationalist groups," and supported "terrorist activity."
As the Russian invasion of Crimea is rightly being compared to the 2008 Russia-Georgia crisis, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili spoke to the thousands of protestors who remain in Kiev's Independence Square. "Now Putin has broken into your house, using the worst means in his dirty battle," Saakashvili said. "But this is not him showing his strength. This is his agony, and his last chance to show his influence."
Some Ukrainians continue to defect and flee to Russia: There are continuing reports that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are seeking asylum in Russia, including "several dozen" members of the Ukrainian Berkut special police forces who have received Russian passports, according to the Kyiv Post. There do not appear to have been any significant defections today, though Navy Commander Denis Berezovsky, who defected yesterday, did encourage his compatriots to join him.