Russian troops seized two Ukrainian naval bases, including a headquarters in Sevastopol where they raised their flag. Moscow, continuing to insist it does not control the unbadged militia in Crimea, called for a detained Ukrainian navy commander to be freed, which has now happened. Make of that what you will.
Washington is keeping up the rhetorical pressure. Vice President Joe Biden, in Lithuania, said Russia was travelling a “dark path” to political and economic isolation. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is travelling to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials. He will move on to Kiev on Friday.
More potent may be an EU leaders’ summit today and Friday. After subjecting 21 Russians and Crimeans to travel bans and asset freezes, tougher sanctions are already under consideration and minds have also been focused on ending decades of dependence on Russian gas. It’s a long-term project but one that could deal a hammer blow to the Russian economy if it succeeds.
Russian lawmakers scoffed at the paucity of western action. Washington and the EU says tougher measures could follow but to hit where it really hurts – with financial and trade sanctions – looks difficult for Europe with so many vested interests and links with Russia from the bloc’s biggest members to its smallest.
It’s not clear that the EU’s March 6 statement that it would consider financial sanctions if there were “any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine” will be pursued soon.