TIMELINE: Ukraine Crisis: Two Weeks of Escalation

Key events in two weeks that saw dozens killed in Ukraine’s deadliest post-independence violence, the president forced to flee and pro-Russian forces take over Crimea, sparking what has been described as the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War:

FEBRUARY 18: Violence erupts as 20,000 pro-European protesters rally in Kiev to demand president Viktor Yanukovych be stripped of key powers after he rejected an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

20: Police fire on protestors. An official toll lists 82 people killed in three days, including around 15 police.

22: Parliament impeaches Yanukovych, and he flees Kiev. Presidential elections are planned for May 25.

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is released from prison.

23: Parliament elects Tymoshenko ally Oleksandr Turchynov as interim president.

26: Russia rejects Ukraine’s new leadership, puts armed forces on high alert.

– Pro-Russian demonstrators brawl with supporters of interim authorities in Simferopol, capital of the Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea.

27: Pro-Russian gunmen seize parliament and government buildings in Simferopol, raising the Russian flag.

28: Ukrainian interior minister denounces an “armed invasion” by Russian forces.

MARCH 1: Russian parliament authorises President Vladimir Putin to send troops into Ukraine. Ukrainian army adopts a state of alert.

– A March 30 referendum is planned in Crimea to see if residents want more autonomy.

– US President Barack Obama warns Putin of reprisals. Putin says Russia can “protect its interests and Russian-speaking populations”.

2: Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says Russia has declared war.

– US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia it could lose G8 membership.

3: The Russian foreign ministry says Kerry’s warnings are “unacceptable”.

– Ukraine accuses Russia of sending more troops to Crimea, where military bases are surrounded.

– 4: Putin denies Russia has sent troops into Crimea, says force will only be used as a last resort. Obama replies that Putin is not “fooling anybody”.

– Yatsenyuk says his government has made first “timid” contacts with Russia to resolve the crisis

– 5: Russian forces take partial control of two Ukrainian missile sites.

– Top Western and Russian diplomats hold talks on Ukraine in Paris as the EU unveils an aid package worth at least 11 billion euros.

– The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says it is sending 35 military observers to Ukraine.

Source: AFP