Obama vows Western unity ahead of Ukraine crisis summit

Obama vows Western unity ahead of Ukraine crisis summit
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and US President Barack Obama shake hands in front of Rembrandt's Night Watch painting after speaking to the press following meetings at the Rijksmuseum, the State Museum, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on March 24, 2014.

THE HAGUE - US President Barack Obama on Monday vowed Western unity in punishing Moscow for annexing Crimea, ahead of crisis talks that could see Russia excluded from the G8 club of rich nations.

In Ukraine itself, the country's acting president announced that its troops had been given orders to withdraw from Crimea after the fall of another military base to Kremlin troops.

"Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people, we're united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far," Obama told journalists at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

Obama then headed to The Hague where he has called an emergency Group of Seven summit to discuss what steps to take in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

Russian troops have rapidly overrun the flashpoint Black Sea peninsula since the fall of a pro-Moscow government in Kiev a month ago.

"The national security and defence council has reached a decision, under instructions from the defence ministry, to conduct a redeployment of military units stationed in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," acting Ukraine president Oleksandr Turchynov told lawmakers in the face of the latest seizure.

Ukraine troops leave Crimea

A senior official in the pro-Russian regional government later said that all troops loyal to Ukraine had left their bases in Crimea.

A top NATO commander had warned Sunday that the Western military alliance was carefully watching massive Russian troop formations on the eastern border of Ukraine that could theoretically make a push across the vast ex-Soviet country at any point.

Paratroopers and armoured personnel carriers stormed the naval base in Feodosia in eastern Crimea in the early hours of Monday, with vehicles seen leaving the base carrying Ukrainian marines whose hands had been tied.

Russia's takeover of Crimea, which it views as a reunification, has forced Western leaders to rethink their relationship with Moscow after a post-Cold War period in which they sought to usher Russia into the broader international community.

With Russia massing what NATO has described as a "very sizeable" force on its border with Ukraine, there are fears that President Vladimir Putin is hungry for more Ukrainian territory.

The growing crisis will dominate the summit in The Hague originally set up to discuss nuclear security.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) for what may be their most tense talks to date.

It will be their first meeting since Washington imposed financial restrictions on the most powerful members of Putin's inner circle for their decision to resort to force in response to the fall of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin regime after three months of sometimes deadly protests.

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