” Russia cemented its control of the flashpoint Crimean peninsula without firing a shot as markets plunged on Monday and world leaders held a series of crisis talks over the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
The price of oil surged on fears of an all-out conflict as Russia looked set to send troops into eastern parts of Ukraine, an area with close ties to Russia that the Kremlin has vowed to protect from “ultranationalist forces”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague opened talks with Ukraine’s Western-backed but untested interim leaders a day after the world’s top industrialised powers threatened to strip Russia of its coveted seat at the Group of Eight for menacing its ex-Soviet neighbour.
Germany offered a rare glimmer of hope by announcing that Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed in telephone talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel late Sunday to set up a contact group on Ukraine.
Western allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation also said they wanted to send international observers to Ukraine while engaging Moscow in direct talks.”
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