SIMFEROPOL: Armed men seized the parliament in Ukraine's Crimea region on Thursday and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev's new rulers, who urged Moscow not move troops out of its navy base on the peninsula.
Crimea, the only Ukrainian region with an ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new leadership in Kiev since President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted at the weekend and provides a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet.
"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet," said Oleksander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.
"Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he said, a day after 150,000 troops in western Russia were put on high alert.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry summoned Russia's acting ambassador in Kiev for consultations as the face-off between Moscow and the West revived memories of the Cold War.
The United States called on Moscow to avoid doing anything risky over Ukraine, which has been in crisis since November, when Yanukovich abandoned a proposed trade pact with the EU and turned instead towards Russia.
Russia said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had proposed cooperation with Moscow to resolve the Ukraine crisis during a telephone call with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
The fresh turmoil in Crimea sent the Ukrainian hryvnia tumbling to a new record low of 11 to the dollar on the Reuters dealing platform.
The International Monetary Fund said it would send a team to Kiev in the coming days.
Ukraine's new finance minister, Oleksander Shlapak, said he hoped the IMF would work on an aid package of at least $15 billion. Ukraine says it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid bankruptcy.
The minister also said he expected the hryvnia to strengthen soon at around 10 to the dollar.