Kiev, 4 March: The USA today toughened its stand on Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry was to arrive in Kiev to support its new Western-backed leaders who are caught up in a Cold War-style struggle between Washington and Moscow.
Russia meanwhile ordered troops who had been holding a snap military drill near the border of ex-Soviet Ukraine back to their barracks, giving some relief to markets left skittish by events.
On Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, though, Kremlin-backed troops remained deployed and in de facto control.
There were no signs of them conducting a military offencive after a dawn deadline expired that Ukraine's military said it had received from the Russian forces.
Western powers have been wrestling with no clear solution as to how best deal with President Vladimir Putin's decision to threaten force against its neighbour. Kiev's new leaders, installed after three months of protests which culminated in a days of carnage that led to the downfall of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych, have been pleading for their help.
The Ukraine crisis threatens to blow up into the biggest test for global diplomacy ~ and relations between Moscow and the West ~ since the fall of the 1989 Berlin Wall.
It escalated still further on Monday when both Washington and European powers announced a raft of their toughest sanctions against Russia in decades.
“We have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the USA and Russia,” US Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
Mr Kerry was due to hold talks with Kiev's leaders later Tuesday in a display to bolster their legitimacy which is contested by Moscow.
There was immediate response to the steps by Moscow. But the Kremlin's official spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr Putin had the night before ordered a halt to military exercises launched last week in parts of western Russia bordering Ukraine that had involved 150,000 troops.
Mr Putin had watched the exercises involving tanks, helicopters and around 1,800 troops in the Leningrad region today.
US President Barack Obama yesterday accused Russia of being on the “wrong side of history” on Ukraine by violating its sovereignty and international law.
Obama said he had told Russia that, if it continued, “we are examining a whole series of steps ~ economic, diplomatic ~ that will isolate Russia”.
US officials then announced a series of punitive measures designed to puncture Russia's geopolitical prestige as well as military and economic ambitions.