A reported deadline laid down by Russian forces to Ukrainian troops in the Crimea has passed at 5 a.m. local time Tuesday (10 p.m. EST) without reports of incidents.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported earlier Monday that a Black Sea Fleet commander said the fleet had given Ukrainian military forces in Crimea until "dawn on Tuesday" to surrender their arms or face "a real assault."
Interfax then published another report that quoted another Black Sea Fleet officer denying the ultimatum as "total nonsense."
Whether or not an ultimatum was ever actually delivered is still unclear. Dr. Michael Slobodchikoff, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, told the BBC that there if there was an ultimatum, it probably came from overzealous lower officers rather than the Black Sea Fleet itself.
A Time magazine reporter has tweeted that three armored personnel carriers flying the Russian flag are moving north from Sevastopol (where the Black Sea Fleet is based) towards Simferopol, capital of the Autonomous Region of Crimea, but that does not necessarily mean an aggressive military move.
— Simon Shuster (@shustry) March 4, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin compounded the confusion Monday when he oversaw military exercises in western Russia, without saying a word about Russia's intentions.
The Russians have been noticeably vague about their role in Ukraine. They still have not officially confirmed that the troops, without insignia, taking over the Crimea are in fact Russian military.
The Kremlin also says that on Saturday ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych requested Putin "use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine."
That immensely complicates the situation. While much of the West does not recognize Yanukovych as the rightful leader of Ukraine, Russia does. The Russians are insisting on the terms of the short-lived Feb. 21 agreement, which requires the opposition to vacate government buildings, put down weapons and form a unity government.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has suspended a number of dealings with Russia. It has suspended all military-to-military engagements, that includes "exercises, bilateral meetings, port vists and planning conferences," said Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby. The White House is canceling preparations for the president to attend the G8 summit in Sochi, scheduled for June, and BBC Washington correspondent Barbara Plett Usher reports that "several meetings on trade deals... have been canceled."