U.S. State Department
A billboard in Ukraine depicts the choice for Crimeans as one of Russian statehood or Nazi rule.
A billboard in Crimea featuring a Nazi symbol emblazoned over the region on one side — and the Russian flag on the other — highlights how local pro-Russian officials are framing a referendum on whether the peninsula should break away from Ukraine, State Department officials said Monday.
The sign, in Russian, says “March 16, we choose,” according to multiple reports. The small word between the two pictures is “or.”
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly referred to the new leadership in Ukraine as "fascist."
Meanwhile, U.S. and Western diplomatic sources, who have called the March 16 referendum illegal, tell NBC News they are working closely on new sanctions against Russia, depending on whether the Russian national assembly, the Duma, approves annexation of Crimea as scheduled for Tuesday.
But it may not be possible to act quickly, the sources said, if the European Union decides to require a council meeting in Brussels before the actions can be taken.
One Western diplomat said if the Duma votes for annexation Tuesday, “it will narrow the space for any diplomatic response.”
The United States and Russia are locked in a diplomatic faceoff over Moscow’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry rejected an invitation to meet Putin in Sochi on Monday night to talk about the crisis, citing an escalation of Russian troops into Crimea in the past few days.
According to a senior official, Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday to inform he couldn't come to Russia to attend the meeting until Moscow agreed to several diplomatic points.
Those points included restoring the unity and sovereignty of Ukraine, ceasing military advances, halting the Duma’s action to annex Crimea, and using Russian influence to stop the March 16 referendum.
Kerry also asked that Russia be prepared as soon as possible to start working with an international group to start direct dialogue with Ukraine.
Administration officials say they have not yet heard back from the Russians to see if there is a willingness to engage in a serious way.
Jeff Black of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published March 10 2014, 6:33 PM
Andrea Mitchell, the veteran NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent, is also the host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports," an hour of political news and interviews with top newsmakers on MSNBC.
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Mitchell covered the entire 2008 presidential campaign, from the kickoff in February 2007, broadcasting live from every major primary and caucus state and all the candidate debates for NBC News and MSNBC programs, including â€œTODAY,â€ â€œNightly News with Brian Williams,â€ â€œHardball,â€ â€œMorning Joeâ€ and â€œMeet the Press.â€
She also covered Barack Obama's trip to Iraq, the Middle East and Europe during the presidential campaign. Mitchell currently covers foreign policy, intelligence and national security issues for all NBC News properties.
As a featured political correspondent in 2004, Mitchell was a regular panelist on MSNBCâ€™s â€œHardballâ€ and was the first reporter to break the story that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry had chosen Sen. John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate.
In September 2005, Mitchell authored â€œTalking Back,â€ a memoir about her experiences as one of the first women to cover five presidents, Congress and foreign policy.
That year, Mitchell also received the prestigious Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism from the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
In 2004, the Radio-Television News Directors Association honored Mitchell with the Leonard Zeidenberg Award for her contribution to the protection of First Amendment freedoms.
Mitchellâ€™s extensive and varied reports include a series of exclusive interviews over the years with Cuban President Fidel Castro. Her unprecedented access resulted in a one-hour documentary on Cuba in December 2003.
Throughout 2002 and 2003, Mitchell covered the United Nations debate leading up to the Iraq war and provided detailed reports on the questions surrounding pre-war intelligence and weapons of mass destruction.
As a longtime analyst of the intelligence community, Mitchell's past assignments for NBC have included exclusive reports from North Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan and Haiti.
During the 2000 campaign, Mitchell hosted MSNBCâ€™s â€œThe Mitchell Report,â€ NBC Newsâ€™ election year broadcast of record. In addition, she was the lead NBC News correspondent covering Hillary Rodham Clintonâ€™s race for the Senate in 2000.
Among her many past assignments, Mitchell was NBC Newsâ€™ chief White House correspondent, a position she assumed after covering Bill Clinton from the New Hampshire primary through the entire 1992 presidential campaign.
From 1988-1992, Mitchell served as chief congressional correspondent. During that time, she played a major role in reporting on the budget, the savings and loan bailout, the Clarence Thomas hearings and other legislative issues. She also served as a regular political analyst on â€œTODAYâ€ and was a panelist in the second Bush-Dukakis presidential debate.
Mitchell first covered the White House for NBC News during both of Ronald Reaganâ€™s terms as president. She reported on a variety of noteworthy stories, including arms control, the budget, tax reform and the Iran-contra scandal, and traveled extensively with President Reagan to summits with Mikhail Gorbachev and other world leaders.
Over the years, Mitchell has appeared on â€œMeet the Pressâ€ as a panelist and substitute host. An acclaimed political reporter, during the 1988 Republican National Convention, she beat both the competition and presidential candidate George Bush with the announcement that Bush had chosen Dan Quayle to be his running mate.
Mitchell joined NBC News in 1978 as a general correspondent based in Washington, D.C. In 1979, she was named NBC's energy correspondent. In that capacity, she reported on the energy crisis and the Three Mile Island nuclear incident.
Before joining NBC, she was a correspondent for WDVM-TV (then WTOP), the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., From 1967-1976, she was a broadcast journalist for KYW Radio and KYW-TV in Philadelphia.
A native of New York, Mitchell received a B.A. degree in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania where she currently serves as a trustee, a member of the Executive Committee and Chairman of the Annenberg School Advisory Board. She also serves on the board of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and is a member of the Gridiron Club.
Mitchell is married to former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and resides in Washington, D.C.