Putin's 'surrender ultimatum' to Ukraine, the Oscars and Oscar Pistorius trial

The prospect of "all-out war" in Ukraine is the focus of many front pages, including the Daily Mirror.

It leads with the "ultimatum" that Russia was said to have issued to its neighbour, ordering it to surrender or face a military assault. Meanwhile, the Times suggests the crisis is spreading after demonstrators demanding autonomy stormed local government buildings in southern and eastern Ukrainian cities.

The Guardian prints the transcript of a recording in which a Russian general sent to "lean on" Ukrainian marines is asked whether he is involved in an "invasion". He replies: "It was a request to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to offer help and bring troops in."

Will Englund, writing in the Independent, says the situation has "brought back memories of 2008, when Russia went to war with Georgia over a break-away territory". And Georgia's president at the time, Mikheil Saakashvili shares that "sense of deja vu" in the Financial Times, saying: "First, Russian passports were handed out. Then came the agitators, stirring up trouble. Finally, Russian soldiers arrive to 'protect' these newly minted citizens."

The Daily Telegraph's concern is the threat posed by conflict to the global economy, as it notes that stock market values dropped while the Russian assertiveness intensified. It says "the capacity of European leaders to react decisively has been hampered by the dependence of much of the European Union on Russian oil and gas".

These economic consequences are the focus of the Financial Times, which points out that Russian shares lost a 10th of their value, while the rouble plummeted to a record low.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express urges the government to look for more British sources of energy, in the form of fracking, nuclear power and North Sea drilling, to avoid such "far-flung conflicts" sending prices sky high.

Sanctions 'bluster'

A government official unwittingly revealed the UK's stance on proposals for sanctions when he was photographed carrying papers with some of the text visible, the Daily Express reports. The Daily Mail reproduces parts of the document, translating "what it says" into "what it means".

The FT focuses on one section - saying the UK would not "close London's financial centre to Russians" - and says Downing Street denied it was putting the City's interests ahead of attempts to defuse the crisis.

The Daily Mail criticises the "bluster" from Western politicians, saying they have failed to back the threats with credible sanctions: "Merely shouting empty threats from afar will succeed only in emboldening [Mr Putin] and exposing our weakness."

In its editorial column, the Independent says it presents US President Barack Obama with the "greatest foreign policy challenge of his presidency" and urges him to take charge "with a forcefulness and a conviction that of late have often been absent".

Lord Ashdown writes in the Mirror that the West should follow the advice of Dad's Army's Cpl Jones: "Don't panic!" The former Lib Dem leader says Russia is weak, with a "rust bucket economy" and that a sliding scale of sanctions could bring about "economic, diplomatic and political pain" too strong for Moscow to bear.

The Sun agrees, saying international sanctions could "bring [Mr Putin's] economy to its knees", adding: "It is depressing to learn Britain may be too feeble even to back them".

But Liam Halligan writes in the Telegraph that: "Economic sanctions will be extremely difficult to impose on Russia and are, for all their symbolism, likely to be counterproductive. For one thing... many large and powerful Western companies have invested heavily in this vast, resource-rich country and won't want their interests harmed."

Oscars: selfies, frocks and mums

Image copyright AP
Image caption Liza Minnelli - right arm pictured, far left - is left off the world's most famous selfie

Coverage of this year's Oscars is dominated by one photograph - the selfie posted by host Ellen DeGeneres that, as the Sun puts it, "crashed Twitter" after it was shared a record two million times.

"Sorry Liza," says the Telegraph, pointing out that Liza Minnelli tried to get into shot, among stars including Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt, but wasn't tall enough. The "unknown Kenyan" on the right, it says, turned out to be the brother of best supporting actress Lupita Nyong'o.

The Daily Mail suspects the selfie was a "stunt for the sponsors", given DeGeneres used a tablet computer of the kind given away in each goody bag.

As usual, it's the goings-on at the ceremony that get the most attention, with the Daily Star enjoying the pizza delivery ordered by DeGeneres and the fact Sir Alex Ferguson took time out from haunting David Moyes at Old Trafford to attend.

The Daily Express notes that "mums took centre stage", with stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto bringing along theirs. It's the wife of a sound engineer who makes headlines in the Mail, however. "Cries of 'Judi, Judi, Judi,' rang out across the red carpet," it says, when fans mistook Sue Munro for Dame Judi Dench.

The frocks get their own awards in the Mirror, with Lupita Nyong'o adjudged "best dressed", while poor Jennifer Garner gets 1/5 for her tiered gown that "looks like something plucked off the sale rail in a discount store".

The Daily Star says Jennifer Lawrence was "red-hot" in a strapless gown but wonders "whose idea was the grandma-style hair" and similarly complains that Emma Watson dresses "old before her time". Meanwhile, the Daily Mail draws one conclusion from the fashion parade: "Shoulders are the new cleavage."

Meanwhile, Rhys Blakely writes in the Times2 section that he was offered $30,000 (£18,000) for his ticket to the Vanity fair party - "the world's most ludicrous office bash".

Some papers mention the winning films. Geoffrey MacNab, in the Independent, suggests the Academy's decision to overlook DiCaprio and Christian Bale for the best actor gong "had as much to do with the characters they were playing as with the quality of their acting". Likewise, the trend for honouring "seriousness" in the best picture category meant that "little attention was paid to the formal qualities or possible shortcomings" of winner 12 Years a Slave, he suggests.

However, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw tells people to "ignore the cynics" and says the film is "as gripping as any thriller".

'Trial of the century'

Image copyright AFP

The Daily Star leads on a witness's description to a court of "blood curdling" screams from the home of Oscar Pistorius on the night the South African athlete shot dead his girlfriend. He denies murder, saying he mistook Reeva Steenkamp for a burglar.

David Smith captures the atmosphere in the courtroom for the Guardian: "The cameras were rolling, the families were hushed, and the A-list accused, Oscar Pistorius, had brought a cushion to the hard bench of the dock in the expansive wood-panelled courtroom. South Africa's eagerly awaited 'trial of the century' was about to start. But one person was missing." The court interpreter, unaware of which case she was expected to work on, had taken one look at the press pack and quit the case, he said.

Things weren't much better for her replacement, according to Tom Peck in the Independent: "The Afrikaans interpreter... was suddenly 'overwhelmed' and 'burst into floods of tears'... In any event [the first witness], Dr Michelle Burger, appeared to be fluent in English, regularly helped the interpreter along, until she gave up and just started answering in English anyway."

As the Times saw it, Dr Burger's "compelling evidence" was delivered through a "sparring match" with the runner's defence barrister.

Meanwhile, Lucy Thornton - for the Daily Mirror - writes: "If looks could kill, Oscar Pistorius's trial would already be over. Reeva Steenkamp's mother June has vowed to 'look him in the eye' to determine for herself whether he murdered her daughter. But he will not catch her red-eyed stare."

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