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Why the world should keep an eye on Ukraine


The crisis on Ukraine can still send the markets into a tailspin, despite Russia appearing to back away from all-out war and the international wheels of diplomacy whirring into life, analysts and economists have warned.

(Read more: Ukraine fin min: We're broke but we won't default)

The country is still on the verge of further violence. While Russia's President Vladimir Putin appears to have backed down from military action on the Ukrainian borders, there is still unrest in plenty of Ukraine outside the Crimea, and potential for this to spread. International efforts to reach a solution so far have failed to reach a resolution.

Ukrainian soldiers stand inside a Ukrainian military base as unidentified heavily armed soldiers stand outside, March 3, 2014, in Perevalne, Ukraine.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

Bringing forward Crimea's referendum on whether to join Russia from March 30th to 16th, after the region's parliament voted to join Russia, may raise the stakes again.

"It is inconceivable that the international community would consider any vote in the region at present free and fair, given no well planned/managed and timely election campaign, plus the continued presence of armed troops on the streets," Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, pointed out.

Putin has denied that forces in Crimea are part of the Russian army, and claimed that they are locals wearing shop-bought Russian uniforms.

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Even without immediate escalation, the events of this week will have countless reverberations.

Ukraine itself, while a much smaller economy than Russia, nonetheless has the potential to send prices for corn, wheat and gas rising.

Crimea votes to become Russian: What does it mean?

Russia's powerful economic and political position in its region means that any crisis which potentially impacts growth will have a broader impact. Economists are already cutting their forecasts for Russian economic growth this year.

"The situation is still highly unpredictable," economists at ratings agency Fitch warned on Thursday. They reaffirmed the country's 'BBB' credit rating, arguing that events so far did not quite justify a downgrade, but cut forecasts for GDP growth this year from 2 percent to 1.5 percent.

(Read more: Russia's economy may be headed for a fall)

"If you look at the strategies for most big multinationals, Russia is the key to the Central and Eastern Europe market. If Russia goes wrong here, it will have a global effect," Richard Martin, managing director, IMA Asia, told CNBC.

"You've also got a second big country in the region, Turkey, where things are going wrong politically. Russia is a big part of sales and it will have a negative impact if it goes wrong."

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle. Twitter: @cboylecnbc.