Russian forces invade and occupy Ukraine naval base in Crimea
Russian-speaking military forces - some media outlest say Russian troops, other say it's Crimea militiamen - stormed a Ukrainian naval base, occupied it, took the commander prisoner, and hoisted the Russian flag.
Also, officials from the Ukrainian government, who were seeking to lower tensions in the region, were denied entry into Crimea.
Ukraine's acting defense minister says Ukrainian forces will not withdraw from Crimea despite being largely outnumbered and increased pressure since the region was nominally incorporated into Russia Tuesday.
Meanwhile, authorities in Crimea denied entry to Ukraine’s defense minister and another official Wednesday when they tried to travel to the peninsula to defuse tensions, a Russian news agency reported, as militiamen stormed the Ukrainian navy’s headquarters and took it over.
Several hundred militiamen who captured the naval base in Sevastopol didn’t meet any resistance. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and tens of thousands of Russian-led troops are now patrolling Crimea.
Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in a bid to ease tensions, however, the prime minister in Crimea warned after the announcement of their departure that they would be turned back.
“They are not welcome in Crimea,” Sergei Aksynov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “They will not be allowed to enter Crimea. They will be sent back.”
Interfax news agency cited Welfare Minister Lyudmila Denisova in the early afternoon as saying the officials had denied entry to Crimea.
Denisova said an emergency session of the National Security and Defense Council will be held in response.
The movement comes a day after the first fatalities stemming from the annexation, in which a Ukrainian serviceman and a member of a local self-defense brigade were killed by gunfire just hours after President Vladimir Putin’s speech declaring the Black Sea peninsula part of the motherland.
In another development likely to add to the turmoil, the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Sergei Gaiduk, was detained for questioning, Russian state ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing the Crimean prosecutors’ office.
At the Ukrainian navy headquarters, an Associated Press photographer said the militiamen took down the gate and raised the Russian flag on the square.
If Ukrainian troops won't leave, there is bound to be shooting. Ukraine might not want a fight over the Crimea but they're going to get one if Putin insists on taking over all military installations. Their army is hopeless - ill trained and ill equipped to face a modern force like the Russians have. Plus, their troops are badly outnumbered. Will they stand by their brave talk or accept reality and withdraw? On such questions rest the possibility of war or peace.