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Europe

Gunmen ‘seize control’ of airport in Ukraine’s Crimea region

© Screen grab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-28

Gunmen seized control of the airport in Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, on Friday, while Russian forces have allegedly taken over a military airport in the port city of Sevastopol.

The men, who were dressed in full battle gear, carried assault rifles and machine guns, according to the Reuters news agency. Although the group was seen moving freely in and out of the control tower, they had not entered the passenger terminal and appeared to be allowing the airport to function normally.

Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency also reported on Friday that Russian servicemen wearing body armour and backed by armoured personnel carriers have taken up position on the perimeter of a military airport at Sevastopol, a port city in Crimea where the Russian Black Sea fleet has a base.

The agency quoted military sources in the region as saying that they had gone to Belbek military airport to stop “fighters” from flying in.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that both airports had been taken over by Russian forces, condemning the acts as an armed invasion and occupation.

He said that representatives of the Russian Federation had seized the airport in Simferopol, while Russian naval forces had taken over the military airport near Sevastopol.

“I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” Avakov said on his Facebook page, calling for talks.

The two incidents come one day after a separate group of gunmen seized control of the regional capital’s government headquarters and parliament, hoisting Russian flags above the two buildings.

The events in Crimea have heightened tensions with neighboring Russia and raised fears of separatism, highlighting some of the challenges facing Ukraine’s new government nearly a week after former president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted from power.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-28

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