A group of armed men believed to be Russian troops allegedly attempted to seize control of a Ukrainian missile-defence post in the Crimea region on Friday, but the standoff was resolved without a shot being fired, witnesses said.
Early reports said that the men used a truck to smash through the gates of the key base in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, but a Reuters reporter on the scene could not see any signs of major damage to the gates.
A standoff between the armed men and the Ukrainian troops inside the base was later resolved, Reuters reported.
Crimea's pro-Russia premier, Sergei Aksyonov, said on a political chat show shown live on Ukrainian television that all was calm at the military post.
Referring to the armed men as "self-defence units,” he indicated the standoff was over, adding: "Now the self-defence units are surrounded by journalists. There are no attempts to attack."
A Ukrainian military official told Reuters at the post that the armed group inside had not seized any weapons.
FRANCE 24's International Affairs Editor Robert Parsons said that the situation was still unclear late on Friday.
“Ukrainian troops inside the base were calling international journalists in Crimea throughout the day saying ‘we’re under attack,’ but subsequently the reports turned out to be slightly exaggerated,” he reported from the Crimean capital, Simferopol.
“It’s certainly the case that pressure is being applied on the Ukrainian base, and it’s not only the Russian military this time, there have also been Crimean volunteers – perhaps Cossacks – pushing to get inside.”
Crimea found itself at the centre of the Ukraine crisis in recent weeks after Russian forces de facto occupied the region, taking control of some military installations and other buildings across the peninsula, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.
Crimea is a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, but the local parliament has called a March 16 referendum on whether it should join Russia, a move US President Barack Obama has slammed as a violation of international law.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-07