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Russian troops seize Ukrainian navy base in Sevastopol

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-19

Hundreds of Russian troops and pro-Moscow volunteers seized the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol on Wednesday, replacing the Ukrainian flag that used to fly over the base with a Russian tri-colour.

Russian soldiers allied with the so-called "self-defence" units of mainly unarmed Crimean volunteers moved in early in the morning and quickly took control of the Black Sea base without meeting resistance from the Ukrainian servicemen stationed there.

Pro-Russian forces said they had also captured the head of Ukraine’s naval forces, but FRANCE 24 could not confirm the reports.

The takeover of the naval base comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea following a Sunday referendum in which Crimean residents overwhelmingly backed joining Russia.

Ukraine to introduce visas for visiting Russians

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has been given instructions to introduce visas for Russians visiting Ukraine, the country’s security chief Andriy Parubiy said on Wednesday.

Parubiy, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, added that Ukraine’s government would appeal to the United Nations to declare Crimea a demilitarised zone and take measures for Russian forces to leave the peninsula.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

A Ukrainian serviceman and a member of a local pro-Russian self-defence brigade were killed by gunfire in Crimea on Tuesday, sparking fears the incidents could escalate tensions on the Black Sea peninsula.

Russians hailed the moves to annex Crimea while Ukraine’s new government described the Russian president as a threat to the “civilised world and international security”.

The US and Europe have said the referendum was illegitimate and moved Monday to impose new sanctions on Russia, targeting Russian and Crimean officials with visa bans and asset freezes.

Russian news agencies quoted Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Russian Constitutional Courts, telling reporters on Wednesday that the annexation treaty has been found to be valid. The treaty now only needs to be ratified by the Russian parliament.

Ukraine’s months-long political crisis hinged on whether to cast its future with the European Union and the West or with Russia. Mass protests erupted after then president Viktor Yanukovich scrapped a trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia, with the unrest eventually leading to his overthrow late last month.

Russia has since refused to recognise the new pro-Western government in Ukraine.

Thousands of Russian troops occupied Crimea in the days following Yanukovich’s ouster, seizing Ukrainian military bases, blockading others, and pressuring Ukrainian soldiers to surrender their arms and leave.

Putin has said that the Russian troops were in Crimea under a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea fleet base in Crimea.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-19

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