Crimea Naval HQ Stormed By Pro-Russian Forces, And The Situation Looks Set To Only Get Worse
One day after President Vladimir Putin claimed Crimea as part of the Federation, pro-Russian forces stormed a Crimean naval base in the Black Sea peninsula. Dozens of armed supporters took over the Ukrainian navy's Crimea headquarters in the port of the city of Sevastopol on Wednesday, raising the Russian flag atop the building. So far, no one's been hurt.
An assistant to the commander of Ukraine's navy fleet told CNN that Ukrainian naval officers attempted to stop the pro-Russian group from taking over the base, and were negotiating with them. "They are everywhere here. They surround us. They threaten us," Marina Kanalyuk said.
Russian soldiers and unarmed volunteers from "self-defense" units forced Ukrainian servicemen to leave the base Wednesday. A navy captain said forces stormed the compound and cut the gates open, but there were no shootings, according to Reuters. Though the takeover was comparatively peaceful this time around, these troops add to the thousands of Russian-led forces already patrolling Crimea.
Wednesday's incident comes a day after the death of a Ukrainian soldier at a military base. Pro-Kremlin forces charged the post and shot the serviceman, marking the first fatality since Russian forces took over Crimea in February. Reports claim a member of pro-Russian militia was also killed during the battle.
The tug-of-war over Crimea has reached violent levels after the peninsula's annexation, and only seems to be worsening. Following Putin's speech on Tuesday, in which he defended Crimea's public vote to join Russia and indicated there will be no backing down, Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov took matters a step further and gave his servicemen permission to use weapons.
"We would like to emphasize that the responsibility for the blood of Ukrainian servicemen lies on the shoulders of the political government of Russian Federation and President Putin in particular," read a statement from the president's press office.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister and defense minister made their way to Crimea on Wednesday to "de-escalate the conflict" and ensure things don't get further out of hand. But it might be too late: Interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the death of the Ukrainian soldier a "war crime" and said, "the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage."