Sunday, March 23, 2014

Russia Forces Attack Bases In Crimea

Witnesses say shootings and explosions have been heard as Russian troops backed by armoured vehicles stormed a Ukrainian airbase in the Crimean Peninsula, injuring at least one person.

Earlier Saturday the Belbek base wrote on its website that troops inside had received an ultimatum from Russian forces to lay down their weapons and surrender or prepare to be stormed.

Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.

Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: "That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base's storage."

The assault on the Belbek base, near the port city of Sevastopol, came after hundreds of pro-Russian protesters stormed a Ukrainian air force base in the Crimean town of Novofedorivka, forcing soldiers to leave.

The crowd shouting "Russia, Russia" and smashing windows clearly outnumbered Ukrainian servicemen, who initially tried to repel them by throwing smoke bombs from the roof.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry made clear that the attack against the military base also involved pro-Russian self-defense forces.

Russian officers stood outside watching as protesters took down the Ukrainian flag and put up the white and blue flag of the Russian navy.

It was the latest in a series of attacks designed to drive Ukrainian forces from Crimea, where voters decided to split from Ukraine and become part of Russia in a referendum condemned as illegal by the West.

Saturday's violence came while some 100 observers of the European security organization OSCE were send to Ukraine to monitor the security and human rights situation, explained America's OECD Ambassador Daniel Baer.

“We’re glad that the Russian Federation was able to finally come on board with a consensus resolution to send monitors to Ukraine,” he said.

But Russia's ambassador to the OSCE, Andrey Kelin, warned they had “no mandate” to enter Crimea, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to annex the peninsula.

“We proceed from the assumption that the mandate of mission is absolutely clear and it proceeds from the geo-political realities that have been (and) that are existing, since today,” he added.

“Crimea has become a part of (the) Russian Federation.”

Earlier this month OSCE monitors had to abandon attempts to visit the Black Sea peninsula after warning shots were fired at them by pro-Russian armed men at the border.

(Vatican Radio)

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