Crimea Airports: Russian Militia Suspected in Takeovers

Image: Crimea Airports: Russian Militia Suspected in Takeovers

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 02:28 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Ukraine officials said Friday that Russian naval forces and armed militia haven taken control of two airports in the Crimea region of the country.

Ukrainian government protests and the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovich have strained the countries' relationship in recent weeks, according to BBC News. Russia rejected the accusation that its forces have taken over the Sevastopol airport, while men believed to be part of a pro-Russia militia are occupying a Simferopol airport.

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"I see what is happening as armed invasion and occupation, in violation of all international treaties and norms," Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told Al Jazeera. "This is a direct provocation of the armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state."

Al Jazeera reported what Crimea's civilian airport in Simferopol looked like.

"Inside the terminal building, passengers are queuing up to go to Moscow and Istanbul and all sorts of places, and that is completely normal, but in the outside, it is entirely abnormal," Al Jazeera reported. "Throughout the morning we have seen these large groups of green camouflaged helmeted men, some are masked and others are not, in control and are coming out of the VIP block here and changing shifts."

The Ukrainian parliament voted this week to remove Yanukovich, who is supported by Russia, from office and asked for the United Nations' Security Council to lead discussions on what is happening in Crimea. The Ukrainian parliament also asked Russia to "stop moves that show signs of undermining national sovereignty and territorial integrity," per Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile Yanukovich, who was on the run last week, appeared in Russia on Friday, asking that the country stop what he called chaos in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, according to Reuters. Crimea is the only region of Ukraine that has an ethnic Russian majority. 

Kiev's border guards accused Russia of flying more than 10 Russian military helicopters over Ukrainian airspace Friday into Crimea and subsequently performing a blockade in Sevastopol. A serviceman confirmed the military was from Russia's Black Sea fleet.

BBC News reported other developments Friday. Russian army trucks reportedly moved toward Simferopol, and the Ukrainian central bank placed daily withdrawal limits at its institutions. Additionally, armed forces leader Yuriy Ilyin, who had been appointed earlier by Yanukovych last month, has been removed from his post.

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