Russian soldiers, and so-called "self-defense" units of mainly
unarmed volunteers who are supporting them across the Black Sea
peninsula, moved in early in the morning and quickly took control.
Shortly after the incident, Ukraine's acting Defence Minister Ihor
Tenyukh said in Kiev that the country's forces would not withdraw
from Crimea even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed
a treaty to make it part of Russia.
But an hour later, Ukrainian servicemen, unarmed and in civilian
clothing, began walking out of the headquarters.
Interfax Ukraine news agency said the commander of the Ukrainian
navy, Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, was among those who left and was driven
away by officers of Russia's FSB intelligence service. The report
could not be independently confirmed.
The first group of servicemen was followed within a few minutes by a
handful of troops in Ukrainian uniform, looking shell-shocked at the
dramatic turn of events.
"This morning they stormed the compound. They cut the gates open,
but I heard no shooting," said Oleksander Balanyuk, a captain in the
"This thing should have been solved politically. Now all I can do is
stand here at the gate. There is nothing else I can do," he told
Reuters, appearing ashamed and downcast.
Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that Alexander Vitko,
commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet which is based in Sevastopol,
had been involved in talks at the headquarters.
Viktor Melnikov, in charge of the "self-defence" unit, said talks
were going on to negotiate a surrender.
"We've had difficult negotiations with the command here," he told
reporters. "Some Ukrainian servicemen are already leaving, without
their uniforms, but there was no violence."
A Reuters reporter saw three armed men, possibly Russian soldiers in
unmarked uniforms, at the gate and at least a dozen more inside the
PROTECTION FROM "FASCISTS"
In Kiev, pro-Western Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
ordered his first deputy prime minister and the acting defence
minister to fly to Crimea to "resolve the situation," a senior
minister told a cabinet meeting.
But Sergei Askyonov, Crimea's new prime minister since the Russian
takeover, said Vitaly Yarema and Ihor Tenyukh were not wanted in
Crimea and would not be permitted to land.
[to top of second column]
Thousands of Russian soldiers took control of Crimea in the buildup
to a weekend referendum last weekend in which the region, with
ethnic Russians in the majority, voted overwhelmingly to leave
Ukraine and join Moscow.
Putin said his move to take control of Crimea was justified by what
he calls "fascists" in Kiev who overthrew pro-Moscow president
Viktor Yanukovich last month after three months of often deadly
Ukraine and Western governments have dismissed the referendum, which
has triggered the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold
War, as a sham, and say there is no justification for Putin's
Moscow officially denies deploying extra troops and Russian soldiers
in the region are wearing unmarked uniforms, making it difficult to
verify exactly who is who on the ground.
In Crimea's main city, Simferopol, where one Ukrainian serviceman
was killed after a shooting on Tuesday, the situation was calm on
It was the first death on the Black Sea peninsula from a military
clash since the region came under Russian control three weeks ago.
Ukrainian prime minister Yatseniuk denounced it as a "war crime".
Aksyonov, Crimea's pro-Moscow leader, suggested the incident was the
fault of "provocateurs" opposed to the annexation of the region to
"Unfortunately, two people were killed," he said, speaking in
Moscow. "I'm sure we will find these scoundrels. The security
service of the Crimean Republic is investigating."
(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in Simferopol and Steve
Gutterman in Moscow; writing by Mike Collett-White; editing by Ron Popeski)
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