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Shots fired at Ukranian base in Crimea

Russia Storms Ukrainian Military Base In Crimea
BELBEK AIR BASE, Crimea (AP) - Pro-Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian air force base in Crimea, firing shots and smashing through concrete walls with armored personnel carriers, according to an Associated Press journalist. At least one person was wounded, the base commander said.

An APC also smashed open the front gate of the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol, according to footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense ministry. Two ambulances arrived and then departed shortly after. At least one of them was carrying what appeared to be a wounded person.

The Ukrainian commander of the base, Yuliy Mamchur, said there was at least one injury. He called his men together, they sang the Ukrainian national anthem and then stood at ease. He said they are going to turn over their weapons.

Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military facilities for several days in the Black Sea peninsula, which voted a week ago to secede and join Russia.

Elsewhere, more than 5,000 pro-Russia residents of a major city in Ukraine's east demonstrated in favor of holding a referendum on whether to seek to split off and become part of Russia.

The rally in Donetsk came less than a week after the Ukrainian region of Crimea approved secession in a referendum regarded as illegitimate by the Western countries. After the referendum, Russia moved to formally annex Crimea.

With Crimea now effectively under the control of Russian forces, which ring Ukrainian military bases on the strategic Black Sea peninsula, concern is rising that Ukraine's eastern regions will agitate for a similar move.

Russia has brought large military contingents to areas near the border with eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no intention to move into eastern Ukraine, but the prospect of violence between pro- and anti-secession groups in the east could be used as a pretext for sending in troops.

Eastern Ukraine is the heartland of Ukraine's economically vital heavy industry and mining and the support base for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who fled to Russia last month after being ousted in the wake of three months of protests in the capital, Kiev.

Russia and Yanukovych supporters contend Yanukovych's ouster was a coup and allege that the authorities who then came to power are nationalists who would oppress the east's large ethnic Russian population.

"They're trying to tear us away from Russia," said demonstrator Igor Shapoval, a 59-year-old businessman. "But Donbass is ready to fight against this band which already lost Crimea and is losing in the east."

Donbass is the name for the region of factories and mines that includes Donetsk.

About an hour after the Donetsk rally began, the crowd marched through the city center and assembled before the regional administration building chanting: "Crimea! Donbass! Russia!"

Demonstrators waving Russian flags were faced off by lines of shield-wielding riot police. Inside, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was meeting with local officials.

The demonstrators erected several tents, an ironic echo of the massive tent camp that was established on Kiev's central square after the protests against Yanukovych broke out in late November.

"I'm ready to live in a tent, but I'm not ready to submit to the West, to dance to their tune," said Viktor Rudko, a 43-year-old miner.

The local parliament on Friday formed a working group to develop a referendum analogous to the one in Crimea. Activists on Saturday passed out mock ballots, although no referendum has been formally called.

A number of leading pro-Russian activists have already been detained by police on suspicion of fomenting secessionist activities. The country's security services said Saturday that they have arrested Mikhail Chumachenko, leader of the self-styled Donbass People's Militia, on suspicion of seeking to seize authority.

As tensions roil in the east, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is deploying an observer team aimed at easing the crisis.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on Friday that Moscow hopes that the 200-strong team "will help to overcome the internal Ukrainian crisis" and ensure the respect for human rights there.

It is unclear whether the team will be allowed into Crimea. Russian forces last week stopped OSCE military observers from entering Crimea. The organization on Friday did not specify whether the observers will go to Crimea.

Lukashevich said on Saturday that the OSCE's mission "will reflect the new political and legal order and will not cover Crimea and Sevastopol which became part of Russia."

Daniel Baer, the United States' chief envoy to OSCE, said the observers should have access to the territory because Crimea remains Ukrainian to the rest of the world.

The seizure of military facilities and navy ships by pro-Russian forces in Crimea has been proceeding apace since the peninsula was this week nominally absorbed by Russia.

On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said.

Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates.

TSN reported that there were children among the crowd attempting to seize the base.

The Russian Defense Ministry says that as of late Friday less than 2,000 of 18,000 Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea had "expressed a desire to leave for Ukraine." The ministry, however, stopped short of saying the remainder of the troops would serve in the Russian army.

___

Jim Heintz and Peter Leonard in Kiev and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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Vimala Nowlis March 22 2014 at 2:54 PM

This is bad. According to BBC, the Russian commander gave the Ukrain troops up to Friday 3/21 to either leave and go home or stay and convert to become Russian citizens. Some already defected to Russia because their elected Ukrainian government was overthrow by the pro-West Kiev mobs and they have no love for the Kievan government. Those in the base must be the Ukrainians who wanted to go home. The Russians should just let them go.

More eastern Ukrainians want to join Russia? Of course! They elected and re-elected the pro-Russia governemnt in the first place. They are the majority. Kievan rioters are the minority. Why should they allow their votes and choice be vitiated by the violent Kievans? They absolutely should have their choice whether the US or the EU like it or not. That's how "democracy" works despite US protests.

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dorc792 March 22 2014 at 11:03 PM

send in 16 divisions of gays an lesbians to ukranes borders...then watch vlad putin flipp out..

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3 replies
Chris March 22 2014 at 1:38 PM

Here's a thought... AS MAD as All World Governments have been as they are borderline dictatorships and NOT listening to the VOICE of the PEOPLE but only compiling the PEOPLE's taxes to float THEIR CORRUPTION... IS this> Since the world is overpopulating with young people with no jobs and NO assets to take and NO taxes for the GOERNEMENT to compile, the PLAN is to create CHOIS and pull the world into another WORLD WAR , so while the GOVERNEMENT sits back in the EASY chair eating caviar and drinking Champaign, the WAR would be claiming MILLIONS of YOUTHFUL lives as you know the Patriot thing is to "Serve Your Country"... THE FINAL result is less population that would receive GOVERNEMENT BENFITS and they throw away the ******* sound of OVERPOPULATION and LASTLY> ITS like the world can just FILE WORLD BANKRUPTCY and they can ALL start over with NO DEBIT and they may even gain more resources while as we the Slaves of OUR SOCIETY are drilling and MINING for the ELITE.... SMOKE THAT IN YOUR PIPE and PONDER on iT.......

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1 reply
Chris Chris March 22 2014 at 1:39 PM

GOVERNMENT :)

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Ricardo March 22 2014 at 1:36 PM

Send Obama's troops.

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1 reply
jh Ricardo March 22 2014 at 1:39 PM

He sent john kerry and old joe biden.That should stop putin.

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y9bupkis March 22 2014 at 1:34 PM

This is only the beginning. Divide and conquer. WWIII is coming due to the National-Socialist thinkings of Putin

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eeodjo March 22 2014 at 2:00 PM

It is not easy to prove that all these-so-called eastern Ukrainians wants to join the Russian Federation. Russia has made so much money on selling their natural gas, what would prevent them from buying these eastern Ukrainian peasants to protest against the western Ukrainian government and secede from Ukraine. I think that is why Putin said that his military forces are in the eastern Ukrainian border to protect all of those Russian speaking Ukrainians. What an excuse to make just so Putin can really get his troops to invade Ukraine when the time is right.

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1 reply
Roza Cooper eeodjo March 22 2014 at 3:57 PM

Why is it so difficult to believe that Eastern Ukrainians want to join Russia? They have been waiting for better life for more than 20 years. They have this chance now with a bonus -the right of speaking their own language. They know that Putin will do everything possible to please them financially (as he does with Chechen people)

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delicious joey March 22 2014 at 11:13 PM

look im sorry about my putin comments,and my short comments.i can see there is a pro putin faction here as well as members of the little people society.i know my comments are biased when it comes to the short and about Vlad.its just that both my ex were short and blonde,and swaggered,and they both wore 5 inch FM pumps after taking me to the cleaners.so ok im sorry

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1 reply
tomaho delicious joey March 22 2014 at 11:23 PM

Putin can go to Hell with Chavez and where Castro is soon to join.

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cd6color March 22 2014 at 1:27 PM

Still waiting to hear if Obama has called Romney yet

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1 reply
Chuck cd6color March 22 2014 at 2:07 PM

He must be working with Rodman.

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jijjhnsn March 22 2014 at 5:41 PM

I hope Ukrainians learn from The Georgians. America not gonna come help.

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1 reply
ayyiyicaramba jijjhnsn March 22 2014 at 6:09 PM

With Obama in-charge, Alaskans should also be extremely concerned.

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gsb037 March 22 2014 at 1:25 PM

"Putin's plan is for the Eurasian Customs Union to grow into a "powerful, supra-national union" of sovereign states like the European Union, uniting economies, legal systems, customs services and military capabilities to form a bridge between Europe and Asia and rival the EU, the US, China and India by 2015" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Union - He will not stop with Crimea, he will not stop with Ukraine. We saw how well appease worked with Germany, how long will it take the West to wake up?

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1 reply
tntlimited gsb037 March 22 2014 at 1:53 PM

Hey gsb, what is your plan? Would you escalate this situation militarily...until there is nuclear confrontation?
Would you like to see the entire world devastated by an all out nuclear war? Think through what you are saying. I don't believe that any rational person wants to see millions of people die. If Russia continues to
be aggressive with actual military action, then it is time to start talk of war...until then, let diplomacy work
it's course...

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