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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

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
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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gga9658620 March 22 2014 at 4:40 PM

This is nothing more than the latest move in a strategic chess game that has been going on since world war 2. All this talk from both sides about a nations free will and right to choose in BS. It's about the strategic interests of the US and Russia. Both sides spend money to try to increase their influence. Russia perceives (not entirely without merit) that it is being encircled by NATO. What would we do if Russia were putting ABM systems in Canada or Mexico? So politicians on both sides should call it what it is - a struggle between two nations to exert influence and gain strategic advantage, and stop with all this, we support freedom BS. The US does not fight wars for the freedom of others, we fight, as does Russia for our own interests, and if the people in the country we're fighting in gain freedoms they didn't enjoy previously, that's just a plus. We NEVER go to war solely to fight for others' freedom. If we did, we would've been in WW2 as soon as Jews started being gassed. The US and Russia going to war would be a monumental catastrophe for both sides.

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1 reply
doketx gga9658620 March 22 2014 at 9:34 PM

You are exactly right. Roosevelt knew from the beginning that Jews were being persecuted, but it wouldn't have been politically expedient for him to enter into a "Jewish war". No country ever goes to war for altruistic motives, neither U.S. nor Russia. At least Hitler made no bones about the fact that he was out to conquer the world. Today's politicians are much more adept at lying.

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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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lgvxl42 March 22 2014 at 11:35 PM

........Have no fear! Obama has drawn a line, er that is a "march madness" pick. Sorry! But wait. While Michele is in China she'll get the Chinese to help. Oops, sorry again. She's on vacation. I guess that bad ol' Putin will have his way................

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1 reply
Brian Hope lgvxl42 March 22 2014 at 11:38 PM

And what did your beloved President Dubya do when Czar Vladimir was ripping two provinces out of the Republic of Georgia?

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5 replies
Kat4Hat March 22 2014 at 2:30 PM

Crimean annexation is very contagious ; Vines started an annexation process from Italy after the electronic referendum.

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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
tnthouser4 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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JERRY March 22 2014 at 10:20 PM

Putin is playing Russian roulette,it could be the worse mistake in his career,and definitely not a benefit to the Russian people when Russia has to face the consequences.

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2 replies
Brian Hope JERRY March 22 2014 at 10:49 PM

And, outside of the naval base, Crimea is a classic booby prize, chock-full of corruption, deficit finances, and soon-to-be-radicalized Crimean Tatars.

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seawrightr JERRY March 22 2014 at 11:01 PM

And, what are the consequences ?

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gkmoore4103 March 22 2014 at 1:13 PM

Let this be a lesson to you, if anyone wants your Nukes, tells them NO!

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1 reply
express gkmoore4103 March 22 2014 at 1:37 PM

that is what Mr.Putin just told the radical forces of the world.

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1 reply
express express March 22 2014 at 1:45 PM

you have to think like your enemy to defeat him General Goerge S.Patton

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wiresolu March 22 2014 at 2:32 PM

Why is a street riot in Kiev legal but a referendum in in Crimea illegal. If the powers that be find referendum illegal seems to me it leaves the people only one alternative, Civil War.

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2 replies
rgkarasiewicz wiresolu March 22 2014 at 2:35 PM

In these sad times, it's only legal or illegal if the West says that it is.

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Vimala Nowlis wiresolu March 22 2014 at 3:01 PM

That is if you only read the US press and don't know anything about history beyond the last 50 years or the US border.
According to the US, annexations of Texas, California, Alaska, and Hawaii by illegal votes are legal because they benefited the US. God forbide that anyone who disagrees with the US should have the right to choose because democracy applies only to US allies. Others need not bother because America is the final arbitor of right and wrong.
Fortunately, the rest of the world does not think so.

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cosmosmith March 22 2014 at 10:20 PM

All Russia needs to do to justify their surge of Ukraine is to claim that Ukraine has "weapons of mass destruction."

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1 reply
sashajjjj cosmosmith March 22 2014 at 10:49 PM

Hahahahahahahhaha...you said it brother. We'll never live Bush down.

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