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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • Ukraine's Crimea base taken, commander detained

  • Masked Russian-speaking troops on Wednesday seized control of Ukrainian naval headquarters in Crimea after it was stormed by militiamen. Pro-Moscow Crimean authorities also detained the Ukrainian navy commander and reportedly blocked the defense minister and another government official from traveling to the peninsula in what they said was a bid to defuse tensions.
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  • The Associated Press
    SEVASTOPOL, Crimea — Masked Russian-speaking troops on Wednesday seized control of Ukrainian naval headquarters in Crimea after it was stormed by militiamen. Pro-Moscow Crimean authorities also detained the Ukrainian navy commander and reportedly blocked the defense minister and another government official from traveling to the peninsula in what they said was a bid to defuse tensions.
    Ukraine's military, which is heavily outnumbered in Crimea, has come under increased pressure since the region was nominally incorporated into Russia on Tuesday.
    The several hundred militiamen who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and tens of thousands of Russian-led troops are now patrolling Crimea.
    It came a day after a confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian militia left two dead.
    The Russian-speaking troops, who arrived on the base after the storming, wore helmets, flak jackets and uniforms with no identifying insignia. By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set of three-story boxy white concrete buildings with blue trim. It was not immediately clear how many, if any, Ukrainian servicemen remained on the base.
    Ukraine's Defense Ministry said no one was injured in the raid, which it said was led by pro-Russian militiamen and Cossacks.
    The ministry said in its statement that Rear Adm. Sergei Haiduk was detained by unknown people after the storming of the fleet headquarters. The Russian state ITAR-Tass news agency reported that he was being questioned by Crimean prosecutors.
    Ukraine's defense minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in what they said was a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities.
    The prime minister in Crimea warned after the announcement of their departure that they would be turned back, however.
    "They are not welcome in Crimea," Sergei Aksyonov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. "They will not be allowed to enter Crimea. They will be sent back."
    Interfax later cited Welfare Minister Lyudmila Denisova as saying the officials had been denied entry to Crimea. She said an emergency session of the National Security and Defense Council will held in response.
    At the Ukrainian navy headquarters, an Associated Press photographer said the militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters.
    The unarmed militiamen waited for an hour on the square and, following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, they took over the building.
    The AP photographer was able to enter the headquarters and saw the militia roaming around while the Ukrainian servicemen were packing up and leaving.
    Page 2 of 2 - On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia following a referendum Sunday in which residents of the region overwhelmingly backed the move.
    "In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia," he declared.
    He dismissed Western criticism of Sunday's Crimean referendum — in which residents of the strategic Black Sea peninsula overwhelmingly backed leaving Ukraine and joining Russia — as a manifestation of the West's double standards. Often interrupted by applause, Putin said the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine had been abused by the new Ukrainian government and insisted that Crimea's vote to join Russia was in line with international law and reflected its right for self-determination.
    Putin said his actions followed what he described as Western arrogance, hypocrisy and pressure, and warned that the West must drop its stubborn refusal to take Russian concerns into account.
    "If you push a spring too hard at some point it will spring back," he said, addressing the West. "You always need to remember this."
    While Putin boasted that the Russian takeover of Crimea was conducted without a single shot, a Ukrainian military spokesman said that one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and another injured when a military facility in Crimea was stormed Tuesday by armed men just hours after Putin's speech.
    Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to
    Ukraine in 1954, a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet breakup. Both Russians and Crimea's majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult. Putin argued that today's Ukraine included "regions of Russia's historic south" and was created on a whim by the Bolsheviks.
    But despite the massing of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine's eastern border, Putin insisted his nation had no intentions of invading other regions in Ukraine.
    "We don't want a division of Ukraine, we don't need that," he said.
    Russia says its troops were on the border just for military training but the U.S. and Europe have called them an intimidation tactic.
    Ukraine's political turmoil has become Europe's most severe security crisis since the Balkan wars of the early 1990s and the issue of what NATO does about Ukraine is crucial. Ukrainian officials met with NATO in Brussels on Monday, asking for some technical equipment.
    "If Ukraine goes to NATO or the EU, Putin will do everything so that it goes there without the east and south," said Vadim Karasyov, a Kiev-based political analyst. "Putin basically told the West that Russia has the right to veto the way Ukraine will develop. And if not, then Crimea is only a precedent of how pieces of Ukraine can be chopped off one by one."
     

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