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Russian Troops Storm Crimea Navy Base


Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, supply an armored personnel carrier (APC) in front of a Ukrainian marine base in the Crimean port city of Feodosia March 23, 2014.
Russian troops early Monday stormed Ukraine's Feodosia navy base in Crimea with warning shots and stun grenades.

Ukrainian navy officers had been negotiating with the Russian side for an orderly withdrawal from the base but had not received orders from Kyiv.

Those orders came hours later when Ukraine called for all its remaining military in Crimea to withdraw to the mainland.

Navy officers Sunday had told Reuters TV they would defend the base to the end and that Russian military promised they would be allowed to leave with honor.

Ukraine Navy Captain Olexander Lantuhk said they did not want to turn over armaments and ships to the Russians. He said they do not see any reason why they should leave their vessels and weapons. As soldiers, they are responsible for them, he added.

The navy base was one of the few left in Crimea remaining under the Ukrainian flag.

Russian troops, local militia, and pro-Russia mobs this month surrounded and took over many of Ukraine's military bases in Crimea, seizing ships and weapons.

Russian troops Saturday stormed two Ukrainian naval bases in Sevastopol and Novofedorovka and took control of a submarine and flagship.

They used armored personnel carriers (APCs) to break down a wall and gate at Ukraine's largest military hold-out, Belbek Air Force base. One Ukrainian sailor was reported injured.

Ukrainian navy Lieutenant Anatoly Mozgovoi on Sunday at Feodosia acknowledged Russia was now in control.

When asked about the plan for the base, he responded "you can see what has happened with Crimea". Currently the situation is de-facto.

Referendum

The aggressive moves follow a controversial March 16 referendum in Crimea that saw the vast majority there vote to become part of Russia. Moscow on Friday passed legislation making Crimea officially a part of the Russian Federation.

Ukraine, the European Union, and United States condemned the vote as an illegal and illegitimate land-grab. Moscow says its actions were necessary to protect ethnic Russians from alleged persecution by Kyiv's interim government, which it calls fascist and anti-Russian.

The tensions over Crimea are the worst between Russia and western nations since the end of the Cold War.

Western nations warned Russia against further moves on Eastern Ukraine where Simferpro-Russia populations are calling for similar referendums. Russian military has built up, and held recent drills, along the border with Ukraine raising concerns about further incursions.

Crimea's Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov on Sunday called for Russians in Ukraine to fight against the pro-western government in Kyiv. In a televised speech and in Facebook and Twitter comments, he said Southeastern Ukraine's future was a close union with the Russian Federation.

Ukraine's Kremlin-leaning President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine to Russia and was voted out of office after months of street protests in Kyiv turned violent.

The protests were sparked when Yanukovych abruptly pulled out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

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