Russia backed men seize Crimea airports

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 1 March 2014 0 comments
Ousted president expected to address press conference as pro-Russia armed men take over two airports in southeast.
Ukraine’s interim government in Kiev has accused Russia of staging an armed invasion against Crimea, a claim denied by Moscow as pro-Kremlin armed men continue their seizure of two airports and government buildings in the region with the Russian ethnic majority.
Two Crimean airports, one is the main international airport of Simferapol while the other is a military airfield in Sevastopol, have been taken over by what the Ukrainian Interior Minister claimed to be members of the Russian Federation Fleet, according to a statement he posted on his Facebook account.
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee said that the civilian airport was operating normally.
“Inside the terminal building, passengers are queuing up to go to Moscow and Istanbul and all sort of places,and that is completely normal, but in the outside, it is entirely abnormal. Throughout the morning we have seen these large groups of green camouflaged helmeted men, some are masked and others are not, in control and are coming out of the VIP block here and changing shifts, as well as organising their perimeter. The airport security say they control inside the airport and will not let these people in,” he said.
He added that their magazines are not loaded “and they cannot be fired if they wanted to, but is a show of strength.”
The Ukrainian parliament, which voted days ago on ousting President Viktor Yanukovich, has called on Friday for a United National Security Council meeting to discuss developments in Crimea, and urged Russia “to stop moves that show signs of undermining national sovereignty and territorial integrity” as well as “reject support for separatism in Ukraine, of any form”.
Yanukovich’s presser
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s pro-Moscow ousted President Viktor Yanukovich is expected to hold his first public appearance since his disappearance last week.
Yanukovich has apparently been emboldened by the takeover of government buildings by the armed groups.
Yanukovich – who fled Kiev last week following weeks of deadly protests – is due to give a press conference in Russia’s southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don on Friday at 1300 GMT.
However, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands says it is still not clear who will be allowed to attend the presser and where will it be exactly, although it may take place in the Don State Technical University in the city near Ukraine’s borders.
Rising tension in Crimea, which still regards Yanukovich as its president, is the biggest challenge facing the country’s newly sworn in government.
Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend says that the risk these developments have on Kiev are “substantial.”
“The new government is grappling with an enormous economic crisis, and now they are confronted with nothing less than trying to ensure that Ukraine remains united, and in Crimea they see that this is threatened,” he said.
Autonomous region
Oleksander Turchynov, the acting Ukraine president who has replaced Yanukovich, told parliament he had ordered troops and police to take “all measures” needed to protect Ukrainian citizens after the apparent pro-Russian takeover of buildings.
Turchynov’s statement also gave warning that any movement by Russian military forces in the Crimean Black Sea port of Sevastopol, would be considered a “military aggression”.
The area has been closed off “to prevent bloodshed”, according to news agency AFP.
“Measures have been taken to counter extremist actions and not allow the situation to escalate into an armed confrontation in the centre of the city,” Arsen Avakov, Ukraine interior minister, said.
Meanwhile, Crimea’s autonomous parliament has set a referendum on the region’s status on May 25, according to AFP, which is the same day during which the new government in Kiev is set to hold fresh presidential elections.
The autonomous government of Crimea still considers Yanukovich to be Ukraine’s president.
Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of Crimea’s parliament, said on Thursday the autonomous republic appointed a new prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, with Yanukovich’s approval.
“There are political factions, pro-Russian groups, who want Crimea to break away, and have less to do with the Kiev,” Al Jazeera’s Forestier-Walker said. “But there are also those who want to stay firmly part of Ukraine, in particular the ethnic Tartar community, who want to see themselves part of Europe.”
Ukraine’s interim government has issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovich, accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of at least 70 protesters on February 21 protests in Kiev.
The parliament had voted on Tuesday to send Yanukovich, if captured, to stand trial for “serious crimes” at the International Criminal Court.


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