Ukraine: Russian military blocking airport
Simferopol: Russian military were blocking an airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea near the Russian naval base while unidentified men were patrolling another airport serving the regional capital, Ukraine’s new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on friday.
Avakov wrote in a Facebook post that the Belbek international airport in Sevastopol was blocked by military units of the Russian navy.
“I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation,” Avakov said.
The Russian foreign ministry refused to comment while a spokesman for the Russian defence ministry was not available for comment.
Early today, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings were seen patrolling the airport in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.
An Associated Press photographer saw military men armed with assault rifles Friday morning patrolling the airport. The men, who were wearing uniforms without any insignia, refused to talk to journalists, and it was not immediately clear who they were.
Yesterday, masked gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles seized the parliament and government offices in Simferopol and raised the Russian flag over the parliament building.
The events in the Crimea region have heightened tensions with neighbouring Russia. It scrambled fighter jets on Thursday to patrol borders in the first stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.
Russia also has granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, after recent deadly protests in Kiev swept in a new government.
Yanukovych has a news conference scheduled Friday in Russia’s south near the Ukrainian border. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday, and he declared yesterday in a statement that he remains Ukraine’s legitimate president.
Ukraine’s parliament yesterday elected a new government led by a pro-Western technocrat who promptly pledged to prevent any national break-up.