Ukraine: Crimea Parliament seized and Russian armored vehicles on the move

Kyiv Post

Armed men storm government buildings in Crimea; two dead, 30 injured during confrontations (UPDATE)

February 27, 2014

Ukraine’s Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov put police and security forces on alert after buildings of the Crimean parliament and administration were seized just before dawn on Feb. 27 by an unknown armed group. Two persons were killed and more than 30 people were injured in clashes on Feb. 26-27, according to officials. Thousands gathered in front of the parliament building with crowds split between those supporting the new government appointed by parliament in Kyiv and those calling for integration with Russia. The buildings of the Crimean Council of Ministers and the Crimean parliament were seized by an unknown group of 120 armed men at around 4 a.m., according to Crimea Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilyov, the nation’s former prime minister and a longtime loyalist of ousted President Viktor Yanukovch. Mogilyov and UDAR party lawmaker Serhiy Kunitsyn said the men were professionally trained individuals with automatic weapons. “More than 120 armed men entered the Crimean Supreme Council and the Crimean government. These professionally trained people are armed. They brought weapons – automatic weapons, grenade launchers, and machine guns,” Kunitsyn said, speaking from the parliament rostrum in Kyiv on Feb. 27.

“They have enough weapons to defend (the buildings) for a month,” he added.

Reuters news agency quoted an ethnic Russian on the scene as saying some of the armed men fired their weapons during seizure of the buildings. “We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol … we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window,” Leonid Khazanov told Reuters. “They’re still there … Then the police came, they seemed scared. I asked them (the armed men) what they wanted and they said ‘To make our own decisions, not to have Kyiv telling us what to do,'” Khazanov added. Mustafa Jemilov, former head of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar people, said in Ukraine’s parliament on Feb. 27 that the men occupying the crimean government buildings “came by buses from Sevastopol.” “There are reports of movement of armed vehicles from the Russian fleet in different directions,” he said. “We also got signals that in many hotels there are Russian soldiers in civilian clothes. This all is very alarming.”

He said that the Russian General Consul denied all involvement in the incident. “But they would hardly tell truth,” he added. Jemilov believes the group of armed men come from one of two camps: “either they are Russian soldiers, or former Berkut soldiers who with allegiances to Russia.” Crimea is the last bastion of opposition to the newly formed government in Kyiv after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22. Russia’s Black Sea fleet is stationed in the port of Sevastopol. Crimea is also home to more than a million ethnic Russians, as well as ethnic Urkainains and Tatars, a group victimized by Soviet ruler Josef Stalin during World War II, whose first language is Russian. Russia’s foreign ministry said through a statement that the Kremlin was prepared to defend the rights of its compatriots and would react appropriately to any violation of them. Russian President Vladimir Putin has thus far not responded to some calls by ethnic Russians in Crimea to reclaim the peninsula, which was turned over to Soviet Ukraine in 1954.

Source = Kyiv Post

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