Mar 22, 2014 No Comments ›› Chuck Biscuits
Soldiers in unmarked uniforms sit atop APC at the gate of the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Pro-Russian forces stormed the Ukrainian Belbek air force base in Crimea, firing shots and smashing through concrete walls with armored personnel carriers, according to an Associated Press journalist. At least one person was wounded, the base commander said. AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Fox News has confirmed on-the-air that 1 Ukrainian soldier was indeed wounded.
BELBEK AIR BASE, Crimea (AP) — Pro-Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian air force base in Crimea, firing shots and smashing through concrete walls with armored personnel carriers. At least one person was wounded, the base commander said.
An APC also smashed open the front gate of the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol, according to footage provided by the Ukrainian Defense ministry. Two ambulances arrived and then departed shortly after, and at least one of them was carrying what appeared to be a wounded person, an Associated Press journalist said.
The Ukrainian commander of the base, Yuliy Mamchur, said there was at least one injury. He called his men together, they sang the Ukrainian national anthem and then stood at ease. He said they are going to turn over their weapons.
Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military facilities for several days in the Black Sea peninsula, which voted a week ago to secede and join Russia.
Elsewhere, more than 5,000 pro-Russia residents of a major city in Ukraine’s east demonstrated in favor of holding a referendum on whether to seek to split off and become part of Russia.
The rally in Donetsk came less than a week after the Ukrainian region of Crimea approved secession in a referendum regarded as illegitimate by Western countries. After the referendum, Russia formally annexed Crimea.
With Crimea now effectively under the control of Russian forces, which ring Ukrainian military bases on the strategic Black Sea peninsula, concern is rising that Ukraine’s eastern regions will agitate for a similar move.
Russia has brought large military contingents to areas near the border with eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no intention to move into eastern Ukraine, but the prospect of violence between pro- and anti-secession groups in the east could be used as a pretext for sending in troops.
Eastern Ukraine is the heartland of Ukraine’s economically vital heavy industry and mining. It’s also the support base for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who fled to Russia last month after three months of protests in the capital, Kiev, triggered by his decision not to sign an agreement with the European Union.
Russia and Yanukovych supporters contend Yanukovych’s ouster was a coup and allege that the authorities who then came to power are nationalists who would oppress the east’s large ethnic Russian population.
“They’re trying to tear us away from Russia,” said demonstrator Igor Shapoval, a 59-year-old businessman. “But Donbass is ready to fight against this band which already lost Crimea and is losing in the east.”
Novofedorivka (Undefined) (AFP) – About 200 pro-Russian protesters on Saturday stormed a Ukrainian air force base in western Crimea, forcing the soldiers to leave as the Ukrainian flag was taken down.
The unarmed crowd yelling “Russia! Russia!” broke through to the base in the town of Novofedorivka and started smashing windows.
Ukrainian servicemen barricaded themselves inside buildings and threw smoke bombs at the intruders from the roof. Some of the people threw the smoke bombs back at the soldiers.
Russian officers stood outside watching as the protesters took down the Ukrainian flag and put up the white and blue flag of the Russian navy.
“It’s my unit and I have to protect it!” a Ukrainian soldier yelled to the Russian officers from the roof.
A Russian military officer then went inside the building to negotiate with the Ukrainians as the crowd of protesters were told to leave. Several dozen soldiers were later seen walking out of the base, leaving it empty, with Russian soldiers standing outside.
The spokesman of the Ukraine defence ministry in Crimea, Vladislav Seleznyov, cited sources at the base as saying that the attackers were mostly non-locals.
“There are some locals among the attackers, but a lot of non-locals. We do not recognise these faces,” the source from the base said, according to Seleznyov.