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Ukrainian Ministers Barred from Crimea

Ukrainian navy HQ stormed by pro-Russia crowd.

Ukrainian first deputy prime minister Vitaly Yarema and defence minister Igor Tenyukh have been prevented from entering Crimean territory, according to social policy minister Lyudmila Denisova.

The National Security and Defence Council is to hold an emergency meeting on this incident and on the situation in Crimea generally.

The Ukrainian navy’s headquarters in Sevastopol was seized today [March 19].

Members of the Crimean self-defence force burst into the headquarters this morning, ejected the servicemen, replaced the Ukrainian flag with a Russian one, and took the Ukrainian naval commander [Sergei Hayduk] away to an unknown location.

Our correspondents describe what happened.

“People in military uniform and civilian clothing have been gathering outside the HQ gates all morning. Talks are going nowhere. The confrontation is becoming an open one.

“The uninvited guests are trying to force their way through the cordon of servicemen using an old UAZ jeep. The Ukrainian servicemen won’t be able to sustain their defence for much longer. Initially they shut themselves inside the building, but later they gathered up their things and started leaving the base.”

Alexander Balanyuk, a serviceman with the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol: “There’s nothing we can do against this crowd. It’s all a bit chaotic. There have been many agreements that neither the Russians nor we would storm [any buildings], and that all issues would be resolved at a political level. As you can see, there has been a forcible takeover. No one discussed any political issues. “

Viktor Melnikov, representative of the Crimean self-defence force: “Everything is going along fine. Not a drop of blood, not a scratch, not a bruise. No one is beating up or assaulting anyone. As you can see, they [Ukrainian troops] are being seen off with applause.”

The attackers are climbing up the flagpoles. In a matter of minute, they take down the Ukrainian flag. There’s a Russian tricolour in its place now. By midday, the entire naval HQ is held by people in Russian military uniform and by the Crimean self-defence force.

Politician Valery Konovalyuk: “It’s been stormed, but that didn’t take long. No one offered up much resistance. The people here were already exhausted from spending days in this situation under blockade. Every effort is now being made to offer support to these officers who have done their duty and remained faithful to their oath. 

“It’s pretty poor, however, that there’s no one here from the Ukrainian defence ministry or the parliamentary committee for security and defence. In the circumstances, they might have entered into negotiations to minimise the consequences which are apparent to all of us.”

The head of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Vice-Admiral Alexander Vitko, is now being welcomed here.

Mikhail Suldin of the Crimean self-defence force: “They’ve already arrived from the Russian fleet, the Crimean fleet. They’ll make the decisions now. 

“They [Ukrainians] put everything in the armoury and they don’t have any weapons. Here you can see an armoured personnel carrier parked up. It’s unarmed, it doesn’t have ammunition. It just rolled up and parked. It’s all good; it’s great.”

The commander of Ukraine’s navy, Sergei Gayduk, was taken away from the HQ. It isn’t clear where he is now.

Yevgeny Onoprienko and Andrei Chernyshkov for the Inter channel’s TV news in Crimea. 

Podrobnosti TV

This article republished from Podrobnosti.ua with kind permission. 

Original report in Russian.