Tensions Build As Pro-Russia Forces Enter Ukrainian Navy Base

March 19, 2014

There’s another potentially dangerous situation developing in Crimea, where Russian flags have been raised at Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the port of Sevastopol.

NPR’s Gregory Warner, who is in Sevastopol, reports that a large group of armed men entered the base early Wednesday. It couldn’t immediately be confirmed whether they were members of a pro-Russia militia, Russian soldiers or perhaps a combination of the two. As of midday in Crimea, there were no reports of shots being fired. CBS News writes that “the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was seen arriving at the base for talks. Ukrainian sailors were seen filing out of the base shortly after, carrying bags full of their belongings.”

This follows Tuesday’s shooting at a Ukrainian military base near the Crimean city of Simferopol. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and another was wounded. It isn’t clear who fired the shots, but Crimean officials have said they believe it was members of a local militia group and that some of them have been taken into custody by Russian soldiers.

These incidents come after Tuesday’s move by Russia to annex Crimea — an act that Ukraine’s new government and its allies from the U.S. and European Union say they won’t recognize and that has prompted sanctions aimed at hurting some Russian officials financially.

As Gregory adds, Russian officials have given the Ukrainian military a deadline of Friday to pull out of Crimea or defect and join the Russian army. It isn’t clear what will happen if Ukraine doesn’t comply. So far, the new government in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev has declined to order its troops to leave the region.

As the crisis in Ukraine has developed over recent weeks, we’ve tracked developments. Here’s a recap:

Crimea has been the focus of attention as the ripple effects of the protests that led to last month’s ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have spread.

Summing up the history and importance of Crimea to Russia and Ukraine isn’t possible in just a few sentences, of course. The Parallels blog, though, has published several posts that contain considerable context:

Crimea: 3 Things To Know About Ukraine’s Latest Hot Spot

Crimea: A Gift To Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point

Why Ukraine Is Such A Big Deal For Russia

We’ve recapped what set off months of protest in Kiev and ultimately led to Yanukovych’s dismissal by his nation’s parliament last month this way:

“The protests were sparked in part by the president’s rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption.”

It was after Yanukovych left Kiev and headed for the Russian border that troops moved to take control of strategic locations in Crimea.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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