Thousands of pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators are rallying in front of the parliament building in Simferpol, the capital of Ukraine’s autonomous Crimea region. Scuffles are occasionally breaking out between the two sides in the face-to-face protests.
The rival groups are protesting for and against the new national authorities in Kiev. Part of the residents proclaimed that Crimea will not going to obey Kiev, while the local Muslim community of Crimean Tatars expressed support for the new Ukrainian authorities.
Two separate rallies, consisting of several thousands of protesters, are facing each other. Russians are shouting “Russia-Russia!” and “Berkut!”, the name of the special police task force disbanded yesterday by the new Ukrainian authorities, who blame them for heavy-handed policing of opposition activists in recent months in central Kiev. The Muslim community protesters are shouting “Ukraine-Ukraine!” and “Crimea is not Russia!” Pro-Russian demonstrators are holding Russian flags, while Tatars are holding Ukrainian flags and flags of their own nationalist organizations.
Video footage from the scene appears to show that both sides are preparing for a clash. According to some reports, police who were separating the two sides have left the scene.
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