Russian forces fired warning shots in to the air as ranks of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers marched towards them at Belbek air base in Crimea on Tuesday (March 4).
Russian troops backed by armoured personnel carriers took over Belbek military airport near the port of Sevastopol last Friday (February 28). Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in Sevastopol.
On Tuesday a column of Ukrainian soldiers marched towards the Russian forces while chanting and carrying the Ukrainian flag. As they approached the line of armed Russian soldiers and military vehicles guarding the base, the Russian forces fired warning shots into the air and warned them not to approach any further.
Once the Ukrainian soldiers reached the line of Russian forces, the Ukrainian and Russian commanders spoke as armed Russian soldiers surrounded them. There were no incidents.
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Published time: February 27, 2014 04:51
Edited time: March 02, 2014 19:57
With its multinational society and a long history of conquests, the Crimean Peninsula has always been a crossroads of cultures – and a hotbed of conflicts. Amid Ukrainian turmoil, every ethnic group of Crimeans has its own vision of the region’s future.
What is Crimea?
Now known as Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the picturesque peninsula shooting out into Black Sea from mainland Ukraine was for centuries colonized and conquered by historic empires and nomadic tribes. Greeks, Scythians, Byzantians and the Genoese have all left traces of their presence in Crimean archeological sites and placenames.
The City of Sevastopol on the Black Sea shore, the Crimea.(RIA Novosti / Igor Mikhalev)
The Russian Empire annexed the territory of Crimea in the last quarter of the 18th century, after a number of bloody wars with the Ottoman Empire.
As part of the 1774 Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty the Crimean Khanate, previously subordinate to Ottomans and notorious for its brutal and perpetual slave raids into East Slavic lands, aligned itself with Russia. Soon Empress Catherine the Great abolished the Crimean Khanate, giving them a historic Greek name of Taurida.
Soviet citizens got to know Crimea as an “all-Union health resort,” with many of those born in the Soviet Union sharing nostalgic memories of children’s holiday camps and seaside.
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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