Russia reportedly seizes a Ukrainian military base, begins air drills in Crimea

For additional information from a second source, please see the following article: Report: Russian soldiers storm Ukrainian military base in Crimea

Armed men believed to be Russian seized a Ukrainian military base in Crimea Friday, triggering a standoff but no gunfire in the latest incident of escalating tension in the flashpoint peninsula.

The move followed reports earlier in the day that Russia had begun large-scale air defense drills.

Witnesses say Russian troops broke through the gate of a missile defense base with a military vehicle, trying to break into a command post, but no shots were fired, Interfax Ukraine reported.

Initial Reuters reports said the truck had pushed through the gates of a post in the city of Sevastopol, but there were no signs of damage. There was conflicting information about the circumstances of the raid.

A Ukrainian military official, Vladislav Seleznyov, told Reuters the armed men took over the base without any shooting and no one appeared hurt. Another Ukrainian official told Reuters at the post that he was now mediating between Ukrainian forces and the armed group inside.

About 100 Ukrainian troops are stationed at the base in Sevastopol, Interfax reported, citing a duty officer and Ukraine’s defense ministry. About 20 “attackers” threw stun grenades, the report said.

The Ukrainians barricaded themselves inside one of their barracks, and their commander began negotiations, Interfax said.

Crimea’s pro-Russia premier, Sergei Aksyonov, said all was calm when he was asked about the incident during a live political chat show on Ukranian television, Reuters said.

He described the armed men as “self-defense units” and said they were surrounded by journalists and “there are no attempts to attack.”

Earlier Friday, there were reports Russia had begun large-scale air defense drills as tensions remained high over the fate of Crimea.

Roughly 3,500 troops and more than 1,000 units of military hardware will be hosted for about a month in Kapustin Yar, some 280 miles east of the Ukrainian border. The exercise by Russia’s Western Military District, according to a report from RIA Novosti, will culminate with live-firing drills and deployment of air defense systems.

“It is for the first time that all air defense units from the district, including coastal defenses of the Northern Fleet, have gathered in one place,” district spokesman Col. Oleg Kochetkov said, adding that the drills were part of regular training cycles. “It is the largest-ever exercise held by air defense units of the Western Military District.”

Full article: Russia reportedly seizes a Ukrainian military base, begins air drills in Crimea (Fox News)

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