Russian Troops Storm Crimea Airbase
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Russian troops smashed their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades, while Ukrainian forces abandoned a naval base after attacks by pro-Russian protesters.
The facilities at Belbek and Novofedorovka had been among the last still under Ukrainian control after Moscow's armed takeover and subsequent annexation of Crimea, which has a majority ethnic Russian population and harbors one of Russia's biggest naval bases.
Armored vehicles smashed through the walls of a compound at the Belbek airbase and bursts of gunfire and grenades rang out, making Saturday's takeover one of the more dramatic of Russia's largely bloodless occupation of Crimea.
Russian forces had already seized Belbek's airstrip and warplanes at the start of the crisis. The compound contained barracks, arms depots and a command building, Reuters reported.
Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.
After the Russians entered by force, Mamchur told his troops he would inform the high command that they had stood their ground. The soldiers applauded, chanting "Long live Ukraine!".
Many stood to take pictures of each other in front of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, which continued to fly over the base.
Asked if he thought he would return safely, Mamchur said: "That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base's storage."
Earlier, an unidentified Russian officer with no rank insignia had gone to the fence to try to negotiate a surrender, but had been rebuffed by a Ukrainian officer with the words: "We have no documents from the Ukrainian president stating that this is Russian soil. Bring me such a document and we will leave."