Ukraine warns of military action as Russia’s annexation of Crimea leads to firefight
Kim Sengupta Author Biography
Tuesday 18 March 2014
In an extraordinary day which redrew the map of Europe, fears were growing that widespread violence would erupt in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
An Ukrainian officer was killed in a confrontation in Simferopol, just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an incendiary speech justifying Moscow’s reclamation of the former Ukrainian territory.
Several others were injured and the Ukrainian commander captured as the military facility in the Crimean capital was stormed by troops dressed in Russian camouflage kits and balaclavas.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister warned that “the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage” and claimed that “Russian soldiers have started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and that is a war crime”. His government, he added, has now authorised the use of firearms for its forces surrounded in their bases in Crimea.
However, there were indications that it was the separatist Crimean government’s recently created “Self Defence Forces” who had actually carried out the fatal attack. Local officials, meanwhile, claimed that “fascist snipers” had fired the first shot from a residential building and one of the injured was one of the defence force members.
The Ukrainian and Russian governments had agreed to a ceasefire until 21 March, aimed at preventing hostilities breaking out at the blockaded bases. But there was apprehension that the assault and the resultant death and injuries may break the delicate accord, with highly dangerous consequences.