Russian forces used helicopters and armoured vehicles to seize a marine base in Feodosia, eastern Crimea, early on Monday, bringing one of the last military bases flying a Ukrainian flag on the peninsula under Moscow’s control.
The storming of the base was the third of its kind in three days and came as Russia moved swiftly to consolidate its control over Crimea, which voted to join it in an internationally condemned referendum on March 16, and which President Vladimir Putin formally annexed on March 21.
Vladimir Seleznev, a spokesman for Ukraine’s defence ministry, wrote on his Facebook page that helicopters were seen and gunshots heard over the base from 4:30am on Monday. Russian forces then stormed the base using armoured vehicles and stun grenades, Mr Seleznev said.
First Lieutenant Anatoly Mozgovoy told Reuters that the Ukrainian soldiers inside were unarmed, and the base had been taken over.
Mr Seleznev said that 60 to 80 Ukrainian marines had been taken off the base and detained in the port of Feodosia, where they faced the threat of prosecution.
On Saturday, Russian troops used guns, armoured vehicles and stun grenades to storm Ukrainian troops resisting an order to surrender at an air base in Belbek, near Sevastopol, and also seized a naval aviation base at Novofedorivka in western Crimea. Russian flags were also raised over several Ukrainian ships and the Zaporizhia, the final remaining submarine in Crimea under Kiev’s control.
In all cases, Ukrainian forces have given at best symbolic resistance to the better armed Russian troops and pro-Russian Crimean “self-defence” forces.
The news came as Nato’s top military commander warned on Sunday that Russia was massing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
General Philip Breedlove, commander of US and Nato forces in Europe, said on Sunday that Russian forces just east of Ukraine were large enough to “run” over to Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway Moldovan territory on Ukraine’s southwest border.