Armoured vehicles break into Crimea airbase

2014-03-22 20:56
(Andrew Lubimov, AP)

(Andrew Lubimov, AP)

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Belbek - Armed forces backed by armoured vehicles broke inside a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea on Saturday, firing from automatic weapons into the air, an AFP correspondent saw.

An armoured personnel carrier rammed through the gate of the base, and at least two more broke through the wall as armed men went inside and pointed guns at Ukrainian soldiers.

The sound of stun grenades could be heard coming from the complex.

A man in camouflage and sunglasses then dismantled a camera that provided a live feed of the front gate to the base.

Some of the unarmed Ukrainian soldiers sang the Ukrainian anthem and shouted "Glory to Ukraine!"

The situation later calmed down and the gunmen lowered their weapons and could be seen walking around inside the base.

But the gunmen were hostile to the journalists present and forced AFP to hand over its video memory cards.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian defence ministry in Crimea Vladislav Seleznyov said on Facebook that pro-Russia militia were inside the base.

"The base has been surrounded by [Russian] special forces," he said, citing sources at the scene.

"There is information that one journalist was injured," he added.

Earlier on Saturday the Belbek base wrote on its website that troops inside had received an ultimatum from Russian forces to lay down their weapons and surrender or prepare to be stormed.

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