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Pro-Russian militias seize Ukraine's Crimean navy HQ

Published on Mar 19, 2014 7:13 PM
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard inside the navy headquarters in Simferopol on March 18, 2014. Pro-Russian forces used a tractor to ram through the gate of a Ukrainian navy base in western Crimea on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, seizing control of the entrance, Ukraine's defence ministry said. -- PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - Pro-Russian forces captured Ukraine's naval commander after seizing his headquarters in Crimea on Wednesday as Moscow's grip tightened on the peninsula despite Western warnings its "annexation" would not go unpunished.

Kiev said it was dispatching its defence minister but Crimea's regional leader said he would be barred from entry amid mounting tensions in a region at the epicentre of the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

Dozens of despondent Ukrainian soldiers - one of them in tears - filed out of the Ukraine's main navy base in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol after its storming by hundreds of pro-Kremlin protesters and Russian troops.

"We have been temporarily disbanded," a Ukrainian lieutenant who identified himself only as Vlad told AFP.

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