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Ukraine crisis: Russian forces seize part of Ukrainian missile units

Published on Mar 5, 2014 5:31 PM
Members of the Russian forces stand guard at the gateway of the Ukrainian unit in the small Crimean city of Kerch on Wednesday, March 4, 2014. Russian forces have seized part of a Ukrainian missile defence unit in the disputed Black Sea peninsula, a local spokesman for Ukraine's defence ministry told AFP on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AFP) - Russian forces partly seized two Ukrainian missile defence units in Crimea on Wednesday, Ukrainian defence ministry officials told AFP, insisting that their missiles remained under Ukrainian control. 

At one base in Cape Fiolent, near the city of Sevastopol in southern Crimea, Russian soldiers hold some parts of the base although the missile depot remains in Ukrainian hands, Mr Volodymyr Bova, a defence ministry spokesman in the disputed Black Sea peninsula, told AFP.

Pro-Moscow forces are also in partial control of a second base in Evpatoria, which does not have missiles on its grounds.

Ukrainian soldiers still held the command post and control centre there, said another spokesman for the defence ministry in Kiev, Mr Oleksey Mazepa.

The takeovers seemed to have occurred without any violence, officials said.

Some 20 Russian soldiers, backed by hundreds of pro-Moscow forces, had already tried to occupy the Evpatoria base on Tuesday evening, leading to some skirmishes although no shots were fired.

Russian-speaking Crimea has come under de-facto control by pro-Russian forces since the ousting of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of a new pro-European government in Kiev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, continues to deny there are any Russians operating in Crimea, insisting that gunmen whom many have identified as Russian soldiers were in fact “local self-defence forces.”