- A dozen Russian soldiers fired warning shots as 300 unarmed Ukrainian soldiers marched to Belbek air base
- The Ukrainian troops were employed at the air base before Russians forces seized control over the weekend
- Stand-off comes as both Russia and Ukraine send warships into the Bosphorus straits, heading towards Crimea
- Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Arseny
Yatseniuk now says his country is taking part in ‘high-level’ talks with Russia
- Putin said there is no
need for violence but insisted he has the right to use ‘all means’ to protect Russians in Crimea
- U.S announces a $1billion energy aid
package for Ukraine while Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in country
- Russia test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) today – but US were informed prior to launch
and Lizzie Edmonds
04:42 EST, 4 March 2014
04:32 EST, 5 March 2014
This is the moment Russian troops guarding an air base in Crimea fired warning shots into the air as they were approached by unarmed Ukrainian troops.
About a dozen Russian soldiers at the Belbek air base warned the Ukrainians, who previously employed at the base until Russians seized control over the weekend, not to get any closer.
The troops fired several warning shots into the air and said they would shoot the 300-strong group of Ukrainian soldiers if they continued to advance.
Despite the tense stand-off, hopes for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis were raised today after the two countries’ ministers began ‘high level’ talks.
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Shots fired: A Russian soldier is seen firing warning shots into the air as his colleagues point their guns at the unarmed Ukrainian soldiers
Tense: Russian troops in control of the Belbek air base in the Crimea region fired warning shots into the air as around 300 Ukrainian soldiers demanded their jobs back
Hold fire: A Russian soldier restrains a colleague after he fired his weapon into the air and screamed orders at an approaching group of unarmed Ukrainian troops
Stand-off: Around 300 Ukrainian troops, led by Colonel Yuli Mamchor (left), march towards Belbek air base to confront occupying Russian soldiers
Leader: Colonel Yuli Mamchor (right), commander of the Ukrainian military garrison, speaks to gun-wielding Russian troops occupying the Belbek airbase in Crimea
Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Arseny
Yatseniuk has said his country were taking part in talks with Russia -
but gave no further detail.
He then reiterated his view that
Russia should withdraw forces from the region.
came as Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was currently no
need for further violence in Ukraine – but added he reserves the
right to use ‘all means’ to protect Russian speakers in the country.
The US president said his Russian counterpart was ‘not fooling anybody’ when he denied sending his troops into the Crimea.
Despite clear evidence they were Russian, Mr Putin claims soldiers seen in the peninsula are ‘local forces of self defence’.
He cautioned the international
community about the potential consequences of any sanctions, saying: ‘In
our modern world, everybody depends on everybody. It is possible to
harm each other but it will be a mutual harm.’
were more reports yesterday of Ukrainian troops in Crimea defecting to
Russia and Mr Putin said: ‘Ukraine is not only our closest neighbour but
it is our fraternal republic, our fraternal neighbour and our armed
forces are brothers in arms, friends.
know each other personally and I am sure that Ukrainian military and
Russian military are not going to be on different sides of the
barricades, they are going to be on the same side.
Stop: This Russian soldier is believed to have ordered the unarmed Ukrainian troops to stop advancing towards them or he would shoot
Outnumbered: The dozen Russian troops fired several warning shots into the air and said they would shoot the 300 Ukrainian soldiers (left) if they continued to march
Hidden: A group of mostly-masked pro-Russian militants arrived at the air base shortly after the stand-off, as Russian-led troops blockade Ukrainian military bases
Marksmen: A Russian soldier guards the occupied Belbek airbase after Ukrainian troops marched on the area earlier today
Support: Shortly after the stand-off, a group of masked pro-Russian troops arrived (left) to provide backup to the dozen or so Russian soldiers (right) on the site
Colonel Yuli Mamchor (centre), commander of the Ukrainian military garrison at the Belbek air base, leads his unarmed troops to retake the airfield from Russian soldiers
Honour: Colonel Yuli Mamchor gives a salute to a Ukrainian flag before leading around 300 unarmed troops towards the Belbek airfield
The action saw the stock markets rebound after dipping due to tensions in the region yesterday.
Russian stocks and the rouble were up, while gold and the Japanese yen fell. European
stocks rose, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index up 1.8
percent – recouping over half of Monday’s losses driven largely by the
all-country world stocks index, which tracks stocks in 45 countries, was
up half a percent. U.S. stock index futures were up more than 1 percent
– suggesting a higher open on Wall Street.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Ukraine for a five-hour show of support for the fledgling
government in the country.
arrival came as the U.S has formally announced a $1billion energy aid
package for Ukraine – a serious indication it is about to announce
economic sanctions against Russia.
The package will include energy aid, training for
financial and election institutions, and anti-corruption efforts.
officials traveling with Kerry also said the Obama administration is
considering hitting Russia with unspecified economic sanctions as soon
as this week.
added that the U.S. has suspended what was described as a narrow set of
discussions with Russia over a bilateral trade investment treaty.
It is also going to provide technical advice to the Ukraine government about its trade rights with Russia.
Intimidating: An armed Russian serviceman stands behind a line of pro-Russian activists at the Belbek Sevastopol International Airport
A pro-Russian activist (left) stands guard at the air base while armed Russian soldiers (right) watch Ukrainian troops relaxing and playing football on the airfield
Moment of peace: Russian soldiers watch Ukrainian servicemen play football following the tense stand-off at Belbek airport
Keeping calm: Ukrainian servicemen play with a football near Russian military vehicles at the Belbek Sevastopol International Airport
During his visit, Kerry was to pay
homage to the dozens of protesters who were killed on February 20 in
anti-government demonstrations that days later ousted Ukraine President
Russia last night said it had successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile – further fuelling tensions over its virtual takeover of the Crimea.
The country’s Strategic Rocket Forces launched an RS-12M Topol missile from the southerly Astrakhan region near the Caspian Sea and the dummy warhead hit its target at a proving ground in Kazakhstan.
The US said it had been notified of the launch before it took place, as required by arms treaties. The Topol was fired around 6pm yesterday, the defence ministry in Moscow said. It added: ‘The aim of the launch was to test a promising intercontinental ballistic missile payload.’
Tests of the missile, one of Russia’s newest, are not unusual but the timing of the launch is controversial. A US military official said: ‘We had been notified of this test earlier this week. It’s not unexpected.’
The 60ft missile has a range of 6,200 miles and – according to Russian military observers – is designed to be immune to any current or planned US missile defence systems.
A girl plays with a balloon near an armed man, believed to be Russian servicemen, near the gates of a Ukrainian military unit in Crimea
A Ukrainian soldier inside the seized Belbek military base gets an affectionate pet from a woman on the outside
Armed Pro-Russian soldiers guard an Ukraine’s infantry base the region – while a group of others march off towards some military vehicles
An armed man in military uniform sits atop of an Russian ‘GAZ Tigr’ infantry mobility vehicle, outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit
A Russian soldier sits on top of a military armoured personnel carrier (APC). Putin said today he had ordered troops in Crimea to return to their bases
The launch site, Kapustin Yar, is near the Volga river about 280 miles east of the Ukrainian border. Russia and the US signed the latest of a series of treaties restricting the numbers of ICBMs in 2010.
Moscow has indicated that it will agree further cuts in the near future.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said secret documents which
revealed Britain would not impose sanctions or support military action
against Russia do ‘not necessarily’ reflect the Government’s final
decision on the crisis.
told MPs all options remain open after the leaked document, reportedly
photographed as it was carried in to Downing Street, appeared to reveal
initial opposition to trade sanctions.
television presenter for a Russian television channel was today told to
go to Crimea by her bosses after she spoke out about the conflict.
Martin said Russia was ‘wrong’ for its action in Ukraine. Russia Today,
the channel she works for, then said they were sending her to the
region to ‘make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story.’
Ukrainian forces at the tense stand-off which took the Belbek air base were led by
Colonel Yuli Mamchor, commander of the Ukrainian military garrison at
He was seen speaking to gun-wielding troops at the air
base while Ukrainian troops advanced.Warning shots were then fired in tense and dramatic scenes.
One Russian soldier says: ‘I want your officer here. We’ll be shooting your legs.
A Ukrainian soldier responds: ‘You will pay for this. You’ll be responsible.’
Another adds: ‘America stands with us.’
The Russian soldier then replies: ‘Commander, calm down your crowd.’
moments later, the Ukrainian soldiers arrange a quick game of football -
while the Russians observed, looking decidedly unimpressed.
Mr Putin said today 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea have ‘dispersed’.
the Russian president showed no signs of loosening the stranglehold on
the Crimean peninsula, openly defying the threat of diplomatic and
economic sanctions from world leaders.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lights a candle and lays roses atop the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev
John Kerry and U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt light candles and lay roses in Kiev for those who died in protests
Cameras gather round John Kerry as he pays tribute to victims of recent anti-government protests in Independence Square
U.S. President Barack Obama answers a question after it was announced the country would deliver $1billion in aid to the region
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a news conference and said he saw no need to use military force in the Crimea region for now
He later described events in Ukraine as an ‘anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power’ at a press conference this morning, adding that ‘militants’ had plunged the country into ‘chaos’.
Putin added that there is currently no need for Russian troops to extend further into Ukraine than Crimea, but he has not ruled out doing so.
Russia reserves the right to use ‘all means’ to protect citizens in Ukraine, he told a news conference.
Putin added that if Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine asked for help, then Moscow would respond, saying: ‘If we see this anarchy beginning in the eastern regions we reserve the right to use all means’.
He also insisted that ousted Viktor Yanukovych was still the legitimate president of Ukraine, accused the West of encouraging the street protests that had ousted him, and added that Yanukovych would have been killed without Russia’s help.
Location: Belbek is in the south west corner of the Crimean peninsula, close to the port city of Sevastopol
Conflict: Occupying Russian soldiers stand on command in front of Ukrainian murals at Belbek air base, deep in the heart of the Crimea
Keeping warm: Following the air base stand-off, armed Russian troops huddled together in small groups to keep warm as they stood guard
Ukrainian servicemen wait for orders at Belbek air base after a tense stand-off with occupying Russian troops
Keeping watch: Russian soldiers train their guns on unarmed Ukrainian servicemen at Belbek airport
Russian servicemen stand guard in front of a Ukrainian mural shortly after facing off against troops who had tried to reclaim the air base
Unarmed: None of the Ukrainian servicemen (pictured) were carrying weapons when the warning shots from Russian troops were fired
Threat: About a dozen Russian soldiers (pictured) have been stationed at the base since the weekend. They warned the advancing Ukrainians not to approach them
Dispute: Ukraine has effectively lost control of the Crimean peninsula and admits it has ‘no military options’ to make Moscow withdraw from the region
Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will meet EU leaders on Thursday ahead of an emergency summit the same day on the crisis in his country, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said.
EU leaders ‘will discuss situation in Ukraine with PM Yatsenyuk in Brussels Thursday prior to extraordinary summit,’ Van Rompuy said on Twitter this morning.
Earlier in the day, two Russian warships on their way to Crimea passed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus straits.
The Saratov and Yamal warships, which are usually based in the Mediterranean, were seen sailing unaccompanied through the Marmara Sea before entering the straits at around 7.30am local time.
At the same time as the Russian warships headed towards the Crimea, a Ukrainian ship called ‘Hetman Sahaidachny entered the straits at Canakkale in Turkey.
The head of Ukraine’s security service also this morning suggested the country has come under a number of cyber attacks from illegal telecommunications equipment installed in Crimea since Russian troops moved into the region.
Valentyn Nalivaichenko said the mobile phones of lawmakers had been hit by the cyber attacks.
The Kremlin, which does not recognise the new Ukrainian leadership, insists it made the move to protect millions of Russians living in the region, with Moscow’s UN envoy adding that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych had asked the country to send troops across the border.
Ukraine has effectively lost control of the Crimean peninsula and admits it has ‘no military options’ to make Moscow withdraw.
Ready for talks: Ukrainian servicemen wait for orders at Belbek airport after arriving at the base for negotiations with Russian soldiers
Negotiations: Colonel Yuli Mamchor walks past armed Russian soldiers as he returns to his Ukrainian troops. He had just been speaking with Russian troop leaders
Calm: Colonel Yuli Mamchor, the leader of the unarmed Ukrainian troops involved in the stand-off, calmly chats with armed Russian soldiers
Heavily armed and camouflaged Russian soldiers duck beneath a small mound as the unarmed Ukrainian troops arrived at the site
Taking a break: Unarmed Ukrainian troops rest on the Belbek airfield after they confronted soldiers under Russian command
Brave: Unarmed Ukrainian troops (pictured) confronted the heavily armed Russian soldiers who have been occupying Belbek air base
Unarmed: A Ukrainian solider chats on his mobile phone as a group of 300 march on Belbelk air base with the intention of reclaiming it from Russian troops
Taking back Belbek: The unarmed Ukrainian soldiers line-up for photographs before marching towards the armed Russian troops
Waiting around: Unarmed Ukrainian troops rest on the Belbek airfield after confronting Russian soldiers who have been occupying the base in Crimea
Loyal: Unarmed Ukrainian troops carry the flag of their regiment alongside the Ukrainian flag as they marched on Belbek air base
Liberate: Around 300 Ukrainian troops arrived at the base hoping to reclaim it from the dozen or so Russian soldiers occupying the site
Earlier this morning, two Russian warships on their way to Crimea passed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus straits
The Saratov and Yamal warships, which are usually based in the Mediterranean, were seen sailing unaccompanied through the Marmara Sea before entering the straits
At the same time as the Russian warships headed towards the Crimea, a Ukrainian ship called ‘Hetman Sahaidachny’ entered the straits at Canakkale in Turkey
Ukrainian troops watch as Russian Navy ships bloc the entrance of the navy base in Sevastopol
The Russian foreign minister said Russian troops were protecting people from ‘ultra-nationalist threats’ and would be staying put.
Justifying military action, Sergei Lavrov said: ‘This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life.’
The disclosure of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s support for Russian military intervention was made at the third emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council since Friday.
Moscow’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told a Security Council meeting Yanukovych wrote to Putin on Saturday requesting Russian troops be sent into Ukraine.
It came amid fears that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine.
Russia faced demands from almost all council members to pull its troops out of Crimea and got no support for its military action from close ally China.