Crimea crisis: Fears of war grow as Ukrainian officer is killed at military base in Simferopol

Ukraine warns of military action as Russia’s annexation of Crimea leads to firefight

Simferopol

Fears were growing that widespread violence would erupt in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of growing regional tensions.

Clinton called Russia's move to annex Crimea "illegal" and "a violation of international law" and said that other countries near Russia could also face aggression if President Vladimir Putin is allowed to get away with his actions in Ukraine.

"If he's allowed to get away with that, I think you'll see a lot of other countries either directly facing Russian aggression or suborned with their political systems so that they are so intimidated that in effect they are transformed into vassals, not sovereign democracies," Clinton said at an event hosted by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal at the Palais des Congres.

She argued for sanctions against Russia and increased financial and technical support for a democratic government in Kiev.

It came as a Ukrainian officer was killed in a confrontation in Simferopol, just hours after the Russian president delivered an incendiary speech justifying Moscow’s reclamation of the former Ukrainian territory.

Several others were injured and the Ukrainian commander captured as the military facility in the Crimean capital was stormed by troops dressed in Russian camouflage kits and balaclavas.

The Ukrainian Prime Minister warned that  “the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage” and claimed that “Russian soldiers have started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and that is a war crime”. His government, he added, has now authorised the use of firearms for its forces surrounded in their bases in Crimea.

However, there were indications that it was the separatist Crimean government’s recently created “Self Defence Forces” who had actually carried out the fatal attack. Local officials, meanwhile, claimed that “fascist snipers” had fired the first shot from a residential building and one of the injured was one of the defence force members.

The Ukrainian and Russian governments had agreed to a ceasefire until 21 March, aimed at preventing hostilities breaking out at the blockaded bases. But there was apprehension that the assault and the resultant death and injuries may break the delicate accord, with highly dangerous consequences.

The shooting began three and-a-half hours after Mr Putin had claimed Crimea for his country in a speech laced with invectives against the West and a robust reassertion of Russian power. At the end of his 66-minute address , punctuated by repeated applause, came the signing of documents which, the Kremlin declared, transferred control of Crimea from Ukraine to Russia once and for all.

There were expressions of outrage from the US, the European Union and the government in Kiev, but no immediate ratcheting up of the international sanctions Moscow has publicly derided as ineffectual. The G7 group of countries are to hold an emergency summit, at President Barack Obama’s request, in the Hague next week, when announcements of further measures are expected.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen also condemned Russia’s move to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region, saying Moscow had embarked on a “dangerous path”. “Crimea’s annexation is illegal and illegitimate and Nato allies will not recognise it,” he said.

A Crimean woman watches Vladimir Putin address the Russian Federal Assembly (EPA) A Crimean woman watches Vladimir Putin address the Russian Federal Assembly (EPA)
During a visit to Warsaw, the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, accused President Putin of carrying out “nothing but a land grab” adding that “the world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic”. The White House declared that Mosow’s actions “are in violation of international law and Ukrainian constitution.”

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: “It is completely unacceptable for Russia to use force to change borders based on a sham referendum held at the barrel of a Russian gun.”

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that the referendum, the declaration of independence and Crimea’s “absorption into the Russian Federation” were “against international law”. France has threatened to halt the sale of two warships to Russia.

President Putin’s speech and the signing ceremony with the Crimean Prime Minister, Sergei Aksyonov, who had come to power in a putsch, had drawn a rapturous crowd at Simferpol’s Lenin Square which regularly burst into chants of “Russia, Russia”. They heard the President stress: “There was not one single military confrontation in Crimea, there were no victims.”

President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin (AP) President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin (AP)
Later, around a dozen troops arrived in two vehicles without registration numbers and started moving towards the base of the Mapping and Navigation Service at Kubanskaya Street. There were two prolonged bursts of gunfire, followed by several single shots. Soon afterwards soldiers inside started calling journalists.

One wanted to reveal: “A serviceman, Ukrainian, has been wounded in the neck and collarbone. Now we have barricaded ourselves on the second floor. The headquarters has been taken and the commander has been taken. They want us to put down our arms, but we don’t intend to surrender.”

The officer, believed to be a Captain Valentin Fedun, was later taken to a hospital for treatment. His father-in-law said the armed men had asked the Ukrainian soldiers to take their flag and depart before the shooting had started.

The dead Ukrainian officer is thought to have been outside the base when he was gunned down. The commander, Colonel Andriy Andryushin, and his remaining men were disarmed and arrested.

Local authorities presented a different version of what had taken place. A police officer said: “There were snipers who were using peoples’ homes to start shooting, that was the provocation. One of those injured was from the Self Defence Forces.” 

Ukraine’s acting President, Oleksandr Turchynov, said: “We would like to warn President Putin, who is personally responsible for this act of provocation, that the political leadership of the Russian Federation will have to answer to the entire world for the crimes which they are committing today on the territory of our country.” The Russian annexation of Crimea, he said, echoed Nazi Germany’s takeover of Austria and Sudetenland.

At the Kremlin, it was President Putin who had accused the Ukrainian government, which came to power after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, as being riddled with “neo-Nazis” and “anti-semites” and having no legitimate authority.

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines