Ukraine crisis: Armed men hoist Russian flag after seizing Crimea Parliament

Sixty people occupying the buildings have not yet made demands but have reportedly put up signs saying 'Crimea is Russia'

Armed men have seized the regional government headquarters and parliament on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula this morning, blockading the door to parliament and preventing anyone from entering.

The Russian flag has been raised over the two buildings in the capital, Simferopol. Ukraine security forces are now on alert after the building was overtaken during the early hours of this morning.

Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov condemned the take-over as a "crime against the government of Ukraine."

"Unidentified people with automatic weapons, explosives and grenades have taken over the governmental buildings and the Parliament building in the autonomous region of Crimea," he said.

"I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has now summoned Russia's acting envoy in Kiev and called for immediate consultations with Moscow. It said in a written statement that the envoy, Andrei Vorobyov, had been handed a note requesting that Russian military based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol stay on base.

Interfax news agency quoted a witness as saying there were about 60 people inside and that they had many weapons. It said no-one has been hurt.

No demands have been made from those inside the building, although a sign saying “Crimea is Russia” has now been put up.

In a statement on his Facebook, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the area in Simferopol had been cordoned off by police to prevent the situation from “escalating into an armed confrontation” and described those occupying the buildings as “provocateurs”.

One man told the Reuters news agency he had heard gunfire during the night and saw “lots of people” entering the building. “Some then left. I'm not sure how many are still in there,” he said.

Another witness said: "We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol ... we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window.

"They're still there ... Then the police came, they seemed scared. I asked them (the armed men) what they wanted and they said: 'to make our own decisions, not to have Kiev telling us what to do.'"

Crimea is the only region with an ethnic Russian majority in Ukraine and maintains close ties with Russia after being transferred to Ukraine in 1954 in the Soviet-era by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The Russian Foreign Ministry promised to defend the rights of its compatriots in a "strong and uncompromising" manner on its Twitter page after the building was seized.

"Russia's Foreign Ministry will continue to defend in the international arena the rights of its compatriots, it will strongly and uncompromisingly react when they are violated," the ministry said

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s interim president Oleksandr Turchynov voiced his concerns over separatism in regions such as Crimea following the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr Yanukovych was ousted on Saturday after three months of unrest led by protesters in Kiev. He has since fled the area and is wanted by authorities over the violence that led to the deaths of over 80 people during three days of bloody clashes.

Crimea was the site of protests against the new government yesterday, when ethnic Tatars who support Ukraine's new leaders and pro-Russia separatists had confronted each other outside the regional parliament.

A local Tatar leader, Refat Chubarov, said on Facebook: "I have been told that the buildings of parliament and the council of ministers have been occupied by armed men in uniforms that do not bear any recognisable insignia."

"They have not yet made any demands," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'