Ukraine crisis: New face of Crimea revealed after naval base is stormed

Kim Sengupta reports on masked troops, insulting acts, humiliated sailors – and a missing admiral

Sevastopol

The marines and sailors who came out of the base were drained and dejected, eager to get away as fast as possible from the scene of their humiliation. Their Ukrainian base now had a Russian flag flying over it, the entrance guarded by masked troops claiming to be from the Kremlin’s intelligence directorate.

Watching them, tears welling, Irina Vorodinova whispered: “I am proud of them. They have done all they could. They shouldn’t have to leave like this.” Her son, a captain, was still inside. Her husband, a retired captain, was at another gate, also anxiously waiting for news. “Our family, our parents, have been in the military. Now our men are being treated like this. It’s not right,” she said.

The servicemen and women had mostly put on civilian clothes to leave the Ukrainian naval headquarters at Sevastopol. The few willing to speak, away from the cameras, were deeply apprehensive of the future; some claimed the Russians had broken an agreement to give those in the headquarters more time, and the men who had stormed in had been aggressive and insulting. One, Sasha, said: “ They came in when we were having breakfast and started throwing things on the floor.

 

"These were not Russians, but Samoobrona [members of the separatist Self-Defence Force]. They were trying to provoke us: they accused us of being traitors because we would not change sides; I have no wish to join any side they are on.”

Read more: EU's tough choices in face of Putin’s unwavering resolve
Comment: We spit venom at Russia, but lack a bite
Editorial: The best we can do for Ukraine is help it prosper

The fall of the Sevastopol base was a bitter blow to Ukraine: it had been the symbol of a proud fleet and also what was left of the tattered command and control of its forces in Crimea.

It saw Ukraine bow to the seemingly inevitable with Andriy Parubiy, its national security chief, saying they were “developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine”.

Pro-Russian troops surround a military base in Perevalnoe (Getty) Pro-Russian troops surround a military base in Perevalnoe (Getty)
Sevastopol was the main point of communications with the Russians and the man who had been in charge of that liaison, Serhiy Hayduk, the commander of Ukraine’s Black Sea Fleet, is now missing. He was originally held by members of the Self-Defence Force, who accused him of “keeping people under his command prisoners” and threatened that he would face trial. He was said to have been taken away by officers from the Russian security service, the FSB.

Admiral Hayduk’s whereabouts remains unknown. The prosecutor’s office at Sevastopol denied reports that he was under arrest facing criminal charges; they also denied any knowledge that he had been taken out of the city.

Tonight, Ukraine’s acting President, Olexander Turchynov, gave the Crimean authorities three hours to release the navy chief and “ all other hostages”. It remained unclear what exactly he intended to do if they, and their Russian sponsors, failed to comply with the ultimatum. Events over the past weeks have highlighted Kiev’s impotence in this breakaway state now annexed by Russia.

Earlier the acting Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had declared the confrontation had moved from a political to a military phase, said he was sending his deputy, Vitaly Yarema, and the acting Defence Minister, Ihor Tenyukh, to Crimea to “resolve the situation”. The state’s Prime Minister, Sergei Aksyonov, responded: “Nobody will let them in; they will be sent back.” And that was the end of that initiative.

Pro-Russian forces take down Ukrainian flags at the naval base in Sevastopol (AP) Pro-Russian forces take down Ukrainian flags at the naval base in Sevastopol (AP)
Meanwhile, Admiral Hayduk’s opposite number in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Alexandr Vitko, visited the headquarters to resounding cheers. It is thought that other bases that had been holding out against the Russians may now be taken over. The storming of the Sevastopol base had been preceded by an attack on a mapping and navigation centre in the state capital, Simferopol, in which a Ukrainian officer had been killed and several others hurt.

By the end of the day, the naval installation at Yevpatoria was reported to have been taken by the Self-Defence Force. And the garrison at Perevalnoye was reportedly considering handing over the base. Some of those inside were said to be joining Crimea’s Moscow-controlled military; others planned to go to Ukraine.

Kiev and Moscow had supposedly agreed a truce over the bases until tomorrow. That appears to have been ignored, although the Russians and their paramilitary allies may overrun them once the deadline passes.

After the fatal shooting at the Sevastopol base on Tuesday, Mr Yatsenuyk accused Russia of committing “war crimes”. He said Ukrainian forces in Crimea had been authorised to open fire.

  A woman remonstrates with Russian troops at the Simferopol naval base (Getty) A woman remonstrates with Russian troops at the Simferopol naval base (Getty)
However, Ukrainian military commanders have repeatedly complained that they had received no guidance from Kiev while facing the Russian blockade, and there was little inclination to follow this sudden order to engage an adversary vastly superior in numbers and weaponry. At Sevastopol, Sergiy Bogdanov, a navy spokesman, said: “We are not using arms and we will not be doing so.”

At Belbek military airport, which has been surrounded by Self-Defence Forces for weeks, Colonel Yuli Manchur said: “It is too late now for the government to start issuing such orders. All this time, when I have been asking the ministry of defence for direction, I have been told to use my initiative. Well, that’s what I shall be doing.”

Colonel Manchur and his men had achieved widespread fame after he marched them, unarmed, up the hill to confront the Russians and their special forces this month.

He said: “We have not had any intimidation for a few days now, but we know what happened at Sevastopol. The problem is that the Russians have lost control of the Samoobrona; when you give people like these guns, there is going to be trouble. They are a problem for us now, they will be a problem for the Russians in the future.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness