UK & World News

  • 11 March 2014, 4:14

Ukraine Crisis: 'Shots Fired By Russian Troops'

Shots have been fired into the air by armed men who moved into a Ukrainian naval post in Crimea this afternoon, according to a Ukrainian defense minister.

Vladislav Seleznyov said on his Facebook page that 10 "unidentified armed men" drove into the Backchisaray compound in two minibuses and demanded 10 trucks from the Ukrainian personnel.

It is unclear whether the confrontation has ended, though a Ukrainian commander is believed to be trying to negotiate with the men.There are no reports of injuries.

Pro-Russian forces have taken over military installations across Crimea in under a week, although Moscow officials have denied the uniformed units are theirs - a denial ridiculed by Kiev and the West.

Sky's Ian Woods in Moscow said: "We don't know whether 'opening fire' is in the same context as the incident last week when Ukrainians marched to an airbase which was in Russian hands.

"Some Russian guards opened fire in the air just to attract their attention and halt their progress. We don't know if this is a similar sort of incident.

"There have been very, very few clashes considering the tensions which are there and considering the amount of weapons and the number of trained soldiers which are in these situations.

"But so far, no shots have been fired in anger and no deaths or injuries have been reported up to now in these incidents."

Meanwhile, Moscow has drawn up proposals for resolving the Ukraine crisis which it intends to send to the US.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrovsaid the proposals aimed to "resolve the situation on the basis of international law and take into account the interests of all Ukrainians without exception".

One proposal is the creation of an "international contact group" to increase dialogue between the West and Russia.

Barack Obama will hold talks with Ukrainian interim prime minister Arseniy Ystsenyuk at the White House on Wednesday in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

The White House said Mr Yatsenyuk's visit would "highlight the strong support of the United States for the people of Ukraine" in the face of the "ongoing military intervention in Crimea".

It will take place days before a referendum in Crimea on March 16 which will decide whether it should break away from Ukraine and join Russia.

Volunteer soldiers in Crimea swore an oath of allegiance in front of the region's pro-Russian prime minister Sergei Aksyonov on Monday.

Clutching Kalashnikov rifles to their chests and wearing fur-lined military fatigues, the 36 volunteers took their turns pledging to "defend the people of Crimea".

Mr Aksyonov told journalists: "We simply want to freely decide our own destiny. That is why we created armed forces. After the referendum they can be integrated into the Russian army."

He added that Ukrainian soldiers who remain in Crimea could join the pro-Russian forces or leave.

"After the referendum they will have to leave... or those who are citizens and who want to could swear allegiance to the autonomous republic of Crimea or the Russian Federation."

Diplomacy between the West and Russia is at a standstill, with Moscow claiming the US spurned an initiation to hold talks with them.

Yatsenyuk, who will address the UN Security Council on Thursday, has accused President Putinof undermining global security by taking control of Crimea.

In London, David Cameron said Russia still had an opportunity to end the crisis peacefully.

"They should engage in direct talks with the Ukrainians, they should return Russian troops to their bases in Crimea, they should withdraw their support for this illegal and unconstitutional referendum in Crimea and they should work with the rest of the international community to support free and fair elections in Ukraine in May," he said.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the EU needed to rethink its approach to situation."Long term... the European Union needs to talk about how we recast our approach including on energy policy, to change the balance of leverage between Russia and the EU," he said.

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski has suggested a 10-day deadline for Russia to come to the negotiating table - and pointed out that the Second World War started on the "pretext of protecting ethnic minorities".

In other developments, Nato has said it will fly reconnaissanceflights over Poland and Romania to monitor the crisis.

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