UK & World News
Ukraine 'Regains Airports From Russia'
Ukraine security sources say they have regained control of two airports amid claims Russian forces tried to seize them.
Earlier Ukraine's interior minister accused Russian forces of staging an "armed invasion" in Crimea, something Russia has firmly denied.
The accusations came after armed men were seen patrolling the perimeter at the Simferopol airport.
There were also reports that Russian forces were blocking an airport in Sevastopol.
More than 10 Russian military helicopters have also flown from Russia into Ukrainian airspace over the Crimea region, the Ukrainian border guard service said.
Reacting to the reports, Interior minister Arsen Avakov said: "I consider what is happening to be an armed invasion and an occupation."
However, Ukraine's security authorities later said they had regained control of the two airports.
"There was an attempt to seize the airports, but we have localised those attempts," Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council chief Andriy Parubiy said.
"The airports are now controlled by Ukrainian law enforcement authorities."
The accusations come a day after dozens of pro-Moscow gunmen seized government buildings in the Crimean capital of Simferopol.
These included the regional parliament, which subsequently voted to hold a referendum on May 25 to expand the region's autonomy from Kiev.
France, Germany and Poland said that they were "very worried" by events in Crimea and urged all parties to refrain from any action endangering Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting president has dismissed the head of the country's armed forces.
Admiral Yuriy Ilyin had been appointed at the height of protests against President Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted last Saturday.
No reason was given for his dismissal in a brief statement on the presidential website.
It has also emerged that Swiss prosecutors have launched a money-laundering probe against Mr Yanukovych and his son Aleksander.
Austria has also frozen the bank accounts of Mr Yanukovych.
Ukraine will ask Russia to extradite the ousted president if it is confirmed that he is in Russia, the general prosecutor's office said this morning.
Mr Yanukovych is expected to make a televised statement this lunch time.
Russia earlier reaffirmed its pledge to "respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine", despite placing fighter jets on combat alert along the countries' shared border.
The pledge came after US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov amid ongoing tension in Ukraine.
Mr Kerry sought assurances from Mr Lavrov that Russia would work with the United States to create unity in Ukraine.
"I asked specifically that Russia work with the United States and our friends and allies in order to support Ukraine to rebuild unity, security and a healthy economy," Mr Kerry told reporters.
Mr Lavrov reaffirmed President Vladimir Putin's statement that Russia "will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine," Mr Kerry added.
Mr Lavrov also denied that Moscow had any hand in the takeover of government buildings in the Crimea, over which a Russian flag was hoisted on Thursday.
The White House has reinforced its warnings to Russia that it must avoid "miscalculations" in military drills along the border of Ukraine.
The comments appeared to reflect Washington's concern that Russian manoeuvres near the ex-Soviet state could trigger events which may get out of control.
Mr Kerry said his Russian counterpart had assured him that the exercises were long-planned and had nothing to do with the fast-moving events in Ukraine.
Mr Yanukovych has announced that he will hold a press conference today in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
He has reportedly been spotted in a luxury five-star hotel and spa outside Moscow, in an exclusive enclave favoured by Russia's super-rich.
The 63-year-old fugitive, who is wanted in Ukraine on charges of mass murder after police opened fire on demonstrators, released a statement on Thursday insisting he is still president.
Mr Yanukovych and his government are facing charges of stripping Ukraine's coffers bare before they were toppled from power.
Shortly before being appointed as head of the crisis-hit country's national unity government, Arseny Yatseniuk said $37bn (£22bn) had disappeared in an "unknown direction", while $70bn (£42bn) had been siphoned out of the economy into offshore accounts.
But Russia has questioned the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities and has pledged to defend the rights of its "compatriots".
Crimea is an autonomous republic in the south of Ukraine, around 500 miles from the capital Kiev.
There have been mounting signs of separatism in the region, which has strong ties to Moscow and where the majority of the population are Russian speakers.
Meanwhile, Ukraine central bank governor Stepan Kubiv has said that the bank will limit foreign currency withdrawals from banking deposits to 15,000 hryvnia (about £898) per day.
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