Armed men seize govt HQ in Ukraine's Crimea
Updated: 2014-02-27 18:49
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine - Armed men seized the regional government headquarters
It was not immediately known who was occupying the buildings in the regional capital Simferopol and they issued no demands, but witnesses said they spoke Russian and appeared to be ethnic Russian separatists.
Interfax news agency quoted a witness as saying there were about 60 people inside and they had many weapons. It said no one had been hurt when the buildings were seized in the early hours by Russian speakers in uniforms without designating marks.
"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," Leonid Khazanov, an ethnic Russian, told Reuters.
"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'," said Khazanov.
Crimea, the only Ukrainian region with an ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership in Kiev following the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday.
Part of Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea, in the port of Sevastopol.
Ukraine's new leaders have been voicing alarm over signs of separatism there. The seizure of the building was confirmed by acting interior minister Arsen Avakov, who said the attackers had automatic weapons and machine guns.
"Provocateurs are on the march. It is the time for cool heads," he said on Facebook.
About 100 police were gathered in front of the parliament building. The streets around the parliament were mostly empty apart from people going to work.
The regional prime minister said he had spoken to the people inside the building by telephone but they had not made any demands or said why they were inside. They had promised to call him back but had not done so, he said.