Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov confirmed the following: Last night Sevastopol Airport is surrounded by infantry units of the Russian Federation’s navy – they are armed and unmarked but don’t hide their affiliation. The airport is currently not operating. Inside the airport are Ukrainian military. Simferopol Airport was itself surrounded by a militia group, and at 1:30am 119 Russian Federation soldiers arrived in military transport trucks, and continue to patrol the area. The airport was operational for most of the day but flights from Ukraine have since been cancelled as Crimea developed into a no fly zone. Clashes between soldiers and police did not occur. Russian marines overtook a Ukrainian border posts, highways, and the state’s telecommunications and news companies, largely cutting off communication between mainland Ukraine and Crimea. Ukrainian airspace has become entirely become restricted.
Acting president Turchynov considers this an armed invasion and occupation of Ukraine, and called an emergency session in parliament which invoked the Budapest Memorandum, and calls on the US and UK to prevent Russian encroachment and force. Russia has admitted to moving troops into Crimea to “protect” the Black Sea Fleet. 2,000 Russian soldiers have landed in Crimea.
On the night of the 27th UNIAN reported that approximately 6 military trucks full of armed soldiers surrounded the Sevastapol International Airport, which doubles as an Ukrainian Air Force facility. The soldiers, later confirmed by the Ukrainian government to be Russian military, also surrounded a guest residence normally reserved for senior officials. NBNews reported that those on the scene were not able to identify the initial purpose of the soldiers, as they would not initially answer questions to the press.
This news comes directly after armed insurgents occupied the Crimean parliament buildings in Simferopol, raising the Russian flag; while Russia itself scrambled fighter jets after announcing snap military exercises along its western borders with Ukraine.
Local news then reported that Simferopol Airport was also surrounded by militants at 1am local time. Interfax and Ukrainska Pravda confirmed these reports, and that approximately 150 armed unmarked soldiers arrived at Simferopol airport and were dropped off via 3 unmarked Kamaz transport trucks. The airport is still operational. They report that 25 supporters have a Russian naval flag. The soldiers speak with heavy Russian accents and witnesses claim they were equipped with the same military gear as those who occupied Simferopol’s parliament building earlier in the day. Other supporters wore the orange-and-black ribbon, a symbol used by the militant Ukrainian Front.
The head of security at the Simferopol airport stated the gunmen “politely” asked security officers to leave, and while refuting an outright takeover, they “arrived at the airport to search for Ukrainian airborne troops. However, after finding out that there was no military present on the tarmac, they apologized and left the territory.”
Russian MP Vladimir Garnachuk, who is now in Simferopol, elaborated that the aim of the operation was to stop the interim Ukrainian president Oleksandr Turchynov from landing in Crimea.
Sevastopol remains occupied and select troops remain patrolling the vicinity of Simferopol as of the morning. (video) The soldiers controlling the Simferopol airport call themselves the “National Guard of Crimea”. As of 6pm local time, 400 troops remained stationed at Sevastopol International and Simferopol airport is no longer allowing flights from Kyiv. Ukrainian airlines have cancelled flights to Crimea entirely, stating that “airspace is closed,” an Flightradar24, and later Reuters, confirmed that air traffic over Crimea has halted entirely.
Unconfirmed video shows alleged Russian attack helicopters, possibly MI-28 Havocs, flying in a group formation toward Sevastopol Airport. According to local media, the news of the gunships was confirmed by Ukrainian Border Guards.
On the morning of the 28th, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on Facebook the following situation: Sevastopol Airport is surrounded by military units of the Russian Federation’s navy – they are armed and unmarked but don’t hide their affiliation. The airport is currently not operating. Inside the airport are Ukrainian military. Simferopol Airport was itself surrounded by a militia group, and previous reports were confirmed, but at 1:30am 119 Russian Federation soldiers arrived in military transport trucks as had occurred in Sevastopol. The airport is still operational and clashes between soldiers and police have not occurred, and that police alone could not confront an army.
“My assessment of what’s going on is that it’s a military intervention and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms” ~ Avakov
Avakov considers this an armed invasion and occupation of Ukraine, and referred to it as a “direct provocation toward armed bloodshed in the territory of a sovereign state.” The Russian Black Sea Fleet, predictably, responded by denying operating at Sevastopol airport, but did not comment on Simferopol; the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed all troop movements have been legal.
Oleksandr Turchynov called for an emergency session of the state’s security chiefs. In Parliament, a resolution was passed calling on Russia to cease encroaching on Ukraine’s sovereign territory and, in invoking the Budapest Memorandum, called on its signatories (the US and UK) to safeguard Ukraine. It also asked asked the U.N. Security Council to call a session to discuss the crisis in the country.
Also in parliament, MP Oleh Lyashko has now put forth a proposal to annul the Kharkiv Accords an evict the Russian navy – the current lease deal extended Russia’s stay in Sevastopol until 2042. The agreement itself, signed by Yanukovych, was criticized as unconstitutional (the 1996 constitution forbids foreign military bases on Ukraine, but the original Partition Treaty dates to 1997). “Given the position the Russian Federation is taking on Crimea, we must immediately abrogate the Kharkhiv Agreements,” said Lyashko. It’s unlikely that Russia would surrender the naval port willingly, as it is both a currently strategic as well as historically symbolic city in to Russia.
Russia has begun wanton aggression against Ukraine under the guise of training exercises. The Russian Federation has sent troops into Crimea, and has not only captured the Crimean parliament and Council of Ministers, but also has taken control of communications facilities […] I am personally addressing President Putin to stop the provocation and call back the military from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and work exclusively within the framework of the signed agreements […] We’re sure that Ukraine will preserve its territory, Ukraine will defend its independence and any attempts of annexation, intrusion will have very serious consequences ~ Turchynov
Acting president Turchynov also said that according to intelligence gathered, Russia is attempting to enact a situation analogous to the Georgian war, and that they are attempting to provoke a reaction to justify annexation.
Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy stated during a televised briefing that the two airports were occupied by separate groups commanded by Moscow, and that Ukraine could not deploy military forces in Crimea without introducing a state of emergency. He then made clear that in the event of direct aggression, the Ukrainian army and border guards would make an appropriately measured response. At the moment, no military facilities in Crimea are occupied by Russian forces.
Acting president Turchynov has said that Ukraine’s army are performing their duties but avoiding provocations and engagements, as they realize the stakes involved and the danger an armed conflict would pose to the civilian population.
TSN reported (pending verification) that two SU-27 fithers were scrambled to patrol the airspace along the border of Ukraine and use force if any unauthorized aircraft attempts to cross. At 9:00pm local time, Hronika.info reported that Ukrainian military near Simferopol took up defensive positions to prepare for nay impending assault.
At 1am local time, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement that they received intel informing of an attack on Ukrainian military installations between 2-5am, and that the Ukrainian army would respond if attacked.
Russian military activity elsewhere:
A State Border Service detachment in Balaklava (near Sevastopol proper) was reported surrounded by armed by 20 Russian Black Sea Fleet soldiers from the 810th Marine Brigade, armed with automatic weapons. A Reuters reporter saw Ukrainian border police in helmets and riot gear shut inside the border post, with a metal gate pulled shut and metal riot shields placed behind the windows as protection. A servicemen who identified himself as an officer of the Black Sea Fleet told Reuters: “We are here … so as not to have a repeat of the Maidan” and claimed to be protecting Crimea from ‘extremists’. The troops receded to within 25 meters of the border checkpoint and the standoff continues.
The Wall Street Journal is confirming that armed soldiers have taken control of major highways in Crimea in an effort to stop Ukrainian military passage. The troops, armed with AK-74s, have planted Russian flags at their checkpoints. The checkpoints have included renegade Berkut officers, Russian Night Wolves bikers and known neo-Nazis are also manning the blockades.
According to Ukrainian military sources, 400 Russian reinforcements arrived in Sevastopol on the morning of the 28th. 4 large Russian IL-76 aircraft landed, and 10 Russian APCs were traveling in a convoy from the Sevastopol base to Simferopol.
Ukrayinska Pravda reports that Ukrtelecom has lost touch with its Crimean branch, and communication centers have been shut down and occupied, cutting off the region from mainland Ukraine. Crimea’s state radio and television company was also occupied. A video surfaced that appeared to show Russian troops occupying a Ukrainian naval facility. By 3pm a military airfield in Novofedorivka was captured. Near midnight, reports surfaced that Russian troops attempted to disarm the 36th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed forces, but the situation dissolved without gunfire.
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bidt stated that Russian troop movements appeared to be an attempt to establish “new gray zones and frozen conflicts.”
Renegade Berkut officers have been seen manning checkpoints and working in tangent with Russian troops between the mainland Ukrainian passing and Crimea. Recall that the units were officially dissolved by the Ukrainian government in recent days for their part in the killing of dozens of Kyiv protesters. Since this time, installed Russian mayor of Sevastopol has reinstated the units and offered asylum to those charged. On the 28th, the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Simferopol “urgently requested to take all necessary steps to start issuing Russian passports to Berkut squad members.” Presumably, this would enable Russia to claim first blood should intra-Ukrainian clashes erupt between the units and Ukrainian military.
Russia declares war?
Censor.net, citing confirmation from TSN, quote former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and Fatherland MP Mustafa Cemilev, that on the 27th Russian Vice Admiral Vitko gathered all generals at a meeting declared that Russia would be “starting a war with Ukraine;” Cemilev then petitioned Turchynov to declare a state of emergency.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has admitted to moving troops into Crimea to “protect Black Sea Fleet’s positions” and declined a Ukrainian request for “bilateral consultations” because they are “the result of recent internal political processes in Ukraine.”
Anti-semitic graffiti appeared overnight at one of Simferopol’s synagogues, bearing the symbol of the SNA (a group within the militant pro-Ukrainian Right-Sector). The head of Crimea’s Jewish community downplayed the possibility of Right Sector’s involvement, and that it was likely done by others to destabilize the region.