Groups of armed men stormed several government buildings in Simferopol, Ukraine, Wednesday night and raised the Russian flag over the Crimean parliament building in an act of defiance towards the anti-Russia opposition, which is now controlling the government in Kiev. Concern has increased over a potential separatist movement rapidly emerging from Crimea, as more and more Russians call for Crimean secession.
Adding to the tensions, the parliament in Crimea announced earlier today that it will vote on a referendum for Crimean autonomy on May 25. This vote, set to take place the same day as general presidential elections in Kiev, will determine if the majority-Russian region will formally secede from the rest of Ukraine.
Crowds of pro-Russia and opposing groups continue to clash outside the parliament in the capital, resulting in over 30 people injured and 2 dead on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to local reports, suspicious columns of unmarked armored personnel carriers were spotted moving into Simferopol, stopping and then backtracking. The APCs were apparently turned around by law enforcement and journalists on the ground are now trying to figure out who they belong to. These reports come a day after Russia started to conduct military exercises close to the border of Ukraine, raising fears of possible Russian military intervention.
A group of unmarked armored personnel carriers was spotted on the road to Simferopol on February 27.
Russia maintains that these heavy-handed military exercises are innocuous, and have nothing to do with the mounting tensions in Crimea. According to the Kyiv Post, there have been reports of Russian soldiers in civilian clothing in Crimea hotels and increased movement of vehicles in the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is stationed in Crimea.
Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s ousted former president, announced today that he still considers himself the legitimate president of the country, and appealed to Russia for protection. Yanukovich was last seen in a hotel outside of Moscow, after escaping Kiev earlier this week under charges of mass murder of civilians during Ukraine’s uprising and the brutal response by police.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Supreme Council of Justice in Kiev on February 27 to
‘monitor’ the election of the Ukraine’s interim government.