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22 Mar 14. Shots fired as Russian troops force their way into Ukrainian base in Crimea. Russian troops stormed Ukraine’s Belbek air base near the port of Sevastopol on Saturday and took it by force, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law annexing Crimea. At about 4:45pm local time gunshots rang out and five armoured vehicles broke through the walls of the base, where about 200 Ukrainian air force officers had defied a Russian order to surrender. Pro-Moscow onlookers, Crimean self defence forces and Cossacks outside cheered as the Russian troops over-ran the base. The Russian seizure of the base is one of the most dramatic displays of power since it formally annexed the peninsula, where the fate of about 10,000 Ukrainian troops loyal to the government in Kiev remains unclear. After Russia’s storming of the base Sergey Aksenov, the pro-Russian Crimean leader, wrote on his Twitter account that Belbek had been “completely liberated from foreign combatants.” Earlier, at about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, Yuli Manchur, the base’s senior officer, was given an ultimatum by Russian troops to evacuate within an hour, but he ordered his men to stay in place. As the ultimatum passed the Ukrainian troops, about 200 in number, waited anxiously – some armed with guns and many more with no more than wooden sticks – as about three dozen foreign cameramen and journalists milled around the base compound. Russian journalists waited outside, covering the story from the other side of the base’s perimeter fence, where the large crowd of onlookers and military irregulars was chanting ‘Rossiya’ – Russia. At the gate of the base, where a sign bearing Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow national seal still was hanging, a Russian soldier came up to the fence to plead with one of the Ukrainian officers inside to evacuate. ‘’This is Russian territory now’, he said, invoking the law signed by Mr Putin on Friday in the Kremlin. The Ukrainian asked: ‘Where is it? Show it to me’, adding that he himself was unarmed. ‘Why are you forcing yourself in?’ The Russian left, saying he did not want to have the conversation in front of the press. Shortly after, volleys of gunfire and stun grenades rang out as Russian troops moved in. One Russian armoured vehicle broke through a concrete wall guarding the base; another rammed through the front gate, crumpling the sign bearing Ukraine’s national seal. Mr Manchur lined up his troops, who – facing better-equipped, masked Russian gunmen – sang an off-key but spirited rendition of Ukraine’s national anthem. The Ukrainian commander went into the base’s headquarters building for talks with the head of the Russian force. Soldiers were seen carrying a Ukrainian flag into the room where the two men were talking. At 6pm foreign journalists were told to gather and leave the base, as cameramen from Russia’s 24-hour news channel entered and filmed the scene. ‘I am going to speak in Russian, and if you don’t understand me, that’s too bad,’ a masked solider said as he ordered journalists to line up and show their recording equipment and any pictures they had taken. Alexei Khramov, a press liaison for the Ukrainian ministry of defence said later: “Russian forces attacked and seize the base; we not give it up.” He said that both sides had fired their shots in the air, and that one person had been lightly injured. Ukraine still has some military personnel at other bases in Crimea, including Kerch, Feodosia, and Perevalne near Simferopol. Others are on navy vessels in Sevastopol, although some of these have lowered their Ukrainian flags in recent days and raised Russian ones. (Source: FT.com)

21 Mar 14. Ukraine signs long-awaited integration treaty with EU. Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, signed the long-delayed integration treaty with the EU at a summit in Brussels on Friday, a symbolic gesture aimed at signalling Europe remains committed to pulling Kiev away from Russia’s strong embrace. The pact, signed by the 28

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