Ukrainian officers leave the Ukrainian navy south headquarters base in Novoozerne after it was taken over by Russian forces yesterday.
SEVASTOPOL: Pro-Russian forces seized two Crimean navy bases and captured Ukraine’s naval chief yesterday as Moscow tightened its grip on the flashpoint peninsula despite Western warnings its “annexation” would not go unpunished.
Dozens of despondent Ukrainian soldiers — one of them in tears — filed out of the Ukraine’s main navy headquarters in the historic Black Sea port city of Sevastopol after it was stormed by hundreds of pro-Kremlin protesters and masked Russian troops.
“We have been temporarily disbanded,” a Ukrainian lieutenant who identified himself only as Vlad told AFP.
“I was born here and I grew up here and I have been serving for 20 years,” he said as a Russian flag went up over the base without a single shot being fired in its defence. “Where am I going to go?”
A Russian forces’ representative said that Ukraine’s navy commander Sergiy Gayduk — appointed after his predecessor switched allegiance in favour of Crimea’s pro-Kremlin authorities at the start of the month — had been detained.
A regional prosecutor’s statement said Gayduk was suspected of “ordering Ukrainian military units... to open fire on peaceful civilians”. Defence ministry officials said Russian forces also seized a military base in Crimea’s western port town of Novoozerne after using a tractor to ram open its main gate. An AFP reporter saw about 50 Ukrainian servicemen file out of the base under the watchful eye of Russian soldiers while pro-Moscow militias lowered the Ukrainian flag. afp