Published time: February 27, 2014 07:31
Edited time: February 27, 2014 08:45

Photo from facebook.com/aleksandr.jankowski

Photo from facebook.com/aleksandr.jankowski

Security forces are on alert after the buildings of the Crimean parliament and administration have been seized by an unknown armed group. Ukraine’s autonomous region is divided over the acceptance of new authorities in Kiev.

Thousands gathered in front of the parliament building on Wednesday with crowds split between those supporting the new government and those calling for integration with Russia. Two persons were killed and over 30 people were injured in clashes.

What is Crimea? Facts you need to know

The buildings were seized by an unknown armed group at around 4am local time, according to the Prime Minister of Crimea Anatoly Mogilyov, who added it was not yet clear who those people were.

The men wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of the victory in World War II, according to AP. They placed a Russian flag on top of the Council of Ministers, one of the occupied buildings.

“I will participate in the negotiations. We will swiftly inform Crimeans of the current developments today. Everything is under control, the negotiating process is under way,” he told a local TV station.

The country’s police and Interior Ministry troops have been on alert in connection with the situation in Crimea, Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s acting interior minister said on his Facebook page.

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Armed men seize Crimea parliament and hoist Russian flag

Ukraine crisis escalates after Tatar leader says Crimea’s parliament building has been occupied by gunmen

Nationalist Crimean tatars wave blue flags as they gather in Simferopol on Wednesday.
Nationalist Crimean tatars wave blue flags as they gather in Simferopol on Wednesday. Photograph: Alexei Pavlishak/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

Armed men have seized the government buildings in the capital of the Ukraine’s Crimea region and hoisted a Russian flag over a barricade.

The men occupying the parliament building in the regional capital, Simferopol, early on Thursday did not come out to voice any demands. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of the victory in World War II. The men also put up a sign saying “Crimea is Russia.”

They threw a flash grenade in response to a journalist’s questions. Phone calls to region’s legislature rang unanswered, and its website was down.

Ethnic Tatars who support Ukraine’s new leaders and pro-Russia separatists had confronted each other outside the regional parliament on Wednesday.

Interfax quoted a local Tatar leader, Refat Chubarov, as saying on Facebook: “I have been told that the buildings of parliament and the council of ministers have been occupied by armed men in uniforms that do not bear any recognisable insignia.”

“They have not yet made any demands,” he said.

About 100 police were gathered in front of the parliament building. Doors into the building appeared to have been blocked by wooden crates.

The streets around the parliament were mostly empty apart from people going to work.

“I heard gunfire in the night, came down and saw lots of people going in. Some then left. I’m not sure how many are still in there,” said a 30-year-old man who gave his name only as Roman.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted on Saturday after three months of unrest led by protesters in Kiev.

He is now on the run being sought by the new authorities for murder in connection with the deaths of around 100 people during the conflict.

 

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