o Varlamov reports that Ukrainian special services are headed toward Ukromnoye to "seize the Russian APCs." As reported earlier, the APCs are reportedly heading back, and told traffic police they were on a "training exercise."
Pro Russian supporters about to board bus from Sevastopol to Simferopol where pro Moscow gunmen have taken over parl pic.twitter.com/MhtZKpFFnd— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) February 27, 2014
o APCs Headed Toward Simferopol Turned Back - A convoy of seven APCs without identifiable marks have stopped near the town of Ukromny in Crimea, and then turned around and headed away from Simferopol, obkom.net.ua reports.
An Interfax Ukraine reporter on the scene says:
"The APCs stopped near the traffic police post. The people inside said that that they had a planned training exercise. After talking to the traffic police, they turned around and headed in the opposite direction," said the Interfax reporter.
o Channel 5 in Ukraine is reporting "definitely Russian paratroopers" -- UNCONFIRMED
o Ekho Moskvy reports: "Movement of military from Russia's Black Sea Fleet wlil be treated as military aggression against Ukraine, says Acting Ukrainian President Aleksandr Turchinov.
Confusing situation in #Crimea. Received confirmation that Russian Unity party leader Aksyonov in talks with armed people in parliament.— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim) February 27, 2014
o RFE/RL correspondent on the scene also has reports of "talks".
o Russian blogger Varlamov reports the situation is escalating in Crimea but UNCONFIRMED. He has doubled the number of armed men in other reports (30) to 60; he says there are "50 APCs" on the road although elsewhere in Facebook comments I see this as an interrogative, i.e. "So is that story about the 50 APCs true?" NEEDS CHECKING.
Varlamov covered the Maidan protests on the scene in the last week but is no longer in Ukraine. He says this morning the new acting Ukrainian Interior Ministry has alerted internal troops and the whole police force of Simferopol. Negotiations are said to be underway.
o Here we are back with the reports of a draft law in the Duma to simplify passport procedures for Russians in neighbouring former Soviet republics including Ukraine -- this time more serious because it's not just Zhirinovsky's ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia:
"The administraiton of the president and the government are working on a draft law to simplify the procedure to provide Russian citizenship to citizens of the CIS," Interfax has just reported. That's more like it -- the way draft laws really get written in Russia is at the president's office, not the parliament.@EuroMaidan is reporting, citing a correspondent from Interfax-Ukraine, that the people who have taken over the government buildings in Crimea are not saying anything and "clearly waiting for someone."
"This issue is really being worked through and not only by factions [of the State Duma--Interfax] but in the presidential administration, and in the government, a version of this draft law is under way," Aleksandr Zhukov, first vice speaker of the State Duma from United Russia, told Interfax.
o Further reporting from Andrei Kanishchev, photojournalist on the scene in Simferopol:
11:00 pm 26 February -- He says about 50 young people outside the perimeter of the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] have been tentatively building barricades, which he says look more like the corral fence in Mayne Reed's Headless Horseman (by which he means "home-made").
The place selected is very pragmatic -- between columns, you have less to build, and it holds more reliably and the rain doesn't soak it. They are building this mainly from wooden pallets, on which electric trolleys usually carry flour sacks to the supermarket. They dragged several wet sheets of beaverboard, evidently thrown out from builders at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Inside the perimeter, there is a large, see-through tent. Beyond the perimeter are several dozen rebels (or on the contrary, guardians of the existing order?) who are warming themselves in the drizzling rain at bent metal barrels with burning wood inside. It is not cold out. An old tire lays forelornly next to the barrel. There are a pair of Crimean flags and a handwritten sign with the words "Crimea - Russia". That's exactly how everything looks now...
o Local Simferopol reporter Oleg Kryuchkov says armed men inside the parliament building of Crimea have told journalists they will shoot if they come closer, and have ordered them 100 meters away.
o Photojournalist Andrei Kanishchev in Simferopol reports on his Facebook that he took a stroll past the barricades and provides pictures of burning barrels and tires piled up, but says the streets are empty and there is a strangely calm atmosphere. The rain has stopped, but it is nearly freezing out. (It's that local cold weather that lets you know that this picture of Russian ships said to be in the area was not taken this week.)
o Citing a local female TV journalist, UNIAN reports that armed men inside the parliament building shouted "Go away! We'll Shoot!" and through flash grenades at them when they tried to approach the building. Traffic has been halted in the center of Simferopol and there are a lot of police.
o AP reporting that the armed men who took over government buildings in Simferopol are wearing black and orange (Russian patriotic colours from WWII) and threw a flash grenade in response to a reporter's question.
@courtneymoscow Guarding? Or letting happen?— CatherineFitzpatrick (@catfitz) February 27, 2014
o @courtneymoscow (Courtney Weaver) is reporting that police are guarding the parliament building in Crimea. But they are spaced so far apart and so sparse in number that you have to wonder if they are guarding or letting the takeover happen.
o COMMENT So far, no official Russian troops are tied to this "local self-defense unit" of Russian speakers in Ukraine. Will that be how Moscow does another hands-free caper? Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia not to interfere. UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond at first made the same kind of warnings, after Russian Defense Minister Shoygu duplicitiously claimed that sudden military exercises involving 150,000 troops of all kinds (!) near Ukraine's border were "unrelated" to events there, Reuters disappeared Hammond's quotes (see at 2018 GMT).o Ekho Moskvy is reporting that the Crimean Parliament building is controlled by a Russian-speaking local self-defense unit.
o @JustinHovesGreve has a picture showing men building the barricade. Note that Interfax earlier reported that the armed men didn't fire shots but got the guards to give up their guns.
o Citing a source in the police department and the Crimean Tatar community, Ekho Moskvy is now confirming that 30 people in black uniforms and masks armed with Kalashnikovs took over the government buildings in Simferopol, Crimea in Ukraine last night. They asked several guards to leave the building and give up their weapons. Now the Simferopol police has surrounded the building.
o Interfax is now citing respected Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev as reporting two deaths, the man with the heart attack and one woman crushed to death in the crowd. Interfax is also reporting 30 wounded, mainly with head injuries and stomach trauma, 3 moderately.
o Trying to clarify what the injuries/deaths are. Interfax has just reported this about clashes earlier in the day yesterday:
Last evening at the walls of the Crimean parliament, clashes took place between advocates of the annexation of the Crimea to Russia and supporters of the new Ukrainian authorities. During the clashes between fighting sides, about 30 people suffered, and of these six were hospitalized. Also the death of one person was confirmed preliminarily, from a heart attack.
So I'm not seeing "3 dead" in the *current* takeover of the government buildings by unidentified armed persons.
o According to a report from Simferopol correspondent Oleg Kryuchkov, the building seems to have been taken over by Russians in the Crimea. h/t Vladimir Burlutsky
o Martin Kačo of the Slovak Embassy in Moscow reported that Russia's TV 24 is reporting 3 dead and 30 wounded already in clashes in Crimea, where local armed Russians have taken over government buildings.
Verkhovna Rada and Council of Ministers of Crimea Seized by Unknowns Over Night
Kiev, 27 February. INTERFAX.RU - Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Crimean Tatar Medjlis [Assembly] reported on his Facebook page that on the night of 26-27 February, the building of the Crimean Verkhovna Rada [Parliament] and Council of Ministers was seized by unidentified persons.
"We were called 20 minutes ago...They reported that the building of the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea and the Council of Ministers have been occupied by armed persons in uniforms without identifying insignia...they have not yet put forth demands," writes Chubarov.
Chubarov took part in the large protest of 10,000 people in front of the government buildings yesterday in which the Muslim Crimean Tatars supported the interim Ukraine government, and clashed with small numbers of Russian protesters.
Putin has ordered massive military exercises in the region although his Defense Minister Shoygu claims they are unrelated to Ukraine. US Secretary of State Kerry has warned Russia not to interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs.
The Crimean Tatars, deported from the region under Stalin, were eventually permitted to return to the region after the defeat of the August 1991 coup, and have mainly supported an independent Ukraine.
Interfax is now reporting more details but this should be confirmed on the ground due to constant Kremlin disinformation during the Ukrainian protests in recent weeks:
The building of the Crimean Parliament and Government of Crimea was seized early on Thursday morning by unknown armed persons without identifying insignia.
Interfax reports that a press center official at the Crimean Parliament says unidentified persons broke into the building, removed the guards, and penetrated inside.
According to the press secretary, all the workers at the Crimean Parliament were given the day off. As Interfax correspondent reports, currently Russian flags have been raised over both buildings.
A barricade has been erected from materials at hand (wooden planks, garbage cans, etc.) in front of the entrance of the building. The building has been surrounded by police, but not very tightly. Meanwhile, more law-enfordcers have concentrated around the building of the Crimean Council of Ministers. Police are not allowing people to pass near the building.