February 28, 2014

A group of unidentified armed men in military uniforms have raided Simferopol International Airport in the capital of Crimea, Ukraine’s autonomous region. They claimed to be looking for Ukrainian airlifted forces, the airport press service says.

The airport is currently working without delays.

According to eyewitnesses in the middle of the night at least three KamAZ trucks without license plates drove to the airport with about 50 men.

At first the group cordoned off the airport’s domestic flights terminal, but then pushed forward.

The airport spokesman however refuted reports of a takeover and said that about 50 armed men arrived at the airport to search for Ukrainian airborne troops. However, after finding out that there was no military present on the tarmac, they apologized and left the territory, Igor Stratilati told Echo Moscow radio.

Speaking later to the Dozhd (Rain) TV channel, Stratilati said those people weren’t from the Russian military. He added about 30 of them were still there at the airport.

One of the witnesses told LifeNews website that the armed men are members of ethnic Russians’ ‘self-defense squads’.

“We were here and saw them arrive. Nice guys, polite. Not insolent. They have been patrolling the place to safeguard it from possible arrival of radical Ukrainians.”

The airport is currently operating without delays.

Later reports appeared of Belbek Airport near Sevastopol being seized by a group of unidentified armed people.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet rejected allegations that the airport had been seized by the Russian military.

No units of the Black Sea Fleet were deployed in the area of Belbek, nor did they take any part in seizing it,” a statement from the fleet’s press service reads.

Crimean PM Sergey Aksyonov says he has situation at both the Simferopol and Sevastopol airports under control.

“The situation is difficult, but it’s under control, so we urge everyone to stay calm,” Aksyonov told Life-News. “There’s no threat to anybody’s security. Negotiations are underway.”

A group of local ethnic Russian ‘self-defense squads’ that had taken control of and raised Russian flags over the buildings of the Crimean parliament and government in the region’s capital earlier on Thursday. Moscow MP Vladimir Garnachuk, who is now in Simferopol, said that part of the crowd protesting in the capital. was heading to the airport following a rumor that the interim President Aleksandr Turchinov was planning to visit Crimea.

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