Pro-Russian forces storm Ukrainian base in Crimea

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Associated Press

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 2:02 PM

BELBEK AIR BASE, Crimea (AP) — Pro-Russian forces have stormed a Ukrainian air force base in Crimea.

An Associated Press journalist at the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol reports the pro-Russian forces fired shots and smashed through the front gate and concrete walls of the base with armored personnel carriers.

The base commander says at least one person was wounded. He says his troops plan to turn over their weapons.

Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military facilities for several days in the Black Sea peninsula, which voted a week ago to secede and join Russia.

Elsewhere, more than 5,000 pro-Russia residents of a major city in Ukraine's east have been demonstrating in favor of holding a referendum on whether to split off and join Russia. The rally in Donetsk comes less than a week after voters in Crimea approved a similar referendum and Russia formally annexed the territory.

Russia has moved large military contingents to areas near the Ukrainian border, though President Vladimir Putin has said he has no intention of moving into eastern Ukraine.

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148-c-08-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"Peninsular of Crimea"-AP correspondent James Heintz reports that shots have been fired at a Ukrainian military facility in Crimea that's been blocked off by Russian forces. (22 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *148 (03/22/14)££ 00:08 "Peninsular of Crimea"

149-c-15-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"broke out later"-AP correspondent James Heintz reports that pro-Russian troops in armored vehicles smashed through the gates of a Ukrainian military facility while shooting was heard a little later. (22 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *149 (03/22/14)££ 00:15 "broke out later"

150-c-14-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"essentially being passive"-AP correspondent James Heintz reports that it's unclear what's happened to the air base personnel following the attack by the pro-Rusian militia. (22 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *150 (03/22/14)££ 00:14 "essentially being passive"

APPHOTO XIAS115: A vehicle with a gunman on it's roof drives towards the gate of the Belbek airbase outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Russian forces used at least four armored vehicles to break into an air base here, seizing control of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea. After an hours-long tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces, gunfire and explosions could be heard as the vehicles broke down the gate at the air base located just outside Sevastopol. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB115: Ukrainian servicemen leave the Novofedorivka base after it was stormed, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates. TSN reported that there were children among the crowd attempting to seize the base. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB114: Ukrainian servicemen, holding a Ukrainina flag, sing a national anthem at the Novofedorivka base after it was stormed, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates. TSN reported that there were children among the crowd attempting to seize the base. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB108: Smoke grenade are thrown by Ukrainian troops to disperse a crowd storming the base in Novofedorivka, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates. TSN reported that there were children among the crowd attempting to seize the base. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB102: Soldiers in unmarked uniforms sit atop APC at the gate of the Belbek base near the port city of Sevastopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Pro-Russian forces stormed the Ukrainian Belbek air force base in Crimea, firing shots and smashing through concrete walls with armored personnel carriers, according to an Associated Press journalist. At least one person was wounded, the base commander said. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB107: A man removes a Ukrainian flag after seizure of the base in Novofedorivka, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XIAS118: Pro Russian Militia people hide themselves behind cars as they secure the road to the Belbek airbase outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Russian forces used at least four armored vehicles to break into an air base here, seizing control of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea. After an hours-long tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces, gunfire and explosions could be heard as the vehicles broke down the gate at the air base located just outside Sevastopol. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov) (22 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO MOSB111: Two men hoist a Russian flag on a military vehicle after storming the base in Novofedorivka, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Crimea, Saturday, March 22, 2014. On Saturday, a crowd stormed the Novofedorivka base, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Simferopol, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. Ukrainian television station TSN said troops inside the base hoisted smoke grenades in an attempt to disperse groups of burly young men attempting to break through the front gates. TSN reported that there were children among the crowd attempting to seize the base. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (22 Mar 2014)

<<APPHOTO MOSB111 (03/22/14)££

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