Recent reports from Western media say Russian troops have allegedly seized control of the naval base near the Crimean city of Bakhchisaray on Monday, with “shots being fired in the air.” However, the sailors at the base deny all these reports.
“We were never ambushed or beaten. That’s just nonsense,” Aleksandr Gubenko, a seaman at the Crimean naval base, told journalist Ryan O’Neill.
According to Gubenko, the sailors at the base were told to come to the security checkpoints because “someone was trying to get in.”
“When we got there, these men asked us who we want to align ourselves with,” said Gubenko, “I am leaning towards Crimea because that’s where I’m from, same as 80 percent of other people at this base, and they all know they won’t go fighting their own people.”
It’s not only sailors that have denied the reports of an ambush. The members of the Crimean self-defense squads also say there was “no fighting or shooting” at the Bakhchisaray base “like they are reporting it on TV.”
“A group of Crimean self-defense forces just came in,” Sergey Yurchenko, from the Crimean self-defense squad, told O’Neill, “Their leader is currently negotiating with the commander of the base.”
“I don’t know what exactly they’re talking about there. There is definitely no fighting and no conflict,” he adds.
On Monday many Western media outlets have run reports that “masked troops of unidentified armed men fired in the air at the base near Bakhchisaray.” Some said that it was “Russian forces” which “took over a military hospital and a missile unit” in the naval base.
According to some reports these “masked pro-Russian troops” on Sunday kidnapped the base commander Vladimir Sadovnik. However, later it turned out that Sadovnik had never been kidnapped. On Monday he arrived at the Bakhchisaray base along with self-defense squads.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea will hold a referendum for March 16 where its people – about 60 percent of whom are ethnic Russians – will decide whether they want the Crimea to remain part of Ukraine, or join Russia.
The situation on the Crimean Peninsula is tense and the authorities fear possible provocations from the coup-imposed Kiev government. On Monday radicals backed by the Kiev authorities made provocations in the village of Chinghar in northern Crimea, said a source from the Crimean self-defense squads. Over 30 cars with nearly 70 people, apparently intending to organize a coup, demanded the self-defense groups let them pass into the territory of Crimea.
Despite all these attempts to disrupt the upcoming the referendum, the Crimean government is controlling the situation on the peninsula, according to the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov. He added that “No provocations will be staged before or during the referendum as the region has enough self-defense forces to protect itself.”
The US and EU authorities do not recognize the legitimacy of the Crimean authorities, nor the March 16 referendum, despite the Crimean parliament welcoming a mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to observe the ballot.
Meanwhile, Crimean authorities are preparing for the Sunday poll. The government of the autonomous republic will issue up to US$2 million for ballot printing and providing technical support. Overall 1,550,000 ballots will be printed.
Over 1,500 Crimean troops will be deployed at polling stations, according to Crimean Prime Minister Aksyonov.