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Gunmen from Kiev attempted to seize Crimea's Interior Ministry overnight - Russia

Published time: March 01, 2014 09:13
Edited time: March 01, 2014 13:50

Armed men patrol around the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol March 1, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)

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Unknown armed men from Kiev have tried to seize the Crimean Interior Ministry overnight, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It's as Crimea's PM urges Russia to help cope with the crisis, ensuring "peace and calm" in the region.

Thanks to the decisive action of self-defense squads, the attempt to seize the building of the Interior Ministry was derailed. This attempt confirms the intention of prominent political circles in Kiev to destabilize the situation on the peninsula,” the statement added.

"We believe it is extremely irresponsible to further pressure the already tense situation in the Crimea," the ministry stated stressing its concerns over the latest developments in the region.

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil

Earlier, Crimea's Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov declared that firearms have been used in the clashes in the region, Itar-Tass news agency reported. The PM said the local Ministers' Council and Supreme Court came under an attack.

He said he would temporarily manage all national security forces in the region, including police, emergency services and the Interior Ministry.

All chiefs of staff should follow my orders. As for those who disagree, I ask them to leave the service,” Aksyonov said in an urgent statement to the region’s security forces.

Aksyonov said he had asked Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to “help ensure peace and calm on the territory of the autonomous region.” The request, the premier said, was due to “the understanding of the responsibility for the life and safety of the residents.

Russian MPs urge Putin to react to Crimea crisis

A source in the Kremlin administration replied, “Russia won’t ignore that address,” Russian news agencies reported. Later in the day, both chambers of the Russian parliament asked Putin to take measures to ensure stability in Crimea.

"The Duma Council adopted an appeal to the president of Russia, in which parliamentarians are calling on the president to take measures to stabilize the situation in Crimea and use all available means to protect the people of Crimea from tyranny and violence," said Lower House speaker Sergey Naryshkin.

The State Duma also said that currently it is impossible to conduct legitimate and democratic elections in Ukraine due to actions of “radical forces.”

The Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament admitted a limited number of Russian troops could be brought to Crimea to ensure safety, speaker Valentina Matvienko said.

It’s possible in this situation, complying with a request by the Crimean government, even to bring a limited contingent of our troops to ensure the safety of the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian citizens living on the Crimea territory. The decision is for the president, the chief military commander, to make of course. But today, taking the situation into account, even that variant can’t be excluded. We need to protect the people,” Matvienko said.

In their turn, Ukraine’s self-proclaimed authorities urged Moscow to “withdraw troops and comply with bilateral agreements” and “resolve the crisis peacefully and politically,” self-proclaimed interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said.

This comes despite Russia’s repeated statements that all military operations in the region fall within in the framework of the agreement that concerns the Russian naval base in the Black Sea.

Although Western politicians and the media have expressed concern over Russia’s alleged involvement in Crimea, they have not been able to produce any solid evidence. A US State Department spokeswoman told a press conference they have no confirmation of “intervention” in Crimea.

So far, Moscow and the Crimean authorities have agreed to guard objects belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, whose main base is located in Sevastopol, according to RIA Novosti.

Crimeans began protesting after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages in official circumstances in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

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