Pro-Russian activists on Wednesday stormed the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Crimea, media reports said, a day after Russia signed an accession treaty with the leaders of the Black Sea peninsula.
The activists took down the Ukrainian flag and replaced it with Russia’s, the Russian Interfax news agency reported.
A local news medium posted photos of dozens of activists, in various uniforms, waving Russian flags inside the base, as unarmed Ukrainian soldiers inside the building looked on.
Russian Black Sea Fleet commander, Alexander Vitko, reportedly negotiated with the base commander, Sergei Gaiduk, but left shortly afterwards.
The Russian fleet is headquartered in the port city upon a lease agreement with Ukraine.
Tensions are rising in Crimea after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty with its Moscow-backed leaders of Crimea and Sevastopol, which finalised the two regions’ accession to Russia.
Shortly after the ceremony in the Kremlin, one Ukrainian and a Russian soldier were killed in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.
Police blamed an unidentified sniper for the incident which marked the first killings in the region since it was occupied by so-called self-defence forces that were believed to be Russian.
The international community has condemned Russia for invading and annexing Ukrainian territory, with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on Tuesday calling it “nothing more than a land grab’’. Australia on Wednesday joined the U.S. and the EU in imposing financial sanctions and travel bans against 12 unnamed Russian and Ukrainian individuals.
Japanese Prime Minister Abe also condemned Russia, and said his government was considering additional sanctions against Moscow.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen denounced the annexation as illegal and warned that Russia continues down a “dangerous path.’