The newly appointed head of Ukraine’s navy has sworn allegiance to the Crimea region, in the presence of its unrecognised pro-Russian leader. Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky was only made head of the navy on Saturday, as the government in Kiev reacted to the threat of Russian invasion.
Two explosions have been heard in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, with no official details yet available.
Nato’s chief has asked Russia to withdraw its forces to its bases.
“We call on Russia to de-escalate tensions… to withdraw its forces to its bases and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, speaking in Brussels.
Ukraine was a “valued partner” for Nato and should be allowed to determine its own future, he said.
The new pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s southern Crimea region has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in maintaining peace, as international concerns mount that Moscow may intervene militarily in the crisis.
A Kremlin spokesman said Russia “will not disregard” Crimean Premier Sergey Aksyonov’s request for help “in maintaining peace and accord in Crimea.”
Aksyonov, who was installed as the region’s premier after armed men took over the Crimean parliament building Thursday, said security forces “are unable to efficiently control the situation in the republic,” in comments broadcast on Russian state channel Russia 24.
Consequently, he said, he was taking charge of security. His actions are also a response to Kiev’s actions in appointing a new police chief in Crimea on Friday without consulting the parliament, he said.
“I am appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide assistance in ensuring peace and accord” in Crimea, he said.
Russia could send a “limited” armed force to Crimea to ensure security of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and Russian citizens living there, the Speaker of Russia’s Upper House of Parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said Saturday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
The crisis in Crimea has echoed round the world, with the U.N. Security Council president holding a private meeting about the crisis enveloping Ukraine on Friday and world leaders calling on armed groups not to attempt to challenge Ukrainian sovereignty.