Tensions continue in Crimea, Ukraine, home to a majority-Russian population that supports Russia and ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Russian forces surrounded a Ukrainian border post on the western edge of Crimea on March 9, according to a Ukrainian border guard spokesman. Russia had taken control of 11 border posts in total, the spokesman said. Pro-Russian Crimean authorities have ordered Ukrainian troops on the peninsula to surrender.
Armed men believed to be Russian troops tried to seize a Ukrainian base near the city of Sevastopol in Crimea. No shots were fired. About 100 Ukrainian troops barricaded themselves in the base. Journalists at the base said pro-Russian demonstrators were outside.
A Russian naval fleet is based at the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Former president Viktor Yanukovych extended the Russian lease on Sevastopol until 2041.
UN special envoy Robert Serry had been visiting a Ukrainian navy commander in Simferopol, March 5, when his car was blocked by men in military fatigues. After taking refuge in a coffee shop with journalists he left in a car through a crowd shouting pro-Russia slogans. Serry cut his trip short and headed to the airport.
"It's a humanitarian mission. We're not setting the goal of subjugating anyone or telling them what to do." Russian President Vladimir Putin
On March 4, dozens of unarmed Ukrainian troops marched on the airstrip at Belbek, Crimea, held by Russian forces for days. Russian troops fired warning shots in the air. The Ukrainian base commander was negotiating a compromise with the Russians, but the Ukrainians have yet to be allowed into the base.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said early on March 4 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an end to military exercises near the Ukrainian border that began on Feb. 26. Putin ordered troops to return to their bases, Peskov said.
Putin had ordered the surprise drills on Feb. 26 -- staging 150,000 troops 200 miles from Ukraine. The move followed Russia pulling its ambassador from Kiev and halting a $15 billion bailout package since Ukrainian protesters overthrew Russia-sympathetic Pres. Viktor Yanukovych days earlier.
"I swear to execute the orders of the [pro-Russia] commander-in-chief of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea… I swear allegiance to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea." Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, former chief of Ukraine's navy
Shortly after Berezovsky's defection, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov announced the creation of an autonomous Crimean navy. He said military personnel of the Ukrainian navy serving at the Sevastopol base "may no longer enforce any decisions, orders or instructions of the self-proclaimed authorities and officials of Ukraine."
"This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev. We will decide our future ourselves." Sergei Shuvainikov, member of Crimea's parliament
Ukraine began calling up reserve military personnel on March 2. The country has a standing army of roughly 160,000 troops, but has around one million reservists. Ukrainian President Oleskander Turchinvo, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh are pictured.
The Federation Council (upper house) of the Russian parliament unanimously approved plans submitted by President Vladimir Putin on March 1 for using Russia's military in Ukraine. Putin said the plans would ensure the security of ethnic Russians in Ukraine and Russian military bases in Crimea.
Earlier on March 1, Crimean Prime Minister Sergiy Aksyonov asked Russian President Putin for security assistance. The request followed the Crimean parliament's election of Aksyonov, who is from the Russian Unity party, on Feb. 27.
Yegor Pyvovarov, a Ukrainian representative to the UN said Russia had 15,000 troops stationed in Ukraine's Crimea region by the end of March 1. Troops from Russia's Black Sea Fleet have patrolled Crimea's airports, sea ports, military bases, and administrative buildings.
Crimea became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, an ethnic Ukrainian, transferred it from Russia. Before that, Russians knew it as a holiday destination for the wealthy.
Ethnic Russians began protesting outside the Crimean parliament over the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych, who is himself partly of ethnic Russian descent. Separated by a police cordon were ethnic Ukrainians, loyal to Kiev and supportive of the Maidan protests.
If you don't have a Circa account yet, download and sign up using the free app for iPhone.