Warning Shots Fired at OSCE Members Trying to Enter Crimea
Two warning shots greeted the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) when they tried to enter Crimea on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said no one was hurt when shots were fired to turn back its mission of more than 40 unarmed observers, who have been invited by Kiev but do not have permission from Crimea's pro-Russian separatist regional authorities.
They had been turned back twice before, but this was the first time shots were fired.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the group lacked official invitations from Crimean authorities to enter the peninsula.
OSCE was invited by Ukraine to monitor the situation in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine. After parliament deposed Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22, Crimea declared allegiance to Russia and dissolved their government. Pro-Russia officials were elected and parliament formally asked to join the Russian Federation. A referendum is scheduled for March 16.
Crimea is home to over 58% ethnic Russians and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Putin uses these reasons to justify Russia’s strong presence. He insists Russia has not added more military, but witnesses say there are over 30,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea.
Since February 22, pro-Russia protesters and Russian soldiers have seized Crimea’s government buildings, airports, ferry terminals, and have surrounded many Ukrainian military bases. They took over more on Friday night.
Overnight, Russian troops drove a truck into a missile defense post in Sevastopol, the home of both their Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian navy, and took control of it. A Reuters reporting team at the scene said no one was hurt.
Ukraine's border service said Russian troops had also seized a border guard outpost in the east of the peninsula overnight, kicking the Ukrainian officers and their families out of their apartments in the middle of the night.
Poland’s consulate in Sevastopol was evacuated because of conflicts with the Russians.