Pro-Russia Gunmen Take Gov. Buildings In Ukraine's Crimea

Tensions remain high in Ukraine as gunmen took over a government building in one of the last strongholds of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Posted at 6:44 AM, Feb 27, 2014

Ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych finally resurfaces, Russia ramps up military exercises at the border, and presumably pro-Russian gunmen take over a Ukrainian government building. Tensions in the former Soviet state clearly remain high even with last week's violence over.

"Men armed with Kalashnikovs wearing soldiers' uniforms — but without any kind of insignia saying who they are — have gone into the building and taken control." (Via Sky News)

The Kyiv Post tweeted a picture reporting the gunment flew a Russian flag over the building after taking it. (Via Twitter / @KyivPost)

The Kyiv Post reports confrontations of crowds thousands strong Wednesday into Thursday morning left two dead and 30 injured.

"We saw thousands of people in front of this very same building, some chanting 'Crimea is part of Ukraine!' Some screaming, 'Crimea is part of Russia!' It was very tense, very rowdy." (Via CNN)

The pushback against the recent government upheaval in the Crimea region of the Ukraine isn't entirely surprising. Crimea was one of the last strongholds in the country loyal to ousted President Yanukovych.

Crimea is a peninsula in the southeast part of the country and borders Russia. People there have been predominantly Russian since World War II when Joseph Stalin persecuted and tried to marginalize a pro-Ukraine ethnic group there called the Tatars. (Via Google Earth)

All this as Russia began performing massive military exercises along the Ukrainian border Wednesday in what many view as a show of power.

"One hundred fifty thousand troops combat troops are on high alert. ... Russia's defense minister refers to them as an inspection of their capabilities in crisis situations." (Via BBC)

Those military exercises prompted a warning from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry not to cause a crisis situation.

KERRY: "Any kind of military intervention that would violate the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine would be a huge, a grave mistake. The territorial integrity of Ukraine needs to be respected." (Via Fox News)

NATO's Secretary General also chimed in Thursday morning tweeting, "I'm concerned about developments in #Crimea. I urge #Russia not to take any action that can escalate tension or create misunderstanding" (Via Twitter / @AndersFoghR)

Protests in Ukraine started in November and then turned violent last month after President Yanukovych's government spurned a deal with the European Union and took a bailout from Russia instead. (Via RT)

After handing over power last week, Yanukovych disappeared. Witnesses say they spotted him in Moscow Tuesday. Yanukovych calls the new transitional government illegal, and local media agencies report he asked for and received protection in Russia.