The Interpreter

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Russian armor at the gate of Belbek airbase in Crimea - March 22, 2014

Ukraine Liveblog Day 33: More Ukrainian Bases Fall to Russian Forces

Today Russians have stormed another Ukrainian military base in Crimea. Yesterday several Ukrainian warships were taken over. Now there is breaking news of shots fired near Belbek airbase.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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A livefeed from Belbek airbase (now offline):

Below, we will be making regular updates throughout the day:


1748 GMT: More information from Belbek, where journalists have been harassed and the base commander has been arrested.

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Before this…

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1704 GMT: BBC’s Ian Panell has not only been reporting on what’s happening at the Belbek airbase, but he’s been talking to Ukrainian soldiers stationed at the base. And what he finds is that while Kiev said days ago that they were planning a military evacuation of Crimea, the Ukrainian troops in Crimea are without orders:

Is this why Ukrainian warships, and now a submarine, have neither been able to escape Crimea, nor have they been scuttled, but istead they are being captured one by one? After all, the Russian captured of a Ukrainian airbase may not be a large strategic blow, but the capture of Ukrainian warships and submarines is a kind of double loss for the government in Kiev.

More updates from the ground at Belbek:

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1625 GMT: Turning away from Belbek for a few moments, Russian troops have been busy seizing Ukrainian assets across Crimea today. CNN reports:

Six Russian special forces’ armored personnel carriers broke through the gates of Belbek Airbase, firing warning shots into the air, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense in Crimea, Vladislav Seleznyov, told CNN.

One journalist was injured in the attack, he said.
Once inside, the Russians lined up the Ukrainians in one place, he said.

In a separate incident, pro-Russian self-defense forces stormed the Novofederoskoe military base, also in Crimea, taking control of it, a Ukraine Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

Ukrainian forces on the base threw smoke bombs during the incident and retreated to the base’s headquarters, according to Seleznev, in a Facebook posting.

The base’s aviation brigade then sang the Ukrainian national anthem, lowered the Ukrainian flag and left the base, he said.

This picture shows the Russian navy seizing the Ukrainian submarine Zaparozhye today, a day after its capture began:

A Russian sailor holds the Russian Navy's St. Andrew flag while standing on the bow of the surrendered Ukrainian submarine Zaporozhye in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, March 22.
A Russian sailor holds the Russian Navy’s St. Andrew flag while standing on the bow of the surrendered Ukrainian submarine Zaporozhye in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Saturday, March 22.

1620 GMT: The siege at Belbek is over, but problems remain:


1612 GMT: Earlier, BBC’s Ian Pannel reported that equipment was being confiscated from the media at Belbek airbase. Now there are more reports, and even reports of injuries:

There are several reports that the Ukrainian base commander has been captured:

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1606 GMT: The moment that a Russian APC breaks through the gate at Belbek airbase:


1555 GMT: For some additional context on what has happened so far today, Ian Pannel gives details — note the timestamps on the tweets which begin about 3 hours ago:

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Unfortunately, we made a mistake, and the earlier livefeed we posted from inside Belbek airbase is also offline, so those balck-and-white images were prerecorded.


1548 GMT: Tense outside Belbek airbase:

These troops, we believe but cannot confirm, are the Ukrainian troops, lined up[ on the parade ground. The stream from the front gate is down. Their commander was just speaking to them, but the troops are now dispersing: This camera is also showing old content. Apologies…

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1525 GMT: For now, the livestream from inside Belbek airbase is still up:

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military inside the base refuses to surrender, but also refuses to fire at its Russian attackers:

Life News, a Russian TV station with close ties to the Russian security apparatus, is still showing images from outside the base, though men with balaclavas keep blocking the shot. Clearly, the Crimean paramilitary doesn’t know who Life News is:

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That said, Life News just cut to weather.


1519 GMT: The camera for the livefeed has been disabled by men in uniforms that looks suspiciously like Russian soldiers:

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Meanwhile, journalists report from the scene:

A shot from inside the base, which is still operational:

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1513 GMT: We start our weekend edition of our Ukraine liveblog with breaking news — shots fired near Belbek airbase, a Ukrainian military base that has been surrounded for weeks in Crimea:

A live video feed shows the gates of Belbek open and Russian armor at the opening:

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