A Ukrainian serviceman guards a checkpoint near the village
of Salkovo in Kherson region. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Ukraine's military scrambled aircraft and paratroops to
confront Russian troops landing on a remote spit of land
between Crimea and the mainland, defence officials said and the
foreign ministry demanded their immediate withdrawal.
The border guard service said Ukrainian forces had taken up
defensive positions on Arbatskaya Strelka, running parallel
to the east of Crimea, now controlled by Russian forces. It
said about 60 Russian troops had landed on the strip and
begun digging in, assisted by three armoured personnel
Six Russian helicopters arrived with 60 more servicemen about
two hours later outside the village of Strelkovoye. The
border guard service said talks between the two sides
established that the Russian servicemen were "guarding
against possible terrorist acts" against a gas pumping
"At this time, there is no threat of confrontation," the
Ukrainian border guard service said.
Crimea's new pro-Russian government said the region's
"self-defence forces" had prevented an attempt to disable the
station, which it said had stopped supplying gas to hospitals
and residential buildings earlier in the day.
In a statement quoted by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, it
said people "in camouflage" had mined the site and fled.
The Ukrainian defence ministry had earlier said troops
dispatched to Arbatskaya Strelka had "immediately" repelled
the incursion. Strelkovoye is just inside Kherson region on
the border with the Crimea region, but about 30 km (20 miles)
south of Ukraine's mainland.
Ukraine's foreign ministry said the village had been occupied
by Russian forces, though the border guards gave a different
version. "The ministry is making public the Russian incursion
and demands the immediate withdrawal of Russian armed forces
from Ukraine's territory," it said.
Crimea is home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet under a
post-Soviet deal signed with Ukraine. The peninsula has been
under the control of Russian forces for two weeks.
Two main roads link Crimea to the mainland, at Armyansk in
the west and Chonhar in the east. However, there is a third,
minor road connection from the 120 km- (75 mile-) long