Ukrainian soldiers and military helicopters are seen near the village of Salkovo, in Kherson region beside Crimea. REUTERS/Viktor Gurniak
A Ukrainian soldier has been killed at a Ukrainian base that
came under attack in Crimea's main town Simferopol, the first
death on the peninsula from a military clash since the region
came under Russian control three weeks ago.
As news spread of the death of the serviceman, in an assault
on the base by unknown attackers, Ukraine's pro-Western prime
minister denounced it as a "war crime" and called for
international talks to prevent an escalation of the conflict.
Ukraine's acting president said Russia was annexing Crimea in
actions reminiscent of Nazi Germany's takeover of Austria and
Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in the run-up to World War Two.
Two prominent political forces that took part in three months
of demonstrations that led to the removal of Moscow-backed
president Viktor Yanukovich called for Ukraine to break off
diplomatic relations with its ex-Soviet master Russia.
Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov, speaking to
Reuters by telephone from Crimea, said one serviceman at the
Simferopol base had died of his wounds. A second man, a
captain, was injured.
Seleznyov said the dead serviceman was responsible for
overseeing a vehicle pool at the base. He said the attackers
had told the Ukrainian servicemen that they were under arrest
and their documents were confiscated.
It was unclear, Seleznyov said, who had staged the assault.
He described the attackers as "unknown forces, fully equipped
and their faces covered".
People in Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, voted
overwhelmingly in a weekend referendum to join Russia, and a
treaty to incorporate the region was signed in Moscow on
Tuesday. Ukraine, the European Union and United States have
denounced the referendum and proposed annexation as illegal.
Moscow and the region's pro-Russian leaders deny Russian
forces are directly involved, saying "self-defence forces"
are controlling the Black Sea peninsular region.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who came to power after
Yanukovich's removal, said the conflict was moving "from a
political one to a military one because of Russian soldiers.
"Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian
servicemen and this is a war crime without any statute of
limitations," he told a meeting at the defence ministry.
Yatseniuk said he had ordered Ukraine's defence minister to
call a meeting with his counterparts from Britain, France,
and Russia - signatories to a 1994 treaty guaranteeing
Ukraine's borders - to "prevent an escalation of the
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, referring to Hitler's
Germany, told the meeting: "Putin today is copying the
fascists from the last century by annexing the territory of
another independent country recognised by the entire world."
The political party led by former boxing champion Vitaly
Klitschko, who played a major role in three months of
pro-Europe demonstrations in Kiev's Independence Square, said
Ukraine had no choice but to break off ties with Moscow.
"Taking into account hostile actions of Russia's political
leadership and the generally accepted practice of
international relations, we insist on immediate termination
of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia,"
Klitschko's UDAR (Punch) party, a supporter of the
government, said in a statement.
Oleh Tyahnibok, head of the right-wing Svoboda party, also a
backer of the government, called for the severing of
relations and the "creation of an anti-imperialist bloc of