Video: Armed men seize two Crimea airports

posted at 8:01 am on February 28, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Not only did armed Russian-speaking men seize two airports in Crimea — one military, the other civilian — they have blockaded the roads leading to them. Helicopters have reportedly started coming in and out of one of the airports. Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov demanded that Russia stop its “military invasion and occupation.”

It’s coming to a head pretty quickly in Ukraine:

Ukraine’s interior minister accused Moscow’s military of blockading an airport near a Russian naval base on Friday and armed men took control of another airport in Ukraine’s Crimean capital of Simferopol.

In a Facebook post, Arsen Avakov called the seizure of the Belbek international airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a “military invasion and occupation.” He added: “It is a breach of all international agreements and norms.”

The Interfax news agency quoted Russian military sources as saying the incident at Belbek airport was intended to stop “fighters” flying in. However, Interfax later quoted a Russian official as saying that no units had approached the airport or blockaded it. NBC News was unable to independently verify either account.

It’s possible that the very large ethnic-Russian population did this on their own. On the other hand, there’s this from NBC’s James Novogrod:

And this from ITV’s James Mates:

Having helicopters coming into the airport after their seizure makes it pretty clear that the operation isn’t Ukrainian anyway. The Kyiv Post has more this morning (via Canopfor):

Avakov said that Sevastopol’s military airport Bilbek at night was blocked off by the military units of the Russian navy, which is based in Sevastopol. He said the airport is surrounded by camouflaged military troops with no identification and carrying guns. He said they do not hide their Russian affiliation.

Inside the airport there is a group of Ukrainian soldiers and border guards, and Ukrainian police troops have surrounded the outer perimeter of the airport. “There have been no armed clashes so far,” he said.

The navy base is Sevastopol is key for the Russian army. Under agreements signed between two countries in 2010, the Russian military can continue to use Sevastopol until 2042, with an option of extending the lease to 2047.

Some 70 kilometers away from the coast, in Crimean capital Simferopol, another airport was taken over by a group of about 100 plain-clothed men, who went inside the airport and onto the runway.

“The interior troops and police pushed these people first into the airport building, and then out of the territory. No weapons were used,” Avakov said.

He said that after the armed men left, a new group of camouflaged men arrived around 1:30 in the morning. They carried automatic weapons and had no markings. Avakov said they entered the building and stayed int he restaurant.

“They are not hiding their affiliation with the army of the Russian Federation,” Avakov said. “Told by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry workers that they are military men and have no right to be there, they answer curtly that they have no instructions to negotiate with you.”

No armed clashes have occurred yet, and Avakov flatly states that the security forces of Ukraine are no match for military units. However, security forces continue to arrive at both airports, waiting outside the barricades for whatever orders may come. The potential for an armed clash rises the more this standoff continues.

There may also be a new standoff in the making:

All of this is a bit ironic after Eli Lake’s report yesterday on the American intelligence estimate of the crisis:

U.S. intelligence estimates conclude that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. This, despite the launch of a massive, new Russian military exercise near Ukraine’s border – and despite a series of public warnings from top American and NATO officials, suggesting serious concern about possible Russian military action. …

“The mere fact of the timing when you consider what is going on in Ukraine and you see the sudden nature of the exercise would cause concern,” this official said. “From an intelligence perspective we don’t have any reason to think it’s more than military exercises.”

The assessment is based in part on the fact that not enough medical units have been ordered to accompany the Russian troops to the Ukrainian border to suggest preparation for war, according to one Congressional staffer who has seen intelligence on Russia. This source also said no signal intercepts have detected plans for an invasion.

Er … suuuuuure.

CNN has more from Crimea:

 


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Ukraine has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years. EU officials have estimated Ukraine’s short-term needs at around $4 billion.

That’s a pretty large spread. Russia had offered 15 Billion plus as an added incentive they could keep their country.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:31 PM

British Foreign Secretary says he spoke to Ukraine’s acting president, will travel to Kiev Sunday for talks with new government – @WilliamJHague

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:34 PM

That’s a pretty large spread. Russia had offered 15 Billion plus as an added incentive they could keep their country.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Wow, they would actually get to keep their country? How generous /s

I remember the Russians attempted something similar with Finland in 1939. Didn’t exactly work as planned.

Norwegian on February 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM

From the Guardian (scroll down):

Some reports have a broader closure of airspace around Simferopol. Ukrainian International, Ukraine’s biggest airline, told Reuters that the airspace over the Crimea region had been closed. And the head of security at Kiev airport told an ABC News correspondent that Simferopol airspace is closed – although it was unclear whether that meant closed to flights from any destination:

Making room to land some troop transports? (Emphasis is mine.)

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:39 PM

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:34 PM

I posted a link about Russia and the warm weather ports…but it’s on Drudge

My link went down the rabbit hole?

workingclass artist on February 28, 2014 at 1:40 PM

British Foreign Secretary says he spoke to Ukraine’s acting president, will travel to Kiev Sunday for talks with new government – @WilliamJHague

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Maybe he’s gonna persuade them to partition?

workingclass artist on February 28, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Secretary of State John F. Kerry also pledged $1 billion in emergency U.S. loan guarantees to help Ukraine’s new, temporary government as it reels from the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych last weekend.

“$1 Billion in loan guarantees.” Not aid, but a loan. Not even a loan, but a loan guarantee. Somebody else has to come up with the cash and the interest rate will be high. And there will be austerity restrictions. And whatever else they want to tack on as a requirement for the loan.

This amount is an insult. It’s like telling Putin we’re not serious about this. Go ahead and take Ukraine.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Hey, what the he11???
Didn’t 0barky tell Putin to behave?
It’s, it’s, almost as if Putin is ignoring the Won, perhaps even laughing at him, as he sends in his Spetznaz troops to take control……
But, but, but – wasn’t there a line drawn or something?????

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Meanwhile, Kerry sends strongly worded message: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/kerry-warns-russia-that-military-action-in-ukraine-could-lead-to-international-backlash/2014/02/26/92a9834a-9f35-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:36 PM

and if you don’t think THAT’S serious, we’ll send you an even more storngly worded and whiney message…..
(for libtards – that would be “more seriouser”)

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 1:47 PM

“$1 Billion in loan guarantees.” Not aid, but a loan. Not even a loan, but a loan guarantee. Somebody else has to come up with the cash and the interest rate will be high. And there will be austerity restrictions. And whatever else they want to tack on as a requirement for the loan.
Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Hey – but those things have worked GREAT for making green energy execs and the DNC rich….

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 1:50 PM

I can’t help but cheer for Russia and Putin. Funny how times change.

jephthah on February 28, 2014 at 1:52 PM

This was posted to day and claims to be Russian (It’s hard not ot type “Soviet”) choppers in Crimea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUthbNCA1nc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM

davidk on February 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Excellent posts. Please keep it up.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Severe bow to Putin issued by Obama. Hit his head on the floor.

TerryW on February 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM

$1 Billion in loan guarantees.” Not even a loan, but a loan guarantee.Somebody else has to come up with the cash and the interest rate will be high. And there will be austerity restrictions. And whatever else they want to tack on as a requirement for the loan.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

*facepalm*

Do you even know what a loan guarantee is? It is a promise by the grantor to assume the debt if the borrower defaults. It is better than simple loan.

Seriously, you Russians need to research your propagande talking points a little better.

Norwegian on February 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Reports claim the Russians admitted this afternoon to what everyone else already knew: The guys who seized the Capitol & raised the Russian flag….the same armed guys who have taken control of 2 airports…are Russian COMMANDOS!

Russia has to control an airport into which they can fly troops, weapons, supplies, etc… Check – they control TWO!

The Russian invasion, and the new Cold War, has begun, started by this ex-KGB, ‘old-evil-empire’ ‘dictator’. (I think Obama has a ‘man-crush’ on him, secretly admiring his handywork.)

Meanwhile Kerry reportedly just issued a warning to Putin not to cross yet anther Obama administration faux ‘red line’. LOL…

easyt65 on February 28, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Do you even know what a loan guarantee is? It is a promise by the grantor to assume the debt if the borrower defaults. It is better than simple loan.

Norwegian on February 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

When I use to make commercial loans as a banker, it meant that the person guaranteeing the loan did not have to come up with the money. It became a contingent liability to the guarantor. The actual money came from my bank and the loan was structured between the bank and the borrower.

I assume that is what Kerry is talking about unless a “loan guarantee” means something different between countries. But I don’t think so.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

The debt is already issued by the IMF. When the US is issuing a loan guaranty, the money is already appropriated by the IMF.

There is no uncertainty to the appropriation, and the US assumes the debt if Ukraine defaults.

Norwegian on February 28, 2014 at 2:15 PM

$1 Billion in loan guarantees.” Not even a loan, but a loan guarantee.Somebody else has to come up with the cash and the interest rate will be high. And there will be austerity restrictions. And whatever else they want to tack on as a requirement for the loan.

Kaffa on February 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

*facepalm*

Do you even know what a loan guarantee is? It is a promise by the grantor to assume the debt if the borrower defaults. It is better than simple loan.

Seriously, you Russians need to research your propagande talking points a little better.

Norwegian on February 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

I dunno…

The US dollar just doesn’t buy what it used to?

Seems like a pretty clear deal between Merkel and Putin with Cameron dispatched to deliver the terms?

workingclass artist on February 28, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Does this mean I can have your house and car?

sharrukin on February 28, 2014 at 1:17 PM

If you want to take over the payments, sure!!

My point wasn’t the fact that there are reasons or resources for wanting control of a certain area of the world, it just never ceases to amaze me the lengths they will go to control it. In the end it will never amounts to a hill of beans. Look how much joy Hitler got out of “conquering” the world and Goering never really had the time to appreciate the art collection he confiscated.

Deano1952 on February 28, 2014 at 2:53 PM

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