December 22, 2014
Ukrainian serviceman killed, PM decries 'war crime'
A Ukrainian serviceman was killed today 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 defence ministry identified the attackers as Russian servicemen in uniform. An order was issued authorising Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea to use weapons to protect their lives - in contrast to previous orders to exercise restraint.
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 leading 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 from Crimea, said one serviceman at the Simferopol base had died of his wounds. A second man, a captain, was injured.
A defence ministry statement later said the dead serviceman had been shot and killed while manning a tower overlooking a vehicle pool at the base. It said the attackers had been wearing Russian military uniforms and were holding the base commander in a nearby building.
Interfax Ukraine news agency, quoting Crimean police, said a member of the pro-Russian "self-defence forces" was also killed in the incident. The report could not immediately be confirmed.
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. 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.